Tag Archives: spiritual desert

Three Levels of Journeying Through Your Desert (Part 3)

We’ve been talking about how to thrive in a spiritual desert. When we are surrounded by dryness, if we complacently accept it, we eventually become as dry as the environment around us. We discovered that Level 1 is learning to keep our passion for Jesus while enduring. This is the survival level. Level 2, which takes determined pressing into, is learning to carry our own personal oasis with us wherever we go in the desert. But God’s best for us is not just to personally prosper in a desert climate. He has an important role for us in the next level.

Level 3: Transforming the Desert

As we continue to walk in the Level 2 personal glory pool, we begin to affect the desert around us.  Our pool expands outward from us.

Psalm 84 says that those who continually praise the Lord, find their strength in Him, and walk in His ways (vs. 4, 5), end up doing something most unusual: “Who passing through the Valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools” (v. 6).

“Baca” is Hebrew for “weeping.”  Bible scholars aren’t sure where the Valley of Baca was, but they are generally agreed that it was a desolate place.  Some translations go so far as to call it a desert valley, which is certainly implied by the rest of the verse.  Some translate “well” as “fountain” or “a place of springs.”  The idea, with the surrounding verses, is that those who abide in the Lord in the midst of their desert change the Valley of Baca from a dry place to a fertile one by their presence (actually the Presence of the Lord that they carry) as they pass through.

We said that transitioning from Level 1 (survival) to Level 2 (carrying the personal oasis of His Presence) is not easy.  Neither is it easy to go from merely carrying a personal oasis to the higher level of changing the environment around us so that it is no longer a dry place.  It takes focus.  As in the Valley of Baca — the valley of weeping — there may be some tears.  There will definitely be self-sacrifice, because if we are going to have our personal pool of the Lord’s Presence expand outward from ourselves, we will have to lay ourselves aside for others, giving them our time, love, compassion, and encouragement.  By serving them in these ways, we draw them into our ever-expanding pool.  We introduce them to God’s glory and show them how to walk in it, too.  God’s Presence is infectious, and as we release it into the lives of others, they begin to carry it as well.

At Level 3, our business is to reclaim the desert.  Isaiah 35:1-7 illustrates what happens as we release the Presence we carry over others:

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing: … they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.  Strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful in heart, “Be strong, fear not: behold, your God … will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water….

You may be asking, “But how do I transition to Level 3?  How do I see to it that my oasis expands outward?”  God uniquely tailors the answer for each of us.  Really, you can’t expand the oasis.  He does that through you.  What you can do is continue to walk in the Level 2 status of consciously carrying God’s Presence with you — abiding continually in Him and thinking on the reality of what you carry.  As you do that, be sensitive to opportunities to give into others.  Those usually don’t show up at the most convenient moments!  At times, God will also give you specific direction.  When that happens, don’t ignore it.  Be quickly obedient.  Move with Him!  By doing so, you will be cooperating with Him so that He can increase the size of your oasis and include others within its borders.  It is all about staying attentive to the Lord.

For many of us, the Valley of Baca, the desert valley, will be a passing-through place.  We change the terrain around us as we keep moving.  As we pass through it, we should never leave it the same as it was when we came into it.  For some, the desert surroundings they are in may be their life mission.  They are planted there.  If that is the case for you, take heart.  Remember, it is not going to stay a desert.  It is going to blossom, as you continue to let the Lord expand your glory-pool outward.  In either case, you will eventually find yourself in a fertile place, well-watered by the Holy Spirit and satisfying to your soul.

Previous posts: 
Level 1: Survival in the Desert
Level 2: Creating a Personal Oasis 

Other posts on the desert experience: 
Desert Horse  
Why the Desert, Lord? 

Three Levels of Journeying Through Your Desert (Part 2)

We talked last time about the ground level of getting through a desert experience — learning to survive. Survival is not passive; it involves gaining strength while enduring through dryness. But we don’t have to stay at the endurance level.  We can move on to the next step: 
 
Level 2: Creating a Personal Oasis

At this level, we learn to dwell in our personal pool of His Presence in the midst of the desert. The consciousness of this “personal Presence pool” makes the terrain we walk through less important. It may be a desert around us, but we carry our own little oasis with us wherever we go. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

During a time when the Lord was teaching me about the great depths of His grace, He brought to my attention a couple of verses:

Psalm 118:5 — “I called upon the Lord in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.”

Psalm 31:7, 8 — “… You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a large room.”

He showed me that the “large place” that He sets our feet in is like a pool around us of His grace and glory, which we take with us wherever we go. It never departs from us. But in order to draw upon it, we must be aware that it exists.

Shortly after that, I had a vision, while in a congregational worship setting, of standing in a spotlight which was coming down out of heaven. It was a spotlight of grace and the Lord’s glory-presence. The Lord explained to me that each believer has his own personal spotlight, and as we move, the light moves with us wherever we go. We don’t just have it when we are worshiping with other believers amid a high sense of God’s glory. We take it with us all the time.

For illustration purposes, we can think of our large place of God’s Presence in terms of a spotlight or a pool of water.  However we view it, it is about dwelling in Him, being refreshed continually by Him.  It is a picture of abiding. The more we are conscious of our personal pool, the more it refreshes us — like an oasis in a parched land — but this oasis is different: it travels with us.
 
It is not easy to transition from Level  1 (survival in the desert) to Level 2 (carrying our oasis with us as we go through it). As I inquired of the Lord about how to make it through my own desert, He said to me, “If you will put your roots down deep in Me, I will water you.”  Maintaining our oasis requires effort, including more than ordinary times of waiting on the Lord in prayer and steeping ourselves in His Word. When we live in an arid spiritual climate, we don’t usually have anyone handy to spoon-feed us the Word or to bring the Presence of God to us. We have to go after the Lord for ourselves, because there isn’t the opportunity to piggyback ride on  other people who carry God’s glory.

To go from Step 1 to Step 2, I find I have to consciously think about my personal glory pool a lot. When I am in a corporate worship setting, if there doesn’t seem to be much stirring in the group as a whole, I tell the Lord, “I will just worship You here in my pool of Your Presence, even if I can’t sense much happening around me.” I have experienced the Lord wonderfully in the midst of some pretty unlikely places as a result of doing that.  I often ask the Lord to let my pool bump into other people and rub off on them a bit (s0 they can piggyback ride on my experience!). 

Next time, we’ll take a look at Level 3.  I really like this one!

Previous — Level 1: Survival in the Desert 
Next — Level 3: Transforming the Desert 

Three Levels of Journeying Through Your Desert (Part 1)

In recent months, I’ve written a couple of times on desert life — going through seasons of spiritual dryness, either personally, or due to the spiritual climate surrounding us.  I’d like to finish that theme with a few more thoughts, which I hope will encourage any of you who are currently experiencing the desert.

Paraphrasing 2 Corinthians 3:18, God takes us ever upward by His Spirit, from “glory to glory,” as we behold Jesus.  I’ve discovered three ascending levels which we can attain to while living in spiritually dry surroundings.  This was exciting revelation for me, and I hope it will be for you, too. 

Level 1:  Survival in the Desert

This is where we start.  We become able to endure the dry spiritual climate in which we live.  This is a time of growing in strength, stamina, and sensitivity to the Lord, as we pursue Him in the midst of dry outward surroundings.  It is a time when the Lord is intent on forming us  into warriors who can bend the bow of steel, as mentioned in Psalm 18:34.  Paul the apostle exhorted young Timothy, “… Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. … Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1, 3).  Timothy probably wasn’t living in a revival hothouse when Paul wrote that to him.  He was going through a difficult season.

At this survival level, we may internally feel an intense thirst for more of the Lord, while sensing a lack of spiritual fervor in the people of our city or region.  There may be no church fellowship available with an understanding of  worship which draws the tangible presence of God down into its midst.  Solid Bible preaching and teaching may be a hard commodity to come by.

If your own church house is not meeting these needs, it is easy to make the  mistake of murmuring that you are “not being fed,” and then move on to a new church in hopes of finding lusher pastures.  There is a time and place for moving on, but if God has you in a desert to build your spiritual muscle, you don’t want to miss His purpose.  
 
If we neglect to pursue and cleave to the Lord during this first desert level, we become accustomed to meager sustenance.  We give up and resign ourselves to the dryness,  accepting it as all there is — and we end up staying there until we die.  This is where a great portion of “good” Christians are at.  They learn to just barely make it.  Some become pew-sitters, while some suppress their gnawing sense of lack by working ever more diligently for the Kingdom. In either case, living in this perpetually parched environment, spiritual life gradually fades.

If, however, we continue to seek the Lord for more of Him, He will be faithful to get us to the next level, and that’s where we’ll pick up next time.  This first level is not much fun to read about (or live through), but the story will get more encouraging as we continue on.  I promise!

Next — Level 2: Creating a Personal Oasis

Desert Horse

Are you living in a spiritual desert?  Maybe you feel dry in your relationship with the Lord.  Or maybe it is not you personally, but the spiritual climate of your surroundings that feels like the Sahara. 

For a few days now, I’ve had the desert horse of the Middle East on my mind.  Carefully bred for many centuries by the nomadic people who live there, Arab horses are known for their great stamina, strength, and agility.  Their ability to endure searing heat and travel great distances through difficult terrain, with a minimum of food and water, are legendary.

There is allegorical truth hidden in their story for those of us who are currently living in a spiritual desert.   Desert seasons are a part of every serious Christian’s life.  Some of us spend more time there than others.  No one finds it to be much fun.  We love the Psalm 23 experience of Jesus leading us in green pastures, beside still waters.  But if we stayed there all the time, we’d just be fluffy, helpless sheep, and the Lord has better things for us than that.

Like the desert horse, we are meant to have, spiritually speaking, muscles of iron.  Psalm 18:34 comments, “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.”  Such strength comes only through the rigors of enduring difficult conditions.  Steel becomes what it is through a careful process that involves applying enormous amounts of heat.  And yet, God speaks of giving us strength superior even to that possessed by steel.

Some of you live in a place where not much spiritual life is going on around you.  You may not sense a great desire for the Presence of the Lord in your community or church house.  There may not be a local “feed trough” of solid Bible teaching available to you.  And you feel so very hungry and thirsty for nourishment from the Lord.  I know what that feels like.  Access to sound Bible teaching through books and the Internet is wonderful, but there’s nothing like having everything you need right in your own home town.  The easy way out would be to shift locations — to find a new city or church where God is moving.  But perhaps you know deep down inside that, at least for this season, you are called to be a desert dweller.  It is part of God’s plan for you right now — but it’s a bleak outlook, all the same.

God has a way for us to not only survive, but also to thrive in the desert.  Arab horses are renowned for their intelligence and sensitive nature.  These traits have been developed in them through many centuries in a peculiar way.  The nomadic people have commonly allowed the finest of their horses to live right inside their tents with them, sometimes even sleeping under their blanket and drinking from their own cup.  Their legends are filled with stories of extraordinary love  bonds and deep understanding between horse and master.

The key to surviving and thriving in our desert seasons is to stay close to our Master, too — abiding in His tent, the tabernacle of His Presence.  We all have that place available to us, because Jesus has opened the way into the Holy of Holies for all who wish to not only visit occasionally, but to dwell there.  We absorb His understanding, His sensitivity, His wisdom as we live close to Him.

Dwelling in the Lord’s tent does not happen automatically.  Staying close to Him in the desert requires extra time set aside for Him in prayer and in His Word.  We will increase in wisdom and understanding, but we will also find nourishment, so that we are sustained.  Discipline and  determination are needed, just as the desert horse must exert effort in his search for grass and water.  Jesus’ Word is meat, and He is the Living Water.

God promises to take care of His desert dwellers:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the LORD will hear them; I the LORD will not forsake them.  I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys.  I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. — Isaiah 41:17, 18

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out her roots by the river, that shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.  —Jeremiah 17:7, 8 

May you thrive and grow wise during your season in the desert.  And may you come out of  that time a valiant warhorse for the Lord.

See also:
Why the Desert, Lord? 
Three Levels of Journeying Through Your Desert