Category Archives: Our Walk

I’m Not Tired Yet

I mentioned a while ago that I hoped to share with my readers some things that were opened to me about the realm of the Spirit during a time of fasting.  It’s still on my heart to do that, but my leading is to first emphasize what the Spirit of the Lord is emphasizing—that at this particular juncture in the purposes of God when many are finding it very hard to go on, and prayer is difficult, and there is so little of His Presence with us, our Lord is saying strongly, “Keep seeking Me earnestly!  Don’t quit!  Don’t give up!”

We’ve had several confirmations the last while that this is what He is urging upon us.  I sensed that again earlier today—that our Lord is bursting with hope for each one of us in the same way we would be cheering and shouting encouragement to our favourite runner in a marathon race.  I don’t know how He manages to make each and every one of us His favourite runner, but He does, and He wants to see us finish and win the prize.

The shape this is taking in my own thinking is along this line:  although we have a measure of this now, God is about to bring His people into a realm of the Spirit and a walk in the Spirit more wondrous than anything we have ever known.  But necessary to this is the time we are now in—a very grievous time of spiritual drought and famine in which many at times can’t find enough of the water of the Spirit so much as to wet their tongue.  So there is a lot of weariness and discouragement.

Part of the reason for this dark and desolate time, I believe, is that it emboldens the evil spirits to come out and make their play, like the psalmist said when the sun goes down and it is night, “wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth” (Ps. 104.20).

There are certainly a lot of beasts creeping around these days seeking their prey.  And not just out there in the “world.”  They are finding their prey even in many churches.  In fact this is the hour when the man of iniquity is being revealed in the temple of God “shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2.4).  He’s beginning to reveal himself, manifesting signs and lying wonders, and many are being deceived by it all.

And so it’s a very difficult time for the true of heart, and our Lord wants to reassure us.  Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!  Keep seeking me!  I am with you more than you can know, and what I am about to do with your help will deal with all this like a snail in the sun.

It’s a wonderful prospect.  BUT.  We are being very foolish if we think we can just wait for this and meanwhile fill our lives with earthly things.  If there was a time when a Christian could keep his or her walk with the Lord on the back burner and just enjoy the earthly life, that time is gone now.  We have entered a time when, as my friend Terry said recently, “if we are not in the Spirit we are going to be dead meat.”   To trust the arm of the flesh to get you through something is to court total disaster.  We are entering a time—have already entered it—when our own wisdom and earthly zeal will no longer get us through things.  Our own strength will fail us.

And it’s for this very reason, I think, that God has permitted the great spiritual drought we are in.  That’s how I’m beginning to see things.  He has dried us up, has caused our own strength and zeal to shrivel, because He knows it just won’t cut it in the day that’s coming.  So He dries us up to prepare us for what He has in mind to bring us into– a totally spiritual provision, a totally supernatural strength and sustenance, with no admixture of the earthly whatsoever!

Perhaps that’s a fearful thought.  Personally I find it exciting.  And why should it be less than exciting to the new-creation man?

So, with this in mind, the other day I was looking for a song on YouTube.  (I go to YouTube very very cautiously, by the way; there are beasts there ready to eat you if you let your guard down even for a second.)  I was looking for that old song, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  That’s what I have been wanting to do more fully—trust Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  Anyway, somehow I came across a song called, “I’m Not Tired Yet” by the Mississippi Mass Choir.  Please forgive me: I was intrigued by the title, so I listened to it.  🙂  My old ear couldn’t make out the words, but “I’m not tired yet” was the continual refrain.  I thought, they’re singing what God is saying: “I’m not tired yet.”  Amen, I said to myself, God never gets tired.  He’s not discouraged.  He’s going to do what He said He would do.

I wanted to get the words to the song so I searched for the lyrics.  When I found them I was a little disappointed.  They were along the lines of… well, here they are, read them for yourself:

Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been working for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been singing for Jesus a long time.
(I’m not tired yet.)
Been running by day and praying by night.
(I’m not tired yet.)
I’ve gotta get going it’s a mighty hard fight.
(I’m not tired yet.)
No… I’m not tired yet.
No… I’m not tired yet…

There’s more, but see what I mean?  I wondered if it was just human zeal boasting about a conflict they’ve never engaged.  I know by experience that a painful revelation awaits those who zealously lean on the arm of the flesh in the trials of life.  But then I thought… I’m probably not being very generous here.  These people are no doubt singing because they have been through a lot and actually have discovered the secret of never growing tired.  And that old familiar passage in Isaiah came to me.

Hast thou not known?  Hast thou not heard?  That the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding.

So, yes, it’s true—and we need to remember this—God never gets tired.  It’s a very difficult hour and it’s going to get even more difficult.  But God is not tired yet.  God is not tired yet.  He is going to finish what He started.

“Well and good,” you say, “He is God.  What about me?  I’m starting to get so tired.”  Let me say that I too know what it’s like to grow very weary in the trials of life.  At times I have been filled with such inner emotional pain that I have said, “Lord, please just take me home, I can’t do this anymore.”  Even the apostle Paul spoke of being “in weariness, and painfulness.”  Christians are not made of plastic, and the Lord knows it.  He Himself knows our frame.  He remembers that we are dust.  But when Isaiah reminds us that God never grows weary and never faints, he is leading up to something.  This God who never gets tired, what does He do?

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.

He gives power to whom?  To the faint.  To them that have no might.  Can you relate?  These are the ones whose strength He increases in a day when the strong and the zealous are falling and fainting on every hand.

Now the verse we all love:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

We love that old song, don’t we.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…”  In other words, no matter what they are going through, those who are waiting upon the LORD will be able to say, “I’m not tired yet.”  Why?  Because they have tapped into a hidden strength, the resources of Almighty God Himself.  Human zeal and strength—the arm of the flesh—will never carry the day.  But those who wait upon the Lord will, because they have exchanged their strength, as the Hebrew word renew means.  They are no longer walking in an earthly realm.  They are walking in a spiritual dimension, and are being sustained with an entirely spiritual strength—God’s own strength.

And as I said, more and more we are entering the day when this is not optional.  We are up against such complex problems, such grievous things, such difficult things, and forces in a heavenly dimension… forces that are far too great for us, far greater than any human resource can deal with.  We must be in the Spirit, meeting all things with spiritual provision. This is what the day at hand is calling for and requires.

But if it is required, this can only mean that God has it for us, beloved!  He has the provision for us to run this race and not get tired, to walk and not faint.  And it begins by waiting upon Him, looking expectantly to Him… and mounting up into the realm where the eagle flies—the realm of the Spirit, the realm where we discover the wind under our wings, and find those thermals in the Spirit that draw us upward, upward, upward… and we have loosed the surly bonds of earth.

Let’s not be afraid of this.  Maybe it’s frightening, the prospect of being so totally in the Spirit that we have none of the familiar earthly moorings to hold on to any more.  But oh… what an adventure is before us!

…As it turns out this blog entry wasn’t a detour after all.  In fact it’s already leading into what I have been wanting to share about the realm of the Spirit.

 

The Man Who Would Not Let Go Of God

This blog entry is about twice the usual length (as is the title).  And since it’s very meaningful to me, I hope A Mending Feast readers will read it when they can give it meaningful time.

In a time of prayer at the beginning of the year I felt that 2013 would be a time of seeking for me.  And so it has proven thus far.  As I mentioned last time, I spent some weeks fasting recently.  It came about when I asked some friends to join me in fasting and prayer for a day or two.  It was an encouraging time.  Then a few days later one of the friends mentioned to me that he had it on his heart to enter into a longer fast.  He felt it was an “invitation from the Lord,” and invited me to join him and his wife.  I was on.  We patterned it after Daniel’s fast—eating no “pleasant food,” eating very simply, and just enough to maintain strength.

I am not trying to draw attention to what we did, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way.  But this is a difficult and very critical hour, and I want to encourage us all to be seeking God earnestly.  We need Him so desperately, yet we get busy with our earthly lives, and somehow He ends up on the back burner.  That’s a mistake always; in this hour it’s a great mistake.

Personally I have lost my appetite for the earthly life.  We’re only mortal once, and to waste this brief moment of life on ourselves is the greatest of all loss.  Jesus told His disciples many times that those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for His sake will find them.  It’s His invitation to us to walk in the way of the cross with Him—this way of death that He made the way of Life.  In my case I don’t know that I have too many grains of sand left in my hourglass, and it’s not very appealing to me to just idle away my precious days enjoying this earthly life and watching the grains of sand run out.  I don’t want to waste my life!  I am determined to spend my mortal life (the only one I get) on Jesus.  So I will continue to take up my cross and follow along with Jesus.  He promises me that this is the Way that leads to God.  And I want God!  And need Him desperately—not just for myself but for others.  So my face is set.  I am not turning back.  I am not giving up.

And during my fast I received a clear confirmation from the Lord that He Himself is saying this very thing to me: that yes, these are difficult days, very difficult.  You’re in the midst of troubles… with more and greater on the way.  Yet at times it seems like your God has hidden Himself, or is very far away.  But don’t give up.  Don’t give up.

Here’s how it came to me.  I found myself dwelling on the story of Jacob.  Jacob, our Bible tells us, was after something even in the womb of his mother.  She (Rebecca) would find herself holding her belly alarmed at what was going on—all that kicking and punching.  She sought God about it and received a prophetic word (Gen. 25.22).  She was about to give birth to twins, and the children were struggling with one another, wrestling in the womb.  Seems like they were positioning themselves.  Who would be the first out, and get the birthright, the blessing, the inheritance, the double portion?  Then when her time came and the firstborn was on his way out, the second son grabbed the firstborn by the heel as if to say, maybe you got out first but this is not over yet.  And so this is how he got his name—Jacob—“one who takes by the heel,” that is, “supplanter, conniver.”

Jacob didn’t make it out first, but what he did at birth was prophetic of his whole life.  As a young man he schemed to get the birthright from Esau, who, faint with hunger, sold it to him for a bowl of bean stew.  Then later when it was time for Isaac to pass on the blessing of the firstborn, Jacob schemed again (with his mother’s help) and deceived his father outright, and obtained the blessing reserved for Esau the firstborn.  Esau swore vengeance for this; he would get even someday; he would kill Jacob.  So Jacob leaves the land of his fathers for Padan-aram, where later on we find him wrestling continually with Laban, his conniving, deceiving father-in-law.  And after toiling many years for a wife and ending up with two wives (actually four) he is on his way back to Canaan the land of his fathers with his family and his flocks and possessions when he hears that his brother Esau is on his way to meet him, and 400 men with him.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed… (Gen. 32.7).

And he prays for God’s deliverance.

Oh, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac… I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies, and of all the truth (or, faithfulness) which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him…

Notice that Jacob prays desperately for God’s deliverance, and at the same time comes up with an elaborate scheme to deliver himself from the wrath of his brother Esau.  He sends droves of sheep and cattle on before him as a present for Esau.  Last of all he sends his family over the brook Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day (Gen. 32.24).

It doesn’t surprise us, does it, to find Jacob wrestling again.  But this time it was not just the day that broke.  By the time this wrestling match was over, by the time the sun arose, Jacob himself was a broken man.  He had wrestled with his brother in the womb.  All his life he had wrestled with men and circumstances.  And now he is wrestling with… he is not sure who he is wrestling with.

And this One says to him, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.”

But Jacob kept saying to Him, “I will not let thee go except Thou bless me.”  My, how tenacious this man is.  He simply will not give up.

And when the Angel of the Lord saw that He wasn’t getting anywhere with this man, that He prevailed not against him, He touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh and crippled him.  That would put him down on the mat for the count, right?

But no, it was Jacob who won the match!   We are told it was Jacob who prevailed, who won (Gen. 32.28).  How did he win the match?  By being crippled, by being smitten in the place of his greatest strength, by being overcome by God.  He asked him, “What is thy name?”  Jacob responded—and light dawned—“Jacob.”  Ah, my name is Jacob—supplanter, wrestler, conniver, striver!  All my life I’ve been striving, conniving…

But God responded, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”

God gave this man a new name.  In the Bible, the name always signifies the nature, the character of a person, his prophetic destiny.  And so Jacob was as it were a new man now, a new creation.  Now he in turn asks a question. “Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name.”  But He answers, “Wherefore dost thou ask after My name?”  In other words, I think, Jacob, you know that now.

And He blessed him there.  And Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

But from that day on this man limped.  He couldn’t even worship without leaning on his staff (Heb. 11.21).

Now… I said all that to say this.  I was finding my time of fasting very difficult.  I don’t know that I’ve had a more difficult time—not the fasting itself so much as, oh, it was so hard to get through to God in prayer.  And you start to get thoughts like… maybe I just don’t have what it takes.  Maybe I should just call it quits.  But as I dwelt on Jacob’s experiences, I went to a passage in Hosea I’ve never really understood.  I thought I’d just read it over anyway.  Suddenly it came clear to me.  Hosea says this:

The LORD hath a controversy with Judah, and will punish (that is, visit) Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will He recompense him.

Hosea is talking here of the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel, both of which had gone into great apostasy at the time.  And he warns them that God will deal with them according to their ways.  But suddenly right in the middle of this frightening pronouncement Hosea sets forth a great hope for these wayward disobedient people.  How does he do it?  He reminds them of their father Jacob.

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength (or, in his manhood) he had power with (or, strove with) God:
Yea, he had power over (or, contended with) the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto Him: he found Him in Bethel, and there He spake with us;
Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is His memorial (Hos. 12.2-5).

Suddenly I realized that Hosea, while making no excuse for Jacob’s conniving ways… he is speaking very positively about this man.  There is something about this man, this supplanter, this striver, this wrestler, that God greatly loves.  For this is a man who sought God tenaciously, continually.  From the very womb he wanted God… and just would not give up.  Oh how that blesses the heart of God to see someone like that!  He loved Jacob!

But now in the next verse Hosea comes to his punch line:

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

And–this is what I said at the start–I heard Him speaking to me!  Wait on thy God continually!  Don’t quit!  Don’t give up!

Do we not hear him speaking to us, fellow Christian?  “There He spake with us.”  God, in the story of Jacob, is speaking to us, to you, to me.  And is saying… “Don’t give up!”  It’s a word we deeply need to hear in this hour when, just as in Hosea’s day and the people of God back then, the same thing applies to “the church,” the people of God in this day.  We are in a state of frightening apostasy, and God is surely going to visit us for our ways.  It’s a grievous time, and many are wondering if there is any hope.  God says yes, there is hope!  God says, turn thou to thy God!  There is hope!  Is there someone in your life who needs mercy?  A situation that calls for judgment (for justice)?  Keep mercy and judgment!  (Remembering that he shall have judgment without mercy who has shown no mercy, and that mercy rejoiceth over judgment, James 2.13.)  And seek Me, God urges, wait on Me continually the way your father Jacob did.  Don’t quit on Me!  Don’t give up!  You will not be disappointed!  You will be rewarded!  And so wait on Me expectantly!  Remember My Name—that I am the LORD of hosts, the LORD of all the resources and hosts of Heaven; I lack nothing you need in any situation you face, regardless of how dark or difficult the day!

It’s a word of tremendous encouragement for this our day.  It may be a day of great apostasy and great distress, and at times it’s hard to lay hold of God.  But God will hear the cry of those who turn to Him and wait on Him.  Continually.  He will not disappoint them.

…But now my own punch line—and this is the thing that broke me up when I realized the longing in my own heart.  Jacob had cried out, “I will not let You go unless you bless me!”  Was he thinking in terms of the prayers he desperately wanted answered?  No doubt he was, he was in great distress and desperately needed answer to prayer.  But was there Something Else in that cry, something that he longed for all through the years of his toil and troubles and that now welled up in him and would not be turned away?  “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me,” he cried, the tears streaming down his cheeks.  And yes, at long last, God answered this Jacob He loved so much.  And he ended up with far more than answered prayer, wonderful as that is.  Jacob ended up with… God Himself.

That’s the Blessing he received at Peniel.  God Himself.

And so with us, beloved.  Does it seem God is delaying answering your prayers, and mine?  Oh how I anguish at times over unanswered prayer.  But God is going to answer our prayers, beloved.  Your prayers.  My prayers.  But when He does… we are going to end up with not just answered prayer.  We are going to end up with…  God.  As  you and I continue our asking, our seeking, our knocking, our wrestling, our striving… as we persevere and don’t give up, we are going to end up with… God Himself.

I realize we have Him now.  But so did Jacob before Peniel.  God had promised him way back at Bethel that He would not leave him till He had done what He had spoken to him of (Gen. 28.15).  But somehow all through the years there was still Something missing, and it was not till Peniel that he found that Something.  At Peniel he met this God who had been with him all through the years face to face.  And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him.  It was a new day for this new man.  And he walked into it halting (limping) on this thigh.  He walked differently now.

I think we scarcely comprehend what this means to any great extent yet.  But we are going to discover what it means in our own Peniel, and as a result of the wrestling and crippling of the cross we too are going to walk differently… are going to walk with God Himself in a Pathway more wondrous and beautiful than anything we could ever dream or imagine.

More next time.

Where Is The Good Way?

Over the years of my Christian walk I would frequently hear of some new thing that people were excited about—some new way or methodology that its inventor promised would help us better live the Christian life and take us closer to our destination.  Sometimes I have wondered if the destination people are looking for is the same one God has for them—Himself—for I haven’t been able to agree that these many new ways brought people closer to Him.

With this in mind I was reminded a few days ago of a word the prophet Jeremiah gave during a time of waywardness among the people of his day.

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls (Jer. 6.16).

I imagine Jeremiah standing out somewhere, and he can see the busy people going here, going there… some in this way and some in that… confident these pathways will take them where they want to go.  And as Jeremiah watches, the Lord lays a message on his heart.  The Lord has counsel for His people relative to the destination He has in mind for them.  “Thus saith the LORD…”  It is the Lord Himself who advises His people to “stand in the ways, and see…”

In other words, see where these ways are leading you?  I wish we would lay it to heart and do the same in our day amid all our ways—the programs and methods we are so confident about, and are so sure are the Lord’s business.  Let’s have an honest look at these our ways, and see.  Are we really getting anywhere?  Are we making any real impact on our world around us with our many church programs and methodologies?  If we think we are, we are kidding nobody but ourselves… and have either not seen or  lost sight of the impact that the living God is capable of.

And so our Lord counsels us, while we are busy in these many ways leading nowhere, to ask for the Old Paths.  We are to recognize these other ways for what they are—man’s ways—and in the midst of them all ask, “Where is the good way?”

The good Way is about overgrown with brush these days.  But we are to ask, and continue asking, “Where is the good Way?”

And discovering this Way we are to “walk therein.”

And ye shall find rest for your souls.

“Ask for the Old Paths,” our Lord counsels.  What are the Old Paths, then?  The Lord speaks of these in the singular.  “Ask for the old paths: where is the good way?”  Singular.  There is just one Way—the Good Way—Jesus Christ Himself.  “I am the Way,” He says, “the truth and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (Jn. 14.6).

Here is our destination, then—the Father.  And here is our Way—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

“Ask for the Old Paths; where is the Good Way…”  Jesus Christ Himself is The Way.  And so how do we walk this Way?  How do we walk in Him?  The only way we can walk in Jesus is to walk in the Spirit.  This is the Way the early church walked in.  I know Jeremiah was speaking to people under the old covenant, but remember—he was a prophet writing things for our day.  “Not unto themselves but unto us they did minister…” (1 Pt. 1.12).  And so from a new covenant point of view, the Old Paths are the New Thing the Lord began doing when He poured forth His Spirit at Pentecost, and the church of Jesus Christ was born.  Those early disciples began walking in a New and living way.  In fact the early disciples became known as the people of The Way (Acts 9.2, 19.23, 22.4, 24.14).  Can the same be said of us today?  Is it this that characterizes us?  Do we walk in this same Way?

I am reminded of something Solomon said:

As Thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all (Eccles. 11.5).

That phrase just haunts me—“the way of the wind.”  It’s a path that can’t be seen with the natural eye; there are inner workings in God that, like the child in the womb, are beyond the reach of the mind of man to grasp.  I know, when it comes to the weather and medical science we’ve got these things all figured out now.  But what Solomon said is still true.  We simply cannot know the things of God by human ingenuity and man’s device, no matter how inventive our new programs and methodologies and techniques.

It is so beautiful to see how Jesus combines those two thoughts about the way of the wind and the child in the womb, telling Nicodemus the teacher of Israel that there is in fact a Way in which he can come to know the things of God.  That is, by being born again, born of the Spirit—the Wind.  Being born of the Wind we become like the Wind, and so know His Pathway…  because we are borne along in it.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Wind (Jn. 3.8).

Oh how we love this verse.  But how can we miss seeing that the born-again experience is to become more than just the initial point of our salvation and birth into the Kingdom of God… and then it’s left to us to proceed with our own works and ways?  No, the Way of the Wind is to be our Way all our days.  Could it be, then, that this is the reason why, in spite of all our ways– these methods, these programs of ours– that we—yes we the born-again people of God—simply aren’t getting anywhere?  We have missed The Way, we have lost our Way!  We want to see the lost saved, but we ourselves have lost our way.

God’s counsel to us is to ask for the Good Way, the Old Paths, the Pathway of the Wind—of the Spirit.

Oh, to see the churches abandon their own ways and return again to this beautiful Way!  Where are those who are asking for the Old Paths, the Good Way?  How tragic, that time and again through church history, and again in our day, God’s people have swerved out of this beautiful Pathway of the Spirit and got involved in their own ways and works.  It is heartbreaking folly.  We would be so much further along if we would come to repentance, and return to the Old Paths, the beautiful new Way of the Spirit.  This was our Lord’s counsel to those of old.   It is His counsel for us today.

Yet when I read Jeremiah’s prophecy and the answer that was returned to the Lord’s counsel by those of old, I am troubled.  It was, “We will not walk therein.”

Is that our answer today as well?

Can You Humble Yourself?

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The highest mountain in the world has been in the news again the last couple of weeks.  During this year’s spring climbing season, six people, one of them a Canadian woman, died attempting to climb Mount Everest, which is 8,848 metres (5.5 miles) high.  It’s been the worst year since 1996 when 16 climbers paid with their lives for a taste of Everest’s glory.  Climbers are vulnerable to exhaustion and altitude sickness, many fatalities occurring on the way down.  This prompted one expedition leader to warn his clients rejoicing at the peak, “You’re only half-way there.”

All told, 240 people reached the summit this year, one of them a 73-year-old woman who set a record for being the oldest woman to scale the world’s highest peak.  A week later a British teenager became the youngest woman to climb it.

Everest was first conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on May 29,1953.  Since then about 10,000 people have attempted to climb what has been called the ultimate peak.  About 4,000 have been successful.

However, about 230 have made Mount Everest not only the highest mountain in the world, but also the highest graveyard.  The bodies of climbers who died on Everest are irretrievable because of the altitude and the terrain—and the expense.  They lie amid the snow and rocks on the windswept heights where they drew their last breath, their brightly-coloured mountain gear drawing the eyes of new climbers who year after year trudge somberly past the frozen corpses.

Yet year after year the number of climbers increases, undeterred by the very real prospect of adding to the growing graveyard there.  There’s just something about altitude that’s very attractive to us earthlings, isn’t there.  In fact climbing Everest has become a lucrative tourist attraction; you may not know a crampon from a crouton but if you’ve got the money (about $65,000) there are outfitters who will take you to the top.

People are continually trying to make new records climbing Everest.  The first to climb it.  The first to climb it without oxygen.  The oldest to climb it.  The youngest.  The fastest.  The one who’s climbed it most often.  The first to climb it in winter.  The first to climb it alone.

That would be Reinhold Messner, who climbed Everest without oxygen in 1978 with Peter Habeler.  The world was astonished at their impossible feat.  But it wasn’t enough for Messner.  Two years later he climbed Everest without oxygen alone, and on one of the more difficult routes.

Now considered the greatest mountaineer in the world, Messner was also the first man to climb all fourteen of the earth’s peaks over 8,000 metres.

All these firsts even at the risk of death… for a glory that is as fleeting as the flower of the grass.

But let me tell you of another Man of renown, one who attained eternal glory.  This one climbed a Mountain that causes world-renowned mountaineers like Reinhold Messner to lose their interest—and, when they hear of the route, their stomachs.  They climb earth’s highest mountains mocking at fear, looking down with disdain on places where eagles fly.  Yet their knees quake and their stomachs grow queasy at the prospect of this Mountain.

Because the way up this Mountain is down.

It’s the way our Lord Jesus Christ inaugurated for us when He climbed this Mountain— the first to do so.

He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a man—but not a man of pre-eminence and high society—a bondslave.  And as a bondslave He became obedient unto death.

Obedience unto death?  That’s not too bad, you say, there’s glory in a hero’s death.

But this Man’s death was not a hero’s death.  It was not an honourable death.  It was the death of a cross—the death of a criminal.  An ignoble death.  In his case it was an unjust death.  He had been wronged.  He did not deserve this treatment.  He had been falsely accused and maligned.

Yet He bore it all patiently without resentment.  He didn’t cry out for what was due Him. He didn’t plead with His persecutors for the honour that was being denied Him.

He was sheared of His honour and led as a Lamb to the slaughter, opening not His mouth.  He could have spared Himself the suffering by taking a little step of disobedience.  But no, He was “obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.”  For, He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name
That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and in earth, and under the earth:
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Now He sits enthroned in glory on the summit of the highest Mountain in the universe—Mount Zion.

He that ascended first descended.

What about you and me?  We love those Everest heights of glory in the eyes of men; somehow we know we were meant for the heights, for we were created in the image of the high God.  But, oh… can we humble ourselves?  It seems it’s the most difficult thing for us to do—to humble ourselves…

…To esteem others better than ourselves; to serve others rather than be served.

…To bear patiently wrong treatment when we are right, and pray for those who ill treat us.

…To acknowledge it when we are wrong.

…To ask forgiveness.

…To forgive.

It’s a tough route… and cannot be accomplished without grace… and the Oxygen of the Spirit of God.

But only those who go this route arrive at the height of Mount Zion.

The Birthings Of Faith

One of the difficulties we must overcome in reading the Bible is that over time we become too familiar with it.  We know the outcomes of the stories… and sometimes we assume the Bible characters had the advantage of that same knowledge.  But no, they didn’t.  We need to read our Bible remembering that.  How profitable it would be if we could read it as a book we’ve picked up for the first time, and don’t know the plot or the way things are going to turn out any more than the characters themselves.

In fact, just think what it would be like if you and I were right there right then—but not knowing anything about the outcome of things the way we do now.   Where would that put us?  What an adventure we would be in.  For it would put us in the place of having to discover very definitely what God was saying… and having to walk it out by faith.

How was it that Abraham ended up in the land of Canaan?  It was by responding in faith to a word from God.  He didn’t have it all mapped out for him.  “By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed: and he went out not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11.9).  Think of that.  There’s no suspense for us; we turned the page and found out long ago; we know how things unfolded.  Abraham didn’t.  He didn’t know “the rest of the story” the way we do.

Yes, he had a measure of understanding as to what God was leading him into.  But day by new day, step by new step, he had to search out this will of God.  He had to seek to hear afresh what God was saying to him—and the times and seasons of His will.  Sometimes he missed it.  But his heart was right with God.  And God was faithful to bring him back on track.

All those of old… Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Moses, Gideon, David… they were involved in something that… let’s call it the birthings of faith.  The true Christian walk is a walk in the Spirit that causes the will of God in Heaven to be unfolded, or birthed, here in the earth.  This takes faith.  This is what faith involves.  Faith involves hearing from God, and responding in accordance with what we have heard.

This is what the faith chapter in Hebrews is all about.  We are given many examples of people who didn’t have a Bible to read the way we do; it wasn’t all laid out before them; they had to birth by faith the word they were hearing, bring it out into open reality in their lives.

What they brought out into the open we have recorded for us now on the pages of our Bible.  Because of this we can become distanced from the… the immanence, the “present-ness” of their walk of faith, the creative element, the beautiful existential quality of the walk these ones were involved in… who brought into being the hidden will of God.

The very point of all that is recorded, though, is to inspire you and me with regard to what is before us in our own lives.  We have their testimony because we too are involved in the birthings of faith.  There is very much yet of the will of God to unfold—very great and awesome things, as great if not greater than any recorded in the Bible.

It is just as important for us to hear His Voice and respond in faith as it was for them back then.

I think of Jesus in His day.  He Himself did not have a heavenly instruction manual laying all things out before Him.  He needed to pray and earnestly seek to hear what His Father was saying and doing.  He lived by faith.  He walked by faith.  All that took place in His life was the result of the birthings of faith.  The familiar story of Jesus walking on the water comes to mind.  We read the story and it’s no big deal to us.  We’re so familiar with it.  We think He walked on water because, well… because He was Jesus.  But it was by faith that the Son of man lived and walked.  He couldn’t walk on water any more than you or I can.  But He saw the disciples He loved out there in the storm… afraid.  He was making intercession for them, and the Father put something in His heart.  He responded in faith.  It was by faith that He walked on the water to go to them.

What a wonder.  But it doesn’t end there.  Peter walked on the water as well!  Let’s put ourselves out there in the boat that day.  Could you or I have done that… like Peter?  Peter walked on the water, too.  How?  He heard a single word.  “Come.”

Peter birthed something by faith that night.  He walked on the water by faith.

As we follow Jesus’ footsteps through the Gospels we discover over and over again that He was always looking for a certain “something” that would enable Him to release wondrous things.  We read words such as, “And seeing their faith…” or, “thy faith hath made thee whole,” or, “only believe…”  It was the operation of faith in different ones that birthed into the open the wondrous things He did, things we now read of and think happened just because He had the power to do miracles.  No.  Where there was unbelief He was greatly hampered (Mt. 13.58).  Where there was faith He wrought wondrous things.

We need to know that this same Jesus continues to do great things, and wants to do even greater things now that He is exalted.  But He continues to look for that divine catalyst that releases His power—faith.

Here’s an example from The Acts.  Jesus has already ascended and has sent forth the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Lystra sees a man crippled from birth.  What a pitiful condition.  But the man has something many healthy people entirely lack.  Paul, “perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14.10).  I know where that Voice originated.  “And he leaped and walked.”  Thus the will of God in Heaven was made manifest in the earth.  How did it happen?  By the “mystery of faith.”  Somehow the man had heard from God.  Perhaps it happened the very instant he looked on Paul—a man in whom the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwelt—and connected with Jesus Himself.  Or perhaps it was something God had spoken to him some time ago and he kept alive in his heart… waiting.  However it happened, the man and the time and the place and the faith—and the Lord Jesus Christ—came together, and a wondrous chemical reaction took place.

I think of Abraham again.  As he looked up at the night sky and saw the countless stars God told him, “So shall thy seed be.”  Then we read, “And Abraham believed in the LORD…”  This was no easy matter-of-fact reaction.  I think it took Abraham’s breath away.  I think it took all he had in him to believe so impossible a thing.

But he believed.  And he was right in believing.

It is a wondrous thing, and a great privilege, to be involved in the birthings of faith.  It was by faith that Sarah conceived, the writer of Hebrews tells us, when she was past the age of childbearing.  “By faith Sarah received (or, laid hold of) strength to conceive seed.”  How could she do this?  The point is that no capability within herself could have conceived Isaac.  Sarah had heard from God (Gen. 18.10).  At first she laughed at the impossibility of the prospect.  But it appears that eventually… maybe as she was making supper one evening, something was quickened to her… and she said more or less, “Well, Lord… if that’s what You are saying… I am saying Amen to it.”

And so let us seek to read the inspired word of God as though we ourselves were involved in the unfolding of things back then.  We will get a more realistic idea of how things took place.  But more than that, we will learn how we ourselves are to walk with God, and move in a realm that is not our own works.  It will help us understand the process of faith, and will inspire us to anticipate the same vital birthings in our own lives.

It will inspire us to be more attentive to hear from God.  For, we can’t pull faith out of thin air.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is the key, then—the secret of faith.  Hearing from God.  The word of God has a creative element in it that creates faith… if we for our part will receive the word… and then act upon it.

Let us, then—and this more than anything else—covet that hearing of the word and will of God that initiates the response of faith in our lives… and enables us to bring into being things that others someday will read about after the fact.

The Divine Tension

One of the things we know as a result of the primal fault (we wrote of this in one of our earlier blog entries) is that our world requires substantial ordering.  A house requires regular maintenance.  A garden must be tended. It must be watered and weeded.  Left to itself it quickly goes to grass.

Now, certain Scriptures are very beautiful with the idea that the Christian life is simply a matter of leaving it all to God.  We rest in God.  Our salvation is secure.  We are appointed, not to wrath, but to obtain salvation (1 Thes. 5.9).  We are chosen to salvation (2 Thes. 2.13).  We are predestined (Rom. 8.29).  God will work all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1.11).  We are born again.  We are free spirits.  Our lives are like the wind that “bloweth where it listeth,” that is, wherever it wants to blow in the great sky of God.

This is beautiful truth.  On the one hand the Christian life is to be nature to us—the beautiful nature of the new creation Man born of the Spirit and borne along in the Wind of God.  But there are other scriptures that show the Christian life requires diligent and continued discipline, which if we are not careful to maintain, leads to our ruin.  Like the garden, we must be continually cultivating, watering, and rooting out weeds.  Or we too go to grass.

We find these two opposites all over Scripture, and people are chronically arguing over which is the right view—God’s sovereignty or man’s responsibility.  In fact I believe that both are held in play by what I like to call the divine tension.  The string on a musical instrument is held between two fixed points; if it is slack, if it is not held in perfect tension, it is useless.  You can’t make music on strings that are not held in tension.

Great arguments rage over whether Calvinism is the right doctrine, or Ariminianism.  Are we unconditionally elect, and there’s nothing we can do about it one way or the other?  Or do we ourselves have a part to play in our salvation?  It’s wonderful truth that God “hath chosen us in Him (in Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him” (Eph.  1.4).  Or in another place: “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…” (Jn. 15.16).  There are times when we need to lean heavily on this truth—in times of great trial and difficulty, or perhaps failure.  In a time of failure the Devil will be quick to assure us God is through with us now.  But we arm ourselves with this truth—that God in His own wisdom and grace has chosen us from before the foundation of the world—and we know that He that hath begun a good work in us will perfect it unto the day of Christ.

But then the divine tension comes into play.  When we get slack and presume in spite of our slackness that we are predestined and all is well with us, we are in deep trouble.  We must pay heed to what Peter says.  I may be called and chosen, but Peter says, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure…” (1 Pt. 1.10).  There are times when not doing this could result in total shipwreck.

Paul says in one place, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2.16).  How wonderful—a mind filled with the very thoughts of God.  But then Peter calls us to “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pt. 1.13).  This is speaking of spiritual discipline in the thought life.  If we are not girding up the loins of our mind we will find our thoughts flowing all over the place and we will be in trouble.

In another place Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”  Why would this be necessary if it is all up to God?  Obviously we have a critical part to play in our own salvation.  But Paul goes on, “…for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2.12,13).  Ah, you say, if it is God who is working in me both the willing and the doing, why do I have to work out my own salvation?  It’s because of this divine tension.  The Christian life is not a passive walk.  We have a vital part to play in the working out of our salvation.

But don’t forget that our working must be God’s own working.  Otherwise we quickly degenerate into striving.  Really, it’s no use trying to separate these two facets of truth.  It’s the divine tension.  Yes, we are to work out our own salvation.  But our work must be God’s own working.  Jesus says:

Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn of (from) Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Mt. 11.28-30).

Notice here the two kinds of burdens—those which are our own initiative, our own labour: “all ye that labour,” and those that are put upon us by outward circumstance or others: “and are heavy laden.”  (The first is active, the second passive.)  We are not to get our shoulder under either of these types of burdens.

But yes, we are to labour—but only in that which is the Lord’s own labour, only in the yoke of the Lord… in which Jesus says we will find rest.  We are not debtors to any other labour, and we must discipline ourselves not to get involved in any of it.  We must abide in the yoke of the Lord—working together with Him, and at the same time resting in the Lord.

It’s the divine tension.  Let us learn to accept it.  We’ll find ourselves playing beautiful music to the Lord on our instrument of ten strings.

Professional Sports–Idolatry

I’ll probably be in trouble for this one, but I commend it to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Tim Tebow is the U.S. football star who recently made quite a stir for having John 3:16 in the—what do you call it—the blacking below his eyes.  It was his way of openly declaring to all the world that he is a Christian.  Tebow also bows on the field and openly prays to Jesus for help throughout the game.  He thanks Him when he makes a great play.

Tebow is not the first in a major professional sport with a reputation for being a Christian, but the media have sensationalized him now, drawing worldwide attention to the man who bows on one knee and prays right there on the field.  Tebowing, as it has been dubbed, is the latest fad for thousands, many of whom are not even into sports.

Tebow’s fame recently went viral when he made a “miraculous” pass that won a game that landed his team in some kind of playoffs.  Suddenly the sports world exploded.  Did this man really have Jesus on his side?  Detractors howled against him; for others, expectations were high that his team was destined for victory.

But according to the news they were soundly trounced in the first game.  I didn’t hear if Tebow bowed and thanked the Lord for this as well.

Now, I don’t doubt that Tim Tebow is an upstanding Christian who is walking in the light he has.  He has the reputation for being a clean young Christian man in a day when clean is a dirty word.  That’s very commendable.

But I want to ask a question.  What is the difference between the kind of Christianity in which you can be involved in one of the world’s greatest forms of idolatry and still be a Christian—and the kind of Christianity that totally parts ways with all that?

Here is an account of what happened during the powerful revival that swept Wales in 1905.  It’s from a book called, “The Invasion of Wales by the Spirit” by James A. Stewart.

A sense of the Lord’s Presence was everywhere.  His Presence was felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines, factories and schools and even in the drinking saloons.  So great was His Presence felt that even the places of amusement and carousal became places of holy awe.  Many were the instances of men entering taverns, ordering drinks and then turning on their heels and leaving them untouched.

Wales up to this time was in the grip of football fever when tens of thousands of working-class men thought and talked only of one thing.  They gambled also on the result of the games.  Now the famous football players themselves got converted and joined the open-air meetings to testify what glorious things the Lord had done for them.  Many of the teams were disbanded as the players got converted and the stadiums were empty….

The gambling and alcohol businesses lost their trade and the theatres closed down from lack of patronage.  Football during this time was forgotten by both players and fans, though nothing was mentioned from the pulpits about the evils of football.  In this country which had a general reputation of being ‘football mad’ the train for taking the crowds to the international trial match was found to be almost empty!  The people had a new life and new interests.

One of football’s sisters in entertainment—the theatre—was also abandoned at that time.

Theatrical companies made sure that they did not come to Wales as they knew that there they would go bankrupt.

What kind of Christianity is this?  Teams shutting down because the players turned to Jesus?  My.  The stadiums empty?  How awesome.  And how strange!  Hence my question.  What is the difference between that kind of Christianity, and our brand?  This.  The revival in Wales brought people so face to face with spiritual reality that these other things simply could not compete.  Professional sports and entertainment became exposed for what they actually are—the idolatrous and empty vanities of this world.  It wasn’t a matter of people being told they shouldn’t be involved in such evils.  Suddenly they were caught up in a current of “love, vast as an ocean, lovingkindness as a flood…”  That’s the first line of the hymn that became what was called the love song of the revival.  People were broken by an awareness of the love of God as revealed in Calvary’s Cross.  They abandoned their former pursuits.  Why go to the games?  Or the theatre?  What is entertainment when you have the love of God now, and the joy of the Lord?

Yet in our kind of Christianity you can apparently take Jesus to the games or the theatre with you.  Apparently He is glad to go along.  Our Jesus apparently hasn’t got what it takes to beat them.  So, you know how it is.  If you can’t beat them you join them.  If you are a movie star who becomes a Christian, now you become a Christian movie star.  If you are a terrific professional football player, now you become a terrific Christian professional football player.  The love of God that compelled Jesus to lay down His life on the altar of Calvary’s Cross is an embarrassment to this kind of Christianity, and entirely out of place.

I don’t think anyone who loves Jesus could knowingly get involved in idolatry.  And I have no doubt in my mind that professional sports is abominable idolatry.  Yet countless Christians are involved in it either as spectators or players.  So it’s a matter of light—seeing that the entertainment industry—I include professional sports in the entertainment industry—has become horrible idolatry.  It is enmity against the holy God, who created man to love and worship and glorify Him alone.

There’s nothing at all wrong with a friendly game of hockey or basketball, or teaching children skills in sports.  But look what has happened to professional sports of every kind.  Surely we see this.  The money involved makes you nauseous.  It’s what God did when he gave Israel the quail in the desert.  They cried for flesh and he gave it to them till it came out their nostrils.  It was a judgment on them.  The same now.  The salaries they get now are decadent, to say nothing of the multiplied billions spent advertising a lifestyle that is brazen enmity against God.  My advice?  Run from it!  It is the judgment of a grieved and angry God.  And I believe we will yet see very severe judgments in the areas of professional sports and entertainment—these idols of Egypt.

Yes, it is idolatry.  When young men and women sacrifice their lives on the idol altars of money and fame, it is idolatry.  Lives that Jesus bled and died for on the altar of Calvary’s Cross go up in smoke on the idol altars—sacrificed to the enjoyment of millions still in darkness.  There they are by the millions—out in the stands watching the games, or in front of the TV.

The incredulous thing is, even the Christians have sold out to this.  It doesn’t seem to enter our minds to consider why it is that these millions in darkness are sitting together in the idol’s temple—the stadium or the arena or the living room in front of the TV—and to ask why it is that we Christians are sitting there beside them—or playing for them.

“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?  For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My People.
Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…” (2 Cor.6.16,17).

You mean, like the Lord Jesus Christ, I too am a temple of the living God?  But can you envision Jesus Christ Himself sitting in the stadium cheering for His team… or playing for those in the stands?