"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cave Challenge...

Insolence affected generations
The Path on "Oracle" Mountain took an unexpected turn, leaving Malachi to retrace the historical portrait of his audience.

This excursion led me to discover an uncanny resting place among the dense mountain foliage. Conspicuously hidden from sight, a large den housed a terrified young man named Gideon, threshing a small amount of grain he shook from a meager bundle.
Contemplating his plight, I realized his story might be common in many younger hikers today. His childhood was etched with warrior stories of great heroes and glorious victories. He knew of the terrifying, yet victorious wanderings his people had experienced years ago when they followed their God's guidance. He spoke of their lessons toward faith under their mighty God's protection, peace, and provision along their trails.

But to this poor young man, those stories were history and not reality for him. There was obviously something missing in Gideon's demeanor. Courage sketched his stories, but he was disguising fear behind a shadow of timidity. His constant glances nervously darted toward the cave's opening, stretching his gaze beyond to scan the valley. His meager possessions displayed poverty, and the small basket of grain exposed a lack in harvest.

Valiant victory possible 
In spite of a victorious history, a sad synopsis ruled the travelers of his stories. They had rejected God's Way, erecting superficial paths of their own choosing. Their shortcut trails led into enemy camps, capturing many with deep pitfalls and defeat for their families. Relationships built on trust and safety were replaced by trickery and deceit. Their choices resulted in bondage, but worse, as seen in Gideon, they forged confusion, fear, and doubt in younger generations who were also conquered by their own personal fears and wrong choices.

For seven years of Gideon's life, the enemy encamped against them in the valley. Like an army of locust, they would ascend the mountain slopes, destroying anything in their wake, and making a clean sweep of homes and gardens. All possibility of harvest or retaliation were squelched immediately. The younger men knew only obstacles and personal defeat, remaining stagnant in faith, fearful and hiding in caves along the mountain range. Their future was bleak, outlined by hunger and doom.

My heart admitted silently some of these same spiritual conflicts of fear versus courage, but before I left this dejected scene of Judges, the Guide visited Gideon's dark cave and changed his future. The Guide declared this young man's potential as "a mighty man of valor", promising His own strength would be provided for success. At first, Gideon was very apprehensive and questioned the obstacles his people had already experienced. He asked permission to solidify his assurance before he left the safety of the den. The Gentle Guide bent low and deposited a little moisture exactly where Gideon requested. This expression of grace enlightened my understanding the awesome power of God's Presence.

Gideon realized spiritual disobedience in his family as the lack of power and confronted it by destroying the erected false gods. Then, he faced off with the enemy. Observing his victories encouraged me on my own mountainous trek. Through faith, my potential and strength are derived from this same mighty Guide. I've known joy in His Presence. His power sustains me, and each spiritual victory galvanizes my faith, embracing me in His intimate love.

Challenge to pray & encourage youth
Also, considering Gideon's potential and his victories, caused me to take a serious look at young people on their spiritual treks with this Guide. Old stories may intrigue the youth today, but they also need encouragement to focus on the Guide and keep climbing vertical.
I thought of possible paths of encouragement in which I could involve our small group. We resolved to include them in some of our climbs, allowing them to experience awesome victories and stake their own claims. Through our examples, we hope they learn to consistently hear and follow the Guide. We realize their obstacles and enemies may differ from the ones we face, but by being aware of their needs, we can encourage whenever possible.

One day, we'll stand together on the victorious summit, but until our hiking is done, we learn by the laurels of past stories. Our own tales can demonstrate how doubts and fears are defeated by a fresh claim of the Guide's Presence. He leads us forward and upward, commanding us to pray for 'each other', but also spur 'each other' for a good climb!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Path on "Oracle Mountain"

For the next several weeks, my spiritual trek has been asked to follow the path set out by Malachi, the messenger, who came to the spiritual leaders of Israel with the 'oracle' of the Word of the Lord.

I want to thank Lisa Harper for her stories and insights into this last book of the Old Testament. I'm anticipating new lessons in my time alone with the Guide through the pages of The Manual. I also look forward to time weekly spent with the small group of sojourners who come to take this hike into what I've dubbed The Path on "Oracle Mountain".

I can only imagine how heavy this burden was to Malachi. It was no surprise to find other translations used "burden" to replace "oracle. This isn't a letter of recommendation, nor is it a message of praise for a job well done. Lisa found "a love that never lets go" within the lines of the message, but the message itself is a strong rebuke for handling sacred instructions corruptly. It looks strongly like a citation given egotistical leaders, and a warning for followers to change paths quickly.
God approaches through six rhetorical disputations, giving Malachi a message to carry to the spiritual leaders and the people.

As I read the disputations, I was struck by how "sassy" the responses are to God's rhetorical claims. It's not easy to correct defensive children, but wow...this really had to be a tough call for Malachi! Not only is he sent to the children of God, but to leaders who defiantly wore their disobedience while strutting as elite servants, daring anyone to call them down!
I think this study is going to show some real character from a Messenger who speaks clearly, standing courageously tall beside an amazing God of infinite love.

You're invited to study and comment along the path! 
Please let me know any of your insights as you read the manual and trek this mountain. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For those tears...

Dear Beautiful One...
I see your wounds.
I see your cuts and scars.
I see how this world of sin has treated you
And how sickness mars
         Your very spirit
It thinks it has victory over you
By disease taking your created beauty;
Using infection to pierce and
Leave you so black and blue
        Your very body
May seem broken and crumbled,
A heavy weight for My life within.
Your blood spills on tables
Like my Son's did for sin.
        Your very heart
Yes, I see their hate of Me bruising your heart,
And shattering your feeble frame;
But in My mission, you take your part
Because, my beautiful one, you bear My Name.
                                   for my courageous older sister
                                                           written by Debi Weaver on April 6, 2013

"And Jesus says, "Come to the waters, Stand by my side.
I know you are thirsty; You won't be denied. 
I've felt every tear drop when in darkness you've cried
And I've strove to remind you...that for those tears I died."

In honor of a very sick sister, these words spilled from my heart as I prayed for her to know God's love today. So many of our loved ones are forced into tough circumstances, endure loneliness, horrible pain, and even stumbling in weakness. Yet, they continue to shine their flickering lights for God's glory.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The "So that " Compass

When hiking in unknown territory, a compass and map become vital tools for knowledge. With them, survival is certain by knowing location and your direction becomes clear.

The Bible is considered a map by many Jesus followers. Lately, I've been realizing that certain phases in Scriptures are used as a compass.
"So that" phrases are like arrows in that compass for me, showing the direction God points for the benefit of His followers. "So that" phrases show up often after commands God has given His people, clearly pointing toward the good benefits experienced when certain paths are chosen.

The Creator God wants His people live life in knowledge for their own good. He wants us to know Him, the Guide, so we have purpose. He wants us to believe His Word as a map through the mountains and valleys of life, so we are no longer lost. He wants us to understand that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. These directional tools are His recurring theme, giving insight and answers for hikers who seek to know their destiny.

Recently, I was given one of these "so that" pointers, showing God's reason for choosing His followers to be His witnesses. God declared it was a parental choice He made for the benefit of His children.

My path of study took me into Isaiah 43:10 where God declares "YOU are my witnesses, and the servant whom I have that you may KNOW and BELIEVE ME and UNDERSTAND that I am He."

Throughout my trek as one of his followers, I was constantly taught that witnessing is a responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ. We were to pass on the "gospel". I cannot recall if I was taught the benefit would be so that others know God, or if that was just the assumed reason. I may have just concluded it would benefit others to know Christ as their personal Savior.
I'm sure that I never realized God wanted me to be His witness for my own good.

Yet, here it is clearly explained. God declares that by honoring His command to be His witness, I benefit in three ways.
God commands me to be His witness, so that I may KNOW Him. 
In my prayers, I've asked God to help me know Him better, but here, God responds to my prayer with this "so that" phrase. He points to witnessing of Him. "Talk about Me and you will  know Me!". The more conversations where God is the subject, the more I learn His character. My words make my actions take the risk of trusting Him. I learn that when I talk about Him, I'm grasping the depth of love He gave me. Also, in conversations, I become more aware of His Presence. As I mention His character to others, my desire is to become more like Him. The more I talk about Him, the more acquainted I become with His ways. Witnessing is as if I've been asked to give a referral for Him, and as I speak of His qualities, I hold a better knowledge of Him.
God calls me to be His witness, so that I may BELIEVE Him.
God declares my witness will instill a more firm faith in me. Telling the story of Jesus and relating His promises reminds me of His love and presence in my life. As I see changes in my behavior because of the work He is doing, my trust in Him is solidified. My believing becomes more tangible. I begin to believe He will do even more than I ask or imagine. Speaking His name publicly and seeing Him work in me affirms my belief in Him. When my actions back my belief, I find Him faithful.
God calls me to be His witness, so that I may UNDERSTAND He is.
God declares my witness of Him will lead to understanding He is exactly who He says He is. I begin to understand the awesomeness of His work in this world and even how involved He is in the little details of my life. I begin to understand how He orchestrates encounters, meetings and other opportunities in my daily activities for me to talk about Him.

And now, I understand why.
God declares
"You are my Witnesses...
so that you may KNOW, BELIEVE, and UNDERSTAND I am He".
How are you doing?