Month: November 2017

High and Low

It’s always funny how I get overly familiar with a Bible story, then for whatever reason I go back and read it, only to find I missed so much and I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Prime example, the transfiguration. Previously, I had just thought the story captured in Scripture was Jesus and his special disciples going up a mountain, seeing the glory, then the story closes with a time gap to the next section (depending on translation) and another story begins. Boy was I wrong!! I was encouraged to read this account in Mark 9 after reading a few devotionals from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” and I was intrigued by all I missed.

One of the first things I noticed is the fear of the disciples in the presence of Christ, up and down the mountain. It made me wonder if the fear of the Lord is merely reverence, actual fear, or a mixture of both. When I considered their moments of fear, it was definitely not a matter of reverence, but they were afraid because they didn’t know what to do or say or the response of Jesus to their actions. I think for us, it is necessary that we have a healthy balance of reverence for the Lord along with fear for His immensity. He is far above human understanding and a fear of His judgment and limitless incredible power and what He may do should inspire us to live as close to the cross as we can. Of course, as we learn the character of God that level of fear is balanced out because of His overabundant grace and overwhelming love.

The funny thing about this story is that in their fear, we see how started saying dumb stuff, for God the Father straightened Him out real quick so he couldn’t act his out, as did Jesus when he handled the dispute of the disciples who were totally missing the point of the ministry they had just been apart of and knew that they were wrong, which is why they didn’t respond to Jesus when he asked them. Without exhausting it, in our fear, we shouldn’t react, but we should instead consider Jesus and his glory so that we don’t mistake what God wants to say to us, show us, or do for us.

There really is so much in this account that I could present here, but a blog is not a book so I will refrain or just do a part two. Nevertheless, the major point that I gathered from the transfiguration story is the highs and lows of life; we can’t have one without the other. What struck me about the story is not their incredible experience on the mountain, but their immediate journey back down the mountain and into regular life.

As Chambers reflected, when we experience the high mountain-top experiences, we naturally want to stay there, but the mountain was created to prepare us for the valleys of life; we can’t stay there forever. As soon as they saw Elijah and Moses and were scolded by the Father, the experience was over, and back down the mountain they went; Jesus actually went ahead of them. If we are supposed to follow Christ, we must recognize the purpose and time necessary for the mountain.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that we leave the presence of God on the mountain, but just as Jesus went before them and walked with them down the mountain and back to reality, he will walk with us; His presence will never leave us. Just as we see when Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting, right after his in depth encounter with God it was time to put what he learned to practice. For after his fast, the Devil tempted him, and immediately after their return from the high mountain, Jesus had to face problems in ministry with the other disciples.

There will be more lows in life than highs, and low doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but rather the normal every day things of life. The highs are those intense encounters we have in the presence of God, and I must admit that I couldn’t handle it if it happened every day, which is why those mountain highs last for just a weekend or a short time, as we see in Mark 9, where the majority of this chapter is not concerning the transfiguration, but what happened when they came back down. Likewise, if Jesus had stayed or if they had returned later, then that boy would not have been delivered and the disciples would have missed critical teachings and experience of the work of the Son if they would have lingered on the mountain.

As we live a life a purpose, it has to be guided and influenced by the times we spend with God on the mountain, but we can’t be stingy with what we gain there, rather, we must take those blessings and lessons and share it with others, otherwise it becomes a waste and the beauty of God can’t be share with others, encouraging them to seek the presence of God. We have a responsibility be ourselves for a purpose in lows, prepared in the highs of His presence.

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A Command that Doesn’t Make Sense

I am doing character studies in Scripture again and one common figure that has fascinated me is Elijah. He is known to be the one of two persons never to die, and reading his story and how the Lord used him, it is clear as to why he was graced as such. Nevertheless, he was a real person with real emotions that at one point made him suicidal. Within the stories centered around this man of God, we are introduced to a widow, whose name was not provided and all we know is that she had a son.

Reading this story, which I have read or heard preached several times, I was struck when God told Elijah that He had already commanded the woman to feed him. First of all, the fact that we get this piece of the character of God, we see how He truly does value women. Often times, people consider Judaism or stigmatize the place of women in the Old Testament and the corresponding culture, but this excerpt is one of many where we see God’s consideration of and revelation to women. So awesome. Still, the focus is on the command itself.

God had called this woman to minister to His prophet, Elijah, by giving him food. Fair enough, but the only problem was that she had none to give. So now what??

Being a widow in that time, it is no surprise that she was struggling, and the pressure on her was much greater considering that she had a son to take care of as well, so the last thing that she needed was God to tell her to give away what she really didn’t have to give. Yet, she did have something to give. Yes, it was barely enough just for her and her son and starvation was looking like a sure thing; she didn’t see the value in what she had, but made the commitment to obey God, though she didn’t know how. Isn’t that just like us??

God often commands us to do the impossible, for when we look around and consider what we have at our immediate disposal, we often think we misheard God or just fall into disobedience. I heard at a conference, “whatever the need, you have the seed to produce it,” and oh how this widow’s obedience reflects this principle. As we read the rest of the story, we see first that she was willing to obey, but she was just unsure how, and that is completely fine, since it will often lead us into unknown and scary situations, which is why Elijah told her not to be afraid and to do first what God commanded her to do before doing what she thought was necessary, like feeding her son. Now do I think that she was immediately assured to the fact of no fear or apprehension? Maybe not, but Elijah encouraged her that by sowing that seed, the Lord would bless her for the years to come during the famine. Her seed would meet her need. She was desperate, struggling, and preparing to die, but God met her where she was, giving her the opportunity to trust God with literally all that she had. And when you really think about it, she really had nothing to lose if she was going to die anyway.

In our moments of desperation, God still calls us to bless others in various ways, we must never forget that, because the earth and its fullness belongs to Him. As we see, the blessing of obedience far outweighs the cost of obedience.

As we continue to be ourselves and live our lives on purpose, we must never get so consumed with what we have that we hoard the little bit. God is a God of multiplication and whenever we sow those seeds and live in even the smallest acts of obedience,¬†following the commands that don’t make sense or appear to magnify the struggle we are in, rather than rescue us, He promises to prove Himself, His power, His provision, and His faithfulness.¬† All of this is the beauty of the journey, because the biggest moves of God in our lives are in those random situations that can’t be logically processed as possible or effective; every mandate has a purpose, whether you recognize it immediately or not. So I have one question, do you trust Him?