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Theme: Women Experiencing the Power of God from the Wilderness to the Mountaintop Subject: I am a Survivor Scripture: Isaiah

40: 1-9; Psalms 23

1 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

Scripture text: Isaiah 40: 1-9 (King James Version) Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. O Zion, that bringest good tidings , get thee up into the high mountain; Moment of reflection How long had I been here? Years or just days? Surely it seemed like years since at my own request I had heard the silence of the wilderness! Had it really been years or just days? Was I really getting anywhere with God? Would God answer? Would God satisfy that hunger of my soul or would I have to admit defeat again as so often I had done? No! I'd stay right here on my knees until God answered, or I would die in the attempt! Hadn't God's word said, "They that wait Oretha Page 2 5/7/2013upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up-up-UPwith wings-with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall ---. Background: Identifying the 3 landscapes There are 3 landscapes that can help make meaning of your spiritual journey. Mountaintop euphoria, [in the Greek is identified as power of enduring easily, or fertility] desert suffering, and valley dwelling. What is a Wilderness? Wilderness is a place of preservation of the world. It is unsettled, uncultivated, and left largely alone is often referred to as wilderness. Many people place spiritual, economic, or scientific value on wilderness. The wilderness is often associated with the unknown. The desert wilderness is a commonly used throughout the scriptures, including the Israelites wandering for 40 years, John the Baptist living in the desert, and Jesus being tempted in the desert.
2 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

We are all led to the desert at some point in our lives. The desert involves loss, pain suffering, loneliness, abandonment and wandering. The wilderness is a place of immense growth, discovery and close encounters with God. It is in the wilderness that we must remember what we encountered at the mountaintops. The wilderness demands that we accept the grace offered to us by God the father and demand that we be authentic. Spiritual wilderness is very difficult to travel, but offer the richest rewards. In our weakness we find strength, and it is through struggle that we mature. This is the timeless lesson of the spiritual wilderness and our desert place.

What is a Mountaintop? A mountaintop is often the most familiar in our journeys. In the heights of the mountaintop, one can see all that is below and the accomplishment of reaching the top. Mountaintop spirituality is one of the most common ways Christians describe their spiritual journeys. Mountaintop spirituality is a heightened spiritual experience and the dramatic transformations that often accompany them. Like navigating through a wilderness, the mountaintop becomes a reference points in understanding or knowing God. These heightened sacred encounters are vital parts of our spiritual formation. They are often the first landscapes we acknowledge on our spiritual journeys. Mountaintop encounters confirm Gods presence and stimulate our determination to walk in the ways of the Lord. A mountain is a land mass that rises above its surroundings, usually to a peak, and which is higher and generally steeper than a hill. Mount Everest, located on the border of Tibet and Nepal and measured at 29,028 feet, is considered to be the world's highest mountain. The tallest mountain might not be the highest, and the highest mountain might not be the tallest. When measuring from sea level, Mount Everest is the uncontested king, with a peak which is 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level. Valley Dwelling Spiritual Valleys are rarely referred to when reflecting on the spiritual journey, yet it is the space that most of our time is spent. It is in the valley that the soil is fertile, the streams are clean and refreshing, the wild flowers and the animals find refuge. If our understanding of God and our spiritual journey is limited to the mountaintops and the desert, then we miss the expression of God in everyday life. As our spiritual awareness increases, we are able to recognize Gods movement in spiritual valleys both in the ordinary and the extraordinary. We must realize that Gods presence is in all things and all places. Second, God not only is present in the world
3 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

around us, but God is also present in a most particular manner in our hearts and in the very center of our spirits. I recently requested prayer from a dark valley after several stressful events. God is still answering prayers as this time has been a blessinga time of spiritual assessment.

Spiritual Mountain Climbing

It has been helpful to me to see my spiritual journey as a climb up a mountain. The Bible is a map to the path up the mountain. In mountain climbing the terrain becomes steeper and steeper, but with each level there is greater vision. I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from which cometh my help Psalms 121:1 The mountain top is crowned with Gods glory. Going higher and being able to see you are getting closer to the top is energizing. The closer we get to the top, the more humble and holy we become. In Psalms 24 King David speaks of the hill of the Lord, Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart

Firm Foundation
It is critical to have a sure footing before going to another level; else we slip and slide back several levels. A bad fall can end with serious wounds that take a long time to heal and seriously delay the journey. There is a need to stay at each plateau long enough to learn what God is teaching us. Moving too quickly can be dangerous. Our zeal or our want-it-now mentality can make us want to take a helicopter shortcut to the top in order to skip levels. But the climb is an important step-by-step learning experience. Remember, the most attractive shortcuts lead to disaster. Each level of the mountain demands constant reference to the map and prayerful evaluation of our current footing and vision. Without a sure foundation, the higher up, the more dangerous the climb becomes.
4 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

Moving at Gods pace, following Gods direction, with firm foundations on every level we get closer and closer to the top. Doubt will cause us to teeter on a ledge. The closer to the top, the more glory we see and the more spiritual fruit is evident in our lives. The higher we go, the more critical it is to refer to the map. God forbid we forget the map on any level. The spiritual ascent is not a work but a becoming or transformation. You cant hide when youre on the mountain. Weaknesses and strengths are exposed. The goal for the climb will determine how high and successful the climb. The higher up the mountain, the fewer people will be found. A climb for personal recognition will be shallow and eventually fail. A submissive, humble climb with the purpose of honoring God will cause one to ascend each level revealing less of self and more of Christ.

Lightening the Load

During the climb, works of the flesh are exposed openly until they are cut away. If this flesh is not cut away it is almost impossible to have pure motives. This is a spiritual circumcision, ridding us of the carnal nature that makes climbing difficult. As we go higher, we mature and our motives change. The path will become increasingly lighter and brighter. Once high enough to get a glimpse of Gods glory, we will be elated. Our thoughts will become more like His thoughts. Our actions will become more like His actions. We will become more and more humble in the light of His glory. Our time will be spent going higher and going back to help others climb, as He helps others climb. Seven Mountain Levels 2 Peter 1:2-7 reveals how we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires by climbing the seven levels of the mountain: And for this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

1. Faith 2. Virtue 3. Knowledge 5 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

4. Self-control 5. Steadfastness 6. Godliness 7. Love

Each of these qualities builds on the previous quality. Each level contains a gold mine of wisdom if we take the time to experience and investigate the level. As we climb each level we should see more fruit of the Spirit in our character. We begin the mountain climb on the faith ledge. We ascend to the glorious top to find perfect love. Trust is an essential trait for those who climb the mountain. We get a sure footing on this ledge by believing in God, knowing He is real, and understanding that He loves us. If we move to another level before we have this sure footing we will later fall. Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).

Stumbles and Falls

I have fallen many times. I tried climbing from the faith ledge to virtue and knowledge ledges while I doubted Gods love for me. Accepting the love of God through Christ is a basic truth I did not have a firm grip on. Not understanding Gods love for me caused me to stumble, never allowing me the required sure footing needed for a successful climb. Unforgiveness and resentment caused me to stumble and fall and become wounded, hindering my climb. Such sin causes bitterness, bondage, and strongholds. At the time, I didnt realize why I wasnt getting victory over sin in my lifeI didnt understand the reason I struggled with the same sins over and over. Forgiving others would heal my wounds and allow me to climb strongly again, but somewhere on the journey, when I hadnt taken thoughts captive, I allowed unforgiveness back in resulting in deeper wounds. Hurtful wounds caused more sin and obstructed my climb even more. I would be stuck on a level recovering, frustrated that I was not climbing higher. At times I knew what was holding me back, other times I was deceived and didnt understand the reasons. I also stumbled several times by being impatient. I can look back at my disastrous attempts to find a quicker path than the path God chose. We can only increase to higher elevations without falling by waiting on Gods perfect timing.
6 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010

Dusting Off and Climbing Again

Praise God, I know I can slip and stumble, incur wounds and injuries, and suffer setbacks but our loving Father continually picks me up and helps me find the path again. Isaiah 58:8-9 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Rejoice in The Adventure!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Gods paths are straight, His paths are narrow. To follow keep your eyes on Him. Climbing these levels can be very hard especially when faced with unexpected or particularly difficult challenges. But, the climb can be seen as exciting when we reach this stage. It becomes an adventurea chance to see what God will do next and how He will work out the situation. There are 3 important things one must do to reach a mountaintop experience: 1) Stand stronger 2) Reach higher; and 3) Go farther As a woman I have experienced the words of Paul I know how to be abased and abound. And in my wilderness I concluded and share with you this thought: Dont forget the blessings of the valley on the way to the mountaintop.

7 Handout Created by: Oretha Johnson Photograph by: Taeisha Wech Topic: I am a Survivor April 24, 2010