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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Secret to Sleeping through the Storm: Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 4

I was lying in bed… inside an elevator. The elevator car, with me in it, was flying through the air at breathtaking speed. The door was partially ajar. I could see through the opening that the steep drop down below would be fatal if I fell out. Wind rushed through the open space, whipping everything around that wasn’t tied down. Jarringly bumpy movement jostled the small space to and fro as we progressed. However, I remained unconcerned, stretched out on the mattress, awaiting the end of the ride.

Not long after that, I woke up. Holy Spirit was speaking to me through my dreams again. I recorded it in my journal and began to search out the meaning.

Within that same week, I was listening to the online recording of a dear friend preaching. She drew a parallel between trusting in God, and lying in bed. Immediately, my inner ears perked up. Daddy was clearly providing interpretation of the dream. “When you get into your bed,” she explained, “you’re not worrying about whether or not it’s going to fall apart under you. You settle your full weight into the comfort of your mattress, in absolute trust that the bed is going to hold you up all night long.”

I nodded thoughtfully. This is true! So complete is my abandon to my bed that soon after I get into it, I am deep in sleep. This sweet abandon continues for the entire duration of my slumber. Not once do I wake up to worry that I won’t safely make it to the morning without the bedframe collapsing.

I believe God is gently but pointedly asking us a question. Do we have this same absolute confidence in Him – or do we trust our beds more than we trust our Savior? This meditation brings me to the fourth point in our Active Waiting list. (In previous posts, you can find the beginning of the list.)

4) Sink Down Luxuriously into His Faithfulness

In reflecting further on my dream, I understand that an elevator is a symbol signifying transition. It represents God moving us to a new, higher level spiritually. He is transferring us to the place where we will finally see the birth of Baby Promise. Have you noticed what a wild ride it sometimes is, on the way to where He is repositioning you? Growth comes with growing pains – jostles, bumps and bruises, along with what often seems like constant exposure to danger.

My dream was a vivid picture of how uneven and uncomfortable our journey forward can be. However, right in the middle of that picture was a luxurious bed. And there I was, lying in it peacefully, utterly unperturbed by the rough ride. No matter how many bumps and bruises I have sustained on this perseverance marathon, Daddy has invited me to yield myself in trust to Him – just like I yield myself to my bed in utter reliance each night. It’s true that my bed never lets me down. But how infinitely much safer than my bed are my Daddy’s arms! How much more will He lift me up, protect me, and sustain me!

As I write, I’m reminded of a scene in the Bible similar to my dream. The picture comes to mind of Jesus asleep in the midst of a furious storm. Waves lashed the boat angrily, threatening to swallow it alive. The disciples were terrified, convinced they were brief moments away from death’s ruthless grip. In absolute, stark contrast, their slumbering Master was curled up pleasantly with His pillow. A look of the sweetest of undisturbed rest beautified His kind face. His supernatural peace was incomprehensible to them. However, they were about to witness that mighty peace coming up out of the inside of Him. It was going to transform their trauma into a moment they would never forget.

When I was reading this story recently, Holy Spirit pointed something out to me. Not only did Jesus find a legitimately frightening circumstance not at all frightening… but He also had a plan for the disciples to become entirely unfrightenable too. This was the point of the rhetorical question He then asked, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” He wasn’t venting frustration with that remark. Rather, He asked it to drive home to His dear friends that He meant for them to absorb and take on the same inner posture as His. He wanted to teach them to live in His absolute triumph over terror. He wanted to permanently impart to them the power of His peace. His goal was to make them utterly fearless.

This is His goal for you and me too. Too lofty? Unrealistic? Impossibly idealistic? Nah. Jesus is REALLY good at accomplishing His goals. These trembling, terrified men were the same ones that then went on to valiantly turn the world upside down with the message of the gospel. How did Jesus manage this? By walking them through it. By journeying with them. By showing them what it looks like to radiate peace even when hostile waves are assaulting your boat. By demonstrating for them how to pull on the mighty force of God’s peace, making everything around you line up under its power. And then by inviting them to live the same way.

Jesus is journeying with you, too. He is walking you through your personal tempest, giving you hands-on instruction on how to triumph over it. So rest. Sink down into His faithfulness. Grab a pillow, a soft throw, and get ready to nap as the storm howls on. Rest, deeply assured that He is working steadily and even relentlessly at transforming your weakness into strength, your fright into fearlessness. Rest, understanding what caliber of power He is utilizing towards this end: the very same power that Daddy exerted in His Son to raise Him from the dead and enthrone Him far above every name that is named! This is the mighty power that is right NOW “at work within us.” This guarantee of our transformation is actually a central tenant of His unbreakable covenant with us. He has sworn it by His very own name. And in this we can rest (see Rom. 8:11; Eph. 1:19; 3:20; Jer. 31:33; Ez. 36:26-28).

In Hebrews, He instructs us to “make every effort to enter [His] rest” (Heb. 4:11). Rest doesn’t happen by default. You need mindfulness and intentionality to enter it. Choose respite; choose rest, again and again and again, until the practice begins to shape you. The habit of deliberately resting gradually becomes the quality of restfulness within. The character trait of peacefulness increases inside of us little by little, day by day, as we regularly, continually, repeatedly decide to trust Him. Today, make the effort. Make the conscious choice to climb into the bed of trust, to lie down in surrender, and to rest.

I know. This is hard because the storm is at gale-force around you. Gargantuan whitecaps are crashing against your boat. But take heart, precious child. Jesus is on board. He is with you. There’s absolutely no way this ship is going to sink as long as He’s here. So go ahead, get comfy. Hunker down into His closeness. Pull the sumptuous blanket of His unfailing love up to your chin. Curl up cozily and abandon yourself to His meticulous and mighty care. Rest deeply into His fierce covenant loyalty to you. Fall asleep in His arms. Your Keeper, the One who does not slumber, has got you. As you drift off, He is murmuring something with utmost tenderness. Can you hear what He is whispering to your heart? “My little one, I love you with an everlasting love. Peace be still…”

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4, NKJV).

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Your Very Own Mountain Moving Moment: Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 3

THUD!!! You just collided head-on with a mountain. You didn’t see it coming. You were running pleasantly along the race marked out for you, minding your own business. Everything was going reasonably well. Then seemingly out of nowhere, this gargantuan obstacle sprung up in your path. Appearing to have a life of its own, it ripped open the earth directly in front of you and instantly soared to a height so far above you that leaning back, you can hardly see the top of it. It happened so suddenly that you ran right into it. You wince painfully, rub your new bruises gingerly, and assess the situation.

You study this mountain from every angle. Your path runs right up to it and appears to end where it begins. There is no way around it. You run your fingers over the dark surface that stands menacingly in front of you. It runs upward as a sheer wall, impossible to climb. The stone is mercilessly solid, shouting at you a silent testimony of impenetrable might. Its face appears to be staring you down, mocking your tininess before its massive strength.

And then you hear a voice in your ear instructing you ever so calmly: “Tell it to get out of your way.” You look up at Jesus, stunned, and stammer in protest, “But, but, but… my faith is so small!” He smiles into your eyes and replies, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move.” He nods and adds gently, “Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20, NIV).

You look back at the massive mountain, unsure if Jesus really means what He is saying. How is mustard seed sized faith going to budge this thing a centimeter, much less move it out of the way?

I asked Him that question. The way He explained the answer to me makes up the third point in our Active Waiting list. (Check out the previous posts for points one and two). Here is what He said:

3) Command the Mountain

As you push forward on your race of endurance, you are in training. Another key to using your journeying time proactively consists in learning to deal with the obstacles between you and the finish line.

Jesus has given His mountain-handling directions to us in code. The crucial word tucked into the middle of His puzzling instructions is “seed.” What happens to a seed once it’s been put to use? He describes the process for us in the book of Mark: “… A mustard seed… when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches…” (Mark 4:31-32, NKJV).

The mustard seed was known proverbially in Jesus’ time as the very smallest of seeds. His point here was that this minute seed transmogrifies into something disproportionately enormous. He is wanting us to take comfort in understanding a vital truth. No matter how small our faith is when the starting gun goes off… by the time we reach the finish line, we are going to be amazed by the stature it has acquired within us. He’s giving us a vivid picture of what we’re headed for as we keep pressing forward: faith that truly does move mountains.

First, though, we must acknowledge that faith is not all that powerful when it’s tiny. If tiny faith were mighty faith, Jesus would not have lamented to His disciples, “Oh you of little faith!” Tiny faith is not actually going to push any mountains around… at least not in its embryonic stage. But – oh glory be! – He is the FINISHER of our faith! He is the One that gives the growth! He is the One who develops our faith into the place where it actually will be mighty enough to relocate mountains into the heart of the sea!

“For who dares make light of small beginnings?” (Zech. 4:10, NET). Faith must begin somewhere. Believers never start out from Day 1, “mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Rather, we begin with mustard seed faith. It’s what you do with the mustard seed that is of essential importance. And that’s where Jesus’ coded instruction comes into play.

Command the mountain. Tell it to get out of your way. Gather up all the strength your faith muscles can muster and give it a shove with everything you’ve got inside you. And then… don’t be dismayed when you take another glance at it and it hasn’t moved even a millionth a millimeter. It may even appear to be laughing at you. That’s okay. Take a deep breath. Buckle up your seatbelt and settle in for a long ride. You are going to have to keep commanding this mountain again and again – until you have completely lost track of how many times that you have done so – before you see the end of this adventure.

Is this pointless? Absolutely not!!! For you see, dear runner, every SINGLE time you command the mountain, something powerful is happening in invisible places. Not a single occasion of mountain commanding is in vain, even if you don’t see anything shifting for a long, long time. Every single command counts!!!

To better grasp this, let’s take a look into the spiritual realm. “What you bind on earth is bound in heaven.” Almost all of the time, obstacles move in the heavenlies before they move in the physical world. Consider this picture with the eyes of your heart:

Your mustard seed faith falls into the ground the very first time your raise your voice, addressing the mountain. (Just for the sake of the illustration, we’ll speed up the regular pace of this time lapse picture.) Now watch the seed sinking into earth. Watch as it begins to open up under the soil. A little glimpse of white peaks out of the seed coat, then begins slipping downwards. This becomes a tap root, and before long you see a whole system of secondary roots moving outwards in all directions. At just the right moment, a very small green shoot also emerges from the seed and moves upwards through the earth, still underneath the surface.

Do you realize that all of this is invisible to us who live above the ground? There’s only one way to perceive the very real progress that the plant (your faith) is attaining: with the eyes of your heart. As you continue to give directives to the mountain standing in your way, hidden faith development is happening beyond where you can perceive it by natural means. Your mustard seed is doing exactly what it was created to do: putting down roots and advancing towards maturity. Again and again, drawing on Holy Spirit nutrients, you give the command, “Mountain, move!” Every time you do, those roots are getting deeper and deeper; stronger and stronger.

As you do this commanding, God’s breath is on the air that moves through your vocal cords. You are one with Him in spirit. His voice is commanding too, in and through your voice. Movement is actually happening steadily in spirit each and every time you speak forth His words to this mountain. Because you are going purely on faith and not on sight, your faith is daily getting stronger. You may not even notice the moment when its germinating head pops through the surface of the soil and begins to reach and stretch towards the sun. Regardless, the bona fide growth that is happening is unstoppable.

I’m struck by how Bill Johnson explains this concept. He shares about a faith challenge that he faced a few years ago: “It felt like I was pushing against a 1,000-pound rock that wouldn’t budge. And though I pushed against that rock for months, it never moved… It wasn’t too long afterwards that I realized that while I never moved that 1,000-pound boulder, I can now move the 500 pound rock right next to it. And I couldn’t have moved this size rock before contending with the 1,000-pounder. Contending shapes us and makes us capable of carrying more than we’ve ever been able before” (Dreaming With God, p. 178).

So then, we come to realize that this mountain commanding exercise is actually more about the perfecting of our faith than it is about the mountain. Through all of this ordering about of onerous obstacles, you and I are slowly but surely leaving behind the season of “little faith” (Matt. 8:26) and growing up into the stature of “great faith” (Matt. 8:10).

At the same time, you can be assured that God cares fiercely about that ugly thing trying to intimidate you, His precious child. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He gives us a preview of the fate He Himself has planned for it: “‘I'm your enemy… Mount Destroyer, you ravager... I'll reach out, I'll take you in my hand, and I'll crush you till there's no mountain left. I'll turn you into a gravel pit — no more cornerstones cut from you, no more foundation stones quarried from you! Nothing left of you but gravel.’ God's Decree” (Jer. 51:25-26, MSG).

The mountain moving moment is coming. See it with the eyes of your heart… visualize this: The day at last arrives. You join your voice to His and finally render that decisive, commanding blow: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before [me] you shall become a plain!” (Zech. 4:7, ESV). An earth-shattering rumbling comes into your ears. It’s a sound unlike any you’ve ever heard before. The collapse of your mountainous foe vibrates through your entire being. Debris is flying everywhere; you cover your face. A moment later, you look up, and it’s GONE! Disappeared forever into the heart of the sea! As the dust settles, the path in front of you opens up clearly. As euphoric joy explodes through your heart, your running shoe hits the pavement once again…

Dear one, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!