A few weeks ago I had a disturbing dream.
I was walking in a desert carrying a Luke Skywalker lightsaber, no green anywhere, nothing. Just rocks, heat, and sand.
I was frantically running, running, running in fear, Desperately seeking shelter, an oasis, anything. Something was chasing . . . Some . . . Thing . . . Me running, weeping in fear. Finally through sheer exhaustion I fell to the ground and totally frustrated pulled into a fetal ball. This creature, like a wolf, boldly came close and with a slimy, repulsive tongue began licking the sweat off of my hands. As it licked I could feel something flowing from me. It was feeding on me. With a jerk I came awake. “Oh great, just a nightmare.”
The Holy Spirit immediately began showing me the meaning of this dream. I have rarely before felt God speaking to me in or through a dream. I felt God speak . . . “The desert is you’re illness. The wolf the spirit of fear from the enemy, the lightsaber My word . . . I want you to quit running. Quit seeking a way out of the desert and STAND . . . LIVE . . . In the desert now. Plant your sword deep in the sand and lean fully upon it with all of your weight . . . I want you to stand, unshielded from the sun and wait. Wait for your enemy, fear, to come for you then face him. Pull your sword from the sand and strike when he comes up close. Do not submit to his lies. Do not allow him to lick your hands for he comes only to drain your faith. The slime on his tongue he leaves on your hands is despair. I will be your shelter and your shield. Trust only Me. Pay attention to only Me.”
A truly life-changing dream for me. Now I just stand. Completely weary and defeated, journeying only by standing still. Standing and singing praise with the tears running down inside my collar.
Just waiting . . .
I wait for my enemy standing on God’s word . . . Leaning on his promises. But far more importantly, I wait for his mighty, ever-present Spirit to stir within me and oh how he stirs. Oh how his love is beating and shining down here in the darkest recesses of my being. Oh how I know that no matter what else happens or what depths of suffering I descend into . . . He is deeper yet. He is true yet . . . He is faithful yet.
Worship. I believe that this is what I was truly made for. This is the highest expression of my being and the most completely fulfilling occupation of my life.
To worship when the sun is out, the feel of the wind on my skin. To worship as I descend on my bicycle after a long hard climb up Summit Loop road . . . To worship in the sanctuary comfortable and centered in my being, feeling the goodness of God released in my life simply by the blessing and joy of being alive. I am dead now to this sort of worship. This touchy-feely worship. These are all easy roads of worship and in the past, worshipping in the church, feeling good physically, I’ve worshipped with much joy.
Now . . .
Now when the pain becomes so severe that I can not clap my hands together, (I just sort of touch them together in time to the music.) When the big, giant, “WHY?” question leaps to mind in the middle of a song, and tears of the deepest bitter pain flow and all I can do is sing with quaking voice, worship is nothing but a ton of work, and yet worship is one of my only true places of refuge.
Worship, when His presence descends like a cloak and I know that my life, health, and entire being is in His hands and all is ultimately well. Worship, when nothing and no one else matters. Worship, when His mighty dynamite blows off the ‘roof’ of my spirit, and my heart is wide open and alive before my maker. Worship, when I shut my eyes and imagine heaven and my heart and mind’s eye looks directly at God Himself.
I can’t help myself. My entire being thirsts for His presence, His touch, His approval, His help. Just to love Him more, to know Him more, and to be conformed to the image of Jesus more.
There is a man in our fellowship named Ken who comes to church every Sunday in a wheelchair.
Before the accident Ken was a very good architect headed for the big time. His High School drafting teacher said that Ken was the most talented student He had ever seen. Ken was normal, a popular student, had girlfriends, played sports, the whole works . . .
A car accident . . .
Ken was barely alive. There was massive nerve damage. Now Ken, about forty years old, lives with his parents . . . He has a fine brain but talks with much, much difficulty. A conversation with Ken is a long drawn out affair requiring patience. With twisted mouth and permanently drawn in hands he lives.
Every Sunday Ken comes to church. He helps out in the Kid’s Church and sits in the same place. I watch Ken during worship service sometimes. I feel a deep affinity with him. I am blessed tremendously more than he is with my wife and kids, still able to function on the job and meet my responsibilities. (Barely) Yet my soul in its dungeon recognizes his.
During song service Ken regularly struggles up from His chair and kneels down. He lifts his hands high in surrender, arms unable to straighten out all the way, pain evident in every aspect of His life, yet he kneels . . . He kneels . . . He worships . . .
The other day I heard one of the finest sermons I’ve ever heard.
Ken preached it.
The pastor of our church invited members in the congregation to speak out loud the most comforting aspects of God in their lives. People began to say things . . . “He is my provider, My shepherd, My Healer, His love endures forever.” That sort of thing. Ken slowly, painfully stood up in his chair, hanging onto the armrests for support. “He is just WITH us.” Ken said, then sat down. I was, and am, floored. Coming from that context.
Here is a man who will never drive a car. Never type with the dexterity that I am writing with. Never play a musical instrument with any skill. Never even be able to take a walk, no matter how painfully. He will probably never have a family of his own. Never be able to hold down a job. Never do any one of a thousand things that I do without thinking of them, and yet here he is, trembling in his eagerness, not content to sit and speak. He is so zealous in His desire to share the truth that has freed him he must stand and proclaim the glory and hope, the sustaining life and reason to live on that he has found.
“HE IS JUST WITH US.”
Now that is worship. Now that is the reason I go on, that I continue to look forward to life.
Because He is with me there is no telling what it is that I can become. No telling what vistas of change in my inner being await. I cannot know what ministry will be loosed through me, what anointing and inner life that I can experience. He is just with me.
HE IS WITH YOU TOO . . .
When I think about how unbelievably difficult and dark this pathway to Glory has been; how I grope, not knowing even what direction to grope for, just to touch Jesus’ hand, I wonder how anyone, ever, gets to know Him.
There are enemies both within me and without, obstacles of the mind and the flesh, physical pain and emotional pain, grief and disappointment on all sides. In this “vale of tears” I stand, head bowed in resignation and in worship at the same time, and I wonder how in the world can my friend Dan ever come to the true knowledge of Christ . . .?
The necessary transformation is a huge paradigm shift that is completely impossible Yet I see, in my own inner being, and outwardly in the lives of others, this dynamite going off all the time. These things are out of my hands and beyond anything I can know and I can write nothing about this area.
The growing of the knowledge of God within a soul is entirely God’s work. I don’t know what motive power causes a seed to grow and it is beyond me to know how Jesus grows in a heart. Paul says, “I planted, Apollo’s watered, but God gave the increase. So then, neither the one who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3: 6-7.)
God is to have the pre-eminence in all things.
The Virgin Mary had not the slightest clue how Jesus was conceived within her. The Bible simply says, She was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. This is all that can be said by us about this now. “WE are found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”
Somehow, in the Spirit, beyond all of our knowledge, Jesus is born within us. Somehow, through much tribulation and suffering He grows within us.
I don’t think that it is possible to grow in Christ, (at least for such a rebellious, hard, heart like mine,) without suffering.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that You should follow HIS steps. Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2: 21-23).