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Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 16: Coming Down from the Mountain


This is my last post in this series about “The Best Friend You Never Knew.”

In this series, you learned that those who are close (and growing closer) to the Lord:

  1. Couldn’t care less about the praise of men. They have absolutely zero sense of self importance.
  2. Never, ever cast the spotlight upon themselves. They’ll never get close to humble bragging nor virtue signalling, no matter what everybody else is doing.
  3. Know the true characteristics of the Lord enough to be able to visualize Him.
  4. Know and use the real name of the Lord, and understand the symbolic and literal significance of it.
  5. Know the true personality of Yeshua, not the distorted one which is predominant among members.
  6. Look for opportunities to unleash the power of God in others.
  7. They remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, knowing that they will never be considered true disciples until they do.
  8. Know that it’s imperative to be non-judgmental of others. They avoid saying and even thinking lame statements like “I’m concerned,” “I’m worried,” “I just want you to be happy,” “I’m only looking out for you best interests” or “I’m only trying to protect the good name of the church.”
  9. Are very passionate about seeking Him.
  10. Because they’re watching the signs of the times, they have a sense of urgency in establishing a meaningful relationship with the Lord.
  11. Sift out the voices of those who stand in between them and the Lord.
  12. Seek to hear the actual, direct (usually non-audible) voice of the Lord in their daily lives.
  13. Converse with Heavenly Father in the same direct, trusting, and sincere manner that you converse with friends and family members. They can also carry an ongoing dialogue with the Lord as long as they desire.
  14. Invite Father and Yeshua to visit and make their abode with them, as promised.
  15. Seek the highest blessings one can receive in this life (which surpasses the Calling & Election and Second Comforter).

Those who desire to stay on this path should not only know, but also expect, that they will have to pass through tremendous, soul-wrenching, even life-threatening, trials and tribulations -- “descents” -- in order to qualify for the ascents they seek. This is OK with them, because above all else, they seek to be one with Yeshua, as He is one with Father. They do this by making Father and His will their everything, just like the Lord did during His mortal ministry.

“The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. …” (Teachings of Joseph Smith Manual, Chapter 37, p. 429)

This journey is often characterized in the scriptures as “mountains” or “valleys.” Indeed, even many songs have been written and sung which have described these heights and depths. Want a good example of what they’re like? Listen to some of the songs whose roots are found in slavery. While this is definitely a stain on mankind’s history, I believe these songs are full of light, for they acknowledge the pains and weaknesses of mortality and the strength which can only come from our Savior.


The Place of Exaltation


Of all the places in the scriptures, none compares with the mountain tops. None. It was from there that God placed His hand over the eyes of the weak and lowly, humbled and beaten down, and showed the immensity and grandeur of a universe teeming with life and light. There, man knelt in utter amazement at God’s endless creations and limitless love. They often lamented how inadequate mortal words were in describing what they not only saw, but also experienced, as God unveiled Himself, and His creations, to them. 

Mountains are consistently equated with righteousness, Zion, the glory of God and exaltation:

"Now Moses...came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." (Exodus 3:1-2)

"In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain..." (Ezekiel 40:2)

"And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain" (Exodus 19:3)

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:1-3)

"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him..." (Matthew 28:16-17)

"And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10)

"For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot" (1 Nephi 11:1)

"And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me..." (1 Nephi 17:7-8)

"The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence." (Moses 1:1-2)

(For more mountain references, click here)

If you want to see God face-to-face, then you are going to be dialoguing with the Lord way before you see Him.  And more than likely, it will not be just once or three times a day, but ALL day -- the literal fulfillment and fulness being known as "walking and talking with God."

Of all these instances, none compares with the story of the Brother of Jared (see here and here). His story gives us a pattern (detailed here) of what it took to see the Lord and His creations. The bottom line: The Brother of Jared was not only dialoguing with the Lord, but also solidifying the Lord’s trust in him, long before the Lord unveiled Himself.

We are no different. If you want the Lord to unveil Himself to you, then you’d better start dialoguing with Him regularly (after all, who wants to be chastised like the Brother of Jared for failing to regularly dialogue with God?). You’d also better be praying for the Lord to start introducing you to the mountains and valleys so that you, too, will someday be invited to the top of The Holy Mountain. 

Once there, and because He is no respecter of persons, God will show you, too, the mysteries of nature, the mysteries of the universe and the mysteries of godliness...of things not written in the scriptures, of things we might consider science fiction, yet are real (and perhaps more real) than the nose in front of your face.


Descending from the Mountain

 
I have a few favorite authors: Brother Lawrence, John Eldredge, Stephen Covey and of course my friend, John Pontius. Oswald Chambers is another. He was born in 1874 and died in 1917. Although he was not a member of the church, his insights into God have profoundly inspired millions globally. You can read a huge collection of his quotes here, or an abridged version of his quotes I assembled here.

The most successful of his thirty books is My Utmost for His Highest (1924), a daily devotional composed of 365 selections of Chambers’ talks, each of about 500 words. The work has never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages. You can check out a blog based on this book at utmost.org. Here are some quotes from it:

“When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted friendship -- when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question -- then He begins to teach us.”

“God gives us the vision, then he takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience.”

“We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley. 

We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.

We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.” (https://utmost.org/the-place-of-exaltation/)


“Lifting up the demon-possessed people in the valley”

 
One could look at Chambers’ statement as telling us that yes, you can spend time on the top of the mountain with God while in mortality, but you can’t stay there. Your destiny lies in coming down from the mountain and lifting up the demon-possessed people in the valley.

As I’ve blogged before, I am blessed to interact with people all the time who want their calling and election made sure, or to have an audience with Yeshua in the flesh. While these are righteous desires, I think it’s important that you stop and ask yourself (as I did in March 2017 and November 2016):

“Why do you want this experience? Is it because, in the final analysis, it's all about good 'ol you? Maybe to claim some degree of respect or legitimacy? Come on -- why do you want this experience? Is it because the Lord told us to seek His face, and you want to be obedient? Is it because He commanded us to? So how is this self-centeredness congruent with the terrestrial principles of Zion (Moses 7:18)? Do you think He's inclined to reward selfish intentions which aren't even terrestrial in nature?”

“When we want something, we often treat God as if He is a cosmic vending machine. We bargain with Him, saying, "If I do A, then can I get B? Please???? It's for ME, and I'VE been (or promise to be) so good!!!"

We prioritize, as high as possible, OUR Baptism of Fire, OUR spiritual gifts, OUR parted veil, OUR visions, OUR dreams, OUR conversations with angels, OUR Second Comforter and OUR Calling and Election. While these things are critically important, it's our prioritization of them -- our love affair with individualism -- which becomes the very reason why those blessings are often withheld from us.

We wonder, "When the crap starts hitting the fan, where will I go? What about MY tents and MY food/clean water supply? What about MY kids and MY loved ones?" We have become the poster children for the "I / ME / MY" generation, and are baffled why successive generations are even moreso.”

It’s no wonder that we’re told,

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6; emphasis mine) 

"O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways." (2 Nephi 12:5; emphasis mine) 

"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (D&C 1:16; emphasis mine) 

So, I believe that one of the reasons that many (and perhaps you) don’t see God is that they have all turned away from God and prefer the warmth and comfort of their own wills. Oh sure, they may profess to want to do God’s will, but when you get right down to it, other things -- including and especially our own fears and apprehensions, dreams and desires -- get the best of us.

Ask yourself this:

  • Which do I spend more time doing: Watching TV/interacting on the internet, or with He who loves me the most?
  • Why do I really want my calling and election and Second Comforter?
  • Am I prepared to sacrifice my health, my reputation, my relationship with my family, friends, co-workers and ward members -- in fact, anything and everything -- to know Him? Am I prepared to go through (perhaps years of) loneliness, pain, sickness, humiliation and more as part of a descent phase?
  • Am I ready, willing and able to bear testimony to others now, or do I hide my testimony? Do I often use the phrase “It’s too sacred to share” when, in hindsight, I probably could have shared?

That last point has direct relevancy to coming down from the mountain. To a one, those who have come down from mountains invariably testified of God, and in some cases, gave their lives for Him. NONE of them -- I repeat: NONE -- ever kept to themselves nor used the phrase “It’s too sacred to share.” 

As I mentioned here,

“...we just don’t talk about them [spiritual experiences] anymore. It’s just too sacred to talk about! That makes the experiences even more and more rare, to the extent that -- over time and over generations -- when something legitimately spiritual happens, it's considered a myth or a heresy. We just don’t believe it’s possible anymore.”

“We just don’t believe it’s possible anymore” = a self reinforcing status of “unbelief” (I’ll examine that word in a subsequent post).

It’s no wonder the Lord said,

“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them. And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.” (D&C 60:2-3)

As Pres. Benson said,

“The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See  D&C 3:6–7  D&C 30:1–2  D&C 60:2) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?” (April 1989 General Conference)

As we’ll see in an upcoming blog post here, this general reluctance among church members to testify of spiritual things has turned the truth (of gifts and miracles) into fables, to where (as one friend once told me), “I have a friend that is no longer allowed to hold any teaching callings and is not asked to speak in church because she openly talks about seeking gifts, miracles that are happening, etc.”

So, if you’re wondering why spending time with the Lord at the top of the mountain seems a little elusive, you might want to consider the possibility that you’re currently unwilling to do what would be required of you upon coming down from the mountain. The Lord literally has no reason to justify appearing to you, and expecting you afterwards to proclaim and testify of Him with more passion, when you’re not only passing up opportunities to testify of Him now, but you’re also actively doing your part (even by being silent) to help turn truth to fables by perpetuating unbelief in gifts, miracles, visions, dreams, appearances, etc.

“A man may betray Jesus Christ by speaking too many words, and he may betray him through keeping his mouth shut.” (Oswald Chambers)

“Some of us are like the Dead Sea: Always taking in, but never giving out, because we are not rightly related to the Lord Jesus.” (Oswald Chambers)

The great English scholar and writer C. S. Lewis was vocal throughout the years that followed his adult conversion to Christianity about his admiration for, and his debt to, George MacDonald.  MacDonald once posed an important question and then answered it himself:

"Is every Christian expected to bear witness?

Answer: "A man content to bear no witness to the truth is not of the kingdom of heaven. One who believes must bear witness. One who sees the truth, must live witnessing to it. Is our life, then, a witnessing to the truth? Do we carry ourselves in [the] bank, on [the] farm, in [the] house or shop, in [the] study or chamber or workshop, as the Lord would, or as the Lord would not?" (emphasis mine)


"Take now your son…" (Genesis 22:2)


We also fail to obtain the Lord’s trust by not acting on His promptings without delay. “Oh, I’ll get to it in a minute. I have to finish _________________ first.” or “I’m sure He’ll be fine if I get to it later today.”

Here’s Oswald Chambers again:

“God’s command is, “Take now,” not later. 

It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later— it must be done now. And the sacrifice must be worked through our will before we actually perform it.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of Abraham! When God spoke, he did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings— anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.” (https://utmost.org/classic/the-supreme-climb-classic/)

The gospel is practical because it’s as concerned with your doing something as it is with your being something. Good works alone won’t get you into heaven, but once you receive new life in and from Jesus, He expects you to do what he did for the rest of your life. It comes with the territory. 

Godly people do godly things...or they aren’t godly.

As I close out this series about “The Best Friend You Never Knew,” I bear you my testimony that I not only know Yeshua lives, but He has also appeared to me. I not only know His eyes, His smile, His smirk and His laugh, but also His jokes, His love of music, His love of food and His love for His family and friends, especially our Father and Mother. Whatever I know, whatever I have been given, has been an unanticipated gift from He who is the source of all gifts.

I’m grateful to know He is, if anything, overly-anxious and overly-enthusiastic to spend time with us, to laugh and cry with us. Despite being all-knowing, He’s still very apt to ask you how your day is going. Because He is a God, He’s able to be in infinite locations at the same time, including beside you...

Not only on the tops of the mountains, but also on top of the water.

Ahhhhh, walking on water...now there’s an interesting topic we should discuss soon!