Okay, let’s be honest. Deserts
aren’t particularly scenic or appealing at first glance.
In fact, they can actually be life-threatening! This is
true in the spiritual deserts of our lives as well. Our journey
through this barren, arid and seemingly lifeless season is
necessary before we can climb upward to the High Places. We are
all carrying “excess baggage” that’s going to
hinder us in Christlike character growth — and
that’s gotta go!
Traveling down into the deserts in your
life often begins when you encounter unexpected situations that
take you by surprise. Unless it’s a party, few people
enjoy that which they’re not prepared for. We are
creatures of expectations and
assumptions regarding our future.
But this can be detrimental to our willing obedience to follow
the Shepherd, especially if our expectations don’t align
with His planned path for our lives. Taking that first step onto the
desert trail calls for victory in the initial skirmish, that
Once you accept the change to your
well-thought out but false expectations, the desert itself and
the pyramid can send your resolve fleeing. Your ego and
independence are assaulted as you’re called to discover
the beauty of total submission to our Lord Jesus. We trust,
however, that you’ll find out for yourself that Egypt is
not only needful but good!
When Sue and I were preparing to move from
Parks, Arizona last year, the Holy Spirit stirred in Sue that
we were “moving to Egypt.” At first we perceived
that the Lord was hiding us away in a place that demonic forces
would never think to look:the “Protestant Papacy”,
Colorado Springs! Now that we’ve lived here for 8 months,
we can see that this is also a period He’s set aside for
further refinement in our lives.
We don’t usually write about the
difficult experiences we go through. Many who live in the
Valley have never let themselves follow Jesus into the desert,
so they sometimes misperceive our words. But perhaps as you see
how our Father has chosen to operate in one particular arena of
our lives, you’ll be encouraged by His faithfulness in
all sorts of situations facing your own life. For instance,
while we haven’t had a salary since November 1982 and
have little in the way of savings, our Lord has gloriously
provided for our needs all these years.
Are we exceptional Christians because of
this testimony? No, not at all! This is how He told us to live, the
rhema for our lives, not for everyone else’s. But people
who live in the Valley project how they’d feel under
these circumstances and get nervous for us. They think we need
money! No! Our Father is our Provider, and very creative is He
when it comes to meeting needs according to His riches in
Sometimes He responds by prompting
particular individuals to share in His work through us. Their
response encourages us that someone believes in what we’re doing! Other times
our Father shows His creative side, almost like a Dad playing
with His kids. One time He indicated that we were to get rid of
our van, which had become impossible for Mike’s disabled
Mom to get into. We needed a low, 4-door sedan. At the same
time, we needed to reprint Demolishing
Strongholds. With $300 to our name,
we needed to come up with $23,000. As Sue and I began to pray,
our Lord prompted a businessman from Texas to call. He offered
to buy our 800 number because it spelled the name of His
A short while later a jeweler whom
we’d never met but who had corresponded with us
sold a large diamond at his store. Our Lord impressed on him to
send us the proceeds! Add to that a few other responses, and
within 2 months we had all the funds our Father wanted us to
have to fulfill His purposes for us at that point in time!
We hope you’re encouraged by His
faithfulness in these accounts. You’ll find that you may
have to return to the desert of Egypt several times in your
life for further refinement. Our loving Lord needs to purge
some dross in you to be useful for His further purposes in your
This is a pivotal chapter in your journey
to follow in the steps of Jesus. The key is the total submission of your will to that of our Lord’s if you want to hike out “Acceptance-with-Joy”.
Detour Through the Desert
1. After meeting Pride...
Much-Afraid bore a painful limping
reminder of her encounter that entertained cousin Pride’s
thoughts and opinions. Pride’s exaggerated view of
himself had cowed the fearful girl. She even began to believe
his deceptive lies about how she should be treated by
Her growing apprehension in Pride’s
presence almost convinced her that her own unworthiness
guaranteed failure in the journey. Then Pride overstepped his
bounds by maligning the promises of the King. That spurred in her
the memory of His love, and drove her to cry out to her
Happily, Much-Afraid’s companions
were steadfast in their resolve to press on and faithful to
offer her their strong arms for encouragement. This time she
was willing to accept their help!
Like our frail traveler, you too need both
a companion for the journey as well the willingness to accept
the Shepherd’s will to continue onward. If you decide to
put on the old stiff upper lip and “hobble along
painfully” in joyless misery, you’ll continue to
rise and fall according to your circumstances.
Much-Afraid had been called out from the
worldly Valley and chosen to serve our loving Father’s
purposes. Naively, she (and we) thought that our walk with
Jesus would be a superhighway to heaven, bypassing the
inconvenient stoplights of temptation and trial.
In truth, however, all we really know about our
journey is the point to which we have now come, and the
glorious home with Jesus that we’ll eventually reach.
That in-between period is fraught with traffic jams that
convince you you’re running on empty with flat tires!
But just as true as the promised
destination is His faithfulness to never forsake us. Our part in the
faithfulness covenant is to trust our beloved Shepherd and stop
resisting His will! More than that, we must cooperate with Him
because He does love us and He is sovereign! He is fully aware of every rock
and pothole along your way. Wrap the hands of your heart around
His loving power to sustain and strengthen you so that you can
begin with Much-Afraid to make “better
Which past experiences are keeping
you “hobbling painfully” in joyless religious
practice because you’re looking back over your shoulder
in fear of what others are thinking about you?
You know you’ve been called
out and chosen by our Father for this journey, but are you
finding joy conspicuously absent as you begin this phase to the
High Places? Are you beginning to feel like a martyr, as though
no one around you understands?
2. Then one day..., 3. She stopped dead...
Notice Much-Afraid’s response to her
first sight of the desert — “amazement and
consternation.” She was not only taken by surprise that
the path didn’t all lead to her expected goal; she was
also convinced that the path would be downright hostile!
Relying on only what her eyes could see,
an endless expanse of desolation, Much-Afraid recoiled. The
only relief from the barren starkness were the ancient towering
pyramids — no comfort at all because of their very
Maybe that’s how you see your life
situation right now. Changeless, hopeless, convinced that
it’s not about to get better any time soon. Let me share
a secret with you. The desert really isn’t barren
Our Navajo friend James taught us a key
lesson three years ago when we first visited him in Arizona.
Accustomed to the lush green trees and verdant pastures of New
England, we too recoiled when confronted with intense dryness
and brown jagged cliffs of the Southwest.
One dawn James invited us to hike these
brown hills — and we were grateful it was early so we
could avoid the triple-digit heat!
To our amazement James pointed out almost
every step of the way fragile blossoms hiding in the shade of
rocks, and scampering desert mammals, and tracks and scat of
deer and coyotes. It dawned on us that the desert was literally
teeming with life — life forms different from that
which we were used to!
We just needed the eyes of someone who
loved the desert to introduce us to a new perspective of
beauty. That which is unlovely about your current circumstances
may not change. But the work of the Spirit in you can change your perspective about
your own personal desert.
What appears to be bleak and desolate may
actually be a fertile field for your spirit to deepen your
dependence and trust in our Father’s faithfulness. He may
also be wanting to open your understanding to service to Him
that’s removed from what used to satisfy you.
That very special morning as we hiked with
James, he revealed that he knew that our hearts were growing in
love with his people. He wanted to seal that love by
“baptizing” us into the beloved land of the Navajo.
As he rubbed the red-brown soil onto our arms, we realized that
our Father was transforming our preference for
“green” to a grateful appreciation for
“brown” — because both reflect His glorious
Are you so caught up in your narrow
perspective of false expectation that you can’t see any
beauty in the “rocks and sand” of your life? Stop
right now and ask the Spirit to open your eyes of understanding
to thank Him for the beauty that is in the ashes of your
What idols of “green trees
and fertile fields” are holding you back from receiving with joy the
desert His sovereign hand has planted you in for now?
4. Much-Afraid looked to left...; 5.
“I can’t go down there”...
How incapacitating fear is to moving onward
on your journey! Much-Afraid incredulously viewed the
unscalable walls as a barrier to her progress, completely
missing the passability of the desert trail because she
didn’t want to go there! Her heart was set on a worthy
goal — reaching the High Places with the Shepherd —
but the time wasn’t right. Her spiritually immature
heart wasn’t yet ready to fully serve the King.
Much-Afraid was still captivated by her
misperception of the High Places as instant deliverance from
her suffering and weakness! She needed an alteration of
understanding that the High Places are oneness in love and
trust with the Shepherd, a relationship rather than a location.
She also was being called to immediate willingness to overcome
any obstacle that would stand in the way of pressing on in and
Your desert is part of your pathway to the
High Places. Plant that reality into your spirit before you
take another step! If you’ve been bamboozled into
believing that God’s grace means you should never suffer,
or that you must be “in sin” because your life is
so hard — cast down those lies right now! Our
Father’s grace means that He loves you so much that
He’s willing to stretch you to enable you to be conformed
to the character of Jesus.
That crucial metamorphosis calls for you
to walk in His steps (1 Peter 2:21), the same steps that
plodded paths of exhaustion, abandonment, and betrayal. The
humanity of Jesus could not have drunk that sorrowful cup were
it not for His absolute confidence in His Father’s
faithfulness to fulfill the joy set before Him. But He knew the
heart of His Father and recognized that for this purpose
— the redemption and reconciliation of mankind — He
had become one of us.
Is your love for Jesus and your trust that
our Father is mightier than your circumstances enough for you
to press on, even if you can’t see beyond the desert
horizon of your pain? Let’s look at a real life example.
Mike and I are blessed to be in a
loadbearing relationship with a dear younger couple who are
training up their children at home to love and serve our Lord.
Sometimes the exhaustion of this responsibility overwhelms the
joyous privilege. We’re grateful that we are able to
share with them the testimony of His faithfulness to us in
educating our son at home for five years. Our stories and those
of others we’ve encountered help them to see beyond the
“sand and stones” to discover streams in their
Do their circumstances change after our
conversations? Generally not! But their perception is altered
so that the pyramids of life which seem so foreboding become
islands of opportunity rather than another Everest to scale.
Look for those in your relational realm who can be bolstered by
your recounting His faithful intervention!
What little jabs are plaguing your
spirit that you’ve perhaps strayed off your
Shepherd’s path because your life is so hard? Ask our
Father for the “wisdom that doesn’t find
reproach”, as James 1:5 promises, in order to discern
between the self-inflicted pain of personal doubt and unbelief,
and the refining fires designed to burn off dross.
Recall previous paths in your life
journey that looked impossible to follow — but then our
Lord intervened mightily. What lessons did you learn
about His character and your own that stirred you to praise Him
when the crisis was resolved?
6. She then lifted up...; 7.
“Shepherd,” she said despairingly...
Crying out to Jesus is universal to all of
His followers, whether we’re motivated by pain, by
frustration or by despair. You can count on His faithfulness to
respond because of His love for you, but it will always be with His answer and not necessarily the one you want to hear! As Paul
assured the struggling Philippian believers, “The Lord is near”, as near as His Spirit in you!
Look at Much-Afraid’s phraseology
referring to her companions, “the guides you gave me.”
Did you catch that accusatory note of unacceptance and
disownership? That stubborn resistance echoes the older brother
of the prodigal son. Disclaiming any relationship with his
younger brother, the angry brother confronts his father with
arrogant accusations: “This son of yours comes,
who squandered your property with prostitutes, and for him you
slaughter the fatted calf!” (Luke
The wise father gently but firmly rebukes
his prideful son by reaffirming their relational connectedness:
“This brother of yours...” (v. 32.).
Was the older brother accurate in his
appraisal of his sibling’s sins? Quite. But did he have
even an inkling of the ways and character of his own father in
regard to forgiveness and grateful joy? Not a bit. The gracious
father laid out the reality of the lad’s changed life
from his relational death to life, but the older son would have
none of it. His own misplaced anger justified his selfish
rationale and left no room for appropriate deference to his
father’s will. He not only didn’t see the wider
picture from his father’s perspective, he didn’t want to see
To Much-Afraid, heading down the desert
path in obedient trust was as unacceptable as humility and
forgiveness were to the older son. But that resistant
misperception of the truth in no way altered its reality. The
desert is the pathway to maturity in Jesus, and your reluctance
doesn’t change that fact!
A wonderful song born on the wings of
personal tragedy came out about ten years ago. We were in
Israel at the time, rediscovering our love and appreciation for
each other even as our Father was preparing a new pathway for
us to serve Him. The lyrics of “God will make a
way” rekindled our hope, especially as we viewed from our
host’s upper balcony the arid bony ridges of Judean
By a roadway in the wilderness He leads
me, rivers in the desert will I see. Heaven and earth will fail
but His Word will prevail, He will do something new today! God
will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in
ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me. He will be my
Guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and grace for
each new day, He will make a way.
You may be in a wilderness of sorrow and
suffering yourself, or know someone dear to you who is
struggling. Or maybe your spirit is desert-dry at the moment.
Has it occurred to you that your Shepherd is your Guide who is
holding you closely to His side? His promises are flowing
gently alongside you, but you aren’t seeing them because
of the turbulent waves sweeping across your soul’s
But Jesus never contradicts His Word! The
work of His Spirit is the “streams of living water”
that evidence His presence (see John 7:38,39). You need to
decide to drink from them in grateful trust that He does love
you enough to walk with you in your desert. He’s
preparing you for very particular Kingdom purposes!
Ask Him to give you “Spirit
eyes” to see those rivers of refreshment and strength in
your desert. Write these down as a remembrance as He reveals
them through new awareness of His creative ways of response.
Describe a time when you were the
resentful older son in the parable, grousing because you
didn’t get what you thought you deserved while someone
else who was “undeserving” was blessed. How did our
Lord reveal to you your despicable attitude? Are you still
tempted to grumble from time to time about your lot in life?
8. He looked at her...; 9. “Oh,
no” she cried...; 10. “No,” said the
deferred makes the heart sick, but
a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). Whatever you long for, if
the culmination or fulfillment keeps getting put off, your
anxieties increase and your peace is robbed.
This waiting period can make you
vulnerable to voices of despair, doubt, and conjecture about
the future. You may even find yourself exaggerating about how
long it will take to occur, just as Much-Afraid did:
“...it may be months, even years before that path leads
back to the mountain again.”
If you’re not trusting our Father
now in the present, you’ll be doubly disinclined to
commit to Him your future. If
you find yourself conjecturing about how the future might turn
out, stop and take a look at the quality of your trust in our
Lord at this moment. You may need to revisit that classroom
Sue: How often have you wished the future
was right now? You probably felt much as I did as a teen, moaning
that you couldn't wait til that time when other people
wouldn’t be telling you what to do!
And then that moment came, or so I
thought — college, freedom to make all my own decisions!
Not quite. I discovered that I’d traded one set of
boundaries (my parents’) for another (course
requirements). Sure, I could choose my major, for example, but
within that field were very definite parameters of courses that
had to be followed if I were to graduate. I could have decided
to exercise my freedom and skip such delights as Kinesiology,
Physics, and the ultra-boring Philosophy of Education —
but then I wouldn’t get my degree either.
But because of the goal set before me, I
was motivated to submit to what was necessary. I willingly
postponed the “freedom” I’d so longed for in
high school in order to accomplish a future outcome.
Much-Afraid is on a similar path, only her
classroom is the rest of her life. The decisions she makes now
will set the stage for whether or not she makes it to her goal,
the High Places. Just as I would not have been adequately
prepared to teach physical education without enduring those
courses I didn’t care for, Much-Afraid has some course
requirements to undergo if she’s to be fully prepared for
usefulness in her Shepherd’s work. For the “best to become possible”, what seems like the worst
must be traversed.
What particular goal(s) has ever
been worth it to you to persevere through preparation that
otherwise you would have chosen to avoid? For example, a spot
on a team? A job promotion? Boot camp? Having to raise support
for a missions trip?
How resistant are you to the right
of an authority person in your life to direct your path without
grumbling? Are you able to look beyond that person to see that
he/she represents the Shepherd in shaping yieldedness and
malleability into your heart?
11. Much-Afraid felt as though...
At some point in your life you may have
your own treasured mountains from which our Father has called
you away. That pain in your heart was so intense, and your
Father knows that! But your level of willingness to follow His
will rather than your own desires is a measure of your
character development in Jesus.
Sue: The year and a half that we spent on
the high prairie in northern Arizona was the heart’s
delight of this country gal! We awoke each morning to a sunrise
that filled the sky and lit up the panoramic mountains that
surrounded us on three sides. And to this day I can still smell
the honey aroma of the Ponderosa pine bark! Then...
Our Father had prepared another place for
us — in a city of 400,000! And my heart echoed
Much-Afraid: “You really mean that we [Mike and I] are to
follow that path down and down [away from the high prairie]
into that wilderness and then over that desert [the city], away
from the mountains indefinitely?”I even experienced her
“sob of anguish” in my own heart as the rental
truck pulled away from the house down the long dirt road
through the pines and onto the highway!
But do you know, after the “evening
of pain, joy comes in the morning!” As I chose each day
to trust that His love for us and His plan for us would bring
greater fulfillment to my spirit than the mountains had to my
soul, He soothed my heart. AND, He even revealed to us some
delightful hiking trails and biking paths just minutes from our
A thought to consider for your own desert
experience: Part of His loving kindness to you may be that He hasn’t shown
you how long this dry season will last! If you know in advance
that it was going to be very long, you might give up right now
in despair. If it was about to end soon, you might have a
“short-termer’s” attitude like an eager
sailor awaiting discharge and neglect the vital lessons
He’s teaching you right now.
Our Father knows precisely where
you’ll be a year or five from now, and exactly what
circumstances will be confronting you. How you reach that
destination is up to you. What attitude adjustments do you need
to make so that this present season of your life won’t be
squandered by regrets when it’s passed?
What treasured relationships,
locales or life situations have you had to leave behind during
the past year? five years? over your lifetime? Has that anguish
been fully healed, or has it lodged way back in your heart to
the extent that you avoid investing your heart in others for
fear of painful loss in the future?
12. He bowed his head silently...
At some point in your desert experience
you’re going to have to realize that our Lord is not
obligated to explain to you “why”, or
“how” all of this distress has to happen. That silence in your spirit is not His reluctance to
comfort you but your resistance to follow through in trust on that which
He’s already confirmed as His will!
Remember, Much-Afraid’s desert only seems endless.
Because she was faltering in yielding her heart’s desire,
she’s even losing her joy in her Shepherd — and
He’s right there with her! (Just as His Spirit is right
there with and in you!) She’s become more addicted to the
outcome of reaching the High Places than she is in the very
real presence of the One Who leaps there.
The psalmist helps put our focus on the
chief matter at hand: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Only when Jesus is your
chief delight will your desires align with His so that you
indeed receive with joy what He does give you.
What desires of your heart are most
evident in your thought life? How do they align with your
How have you grown in patience and
in trust that endures as you’ve found yourself in various
desert seasons of your life?
13. Then He answered her very quietly...
We followers of Jesus get caught up in what we are doing,
or what we want our Lord to do on our behalf. We fall into the pit of
the what at just about the same time our Lord is testing our
hearts to see if we love Him. What a challenging question for the Shepherd
to ask Much-Afraid (and us), “Do you love me enough to
Sue: I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve gotten so absorbed in finishing a project that
I’ve missed the emotional needs of those around me
because I was so intent on the “what”! The Jesus in
my husband or my son or my friends was left standing in need
because I had room only for what I was doing. Don’t fall
into this trap!
You may feel underappreciated because you
aren’t being commended for all your efforts, but if the
heart needs of those who depend on you are being kicked around
or ignored, then what good was the “what” project
you finally completed?
Mike: I wish I could say that I always
give Him a resounding, “Yes!” but that
wouldn’t be true. I very often have to fight my way
through attitudes of frustration and grumbling. “Taking my thoughts captive and bringing
them into conformity to Jesus” is a daily exercise. I get upset with myself
because of how often I have to fight through my own emotions
until I yield and Jesus has hold of my ambitions. Sometimes I
hear a soft word, “I’m glad you wrestled until you
got the victory.”
Are you a person who gets totally
absorbed in a task or activity to the exclusion of others and
their needs? How do you respond when you’re interrupted
in your activity?
The agape love of Jesus in you can
discern between the needs you have and the needs of others, and
which to respond to at a given point. When you get caught up in
the “tyranny of the urgent”, responding to the
biggest pressure rather than to our Lord’s quiet voice of
guidance, how do you disconnect from that hassle?
14. She was still crouching at His feet...
Much-Afraid has tearfully grasped a vital
truth — love and trust are
intertwined. How often Jesus
impressed this truth on His disciples: “If you love Me, you’ll obey My
commands.” John, the disciple
whose life was blanketed with love from and for Jesus, repeats
this connection as a refrain.
Trust is the obedient outpouring of that
which love commands. Your love can’t be confined to a
statement of creed or to your emotions alone. It must be
evidenced by the obedience that acquiesces to the
Love that is revealed by obedient trust is
a daily decision — in fact, a many-times-daily choice to
heed our Master's will by speaking, thinking and acting as
Jesus would. In fact, if only all those who wear WWJD bracelets
and flash those bumper stickers really lived by What Would Jesus Do,
followers of Jesus today would make the same impact on society
as did the first century Christians!
another vital key to our pilgrimage adventure, no matter what
your particular representation of that journey fleshes out to
be. How our Lord yearns for us to voice and to mean the same
humble yieldedness to His will that Much-Afraid confesses,
“...I do love you, and you have the right to choose for
me anything that you please.”
When was the last time you
purposely considered What Would Jesus Do-Think-Say before
plunging into a situation?
Can you sense the powerful work
going on in Much-Afraid’s heart a she chooses to grasp
the Shepherd’s hand and forge ahead with Him into the
fearful unknown rather than stay where she is on the sidelines
of safety? What decision is facing you right now that is
calling for you to “trust and obey” the Shepherd
15. It was very early morning...
Darkness flees when Light enters it. The
darkness of indecision can leave you in perpetual depression if
you choose to let it rule you. Or, you can press on into the
light the Shepherd has shown you thus far. What you have to
lose is your “trembling, rebelling will.” Each time you choose to allow your
self-preservation and and self-determination to be consumed by
the fire from the Throne of grace, you’re undergoing an
As with obedient trust, humble yieldedness
is a lifelong heart motivation you must often recapture along
the journey. Just when you think you’re yielded, our Lord
has something else to stretch your loving-trust in Him so that
we can be more closely conformed to Jesus.
Life episodes that find you yielding to
your Beloved are the “altar” experiences we all
encounter along the journey. To come to an altar, you must have
something to sacrifice on it. By now you recognize that your
sacrifice is always something of
yourself that our Lord wants placed
on and consumed at His altar. It’s
not so much what you are offering up as the willing attitude with
which you offer it. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
Sue: In the forest across the road from
our retreat center was a large flat rock amidst tall trees and
low bushes. One afternoon following a precious time of
conviction and yieldedness of heart and will, a group of about
20 women joined me at the rock, our communal
“altar”. We each selected a twig to represent some
attitude or behavior that our Father was calling us to cast
down, then snapped our twig and placed it on the rock.
These twigs weren’t
“holy relics” but symbols of joyful submission to
our Lord in a particular realm of each woman’s heart. By
picturing these twigs being consumed by His love, we were able
to have a mental stake in the ground that from henceforth that
area did not have rule over us.
A contrite heart doesn’t make too
big a deal about what he or she has placed on the altar.
Humility-based love for our Lord Jesus and deep heart
appreciation of what He sacrificed for us reveals our offering
as insignificant — except for the loving trust that
Maybe you need to put on your own mental
altar a nagging sense of rebellion that distrusts our
Father’s best for you. You may even want to do this with
your journey partner as a witness so he or she can remind you,
if need be, that you’re no longer a slave to that
Are you willing to lay down your
own area of rebellion or doubt or fear that that keeps you from
following your Shepherd as a beloved lamb? If so, mark down
this date and your circumstances as a reminder of the obedience
that’s been prompted by your love for Jesus.
16. “Pick it up and take it ...; 17.
Much-Afraid took the stone out of the ashes...
You may not be in the habit of reflecting.
Too many of us don’t take the time to reflect on the altar experiences of
our past. The Shepherd had Much-Afraid pick up memorial stones
all along her journey so she’d remember her altar
experiences. She, like we, need to take ownership of not only
what changes the Shepherd has made in us, but the manner in which
He made those changes. This is vital!
The dark little pebble left in the ashes
of Much-Afraid’s self-will was her own jewel of
remembrance. It represented her first step into a trust that endures,
rather than her former motivation tinged by a desire to leave
the painful Valley situation behind.
Be careful that the “anguish of your
first surrender” doesn’t become a more vibrant
memory than the lesson of yielding your loving trust to your
Lord! Otherwise, you may find
yourself revisiting the arena of your anguish one more time.
And don’t let yourself despise this
small beginning. It’s what you do with your thoughts and
reflections that matters. Beware of allowing your past
perceived failures to weigh you down with a giant boulder.
Instead, let your “pebble of remembrance” remind
you of of the victory that was brought about as your will
submitted to His.
A loving submission that willingly yields to
His Spirit is vital to your spiritual progress. Much-Afraid
needed that altar, and she had to build it with her own hands. That
which happened on the altar—the flame that “came
from somewhere”—was the work of God.
In a similar vein, the Israelites were
commanded to bring their sacrificial animals before the
Lord’s priest. They were required to lay their own hands
on it to transfer their guilt, then kill it themselves! That
way they would be bloodied themselves, intensely aware of the
deadly cost of their sin.
What an impression that must have made on
the children who watched this! Then the priest, God’s
chosen representative, offered the blood and selected parts to
the Lord by fire, which consumed the meat and fat as an aroma
Only God can “consume” our
sins through the blood of Jesus our sacrifice. Our part is to
trust in His shed blood on our behalf, and to receive the
forgiveness that that blood bought us!
A curious command is given by our Father
to the Israelites close to the outset of their wilderness
journey. Moses is told to order the people to make on their
garments a fringe with a blue thread on each corner. Every time
they look at their corner fringe tassel they are to “remember all the Lord’s commands
and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your
own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves; but it
will help you remember and obey all my commands and be holy for
your God” (Numbers 15:
We all need reminders of our Lord’s
faithfulness to lovingly set parameters for our lives, as well
as the previous situations that stirred us to violate His ways.
Make sure your own “heart and eyes” don’t
lead you to spiritually “prostitute yourself” to
set Him and His commands aside to pursue your own
As you reflect on your altar
experiences, do you cringe that our Lord may ask you to place
more on His altar in the future? Or, do you cherish the
character change He was able to accomplish in you at each altar
along the way?
What would be the first memorial
stone to go in your little bag?
Do you find yourself spending more
time over past regrets than in gratitude for His faithfulness
to forgive and to cast the guilt of those sins behind the
18. Then they began the descent...; 19.
They reached the desert...
A long journey begins with the first step.
The Red Sea parted at the first step of trust when Moses
obediently held out his staff. The floodwaters of the Jordan
River gave way at the first step of the ark-bearers. And
Much-Afraid’s heart was refreshed as she took her first
step of descent into the desert.
Her obedient trust in the Shepherd
provided the basis for the subsequent “sweetest joy and
comfort” despite the continued accompaniment of Sorrow and
Suffering. Peacefully aware of His Presence even in the midst
of her uncomfortable surroundings, the Shepherd’s song
melted away her pain.
Study the lyrics to this song that’s
set to Solomon’s Canticle. The loved one is a closed
garden, a shut-up spring, a sealed fountain, a wasted orchard.
How true of each of us, cherished by His grace yet vessels of unfulfilled potential to bless others!
Modern western Christianity focuses on
self-fulfillment, self-esteem, self-gratification —
products by which no one else is blessed. Whose spiritual
thirst is slacked by a spring that’s boarded up? Whose
heart is refreshed by a dried-up fountain that offers no mist
of comfort to a weary friend? And how can anyone even find
fruit in an orchard that’s run to waste by tangled vines
of worldly encroachment?
Yet the Shepherd has great plans for that
garden to be an aromatic essence of His power and purpose! Step
out in the opportunities the Spirit brings your way so others
can praise the Master Gardener for the fruit He’s
ripening in your life!
Rarely does the Holy Spirit spring on you
a gift that can’t find use to bless others. That abundant
living overflows out of His work in you to bring praise to our
Father and to bring evidence of His love to others.
What spiritual gifting has He
appointed to your spirit to edify others in the Body of Christ?
Peruse Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthi-ans 12:4-13, and 1 Corinthians
14:1-6 for discussion of specific gifts imbued by the Holy
Hymns and Scripture songs focus on
the faithfulness and character of our God. What songs in the
past have ministered peace, joy or comfort to your heart?
Replay some of these songs that so stirred you earlier and
worship Him in spirit and in truth.
19. They reached the desert...
Much-Afraid’s debilitating weakness
diminished because she leaned on the Shepherd. While we all
like the image of strolling arm in arm with Jesus, our reality
puts Him in the form of brothers and sisters He sends to
fulfill your needs.
Sadly, we often miss out on
“Jesus” in our midst because we don’t
recognize Him in the people we encounter. He might be in the
weary elderly woman struggling with a heavy shopping cart who
rewards your assistance with a grateful smile and a squeeze of
your hand. That “good feeling” you get when
you’ve served someone He’s shown you is His Spirit
in you patting your spirit on the back with a
But how about other opportunities He gives
you to serve Him, such as praying for the angry driver who cuts
you off? You can be the gracious presence of Jesus to him by
exercising self-control and lifting that needy individual up
for an encounter with Him.
Note that before Much-Afraid chose to
follow the Shepherd to the desert, all she could perceive was
pale hot sand. But once she got closer, she noticed shady huts
of restful protection from the heat. Had she given into
self-will and decided to refrain from descending the path, she
would have been forever plagued by her fear to trust Him
Sue: You’re probably familiar with
Corrie ten Boom’s account of her father withholding her
train ticket from her until it was time to board. She
didn’t need it any earlier than that. Our Father’s
intervention works that way too. Mike and I have found that He
generally doesn’t stockpile provision for us, and when He
does accumulate funds, it’s to fulfill a specific purpose
He’s about to reveal.
The mobile home we’d been renting
from an old friend is a case in point. In late April my
brother-in-law, who had been handling my invalid mother’s
estate, told us that funds we’d been holding for her were
no longer needed. He also indicated that she’d be blessed
if we used them to meet personal need.
Three weeks later, our mobile home’s
owner mentioned that she’d like us to settle our living
arrangement by purchasing the home. Mike and I had been praying
for months about whether our Father wanted us to buy it, and
His timing of provision was perfect! We also had confirmation
from praying friends and our hearts were at rest. To top it
off, immediately after we closed on the mobile home, a
beautiful double rainbow lit up the sky over our
newly-purchased home. To us that was a “smile from
Jesus” that His plan was accomplished!
How were you able to serve somebody today
because our Lord provided you with an opportunity to bless that
person? How were you able to humbly and gratefully receive the
service of someone He sent to you today?
Much-Afraid was surprised to see
that a blessing which had been hidden from her sight was ready
and waiting for her because the need was there. How do you
determine if what appears to be the answer to a particular need
is really of Him? When did you last receive His provision for a
need in a way that prompted you to share the testimony with
20. “Much-Afraid,” he said...
Most of the time when you read about Egypt
in Scripture you get a sense that it’s a place to get out
of, or come away from, or avoid going to.
But wait! Abraham set foot there, as did
Joseph. Even Jesus’ parents brought Him there as an
infant to escape Satan’s deadly scheme, thus fulfilling
The Egypts in your life probably seem like
a blast furnace. But only intense heat can melt the silver and
gold hidden in your heart to remove the ignoble dross alloyed
with them. Only fire can solidify the form of the pot your
Master wants to cradle in His loving hands. In fact, only the
harsh heat of a forest fire can pop open certain seeds to once
again revegetate the land with fresh new growth!
The desert of Egypt is also the place to
which our Lord brings you so that no distractions can interfere
with what He wants to strengthen in your relationship with Him.
We have all been sinful Gomer in a spiritual sense, so
Hosea’s prophecy applies to us as well: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I
will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14). Your desert experience is a special
time. What you learn in the desert can’t be learned
Valley people, incidentally, have a great
aversion to any type of desert experience with our Lord. They
prefer the anonymity of crowds rather than intimate time spent
alone with Jesus that brings the courage to press on.
Are you willing for your present
furnace fires to crack open seeds that may take your life and
plans in a new direction? How does that thought make you feel?
When have you tried to forestall
the fires of Egypt by running away from a situation or
relationship that our Lord had designed for your good?
21. “Abraham, was the first of my
servants...; 22. Much-Afraid looked up...
Have you ever studied those seemingly
endless genealogical lists in the Hebrew Scriptures and thought
to yourself, “Who cares?” Since all Scripture is
breathed out by God, it’s a valuable arsenal for your
journey with Jesus. Scripture teaches you, convicts you,
corrects faults, and trains you to live rightly and justly. As
an Ephesians soldier, you need all the spiritual equipment He
has to offer so that you’ll be fully prepared for Kingdom
So even those lists have a purpose! For
one thing, they show us the interconnectedness each of us has
with the lineage of Jesus! Who belongs to whom is very
important to our Lord, as evidenced by His documentation of all
those families, clans, tribes and nations!
None of us was intended to live as a
solitary atoll amid swirling seas of unconcerned others. Our
names are listed in the Lamb’s Book of life, and I sense
that He’s kept track in the spiritual realm of our own
genealogy of who “midwifed” the new birth of each
of us who is listed there!
Ten years ago in Israel our Lord showed
Sue and me the relational foundations which He told us to call
“The Hebraic Restoration.” The Restoration is built
upon the trust-filled obedience of Abraham. Abraham is the
ancestor of all who trust Jesus (Romans 4:17).
If Abraham had to go to the pyramids of
Egypt, then all of us as his spiritual descendent must if we
want to embrace the trust-filled relationship with our Lord
that he did.
From God’s perspective, being called
and chosen to endure the fires of Egypt to be purified for His
use is “a great privilege”. He indicated nothing
about you enjoying that privilege, but implied everything about
you being grateful to be included in that glorious “line
of succession” of all who have faithfully endured their
afflictions. To these awaits a crown to proclaim their Royal
Can you trace your spiritual
lineage? Who was praying for you to encounter Jesus? Who
nurtured your interest and quickened your awareness of your
need for forgiveness of your sins, reconciliation with our
Father, and intimacy through the Holy Spirit? Who helped fill
in the ruts of behavior and attitudes left by your old sinful
Are you willing to contact some of
these faithful servants to let them rejoice with you in the
work He’s been doing in your life?
23. Then all of a sudden...; 24.
“Fear not, Much-Afraid...
By this point on your journey you might be
identifying with Abraham and Sarah in their lonely exile as
they left all that was familiar to follow their Lord. Or maybe
you feel akin to weeping Joseph, betrayed and wounded by his
The great nameless host of others in the
procession experienced their own God-earmarked trials as well.
The apostle Paul was probably the most rejected servant of God
who ever lived, betrayed and abused by Jew and Gentile alike
— yet he completed his race to the victory tape.
How precious a victory for Much-Afraid
that she didn’t shrink back from the hand proferred to
her in the line. As she grasped that hand, the verses that had
been hidden in her heart were called forth by the Spirit. Learn
a lesson from her. In order for you to appropriate strength
from the promises in God’s Word, they must be implanted
there in the first place!
A casual chapter or psalm here or there
will reap only crop failure. For
the Word to take root, it must be faithfully implanted,
reviewed and implemented so you live by it! The words come to life a, rhema —
personal marching orders for you — only if you take the
time to pray them into your spirit.
If you can’t set your hand on your
Bible in three minutes time because you have no idea where it
is, you’ll find little fruit from this Hinds’ Feet commentary. The encouragement to press on in Jesus comes as the
Spirit quickens your spirit to put into action what His Word
has already shown you as His will. This little study guide just
outlines some points you may not have considered to act upon!
When was the last rhema — the
last specific word from the Spirit earmarked especially for you
— that you received? Did you note it down? Purpose to
keep a pad of paper by your Bible so you won't lose those
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would
you describe your zeal to discover meat in the Word?____ Will
you purpose to set aside a block of uninterrupted time each day
to feed your spirit from the Word, and then share what
He’s shown you with your journey companion?
25. After this they went back...; 26. But
Can’t you just picture little
Much-Afraid with her Shepherd as they approached the vast
ancient pyramid and walked inside? She’d never seen
anything like that before, so massive, so unfamiliar. Yet
isn’t that like our Father to use that to which
we’re unaccustomed in order to focus our concentration on
all the details of the situation at hand?
Sue: I love museums! I love to concentrate
totally on each display and take in the intricacies and
creativity that went into each exhibit. (I could lose
myself in the Smithsonian!) So I can just imagine the intensity
of focus in Much-Afraid as she surveyed the granary, her first
stop. So many varieties of grain! So many ways of threshing it!
And then the grades of flour, each suited to very particular
I like to think that the “finest
possible powder” for the “very best wheat”
are the faithful followers of Jesus among the Persecuted Church
around the world. As I pore over the articles in such
publications as the Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine, I
find myself tearfully praying for these devoted family members
of mine — and swallowing back gulps of shame at my own
No, these aren’t “perfect
Christians” — but they have been living in a way
that got them noticed as followers of Jesus! Can I always say
the same about my life, the use of my time and resources and
energy? No. But the Shepherd has set you and me on a different
path in a different place for now, and He asks only that we be
found faithful in our walk, even as we participate through
prayer and provision for our suffering family.
Some simple ways in which you can be the
hands and heart of Jesus are: letters to government officials
on behalf of Christian prisoners (include a stick of gum and it
will be read!); blankets and clothing for the destitute who
have no breadwinner; Bibles, Jesus videos, or cassettes in
their language. It’s yet day, and you can minister hope
to the least of these, His family.
Do you ever get irritated that
other believers are so different from you, perhaps in their
goals or values or lifestyle? Have you ever considered asking
our Father to understand His perspective as to their very
different purpose in Him than yours?
When you hear about the men, women
and children around the world who are suffering for their trust
in Jesus, what is your response? Are you willing to ask our
Father to show you very real ways in which you can relieve
their suffering and that of their families?
27. Watching them for a while...
Ouch! All of that breaking and bruising
and crumbling hurts! But until the kernels of self-will are
transformed into the precious flour of His will, your life will
never produce the lifegiving “best wheat bread”
that can nourish and feed others.
All of the different facets found in the
pyramid, the grinding of grain, the potter’s wheel, and
removal of dross, are designed to perfect us for God’s
further purposes. “In a large
house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also
of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for
ignoble. If a man cleanses himself
from the latter, he will be an
instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim. 2:
For many of us, the grinding takes longer
than we’d like! We’re on the potter’s wheel
far longer than we think necessary, and we are in the fires much
longer than any of us wants to take the heat. Let’s
remind ourselves and encourage each other that our Lord does
everything in accordance with His
own will. The pyramid experience is
designed to help us see how REALLY Sovereign He is.
Two insights result as you grow
increasingly aware of our Father’s sovereignty:
1. God is absolutely
trustworthy because nothing is
outside of His power or plan.
2. In light of His sovereignty, your will,
that is, your own plans and desires, becomes less significant
and satisfying to pursue. Joy is found in pleasing Him, in
bringing our Father joy! Paul offers us a simple command, “Find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:10).
Men, one facet in particular of our
Lord’s refining process is found in the proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man
sharpens another” (27:
17). Men need intimate, loadbearing fellowship with each other.
That is, their very character development comes from
within the realm of relationship in which biblical
confrontation is permitted and cherished.
If you yearn for a man to serve as a
resource of wisdom and encouragement in your life, start
seeking our Lord earnestly. As this verse implies, you
How would you go about
determining “what pleases the Lord”? Do you
understand that pleasing Him is not earning grace but pouring
out the loving response that gratefulness precipitates?
If you are a woman, are you willing
to join a significant man in your relational sphere in fasting
and praying for a mature follower of Jesus to serve as a mentor
or brother for this man?
28. “See,” said the Shepherd
Dill has a very distinct flavor that
permeates the food with which it’s cooked. (You
can’t miss the pungent odor of a dill pickle —
nothing subtle there!) Cummin is altogether different in form,
and requires a different process to make it useable. Corn for
meal is far more coarse than, say, the powder of fine flour.
The corn would lose its unique texture and flavor if it were
ground down like wheat. So how does this affect you?
Our Father chooses to use each of us in a
very unique way. The apostle Peter had a tough time
understanding this. He knew God wasn’t haphazard in His
dealings with people. (After all, as a devout Jew, the
sovereignty of God was not an issue!)
But note his response to Jesus’
words about the hard path that lay ahead of him: “Lord,
what about [John]?” In so many words, Jesus made clear
that their paths would be very different, as indeed they were.
Both would pen God-breathed words of life to glorify God and
guide Jesus’ people to come. And both would pay the
ultimate cost of their devotion, but in very different ways.
The various methods for grinding the grain
of our lives according to how our Father intends to use us are
essential for us to understand. Never
should we compare ourselves to others! Now put yourself in Jesus’ response to Peter: “If I want him to... (fulfill His purpose in for you), what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22).
Our Lord’s loving plan for each of
us requires different means to perfect His will in us. Anchor
this in your inmost being: The
journey is all the more easier if you do not compare yourself
to anyone else.
Who do you know at this point in
time whose life you’d gladly exchange with yours? Why?
Are you willing to confess your
dissatisfaction with your lot in life and turn from that to
receive our Father’s forgiveness? He’d love to
bathe you with contentment if you’d thank Him from your
heart for His sovereign care for you!
29. As Much-Afraid watched the women
The Shepherd informs Much-Afraid that He
brings everyone to Egypt so that He can grind them until they
become “bread corn for the use of others.” Usefulness to bless others—isn’t that the foundation to the
servanthood our Lord requires of each of us? This is the
crucial point of all spiritual gifts, that our Holy Spirit
giftings be used to edify others. “So
it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor.
Most Hebrew words from Scripture are
defined by how they’re used rather than what they look like. Our Father
didn’t put His people here to contemplate Him or argue
fine points of theology. He purposes us to live out His Word for
His praise. Be the bread that gives life, don;t just talk about
it or wish you had someone else’s rye when He’s
given you sourdough!
Mike: Perhaps I’ve shared this with
you before. When I worked as a Controller of a Christian
College, a well-known student took a summer job as a servant in
one of the large mansions that dots the North Shore of Boston.
One afternoon on his day off he stopped by
my office and plopped down heavily in the chair. When I asked
him what was wrong, he said, “Did you know I took a job
for the summer as a servant?” I nodded and asked,
“So what’s the problem?” “The
problem,” he stated glumly, “is that they treat me like a servant. I
have no will of my own!”
The growth of Jesus’ character in
you magnifies your desire to be used by our Lord and by others
for our Father’s glory. Pride can’t survive the
humility of true servanthood. Isn’t it comforting to
know that grain isn’t going to be ground forever? Once it
is bruised and broken, it’s useful for the
Shepherd’s purposes. This same pattern holds for us.
Our June 2003 Newsletter entitled “Are You Suffering From the Woes?” addressed, in part, the need for married
couples in their 30’s properly preparing to survive their
40’s. The 40’s are a time of great testing. For
most men this period is their season as a Wounded
Warrior. A time of tremendous physical and emotional
transition, he enters the Wounded Warrior like a caterpillar.
With appropriate help and understanding he can emerge from it a
butterfly. The most significant transformation, however, comes
in regard to his understanding of God. By the time he finishes
this period, he has developed a trust in our Lord that far
surpasses anything he could ever imagine.
I entered the Wounded Warrior period in
1990. I was 44 years old. My experience began with a
prophecy given to me and tested by the elders of our
congregation. After they read it, they said to me, “You don’t
have to do anything about what’s written here. God will
ensure that He fulfills His words to you.”
Before I tell you what happened, let me
share an excerpt from that prophecy:
Harken to my voice, my little one. For I
the Lord am here to refine by fire. For my servant Mike shall be broken. I have
prepared the fires that I shall make him walk through, and they
shall be used to crush the flesh in him.
And I promise you that the sweet and
fragrant aroma of Jesus shall pour forth as he is tempered and tried by my Spirit. And my anointing shall rest upon him in purity
and power, and great prophetic words shall be uttered through
his mouth. But the testing that is coming upon him shall scathe him and be painful as I
flush out all that is not like me.
What pain as I was assailed with plots and
betrayals by close friends and others I’d helped over the
years. With each attack the Lord forbade me to defend myself.
One day I complained to Him in deep anguish. I heard Him say,
“Read the Book of Acts and
find out how many plots against my people occur there.” I read the book and found 13 plots. He then
whispered to my spirit, “If I
permit people to plot against my children, what makes you any
better than them?” I
repented and purposed to yield to whatever He wanted to do to
Finally, in the fall of 1993, with our
marriage holding on by a thread, the Lord took us to Israel to
receive a prophetic message for the United States. The fires
ended on December 31, 1993. Fortunately, our Lord brought me to
my older friend, Bert Schlossberg, who confronted my rationale
and helped expedite my path out of the wounded stage. I had
passed through the Wounded Warrior trials and could understand
spiritual dimensions I never could have envisioned as a young
warrior. Those painful fires had transformed me. At that point
our Father gave to us the facets of the Hebraic Restoration
which we now share.
I grieve for you men who don’t have
an older man to serve as iron to sharpen you. Your time in the
pit of misery will be prolonged if you don’t have a
“father” who can bring you up out of the pit of
your trials. Your wife and family will suffer needlessly
because of your isolation.
For all of you, make this thought a banner
in your heart: The truths of the Restoration are a river of love given to His children by our
Father for healing. If you want to
wholeheartedly embrace our Father’s restorative truths,
He needs to remove your earthly desires and pursuits.
Self-focused goals and motives only tarnish the love He would
pour through you.
How would you have responded had
you been given a prophecy warning you of the refining fires
headed your way?
Have you passed through the
wounding stage of your life in which your physical capabilities
diminish, your children don’t need you or interact with
you in the same way they use to, and you and your wife
aren’t on the same page? How did you handle this? Did you
just try to bluff or bully your way through it?
30. After this the Shepherd took her...;
31. As they watched, the Shepherd said...
One Sabbath while we were in Israel, we
went to our usual congregational gathering. This particular
morning something caught our eye: a potter’s wheel and a
bucket of clay on the dais.
After a joyful session of exhuberant
praise, prayer, and sharing, a youngish woman took her place on
the chair behind the wheel. We were enthralled as she grasped a
hunk of damp clay and explained the nature of clay and
potmaking. She forcefully kneaded and shaped the material with
skilled nimble fingers as her sharp tools carved intricate
designs into the pot’s neck and sides. The scraped-off
clay that didn’t suit her purpose was pushed off to the
Before our eyes the shapeless lump of clay
had been transformed into a lovely, narrow-necked vessel. So
sleek! So perfect! We all oohed her creation. Then,
unexpectedly, she produced a hefty blade and slashed the pot
with a mighty whack! Each half coupled to the center as we held
our collective breath!
The potter smiled. “Did you think
I’d keep a vessel that can’t be used? This pot is
as fragile as crystal until
it’s fired!” And so
with us. Our usefulness depends not on our appearance but on
our relationship with the Potter whose plans indeed involve
fire! The yielded clay must be suited to the Potter’s
purpose, then submit to the fires of preparation before it can
serve Him. The “fairest and finest vessels” have
undergone the fires of Egypt all the while securely held in the
The potter’s wheel epitomizes
absolute submission. The clay passively yields to the creative
whims of the potter. Keeping still hasn’t been my strong
suit. I find it easier when our Lord gives a prophetic word
about where He’s leading me! Without His prophetic
affirmation I get down on myself and misperceive what He is
doing. Then I struggle on His wheel until I cry out in humble
yielded trust in His sovereign power and love. May I learn from
my beloved Master!
What sort of “pot” do
you envision yourself to be in the Potter’s hand?
Describe the shape, color and use of the pot you picture.
What pains you the most: the firing
process at His hand or your regret over the “clay
that’s been scraped off” by Him because it
wasn’t beneficial to you?
32. Last of all He took her up...; 33.
“O thou afflicted...
Only our Father can look at a rough rock
of a person and see the brilliant gem inside! Of course, if the
rock is left alone it will always be just a rock, not likely to
bring praise to God.
However, to the rock that allows the
smelter to submit it to the oven’s heat, a dramatic
rebirth occurs. Never underestimate the power of the Spirit of
Jesus to transform an ordinary person into an extraordinary
Perhaps your life has been more like the
gold, which needed only to be refined of its dross. Perhaps
this gold is like people who were raised in loving homes,
pretty much obeyed their parents and teachers, and went on to
live decent lives. When made aware of their sins by the
Spirit’s conviction, they submitted to Him gratefully and
came through their smelting shining and useful.
But gold is pretty rare. Not many of us
fit that category we described! Most of us identify more with
the ignoble stones that require a lot of time in the oven. But
when we grasp the intensity of love our Lord has for us even
while we were yet sinners, we rocks come through our trials
“flashing as though we had received the fire into our
In case you were wondering, you
don’t have to ask to be put into the fire. Our Lord loves
you too much to let you remain a rock. He knows your reaction
to flame is to shrink back for a moment, but He also has set
before you a wonderful image of the beauty He can create if you
Just as HE initiates a relationship with
you and HE convicts you of sin and makes it detestable to drive
you to His Cross for forgiveness and reconciliation, so also HE
purges away your dross through refining and remakes your
character with His Spirit. All the while His Spirit comforts
and encourages you and gives you hope — if you choose
to listen and to trust!
God’s heat has a way of fanning your
desire for holiness. Lukewarmness could never produce
that. You begin to be appalled by the dross of your pet sins
and worldly desires. You sometimes find yourself repenting and
repenting repeatedly. You just can’t stand the iniquity
that keeps you from the fullness of your relationship with
Jesus. This is the path to holiness, and God’s heat is
what gets us there.
When you first submitted to Jesus,
were you basically a chunk of gold that just needed a little
smelting to burn off a few sinful habits and attitudes? Or,
were you a rough hunk of rock with a few crystals of right
decisions here and there that needed a lot of heat to refine?
Has your willingness to endure the
fires increased or decreased over time? When were you last at
the point of crying out, “Enough is enough!”
34. “On the last morning...; thru
36. Much-Afraid thought of the things...
Much-Afraid appreciated the wonderful
lessons she was learning from her time at the desert pyramid.
But still, her surroundings were devoid of anything green.
Quite out of character for someone
generally fearful, Much-Afraid ventured past the now-familiar
tents and huts to explore a secret nook behind a wall. There in
the silent sunlight was a surprise of golden loveliness —
the solitary little flower!
That little blossom was confident of its
Creator’s provision — a lifegiving drip of
refreshing water that was eagerly awaited and gratefully
received. Only the sovereign plan of a loving Father could have
put that seed and that dripping pipe in the same place!
Four adjectives are used to describe that
little flower: lonely, lovely, hopeful and brave. The
“lovely” part was not a choice; it was
predetermined by the Master’s hand. It’s
“lonely” status also was not a decision but an
inescapable reality. The other two descriptions, however, were
The plant could decide moment by moment
whether to trust in the faithfulness of the Planter to send the
drip. Or, it could worry and fret that the water might stop. It
could determine to face its precarious existence with courage,
or to throw in the figurative towel and flop over in defeat.
After all, this was no carefully tended and nurtured rose
garden in which the plant lived. No fertilizer or aeration
These factors were not lost on
Much-Afraid. She herself had no control over her lack of
loveliness or even her lonely removal from all that had been
familiar before she began her journey to follow the Shepherd. But she could decide if she was going to cling
to her trust in the Shepherd’s promises, and if she was
going to press on in her journey with ever-growing courage.
Here you are, planted by the sovereign
hand of your Lord in a field that’s perhaps not your
first choice. A comforting prayer comes to mind: “God,
grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to
accept what I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the
The little flower awaiting the occasional
drip of water touches my heart. It represents each of us who
need a joyful touch from our Lord now and then. Everything may
seem dry and empty for a season, but then our Lord intervenes
in a way that shouts His love for us!
While I have had
“Acceptance-with-Joy”, I can’t say that I
have it all the time. It really gets tough when Satan's hoards
come at Sue and me in what we call a “wolf pack
attack.” Before we can fully recover, we’re
overwhelmed by the onslaught.
Acceptance-with-Joy is the place to which
our surrender and yieldedness leads. This goes beyond just
having pleasant circumstances. That joyful acceptance comes
from deep within your heart where the Spirit brings joy despite your
Have you ever been blessed by
breaking out of the box of familiarity to explore new territory
or a new relationship? Describe how that experience or
encounter changed you.
What changes need to occur in your
heart so that you can respond to your life situation with
37. The tiny plant answered...; 38.
Sue: Ahh, Acceptance-with-Joy. That name
“stole into her heart” to comfort Much-Afraid. The
flower’s name would not have had nearly the impact had it
been “Acceptance-with-Resignation” or
which I’ve experienced at some time or another!
Much-Afraid was wise enough to realize
that although she hadn’t been eager to come, the Shepherd
had chosen to bring her “for His own purpose.”
Trusting in Hin rather than bemoaning her frailty, she was able
to proclaim her own “Acceptance-with-Joy.”
And at this point in her odyssey, she
commemorates her lesson with a second pebble.
Recall anecdotes from your life in
which you were “Acceptance-with-(anything other than
Joy). Have you reached the point in your journey in which joy
permeates your heart in spite of your “daily
Contrast the threshing floor, the
whirring wheel, and the fiery furnace with the offer from Jesus
for you to find joy in Him through it all. Are you willing to
choose the joy as your second pebble?
Have you ever been in a situation
in which you doubted that your Shepherd was even hearing your
cry? How did His Presence break through?
Throughout your childhood and into
your teen years, what impression of Jesus did you have based on
visual images you’d seen in church buildings or by the
Now that you understand His
Lordship as your King and Bridegroom, how has your mental image
of Him changed? Are you able to envision His sovereign power
and love on your behalf because He loves you so much?
“May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you [transform you by His Holy Spirit] through and
through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept
blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ” (1 Thess. 5:3).
We want to conclude this chapter with an
illustration of the transformation that takes place on our way
to the High Places. When you come into this world, you are
composed of spirit, soul, and body. Your soul is your mind,
will, and emotions. The journey to the High Places, that is,
the sanctification brought about by the Holy Spirit, results in
a change of what controls you. From birth your body is
controlled by your soul, that is, your mind, will, and
emotions. But when the indwelling Spirit is given to you in
your second birth, a transformation of control takes place. Now
you can be led by the Spirit of God. Your mind, will, and
emotions take on a new set of motivations and biblical values.
You lose one identity in order to take on a whole new identity.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Human Birth Human
Development Born Again