The Bare Soul - August 9, 2009
God's Mountain Men - Part I

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "God's Mountain Men" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 13, 2009.

God's Mountain Men - August 13, 2009

Matthew 17:1-2 - Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.

Mountains have a way of capturing our imagination. The Psalmist refers to mountains, comparing them to the righteousness of God -- stately in majesty (Psalm 36:6). Many of us that have climbed mountains, either with equipment or as "free-climbers" know the exhilaration of reaching the top. It is truly an awe-inspiring moment. I vividly remember the first of many summits that I ascended. It was November 1976 in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) outside of Estes Park Colorado. Four of us from a local bible college decided to take on Twin Sisters, an 11,428 foot peak. During the late 1970s, the Front Range of the Rockies was in the midst of a drought. Comparatively, little snow had fallen that fall season, so we decided to free-climb the switchbacks to the peak. Bob, our guide, had hiked up to the summit just weeks before with no problems. However, as we progressed we found the snow deepening in various sections shielded by the trees. As we sank knee deep in snow, our thoughts raced back and forth from wishing we had snow shoes and turning around and retreating for the trailhead and the warmth of the car. However Bob was determined to push onward and upward. Once above treeline, we found very little snow on the boulder fields that were swept free by the wind. From there it was a short climb to the top and to the breathtaking view. There was such a feeling of accomplishment that we all shouted with enthusiasm as our voices echoed in the valley below. Twenty-three years later, I would be back in RMNP ascending my first "fourteener" with my brother-in-law Tim as my guide. He had summitted Long's Peak (14,259 ft.) before and led me to the peak, guiding me through the boulder field, the Keyhole, around the Trough and the Narrows and finally to the top. In both my first and latter summits, I was grateful for determined, experienced guides that helped me find my way.

Mountain climbing is not for the faint-hearted. I would compare some of the peaks I have summitted with running some of my faster marathon times. Both demanded a great deal of stamina and fortitude to finish as I raced against either the clock or against the weather to ascend and then descend the mountain, respectively. Matthew tells us nothing of Jesus' motive when leading Peter, James, and John to the top of this high mountain, as described by the author in chapter 17. Six days earlier, they had been given a lesson regarding the cost of discipleship (Matthew 16:24-28). Jesus told them that if they wished to follow Him that they must obey Him implicitly or, as Christ stated, to deny one's self and take up the cross. Undoubtedly, the disciples were perplexed where the Lord might be taking them. Historically, the Mount of Transfiguration is considered to be Mount Tabor which is an 1,800 ft. summit. While this would not be considered a high mountain by many of our standards, it is the second tallest peak in Israel. The journey to the top was without a doubt arduous even as it is today for Christian pilgrims to ascend. Possibly the disciples were muttering on their way up, trying to figure out where their Lord might be leading? After all, there surely weren't any opportunities to minister on the peak of Mount Tabor? It just didn't make sense as it appeared that Jesus seemed to be isolating them from their calling as "holy evangelists". Or, maybe the Lord wanted to "pray" again. (That would mean some "snooze" time for the disciples!) However, once they arrived at the pinnacle they were in for quite a surprise! It was God's will that Jesus be transfigured in their midst that the disciples might see Jesus in His glory. Undoubtedly, all thoughts of a wasted climb to the top of Mt. Tabor vanished as they saw Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in glorious radiance along with hearing the awesome voice of God the Father. Their lives would be forever altered after ascending this famous mount.

As the disciples obeyed Jesus' leading, they were blessed with the wonder of His glory. However, this was merely a token of what God had in store for the apostles. As they would soon find out, it's one thing to climb mountains while following the Lord in obedience -- it's quite another thing to move them! Through their obedient pursuit of their Holy Master, Jesus was preparing them to be true "mountain men". The Lord had previously modeled to his followers the need for seclusion and prayer on the mountaintop (Matthew 14:23). Now, He had brought them to the top of Tabor to show them their respective callings. It was not an accident that three mortal beings ascended that mountain, yet three supernatural manifestations occurred in three persons.

Beloved, at some point in our Christian walk Jesus will desire to lead every one of us up our own Mount Tabor to manifest Himself in a miraculous way. If we are faithful and resolute to follow Him, no matter how hard the climb, we will be delighted upon reaching the apex.  We may not see a transfiguration in the same way as the disciples, however we can be sure that He will show us His glory in the way He sees fit if we will but trust and follow. With the revelation He provides will come the responsibility to partner with Him until He completes His work in and through us (Philippians 1:6). Much in the same way that we behold the beauty of a mountaintop, those of us who are called by His Name must become mountain men and women for God and dare to move mountains once we have climbed them with our Lord. As the apostles later understood, the Transfiguration meant nothing until they too were transfigured to shake the earth for Jesus. Are you a mountain man or woman for Jesus? For only as we follow Him implicitly to the top of our respective Mount Tabor will we truly understand His calling for our lives.

Heavenly Father, make us all desire to be mountain men and women for You. Help us to follow Your Son up and over those pinnacles that may seem daunting and without common sense to traverse. Yet, through Jesus' wisdom may we see the final outcome and the transfiguration that You desire to complete in all your sons and daughters. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

 

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