Posts tagged Lent
A Mountaintop Experience

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. - Matthew 17:1-8

In 1996, I was invited to be a leader on the high school mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico. I had no idea what to expect. I knew we’d be sleeping in tents alongside some 1,000 other high school kids and that we would be working in a small village leading Vacation Bible School – but beyond that I was not too sure what the week would look like. As the week came to a close, and the group participated in a debrief of the week’s activities, I found myself on cloud nine. It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

We began the day with 1,000 voices singing worship songs and being inspired by a great speaker. Then we headed out to our little village of Villa Zapata and played with kids all day, sharing food and the word of God with them. We laughed and cried. We worked hard and we played hard. And at the end of the day, there was more worship music and yet another shared message. It was God from all sides.

To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. My life at home was nothing like this. I was working for Countrywide Home Loans at the time, and my work day was not particularly spiritually fulfilling. I had never experienced God in such a consistent and powerful way as I had in the dirt of Ensenada. Why would I want to go anywhere else? This was it. I should move here. I should never leave. I’ll set up my tent and just serve the kids of Mexico the rest of my days. It was never going to get any better than this.

When Peter is on the mountain with Jesus, he has an extraordinary God encounter – so powerful that he suggests to Jesus that he will build booths (tents or some kind of temporary housing) so that they can stay there on the mountaintop. But Jesus is pretty clear that he doesn’t see the top of the mountain as the final destination. Jesus has brought these three disciples here to have a very unique experience with God, to hear the voice of God – and then it’s time to come back off the mountain to continue the work that Jesus has called them to.

How have your mountaintop experiences shaped you? Once you were there, did you want to stay there? Do you find yourself trying to recreate those same experiences rather than allowing God to take you to new mountaintops? And when you’re with Jesus, do you do more talking or more listening? “While Peter was still talking….” Jesus has a desire to reveal more, and God’s voice has to interrupt Peter’s talking in order that he can he heard. Do you talk over God? The voice that comes says – “Listen to him” (Jesus). Are you listening? by Keenan Barber

Prayer – As the season of Lent begins, I pray that you would find time to listen to Jesus and from that time of listening, grow closer to Him and hear his voice more clearly. 

Monday Message: On Lent and Love

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- John 15:13
 
The Season of Lent is a gift the liturgical calendar gives us.  We need the time to prepare ourselves to grapple with the greatest gift of love we will ever receive.  In this verse in the gospel of John, Jesus’ disciple reminds us that Jesus’ Passion, his death on the cross, and his resurrection are all testament to the love that Jesus has for us. 
 
Now, there is both promise and problem in that opening paragraph.  The promise is that it is possible to discover ever more deeply the love that God has for us.  The problem is that most of us think about it in one of two ways.  Either we think we already know and therefore don’t bother to truly discover its ever greater depths.  Or we think that John is talking about Jesus’ love for someone else.  Our own shame, guilt, or lack of self-worth keep us from believing that Jesus’ testimony of love is fully and truly for us.
 
To answer the first way, I will simply point you toward the sermon series we will be walking through together through the Season of Lent.  To answer the second, let me point you to the apostle Paul’s take on our John verse.  In Romans 5:7-8, Paul writes, “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
 
Did you read that?  While we were still sinners, Jesus testified to his love for us in the greatest way possible.  No amount of shame or guilt or lack of self-worth can disqualify us from this.  Jesus loves you even at your worst.  Still does.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing can change that.  It may take Lent done right for you to receive that.
 
Gracious Lord, we are thankful for your love for us.  We are also pretty poor receivers of that love.  We ask that you work in us to unearth our defenses and overwhelm our doubts so that we might become people rooted and grounded in your love.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.