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Monday, May 14, 2018

Life on the Mountain...


Our neighborhood has 39 houses and consists of two streets and one entrance and exit.  Our home sits at the far end of the main entrance road, right across the street from the shorter second road in our development.  I have heard that 39 houses is the upper limit of the amount of homes allowed in a development in our county before there has to be a second entrance/exit into the neighborhood.  So, you can rightly imagine that our neighborhood is therefore fairly quiet with a minimum of vehicular traffic.

It is also pretty obvious to see a vehicle… usually a large tractor-trailer rig… that made a wrong turn unto our block.  And with our house’s location at the end of the street we get to watch them attempt to turn around in order to get back to the highway.  I always get a kick out of watching the drivers maneuver their truck around without putting it in our ditch or hitting the neighbor’s trees that line the front of his property!  So far, I’ve only seen one driver with what seemed to be an extended trailer finally give up and back all the way down the road to the entrance.

Well, today we had two garbage trucks on the road at the same time.  I counted one time and discovered that our little neighborhood is serviced by no less than six different refuge pickup firms!  Our service company is a smaller family owned company out of Clayton NC, a city south-east of Raleigh.  The other truck out there today was a Waste Management truck.  So, I had to smile a bit as I thought right here on our little street we have the perpetual battle between a large corporation and the little guy… a family owned business!

Since I had just finished my Bible Study when the two trucks roared down the street, I also began to think of the spiritual value of competing garbage trucks.  It was like there were forces competing to take away our Word-based, spiritual mindedness and throw it in the trash…  Okay… so maybe that’s a little far-fetched, but in reality, it is a battle we face on a daily basis. 

I was led back to Luke 2:18 & 20 over the last couple of days where Luke talks of the shepherd’s following their life-changing visit to Jesus at the manger at the beginning of the New Testament.  Their experience is recorded as saying: “(and) Everyone who heard the shepherd’s story was amazed!  (and) As the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. Everything happened the way the angel had told them. (God’s Word ©)

My first thought when re-reading these verses was that the shepherds were quite amazed and full of praise and wonder as they returned back to their normal lives.  In modern day terms you could say that these men had just had a “mountain top” experience and were now re-entering their regular everyday lives.

That thought reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago when Piper and I were ministering to the youth at our first church in the late 1970’s.  Looking back now, I can see how many people might have thought that we were a little different from most of the members of that Baptist church.  We were very excited for the things of God and took any opportunity we could to be “amazed” by the power and glory of God. 

We started a tradition in our personal ministry back then were we would take the youth and/or college-career groups on a small intimate camping trip for a weekend for a special time of team building, fellowship and a special touch from God.  Since those early years we have gone on quite a few of those exciting campouts!  On the particular conversation I mentioned above, I was talking with a member of the congregation about my desire to keep the “mountain top” experience going in the lives of the youth in the following weeks and months after one of our weekend retreats.

The individual I was with was rather matter of fact in his reply saying simply that it was not possible because “you can’t live on the mountain top but have to return home to reality.”  To him it was a closed case.  He felt that once home, the rigors, temptations and worries and problems of life quickly take away any positive reinforcement you received on the retreat.  But you know… I just couldn’t accept the thought he was conveying… not then and not now!

It took me quite a few years but I finally came up with a process to help keep the fire burning in the hearts and lives of those we ministered to during those small, intimate retreats.  I learned in preparing for a retreat that the retreat starts many weeks before the actual campout and then continues for many months afterwards, back home in our Youth Group’s weekly meetings!

And that is exactly what the shepherds did.  The scripture says that they returned home to their normal lives continually glorifying and praising God over what they saw and experienced while on the “mountain top” in that lowly manger in Bethlehem.  The expression that “they glorified and praised God” means that they “caused the dignity and worth of some person or thing (ie; Jesus and His story) to become manifest and acknowledged (in their personal lives).” (Thayer’s)

We were different to many at that church back then because we would not settle for the lie that one can’t stay excited, expectant and amazed by God and His Word.  Like the shepherds, we chose to keep things stirred up by our lives of praise and worship unto Him.  I like living in a place where there is the expectation of being amazed by the wonders of God… How about you?

The scripture in Luke 2:20 centers around the experience they had just had at the manger with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.  I also thought as I read that verse… “Why can’t we have that same amazing experience and joy (ie; a ‘mountain top’ experience) right after we read the word in the privacy of our homes each day”  Hummm… that’s what I want… You too?

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What is stopping me from expecting to have a ‘mountain top’ experience every time I study God’s Word?”

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