Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Do the Time: It’s Worth the Climb

The dark valley. (1)

We’ve all been there – and most likely will be again. Perhaps it’s your current dwelling place. We may be in the valley because of the circumstances of life. Things happen, difficult things, that we cannot control. Dark times are a fact of life. Or we may be in the valley because our attitude, our mindset takes and holds us there.

Whichever the case, it’s never fun. And climbing out is hard constant work. Sometimes we feel it’s just simpler to stay there and grin and bear it, thinking “This, too, shall pass.” Yet seldom, if ever, does someone swoop down and pull us out.

But we need not give in to that temptation of simple bearing it. In fact, there is a way of thinking and living that not only lifts us out of the valley but can lessen the number of times we’re in the valley. The prophet Ezekiel paints a stirring picture.

“The passageway of the side chambers widened from story to story; for the structure was supplied with a stairway all around the temple. For this reason the structure became wider from story to story. One ascended from the bottom story to the uppermost story by way of the middle one.” (Ezekiel 41:7 New Revised Standard Version)

There is a way to the uppermost story, to the top floor, to the grand, broader and brighter view. There is an uppermost level that changes everything. Just climb the stairs. Do the hard, constant work of climbing the stairs one at a time. (2)

In other words, do the time – it’s worth the climb.

Charles Spurgeon preached it powerfully. (3)

“We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon…Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!”

We climb upward through the constant hard work of filling our minds and hearts with thoughts of the higher broader view. It’s daily, sometimes hourly work. It’s focusing all our sight upward. (4)

You’d think that after 45 years of ministry I’d find it easy. Not! I find it harder than ever. At least when I was preaching every week I studied and soaked in the Word. But without that weekly deadline and pressure, it’s way too easy to become lazy. And I begin to lose that higher broader view. And that impacts everything I do.

So I confess – I am working at it. I know what’s needed. More reading and studying the Word. More times of prayer. More Christian media and music. In other words more time set aside and focused. Easy, right? But that means less TV, less IPad word games, less sports talk radio! Ouch – it hurts to think about it.  But I know that if I do the time – it will be worth the climb.

So two points for your thoughts. One – There will be times beyond our control when we’ll be in the valley. Whether or not we stay there will be up to us. Two – Whether or not we slowly lose the higher broader view and slip into the valley at other times is up to us. These words express it more eloquently and pointed than I can.

Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God. (5)

Will you do the time? It’s worth the climb! I’m certain that’s why Jesus spent so much time apart to be in contact with His (and our) Father. If He needed to, surely we do too.

May the words of Jason Oatman, Jr. be your prayer and song (6):

“I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!”

(7)

(1) Valley Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
(2) Stairs Photo by Maxime Lebrun on Unsplash
(3) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, January 2, Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, © 1965 Cowman Publications, Inc.
(4) Eyes Upward Photo from Lightstock
(5) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, January 2, Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, © 1965 Cowman Publications, Inc.
(6) Higher Ground
(7) Higher Ground-Photo by Eric Froehling on Unsplash

The Right Altitude Makes All the Difference

I don’t fly on airplanes all that often, but I’ve flown enough to become familiar with the voice of the Pilot: “It’s going to be a bit choppy on our climb-out today, but we’re expecting it to be somewhat smoother when we reach our assigned altitude at 31,000 feet.” These words, of course, are meant to provide comfort and encouragement.

But not until I read a devotional by Norman Shawchuck (1) did a spiritual parallel come to mind: “When the turbulence is choppy, rise to your assigned altitude.” Norman points out that we were never promised a smooth flight through life but always have the option of moving up to our ‘assigned altitude.’

And what is our assigned altitude? Consider Ezekiel’s experience with the valley of dry bones (37:1-14). Here’s how it ends:

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ ”

Our higher assigned altitude is life in the Spirit. Paul later wrote (Rom. 8:4-9 NLT):

“5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Life in the Spirit lifts us to a higher altitude of mind. And this higher assigned altitude is only a few thoughts away.

“4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9)

The next time you hit the turbulence of life remember: “When the turbulence is choppy, rise to  your assigned altitude.”

(1) A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Upper Room Books, 2006, p. 172