Have you ever wished you could have a scenic overlook of your life—a past, present, and future look to see why you’ve experienced the failures, grief, and struggles? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the bigger picture and understand what God is doing?
The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference
A Writers Experience
When I went to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference last week I was able to visit the scenic overlook at the top of the mountain where we stayed. There were beautiful sunrises and picturesque views, and I took lots of pictures.
While it’s so good to catch up with writer friends and make new ones, the conference can feel like you are drinking from a fire hose.
I took classes on marketing my book, starting a podcast, and branding, as well as how to join various groups that help you become a successful author. I’m still praying about how much to spend in these areas and which of them God is leading me to do.
Then there are the contests…I have a love/hate relationship with them. It’s nice to win an award, but the sting of not placing is tough. Contests are an affirmation for me. It’s nice to know your peers like what you’ve written enough to rate your piece high enough for an award. Contests can also make you feel like you are on the right track.
But what happens when you don’t place? Does it mean that everything you write is bad? No, it doesn’t. We have to trust God with all we do. Our writing, our art, our promotions and jobs, and our education.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:6-8 ESV
The Scenic Overlook
The Mountain Experience
As I drove my friend to the airport, I said, “It would be nice to understand what God is doing!” Of course, she agreed and said, “Wouldn’t we all like that?” It’s true.
I stopped at a scenic overlook on my drive home to Ohio. While there was a steep path going up to the overlook there was another path at the parking lot level to see the same view. Of course, I took the steep path. I didn’t even see the other deck until I was walking back to my car.
As I looked out at the mountains, I couldn’t help but feel small. They were so far away and so high. The trek I made up the path was nothing compared to climbing one of those mountains. We often think of mountain experiences in our Christian walk as highs or the happiest moments in our lives.
The Trek to the Mountain
Six essentials we need before climbing a mountain
!. Equipment: the right boots, outerwear, pants, and layers of clothing for the heat and the cold weather.
2. Food and water: That kind of hike would take a lot out of us physically. We would need to carry enough food and water to stay hydrated.
3. Protection: We would need bear spray at least to protect ourselves from any predators that might follow us or block our path. Also, there might be underbrush. We would need to have a knife to get through the undergrowth that may hinder or prevent us from getting where we need to be.
4. Rest: We could not do that hike in one day. We need to rest.So we would need to have a sleeping bag and/or tent to camp out in.
5. Preparation: That hike would not happen in a few hours or a day. A trip like that could take days. Be ready for the trip. Rest up and exercise to prepare your body for the climb.
Do you see the parallels in our Christian walk?
Spiritual Mountain Highs
Six essentials before we get to that Mountain High
What do we need to prepare for a spiritual mountain high experience?
1. Equipment: Prayer and God’s Word. We need the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts and the Word of God to equip us.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV
2. Food and water: Jesus. He alone can keep us going in our Christian walk—whether it is a mountain high or a valley low.
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35
“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
3. Protection: Satan is our predator. He lies in wait to overwhelm us or convince us to stop so we will not make it to the mountain. Are you ready with God’s armor? In the Old Testament, men in a covenant relationship switched their armor with the other. God has given you His armor to fight satan’s attacks.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11 ESV
4. Rest: Our “walk” with Christ is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to rest–that’s why He gave us the Sabbath.
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10
5. Preparation: Just as we wouldn’t climb a mountain without preparing, we can’t have a mountain-top experience with God without some preparation.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. “ 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
Heaven–the Scenic Overlook
So, while we don’t get that scenic overlook experience in this lifetime–a chance to see and understand all God is doing, we will someday in Heaven. Everything we have gone through will make sense. God was working on your mountains and in your valleys, He is working now and will continue to do a good work within us until the day we die.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11.
How do you view the Sabbath? Is it going to church on Sunday? On Saturday? Is it twenty-four hours of rest or just going to church in the morning?
Growing up, my family went to church on Sunday morning without fail. We went on Wednesday nights, revival weeks, missionary weeks, and when the Evangelists came to town.
But Sunday was special. We had a big meal in our home after church, most often with friends or family. We could not do laundry or clean, and we could do no yard work, either (we LOVED those rules).
But, it could be legalistic, too. Sometimes a girl needed to wash her favorite pants for school on Sunday night. Nope, not allowed. It was Sunday, we should’ve done that on Saturday.
Although, this seems extreme to some, I realized later, my parents were trying their best to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
My father loved sports. He watched all the games throughout the week and weekend, until one day…The Lord convicted him of spending too much time on Sunday in front of the TV, watching sports and ignoring Him and his family. From that day on until he was in a nursing home later in life, he never watched sports on Sunday.
God takes Sabbath rest seriously.
He set the example for us in Genesis 2:2-3:
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
Do you think God really needed to rest?
In Babylon, starting around 605 BCE, the evil king Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah captive three different times. God even called Nebuchadnezzar “His servant.” (Jeremiah 25:9.)
They stayed in Babylon for seventy years until king Cyrus allowed them to return to Jerusalem to repair the desolate city.
According to the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, the 70 years was “the exact number of years of Sabbaths in four hundred and ninety years, the period from Saul to the Babylonian captivity.” https://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/understanding-the-book-of-daniel/daniel-9/
Not only were they to rest on the seventh day, but as a country, their land was to rest on the seventh year as well. They did not do this.
Why did God allow this exile and captivity to happen? Judah was disobedient and would not listen to the Lord. (Jeremiah 25:3-4.)
Bottom line, they did not keep the Sabbath for 490 years. So, God sent them to a pagan country where they might appreciate what they had, and have plenty of time to make up the Sabbaths they missed.
When I consider the time we are in with nearly every restaurant, park, movie theater, sports event, and anything fun closed indefinitely, I can’t help but consider how many Sabbaths have we missed?
Could the Lord be using this time to make up for our missed Sabbaths? Have we ever celebrated Sabbath like God wanted us to?
Unless you are a healthcare worker or considered an essential business employee, we all have time to do that, right?
I wrote a post a while ago called Living out the Sabbath (Shabbat). I wrote about a time we visited Israel and ate a Shabbat meal with an Orthodox family. They explained the customs as we ate the meal and we watched them honor each member of the family. They wowed us the entire night.
There was not a dry eye.
Would it be so hard to carry out the real Sabbath, now? Can we enjoy the rest God has granted us once this is all over and (hopefully) things return to some normalcy?
It’s God, family, and friends in that order on the Sabbath. It’s not a punishment, it’s a gift.
What changes can you make in your life, “To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,”
Fellow blogger Carole Sparks wrote “Sabbathing: Is that a word?” on her blog Not About Me. She brought up a lot of good points in that post as well as her follow up post. You can read it here.
As I read her post, it made me think of my time in Israel and celebrating a Shabbat meal with a host family. They were so kind and allowed 17 of us to share a meal with them while they taught us about their custom that night.
I am working on a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews is probably a book of the Bible some would avoid like Numbers or Leviticus. It has a lot to do with the Moses, the Law, and the Levitical priesthood. However, the author of Hebrews wrote his letter to people who were leaving their faith in Yeshua to return to Judaism.
He wants to show them how superior Yeshua is to everything from angels to Moses, to the Law and even the Sabbath. In Hebrews 4:1-11, the author reflects back on Old Testament verses found in Psalm 95:7-11. God is speaking of the generation from the time of Moses, their rebelliousness, and eventual death in the wilderness. They were unable to enter God’s rest which was Canaan because of their disobedience.
The Hebrew passage takes a course change from the Canaan rest to the Sabbath rest. At this point, without going into everything I cover in my study, I will give an excerpt from my Hebrews study:
In Exodus 31:13, God wants us to keep (or to remember) the Sabbath so we may know that he sanctifies us. He also says in verse 14,
“You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you.”
Sanctify means to set us apart or to make holy. Why is this important?
God wants us to be His light. He wants us to be different. How can we be His lights if we are as tired and overworked as the rest of our culture? If each day is like all the rest, how do we show the world that we are set apart? How do we display that our Sabbath is holy to us as God said it is?
When I was in Israel, the group I went with was fortunate enough to be part of a Shabbat (Hebrew Sabbath) meal. Shabbat is 25 hours long and includes turning off all electronics (yes, all of them), spending time at the synagogue (at the time of Yeshua, they recited Psalm 95:7-11 every week on Shabbat), and spending time in the Torah with God and family. Friends and family members eat a meal which consists of many courses. Dinner begins with a blessing over the breaking of bread which represents peace from any conflict that may have occurred during the week. Next, there is blessing recited over a glass of wine or grape juice which represents sanctification of the day of rest. It is like Communion.
Psalm 95:7-11 (ESV)
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
At one point during the meal, the head of the household sings Proverbs 31 to his wife to bless and honor her. He and his wife then take the face of each of their children in their hands and speak blessings over them individually. The look on the kid’s faces was priceless! They loved it and looked forward to it.
I felt almost intrusive as I watched their interactions and the intimate way they spoke to each other. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room.
So, let’s look at the Sabbath another way. Every week, an Orthodox Jewish family gives reverence and praise to God, makes peace with God and family, blesses and honors the women and children, all while resting from work and spending time together reading the Word. How different would our families be if we kept the Sabbath like this, instead of just hurrying to church?
This is an example of being set apart, not like the rest of the world, but living out devotion, faith, honor, obedience, and rest.
Psalm 31:10-31 The Woman Who Fears the Lord
10 uAn excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than vjewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She wseeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She xrises while it is yet night
and yprovides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She zdresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She aopens her hand to bthe poor
and reaches out her hands to bthe needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in cscarlet.
22 She makes dbed coverings for herself;
her clothing is efine linen and fpurple.
23 Her husband is known in gthe gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes hlinen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 iStrength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many jwomen have done kexcellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 lCharm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.