Technical Christians

Mark 10:1-12

“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate….” v. 4

You cannot build your relationship with God on technicalities and word games. The lives of the Pharisees were built around technicalities. They had devised a religious system that allowed them to do whatever they wanted, even dump their wives for someone else, and still feel righteous. Jesus tells them here that such games may work on earth but not in the kingdom of heaven. In this particular case it was about marriage and divorce. They had found a legal way to end an inconvenient marriage by writing a certificate of divorce, which by its implication would mark their ex wife as an adulteress, in the eyes of the community. The husband, then, could rationalize his way into another marriage if he wanted. Jesus calls the act of divorcing, so you can find another, or because you’re “just not happy”, adultery, certificate or no certificate. When they ran to Jesus waving their divorce papers, allowed by Moses centuries earlier, he said, “Because of your hardness of heart he (Moses) wrote you this commandment.” In other words, true faith is about the heart. You can wiggle your way into whatever you want, get all the paper work done, and still completely miss the will of God.

Religion is a funny thing. Ever since the Nazarene ascended into the clouds, people have been finding clever ways to avoid God’s will and appear to be doing it at the same time. We’re masters of technicalities. We’ve learned how to color code lies so we don’t have to be honest. We know how to stop the make out session just in time so we can use each other and still be virgins. And if all else fails we have a master plan to say, “Please forgive me for all my sins today”, as our head hits the pillow, just in case we die in our sleep. Even more insane is the idea that I can plan to have a deathbed conversion, after I’ve had all my fun. But even the technicalities can cause problems, can’t they? All sorts of questions come with a life filled with religious word games. Here’s a sample.

– Do I tithe my gross or net income?

– How far can you go before it’s considered sex?

– Is it adultery if I’m just flirting?

– Is_________ a curse word?

Whew! trying to dance around the will of God can be pretty exhausting. I wonder what would happen if we stopped playing games and really tried to live a life that honors God.

What would my life look like if I stopped seeing how close to the line I could come without sinning, and began to do what God actually wants. What if there was more to my faith than using God to get myself a place in heaven? What if I loved him, and not just what he can give me? If that happened I would be the kind of follower Jesus is calling for. He wants me to love him with my whole heart. When you truly love someone, you don’t spend all your time seeing what you can get away with, do you? I hope not. I hope you show your love by looking for ways to line up with the heart of the one you love, speak their love language, cherish them. This is what the follower of Jesus is called to do. But be careful, such a self abandoned life can have side effects. You just may find yourself…

…speaking the truth in love with no shades of white or grey.

…forgetting the tithing rule and giving sacrificially to help the least of these.

…treating your girlfriend like a princess instead of a prostitute.

…honoring your spouse in all your relationships.

…speaking unquestionable words that build others up.

…living a life free of tormenting technical questions.

…falling asleep in peace with no need to cover your bases just in case.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord ,Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. But him who does the will of my father.” (Matthew 7:21)

You don’t look good in millstone.

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Mark 9:42-50

“and if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” v. 43

Today we read, what just may be, the most brutal passage in the New Testament. The prince of peace pulls no punches here as he makes war on our sin. There can be no real peace where we tolerate evil in our lives. We love to make war on the sins of society, but here he calls us to aim the cannon at ourselves, blasting away at the life of compromise. Any delusion of Jesus being okay with sin, as long as we have a nice sentiment toward one another, must die a cruel death in this passage. Let us be as blunt in interpreting as he was in saying these words.

  1. You and I are accountable for our impact on others.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones…to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (42)

We like to think we can sin in isolation. We’re so into ourselves and our personal freedom we actually think we can live any way we want to and not care how we impact others. Over and over the scripture betrays that lie, telling us not to use our freedom of conscience to cause someone else to stumble (Romans 14). Yet we insist on living however we please with no concern over our impact on others. Jesus gives a sobering warning to a self addicted culture. We belong to God and to each other, not just to ourselves. The gospel calls me to think, not only of my personal views on a behavior, but on how my actions will touch the lives of others.

  1. Like it or not, hell is real, and people are going there forever. “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (48)

He mentions three times in a row, that it is better to enter heaven with a missing body part, than, ” to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” (43,45,47)

Jesus makes it clear, that despite our preferences, hell is the destination of those who live and die in rebellion against God. We want to obliterate the offense of such a horrendous reality, but to do so we must erase a disturbing amount of Jesus teachings. The idea of an eternal hell offends me. I don’t want to believe in such a place. I want to think we all somehow make it to heaven. But God’s justice demands something beyond the scope of my understanding. I cannot fathom such a requirement, because I do not live in such perfect holiness as God. His absolute purity and justice are beyond me. But even this is grounded in an unimaginable holy love. Why is it that we expect to go to a perfect heaven and enjoy a place of perfect righteousness, but deny the reality of its antithesis, a place of absolute punishment for sin? Given this reality, we must live in a way that calls them away from death and into life.

  1. If it’s leading you away from God, remove it. “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…foot…cut it off…eye…tear it out.”(43-47)

If we were to take this command literally, removing every body part that causes us to sin, we would all be mangled and immobilized by the age of ten. Clearly the point is more abstract, to do radical life surgery, removing anything in our lives that leads us into sin. Jesus uses three images to depict this life surgery. Let’s apply each one.

The hand- Take stock of possessions and activities in your life. You cannot live for this world and the next at the same time. If your best life is now, you have a problem on your hands, pun intended. What are you putting your hand to? Is it leading you to God or away from God.

The foot- Think about the places you are going? Are you going to places that make you more or less inclined to live an obedient life? If you have to spend time convincing yourself it’s okay, you may want to rethink it. If you are going to questionable places because Jesus hung out with sinners, make sure you’re doing what he did when he was with them. He was healing and teaching, not hanging from the rafters.

The eye- What are you looking at? The eye is the lamp of the body, Jesus says. If that is true what kind of bulb are you using? In other words what are you feeding your mind and heart through reading, watching, and internet surfing? Someone once told me, “Whatever entertains you, enters you.” This is so true. How much time are you investing in looking into the word of God? How does that compare with your investment in personal entertainment?

  1. You are responsible for what you become and how you impact the world. “Have salt in yourselves…” 49

Jesus warns that you and I can become salt without flavor, good for nothing. As a younger man I always heard, “Don’t become so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” I heard that from everyone except Jesus. I look around and see little danger of that happening anyway. The inverse is more likely. We’re in greater danger of becoming so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. Jesus says to have salt in yourself. While we can do nothing without his help, we are responsible to pay attention to how we live and how we grow up in Christ. Peter tells us to grow in grace, not soak in it. We must actively pursue a life that truly reflects the values of God’s kingdom, knowing it will certainly run in opposition to the values of our culture. It’s a mistake to claim to love God and neighbor without paying attention to how you live your life. Holiness and love are deeply connected. If I love God I will obey his commands. If I truly love my neighbor I will live in such a way that points them to God. Make sure that you are living for his glory today, so that your life will be a stepping stone for some soul rather than a stumbling block. Stay dressed in his righteousness, because you really don’t look good in millstone.

Unauthorized grace?

Mark 9:38-41

“We tried to stop him because he was not following us.” v. 38

Niger Unreached Village Ministry Day 2 (12 of 14)

Why are we so eager to police the kingdom of God? John came running to Jesus saying, “there’s someone out there casting out demons in your name! We tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us!” I can see him now. Somewhere in town John and the disciples notice a man doing the very thing Jesus had commissioned them to do. He was casting out demons in Jesus name. I’m surprised that it was John, of all the disciples, who wanted to stop the man from handing out “Unauthorized grace”. All the disciples run over to this man and tell him he needs to stop casting out those demons right this minute! How dare he do ministry without the endorsement of the disciples! I wonder how much of this was concern for propriety and how much was guilt. If they had been busy doing the same they wouldn’t have had time to police everyone else. I won’t apply that to us since we are way too spiritual to ever make that mistake. The other issue here is the disciples fear of unauthorized grace being handed out. It’s a common fear isn’t it? We are so afraid of the wrong people giving out God’s mercy and grace that we scan the internet looking for false prophets and heretics to stop. Today our definition of a  heretic or false prophet has widened to include anyone who isn’t just like us. We push away from those outside our Christian circle, in essence saying, if you don’t follow us, you can’t follow him! I wonder how many bullet holes we have in our feet, from rejecting fellow saints,  who could be helping us spread the gospel. Let’s hear what Jesus had to say to John and to us about unauthorized grace.

  1. Don’t put the brakes on a good work done on Jesus behalf. Jesus put it this way; “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” (39)

Our Lord says here that anyone who is willing to walk in his grace and power is a welcome friend. For too many of us this is a frightening idea. Can we imagine God using a willing worker who doesn’t belong to our brand of the faith? Apparently Jesus isn’t as religious as we would have him to be. God honors anyone who serves him. (John 12:26; Acts 10:34-35) He’s not looking for your denominational logo before he accepts someone into service. I realize this may be quite disturbing to those who have found the true essence of Christianity and need to define everything and everyone by their own personal experience. Try to open up a little bit and appreciate the believers who come from other Christ following traditions.

  1. Don’t make an enemy where you could have a friend. “For the one who is not against us is for us.” (40)

There are plenty of genuine opponents of the faith out there. We have many who would love to put an end to the movement of the gospel. We are commanded to love our enemies, and pray for them. But I worry that this generation of Christ followers is so angry and fearful, and quite honestly, so eager to feel persecuted, that we are making enemies out of friends. We’re drawing lines in the sand where they don’t exist. Too many of us are sitting on the edge of our pews looking for a chance to boycott or protest anyone who even looks like they might disagree with a value we hold. Yes there are times to make a stand against evil. But we need to ask ourselves if we’re standing up for the gospel or just standing up for the sake of standing up. Our reactionary posture may be impressive to those who hold our opinions, but it may be confusing to a world that keeps waiting to see us love our neighbors. Remember one of the signs of the early church was, they “enjoyed the favor of all the people.”(Acts 2:47) Without compromising the gospel, they lived in love toward those outside of the church. So be about the business of making friends for the gospel. The enemies don’t need your help.

  1. Don’t underestimate God’s grace. “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (41)

God is more interested in who he can save than who he can judge. He says here that even a cup of water given to a follower of Jesus will be rewarded. You mean to tell me that Jesus is willing to bless and even reward someone who does a small act of kindness to you just because you are a follower? Wow! Doesn’t sound too hard to me. God is so eager to bring people into his kingdom that he will offer his grace to anyone who takes a step in his direction. Are you serious? But what if the person handing out water is wearing a tattoo? What if they are pierced in all the wrong places? Will God allow someone into his presence who struggles with addictions and uses bad words? Is there really room in the kingdom of God for people who watch movies and read novels that I don’t approve of? That’s amazing. What’s even more amazing is that there’s even room in his kingdom for somebody like me, who has spent way too much time criticizing and too little time loving.

Final note: I love how the verse reads, “We tried to stop him.” They weren’t able apparently. Maybe they wanted Jesus to come stop him, because they couldn’t do it. Friend, you can’t stop real grace. Try all you will. The true grace giver will not be hindered by anyone. If you are handing out grace today, at some point someone may try to stop you. Don’t let them. Just keep giving it out. The Lord is standing with you.

One of the great surprises in heaven will be the wide variety of saints from every nation, tongue, tribe, political persuasion, and church affiliation or lack thereof. We will stand in awe of the grace of God. As we look around at the heavenly collection and see literally trillions of people in an unimaginable chorus, we will be blown away by God’s amazing grace. But here’s the kicker to keep us thinking. Will I be more amazed that God welcomed those people to heaven, or that he welcomed me?

Crickets, roaches and obnoxious saviors.

Mark 9:33-37

“…he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?'” v. 33

Somebody should write a book entitled, “Great Awkward moments in Biblical History.” The Bible, like life, is stuffed to the hilt with them. We’ve all had those moments when, in the heat of some delightfully heated gripe session concerning the job, the class, or the church meeting. We’re telling our safe group of co-laborers in critique all the things we’re too afraid to say to the people who could actually do something about it, for fear of reprisal-or something worse, like being proven wrong. Just when our gleeful gripefest is at a fever pitch, the person in question walks in the room and says, “What are you all talking about?” We’re listening now to the song of crickets in the awkward forest. With polite smiles and nervous laughter we take out our political mops and try to clean up the mess as best we can. “Uh well, uhm…” Nothing is more irritating than to have your dance in the dark ruined by somebody turning on the lights, just when things were getting good. The roaches run for cover and we all shield our eyes and try to adjust without going blind. Speaking of awkward moments in Biblical history, I’ve got a juicy one for you today.

One day the disciples were walking along, and as often happens on long trips, a debate emerged among them. They must not have been following too closely to Jesus, because they were quite sure he would not approve of the content of this conversation. It’s always a good idea to distance yourself from the Lord when you want to talk about things like, how great you are and how you compare with others. The disciples were ranking themselves in order of greatness. Like I said, any time you want to promote yourself and groom your ego, it’s advisable to make sure you aren’t walking very close to Jesus. It’s kinda hard to focus on him and yourself at the same time. But in the midst of their discussion, just when they were sure they had every disciple ranked and categorized in order of importance. Just when they had finally figured out who would be Israel’s next top Apostle. Jesus stops his steady march to the cross, turns around and waits patiently for his sanctified celebrities to catch up with him. I can hear them as they draw closer to him on the road. “Shut up! He can hear us! Quick! Change the subject.” Just as they finish sweetly singing the last verse of  “Heart of worship” they finally catch up to Jesus. Wiping their moist eyes, with hands lifted high while they sway arm in arm to the beat, signing, “It’s all about you Jesus….” Then asks the question, “So, guys what were you talking about back there?” When the music fades all you can hear is the roar of crickets in the awkward forest.

I hate it when the Lord asks me a question that I he already knows the answer to. Once, many years ago, I was driving along in my car listening to my Christian music like a nice preacher. I may have been humming, “It’s all about you, Jesus…” when I noticed a sign out in front of a church as I drove by. I don’t remember what it said, but the message caused me to say something bitterly critical about it. In all my superior dignity I uttered my cutting words of indignant disapproval. Almost immediately I heard the Lord speak to me, as clear as crystal. “Mark, why do you have to do that?” Can you hear the crickets chirping in my soul? I hate it when he does that. He asked me a question, but he knew the answer. I have to criticize and compare myself to others so I can win the prize on “America’s next top Christian”

I’m not secure in myself, or in the love God has for me, so I have to tell myself I’m more spiritual, more correct and more godly than the next person. If I don’t find a way to put myself in a better light than someone else I have to settle for living in the grace of a God who loves me in my brokenness. That’s too hard. It’s much easier for me to keep telling myself the lie that God only loves me when I’m better than you. So I find it soothing to criticize the church sign, the preacher who is too liberal or too conservative, the song with poor theology, and the sinner who’s apparently more broken than me. But I find the only way I can indulge my need to compare and criticize, is to maintain a safe distance from Jesus. While he moves toward the cross on my behalf I’ll just slow down my pace and linger in my delusions of relative sanctification a little longer. It’s safer back here than up there where my savior is leading me. But you and I both know what’s going to happen don’t we? He’s gonna slow down at some point, wait for me to catch up then ask that awkward question, “What are you talking/thinking about?” He loves me too much to be anything less than obnoxious about such things. He can’t leave well enough alone and abandon me to myself. He knows when to burst in at the worst possible moment flip on the light and send the roaches running back to hell where we all know they belong. I’m just glad he’s not sending me there instead. His love has redeemed and is redeeming my broken soul. So, while these awkward moments of truth can be pretty disarming and honestly a bit frustrating to my sense of “betterthanyouness”‘, I’d rather have him stopping me on the road, flipping on the light and chasing away the roaches, than leaving me behind.

 

 

 

The elephant in the sanctuary

IMG_20130606_133609Mark 9:30-32

“But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” v. 32

I’m a coward when it comes to difficult conversations. Whether it’s confronting a friend, facing needed criticism, or unpacking an uncomfortable problem, these things rank right up there with having a root canal, unclogging toilets or walking barefoot through a dark room covered in Legos…ouch! I really have to work at this. To me it’s much easier to gloss over tough conversations, focus on the positives and hope the hard truth disappears. It never does. The hard truth never goes away. The elephant in the room will sit patiently reading magazines, drinking coffee and listening to all my clever diversions. He will smile nicely at my vain attempts to ignore him, just waiting to be noticed. I try the old, “ignore him and he’ll go away” trick, but it never works. He simply will not leave. If I avoid him too long he will eventually raise his trunk, walk around knocking things over and doing whatever it takes to make his presence known, until I face him. Eventually I shed my fears and pretenses and force myself to deal with him. Then while I attempt to clean up the mess he made–and let me tell you an elephant in the room can be pretty messy–I kick myself for letting my fears keep me hostage to the elephant in the room for so long. Difficult truth creates fear in me. It also creates confusion. I’m going along nicely through life, enjoying the ride and can’t understand why I can’t just ignore that weird sound the car is making. Why now? Why the detour? Why can’t things just work out? Why can’t everyone just get along, be happy, and work together? I hate facing hard truth because it creates fear and uncertainty in my soul. Maybe the apostles of our Lord felt the same way every time the Lord mentioned the cross that loomed ahead.

“The Son of man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

The scripture tells us that they, “didn’t understand the saying and were afraid to ask him.”

I don’t blame them. If my miracle working, storm calming, demon chasing teacher kept telling me he was going to be killed by a group of mortals, I wouldn’t understand it and I would be afraid to ask. I would just nod my head in fake acknowledgement, the way you do to any story you don’t want to believe or don’t really understand.  First, I wouldn’t understand why anyone so filled with love would have any enemies wanting to kill him. Second, I wouldn’t be able to understand how someone so powerful could fall victim to anyone. Finally, I would be afraid of what that meant for his cause and for me. And “After three days he will rise.”? What’s up with that? I would be filled with fear and confusion. Just like they were. Just like you and I are when Jesus starts talking to us about crosses and sacrifice and giving up and even dying to yourself. We don’t understand why, just when everything is fun and convenient and we’re becoming comfortable with our cozy Christianity he brings it up. Just when we thought following Jesus was all about us he tells us to take up our cross and follow him. There’s a tendency to imagine that following Jesus is just one big party. We want to follow the miracle working sage who tells us not to worry about tomorrow, and just believe. We want to believe that our calling is simply to be nice to people and go to church once in awhile. Our Christianity becomes some kind of fantasy we use to escape reality. But the elephant in the sanctuary keeps getting in our way. He keeps trying to remind us that there’s a cross to carry, and a lost world to reach. We’re afraid and don’t understand. We’d rather sleep in the light of grace than face the darkness with faith and love. I don’t want to bum you out. There’s a great deal of joy and peace that comes with following Jesus. But we have to face the hard truth that not everyone is going to heaven. Not everyone is walking in your peace. Not everyone has the hope you live in. There’s an elephant in the sanctuary. He’s knocking over your cushioned pews, and interrupting your Christian elevator music with his loud trumpet blast. He’s reminding us we have a cross to carry. Today you will meet people who are facing eternity without God. Don’t panic and get all weird. Just be prayerful and open to the leading of the Spirit. Be ready to love, and care and give so they can have the life you have in Christ. Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow Jesus. There came a day when the disciples finally got it. They endured his death and witnessed his resurrection. Then they went out and changed the world. Now it’s our turn to do the same.

Will we ever get it?

Mark 9:14-29

“Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I going to bear with you? Bring him to me.” v. 19

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There are times in the Gospels when it seems Jesus is about to lose it. Much of the time his frustration is seen when his followers aren’t getting it. Like the school teacher who has gone over the lesson five times only to hear someone from the back of the class say again, “but I don’t get it?”, Jesus seems here to be on the ragged edge of patience. Just the day before, he was on a mountain top, having a heavenly meeting with Elijah and Moses, and now he comes down to the bottom only to find his disciples drawing a crowd for all the wrong reasons. They had spent, heaven knows how long, trying to cast a demon out of a young boy, and nothing was working. No doubt they tried every trick they could think of; Loud voice of command, quoting Old Testament scriptures, maybe even singing, you name it. But still the demonized boy remained in turmoil and his father was having a fit. When Jesus appears, the boy’s father explains that his son is possessed and the disciples are unable to cast out the evil spirit. That’s when our Lord shows his ability to identify with every parent, teacher and pastor who has ever lived. He says, what we all say sometimes; “Oh faithless generation, how long will I be with you? how long will I bear with you (or put up with you)? Bring the boy to me.”

Why was Jesus so frustrated? And does he become frustrated with me for the same reasons?

  1. Jesus expected his disciples to have the faith to handle this. Remember he had already sent them out on one mission to cast out demons and heal the sick (see chapter 6). They went out and did exactly that, and it worked! They had done this before. They knew how it worked. But here they were living as if they had never seen anything like it. I wonder if Jesus gets frustrated when I live beneath my experience with him. He has taken me through many things and my faith has grown. But sometimes I don’t live up to where he has brought me. I’m living beneath what he knows I’m capable of.
  2. Jesus had given them authority and was frustrated that they weren’t using it. He had placed his authority in them (Mark 6:7) and expected them to walk in it. He wanted them at some point to be able to do the things he was doing (John 14:12). But although they had the power, they weren’t walking powerfully. This frustrates the grace of God. So many of his followers today have no idea of the supernatural authority they have. Some even deny it completely. “They have an appearance of godliness but deny it’s power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) Do you realize the authority you have in Christ? Are you walking in it?
  3. Jesus knew the root of the problem, prayerless disciples. For this one we have to go down to verse 29. They asked Jesus why they were unable to cast the demon out. He replied, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” In other words, “You guys aren’t praying.” Friends it’s simple. A prayerless disciple is a powerless disciple. You and I have no excuse for being prayerless. A follower who isn’t praying isn’t following. A true disciple of Jesus realizes that prayer is the lifeline of faith and power. Read the book of Acts and see how much time was spent in prayer by the early church. There is a direct link between the prayerlessness and the powerlessness of our churches today. Is your church ineffective? Don’t blame the Atheists, the False religionists, or the immoralists. The true culprit is prayerless, and therefore powerless, Christians.

I don’t want to frustrate my Lord. I want to walk in the faith, power and authority he has already given me. In Christ there is an inexhaustible supply of everything I need to bring glory to his name and set the captives free. I have been adopted, redeemed, anointed and called. I am seated in the heavens with Christ my Lord. My life has supernatural power to destroy strongholds of evil and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. I don’t have to feel it. I just have to believe it and live it. I can preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. His power is real and my life is proof that he is risen from the dead. Lord, help me today to live powerfully in you.

Memo from the Home Office

Mark 9:2-13

” This is my beloved Son listen to him.”v.7

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Do you ever wonder what you’d say to the Lord if suddenly he was standing in front of you? We’ve all imagined this to some degree. Even those who don’t believe have had thoughts about what they’d say to God if they saw him. I have to chuckle when I hear people boast about giving God and earful when they get to heaven some day. But what if you didn’t have to wait to get to heaven to see him in his glory? How do you think you’d react? Peter, James, and John had that opportunity one day. Jesus led them on a hike up to the top of a mountain where they saw him literally transfigured before their eyes. For one glorious moment Jesus face and clothing shone with dazzling heavenly brightness, and suddenly there appeared with him Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Talk about a high level summit! This was the power meeting of all time. The awe of this moment so gripped the three disciples that all they could do was stand there. Peter was the only one who managed to get a word out of his mouth. He said, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here (understatement of the century) Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. (misstatement of the century)” But who can blame Peter for stumbling over himself? Seeing the curtain of eternity pulled back like that would knock the sense right out of anyone. Verse 6 explains, “For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” Again what do you say when you find yourself in the visible presence of God himself? What would you say? What will you say? While Peter is kicking himself for saying something dumb, and the other two were too terrified even to do that, God the father spoke from heaven. What a day ! First you see Christ in his glory, standing beside two saints who left earth centuries ago, then you hear the audible voice of God! (Would you even dare to take a selfie?) The voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Then everything stopped and Jesus was standing there all alone. That’s it? Meeting adjourned? Not to sound disrespectful, but it sounds kind of anti climactic to me. Brilliant light, appearances of great saints, cloud overhead, and the voice of God thundering above, and all we here is, “Listen to my Son?” What’s up with that? Surely in a moment like this they would get some commands, a commission or at least something inspirational. Even a rebuke would be nice! But all he said, was “Listen to him.”

It kinda makes me think of prayer. You know I may not see him in dazzling brilliance, alongside the saints of old like they did. But every day I have opportunity to stand in his real presence, and at least read the words of the saints. In those high level summits I find myself trying to figure out what I should say to the Lord. I rattle off all the things I think the Lord should do. Like Peter I want to erect a few memorial tents and just hang out on the mountain and watch the show. I have all sorts of ideas for the Lord. But what I need to be doing is following the father’s instructions. “Listen to my Son” he says. In the middle of my fears and failures, the message comes, “Listen to my son.” When I am terrified with all that is happening around me and I want to scream out my instructions to God, he says simply, “Listen to my Son”. The father loves it when you climb the mountain each day and spend time meeting with him. In fact he wants you to do it more often. But when you come to God, don’t be so anxious to give him your building plans and great ideas. Just listen to the Son. Really listen. In fact right now, why don’t you put this devotion aside and take some time, with your Bible and your heart wide open, and listen.

You know at the end of your life you will finally be able to see him face to face. You will see what Peter, James and John saw, and even more. In that day, as you stand on the edge of eternity, it won’t matter what you have to say to God. All that will matter is what he says to you. Either he will say “depart from me, I never knew you.” or he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Which will it be?