This is a guide for those seeking the Presence of God in their hectic internal world.
So much needs to be cleared from the Workbench of my mind. So that it can become an Altar where God can meet with me.
Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
These three things have been my mindset, and way of being. However, The following three things are what I long for.
4. An Altar–My First ministry
I cannot account for why, but in these moments I have discovered that the eagerness of God has been ready to send the fire of His Holy Presence to blow through, and search out, and scour away my heart with the Glory of His Spirit, His Word, and His presence.
5. The Fire
All of this is one thing: His letting you know Himself. It returns the heart to its original glow, and the problems are cast with a smaller shadow. His light shines from a heart now aglow with his fire. And so long as that fire is kept burning (For our heart is a most unreliable fuel) then it will keep our minds enlightened.
6. Enlightened (In the Christian Sense.)
As Paul prayed, so I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ~Ephesians 1:17-19
For this to happen, you must clear your workbench and first make it an altar.
Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.
Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.
-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!
0. OrdinaryReality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.
1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.
2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.
3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.
4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.
This is the end. Of the old life. Of the New life This is the beginning.
“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby
Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.
These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)
As I watched a video on the Bible being historically accurate, I creatively learned this diagram to make sense of these three descriptors, and why they are important.
As a way to show it to people, the explanation of the “Snowman” diagram starts at the bottom with just the word “Narrative” in its spot at the start. Each word is put in quotes, it is filled into the diagram.
The Bible is “Narrative” which means it is “Story.” And what does a story have? It has “characters,” it has a “plot,” and it has “meaning.” That part of the story that really gets us. And a story is crafted by the imagination of a man, yes? Now a lot of people are content to accept the Bible as a wonderful collection of stories for the most part, but the debate will really start to come into the next level up. Because the Bible isn’t just Narrative. It is
“Historical” Narrative. When I say Historical it means that the things in this story, “Really happened.” And in history we don’t have just any characters or plots, or meaning, we have real “People,” “Events” of history, and as we look at history we start recognizing patterns in history. Case in point: Roman Empire’s rise and Fall. This pattern of rising and falling has prevailed throughout history. A lot of educated people will debate if the things in the Bible really happened, but evidence supports the Bible’s historical account, just like the Senacherib’s Prism. Some people who don’t accept the Bible as God’s word will say, “It is Man’s recording, and Man’s crafting of the story.” The debate may convince them that there is historical evidence, for the story, but the final part of the Bible’s descriptors, is the part that people who are not Christians will not accept at a heart level. Because the Bible isn’t just Historical Narrative. It is
“Theological” Historical Narrative. That means it reveals things about “What is really going on. The Bible gives voice to the part of us that knows this world is more than the world we can see, taste, smell, and hear. There is an unseen “God” and there are unseen “Spiritual realities” which are moving in the world: Angels, demons, blessings, curses, and at this level we actually get to the “Truth.” Now while The Story is Man Crafted, and History is Man recorded, Theological means it is “God revealed.”
The Bible is all three levels, and in order to understand the Bible, you have to accept it at all three of these levels. It is Theological, Historical Narrative. Because The Historical Level is written at the level of “Earth”: The events that concretely happened in time and space here on this planet. But the Bible also accounts for and describes the real of “Heaven.” And because it is story it also speaks at the level of the “Heart.”
Please get this: God has revealed something to Man about Heaven and Earth which He had Man record and craft so that it could reach your heart. This is why the Bible is the best and most all encompassing book ever written. It is Heaven and Earth, and the Human heart all wrapped into one Volume, and it sets all of them back into right relationship with God.
So yeah! The Bible is Theological, Historical Narrative. Isn’t that awesome?!
Fellow Pilgrims – – I am wandering like you, following the cloud of His leading, and I see that this is the Pilgrimage that He calls us to. – – In the Torah, we see in Deuteronomy 8:2-3 that God is searching out man’s heart. He knows that the heart is the seat of life, and He is seeking to save the life of His creation. In the Torah, we see our hearts, as in desperate need of His salvation. – – In the Prophets, we read of men like Elijah who followed God’s lead, and did mighty works of power by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Kings 17-19, we read of Elijah’s encounters with God, and the ways God sustained him, led him, used him, and preserved him. – – In the Gospels, The fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets was Jesus, who showed us all how to navigate the wilderness in Matthew 4, and Luke 4. If Jesus went through the wilderness by the leading of the Holy Spriit, must not we also follow Him even here? It is here we learn dependence on God, trust in God, and devotion to God. O you who wander far from Home go with Him, and your home will be near to you each moment. – – In the Writings, we see Paul’s exhortation to believers to learn from the Wilderness stage. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:14, He calls us to run, to have self-control, to learn from the failures of Israel, and to flee from idolatry. – – I wish I could say more. More could be said, but my words are not the ones you need. You need His Word: the one word that sustains you. For more on the Wilderness stage, consider this writing exploring Jesus’ time in the wilderness. – – Finally, dear reader, I commit all of this to Him. I pray He lead you, feed you, and prepare you for the great things He wishes to accomplish through you. There is no way around the wilderness. By the strength of God’s heart, may your heart make it through these challenges and move onward into the fullness of Glory in the presence of God. In Jesus name, Amen.
Reuben and Gad were going to settle in before crossing the Jordan with all the rest, but they assured Moses and the people, “We will build sheepfolds for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel until we have brought them to their place.” (Numbers 32:16-17a) This was good in the sight of Israel.
Principle: So long as Jesus hasn’t returned, we are in a wilderness where once there was a garden. There is a tension of settling in here as a pilgrim does on his journey, but then he keeps moving. The Wilderness teaches a person that he must be whole-heartedly for God, and also teaches him that even when he gets out of the wilderness, he will need to keep moving. The battle wages ever onward until the Promise of God is fully taken possession of, and the church can walk unified in Jesus name, representing God rightly in the world. Reuben and Gad both settled in, and committed to the task. This is to be our heart as we leave the wilderness stage. While we are here on earth, the question remains in all that we do, “Are we coming up short of the fullness of God’s promise?”
Application: If you have gotten this far, you have what you need: God is Enough, and He will bear His fruit in your life, and though you fail, He will bring about the zeal of heart to accomplish His work in you. This exhortation I give you. Don’t stop short of the Kingdom in all the Lord gives you to accomplish. Let God be your companion, your value, your everything. Take care of your families and your possessions, and then go forth and lay hold of the Kingdom of God, which men of violence take by force. Only stay with Him. He brought you to the wilderness, and through the wilderness. Go and be with Him as he leads you out of it.
Warning: Do not settle for less than the Kingdom, or you will lose everything. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 There is no room in the economy of God for a partial-hearted person. As the Lord Jesus said,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me, for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” ~Luke 9:23-24
Principle: After a time in the wilderness, being scraped down to the heart that has chosen the goodness of God, the journey back to what some call ordinary life is filled with danger. God has brought his vessel through the fire and now the test is to see how it responds to a foreign, destructive, and once beloved presence called Sin. The response of the heart prepared for God, is a response of zeal against it.
Many have a zeal against sin, but it is from a place of self-righteousness. “I am better than this they say.” On the other hand, The one who has been through the wilderness, who has walked with God, and tasted of His holiness will have a completely different perspective of sin. It is a righteousness based on God not on self. Sin is not only evil, it is worthless. It is not only death, it is killing. It is not only wrong, it’s unthinkable! The heart that burns against God for sin cannot understand this perspective. The heart that burns for God against sin cannot see otherwise. It is all consuming zeal that earned Phineas a perpetual priesthood. It is this all consuming zeal that turned God’s wrath away from His people.
God is One. He is not less than One. We in heart are not One, we are divided and varigated, and compartmented. Sin has fractured us like a mirror designed to mirror God’s glory, instead we splinter it and His image is marred. It is when we are whole that God recognizes Himself in us, and His integrity proves himself to be true in response to the truth in How He made us. This is why David said, “To the pure, you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself twisted.” Psalm 18:26
Application: Emotions stir in the melting pot of the heart that allows a person to change for the better or the worse. Let your emotions be excited against sin, even as they are allowed to fully enjoy the goodness of God, and you will find your heart more whole. Let nothing temper or cool your zeal for God against evil. And let your zeal be even as Jesus’ zeal: a zeal to seek and to save the lost. Coolness will mend no cracks in your heart. Also, take action against sin, so that the emotions of your heart have oxygen of freedom, and fuel of action to keep glowing and blowing to purge out evil, and to bring light to the dark and cold world enslaved to sin.
The outward situations are growing in intensity. Arad, Amoriates, and Bashan all fought against God’s people and lost, because of God’s power at work in Israel. They have learned much from the wilderness, and God’s power is effective in creating the impossible right before them. But the heart of the people is still ungrateful.
Principle: The power of the Spirit is simultaneously able to create powerful victory on the outside, while disciplining the weak failure on the inside. God does so when he is using beloved sinners and sinful image bearers to enact his purposes. His way of producing outward results is staggering, but even more profoundly moving is His way of training his children up close. When the people are complaining, God sends fiery serpents and they bite them, and then in the midst of the discipline God provides the cure. Do they have the heart to look to the one who wounded them to see His love and purpose for them?
Application: Do not count your outward victories as evidence of God’s approval of you. Beware your ingratitude, because it will keep rearing its head. When you fail, keep staring God in the face as you experience his discipline. In his face you will find the truth and love that makes you right before Him again. Expect God’s work to be evident beyond you, but let your primary focus be clinging to Him. He is your cloud and your supply.
His chisel is sharp, and painfully accurate. He will test and prod and prove the heart, and there is great confidence to be gained in the Lord by his thorough preparation. No confidence in self has any room. Our frailty as human beings is inescapably exposed in times of loss. Right between two losses Moses has his moment where his heart came up short.
Principle: The people of God are God’s mission, and they have continuously pushed against him. Here Moses gives into his own ungodly anger and disobeys God by yelling at God’s people and not glorifying God by obeying Him. The Holiness of God requires completely Him shining through. And in our anger, and our wretchedness we will smear God’s good name through our rash and self-effecting actions. The self responds to situations according to its own perspective. This was Moses’ folly when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. The self is ever present as our greatest enemy that must be defeated daily, and the time in the wilderness will make this abundantly clear in the loss, the tragedy, the difficulty, and the weakness of this stage. Self-effecting– anything done that is based in self, of self, for self– is the very useless thing about a person that God is determined to keep chiseling away until he can be used. If the self is allowed to remain in power, we run the very painful risk of coming out of the wilderness to a blessing we can see from a distance, but not partake.
Application: Keep fighting the battle of putting yourself to death daily, so that you do not step out of the blessing and power of the One who is using you and preparing you for more. This is done through actively choosing God’s will over your own. One way to do this, is by writing out your will for the day, and then laying it down before God in prayer saying, “not my will, but Your will be done.” If you blow it, repent and return to God, and see what He will do with you, and let Him be the one to determine the consequences for your action. Beware self-inflicting punishment on yourself for when you blow it. God is holy, He is the best judge for how to make a person useful for His purposes. And every wrong thing that is done will still be woven into His plan. When contention arises, keep the self in check, through prayer and humility. No matter what else may be happening right in front of our eyes, the work of God in holiness is what is at stake, and that is what really matters in every situation. Will you maintain your integrity to God’s holiness despite all the contentions that rise around you?
If you saw a stick one day lying on the ground that had no fruit on it and walked past it, you would probably not think much of it. But if you walked by the same stick the next day and it was bearing ripe fruit, you would wonder the source of life: Where did it come from? Jesus said in John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die it brings forth much fruit.” At this point of the wilderness, we are coming up from the bottom level. The promise of life is coming through the death of the wilderness stage.
Principle: Numbers 17:8~ “Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” Thus, God proved his choice and validation of Aaron’s ability to represent him. Aaron was far from perfect, he had made plenty of mistakes, but God’s purpose was more important than Aaron’s mistakes. God had chosen him to be a vessel, and the fruit of the wilderness grows on limbs that have been cut off from their worldly supply. Such fruit only God can grow. The principle of the Wilderness is this. Only after a heart is fully set on God does it bear God’s fruit. A tree bears earthly fruit because it is of the earth. But a heart who is planted in God bears heavenly fruit, which is miraculous and is the beginnings of the rewards of the Wilderness.
However, you’re not out yet. The flesh is going to hate this. It will not be satisfactory to your sense of self. When Israel saw what happened, they were fearful for their lives. The Holiness of God had been proven among them in the death of Korah, and the vindication of Aaron. Their sinful hearts were rightly fearful in the presence of a holy God. So will our fleshly nature in light of the holiness living within us.
Application: By now, if you’ve gotten this far, and you have learned the previous lessons of the wilderness, you can expect the fruit of your heart planted in God: righteousness, self-lessness, and power to persevere and do good in the face of many tangible evils and difficulties. Walk according to God’s commands, and keep on rejecting anything that vies for space in your heart. Only the heart that is set on God can be whole. Ways to do this: worshipping God, walking with God, going aside for God, fasting, anything that is done purely for the enjoyment of God. The more fully your heart is set on God, the more fruitful for His Kingdom you will become. This will bring no comfort to your fleshly desires to serve yourself. The sin in you will need to be kept at bay in the members of your body.
In the sci-fi movie Ender’s Game, all of the students in the preliminary training program receive a probe in the back of their head that lets the instructors see through the children’s eyes. Before they let a person go to battle school, they take out the probe and send them home, making them think they have failed. It is wisdom to see the quality of a person after they have failed to see what they will do once their opportunity to succeed is removed. In the movie, Ender is discouraged, but he proves that he is still the right person for the job, and he is allowed to go on to the next stage.
Principle: Korah and the Levites are feeling done with this wilderness journey. Not only have they left their comforts behind, but their promised future is cut off from them by their own failure. They are stand against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16, and Moses and Aaron, very humbly appeal to them, and rebuke them for their opposition against God. The part of this rebellion that grieves my heart is in verses 8-9
“Hear now, you sons of Levi, is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them.” ~Nu 16:8–9.
We are now at the half-way point of the Wilderness and it is here that the deep test must be faced.
The heart of rebellion is rejection of God. The heart of rebellion is hatred of God. The most holy people in the congregation of Israel had been blessed with the chance to be near to God, and how did they respond? “We don’t care. We want the promised land.” The Wilderness is where you learn for real, “Is God alone really enough?” Because in the wilderness, you will have nothing more. This is a decision of the heart one cannot make half-way. Either God alone is enough, or he is not enough. “Not enough” has looked upon the beauty and blessedness of God Himself and counted it as a small thing compared to something else. It is perhaps the greatest insult to God there is. It is the heart’s equivalent to an affair, cheating on God. God is rightly angry, and he swallows up the rebels with earth and fire.
Application: Is He alone enough? This is the foundation. This is the “real question,” “the real test.” Come to grips with the loss of past and future. Lay everything out that is precious in your heart: acceptance, authority, power, hope, relationships, significance, happiness, possessions, all of it! And then ask “If I have just God, and none of these things at all, would that be okay?” Be honest. So long as you cannot say yes, you can’t make it through the wilderness. Your heart is currently like one of those who needed to wander in it for 40 years until their corpses fell in the wilderness. If this is you, do not despair, God is greater than your heart, and he can give you a new heart with a new spirit to want Him alone. Pray and ask Him for it, and keep asking until He is indeed enough. May God give you the grace to be fully devoted to Him.