‘Arise!’ The word has stuck in my head and it won’t get out. Arise! Get up! In other words, stop sitting, stand up and prepare for action. It is time to have a change of activity. Get up and get ready for movement. So I decided to go through the Bible looking at the various occasions when God came to His people and said, ‘Arise.’ The very first one occurs in Genesis.
‘Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto you.’ Gen 13:17 KJV
Lot, the man Abram had regarded as a son and lavished his love and experience on, had just walked out of Abram’s tents and gone his own way for good.
Can you imagine the turmoil of emotions within Abram at that moment? The overwhelming sense of loneliness that engulfed him at that moment? Even the sense of futility and meaninglessness of all of existence and human effort?
At that point God enters in to speak to Abram. What comfort that must have brought to Abram to know that he had not been abandoned; that the Unshakeable, Indestructible, Faithful Creator God was with him to give him a hope, meaning and purpose in moving on.
God starts by telling Abram, ‘Lift up your eyes now, and look from the place where you are…’ Lift up your eyes! Abram don’t hang your head in defeat and despair. All is not lost. I am with you. I am your God, I own all the lands and the entire universe. What has been taken from you, I can return to you a thousand times over. You’ve lost a companion, a man whom you regarded as a son, don’t lose heart. You lost one? In time Abram I will so bless you that your progeny will be as numerous as the dust on the earth. Arise Abram! Come on, take a walk, explore your inheritance.
So Abram arose from the land of Canaan, and he moved to the plain of Mamre. Interestingly, ‘Canaan’ means ‘lowlands or humilation’ and ‘Mamre’ means ‘strength, vigour, fatness.’
Maybe today you are sitting with your head bent low, unable to see the way forward, feeling dejected and lonely, wondering where God is in all of this. He’s right beside you. And he speaks to you as he spoke to Abram – ‘I am with you. Arise, let’s move from this valley of dead-ends and humiliation to the place I have prepared for you. A place of strength and vigour and completeness and fulfilment. What have you lost? I will restore it you a thousand times over. Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are.’
I look down the long road of the day that lies ahead.
All I see are mountains.
I stick my head ostrich-like under my pillow, but that doesn’t make the mountains go away.
They stand there scoffingly tall.
I scan the horizon. Is there a ray of hope? Some help?
I feel helpless, and then I hear a whisper,
‘I AM the Help of the helpless.’
Relief wells within me.
I lift my eyes ABOVE the mountains.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord – the Maker of Heaven and Earth!
And where is this God?
He’s made His home with me, and I dwell in His heart.
Nothing can separate my from the love He has for me.
Nothing can quench His life within me.
Nothing can corrupt His life within me.
Nothing can destroy His life within me.
Where does my help come from?
From the Lord who is steadfast in His faithfulness and tender in His mercies.
The Lord who sees all and knows all and is several moves ahead of satan.
HE it is who has said ‘I will never leave you, never forsake you, never fail you.
I am with you to uphold you, strengthen you.’
Where are the mountains?
Aha, they melt like wax in the presence of the Lord;
they are like smoke driven away by the wind.
But I am always with You; You have held me by my right hand. You shall lead me with Your counsel… Whom have I in Heaven? And besides You I desire none on earth. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my part forever. Psa 73:23-26 MKJV
What kind of a heart bears good fruit?
In the parable of the sower Jesus tells us of the hard heart, cynical and critical, puffed up in its own knowledge, unable to receive the Word; the pleasure filled heart and the anxious heart which choke the growth of the Word; the shallow, fearful heart which cannot sustain growth of the Word. But, there is also the heart that bears good fruit.
So what does a heart with ‘good soil’ look like? Maybe this is what it would look like? Maybe these are some of the characteristics of a heart with ‘good soil’?
• SEEKING heart: one that is longing for intimacy with God, and eagerly turns to Him
• LISTENING heart: one that is tuned to the voice of God.
• OPEN heart: one that is willing and ready to receive correction, comfort, teaching
• HUMBLE heart: one that recognises that it cannot do anything without God and is utterly dependent on God
• HONEST heart: one that does not makes excuses or cover up; willing to acknowledge its faults.
- CONTRITE heart: one that recognises its own sin and is willing to make a U-turn and walk in paths of righteousness
- WORSHIPPING heart: one that has its gaze fixed on God
• YIELDED heart: one that is submitted to the working of the Holy Spirit
- TREASURING heart: one that not merely hears, but one that ponders deeply over the received word.
- OBEDIENT heart: one that not just hears, but worships the Lord by obeying Him.
What do you think?
Secret places. Cubby holes where treasures are hidden to protect them from thieving hands.
Secret places. Hidden chambers in thick walls. Secret places in which to hide from pursuing enemies.
Secret places. Beautiful getaways. Secret places in which to rest undisturbed from the rushing world.
Secret places. A secret hugged to oneself, shared only with a few in the inner circle. Entry by invitation only.
The Most High invites us into His secret place. The safest place in the Universe. The world with all its problems cannot touch you there. We are His precious treasure to be watched over and held safe. Buzzing thoughts cannot pursue us into the secret place of the Most High. And in the Secret Place of the Most High, our hearts are refreshed and renewed.
Inner Circles don’t open their doors to just anybody. But the Father in Heaven loves all with a love that we cannot even begin to understand. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit open up their arms and invite us into the centre of their love.
‘Come, all you who are weary, burdened, struggling, broken-hearted, friendless, homeless, hungry, thirsty, blind, lame, outcaste… Come!’ (Is. 55.1, Zep 3:19 & Mt 11:28) There is no fine print in the invitation. It is open to all. All can enter into the secret place of the Most High.
What is this secret place?
It is a person, not a place. It is the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, ‘Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.’ (Jn 15:4,9)
‘Make yourself at home in my love.’ You don’t have to work to impress Him. You can be yourself. And in that place of knowing His love, of knowing that we are fully loved and fully accepted, we are set free from being what others would like us to be, or what we ourselves would like to be. We are set free to be exactly who we were created to be.
Christ’s heart, my dwelling place.
What a long way up the mountain this goat has come… and what a precarious hold it has on the mountain side, and yet, it shows no sign of agitation or fear… there is the confidence that the next leap will take it to safety, onto level ground…
I can’t help thinking of these verses…
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…
When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless –
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
(Psa 61:1-2, Psa 142:3 , Psa 94:18, Psa 18:32-33 ESV)
Father, there are many times when I feel I am just about hanging in there, and my heart is filled with anxious thoughts… but You are the One who holds me up in your faithfulness, mercy and steadfast love… Thank you! Thank you for not letting me slip and fall. Thank you for giving me the strength to make a sure-footed leap into secure places. Thank you for knowing the way forward and leading me in it… Let your peace fill my soul knowing You are with me… Amen
Moses was having a very ordinary day, tending sheep, minding his own business. And then, the unexpected happened. A bush caught fire. That would have grabbed his attention. In an area where wildfires can spread with devastating effect, one does not ignore a burning bush. Naturally Moses stepped aside to examine it.
Such a curious phenomenon! The bush was on fire and yet it was not harmed. God spoke to Moses from the midst of the burning bush.
God is a consuming fire, yet the bush was not burnt to ashes.
A green bush burns slowly, sending forth much smoke, but ultimately it is consumed and turns to ashes. A dried up bush burns quickly, and in no time is turned to ashes, but this bush did not burn out.
The bush that burned, and yet did not burn out is a very potent symbol of Christ indwelling our redeemed humanity. It is GOD who works in us both to will and do and work out His good pleasure.
Unfortunately we constantly are mobilising our own resources in His services and soon burnout. None of our talents or abilities is a substitute for God Himself.
The wonder of this bush lay not in the bush, but in the QUALITY OF THE FIRE, that it could burn without turning the bush to ashes. If the bush was looking to itself to sustain the flame, it would have burnt out very soon.
Very often we act as if everything depends upon us and nothing on God. And instead of committing ourselves to God, we commit ourselves to the need. We need to learn that God is a totally competent God, able to fulfil His eternal purposes. We need to become available to Him, for Him to do His will in His way.
Jesus invited us to abide in His love, and by abiding in Him our lives bear fruit. His life within us causes us to bear fruit: fruit that is a blessing, fruit that is not toxic or uneatable, but a blessing. But it comes from recognising how weak and empty we are, and how full and complete Christ is, and how completely He completes us.
He does not give me strength- He IS my strength. He does not give me victory- He IS my victory. He does not give me wisdom – He IS my wisdom. All that He is, He has given to me. He is the river that never runs dry. He is the consuming fire that burns without turning me to ashes… His is the love that takes the ashes of my life and makes something beautiful, something good out of it.