“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
While men, in pride, think they are riding along the main highway, without God’s Spirit, they are in reality on the low way, traveling without a map along a very dangerous path. However when man responds in humility, acknowledging his low ways, and turns to God, he meets God’s abundant readiness to pardon and to set him upon a higher path. On this path, navigation occurs by faith in God instead of by man’s own wits.
Do you know that we can live the Christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I should be more accurate. Do you know that we can try to live the Christian life by our own wits and in our own strength? I am awaiting a prophetic voice to issue forth, “My children, how’s that working for you?” Thus asketh the Lord.
Much of what I write about is my answer to the question, “My son, how did that work out for you?” Today however, I need to provide a backdrop.
A principle that was built into the gospel which I responded to in 1976 was that of ownership: if God paid the high price of His Son for me, it followed that I was no longer my own. Yes, God was mine, but, more importantly, I was His. To say the least this had implications on my thoughts and ways. The mental math seemed straightforward. If I could be totally clueless for 23 years about the risen Christ and his loving designs for me, then cluelessness is a part of my make-up. In other words low-way living was my bent. Clueless depravity was my deepest nature. Honestly, that scared me. In response, I vowed that I would work hard so that I could retain my “His” status. In retrospect this was the off–ramp from the main highway onto a number of low ways.
I prayerfully calculated (in a bit of a lather), “Lord, this new life is the sweetest deal I’ve ever known. I cannot bear the thought of loosing my grip on you.” You see, God had revealed to me privately with crystal clarity (in a way that explains why I am not a cessationist), “You will fall many times, but I will always be there, ready to lift you out of whatever trouble you are caught up in.” This was tremendously good news to a lifelong stumbler, who had just stumbled again—who, in his well-established low-ways, did not yet know his heavenly Father’s readiness to abundantly pardon and rescue. (Following the prayer today I have an additional note related to this same word of promise—which explains why I am not a Baptist either—or a member of any other franchise, for that matter.)
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
sortie—(noun) the sudden issuing of a body of troops, usually small, to attack or harass the besiegers; a sally. Also: an offensive air force mission.
My salvation experience was a clear demonstration of God’s willingness to launch a sortie, to send out his word and knock a sinner right of his horse, blinding (at least dazzling) him with light. It seemed obvious to me from that encounter that God reserves the right to preemptive offensive strikes, our hearts being his targets. Being the target of a God-sortie displaced any assumptions I might have had about the randomness of life; it only made sense to go ahead and give God my advance permission for these sorties as He saw fit. Thus, the prayer of my life to the God, with whom I have to do, became:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139: 23 & 24
Psalm 139 is one of God’s cruise missiles aimed directly at the well-established lie (a stronghold) that life is an arbitrary, random affair. It obliterated my defenses at 23. I surrendered, as best I knew how, to a way so high that David said it was intellectually unattainable. In other words–God’s thoughts and ways are mysteries, which are not hidden from us; they are rather hidden for us. And yet, they are reserved for revelation in the appropriate moment.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139:6 NAS
I have come to believe that the hope within us is nothing more than a byproduct of God’s sorties. Much of my life story consists of the bombing runs God has made on my own heart where I had been held captive by cruel religion-tainted lies. His most recent heart attack produced surprising and welcomed results—not the least of which has been joy, precious, eternal and indestructible joy.
It is important that I identify the specific lie God was attacking. The stronghold was this, the Christian life can be accomplished through hard work and discipline. In my low-way of religious thinking, I was deceived in believing that I could perform well enough to insure and sustain my status as “His.” This is a monstrous satanic lie that can thrive like thistle in a religious atmosphere.
For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off. Isaiah 55:12-13 NAS
This joy has become a strength so pronounced in the past few years that it has even changed the reception the world gives me each day. After having the religion in my heart carpet-bombed for several years, God sent some words into my heart that I believe are even now returning to him. They’ve accomplished (and are accomplishing) the kingdom objectives for which they were sent. I believe that when God sees my smile and the joy in my heart, He looked to his mission team and said, “Our mission objectives are being accomplished. My kingdom is growing as planned. Nice sortie!”
Father, deliver us from our low-ways. Renew our minds such that we understand clearly and fully that with no assistance from us, you are ours and we are yours. Help us to see what sorties you have launched on our behalf. Help us to see that your redeeming love guarantees that there are always sorties underway in our hearts. Update our stories that we might have fresh ammunition. In our new freedom and joy, arm us with heart-piercing ammunition. Help us to train our weapons on our true enemy. Let us see satanic-religious strongholds explode in the presence of your irresistible love. Amen.
Additional note regarding my word of promise:
I will also say that on that same occasion in 1976 where God had spoken to me so clearly about his intent to faithfully rescue me, He also conveyed an unforgettable impression of a few other things: His place in my life as my Father; His love (which cannot be described in mere words); and, the majesty of Jesus’ name.
To my dismay, this encounter of mine was not good news to my denominational partners in Evangelism Explosion. I am pretty sure my Baptist teammates wished that something to this effect had been said at my public confession: “And I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and hereby attach this muzzle to your mouth until you can see the higher road we are traveling where we are dead certain that encounters with God’s presence and his voice passed away 2000 years ago.”
A further note: although I count many of Baptist persuasion as close friends, I was pretty much given the left foot of fellowship. “Unfriended” is a recently coined word that might apply.
Here is the good news! When we are foolishly looking for some pleasure in the gutter, God is not way up there somewhere in heaven, shielding his holy eyes from our sin. He is with us, ready, in a moment’s notice to lift us up. My lifelong prayer is that I will be infectious with the reality of God’s nearness. I’m convinced, He’s closer than our skin.