What satisfies you in life? Is there certain things that your personality feeds off of? Some people are fed by crowds of people through socialization, yet others are rejuveninated through solace and solitude. The question that I pose is who or what are you dependent on?
El Shaddai--The Hebrew name for God meaning "The All Sufficient God." El means "God." Sha means "Who." Lastly, Dai means "Enough." When you put it together, El Shaddai in Hebrew is interpreted as "God Who is Enough!"
Genesis 17:1-2 (ESV) says, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly."
In the Hebrew Pentateuch in Genesis 17, El Shaddai is found, but then translated into English as "God Almighty." The question that I pose is quite simple: "Is God Enough in your life?" We have all heard Amy Grant sing about El Shaddai through the years, but do we really understand what that word really means? Are we prepared to walk through a wilderness and still say that God is enough?
If people reject you and friendships are lost, are you willing to say that God is Enough?
If you say that you aren't getting anything out of the church that you attend, are you willing to grow spiritually through your personal quite time with Him? Will God be Enough?
If you are persecuted for your beliefs as a Christian, are you willing to say that God is Enough?
If the fellowship is not there from others like you want it to be, are you willing to say that God is Enough?
The list can go on and on... The point being is that when you feel like God has you going through the wilderness and you are all alone, is God Enough? Is He ALL SUFFICIENT, or isn't He? There are times in our life where God will have us go through a valley of dry bones that feels like complete abandonment. Others around you won't understand or comprehend what you are going through, and as a result you feel abandoned.
This is not a state of being or a place that we should avoid, but rather embrace with all certainty. The certainty comes in the fact that we know that God will provide for and comfort us. Unfortunately, so many people get to this stage and in response they turn to man to fill their every need and desire.
El Shaddai wants to know if you are willing to accept and embrace Him as the All Sufficient God. He is either ENOUGH in your life, or He isn't...
Acts 2:17 (ESV)
"'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."
I am a firm believer in paying close attention to your dreams. So many people dismiss dreams as just coincidence, or merely the cause of ice cream or pepperoni they had before they went to bed. I have a totally different opinion of dreams. I feel that you can tell a lot about a person by their dreams. I have always evaluated and sifted through the dreams that I remember as to whether or not they are legitimate, or merely a byproduct of REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
Last night I had a dream that I was staying in a hotel at the foot of a mountain. There were all kinds of people in the hotel. Some that confessed to be Christians, others who didn't. What I noticed right off the bat was a line that was forming down by what looked to be a recreation locker. It was on the main floor and was closely guarded by a lock and key. There was a gentleman down there that was unlocking the closet that was full of supplies. There were only two sorts of supplies that you had access to, all you had to do was ask the gatekeeper.
The first set of supplies was simply a bicycle. The majority of the people were asking for the bicycles. They climbed on their bikes and rode off into the valley. From my vantage point I could see lights, flags, and music rising from the partying going on down in the valley. The people that chose the bikes just simply rode on into the glitz and glamour that this world had to offer them.
The second set of supplies were a little more elaborate. I saw backpacks, boots, poles, tents, hard-hats, etc. Some people were standing in line not to receive these items, but to turn them back into the gatekeeper. Others were standing in line to receive. I must mention that very few people were left standing there to receive these items, as the bikes were plentiful and the majority of people rode off into the sunset already. As I looked, I saw a few people equipped with the necessary gear and heading out on a narrow path to climb the mountain.
When I woke up, I felt the Lord speak the Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) passage to me: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
I believe that the gatekeeper was the Holy Spirit. The Word of God says to "Ask" and He will freely give. The valley represented Vanity Fair and the things of this world. Not only did the people not have to work for anything, but it was a downhill ride that they just coasted on their bicycles. Women were wearing high heels, and the guys dressed in dapper party attire. However, the trek up the mountain represents our walk with God on this earth. It has never been promised to us that the walk with the Lord will not be strenous, but the Holy Spirit promises to equip us. Evidence of this can be found in Ephesians 6, and the manifestation in Galatians 5.
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
I am curious what the title of this blog evokes in your mind. Is it a comic book hero or villain? Is it a cold dark place, or a Honda motorcycle? Maybe it sounds ghostly to you, or quite possibly not something that interests you much. The truth is that we need to embrace the term and concept.
I have often said over the last year that the next book that I write will be a book on opposites. Meaning that God's ways are not the ways of this world. The lust of the flesh and the pride of life is not the way that He has ordained our lives. Rather, He wants us to abide in the shadow of His Almighty presence.
I was laying in bed yesterday morning at about 4:00a.m. and felt the Lord speaking to my heart. I felt Him asking me if I was abiding in His shadow. I had never thought about the concept very much, as in today's society we are taught to be in the lime light and out front. It is not ingrained in our selfish nature to play second fiddle to anybody, but that is exactly what Christ is requiring of us, if we are going to call ourselves Christians.
When I was a little boy, I memorized Psalm 91. It has always been my favorite passage in the Bible as it assures me that He will deliver me from danger and give me refuge and shelter. In this macho world where we are taught to suck it up and not show emotions, He is giving us permission to be in His shadow. In order to exist in His shadow, I must first dwell in His shelter. In order for this to occur, I must trust Him as Lord of my life. I HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS ALL SUFFICIENT, AND THAT I NEED NOTHING ELSE!
I say with confidence to my LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust." Will you say this as well. Better yet, will you proclaim it with your actions to the Almighty???
This last week while we stayed in Gatlinburg, TN we decided to take a 16 mile drive up to Newfound Gap. This is the point in which Tennessee and North Carolina meet at an elevation of 5,045 feet. It was so cool to see the thermometer on our van when we started out down in the valley read 53 degrees. The higher we drove, the temperature kept dropping. My kids were asking the rationale of this when they knew that heat rises, and the basement at home tends to stay cooler then the second floor. What can I say, I have some pretty smart kids. So as any father would do trying to outsmart their kids, I just simply said, "Because God says so..." How can you argue that point. Actually I just kept my mouth shut and let my lovely wife that is a school teacher with two Masters degrees impart her wisdom and prowess regarding thinner air, barometric pressure, etc. I just nodded my head in agreement as I attempted to keep the minivan from careening over some cliff.
When we reached the top at Newfound Gap, we encountered a parking lot absolutely packed with cars, suv's, motorcycles, campers, etc... After finding a parking spot, of course the next thing on the agenda was a family photo op. As I patiently waited for my daughter to actually look in the direction of the camera, I fidgeted at how cold it was. Just before getting out of the van I noticed that the temperature had dropped from 53 degrees in the valley, down to 40 degrees up top. That is a 13 degree drop for all of you math majors out there. However, what I didn't tell you was that the wind was blowing at around 20 miles per hour on top of that mountain, and we could see our breath as the ice formed on the edge of our nostrils.
Just ahead we saw a small sign that denoted that this was a trailhead for the "Appalachian Trail." The sign said that it was only 1,979 miles remaining to the finish in Maine. WOW... I thought that maybe we could go a couple hundred yards up the trail to see what it was like. In case you don't know, the Appalachian Trail spans 14 states and runs from Georgia all the way up to Maine. The total length is 2,178 miles and can be hiked several different ways. The most devoted will hike this trail in one season which is called "Thru-Hiking." Still others will just take it in pieces which is called "Section-Hiking." I was there for neither. I just wanted to get a view from the top.
My wife and I and our three kids started up the trail. Along the trail we encountered snow and ice. I later discovered that we had gone from an elevation of 5,045 to 6,250. Although I had hiking boots on, the rest of my family just had tennis shoes. To say that we were ill prepared would be like saying the Titanic just sort of touched an iceberg. We had guys passing us with 50 pound packs on their backs, and metal walking sticks in each hand. They were setting out to accomplish and tackle this trail. About a mile up the strenuous trail, my wife and daughter decided to turn back. It was decided by my two sons and I to pursue it a little further up hill. The farther we climbed, the more snow , icicles, tree roots, and rocks we encountered. Did I mention that this was April? We finally decided to turn around and head back.
As we were heading back, I noticed the gear, or lack thereof of the people heading up. One girl was wearing flip-flops. Another person was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Others were carrying cameras and bottles of water, which prohibited themselves from having a free hand if they slipped. I was curious why I hadn't noticed this on the way up while I was passing people, or for that matter not noticed my lack of equipment and gear. You see when I was heading up that mountain I didn't know about the ice and snow up ahead. For that matter, I had no idea that the temperature would get even cooler, and that the wind was whipping even more. I had no idea that the ice and snow melt would make for a muddy footing and one treacherous slip could mean my demise. I was naive and ambitious.
How many of us are that way in life? We are ill equipped to handle what comes our way. We see others turning back, but have no clue as to what is in store for us. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Ephesians 6. It talks about putting on the whole armor of God. In many ways that was what those experienced climbers had done. They knew not to enter that trail with flip-flops. They knew they would need changes of clothes for the different climates, as well as food and shelter. Every one of them had metal walking sticks because they were fully aware that one slip on those rocks could mean their death.
As we got closer to the parking lot on the return trip, I will never forget what I saw. There was a man that was equipped to the hilt. He had on the correct clothes, had the walking sticks and the pack on his back. He shouted out as he passed by me and my two boys: "YEAHHH BABY.... Only 1,979 miles to go..." I am assuming that he started in Georgia and was a "Thru-Hiker." All I remember thinking is that this guy has the correct attitude and equipment to succeed.
God gives us the required equipment in His Word, it is up to us to have the right attitude. Will you go out equipped, or be the one I pass wearing flip-flops???
This past week I took my family to Gatlinburg, TN for a little R&R. The time together and away from the hustle and bustle of life proved to be very rewarding and satsifying. I know that some of you are reading this thinking that the previous sentence is an oxymoron. You might say that there is no way that Gatlinburg /Pigeon Forge could in any way be apart from the hustle and bustle of life. However, we stayed in a Chalet in the mountains of Gatlinburg with an impeccable view of Mt. LeConte. The only time we got stressed was either driving on the treacherous roads up or down the mountain, or the traffic that we got stuck in down in the valley.
Speaking of traffic, I feel that I have gotten a glimpse into what HELL is going to be like. I felt like I was trapped in the inner sanctum of Hades every time that I ventured into downtown Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. One day it was pouring down rain so we figured that we would go to Forbidden Caverns. I have to admit that it is a beautiful cave system that is totally outside of civilization. However, in order to get there, you must first drive through the bowels of hell. It is a pre-requisite that you view every last gimic that is being marketed and sold as if this Vanity Fair of sorts was to be your daily sustenance and lifeline.
Allow me to vent for just a second... My dear wife wanted to buy the boys some shorts, so she very politely put in a request for an outlet mall venture. Hades, here we come. The crazy thing is that you can see how bad the economy is down here by the amount of stores and outlet malls that have closed. We went to an outlet mall on one side of the street in Pigeon Forge, and it was a ghost town. Then we went to another large "red roofed" one on the other side of town, and it too was empty. Folks if you want a pulse on America's economy, that is about as good as it gets.
Forgive me for digressing, we finally found a "Tanger" outlet mall that was so swamped with cars and robots aimlessly walking around, but we could not find a parking place to park our steed. I guess because all of the other outlet malls had turned into ghost towns with tumbleweeds blowing with the wind, the robots decided to all congregate at this one that was still open. Eventually after circling the parking bays what seemed like hours, we found a spot to park the Kia. My wife was not convinced that it wasn't handicapped, but I told her that it wasn't. After all, I do have that tinge of pain in my knees when I have to go to any mall of sorts. By the way, there was no book store for men, no wi-fi hot spots, no tool stores worth anything; just benches for the emasculated men to sit on for hours while their wives drag them from one store to the other while they swiped their plastic. HOLD ME...I think that I need counseling. It wasn't that bad. Thankfully, I married a sweetheart that doesn't enjoy shopping all day long.
My point to this rampage is that I have no point. It was just useless drivel about how I think I might have had a glimpse into HELL by driving through Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, TN. Now before you write me and say, "Greg, you have no theological understanding or comprehension of what hell will be like..." this blog was meant to be fun. I hope you enjoyed my commentary. Moral of the story if you come to the Smokey's (which I have enjoyed for many years) stay in the mountains, hike in the National Park, and stay away from Hell...
YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT... Why? Is it because of the Easter Bunny, the marshmallow Peeps, the Egg Hunts, or maybe the new wardrobe that you purchased to look "Springy" on this beautiful April 4th day. I hate to break it to you, but none of that matters. Sure the kids enjoy candy, but what day on this green earth is that not the case. We all like to look new and fresh in bright clothes, but does that make Easter?
It might just be semantics, but I would rather call today "Resurrection Sunday" then Easter. Why you might ask? Simply because of the commercialization that Christian days of observance have turned into. Don't get me started on Christmas...
Before you start thinking that I am anti-Easter, let me make my case. I am so excited that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but more importantly because He rose from the dead. This distinct factual evidence is what sets my God apart from other gods that people worship. I am so emphatic about Him being "Alive" that I have chosen to celebrate this fact EVERY DAY!!! Why not? If you believe so strongly in something, why would you want to keep it a secret the other 364 days a year.
So while I rejoice with everybody today as they celebrate Easter, I would like to proclaim that as in years past, I will be celebrating and rejoicing that my Savior LIVES and is ALIVE today. I pity people that think that this is a religion from the past and just a relic. I have no idea where they are coming from. The Bible comes alive to me on a daily basis, because I am proactively yearning to know who I serve. I am not religious, but rather have made a concerted effort to pursue a relationship with Jesus.
May we all understand the importance of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. I SERVE A RISEN LORD. May we serve Him every day going forward...