"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spiritual mountains

Today, I want to talk about something I'm sure we've all been through as Christians, especially if we've ever gone to a camp or a conference that has just been so full of God. Over the course of this week and next week, I want to spend some time talking about the mountains in our lives as well as the valleys, the spiritual ones of course.

In 2009, I went to a Bible camp in Chang Mai, Thailand with my friends. This was the first major Christian event outside of my youth group that I had been to and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had been a Christian for around a year or so at the time. When we finally got there and got settled down, it was just amazing. The worship, the sermons, the fellowship. It was just so Spirit-filled to see other youth desiring God and hearing from such inspirational people. However, like many good things in this life, it had to come to an end and when I finally got home, I guess the feeling that can be describe what I felt was homesickness. I had gone from such awesome fellowship to being back home alone and I missed the fellowship, the worship, the testimonies.

I later spoke with a friend of mine and he gave me an analogy that has stuck with me since then and it has to do with mountains and valleys and it goes like this:

Our lives are full of mountains and valleys and every now and then, God will take us up a mountain and we'll feel closer to Him than we ever have been before and we'll be able to receive hindsight of where He is leading us in our lives.

But there's no fruit on a mountain, and God doesn't want us to remain fruitless.

So He sends us down back into the valley where there are trials and troubles and sometimes we don't know where we're going. But soon enough He will bring us to another mountain and our lives are filled with a continual series of mountains and valleys; and so today I want to look at what spiritual mountains do in our lives and then next week we will look at the spiritual valleys of our lives.

Now, the major thing about spiritual mountains in our lives is that they bring us into His presence in such an awesome way.

For those of you who are familiar with the first few books of the Bible then you will know there is something awesome about mountains in the Old Testament.

Before the tabernacle was built, God often resided on mountains when He desired to speak to the Israelites and when this happened, this is what He commanded them:

In Exodus 19:12, it says, "Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death." (NIV) 

Now many laws in the Old Testament had the death penalty and if you notice, when it came to such things as obeying the regulations God gave regarding the Ark or the Tabernacle, anyone who disobeyed these laws received the death penalty. God's presence was no light matter for His people. His holiness and majesty was not meant to be taken lightly. 

And in Exodus 19:16, we get an idea of just how amazing this event was when it speaks of the cloud that covered the mountain, the lightning and the trumpet that sounded declaring His presence. 

So, we have this picture of the awesomeness and the glory of God that rested on the mountain. 

Now the mountain was not entirely off limits. Yes, it was to the general population, but to Moses and the elders it was not and if you read in Exodus 24, it describes their calling go to up on the mountain. Then at one point, God calls Moses to go further while the others waitied. 

In Exodus 24:12, it says, "The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction." (NIV)

And then verses 15 and 16 describes what happened to Moses and Joshua, his aide, as they ascended further up the mountain.

"When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai." (NIV)

When Moses went up on the mountain, the glory of the LORD covered him and as w'ell look at later on, he didn't return the same from these encounters. 

Now, here is the blessing for us as Christians in all of this. Because of Christ, who is our High Priest and Mediator, anyone can approach God in the same way Moses did. We have that same access that Moses had to the glory of God. 

And when we are on these spiritual mountains from time to time in our lives, we become so full of His glory and as God spoke clearly to Moses on the mountain and as it was where Moses received the Law, in the same way, on our own spiritual mountains, those are the times when we often find ourselves able to most clearly hear His voice. 

Now, don't get me wrong. We can hear His voice just as clearly in trials and suffering. But on these spiritual mountains, its during these times when we aren't troubled or struggling with trials and we often find ourselves more capable of receiving that hindsight and instruction from Him in the same way Moses did. 

And even when we return from these spiritual mountains. If we were truly moved by God, we never return the same.

In Exodus 34:29-35, we read about how after each time Moses returned from the mountain, his face was radiant.

Exodus 34:29 says, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD."

Moses didn't return from an encounter with God unchanged and while the passage goes on to describe that Moses didn't notice the change, the others did. In the same way, when we return from these conferences or camps or any form of spiritual mountain in our lives. Though we don't notice it, God moves us in ways that are evident to others. 

And I have a feeling some of you may be wondering "Well, that's useful to know about spiritual mountains, but what does that mean for my everyday walk?" 

Well, even though we don't have these spiritual mountains everyday, we do have the same access to God that Moses had and while His voice may not sound as clear or His presence may not feel as strong, He still remains by our sides. 

But when you do find yourself on a spiritual mountain, cherish it. Sometimes we don't find ourselves on another mountain for years, but He is able to give us the hindsight to where He desires us to go and the instructions needed to do His will. 

And whenever the valley seems too long, remember.

Remember the last time He led you onto the mountain and take hope in how He appeared to you knowing He will finish the good work He began within you. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

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