JOY TO THE WORLD

When Isaac Watts was a young man, he became dissatisfied with the quality of singing in the British churches.  The songs sung were almost entirely taken from the Psalms in Scripture which were translated into poems with rhyme and rhythm so that they could be sung.  Watts, therefore, began writing hymns to be sung that were outside the Psalter thereby “inventing” the English hymn. 

Nativity with angel and wisemen

He did not ignore the Psalms, however.  In 1719, Watts wrote Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.  In this work, he paraphrased 138 psalms from the perspective of his New Testament faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Watts stated that: “I have rather expressed myself as I may suppose David would have done if he lived in the days of Christianity.” 

The hymn “Joy to the World” was included in Watts’ work and it describes the incarnation of Christ, the presence of Christ in our hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ as described in the book of Revelation. 

Psalm 98 depicts the salvation of God in three tenses:

  1. Salvation in the past for the people of Israel (verses 1-3)
  2. Salvation in the present for all the earth because God is King (verses 4-6) and
  3. Salvation in the future for the entire universe because God will be coming to judge at the end of time. (verses 7-9)

In other words, Christ is not just a Babe in the manger.  Christ is our Savior and, as such, He is the Victorious Warrior and Judge who is the fulfillment of David’s prayer for righteous deliverance.

Christ has won the battle.  It is the Lord who completed the prophesy of Genesis 3:15 as the One who put enmity between the serpent and the woman.  Both the carol and Psalm 98 tell us what our response should be to such great salvation given by our God.  For the Christian, the carol rightly proclaims Joy, which is our gift from God because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

God’s covenant people in all nations and of all tongues joyfully tell of His salvation and righteousness, His sovereign reign and judgment.  When we consider God and all that He has done on our behalf, both in the past and in the present, we cannot possibly do anything other than praise and worship Him.

Even nature joins in the celebration of praise.  Nature gives God praise because God is its creator. 

Paul says in Romans 8:18-23 that all creation waits and longs for the return of the Lord.  When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, all creation including nature was corrupted.  But, when Jesus Christ returns as the triumphant victor over sin, the creation will be released from bondage and will receive the freedom of the glory of the Lord.

Psalm 98 envisions the glorification that is referenced centuries later in the New Testament writings and to which we are still looking forward to with eager anticipation:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22:20 

Here is “Joy to the World” from the Christmas program entitled “The Joy of Christmas”, as sung by the choir of my home church and as accompanied by members of the Knoxville Symphony. 

Scripture says:

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance” (Proverbs 15:13) and

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Psalm 33:3)

May this Christmas season find you praising the Lord and singing carols and hymns, even if you can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  The Lord looks at your heart, so He will know you are praising Him no matter how it sounds to those around you!

Cheerful countenance and loud shouts!  That sounds like joyful praising to me!

Father, thank You for the One who provides true joy to us daily and for the joy that comes eternally through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Christmas is a time of joy, of singing robustly about the Babe who came to earth 2000 years ago and is the Savior of mankind.  So, it is a bit unsettling when we hear the opening strains of the carol “What Child is This?” because the tune is set in the key of F minor.  We wonder why the soul-searching question at this time of joy and celebration. 

The answer to the title question and the somber mood is dispelled by the chorus which proclaims “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.”

The tune is an old British tune called “Greensleeves”, which originally was a ballad about a man pining for his first love, the Lady Greensleeves.  It has been said that the tune was penned by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn.  While this is not likely, what we do know is that Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, danced to the tune.

We also know that Shakespeare referenced the song in the play The Merry Wives of Windsor

The tune was first printed in 1580 and in 1647 it first became associated with Christmas, with words other than those we know today.   “What Child is This” has been sung to the tune “Greensleeves” for over 150 years.

The words of the carol are taken from a longer poem that was written by William Chatterton Dix.  Mr. Dix was born in Bristol, England in 1837 and earned his living by working as an insurance agent after he moved to Glasgow.  His greatest love was writing prose and poetry that praised Christ Jesus.  He wrote two devotional books and scores of hymns including two Christmas carols that we still sing today, “What Child is This” and “As with Gladness Men of Old”.

The scripture text that forms the basis of the carol is Luke 2:9-18.  Verse 18 reads:

“And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

Luke 2:18 

nativity-carved-into-olive-tree-wood
Nativity scene carved into olive wood tree in Bethlehem.

What child is this?  That was the question that the people 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and, later, throughout the land pondered. 

  • Jesus the baby in the manger grew into Jesus the youth who remained in the temple amazing the teachers at His understanding of the Torah. Luke 2:41-50
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the carpenter’s son who taught in a way that befuddled the hometown folks. Matthew 13:33-36
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the One who had authority so that even evil spirits obeyed His command. Luke 4:36
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29
  • Jesus the baby in the manger became the resurrected Christ who was taken into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. Mark 16:19

What child is this?  While the inquiry begins as a question from the dark, the answer is illuminated through the joyous response “This is Christ the King!”

Listen as the carol “What Child is This” is presented to you by the Canterbury Choristers directed by Dr. Newell Wright.

Father, I praise Your name for the gift of the baby in the manger who became my Savior and Lord.  May my Christmas celebration be glorifying to You.

SEASONS – GOD SENDS THEM ALL.

In the English language, we use the word “seasons” with reference to many different things.

For example, we talk about the season of childhood, when new things are learned and experienced every moment of every day.  Sometimes those lessons are hard and painful, other times they are fun and silly.

2008 - 12 Mom and Dad 071
The child wanting to be like the big boys!

Then there is the adolescent season, when lessons are a bit more difficult and the consequences are more far-reaching but also where we have unbounded energy and dreams of exciting days ahead.

Baseball - batter up
When learning skills that will enrich them long after adolescent years have passed.

We later arrive at the season of adulthood where we are still challenged with new problems and adventures [I am thinking about adjusting to technology here!].  Disappointments may arise when we are downsized from a long-held job.  Hardships may come when physical disabilities are hampering living life to the fullest.  Tears may fall as the child has to become the parent as dementia takes over the mind of a loved mother or father.

No matter what season of life we are in, God is there with us.  David writes:

“He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.”

Psalm 21:4

There is the season for work and accumulation of wealth.  But when we think we have arrived, we must take a second look at the situation:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'”

Luke 12:19-20

Many are the souls that work hard, care for their family, accumulate goods and money in the bank, without regard to caring for their soul.  It is paramount that we remember this world is not the end … as wonderful as it is, we will all perish and spend eternity somewhere.  Bank accounts won’t matter there – what matters is the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

We use the word “seasons” to talk about various holidays and celebrations.  In the United States, for example, we have the season of Thanksgiving, a day when we recall those first settlers from Europe who endured hardships and forged the basis for our country to grow. We give thanks to God for His providence in preserving and sustaining those early settlers.  Often the meal centers around the Thanksgiving turkey!  (Of course, every day should be a day of thanksgiving, not just one time per year!)

Thanksgiving turkey ready to consume (C)
Mouths are watering, getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast!

On the heals of Thanksgiving we have the season of Christmas, the time we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a time to focus on the advent of our Lord, the ultimate gift of God to us.  The Christmas tree and representations of the nativity scene are found in many homes across the country.

USED Christmas tree and decorations
The decorations are ready, the nativity scene is set — praise the Lord for His Advent!

A sweet description of the season of the blessed life is found in the very first psalm in Scripture.  David, in speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God, says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Psalm 1:1-3  

God is in all our seasons.  He is the one who gives us life and breath.  He gives us security when we follow Him and walk in His Ways.  This verse does not mean that God promises that we will have material wealth here and now.  This is not the prosperity gospel from the Old Testament. 

Rather, God is speaking of prospering us in spirit, the ultimate evidence of this is the gift of Christ as our atoning sacrifice so that we can approach God in prayer and so that we will be accepted into heaven because we have been adopted by God into the family of the Lord.  Adoption as a child of God is true prosperity and security.

Father, thank You for giving me the security of being a child in Your family.  I love You and praise my Lord and Savior for all that He has done.  Help me to see Your Hand in all the seasons of my life and may I live each day You give to me to the honor and glory of Your name.  I can only do that through the power of Your Son, and my Savior.

 

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

500 years and counting!

Just a short note to say that Today, October 31, is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  October 31, 1517, marked the beginning of the unveiling of the light of the gospel that had been hidden during the dark Middle Ages.  It was a day that resulted in being able to spread the word that salvation is available through faith alone in Christ alone.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther stood up and faced the authorities, challenging them to accept Scripture as God’s Word and the sole guidance for our life and as the rule for our faith.

He also penned multiple hymns, the most famous of which is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, based on Psalm 46.  This hymn celebrates the sovereign power of God over all earthly and spiritual forces, and it highlights our sure hope that we have through Jesus Christ.   It is said that Luther’s hymn was on the lips of the people and that it encouraged the faint-hearted, bringing strength to fight the battle of the Lord.

It was sung at Augsburg during the Diet, and in all the churches of Saxony, often against the protest of the priest.  It was sung in the streets; and, so heard, comforted the hearts of Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger, as they entered Welmar, when banished from Wittenberg in 1547.  It was sung by poor Protestant emigrants on their way into exile, and by martyrs at their death.  It is woven into the web of the history of Reformation times, and it became the true national hymn of Protestant Germany.

Studies of Familiar Hymns, by Louis F. Benson, D.D., The Westminster Press, 1903, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” at page 159.  

Listen to this wonderful hymn and praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!

Here is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as presented on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort, (Concordia Publishing House). 

As you listen to this wonderful hymn, praise our God for the work of Luther and the other Reformers 500 years ago.  Then, praise God for His preservation of His Word and for His marvelous Gift to the children of men!   Now, work for God’s kingdom and pray that 500 years from now, if the Lord has not yet returned, the light of the Reformation will still shine out over our planet!

Praise the Lord!

UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

REFOCUS ON CONTENTMENT

Have you ever given your young child or grandchild a shiny quarter with their eyes open wide at the wonder of the coin in their hands?  Then, when we are a bit older, we receive our first paycheck.  No matter the work, you remember the first time you see a check with your name on it because we are seeing the fruit of your labor.

Something happens as we move on with our life.  Suddenly we realize that we don’t have that same joy over our situation as we did when we were young.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Rather, it is as old as mankind itself.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV. 

Adam and Eve had everything at their disposal, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Seems like they would be contented, doesn’t it? 

Ozark Mountain River
Mountain River in the Ozarks

But then came the serpent who misquoted God when he asked “Did God really say …?“

Ultimately, Eve’s eyes were refocused:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:1-6 ESV.  They became discontented when they looked at the one thing they could not have and desired it so much that they disobeyed their Creator God to get it.  Of course the result of that disobedience was swift punishment – expulsion from the garden accompanied by hard work and labor.

Contentment.  Why was she not content with what she had?  Because she looked at what she did not have instead of what she had.

Yosemite water fall and downsream 2011 (C)
Yosemite National Park waterfall and downstream.

How much happier would we be if we were content with what God has given us rather than comparing our condition with others, specifically with others who we believe are more wealthy, more healthy, more wise, more … whatever, than we are.

Jesus said:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33 ESV

Think about what the Lord endured for you and for me.  Then look at what He has blessed you with … even the hard things and know that nothing can compare with what He went through.  Praise Him for all things, and you will see that your joy has returned and you are contented in a way that was inconceivable before.

Relax, you know that your Savior and your Heavenly Father know you better than you know yourself!  The Holy Spirit will provide that which you need most.  Seek first the kingdom of God and all the rest will fall into place.

USED Asleep on daddy's lap - snickers
Contentment — Snickers is asleep on Daddy’s lap.

Contentment comes when we focus on our Lord Jesus Christ and rest in Him.   

Father, forgive me when I have focused on things that I don’t have or can’t do rather than focusing on You and giving thanks for all the marvelous blessings You shower upon me each moment of every day.  Refocus my attention on You and away from that which would cause discontent and unrest.  Thank You for Your love, grace and mercy.

SIGNS AND DIRECTIONS

 When we were in England, we saw several “roundabouts” which delineated the proper route to take at, what we in the United States would call, an intersection.

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

It is important to follow the signs, and this one was one of the more clear-cut signs that we encountered. 

Society sets out these signs to dictate to us how to travel, how to negotiate from one place to another, how to get us where we want to go via the safest route available. 

It is clear that the land planners have concluded that it is appropriate for the proper flow of traffic that vehicles on the highway move in one direction on that part of the road, the vehicles exiting where appropriate to continue with their trip.  While some people may find it offensive to have their direction of travel dictated by “the government”, there can be no real opposition to the concept that the direction of travel at that spot on the highway must conform to the roundabout’s directive or there will be serious mishaps with property damage and potential loss of life. 

Steven Wright, the erudite American scientist and humorist described travel in this way:

“When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”

While this is certainly true on the highway, his statement could also be speaking of a wider application, such as a consideration of whether your positions and opinions are in the mainstream or in opposition to society.

In thinking about the Christian life, I would submit that Mr. Wright’s comment is spot on.  If we are following the crowd, if we are following the dictates of the culture, if we are joining in with society’s standards, values and positions, everything might be coming our way, but we are in the wrong lane – we are not on the road to righteousness, and we are not on the path of a life with Christ that leads to eternal life. 

Rather than following the crowd, the Christian would do well to remember what God says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, as Christians we must not presuppose that our culture’s standards, ethics, values and morals are those of the Almighty God.  He is above our finite world and His ways are very different than ours. 

Mark Twain expressed this thought:

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority it’s time to pause and reflect.”

Jesus talked about the majority position and its popularity when He said:

Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14.

The fact that our ways are not those of God is highlighted by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus provides a glimpse into what God blesses, and illustrates that God’s ways are counter-cultural to be sure.  Here are just a few of the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5, and I am using the Amplified Bible for this quotation:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever] [Luke 6:20-23]. 

Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they shall be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. [Isaiah 61:2]    

Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the meek (or humble, gentle) [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they shall inherit the earth. [Psalm 37:11] 

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they shall be [completely] satisfied.

Matthew 5:3-6.

So, what direction are you going?  What path are you following? 

Be counter—cultural.  Follow Jesus.  Take the roundabout that leads to the narrow path, and you will be blessed.  Jesus said it, so you can believe it.

Father, help me to follow You as I live in this world.  May my walk reflect Your ways even if that means it runs totally counter to society’s mandate.  May I have the strength and will to follow You, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

ARE YOU ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD?

Many years ago, like in the 1970s, there was a song sung by Karen Carpenter called “Top of the World .”  The lyrics for the chorus of this song were:

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation, and the only explanation I can find, is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around, your love’s put me at the top of the world.

We often want to be on the top of the world, don’t we?  For most of us, that is simply a wish that we could get out of the dismal surroundings that confront us on a day-to-day basis.  We want to be taken out of our current situation and put on top of it so that we won’t have to deal with the issues, be hurt by others, face difficult consequences, etc.  We will be on top of the problem and it won’t be able to adversely affect us anymore.

A picture that comes to my mind when I think of escaping to the top of the world is that of  the Meteora Monasteries in Greece.  These monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church were built high above the ground between the 14th and the 16th centuries.  In fact, they are about 1,300 feet above ground.  Wars and invasions were the norm, so having the monastery up above the fray was a way to minimize distractions, enable the monks to meditate more effectively, and, not at all an insignificant concern, it provided them a place of safety because of their incredible isolation from the world below. 

monastery-of-the-holy-trinity-meteora-greece
Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora, Greece, a 14th century monastery on the cliff tops.

In fact, goods and supplies, as well as visitors to the monasteries, were transported to the top by way of ladders lashed together and baskets tied to ropes, which were then hoisted to the top via pulleys.  Now there are steps for easier access to some of the monasteries, but hundreds of years ago the way to the top was, indeed, formidable. 

For more information, see the CNN Travel article about this area at http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/meteora-greece/index.html 

It is indeed enticing to be on “top of the world”.  But is this where we are to stay?  Is this following the mandate that our Lord gave to His disciples?  I think not.

Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, He and his disciples were gathered together and He gave them His final instruction:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

We are to go and make disciples, this is what the Lord commanded.  This does not sound like we are to retreat from involvement with people, does it?

In a prior post we looked at living in a cave, something that has been done throughout history. Even King David hid in a cave when hunted by Saul.  Thus, he spoke from experience when he said in Psalm 139: 

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

Psalm 139:7-8 ESV

Simply put, we cannot run from God.  He is with us and sees us in the cave as well as on top of the mountain. 

I certainly do not deny the good work that the monks have done, and are still doing, in the Greek Orthodox Church worship that occurs in these monasteries.  Indeed, a retreat to the mountain top is exhilarating and we can experience God in a new way by stepping out of society and into a meditative cocoon, into silence and tranquility so that we can hear God’s “still small voice” [1 Kings 19:12] as He speaks to us in the way He has done through the millennia. 

But, ministry, the work of the Lord in His world and the fulfilling of His command to His disciples, requires that we interact with those who are lost, who do not have a life-giving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It requires that we go out of the place of worship and into the world; it requires that we be the light guiding others to Christ; it requires that we be the salt that heals and preserves as we introduce the Lord Jesus to those who do not know Him by our words and our lifestyle witness.

Whether it is a cave or a mountaintop retreat, we need to come out and interact with people as we make disciples. We should obey the Lord’s command, because we love Him; and we should do it all to the glory of the Father, the Almighty God.

Father, I pray that You would enable me to honor Your Son, Jesus Christ, as I live before others in the power of His Spirit.  May my witness be glorifying to You and may Your Spirit bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.