Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trail Running - THE DECIDUOUS FOREST




How do we remain bounding up and over rocks and roots without twisting an ankle in our journey to stay in the presence of God?

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

The western region of North Carolina is a temperate deciduous forest bearing trees that have broad leaves which change color and fall to the ground as the changing season brings shorter days and colder temperatures. The Smoky Mountains claim rainfalls between 40 and 60 inches per year. The upper canopy gives way to a forest floor with over 1500 species of flowering plants, most notably woody bushes of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Many species of animal call this lush habit home including deer, beaver, skunk, flying squirrel, fox and the like. Waterfalls deliver powerful energy to the landscape, a result of the regular deposit of fresh rain across the various watersheds.

Running through the wilderness trails in this biome requires me to embrace the moist rocky treks bounding up and over rocks and roots. The very nature of the trail requires me to focus on the terrain under my feet rather than the outcome of my pace and time. I might ponder the possibility of twisting an ankle but put off the concern to hold on to the thrill of the experience.

In my endeavor to bring hope and restoration to those distant and apart from God, I have established core values. I am to share simply what God shows me (John 15:4) in the hope you too will want to experience God for yourself. But, I have come to learn the challenge of this: staying in the process and not focusing on the product requires an agility and poise in a dynamic bounding up and over rocks and roots kind of way. 

I like to think of our journey experiencing God to be similar to trail running because the ground is not necessarily smooth and I find the environment to often be harsh. I presume most people think life in Christ to be without trouble, affliction, confusion, doubt, alienation, or uncertainty. They prefer it to be only joy filled with pleasures and clarity full of assurance, comfort, hope and confidence.

God never promised us an easy “run through the forest.” He did offer us a direct connection to Him by the body and blood of Christ (Hebrews -22). We can enter His presence. He turns His face to me.  

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm

When I truly recognized the self-sacrificing beauty of Jesus, I could not keep still about it. I have to share that which I love supremely above all else. If someone is lukewarm about Jesus, then they do not grasp how long, wide, high, and deep is His love (Ephesians ). This understanding tears the veil separating you from God and His turning His face to you.

 Once the veil is torn, the Spirit of God continually entices us to enter the presence of God (John 15:5). In God’s presence we:

·        receive mercy and grace
·        receive healing and comfort
·        receive wisdom
·        receive discipline and training
·        receive hope
·        receive peace and joy
·        receive provision, protection and perspective

Staying in His presence however is intense and requires a constant and continual denial of ones self (Luke ), a bold confidence to enter the presence of God (Hebrews ), and an unyielding faith in the ministry of Jesus (Ephesians ). I have found this to be a dynamic, challenging “biome” to operate in. The agility to remain (John 15:9) bounding from rock to rock without twisting an ankle is tricky at best: denial of my pride, my control, my striving demands a poise and agility that comes from an intense focus.  

But, oh, when I do surrender my self and look on Jesus’ supreme beauty and boldly enter God’s presence and see His face for myself, I sing songs of “Wheee!” like a child being whirled in a circle by her Father. It is not a duty or obligation to religiosity. It is reverent worship of a holy God full of goodness and love. It is not about my outreach ministry nor is it about my upright moral character. It is about the love of Christ.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst in to jubilant song with music. Psalm 98:4

REFLECTION AND STUDY
Hero of the Bible, The unnamed woman in Luke 7

The woman described in the 7th chapter of the gospel of Luke faced scorn by the self-righteous onlookers. They considered her dirty and disobedient. Yet, her love of Jesus was greater than the fear of their disapproval. She washed His feet with her tears: tears of godly sorrow, tears of submission, and tears of gratitude.

·        She rejoiced in His healing power with her tears.
·        She sacrificed her wealth as an offering of love.
·        She knelt in reverent submission.
·        She offered her prized possession (hair) as a demonstration of humility.
·        She presented kisses of thankfulness.
·        She worshiped in spite of the onlooker’s disdain.

The self-righteous are ill-mannered and fail to see their sickness. Jesus is the great physician and desires to heal all of us from our sinful condition, but we must first recognize the need for a doctor. The unnamed woman loved Jesus so much because of her many sins. The self-righteous have many sins, too, but they do not love Jesus. They measure their “do-good” behavior highly and fail to recognize their hurtful behavior.

Here is what I am learning from her story:

·        Worship Jesus with reckless abandon regardless of the disdain of onlookers
·        Deny myself with reverent submission to God's utter goodness
·        Come before the throne of grace with confidence

If I stay in this posture, I will bounce from rock to rock without concern for what my efforts will produce.

Other POSTS in this SERIES: TRAIL RUNNING

Do you have memories of experiencing God in different "climates and geography"? Trail Running is a six week blog series looking at different environments we see Jesus face-to-face.

THE BIOME
THE TUNDRA
THE BEACH
THE DECIDUOUS FOREST
THE DESERT
THE RAINFOREST (coming next week)

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