Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Midway, Matthew17, and Choices

Our scripture today was from Matthew 17: 1-9
I heard a story recently about a terrible fire in a chemical plant. Several area fire departments responded to the blaze, and quite a crowd from the entire area gathered at a distance to watch. The media was there in helicopters and satellite remote trucks. The president of the company was among the crowd, and he was frantic. He gathered together the chiefs of all the fire departments and explained to them that in the midst of the inferno was a safe that contained all the company’s super-sensitive documents including the top-secret formulas for all their best-selling products. He pledged to give a $500,000 donation to the fire department that brought the blaze under control and saved all the super-sensitive documents in the safe. The chiefs rallied their firemen and women, pulled out all the stops attempting to bring the blaze under control, but it wasn’t happening. The fire continued to rage. After quite some time the crowd heard another siren in the distance that kept growing louder. Before long this old beat up, dilapidated 1930’s style fire engine filled with a bunch of men in their 60’s and 70’s came roaring through the crowd, right past all the other fire departments. The truck didn’t even slow down as it burst through the front door of the plant and right into the middle of the blazing inferno. Everyone, firefighters, media members and the crowd just gasped thinking about what these guys did. However, before long the fire was under control and this group of aged firefighters stumbled out the front of the plant coughing. Everyone cheered their heroic effort. They saved the safe. A few hours later in front of the gutted plant the president of the company handed the 82 year old chief a check for half a million dollars. In the press conference that followed, one reporter asked the chief what they planned to do with that incredible reward. He didn’t even hesitate. "These guys already told me they want to buy a new fire engine that has some brakes!" 

I told you that story for a couple of reasons. First of all, I thought it is a funny story. But more important, there is a lesson we need to learn in it. Every story, every situation, every incident has at least two levels to it. The first level is what happened, the facts of what occurred (Who, what, when, where and how). The 2nd level here is the WHY something happened. It seems to me that why something happen is usually more interesting than what happened, even if what happened is a phenomenal event.
With that kind of thinking process, the Bible becomes very exciting reading to me. Events and situations that could seem like dusty old ancient history come alive with interest and intrigue when you look behind the scenes to the rest of the story. When you read what happened to Jesus and His disciples, it is always interesting to ask the question, "How come God allowed that to happen?" or "Why did God act like that?" Our passage for this morning is a prime example to consider as we think not just about what happened, but why.

Read Scripture:  Matthew 17: 1-9
Now there are three things that I saw in this passage.  1st - God wanted to get Peter, James and John’s attention.  Can you imagine how dramatic this experience must have been to them? God designed this encounter to be something they would never forget and they didn’t.  Would you have?  Long after Jesus had risen from the dead, this scene was still burned in their minds

• John might have been referring to this event - of seeing Jesus’ transfigured - when he wrote to fellow Christians in 1 John 1:5 when he said: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."

And Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:16-18“…we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”  God wanted their attention… and He got it.  God has always put a high priority on getting our attention.
In Isaiah 28:23 He tells His people: “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” Why should we pay attention to God?  Well, Deuteronomy 7:12 says: God has a “covenant of love” He wants to share with us. He wants to give us the full measure of His blessings in our lives because He cares for us.  But the only way we’re going to be sure of getting those blessings is by paying attention and following His commands and desires for our lives.

When we do that God declares: “I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.  So, the question then becomes, do I want God’s plans for my future… or would I rather do it myself? Let me illustrate this.

A boy and his mother were in a drug store and there was candy on the counter and the owner spotted the boy looking at the candy, when the mother went up to pay the owner said to the boy “you want some of this candy”.  The boy nodded, and the manager said “well go ahead and take some”.  Well the boy just stood there, and again the owner said “go ahead and get a handful of candy”.  The boy still stood there then the owner reached in the jar and pulled out some candy and gave it to the boy and the boy filled his pockets. When they got outside the mother said…“Why didn’t you get a handful of candy the man told you it was O.K..”  The boy said, “Because his hands were bigger than mine”.

The choice we have in this life is: do we want God’s plans for our lives, or do we want our own plans instead? If it comes down to a choice, I’d prefer God’s plans. God’s hands are bigger and God’s plans are bigger.
The 2nd thing I saw in the story of Jesus on the Mountain was this:  It’s possible to focus on the wrong things in life. God wants our attention… but too often we get distracted by other things. As one preacher said, we can suffer from a spiritual form of Attention Deficit Disorder.  This spiritual ADD was reflected in Peter’s comment to Jesus in verse 4: “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters— one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”   Now, follow me here. Moses represented the Law and Elijah was a symbol of the Old Testament prophets, and Peter – misunderstanding the message God wanted him to see - wanted to put Jesus on the same level as these great men of old.

But then, the cloud descends… and God makes His intentions clear: “This is my Son… LISTEN to Him”. And when the cloud vanishes… the only thing they see is Jesus.  Peter had been focusing on “good” things. Moses and Elijah were important men who represented the greatest revelation that God had ever given to man up to that point. But as important as Moses and Elijah were… they paled in comparison to Christ.  Moses’ face didn’t shine like the Sun and Elijah’s garments weren’t as white as snow.  It was Jesus that shone with light and glory… not them.  My point is this: It’s easy to get distracted by “good things” in this life and neglect the best that God wants for our lives.
The third thing I noticed about this story in Matthew 17 was that God has one central focus: God said in verse 5: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”   It occurred to me – as I was looking this passage over that Peter, James and John had been in a church like setting for a long, long time. The Mount of Transfiguration seems to have taken place toward the end of Jesus ministry… and so His disciples have been worshipping with Him for about 3 years now.  Do you realize: it’s possible to go to church all of your life, and still not listen to Jesus?  I’ve seen people who’ve done it! They’ll have perfect attendance pins. They’ll be involved in various committees and activities in the congregation. They’ll teach Sunday School or serve on the board. But it’s their Church that’s the “Important” thing in their lives.   They go thru the routine of going to church and they say all the right things at church, but the rest of the week they’ll say hateful things about each other or about others.  They love their church but - never seem to be listening to Jesus.  I don’t know about you but I want to listen to Jesus. I don’t just want to go thru the routine of going to church and fulfilling my religious obligations. I want to actually pay “attention” to what He wants of us.
SO, if you want to “listen” to Jesus here’s where you start… read. Read the Gospels, read some of the New Testament Letters. It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is that you read it with the intention of LISTENING to Jesus; and then find out what He wants you to do in your life. If you want to hear how God calls us over and over into a love relationship, read the Old Testament.
Remember God loves you and calls you to a deeper relationship with Him and accepts you the way you are. I want to close with a story that speaks of this listening relationship we need to have.
In one of the last games that Babe Ruth played he made several errors that allowed the Cincinnati Reds to score the winning run. He had already hit 714 home runs and was world famous, but his throwing arm and his base-running legs were not what they once were. As he walked off the field after the last out some jeers and boos were heard in the stands.  At that moment a boy jumped over the railing and with tears streaming down his face threw his arms about the knee of his hero. Babe Ruth scooped the boy up, hugged him and set him back down on his feet. The noisy fans stopped booing, and a silent, hush fell over the ball park. -+melted the hearts of the crowd.  Like the little boy at the baseball park who accepted Babe Ruth with his slower legs, and faltering arm, God is accepting of us with our sin racked souls. He is more than the God who demands perfection through the law. He is the God who fulfills the demands of the law through the life, death and resurrection of his only son. So let me ask, are you listening to God?







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