Friday, October 31, 2008


I don’t have the ability or the time to send out a lengthy devotional this week but I do want to write a few lines about this upcoming election. No, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. I am determined to keep this post a politics-free zone. But I am concerned about all the anxiety I see emanating from so many of you…on both sides of the political spectrum. My advice is to focus on the One who sits on the throne, not on whoever may occupy the White House. Administrations come and go; nations rise and fall. But “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8. All this talk of change can be very disquieting, but I have determined to place my hope in Christ. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
Scripture doesn’t talk much about how we should elect our leaders. However, it does have something to say about how our Leader elected us! “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…” – Ephesians 1:4-5. It also describes our inaugural ceremony. “At that time men will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” – Mark 13:36. So what should God’s elect be doing in the meantime? “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” – 2Peter 1:10.
My recommendation is two-fold: Pray and vote. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1. In this country to a certain extent, we the people have been given authority. We need to use the authority we have been given and do so as God directs. Ask Jesus for guidance and mark your ballot accordingly. In the name of Jesus we have also been given spiritual authority. Let’s also pray for whatever designs the enemy has invested in this election to be thwarted and for God’s will to prevail. Indeed there is much at stake this time around. But no matter what the outcome, we can rest in the knowledge that “…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 3:20. And His name will not be followed by an (R) or a (D).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7. My sincere prayer for us all over the next several days is that, no matter what happens, we may know His incomparable peace!

Bill, a child of God, victorious in His election

Saturday, October 18, 2008


October 18, 2008

“How will we know when we reach the top?” asked my climbing partner, Rich, as he struggled to catch his breath in the rarefied, high mountain atmosphere.
At first I thought it was a strange question. But after a few moments of reflection it seemed much more like a reasonable inquiry. My nephew and I were hiking in the Colorado Rockies, attempting to reach the 13,223 foot summit of Mount Audubon. After struggling for hours on the steep, rocky trail we were both exhausted and ready to turn back. To make matters worse, the weather was deteriorating rapidly and threatening clouds began closing in on the mountain. Being completely exposed on the face of the mountain during a thunderstorm was indeed a very precarious predicament. Perhaps it was time to declare we had both reached the peak of our endurance, congratulate ourselves for how far we had come, and head back down to the safety of the forest below. But something made us reluctant to give up so easily. Perhaps it was the thrill of adventure, the challenge of a near-impossible goal, or the encouragement we provided each other. Whatever the reason, we decided not to turn back, not yet anyway.
“We’ll know we’re at the top when there’s no way to go but down,” I responded as we searched for a low place in the rocks in which to hunker down and wait out the storm. No sooner had we settled into a small hollow amongst a few huge boulders than the sky opened up and it began to hail. Fortunately the hail was fairly small in diameter and the storm blew over rather quickly. But now it was getting late in the day and we were still a long way from the summit. Taking the opportunity provided by the storm to rest and eat our lunch, we took stock of our position and planned what to do next.
Consulting a topographical map of the area I had fortunately brought along, I estimated we were about 500 feet below and a half mile from the top of a ridge that should afford us some excellent views if we could manage to reach it. The summit itself still loomed over 1200 feet above us.
“Let’s at least try to make it up to the top of the ridgeline so we can catch a view of the other side,” suggested Rich.
Feeling refreshed by our storm-induced pit-stop and energized by fueling up on a ham sandwich and some raisins (lightly seasoned with a few hailstones), I eagerly agreed. “Let’s go for it,” I shouted lifting my pack upon my weary shoulders and stepping back onto the trail. But that half mile was among the toughest I’ve ever hiked. When we finally reached the top of the ridge we were both totally exhausted. Yet, after taking a few pictures and enjoying the spectacular views, we both turned our eyes toward the summit.
“Is that all the farther it is to the top?” asked Rich.
“What you’re looking at is probably what’s known as a false summit,” I replied. “According to the map we still have another 700 feet to go. I doubt if we can see the true summit from here.”
“What if we just went straight up the mountain rather than following the trail,” asked my climbing companion reluctant to quit when we were this close to victory. “Wouldn’t that make the distance shorter?”
At this point on the mountain the trail consisted mostly of piles of rocks spaced about thirty feet apart. There simply was no dirt left to make any sort of path. Once again consulting my map I showed Rich the contour lines which revealed the elevation levels. When the lines are closer together it shows the slope to be much steeper. Going off the trail definitely meant a far more difficult climb.
“If we continue we’re far better off sticking to whatever remains of the trail,” I explained. “Going straight up the mountain takes us into some pretty steep cliffs. We certainly don’t want to get into a situation where we have to turn around and go back down for awhile searching for a better route to the summit. Every step we have to go downhill is another step we have to recover in order to reach the top.”
“Do you think we have enough time to make it all the way?” asked Rich, and then he added, “I don’t think I could feel much worse than I do now. If I’m going to be miserable I might as well have a victory to show for it.”
“We’d better hurry if we want to make it back down to our car before it gets dark,” I answered checking my watch. “But I’m game if you are.”
After emptying our packs of any nonessential items in order to lighten the load, we set off again. It’s difficult to explain how grueling the climb was from this point. Our own fatigue and muscle soreness coupled with the lack of oxygen at this altitude made every step a test of endurance. Yet we pressed on, determined to reach the top. Step…rest…breathe…step…rest…breathe. We scrambled over several false summits before the climb finally leveled out and we reached the point where the only way to go was down.
“Welcome to the top of the world!” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe we actually made it.”
The view was glorious! It seemed like we could see forever. The air was thin but wonderfully pure and perfumed with the sweet fragrance of success. For a precious few minutes we were in heaven looking down upon a polluted world from our mountain top thrones perched high above all the anxiety, corruption, sin, anger, and violence so prevalent in the world below. But alas, time was fleeting and we were forced to retreat from heaven and return to the real world. By the time we made it back to our car it was completely dark and we were completely spent. Yet we were both thrilled that we had not turned back before we reached the top. In spite of our pain and exhaustion we had persevered. Weariness is sweet when it is born out of victory.
The kingdom of God is filled with weary pilgrims who have turned back from pursuing the summit. What are the reasons for their failure? Perhaps they have been attempting to climb alone without the encouraging companionship of other Christians. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25.
Some exhausted climbers may have their backpacks crammed full of nonessential items and the burdens may be too heavy for them to carry. They need to learn to lighten the load. “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” Others have simply run out of energy and turned back before they reached the summit. Or the storms of this life have left them feeling discouraged and defeated. “…and let us run with perseverance…” Others may have strayed from the trail thinking they knew a better route to the top only to discover their chosen path was too steep and they had to turn back. “…the race marked out for us…” And still others have lost sight of the goal, settling instead for false summits. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3.
The message, my climbing partners, is not to give up. As long as there is another step higher than where we currently stand our climb is not yet finished. For the Christian there is no retirement in this life. But we must remember not to attempt this ascent on our own. We need to consult our trail map (God’s Word) regularly lest we stray from the course. We also need to daily check our backpacks to see if we are carrying any sins. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” – Psalm 24:3-4. And when the storms of life threaten to blow us off the mountain we need to hunker down in the hollow of His hands and rest in the shelter of His love.
When the sun shines again it is time to resume climbing, step after step after step, with our eyes fixed squarely on the summit, never turning back, always straining toward the top. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14.
How will we know when we have reached the top? The answer should be obvious. We will know we have reached the summit when there’s no way to go but down. That is the day when the trail will level out and we will find ourselves standing on top of the world surrounded by His glory. Visions of this polluted world will vanish beneath us and we truly will be able to see for all eternity. We will inhale deeply the purified air of heaven perfumed by the sweet fragrance of the breath of God. And we will take one last step, into His loving arms and into a joyous victory celebration that will never end. Until that day we must continue to climb, step by step, persevering over every obstacle, always gaining altitude, ever moving heavenward, never turning back, without thought of retiring, without settling for failure, with our eyes set squarely on the goal, straining toward the top, pressing on toward the summit. We may certainly at times suffer from fatigue and exhaustion, but weariness is sweet when it leads to victory!

Bill, a child of God, still climbing

Saturday, October 11, 2008


October 10, 2008

“Tell me again, why are we doing this?” I gasped straining hard to suck in enough oxygen to power up my voice.
“I guess it’s so we can say we did it,” came the reply from my equally out of breath hiking companion.
“Perhaps after the pain goes away we’ll look back on this experience and say it was worth it,” I added, stopping between every three or four words to suck in more air. “But right now I just hurt!”
My nephew, Rich, and I were crawling up the last few hundred feet toward the summit of Mount Audubon in the Colorado Rockies. With an altitude of 13,223 feet above sea level, this peak is an imposing pile of rocks located northwest of Denver. An early autumn vacation had afforded the two of us an opportunity to enjoy the rugged beauty of this alpine wonderland. The trail to Mount Audubon is an eight-mile, round trip hike with a 3,000 foot elevation gain. There were plenty of less strenuous hikes available in the area but we had chosen one of the more difficult. Why? I suppose the lure of adventure and the thrill of attempting to conquer the near-impossible proved to be too much to resist. In other words, we were idiots!
There’s nothing technical about this particular climb; it’s just a long hike. But any strenuous activity at such an extreme altitude can leave even veteran mountain climbers gasping for breath. For me, an overweight, middle-aged, chronically out-of-shape, pretend explorer, it was proving to be a daunting challenge. Adding to my misery was the fact that my home in California sits around 100 feet in elevation. Needless to say, my body was under extreme duress from not being acclimatized to the lack of oxygen at this height. For every seven or eight steps I took I would spend one or two minutes standing still in the trail sucking air. It’s difficult to describe how laborious it is trying to do anything under such circumstances, let alone climb a mountain. Altitude sickness can be very serious, potentially life threatening.
After struggling for over five hours we finally stood on the summit thoroughly drained of energy and dreading the fact that we were still four miles and 3,000 feet away from our ride home. We took the obligatory pictures to prove our victory over the elements although the smiles in those photographs belie the pain we were feeling in our cramping muscles and the wooziness from a lack of oxygen. The view was incredible! We could actually see downtown Denver, the mile-high city. Of course we were actually looking down on the city from two and a half miles high. We could only spend about ten minutes enjoying the summit since we had only a little over two hours to make it back to our car before nightfall. After hiking the last mile in near darkness we managed to make it back to the car exhausted, in pain, yet proud of what we were able to accomplish. It wasn’t until several hours later, back down at the 5,000 foot level, that my lips and fingernails lost their purple hue (a symptom of oxygen deprivation) and returned to their normal pink. And it wasn’t until a week later that I was able to walk without pain.
In the days since our lung-bursting adventure in high-altitude climbing, I have been replaying in my mind our conversation near the summit of Mount Audubon. “Tell me again, why are we doing this?” That question can be asked of many endeavors, including the manner in which we do church in this country, and how we persist in living out our Christian lives. We have a tendency to follow our own path, to find the more difficult trail, to conquer the mountain in our own limited strength rather than relying on the limitless power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the head of the church and we need to let Him lead the expedition. The Spirit is our oxygen and we need to continually inhale His wisdom, guidance, energy, and strength.
Why do we consistently fail to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and all too often refuse to breathe-in His Spirit? As Rich commented on the mountain, “I guess it’s so we can say we did it.” Then we collapse in complete exhaustion and look with pride at what we were able to accomplish. In the process we burn ourselves out, cause the entire body of Christ to suffer, and steal His glory. Warning—the body of Christ is suffering from Spirit deprivation! As followers of Christ we should know that the easiest trail to follow is always the one blazed by Him, and that it’s far easier to inhale the atmosphere of the Spirit rather than the rarefied air of our own ambitions. Why do we ignore such obvious wisdom and persist in going our own way? It’s simple; we’re idiots! Before you write me off as an oxygen-starved lunatic allow me to point out some symptoms of spiritual altitude sickness.
For the first three centuries of its existence the church never thought about acquiring a building to house its gatherings. There were no building campaigns, no capital fund drives, no finance committees, and no yearly budgets. Yet the body of Christ grew at a faster pace than any time since; that is, until recent years in places like communist China where church buildings have once again proven to be superfluous in promoting growth. In the words of Frank Viola and George Barna, “In the United States alone, real estate owned by institutional churches today is worth over $230 billion. Church building debt, service, and maintenance consumes about 18 percent of the $50 to $60 billion tithed to churches annually.” – Pagan Christianity?
I ask you, is there a better way to spend the Lord’s resources? Why would we labor so hard, spend so much time and energy, and consume so many resources on constructing and maintaining buildings which aren’t even necessary for the advancement of the kingdom (In fact, such expenditures are likely working against it)? “…the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” – Acts 7:48.
Want another example of our idiocy? Look no further than our professional clergy. The role of the modern day pastor in this country would have been completely foreign to the church we read about in the New Testament. The clergy-laity division didn’t appear until the third century and the title “Pastor” did not come into use until the eighteenth century. Perpetuating this division flies in the face of the “priesthood of all believers” advocated in Scripture. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1Peter 2:5. “And God placed all things under his [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” – Ephesians 1:22-23.
Instead of listening to our “Head” we have created a modern day, CEO-type position in the church which is impossible to fulfill, and which detracts from the headship of Christ. By forcing these gifted individuals to climb up a mountain which neither our Lord nor His Spirit directed us to explore, we are burning them out in record numbers. In addition we are also turning the laity into passive consumers rather than partners in ministry. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows ands builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Ephesians 4:15-16.
According to Viola and Barna, of the 500,000 paid pastors serving churches in this country:
*90 percent work more than 46 hours a week.
*80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
*70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
*70 percent have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
*50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
*More than 40 percent report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
*33 percent consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
*33 percent have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
*1,400 ministers in all denominations across the United States are fired or forced to resign each month.
Clearly, something has gone tragically wrong. Yet still we persist in burning out these gifted individuals by placing them in impossible positions which have no Biblical precedent, tear apart their family life, destroy their self-esteem and physical health, and arguably fail to contribute in any substantial way to the advancement of the kingdom. But wait; here’s another symptom of our spiritual altitude sickness.
Our Lord’s last request for the church was that we would maintain our unity. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21. Unfortunately, the body of Christ has splintered into tens of thousands of different denominations. There’s no point in asking which group is the right one. The truth is they’re all wrong because denominationalism is, in itself, a sin and runs contrary to the desire of the Head of the church. Yet still we persist in scaling this false peak believing that when we reach the top we will find the perfect church. Only later do we realize that all we have found are broken relationships and heartaches.
I could go on and on about how the church has abandoned the principles and simple structure which produced such an explosive beginning in favor of finding her own way up the mountain, but I didn’t intend this piece to be a slam on all the ills of the wayward bride of Christ. In truth, the church’s Spirit deprivation is born out of a lack of oxygen in our personal lives. That is, we all persist in following our own route up the mountain struggling for breath and quickly growing weary with the hike. Each one of us suffers from time to time with Spiritual altitude sickness. If you are like me, you will often feel burned out in your Christian service. Perhaps that describes your present condition. Tell me again, why are we doing this?
I would like to request that we all stand still in the trail for a moment and take a deep breath. How’s the air where you are? Are you inhaling the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the Holy Spirit or are you gasping for breath? Are you following after Christ or are you attempting to find your own way up the mountain? Do you find yourself struggling just to take another step or do you have energy to spare? If you have found yourself a little short of breath lately allow God’s Word to pump some oxygen into your spiritual life.
“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31. “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:18. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6. “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” – John 20:21-22.
Okay, let’s do this breathing exercise together. Everybody, exhale and expel all your personal dreams and ambitions along with everything you think you know about the church. Now, inhale deeply and take in the full measure of the Holy Spirit. There, feel better?

Bill, a child of God, catching His breath

Saturday, October 04, 2008


October 3, 2008

The weather was a bit cool with an intermittent fierce wind, but the sky was a brilliant, cloudless azure, a perfect backdrop for the rugged mountain vistas of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area northwest of Denver, Colorado. A week long vacation at the home of relatives had afforded this California resident the opportunity to get away by himself and enjoy the wonder of God’s creation. It had been over two years since I had been able to find the time for a hike in this alpine wonderland. Distance and a busy schedule had combined to keep me away. But now at last I was enveloped by the eerie stillness of the dense forest listening only to the occasional chattering of a chipmunk, the babbling of a nearby brook, and the dull rhythmic thud of my hiking boots navigating the rocky trail.
My destination was a stunningly beautiful jewel of alpine scenery, a crystal clear pool of pristine water with an unpretentious name, Blue Lake. Surrounded on three sides by the snow-laden granite cliffs of Mount Audubon, Mount Toll, Paiute Peak and Pawnee Peak, and situated just above timberline at an elevation of 11,300 feet, Blue Lake is unsurpassed in its inspirational grandeur. It is certainly well worth struggling up the three-mile trail just to gaze at its splendor. But for me, Blue Lake has an even more appealing attraction.
Nine years ago, during a time of extreme personal turmoil, I had an amazing encounter with God at this very site. A ministry in which I had labored for over three years was disintegrating and I was having severe doubts as to my calling as a pastor, even to the point of questioning my faith. In addition, I had recently lost my father to a series of severe strokes. The struggles with my ministry at our church had prevented me from spending any time mourning for him. In the midst of this life-crisis God had met me in a profound and personal way, giving me the faith and the strength to continue in His service. Blue Lake will always occupy a special place in my heart. Now, whenever possible, I take advantage of any opportunity to visit this sacred venue. It has become a pilgrimage for me, returning to the place where God spoke, hoping and praying that He will speak once again.
I reached the lake early in the afternoon and sat down next to a large boulder to shelter myself from the icy autumn wind. While taking in the heavenly beauty it was easy to imagine the Creator sitting on His throne in this hallowed spot. “Speak to me, Papa,” I pleaded out loud, “your servant is listening.” But the only answer came from the whistling of the breeze and the windblown ripples splashing against the shore of the lake. For an hour and a half I carried on a passionate conversation with the Lord, at times even singing to Him. But the communication was purely one-sided. I heard nothing but silence from “Papa.”
After a while, knowing I needed to start heading down the trail in order to arrive back at the house before my wife began to worry, I gave up the monologue, lifted my pack onto my shoulders, took one last look at the lake, and began my descent. I was deeply saddened that God had apparently ignored His servant. Didn’t He understand that for weeks I had been looking forward to connecting with Him here in this spot? Didn’t He know how special this place was to me? Wasn’t He pleased with the fact that I had worked so hard and burned so much energy just to climb up to this place in order to speak with Him? Why couldn’t He have given me a message, a sign, something that would have revealed His presence and communicated His love?
After I had trudged a few hundred yards down from the lake with a broken heart and a frustrated spirit, a foreign thought coursed through my mind, a gentle, loving comment with the aura of the Divine. I stopped in my tracks having recognized His voice.
“By the way, Bill,” I heard “Papa” say, “you don’t have to come all the way up here to connect with me.”
That was it. After anticipating this outing for weeks, flying halfway across the continent and spending several hours climbing up to this sacred site, His only comment was a rebuke lasting barely ten seconds! I must admit to being more than a little annoyed over the experience. My pilgrimage, for all the effort it had consumed, had born precious little fruit. Or had it?
As I have pondered over “Papa’s” message in the days since He spoke I have discovered far more truth than I originally thought was there. Something within the human spirit lends itself to affixing great value upon certain locations. We do it with our loved ones. “That’s the place where we first met.” “That’s the hospital where you were born, son.” “That’s the building where I got my first job after graduation.” “That’s the house where we first lived after we were married.” And we do the same with our spiritual experiences. “That’s the church where I came to Christ.” “That’s the church where we were married.” “That’s the church where our children were baptized.” “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” – Matthew 17:4.
I don’t believe it is necessarily a bad thing to cherish such locations of our spiritual heritage. But I do think we can easily overdo it turning the site into a shrine and placing undo expectations upon our heavenly Father to touch us the same way every time we visit the place. I am reminded of the Old Testament prophet Elijah who ran away from his ministry to encounter the Almighty on the “mountain of God.” Elijah had undoubtedly heard how Moses had encountered God on this mountain. From the burning bush to the giving of the law God had certainly shown a great fondness for this particular edifice. Had not God told Moses to remove his sandals for this was holy ground? Surely Elijah would be able to encounter God here. And he did, although he didn’t receive the message he desired.
“And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” – 1Kings 19:9.
I must confess to having a certain affinity to this great prophet. I believe God had given me a similar message under somewhat similar circumstances. We both had engaged in a pilgrimage to a high mountain seeking an audience with God. And we both were gently and lovingly corrected for our erroneous efforts. Just as I discovered around three millennia later, Elijah didn’t need to travel all the way to the “mountain of God” in order to connect with the Lord. Under the Old Covenant God did prescribe pilgrimages to Jerusalem for every man three times each year. In the New Testament, however, no such requirement is found. After the resurrection of Christ we find no mention of regular pilgrimages for His saints. So why do we persist in attaching such sacred value to earthly locations? I suppose it is just human nature to do so, but it certainly isn’t a spiritual requirement, nor is it even a recommendation.
Why do I think this is such a big issue? The name of God is “I Am,” not “I Was.” He is forever contemporary. While we are memorializing our history, He is plotting our future. While we are clinging to the moments when He connected with us in the past, He is trying to connect with us now, in new ways, in new locations, with new revelations containing new directions for our lives. Continuing to make pilgrimages to where God spoke to us in the past might very well prevent us from hearing what He wants to say to us now.
I have nothing against getting away from the rat race of modern life and finding a quiet, inspirational place in which to seek the Lord. Whether our destination finds us sitting by a glacial lake in a natural, outdoor alpine sanctuary or couched upon a pew in a stained-glass cathedral, such retreats can prove to be extremely valuable to our spiritual growth. But when we avail ourselves of such opportunities let’s not carry with us any preconceived expectations from our past. And let’s not turn our spiritual getaway into a pilgrimage during which we beg God to recreate His previous glory. Contrary to popular opinion, God is not obligated to respond to our every beck and call, nor does He promise to live up to all our expectations.
There is, however, a certain pilgrimage which is always appropriate, one which comes highly recommended. I’m not talking about a periodic journey to an earthly location, but rather a daily pursuit of Jesus. He is so much more than a pristine alpine lake. He is the source of “living water.” “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” – John 7:38.
He is so much more than a mountaintop experience. He is the “Rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” – John 11:25. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6. “I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8. Why would we waste time in any other pursuit?
“…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” – Philippians 2:8-12.
Pursuing Jesus is the ultimate pilgrimage, not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or even something to engage in three times a year, but a daily, continual seeking after Him. No earthly experience could compare with scaling the heights of His glory or exploring the depths of His love. No worldly sanctuary, manmade or otherwise, could ever begin to match the beauty of dwelling in His presence. We dare not settle for anything less.

Bill, a child of God on a Jesus pilgrimage