Monday, July 27, 2009

Signs of the Times

Americans are always interested in predicting the weather. Major Television stations pay mega bucks to procure the services of skilled and charismatic weather prognosticators. As a young man growing up in Michigan, I remember a weatherman whose popularity was unmatched. His name was Sonny Elliott. So popular was he, that he is now enshrined in the Weatherman's Hall of Fame. To be honest, I don't remember if his weather predictions were at all accurate. Actually, it really didn't matter. Sonny Elliott's popularity was because he was so very funny and entertaining.

In God's economy He has ordained that there be prognosticators. They are called prophets! Unlike Sonny Elliott and despite their accuracy, they have never been very popular with God's people. The truth is that most prophets are neither funny nor entertaining! Beginning with Noah "a preacher of righteousness" prophetic voices have enjoyed little or no popularity! One commonly heard prophetic greeting is "Oh no! Here comes Mr Doom and Gloom!"

For many years prophetic voices have been warning us concerning the coming worldwide depression. From Willard Cantelon's The Day the Dollar Dies and The New World Money System published in the 1970's to David Wilkerson's The Vision (1973) and The coming Economic Collapse, there have been many prophetic voices warning us concerning the times in which we now live.

Although I meet many people who prefer to remain in denial concerning the economic crisis we face, it does not take a prophet to discern the signs of the times. They are readily evident. The headlines in papers like the Wall Street Journal chronicle the growing world wide dilemma. Headlines decry worsening stock markets, real estate markets, the collapse of Wall Street investment banks, bank failures, disappearing jobs, massive layoffs, corporate and personal bankruptcies, record foreclosures, and the clamoring for "Federal Bailouts" by faltering big business. The 2008 Christmas season posted the worst retail sales figures in 30 years. The word recession has faded into oblivion and the word depression is now freely spoken in the media.

Despite the signs of the times (even the New York Times) many choose to listen to the false prophets of peace and prosperity - ease and comfort and bury their heads in the sands of apathy - choosing to pretend that all is well and as it has been. Countless Americans are convinced that some miraculous cure will come from the sacred halls of Washington DC or that the new president and Democratic majority will somehow solve all our problems by borrowing and spending our way into prosperity. Some cling to the hope that God will favor America, intervene in the affairs of men and rescue us with a celestial bailout package. Others I meet seem to think that of course "Christians" will be spared and will continue to live in ease and comfort performing above a safety net of divine protection. "Woe unto those who are at ease in Zion."

Despite the headlines, there are other signs of the times which give me great hope and cause my heart to leap for joy. First and foremost I see a growing spiritual hunger in America.!! I also see many formerly 'marginal believers' searching for a more meaningful relationship with our Lord and with one another. In his book Revolution, George Barna talks of the millions of Christians who have left the "institutional church" - not because they have lost their faith but because they are searching for a deeper, more meaningful and personal faith. Many confess that they are looking for a true encounter with the living God and an experience of true "christian community".

I am also seeing an increased interest in prayer; with new prayer groups springing up daily. I find believers on their knees calling out to the Lord for revival in America and in our world. Recently in Atlanta, Georgia and in Greenock, Scotland there were conferences to which believers came from all over the world, to pray, to repent and seek God for a spiritual awakening! There is indeed a fresh wind beginning to blow in America.

I am thrilled to see the emergence of new Kindgom paradigms that are focused, not just on some new corporate worship experience but which are fixated on justice, preaching the gospel to the poor and going into the highways and byways to demonstrate the love and grace of God to a fallen world. I see young people who are presenting their bodies, their entire lives, 24/7, to God's service as an act of worship! I see God raising up young men of God like Shane Claiborne to inspire the hearts of young Christians to sacrificial loving service, to caring for God's poor and to remindong us old white guys what being a follower of Jesus really looks like!

The greatest sign I see is the one predicted by our Lord Himself - the sign of the prophet Jonas - a cacophany of prophetic voices calling for repentance and a genuine turning of our hearts to God! I am moved and encouraged by the clear clarion call from men like Paul Washer who in brokenness are crying out to the church to return to it's first love, to holiness, to bearing much fruit and to loving each other! Many are responding to that call! Halelleuia!

Although there are indeed signs in the natural of impending disaster, I want to encourage each of you NOT to fix your eyes on the signs of the times - BUT turn your eyes upon JESUS the author and finisher of our faith! Therein lies our only hope! Let us be listening for His sweet voice! Let us seek Him for guidance and direction in these troubled times. Most of all, let us remember that in this dark hour we have GOOD NEWS to share - the Good News of God in Jesus Christ!! Let us also be watching and waiting for His return!

Maranatha! Come soon Lord Jesus!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Help Is Not A Four Letter Word - Part 6

"The desert and the parched land will be glad;

the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.

Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;

it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy."
Isa. 35: 1&2

"Where am I" I blurted out.

"You are in the wilderness. You are where you have always been. You have not moved." The voice said.

Immediately I knew it was the voice of the Lord.

As I gazed about I was overwhelmed by the exquisite beauty of my surroundings. As far as the eye could see the world was ablaze with the colors of spring. My entire being was saturated with a fragrance which like a heavenly incense was carried upon a warm spring breeze . It was so intensely refreshing and life giving that there were no words to describe it. I dared not move or even breathe: I sensed that this was indeed holy ground.

"My God, My God, such beauty! How glorious!" I exclaimed!

I stood in stunned silence for what seemed an eternity. I was unable to take it all in. I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.

"How could I be in the same place? Certainly this isn't the wilderness I was in, or if it is, something has happened to it?!

Do you remember asking me once, "What then is real?" Jesus asked.

"Have you never heard the saying, "Perception IS reality?"

"Although you perceive that the world has "changed," the wilderness in which you originally found yourself has not changed - YOU are the one who has changed!
It is neither a different time nor a different place," He said. You are beginning to see the world through My eyes. When you see all creation with the eyes of the Spirit - through the eyes of faith - you see all things clearly!"

"In My realm - within My kingdom - the kingdom of heaven, there is no desert - no barrenness - only life, glorious and abounding."

"The problem is that until you are 'born again' of the Spirit, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven. The true nature of things is hidden from your eyes. The eyes of your understanding are darkened and you are unable to see! All is veiled to you. You are blind to spiritual realities, but when you receive the Spirit of life you are raised to walk in newness of life and behold, all things become new!" Jesus said.

"If only you saw yourself through my eyes...His voice trailed off and he was gone.

"If only you saw yourself through my eyes? If only....."

I found myself deep in thought. I wanted to just shout out:

"Wait! Come back! How do you see me? Please, I really want to know!"

Only silence greeted my ears.

Help Is Not A Four Letter Word - Part 5

Upon hearing the voice I instantly turned around. Stretched out before me was a marvelous highway which ran seamlessly out to meet the horizon. It pierced through the desert like an arrow flying into the distant sun. I was transfixed by the morning sun which glowed like a beacon of hope on the horizon. The highway seemed out of place, ethereal and 'other worldly'.

I shook my head in amazement.

"How long have I been standing here? Where did this road come from? I'm sure it wasn't here before!" I said out loud.

What seemed an audible voice, responded:

"It has been here from the beginning. You could not see it because it is not visible to the human eye! It is veiled to all but the eyes of the Spirit. It is a new and living way whose maker is God. Remember!" Spirit said.

Then I remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah:

"A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not travel on it."
Isa. 35:8
"A voice calling,
'Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness
Make smooth in the desert
A highway for our God."
Isa. 40:3

"As you have perceived, Spirit continued, it is the Highway of Holiness and neither the unclean nor fools may travel this Way - for the fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God.' It is the only true way through the wilderness. It is the King's Highway." He said.

I glanced about once again, I could not ascertain where the voice came from, but I knew it was the voice of the Spirit.

I asked, "If it is hidden and cannot be seen by human eyes, how is it that I can see the way so clearly?"

"Because you have received me," Spirit said, "I have anointed your eyes that you may see beyond the veil. It is, after all, another of my directives."

Then I remembered Jesus' promise:

"But when the Spirit of truth comes,
He will guide you into all truth;
For he will not speak of His own initiative
But whatever He hears He will speak;
And He will disclose to you what is to come."

"He will glorify Me,
for He will take what is mine
And will disclose it to you!
All things the Father has are mine
Therefore I said that He takes what is mine
And discloses it to you
John 16: 13-16

"So then" I said, "This isn't a real desert or a real highway?!"

"What is real? He said. How do you define real? If you're talking about what you feel, taste, smell or see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

"That sounds so familiar", I replied. "Where have I heard that before? Is that something Jesus said?" I asked.

"No" Spirit said laughingly. "It's something Morpheus said. You, of all people, should remember!! It's from, The Matrix!"

"O yea! I knew it sounded familiar." I interjected. "I most certainly do remember! That was an awesome movie - my favorite. Can I ask you a question?

"Absolutely! That's what I'm here for.
Spirit replied.

"Then what IS real?" I asked. " Is this a real desert? Is this a real highway or is all of this a vision, a dream, or some kind of hallucination?"

"I really am not up to some metaphysical discussion; Spirit said. "You simply must accept that the realm of Heaven, the spiritual and eternal realm, is all there is. It is what is truly real! Everything else is just temporary, a reflection or shadow. Simply put, God Is! All else is temporal and temporary. Remember, it is from the "spiritual" realm that everything you think of as real came into being!"

"Whew". I said, "That's pretty heavy. I'm not sure I can wrap my mind around that!"

"Of course you can't. You're not supposed to! It's impossible! He said. The things of the Spirit are only spiritually discerned. That is why I told Nick, (Nick O. Demas) 'You must be born again!' Remember? As you well know, the 'natural man' or a 'human being' is not able to comprehend or be aware of the things of the Spirit - because he or she is unspiritual! Humans only possesses human life, human intelligence and the ability to understand and interact with the natural and human realm. Those who are born AGAIN of the Spirit are able to see within the spiritual realm."

"I get it now. I really do." I shouted! Hallelujah! Because I have been 'born again', I have received the gift of the Holy Spirit' and now I have been made alive - spiritually! I have also realized that the 'way' out of this spiritual desert I have been in - is not a physical highway - but it is the HIGH way! A HIGHER way! A higher spiritual path - not the ways of a man, but the way of the Spirit - your way - or YAWEH!" I chuckled to myself. "I must have the gift of cleverness", I thought.

As soon as I spoke these words I recalled:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are My ways your ways,
Declares the Lord
For as the heavens are HIGHER than the earth,
So are My ways HIGHER then your ways

And My thoughts then your thoughts."

Suddenly the desert around me began to fade and the road before me vanished. A blinding bright light shone on the horizon and I heard a voice, His voice, say to me:

"I AM the way, the Truth and the Life..."

To be continued

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Help Is Not A Four Letter Word - Part 4

In reflecting on the past events I found myself somewhat mystified. In all my training within the church, I had no theological or doctrinal framework to interpret what was now happening to me. My entire Christian experience was totally lacking in ‘spiritual' experiences. In fact my Christian religion taught me not only to be skeptical of such ‘pseudo-spirituality’ but to avoid it! Believing or faith - accepting the Bible as true, without evidence, was all that was necessary. Our faith never produced any spiritual experiences. God was not to be known in an experiential way! I had been converted to a system of beliefs but not to a living risen Lord! Our faith was all in our heads! Knowing God simply meant knowing 'about' God. We were to "believe in" God but most certainly could not know God - not in a personal intimate way! God was just too grand, too omnipotent, too big to be "known" personally. My faith was summed up by a poster from the 60's which said:

"God is so big - and you are so small
Stay as you are!"

I had always believed in Jesus, although I could not see Him or touch Him or hear His voice, I was taught that believing was all that was necessary! The truth, was that I was religious but not regenerate. I was “saved from hell and my sins” but was not born again! I was a believer but not spiritual, for I had not received the Spirit of Christ!

For so many years I plodded along trying to live the Christian life, in my own strength. Although I attended church, worshiped, studied my bible and tried to live for Him, there was a deadness and a emptiness inside me. I was simply going through the motions – trying to perform in such a way that God would be pleased with me. Yet, despite my efforts - God was distant. I struggled with the thought that perhaps He was just a figment of my imagination! Then, I would be overcome with fear and guilt - fearing His wrath and judgment for having such a thought! Instead of joy I had only sporadic bouts of happiness. Instead of feeling secure I struggled with feelings of unworthiness, doubt and guilt. Instead of feeling accepted, I felt and rejected and unloved!

The harder I tried to be "Christian" the more I grew unhappy and desperate to know ‘if” God was real. I finally became so desperately aware of the emptiness in my life, that one night I lay on the floor in the kitchen and cried out to Him from the depths of my being! As I cried out in my pain I saw my life spread out on the floor before me, as if it were a jigsaw puzzle! I saw myself desperately trying to put it together - but try as I might I could not make the pieces fit. I realized that there was no way I could ever hope to put it together! I was frustrated, angry, grieved and exhausted - and in desperation, I cried unto the Lord! "Help."

“Please God; if you are there then you can have my life. I can't make it work. I'm so empty and unhappy and most of all I want to know that you are real. I don’t just want to believe in you any more - I want to know you! Please come and take my life because if you don’t then I will take it - for it is not worth living! Jesus help me!” I prayed.

God showed up and in an instant something happened! I knew that I was saved! I knew that I was changed and I wept tears of gratitude and joy! How I knew these things I do not know and frankly I do not care. Jesus came and made Himself real to me! I felt truly alive for the first time in my life! I knew that somehow life had come into me and changed me from the inside out!

However, I was little prepared for what happened next. It was as though the entire world lit up. It was like having cataract surgery - all the wold seemed so vibrant and alive! I also sensed another presence with me and in me. It was the Holy Spirit! I could even hear Him speaking to me so clearly it seemed almost audible. It was glorious!

Beginning that day, I sequestered myself away for many months and gave myself to studying the word of God. It was not some academic or theological exercise. It was not my head that I was filling but my heart! Reading God’s word was more like going to a banquet table. It was my spiritual food. Every time I opened “the book” the words came alive and life seemed to come through it into me! My consciousness expanded exponentially. I was led from one passage to another and began to “see” truths that I had read hundreds of times before but had never really comprehended. His words were life giving and I soaked them up like a dry sponge!

Many sleepless nights I would read and be led by Him from the Old to the New Testament - as the Spirit opened my mind to “mysteries” that were previously vexing and hidden from my understanding. So enlivening was His truth that I would close my bible and plead, “Stop Lord! Please stop!? I just can’t take any more!” I literally felt like I was going to explode !! I was so full of the joy and the glory of God that I would dance in my kitchen and sing songs of praise – and I didn't even believe in dancing!

I had discovered the exhilaration of the mountain top. It seemed I had been transported to the top of Mt. Everest. Like the disciples on the mount of transfiguration I wanted to remain in this heavenly place. I never wanted to come down - but the pull of gravity and the natural world is always downward.

The scriptures say that ‘pride and a haughty spirit goes before a fall.' Between pride in my spiritual experiences and revelations, and giving in to various sins and temptations, my descent from the heights of glory was rapid and jarring! The further I descended from the summit the less I felt the presence of the Lord and, the Spirit, who had been my teacher and companion, grew suddenly silent – for many, many long years.

Since that mountain top conversion experience, I had spent almost twenty years in the desert that lay at the foot of Mount Sinai - not aware of how really dead it and I was! Until now, I did not understand why my journey with Jesus seemed so arduous and so joyless! Why my path seemed so hard! I was painfully aware that I failed to make any lasting progress or real growth in truth and holiness - in character or deportment. It seemed like being a christian was a constant battle against the flesh which raged 24/7! I failed to understand why my life seemed so fruitless - so joyless and barren! Neither did I understand why spiritually I was so very dry. For me, this wilderness in which I found myself, could easily be called the valley of dry bones for lo it was exceedingly dry! I remembered a television series from my childhood which best described my journey; It was called "Death Valley Days."

Amazingly in the midst of this wilderness experience, I had finally come to the end of my self and the realization that I could not, in my own strength, live the christian life. The wilderness had worked its magic! Exhausted, parched, lost, and devoid of strength - I once again called out to God for HELP and for the living water! Like the prodigal son living in the pig pen eating with swine, I repented of my selfishness and my heart suddenly turned homeward.

I found myself at once alive unto God and dead to sin! There was a new spring in my step and a new song in my heart. I was refreshed! As I looked out before me, the desert no longer seemed such an inhospitable and hopeless place. I began to sense that soon I would reach the other side - that there was a way out! There was indeed hope! I was filled with a new optimism, a new joy, a sense of expectation and a peace that surpassed all understanding. I knew the way out lay in submission - in listening – in receiving direction - and in learning to relax my grip and totally trust Him! I knew that I could never make it on my own. I no longer looked at my circumstances , my self, or my surroundings but I looked unto Jesus.

The Spirit of the Lord was once again present with me. He began speaking to me, leading me teaching me and guiding me! Hallelujah! I couldn't wait to hear what He had to say next!

Suddenly a verse was brought to mind which gave me great comfort and brought joy to my heart. It said:

“Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

Once again I felt a cool breeze blowing from behind and Spirit said:

"Turn around and see the salvation of the Lord!"

To Be Continued

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Help Is Not A Four Letter Word - Part 3

"I have nothing to write," I thought to myself. "It's as though every drop of inspiration in my body has just evaporated". Just then, a phrase, like some advertising banner behind a biplane, floated across my mind. It said, "Diagnosis - Inspiration Dehydration" "That pretty much describes my condition Doc, I said out loud and I chuckled to myself.

When you've spent any amount of time on the top of Mount Inspiration - enjoying the panorama from that high place - it is difficult to come down or to 'come back to earth', as my mother used to say. Well, I had 'come down from the mountain alright - and not into some lush green valley below, but into a stark, sweltering, barren and lifeless desert.

"Where am I? How did I get here?" I thought to myself. I silently surveyed my surroundings. Spread out before me was nothing more than an arid expanse of colorless flat plain - not even worthy of being called a landscape. It was obviously a desert and yet there were no majestic wind swept sand dunes, no distinguishable landmarks on the horizon and no visible oasis - just flat, barren, brown lifeless nothingness - as far as the eye could see.

Morpheus' words from the Matrix came to mind: "Welcome to the desert of the real."

I heard the sound of a breeze blowing across the plain and then an all too familiar voice said;

"There's another term for it you know."

"For what" I said," somewhat startled.

"For what you call the desert", He responded.

"And I guess you're going to tell me whether I ask or not." I said rather sarcastically.

"No" He said, "I won't unless you really want me to. If you prefer I can just withdraw and let you figure it out for yourself!, if you can!"

"OK, Ok," I said, "Will you please tell me just what you are talking about?"

"The wilderness!" Spirit replied. "The proper name for this desert is 'the wilderness'. It may not look like much but a lot of famous people have been here. It's what they call in the auto industry, a proving ground. It's where He tests all the new vehicles."

"Thanks for the help," I said, "but what does the wilderness have to do with anything and why am I here?"

"You're here to learn." He said. "Just think about it for a minute."

"Think about what?" I said somewhat caustically. This going nowhere conversation was beginning to remind me of one of those endless 'why' conversations I've had with my three year old granddaughter! It was obvious that I was getting irritated.

"Settle down! Take a deep breath and chill!" He chided. "That's better. Now breathe in again, slowly. Good! Exhale. That's it. Just let go. You're doing great. Now just close your eyes..."

I closed my eyes and began to really relax. I could feel the warm breeze softly caressing my face. It seemed as though time stood still - very still. The world was shrouded in a hush. A marvelous peace enveloped me.

"You're doing great!" He whispered. "Just keep it up..slowly...slowly. Good!"

"Now, I want you to meditate on a word. That's it, breathe...listen carefully...slowly...the word is... wilderness."

"Wilderness" I whispered to myself, "Wilderness."

"Now, tell me the first thing that comes to your mind."

The word just exploded into my consciousness.

"Moses!" I said.

"What about Moses?" He whispered. "Tell me what else you see."

"It's more remembering than seeing." I replied. "I was remembering how Moses killed the Egyptian for mistreating an Israelite and then fled into the wilderness. If my memory serves me right, Moses spent 40 years there before returning to Egypt and fulfilling his destiny as the deliverer of God's people."

"Anything else you can think of?" He said. "Stay focused and listen!"

Well, I seem to remember that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years after being led by Moses out of Egypt. They were made to wander there because of their disobedience." I responded.


"Well, Jesus went to the wilderness." I said confidently. "I remember the whole thing. I think it's in Matthew and Luke's gospels in the fourth chapter."

"Let me ask you one more question. How & why did Jesus go to the wilderness?" the Spirit asked. "Go ahead and tell me what you remember."

Well, as far as I can remember," I said, "the sequence of events is as follows."

"Jesus goes to the Jordan river and is baptized by John the Baptist. I'm not sure if John was Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist or Anabaptist? But anyway, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit (oh I mean You) descended upon him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven said,"

"This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

Matthew says that Jesus, being "full of the holy Spirit, was led 'by You' into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."

"Wow! My memory sure seems to be improving!" I said. "It's been so bad lately that I've been joking that I have 'old timers' disease, but now it's great! I feel like a new man!"

"You are a new man!" Spirit said, "Glad to be of Help."

"So Spirit," I asked, "what bearing does all this have on my question - Why am I here?"

"I told you. You're here to learn and I can tell you with full confidence, that you already know more than you realize. In fact, I think you already know the answer to your own question. May I ask you something."

"Sure. Go right ahead." I said.

Spirit spoke, "When you think about Moses, the Israelites and Jesus' journey here - do you see any common thread? Some similarity?"

"Well the number 40 immediately comes to mind." I replied.

"Besides that", Spirit asked.

"Actually, I said confidently, "right this instant I find myself thinking that it was the place where God "proves" his man or His people. It seems to me that the wilderness is a place where the conditions are so harsh that human resources are not sufficient for survival. Another danger is that the terrain is so flat, barren and monotonous, you can easily become lost and just wander in circles - like the children of Israel. It's also the place where you learn victory over temptation, as Jesus did! It's where you learn God-reliance instead of self-reliance."

"One lesson I've learned already is to cry for HELP, mean it AND receive it, or, I mean receive You! I realize that the most important lesson is not to trust your human senses, instincts or abilities but to trust in God and to learn to be led by the Spirit. I mean, to listen to and respond to - YOU!"

"Did I get the right answer?!" I beamed! I was feeling very inspired and insightful!

"I'm very sorry." He said.

"I felt totally dejected as once again I hung my head and stared down at my shoes!"

"I said I'm sorry because this isn't a quiz." Spirit said. " There is no right answer only YOUR answer - YOUR insight. All that matters is what insights or light you have received!"

"Excellent, George", He continued. "I'm glad to see you using your head for something more than an advertisement for Stetson hats. Do you mind if I shed a little more light on this subject for you?"

"No, please go right ahead, I'm all ears." I grinned.

He interjected, "Thanks for sparing me the Ross Perot impersonation. I enjoyed it the first time but I've always found his voice to be rather annoying."

"Me too!" I admitted.

"Well, what I wanted to say, George, is that everything you have perceived is true, insightful and valuable! I also want you to understand that the wilderness is a necessary and essential part of the journey. The truth is, it is impossible to travel from Egypt (which represents the world system) to Canaan (or the place of promise and presence) without crossing the wilderness! There is no way to avoid it! There is no other route and there are no shortcuts!! He designed it that way!

"Crossing the wilderness is not a race or a time trial. How long it takes to learn the lessons of the wilderness and to complete the wilderness journey, is up to you! For the Israelites, it was actually only a short journey from Egypt to Canaan - by the most direct route. In the time of the Exodus a splendid road existed which ran up the coast through the country of the Phillistines and the total distance was not over 250 miles, or about a months journey. But as you mentioned, it took the Israelites 40 years to make that 250 mile crossing!"

"It was not God's good pleasure or his "will" that they should wander so long in the wilderness. He would have brought them immediately to the promised land, had they submitted, and loved to be led by Him; but because they so often grieved Him (and me) in the desert, He swore in His wrath they should not enter His rest. In the end, only two who completely followed and trusted in Him and made it into Canaan - Joshua and Caleb."

"The bottom line is that the wilderness is the place where you must learn THE LESSON! What's THE LESSON? It is to learn to walk by faith and not by sight! Without faith it is impossible to please Him! This IS the first requirement if you are to be be a vehicle or vessel of honor that God can fully utilize! "

"Wow! Whew! I never really understood any of this before- only bits and pieces. It seems so clear to me now!" I said. "This revelation sure helps me to understand much of what has happened in my own journey! For so much of my Christian life I have felt so dry, barren and unfruitful. I have tried so long and so hard to "make it" only to realize that I was just spinning my wheels, going in circles and making no real or lasting progress! What I accomplished with all my efforts was simply burnout and disillusionment! But NOW, you've really opened my eyes! I've been in the wilderness all this time without even realizing it! And all this time I've been exhausting myself trying to find my way in my own strength!

You've given me a lot to think about and right now I'm totally overwhelmed!"

"Thank you for the vote of confidence,"
Spirit said.
"There's one last thing I'd like you to ponder. One last question? Are you ready?"

"Shoot!" I said.

"What differences do you see in Moses before and after his wilderness experience?"

"I'm not sure", I said. " but one thing is evident to me. When Moses returned he sure had more chutspa. He really stood up to Pharaoh - no more scared little Moses running away into the desert...AND when he returned, He not only had seen God but He knew how to hear from God on an ongoing basis. There was a power - an authority about him. That much even I can see."

"Those are certainly valuable insights". Spirit said. "May I ask you one last question?"

I nodded my head.

What difference is there about Jesus when He emerges from His wilderness experience?"

"I don't have a clue." I said. " Would you give me a hint, please?"

"Ok", Spirit said, "Here it is... Luke 4:14!"

Instantly like a ticker tape I saw these words moving in front of my eyes.

"And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and...

news about Him spread throughout the surrounding district."

"Wow. That's powerful!" I said. I knew that now I really had a lot to think about!

To Be continued