Coming Down the Mountain image

Coming Down the Mountain

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.” (Exodus 34:29)

I love a mountaintop experience! Moments of profound encounter with the Lord are to be relished and treasured. Sometimes they come at unexpected moments, when there is a sudden sense of God’s presence in a special way. Sometimes they are more lingering. Being at the Advance Global gathering last week was more like the later – a whole week of enjoying God with God’s people.

At the end of the week Donnie Griggs delivered what was probably the best end of conference message I have heard. (You can listen to it here.) He spoke from Matthew 17: the account of the transfiguration and the healing of the demon-possessed boy. For the disciples to be invited up the mountain by Jesus was wonderful, but they weren’t meant to stay there – the boy needed healing!

Leaving the mountaintop of the conference was hard. We were with some of our closest friends in the world. There was a terrific sense of purpose in being together. The sense of God’s presence was tangible. Yet that’s not where we were meant to stay.

Since coming back down the mountain I have returned to the normal realities of pastoral life: church systems and processes that need adjusting or fixing; trying to be a friend to the guy who seems incapable of kicking his drug problem; spending time with the person suffering significant mental health issues; encouraging the woman with a sick husband. The mountaintop can look far more appealing than the mission, but it is to the mission we are called.

Some of my Christian friends never seem to go up the mountain: it’s almost as if they don’t believe they have the right to, or even the conviction that they are invited. But others I know want to camp out on the mountain permanently, like Peter offering to make booths for Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Both these approaches are mistaken. Jesus does take us up the mountain with him, but for the purpose of sending us back down again.

I got home from America on my birthday. One of my kids had made a birthday card with a picture of me walking down a mountain in the Alps taken on a family holiday a few years back. A strange coincidence, and a helpful underscoring of what I needed to hear.

You really should listen to Donnie’s message!


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