Monday, September 28, 2015

Mountains. I’ve been pondering them.  Seems a little strange, given that I live in Alabama where we are notoriously mountain deficient.  My little hometown, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, is located in the “shadow” of Mt. Cheaha – Alabama’s highest point at 2,407 feet.  As far as mountains go, ours is not a huge one. I’ve never seen a really huge mountain that I can recall.  It’s on my bucket list. 

It’s not really geographical mountains that I’ve been pondering, though, which makes my pondering them seem a little less strange.  J 

Mountains in Scripture and in the life of the Christ follower – they are everywhere; places of refuge, indicators of the Presence and Activity of God, places of Holiness, and of Battle; Victory, Defeat, Revelation, Life, and Death. They are blessed as holy sanctuaries, and cursed as the Anger of God fell. The Law was given upon a mountain, even while His people sinned in its shadow. They are metaphors for troubled times, and monuments to the redeeming Power of God.

As Christians, we experience different kinds of mountains – those that are meant to be cast into the sea, and those that are meant to be climbed. But how does one tell the difference?  I’m glad you asked.  I’ve been pondering that as well, and have come to this conclusion:  What happens when you speak to it?  What happens when you exercise your authority in Christ, and speak to that mountain as Jesus instructed in Mark 11:23, “I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.”?  Does your mountain move?  No?  Then start climbing. 

I know.  It looks like I’m saying that Jesus got it wrong, that he should have said “sometimes it will happen”.  I’m not saying that at all.  Jesus said it, I believe it, and that settles it.  What I am saying, however, is that sometimes we have to climb a mountain to experience the mountain top. It doesn’t mean you don’t have enough faith to see your mountain move.  It means God has a different plan.  There are some circumstances in life that God would rather us go through than go around – and it is for our benefit that sometimes we must climb a mountain.  God never wastes a hurt, or a difficult situation, or a fear. He uses these life events to teach us so many things – strength, trust, perseverance, hope, determination (et cetera – as far as the eye can see).

Imagine the way that a climber ascends a mountain.  I can’t even begin to comprehend the physical, emotional, and psychological endurance it requires to reach the top of a giant mountain.  But I can imagine the elevation elation that climber feels when he reaches the mountain top! It is the same with the overcoming Believer.  Climbing our mountains, ascending from the valleys is not easy.  It takes supernatural effort, faith, dogged determination, and indefatigable trust that God won’t let us fall – and an integral knowing if we do slip, He will catch us. The physical, emotional, and psychological endurance required is astronomical – but the spiritual benefit is indescribable. 

Have you ever been on the mountain top?  Ever faced a giant and watched it fall?  Sure you have. We all have.  Some are bigger than others. Doesn’t matter the size of your mountain. If you climbed it, you’ve experienced the mountain top.  At 2,407 feet, Mt. Cheaha is small compared to other mountains – but I sure wouldn’t try to climb it!  But if I went temporarily insane and did give it a shot, and IF I reached the top without dying, I would sure enough have a mountain top experience there at Alabama’s highest point. (Entre nous, I imagine my mountain top experience would consist of paramedics and oxygen….) I would have learned many lessons on the way up the mountain – trust my ropes, find strong hand and foot holds and hang on tight, rest along the way, take in nourishment, drink the water, be courageous.  (OK, Mt. Cheaha isn’t THAT kind of a mountain – there’s a lovely paved road that goes all the way to the top, frequented by hikers and bicyclists. You get the picture, though, no?)

Mountains in our lives are no different, and the lessons cross over – trust my rope - I will trust Jesus whether He casts my mountain into the sea, or asks me to join Him for a climb; find strong hand and foot holds and hang on tight – pray, pray, pray, pray. It is our source of strength – pray, declare imminent victory even when it seems a long way off, worship the One Who climbs with you and is waiting at the top to give you more of Himself. Rest along the way – sometimes it’s enough to rest in His Presence and just wait for your second wind; He is faithful to give it. Remember, He wants you to reach the top because He has good things for you there. Take in nourishment – immerse yourself in the Word of God. Seek out and write down Scriptures that speak to your situation or mindset and declare them (boldly, confidently – His Word is LIVING and ACTIVE. Use it!) Drink the water – the Presence of Holy Spirit. He is there to strengthen and comfort you. Drink. Huge draughts of Holy Water. Drink Him in. Be courageous – I promise you that you can do it.  Nothing is too big for you and God together to handle.  You don’t have to feel courageous – you just have to keep climbing and not give up in defeat.  That’s the definition of courage – being afraid but doing it anyway.  Keep climbing, keep going - look up! There’s a mountain top waiting, and the God of the Mountain is there!

“I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there?  My help comes from the Lord, Who made Heaven and Earth.  He will not let you stumble; the One Who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, He Who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.  The Lord Himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective Shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.  The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.  The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121, NLT

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