We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem!
Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ. Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul’s range of delight. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God! —Spurgeon
- “I want to scale the utmost height,
- And catch a gleam of glory bright;
- But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
- Lord, lead me on to higher ground!”
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God. —J.R.M.
“Too low they build who build beneath the stars.”
Note: Excerpt is taken from the January 2 reading of “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. This work is in the Public Domain.
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The adopted son of my cousin has just committed suicide the other day. The boy was in his teens, and apparently the root cause of this incident was his anger and bitterness towards his real father. My cousin also talked about the boy being a loner, being troubled in his mind, and having other problems common to teenagers.
The news has also reminded me of another suicide a few years ago, this time involving someone I personally knew — a friend of the family. She was a young mother whose husband was working abroad. I’m not really sure of the cause, but there was the story of her husband having had an affair while away from home. She was also a Christian (at least she used to attend church, but had stopped), and a few days before she died, I invited her to come attend our church. Instead, she chose to end her life.
And what came to my mind afterwards is this: Their stories could have been mine. Yes, I’d never been suicidal, but because of my own troubled past — especially with my struggles with my identity, deep emotions, and social acceptance — there had always been that possibility I might go over the edge. Like the boy, I was also a loner (though this hasn’t changed much, because as a writer I need and want to be alone), and I was lonely, angry, and bitter. I thank God now that he had interfered — and that I found him — before things got worse for me.
This devotional reading, in a nutshell, talks about pursuing a much better life in Christ: To leave our present and unsatisfactory lives behind, and to start climbing — and to climb high — in God’s mountain of blessedness. In other words, it tries to convey hope and reassurance that tomorrow can be better for us. That is, if we get on our feet and begin climbing.
And the Word of God does confirm this, that through Jesus Christ we can have a much better life — a much blessed life. We can overcome our problems that would otherwise drive us to despair. And even though God is far more concerned about our spiritual well-being and growth than about our physical comforts (the keywords here are suffering and self-denial), he does care about and provide for our needs, material and others. And if he wishes, he may even bless us with abundance and prosperity — in his time, by his sovereign will.
Yes, there is hope, and this hope is real. What follows are some passages from the Bible that support this hope.
Prophecy about Jesus: The Lord Yahweh’s Spirit is on me; because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to those who are bound; — Isaiah 61:1 WEB
Jesus speaking: I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture. The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. — John 10:9-11 WEB
Yahweh will give strength to his people. Yahweh will bless his people with peace. — Psalm 29:11 WEB
God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water. So I have seen you in the sanctuary, watching your power and your glory…. For you have been my help. I will rejoice in the shadow of your wings. My soul stays close to you. Your right hand holds me up. — Psalm 63:1-2,7-8 WEB
Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage…. For Yahweh God is a sun and a shield. Yahweh will give grace and glory. He withholds no good thing from those who walk blamelessly. — Psalm 84:5,11 WEB
Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness…. For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you.’ — Isaiah 41:10,13 WEB
He causes the grass to grow for the livestock, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may produce food out of the earth: wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face to shine, and bread that strengthens man’s heart…. These all wait for you, that you may give them their food in due season. You give to them; they gather. You open your hand; they are satisfied with good. — Psalm 104:14-15,27-28 WEB
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It’s nearly 16 years ago when God turned my life around — when I fell in love with him and gained assurance of my salvation, and this after a terrible start with a bungled evangelism — and I’ve been climbing Mt. Blessedness ever since. And I’ve covered a lot of ground, yes, but the journey is far from over. In fact, with all the things I still need to do and to accomplish, I feel like I’ve only just reached base camp, and the real climbing still lies ahead.
In my latest blog post, A Hard-Won Triumph of My Faith, where I explained the first of my three answers to the question, “What does Swordsman of the Word mean to me personally?”, I’ve talked about how the past 14 years of my life had been spent in preparations for my service to God, and that the first-fruit produced by them is my blogging ministry, Swordsman of the Word. And indeed, founding the ministry is a great victory, and I could easily work for it for many years to come. I had imagined myself as a full-time blogger, writing for free for the blog and earning my income through Patreon. It would be my primary service to God, while also serving him in other small ways in the church.
However, God has other plans for me besides writing and blogging. Yes, he has called me to full-time ministry, but not just as a blogger. This has been made clear to me these past couple of years. For sure, God wants me to be involved in missions (but not as a full-time missionary), and even though he is still working things out, he also wants me to be a pastor. So this is why I feel like I’ve only just reached base camp in this climb. In spite of all the things I’ve already done, and no matter how far I’ve come, there are still a lot of preparations I need to do — especially in my studies — so that I’ll be ready enough to do these things.
But even in blogging I still have a lot of studying to do, so that I can be an even better writer and teacher of God’s Word — studies on writing, studies on grammar and usage, but most important, studies on the Bible and theology. I may seem to know a lot already, but the truth is, I still only know a small fraction of all the things I need to know before I can consider myself a competent Bible teacher.
Furthermore, as part of my larger blogging works, I need to expand my computer skills, especially in computer programming and related areas. Swordsman of the Word is part-business, and in addition to writing for my paying subscribers in Patreon, I’m also planning to sell ebooks of public-domain Christian literature, including Bibles. Processing raw text sources and producing these ebooks require considerable computer skills, and I need to find time to improve mine. (Actually, I’ve always been interested in computer programming, and through the years I’ve made preparations for it. For now I’ve chosen to study Java.)
It seems to me then that the next leg of my mountain climb will be about establishing my ministries — and not just my ministries, but also my life in general. There’s been so much delay already, and the time has come for rebuilding my life. I’m already 37 years old, and I want now to start my own family — to marry the woman God is bringing me. I also want to provide for my parents and grandmother, and give them comfort in their late years.
O God, thank you for the clarity of mind that enabled me to write about these aspects of your plans for my life. Thank you that I can now look at the past 16 years as a journey done, and done successfully. And thank you for making clear to me the many things I still have to do. I expect then your strength and your provisions, O God, as I continue my climb in this mountain — your mountain of blessing.
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One great truth about this mountain climb is that as we go up higher — and as we experience all the travails, sorrows, and joys involved in the climb — the deeper we’ll know God and his ways. And isn’t that wonderful? To know God intimately? However, this intimate knowledge of God requires more than action and experience. It also requires much time for prayer and fellowship with God, and for diligent study of his Word — a price that, I know, not many are willing to pay.
And yet, the value of what we get in return for our investment of time is immeasurable. Knowledge of God translates to wisdom, or righteous living, and being wise has its great rewards.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gets understanding. For her good profit is better than getting silver, and her return is better than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies. None of the things you can desire are to be compared to her. Length of days is in her right hand. In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness. All her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her. Happy is everyone who retains her. — Proverbs 3:13-18 WEB
There is a flip side, however, to a rich and deep knowledge of God and his ways, and that is the rejection from those who do not understand it, from those who are jealous of it, and from those who are proud of their own knowledge of God. I’ve personally experienced this, and it has taught me some very hard lessons about human nature.
There is also danger, and that is pride. A special and intimate knowledge of God can lead to self-righteousness and self-importance.
Honestly, I know that I’m blessed with an intelligent and deep mind, and also the sensitive, emotionally-rich heart of an artist. I also acknowledge that my spiritual life is far richer, and that I know God much more than most people do. Therefore, because pride is something we all struggle with, including myself, prideful thoughts about my accomplishments do come into my mind sometimes. But what hold my pride in check are my life’s brokenness — this is my own thorn in the flesh that keeps me humble; my constant comparison of myself to God’s perfection and infinity (I’m only a sinful and finite creature who is ever dependent on his grace, and who could only understand a small part of him); and the influence of great men of God in my life — and great teachers of the Word — men who I can only hope to emulate. Who am I, compared to God and to them?
Another check on my pride is the reality that, unlike many other servants of Christ, I would never have a seminary education. And that is because, first, I’m a college undergraduate; second, because I don’t have the financial resources; and third, because I don’t have the time for it anymore, even if an opportunity to receive such an education presents itself. The classes I’ve attended in Bible school — which have only opened up the way for me — and my own personal studies (and perhaps some online classes) would have to be enough.
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There should be a warning in any talk about climbing high this mountain of blessedness, and that is, we should always be humble before God and remain in his will as we climb. Because if we’re not careful, all our climbing can become a pursuit for our own ambitions and personal glory.
We should always keep these two verses in mind:
A man’s goings are established by Yahweh. He delights in his way. Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for Yahweh holds him up with his hand. — Psalms 37:23-24 WEB
A man’s heart plans his course, but Yahweh directs his steps. — Proverbs 16:9 WEB
My personal mindset is this: I seek to a become better person, and I seek to climb higher this mountain of blessing because I want to be able to serve God all the more effectively. It’s all about serving him.
But Jesus summoned them, [his disciples] and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20:25-28 WEB
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