Pay Attention

Have you ever been an eyewitness to an event? You probably can recount it in great detail. When you witness something quite profound, your mind slows down the action and records it in detail, capturing every nuance. I was present when my youngest daughter gave birth to her first born. Even after being with her through 33 hours of labor, I can recall the moment of his birth like I am watching it on a movie screen. That eyewitness event will happily stay with me forever.

Our last devotional dealt with the Transfiguration of Jesus as observed by Peter, James, and John on the mountain top. Today we have an interesting opportunity to revisit that moment through Peter’s own recollection and writing. This passage in 2 Peter is from a letter he wrote to the early Christian community about 25-30 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection. It appears to have been written very close to the end of Peter’s life at the hands of Nero. Many stories had been circulating for years about the crucifixion, and as stories go, most had been amplified or suffered from omissions. He made the case to his listeners that regardless of what stories or “crafty myths” they have heard, they should now listen to his eyewitness account of the incident:

2 Peter 1 (Common English Bible)

16 We didn’t repeat crafty myths when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to him from the magnificent glory, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. 

I appreciate Peter’s concise recollection of the Transfiguration and how he fails to mention that in the heat of the moment, he suggested that three shelters might be built so that they could all set a spell. How often do we retell a story in a way that makes us look better than what actually took place? Of all the things I love about Peter, that fact that he is so much like me is my favorite. But he speaks the important truth from the on-the-scene perspective, erasing any doubt about what happened there.

19 In addition, we have a most reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, just as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Most important, you must know that no prophecy of scripture represents the prophet’s own understanding of things, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will. Instead, men and women led by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

There were over 322 prophetic writings in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled everyone. Combined with what Peter saw with his own eyes, we are instructed to pay attention to it as we would to a lamp shining in a dark place. Peter then adds weight to his words by reminding us that men and women receive prophecy not through their own study and understanding of events, by God himself as conveyed by the Holy Spirit.

What is God telling you to pay attention to today? Are you overlooking something you need to attend to? Is there someone you could be encouraging and supporting who needs to hear from you? Is he calling you into prayer?

Whatever it, is pay attention to these urgings of the Holy Spirit and get it done. He just might be calling you to your own mountain top.

Mountain Top Moment by Kathy Schumacher

Follow the Directions

Have you ever been led astray by your GPS? When the GPS first became popular there were several reports of people following GPS instructions and driving into a lake or going the wrong way on a one-way street. Even with outstanding advancements in technology, it can sometimes be hard to get to a place if the technology is faulty or if you enter the wrong address.

When I first moved to the Outer Banks eleven years ago there were parts of Southern Shores that were not on the satellite maps. I spent one frustrating afternoon trying to visit a church member only to have to return to the church to get directions. I was using one of the older free-standing GPS units and I had left my cell phone at the church, so I couldn’t call anyone for directions. By the time I got back to my office it was too late for the visit and I was in tears. So much for advanced technology!

Isaiah was an 8th Century prophet who was the voice of God’s concerns during the Babylonian exile. His basic function was to be a GPS to the Israelites. He gave words of direction, instruction, and hope during the dark time of exile from Israel. The people of the diaspora desperately wanted to return home. They were looking for a way back. They needed a GPS to direct them to the holy mountain. Then came good news: insiders and outsiders alike were called to come to worship.

Isaiah 56 (The Message)

“And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
    working for me, loving my name,
    and wanting to be my servants— All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,
    holding fast to my covenant—
I’ll bring them to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.

The outsiders are us, folks. The Gentiles and outcasts who chose to follow God received an amazing offer to enter into the house of worship.

Here is the map for both insiders and outsiders to follow, laid out in two steps.

  1. Keep the Sabbath and don’t defile it.

2. Hold fast to my covenant.

Sabbath-keeping is so important to God. It is a mandatory respite from our busy life that directs us to intentionally stop everything and focus solely on God. Many of you will remember “blue laws” that required that everything shut down on Sundays. By removing all temptation, families couldn’t defile the Sabbath with distraction, leisure, or (worst of all) work.

God’s covenant was spelled out to the people in the Ten Commandments. By following God’s law, people could find their way into God’s house and remain there all of their days.

They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’
    to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar. Oh yes, my house of worship
    will be known as a house of prayer for all people.”

Here’s the best part. The house of worship becomes a house of prayer for ALL people. Imagine it! If we were to follow the directions laid out for us in this passage, we could be gathered together into a house of prayer for all people.

The Decree of the Master, God himself,
    who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather others also,
    gather them in with those already gathered.”

What do you need to do today to re-direct your life so that you are headed in the right direction? What does God’s covenant mean to you? Are you loving God and loving neighbor in everything you do? Are you defiling the Sabbath or keeping it holy?

All are welcome to worship in the house of prayer, where there is plenty of joy to go around. Come! Now is the time to worship and pray.

Let Us Go Up to the Holy Mountain by Becca Ziegler