“Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
–Matthew 18:3 (NLT)
Have you ever thought of Jesus as a retreat leader? Well, if you haven’t, you might want to think about what that means in your life. Here are some ideas that I came up with while studying the account of the transfiguration of Jesus.
Before I share them with you, keep in mind that these ideas are just what the Lord has taught me. God’s Word is eternal, and if something else in the Bible works better for you, go for it. Know that these ideas are meant to be guides, instead of an exhaustive list. Having said that, I would like to summarize what I call the WOW plan.
The transfiguration is more than just a nice story. God longs to speak to all of us on a deeper level. If you are like me, though, you have read this narrative so often that you forget to approach it with the first W, which stands for Wonder. This wonder or awe is imperative, and it speaks to me of the childlike faith which Jesus told His disciples about elsewhere in scripture.
I think we lose sight of wonder because we forget that we are His disciples as much as Peter, James and John were. Everything is so easy now; you just need to download an app, and you can accomplish many things through technology. Because of this, we Christians often forget to take up our crosses on a daily basis.
In the 21st century, we are barraged with all kinds of pleasures, and saying no to our fleshly appitites and desires is extremely difficult. This denial of our flesh is imperative, however, since the simple faith which will open our eyes is not encouraged in our culture. Just as Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain with him after six days, then, we need to take the same climb daily.
Oh, don’t worry–you don’t have to become a mountaineer. This daily journey takes place within your heart. Sometimes giving Christ all of your cares is easier said than done, and that is exactly why we need to leave the pull of the world below.
Climbing the mountain in itself is not enough, however, for as we reach new altitudes, we must concentrate upon Christ alone. This takes us to the next step.
The text tells us that when they reached the top, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
Let’s stop right here for a moment, and think about what Jesus is saying to you and me today. Here’s my own interpretation of His words to you:
“I want to be your refuge and strength, a friend who will walk with you through the valleys of life. Will you let me do this?”
Going on, we read, “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.” Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets, respectively.
They speak to us of the importance of God’s word. But I would like to point out that these were both Old Testament characters. We often short-change ourselves by staying in the New Testament exclusively, and ignoring the treasure found in the Old. I would urge you not to live by experience alone. Study the scriptures, testing all things, and make them your mountain-climbing manual.
Now, back to the story. “Peter said to Jesus, “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.”
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Listening does not ensure the O of the WOW plan, Obedience, but it is the first step on the journey, and the Bible says that obedience is better than sacrifice. But Peter shows here that he’s just as human as you and me. Like him, we often speak when we should be listening to God. This is such a simple mistake that we often overlook it, and then we wonder why He is not speaking to us.
Now think about Pete’s suggestion. His simple sentence led him to create a shelter-building program which God quickly vetoed. I think we are all guilty of getting ahead of God, and sometimes He has to bring us up short.
If you remember, God used a cloud to guide the children of Israel through the night. We need to see, therefore, that we often bring on the night in our own lives when we don’t listen to God. But just as God was faithful to them, He will be faithful to us, as long as we listen to His instructions.
Lastly, when the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell face-down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. He said, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
On an especially good retreat, worship–the final letter in the WOW plan–is a key factor. So while the first disciples fell down before Jesus in fear, we who have the Holy Spirit bow down before Him in worship. Just as Jesus touched the disciples, He touches you and me. His touch tells us that He is our strength, and that we can count on Him alone to guide us through life’s maze. He reminds you and me that He is on our side, while telling us that because He is there, we can face life’s battles.
Since the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher, and all knowledge is a gift from God, He wants to speak to each of us in a personal way. I like to say that He longs to customize His message to the package of our indivigual needs.
Often we get too busy asking for gifts, though, and we forget to thank Him for what we have already been given. All of us can definitely become more thankful, and if we focus on Him alone, He will fill our hearts with an overflowing joy.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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