Have you ever watched a Hopalong Cassidy movie? We have. Lots of them. And before this pandemic broke out, we were on a short trip to the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine and Death Valley. And....our home was about a mile from Hopalong’s cabin that
he used not only in the movies he made, but he lived in it when he was filming in them thar' hills. If you have seen these, or any old western, then you know what a box canyon is. Picture, you on a horse, riding at top speed, being chased by the bad guys. The side of the hills are getting taller, and taller, until you get to a complete dead-end. Only a rock wall in front of you. Three sides are solid rock, packed first and tall. There is only one way out, and that’s behind you, and the enemies are approaching fast. That’s a box canyon. I never understood the full description until this week. I have stated here before that suffering is suffering. There are times when pain Is just pain. Now, I am not talking about self-inflicted pain. That is another topic for another time. But, the kind of pain and suffering I am talking about is the kind when you did not see it coming. Cancer. Disease. Prodigal child. Job loss. Financial troubles because of the job loss. Do you know
what I mean? There are times during these circumstances when you encounter a box canyon. Stuck.
Hang that thought on your barn hook for a minute, and we’ll come back to it.
About a month ago I was preparing for my last lecture for a Bible study I was teaching. I was trying to come up with a gripping title. I always title my lectures, and it usually comes straight from God. I was teaching on 2 Thessalonians 2 and was trying not to freak everyone out about the end times that are taught about in this chapter. We had enough of those thoughts on our own. So, I was just reading the first few verses in 2 Thessalonians 2, but then honing in on verses 13 through the end of the chapter.
And then it hit me. Where am I DWELLING? Am I dwelling on the unknown, or what is right in front of me? This was probably the best thing I could have gotten out of this chapter.
Where AM I dwelling? On my pain? Usually. Because I am back in the pain routine. My escape trip with my girls to Disneyland back in early February led to some pretty terrible problems with my feet. Both feet. And in a lot of pain and no one knows why. Enter COVID-19, and me not getting the imaging I needed (and still need). So, I live in constant pain. John and I were talking the other day and he mentioned that it's not just the past few weeks of the pain, but almost 7 years. Ok, when he said that I crumbled. He’s right. So right. But when you hear it, it is shocking. 7 years? Me? Yes.
So, where am I DWELLING? I had to look up this word. I always look up things in the original language, so in the Old Testament it is Hebrew, and in the New, it is Greek. In the OT, I was looking at passages with DWELL in them. And it definitely means to set up residence, to stay in place (you know, shelter in place ;)). And in the New, it’s the same. Ok. So, I also look up words in my 1828 Webster Dictionary, and this is where it got interesting. DWELL means to stay, be still. Have a sense of permanence. It is different from the word ABIDE. Uh. I did not even think about that. Well, to contrast the
two words, Webster points out that to ABIDE is basically an overnight thing. He abode in the inn last night. One does not say, he dwelt last night at the inn.
That got Me to thinking - John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, will bear much fruit.”
Stay with me here. Don’t you see Jesus’s choice of words? We are to ABIDE with Him because our relationship is a day-to-day relationship. I abide in Him every single day. I come to Him and talk with Him. I have a relationship that breathes. It has life. I abide in Him.
It just made sense as I was typing out that verse. Go back a read it again. Meditate on it. DWELL on it. Let’s break it apart. I park myself in His presence. I am wholeheartedly in Him. What is that secret place? His presence. His very presence.And it is bigger that anyone can possibly fathom. I am there in the ebb and flow of my life. Because I am a follower of Christ I CAN dwell there. This place is reserved for those who acknowledge Him as Lord. Then, let’s see what happens when I am DWELLING there. I ABIDE under the shadow of the Almighty. I am protected. Nothing shall harm me. He is covering me. And that is exactly what atonement means.Christ’s blood covers me, so I can enter the holy of holies and commune with God. And as Christ Himself said in John 15, I abide in Him, and I will bear much fruit.
So, what is that fruit? Well, the obvious is found in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit. I was informed by my children, Calvary Chapel College student or graduates, that the fruit of the Spirit is love - and then the rest of the verse goes on to define what that love is. Paul is brilliant when he writes. He was such a learned man. He constantly would write out his letters as a deposition. He would state his information and then his arguments. Here, we have this played out. The fruit that we have is THE HOLY SPIRIT, LOVE. God is love. 1 John 4:16. So, the fruit that we have when we DWELL in Him is GOD, Himself.
We choose to abide every day, we bear fruit. God’s Presence. God Himself in our lives.
I don’t know about you, but that is what I want more than anything. I am choosing to DWELL in the throne room of God, and in that I am abiding in Jesus. I am coming To Him every day. There is such a peace when I put it out that way. God Wants me. He has always wanted me. With Him, in the throne room, the secret place, where He is.So, the box canyon. Whenever I hear these geological words, I think stuck. But, I also have watched way too many movies to know that the cowboy hardly ever gets caught in one. There is always a way out. God always gives us a way out. He says so in His word - And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more that you can stand. When you are tempted He will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13. What an amazing promise and one that I am very grateful for. I am assured a way out of the box canyon EVERY TIME.
What are possible ways out?
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Take His yoke upon you . Let Jesus teach you, because He is humble and gentle in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ’Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing would be impossible. Matthew 17:20-21
Did you see who is telling the mountain move? It is not Jesus. It is us! In faith, mind you.
So, when we find ourselves in a box canyon, we are not stuck, we have a choice. And to discover that choice, we have to hear His still small voice to see which direction He wants us to go. It could be to stay completely still. It could be an aboutface. It could be to climb up the side. Or, it could be to tell the box canyon to move.
Where am I DWELLING when I find myself in a box canyon?
Where am I ABIDING on a day to day basis?
It’s all a matter of perspective.