Be On Guard

Last weekend, my husband and I discovered a beautiful trail outside of Nashville, at Percy Warner Park. The trail is called Mossy Ridge Trail, and it lives up to its name, with elevation changes, streams and mini waterfalls, and lots of moss covered limestone.

We followed the map of the 4.5 mile loop, the first day running it counter clockwise and having more of the steep climbs during the ascension. Temperatures were climbing up in the 80s and we were thankful for the forested shade during most of the trail. So much to see as we were running up and down, over and back, across the rocks, logs, and tree roots. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and prayers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by such natural beauty. We had about 3/4 of a mile left when Tim warns “SNAKE”.

I freeze and see where he is pointing and back up a bit. Wow, he’s a big one! We guessed between 4-5 ft long, but it was hard to tell because he was so curled up. He looked mostly black and of course I asked Tim to dig his phone out and snap some pics of him (her?) so we could later identify him. There were some markings, but not as much as a bull snake usually has… so maybe he is a rat snake. He wasn’t in a hurry to move from the middle of the trail… so with a stick I was able to get him to slither off into the woods so I could pass.

The rest of the run, my eyes were much more wide open, my senses were more alert, and I was definitely looking for the next creature we may encounter. While I don’t have a huge snake phobia, I also don’t love their slithering sneaky creepy ways. Yuck! We live in the country and they are good for mice – I just prefer them to be out of sight in the woods 🙂

The next day we went back for another trail run, and it’s really cool how the opposite direction of the exact same trail can feel different. The climbs are from the opposite direction, the slick downhills are now easier to get up, and while it’s familiar from the day before, it has a newness to it when you experience it from a new vantage point. We are a mile in and I happen to be leading this section (we alternate) and it’s my turn to warn “SNAKE”. Same coloring, but not as big. Again, this guy came out of nowhere and was hard to see at first. He was half in the grassy edge and half on the trail – looking SO SIMILAR to the tree roots around him that were also sprawled across the trail. As soon as he heard me he darted off, and we went on our way.

The next couple of miles I thought about snakes. What makes them creepy, how camouflaged they can be to their surroundings, what they’re good for, why they freak us out, etc. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the run looking out for more snakes. I was much more alert after seeing this second snake on the second day, than after the first snake on the first day. Every tree root sprawling across the path was the next snake 🙂

If snakes give you the heebie jeebies and freak you out, I am sorry!! I will get us to the scripture (stay with me).  In Mark 13, we find Jesus explaining to his disciples about end times and his return. One thing that really stands out to me is there are five different times that Jesus warns them to stay alert and be on guard (verses 5, 9, 26):

See that no one leads you astray, many will come in my name…And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, But be on guard.

After studying this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about our snake encounter, and how we almost ran right into him the first time, not expecting it. We ARE in the woods. We ARE in this snake’s home. Why was it a surprise? And Day Two? Don’t you think I would have been extra aware? But once again I’m running along, taking in the sights, and this snake looked so much like a dark tree root that I almost missed him. These snakes are no dummies… they know how to get a meal, and it’s not with a big flashing sign saying “SNAKE RIGHT HERE”… they’re trying to creep up on their lunch with the art of surprise. And while I know this about snakes, both times I was caught off guard.

The disciples were asking Jesus for a big sign of when these end days of tribulation will come. But Jesus tells them that no one knows the hour of when, but to stay alert and be on guard. He tells them how they will be persecuted and how to handle it. He tells them how there will be false prophets claiming to be coming in Jesus’ name and to not be fooled.

Who me? Fooled by a false prophet? After Jesus specifically warns me? Surely not!

Hello self, you just ran right into a snake, the day after encountering a snake in the same location. Ummm…

Leading up to this journal entry I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to show me false prophets in my life. Specifically, I’ve asked for a spirit of discernment of people, books, pastors, groups, studies, etc, all claiming to be in the name of Christ, but are deceiving and not aligned with the Lord. I need to be more aware, alert, on guard and ready! False prophets aren’t going to be easy to spot, they will be one tiny detail away from truth… or one shade off of white. False prophets will normalize sin, justify the unjust, and try to rationalize the irrational. If they were obvious to see and recognize, Jesus wouldn’t give such a strong warning.

Like I’ve said in many of my posts – I CAN’T WAIT for heaven!! Wonder if there will be snakes there?

Jesus’s Ministry

Jesus’s life between age twelve and age thirty is a bit of a mystery. Nothing was recorded and it leaves me wondering, what was he like as a young man? He was fully God, yet fully man… sin free but still had the full range of human emotions. I remember back to specific points in my life in this span of time and I wonder – did he ever have the same experiences I did? Did his parents continue to worry about him? Did he surprise them again and again, like he did when they found him in the temple? Did he get scraped knees and what about math? Did math come easy to him? Did he have a good friend group that he confided in? Did he tell his parents about the future? It’s pretty amazing that Jesus walked this same earth and lived and breathed just like us.

As we open up to Mark 1, Jesus is 30 years old and this chapter is full of Jesus’s ministry kicking off. His cousin, John the Baptist, has been preaching repentance and baptism to the Jews and prepping the people for Jesus to come. Jesus is baptized and tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Jesus then calls his first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John. They were fisherman by trade, and Jesus instructs them to follow him and become fishers of men, and they immediately obey. I wonder what they thought they’d be doing?!

During this first period of time in Jesus’s ministry, he is teaching and instructing his disciples, performing miracles of healing and driving out evil spirits. He also takes time to step away from the crowds and pray.

One thing that is evident in this chapter is that God had the details planned out. He used John to prepare the people for Jesus the Messiah to come. He prepared the fisherman to become disciples. Jesus waited for the right time to announce “the time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Good News”! John the Baptist and the disciples believed this to be their calling and went forward in faith. Without knowing how Jesus’s ministry would unfold, or how their lives would be impacted, they believed and acted. God had a plan for their lives and used each of them to accomplish his will.

In my early twenties, I worked in Chicago as a project manager. My boss was an executive of a large corporation, with a lot of influence and a lot of responsibilities. it was evident (in no time) that he was a Christ follower and his most important work was to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It wasn’t the Bible on his desk that gave it away – it was how he cared for each person he interacted with, from the doorman to his own boss. He would ask about their family and how he could pray for them. He had real conversations about real stuff, not just pleasantries. He didn’t worry about oversharing or overstepping his boundaries with religion in the workplace – ‘God would take care of that’. Our offices were separated by a thin wall, and for three years I was able to witness his “work”. I learned so much from observation alone – not to mention all the ways he directly mentored and encouraged me. I could fill a book with the scriptures and wisdom he shared – one thing that reminds me of our passage today is a belief he has:

My desk is my alter, my work is an extension of his ministry.   

He believed this and he lived it. He saw his position as one given to him so he could have more opportunities to talk to people about Christ. To help people. To share with people. Yes, he had important business to do, but he had even more important kingdom work to focus on. He reminds me of the fisherman turned disciples… yes, they knew how to fish – but Jesus was teaching them how to REALLY FISH!

I love how God positions each of us to be a part of his kingdom. From John the Baptist, to the disciples, to you and me. It’s pretty humbling that each of us are not just called, but also equipped, to be an extension of his ministry.

 

Go into all the world…

Today’s Reading: Mark 16

As we finish reading through Mark focusing on the words of Jesus has been so many Holy Spirit filled words Jesus spoke that have been so timely and encouraging throughout Mark.  They have been great reminders to help get me back on track and stay focused on an eternal perspective instead of worldly.  Today, in Mark 16 we hear from an angel.  The angel tells Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, “Do not be alarmed… that He has risen, and will see Him again.  The three of them leave trembling and astonished.

According to later manuscripts verses 16:9-20 did not get included.  In the few bibles I reference, Mark 16:9-20 captures the essence of our calling as he reminds His disciples.

V 15 And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

We all have opportunities to share the gospel.  Many times I have this opportunity and blow it.  Maybe it’s my own “self talk” that gets in the way of proclaiming His glory.  It could also being a mindset of bringing someone to Christ by use of the “just right” verses that roll off the tongue just the way I planned.  The truth is I have failed this many times.  A recent conversation I’m planning to continue is with a person that questioned stories found in the bible based on the belief that all you had to do was be good. This conversation could have started a few weeks ago but, I was waiting for that perfect moment. I had planned on asking a faith  We started talking about the bible and the truth behind it.  I quickly started to minimize the conversation as He shared his belief in the human Jesus but not in the spiritual context.  For me, I could really speak only in that moment what I had seen, heard, and felt in my own life.  I could talk of my old life and my new life with a relationship with Jesus.  That we have been made by Him and for Him. How will I finish conversation we started last week? I can share what I believe.  Telling this young man who I believe Jesus is  and what HE has done.  This can all lead into the grace God which can be shown through all of us and how this grace can be given to us all when we repent. Stephanie talked about the victory shown by Jesus when he overcame death.  That Jesus paid the price so that all who believe in Him can be forgiven and live an eternal life.

Here are a few verses to help encourage and support you in a conversation today

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:15 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 

So today an opportunity will come up to share the good news of Jesus. Jesus will be with you in this conversation. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.  Be a brave ambassador and share your person story with others in lives.

The Mystery of Transfiguration

Transfiguration-Raphael 1520

Today’s Reading: Mark 9

“And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. Mark 9:1-8

Hello readers, I’m so happy to write to you again on a Monday morning. We have something big to talk about today, the transfiguration of Jesus. I know, that is just so much for a Monday! So, what on earth is happening here? Let’s start with the whole concept of transfiguration. The word transfiguration comes from the Latin term transfiguratiowhich refers to the experience of momentary divine radiance. Jesus’ core group of disciples Peter, James and John accompany Jesus on an arduous journey up a mountain. When they reach the top they witness the transfiguration of Jesus as well as the appearance of both Moses and Elijah the prophet. The three of them together inherently tell the story of the promise of a life beyond what can be seen and experienced on earth. Moses and Elijah had mysterious deaths as chronicled in the Old Testament. Elijah went physically with his whole body into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12) and Moses’ grave was never found as he was buried by God himself (Deuteronomy 34:4-7). The Jews viewed the appearance of these two pillars of faith to be a sign of the end of days. It’s not an accident that the three of them appear together. Then suddenly the disciples hear God’s voice, “This is my beloved son; listen to Him.” Mark 9:8. Moses and Elijah disappear and Jesus is the only one left. They then begin back down the mountain and Jesus warns his disciples not to share what they have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. What a crazy day on the mountain!

How can we, as modern disciples of Christ make sense of this transfiguration story and apply it to life today? First and most important we recognize Christ’s transfiguration as a sign of hope as the gospel of Mark moves toward the passion. Second, we can draw the conclusion that Jesus’ predictions of betrayal, death and resurrection are accurate. That we can trust His word when He says He will return for us. Finally, this episode at the top of the mountain is evidence to us of God’s faithfulness. God does not leave us without help, guidance and most importantly He does not leave us without hope. Although it may seem that we wait endlessly for God to appear in our own life, maybe we need to trust in the glimpse that others have had. Jesus did not take all 12 apostles to the top of the mountain. But that glimpse is nonetheless a gift to all of us.

When the glory and excitement of that mountaintop moment faded away; Peter, James and John were left with a difficult reality. They had a responsibility to lead the rest of the disciples while their Messiah was dying on the cross. Are we strong enough and brave enough to lead in those dark moments when what’s left is the memory of hope? As we walk in His footsteps, not able to see Him but only remembering His promise, are we still transformed by the vision of Him? The transfiguration of Jesus wasn’t just for Peter, James and John. It was for all of us. We are called to be light and hope for a world that has not seen and has not heard. We are called to dig deep and find that light within our soul, listen to Him and let the vision transform us.