Jesus Only (Part 2 of 2)

Glimpses of Infinity.

….Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.   Matthew 17:1-6 MSG

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Memorializing the Moment.

Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”

In life there are great moments.  Turning points, moments of clarity that change the direction of our life forever.  Deciding to say NO against the flow or saying YES to a call.  Moments of revelation, inspiration and understanding.  In this moment Peter must have felt like he understood everything past, present and future.  He had just witnessed a glimpse of the Glory of God reinforcing his long held belief in a coming Messiah.

Inspired, Peter races to build.  Peter, the rock, the one who believed, who knew Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter the activist, the man of action acts swiftly to solidify his belief through action.

The Voice of Truth.

While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.”  When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Peter’s activity get’s interrupted.  There is no rebuke for his enthusiastic activity nor is there an answer to his request.  Three things speak to me from this passage.

  1.  I am invited to participate in the cosmic plan of God

In this scene the infinite Glory of God is glimpsed through Jesus’ face and clothing , long departed saints appear and converse with Jesus, a radiant cloud envelops them and the voice of God is heard.  A great moment indeed.  Possibly most amazing is who the voice spoke to.   Not to Jesus, nor to the departed saints but to Peter, to James and to John.  To the most normal, most fallible beings present.

The message?  This is my Son whom I love, my delight…… wait for it…… LISTEN TO HIM.

When my son Harrison was a toddler one of the best ways to get his attention was to say “Come here, I’ve got something to tell you”.  He would stop what he was doing and wait to hear what the news was.

We are invited to stop what we are doing to listen to Jesus.  Jesus said ‘follow me’, here in this great moment the voice of God confirms our calling , ‘listen to Him’.  I like this invitation very much.

  1. I need not be afraid

After the invitation to listen, Jesus’ first words are “Don’t be afraid”.  At this point they are afraid, terrified in fact.  These words of Jesus speak to their current predicament but also to their tomorrow.  Don’t be afraid.

Whatever my situation or predicament.  Whatever lies ahead or whatever has gone before when we listen to Jesus, when we respond to the invitation to participate, to follow, we need not fear.

  1. Only Jesus

As God reveals a measure of His Glory to Peter, James and John they are awestruck.  Peter wishing to memorialize or bring structure to the experience suggests building memorials to Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

I don’t know what Peter was thinking.  Was he imagining the beginning of a Messianic conquest, or did he believe Moses and Elijah had returned for good?  Maybe this was the restoration to the good old days of Israel, no more Roman/Babylonian/Persian rule.

Then God speaks and every word he speaks points to Jesus, the Beloved Son, the focus of Gods delight.  In this great moment forget the structures and plans, forget the past and future, forget who it is you are, forget your heroes of old, forget all that might distract from the focus of Gods delight.  Jesus. Listen to Him.

When they opened their eyes and looked all around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Image:  Some rights reserved by gr33n3gg

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Brilliant Dreamers

“Don’t stop believing…. unless your dreams are stupid”

My favourite moment in this fantastic video that went viral this week.  You will find this Journey(ish) quote just after the minute mark.

Are you a dreamer?  I am!  I can lose hours daydreaming quite easily.    There is much truth in this video, however there is I believe, a hint of a great truth.  In the first world today the preeminent message we receive is don’t stop believing, hold onto your dreams, never let anyone tell you that can’t do it.

Unfortunately as Christians we are tempted to believe that this positive, life affirming message is actually the good news.  We act like God has called us to be achievers, to be successful at whatever we do.  This is not the truth, at least not the whole truth.

Here’s how Jude put it

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. Jude 1:8

We have dreams of preaching to 1000’s, writing a best selling book, leading 20,000 in worship or travelling to the four corners to share the good news.  These great dreams can become what we rely on, the inspiration for our service, the thought that raises our hope.

The Truth

Your dreams are not big enough!

When God invites us to be a player in His story, do we dream up a story of our own?  God has called us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.  He has called us to act as He would, to make disciples, to seek God.

I ask myself:

  • Do I choose brilliance before Christlikeness?
  • Is excellence or success my dream?
  • Do I choose humility and prayer over self promotion and ambition?
  • What do I believe will be the most significant thing I can do in serving Jesus?

In all this I find myself asking “What is my response to the gift of God in my life?”

My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace nor even blessing, but Himself my God     F Brook

A prayer of desire

When I wrote this post about St Ignatius of Loyola I wrote  the following prayer about desire.Flower

I want to be left alone.

I want to be left alone to seek God, to hear His voice and know His prescence.  I want to dwell, rest and dream in His house.  I want to worship in the truth of His worth with eyes opened by His Spirit.  I want to join in the dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I want to move with grace and obedience in the will of the triune God.

I want to serve my family well.  To provide shelter, care and security, to teach and guide, to love and inspire.

I want to live truthfully without guile or contradiction.

I want to learn incarnation.  The gift of being here and now, present in space and time, not living towards or away from, but living HERE. Not disregarding today as unimportant.  Taking hold of today and not letting it go until God is glorified and I have received grace.

Prayers like these reveal our weakness as much as they reveal God’s strength.  Maybe just maybe, if we continue to pray, God will hear from heaven and answer.

I would love for you to comment below, share a prayer or desire that you have.  Maybe you haven’t even prayed it out loud.

Image by ravensong75 used under license

Unhinged

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Eph 3:20-21

UnhingedI find that dismantling these verses and putting them back together helps me greatly.

Firstly we establish with no real stretch of faith that God is able to do all that we ask. Then we widen to the realisation that God can do all that we ask or think (imagine).  I don’t know about you but I can imagine rather a lot.  I can imagine time travel, teleportation (my spell check tells me this isn’t even a word so lets Imagine that it is), my becoming a Jedi Master, visiting Perelandra. I could go on.  More seriously can you imagine an end to civil wars, hunger, betrayal, cancer etc.  How about the transformation of the most evil person into a compassionate father?  God can do all we ask or IMAGINE.

Now Paul not only says that God is able to do more than we can ask or think.  Not just more but far more abundantly or exceedingly abundantly more than all we ask or imagine.  You’re getting the picture right?

????? According to the power at work within us ????????  Now things really start to get interesting.  If we content ourselves to dwell only on the first half of this sentence we can view it as a description of the abilities of God.  However these words reveal the place in which these actions of God take place. Within us.  The power of the “able to do”

Then the finale “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”

The glorification of God is not an event to be anticipated or hoped for.  It is the working of his power in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.  That means yesterday, today, tomorrow.

These verses create in me a picture of a solid oak door frame.  Enduring, powerful, unmoving.  Past, present and future.  So in the light of God’s power at work within us, glorifying Him in all generations, how come we so often seem unhinged?

Take a moment to consider the verses that immediately follow;

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.    Eph 4:1-3

Paul, in the light of God’s incredible power, urges us to walk in correct response to the call (word) of God.  The response? All humility and gentleness, patience and pursuit of unity.  I sometimes wonder if the reason we sometimes feel disconnected from the power of God in our lives is because we simply don’t understand what our response to God’s call ought to be.

If my people will humble themselves, and pray……. then I will

Worthy of the call – Solzhenitsyn August 1914

Worthy of the Call

“But Sukhomlinov had become Chief of the General Staff, and with the ignorant rashness that looked so much like decisiveness had ‘reconciled’ the rival plans: Russia would attack on both fronts at once! ……… (his successor) had gone so far as to give the French a firm understanding that Russia would move against Germany as well as Austria………How long would France remember Russia’s sacrifice, her blood tribute? Knowing all this, you must still show yourself worthy of your calling”*

*from August 1914 (Red Wheel) – A very short but insightful review of the book can be read here

This excerpt from the first of Solzhenitsyn’s Red Wheel series shares the thoughts of Colonel Vorotyntsev as he travels from Army General HQ to the field HQs and beyond to the front line to visit with the commanders in the field. He takes it upon himself to speak with the field commanders directly, taking personal responsibility for the success of the campaign in Prussia.

Vorotyntsev knowing all the errors of judgement made at Army GHQ, can see first-hand the failed communication network which ensures the Russian Army have no idea where their individual battalions are never mind where the Germans might be.  In the midst of total confusion and conflicting egotistical officers Vorotyntsev knows one thing to be true. He must still show himself worthy of his calling.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”    Ephesians 4:1

I am a firm believer that every action we take can only be a response to the actions of God.  God is the initiator.  God is source.  The earth and everything in it was not only created at his word but is also held together by the imperishable Word of God.

That being said I am also a believer that our actions count!  What we do affects the world around us.  We are urged by Paul to live up to the calling we have received.

Paul urges the church ‘to walk’, to act, to move forward in this world.  Our calling is a heavenly one.  A heavenly calling is a calling that comes from heaven.  It is also a calling towards heaven, but it is a calling that is received and responded to on earth.  God has not called us to wait for heaven, he has called us to walk towards heaven in a manner worthy of the call.

For another blog post approaching Ephesians 4:1 from a different perspective try Unhinged

Help from God – Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121Help from God

I have recently found myself thinking a lot about self-sufficiency vs dependence on God. I have always found the concept of relying on God to be a difficult one. I have little patience in life for those who complain about their situation but make no effort to change it and while I am not particularly ambitious or driven I have always attempted to ‘sort stuff out’ as best I can.

I have often wondered if my ‘fix it’ attitude has served to limit the provision of God in my life. In this prayer, the second in the Songs of Ascent, (Psalms 120 – 134) the psalmist contrasts our natural source of protection and strength with help from God.

It’s likely the mountains represented a variety of things to the writer, and to those praying and singing these words en route to Jerusalem. Pagan temples and places of worship sat astride mountains, fortifications and strongholds also. Bandits hid there. Lets face it, on their own with no help from anyone mountains are awe-inspiring, terrifying places.

This Psalm is primarily a song of encouragement and faith that God does indeed help, that we can be certain of his provision and protection, that the one mistake we can make is to believe otherwise. (Eugene Peterson makes this point well in the brilliant A Long Obedience in the Same Direction) I however find the application of this in life (while breathing) quite difficult. I ask myself questions such as, should I not act to sort things out? Should I be waiting for Gods ‘other and better’ solution to problems rather than moving swiftly to resolve?

Does God only appear when we are at the end of our rope, at the end of our natural ability to look after ourselves? If so, am I blessed to be incompetent or is my attitude the deciding factor?

Two thoughts come to mind.

  1. God is acting on our behalf whether we know it or not. Our very breath is from him. All is gift, nothing is ultimately created by me. Perhaps we are to recognise the help (action) of God rather than to receive it. Maybe Gods action is not dependent on either our attitude or need but rather our reception of His help is dependent on having ears to hear and eyes to see what it is that He is doing.
  2. We are taught by Jesus to petition God for our daily needs, not just those that we cannot (in practical terms) sort out for ourselves. There is a dailiness to our need of God. If we find ourselves separate from God waiting for His help there is something wrong with the situation. Understanding that God is often hidden He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Our waiting for help from God must somehow also be a waiting for God in the presence of God

If you want to approach these thoughts from a different angle have a look at this short post about work.

For completion here’s the rest of Psalm 121 don’t forget to remember God will help.

He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.

Image by Mike Baird used under license