Lord, it is good for us to be here…

Posted: May 18, 2010 in christian living, Jesus

Lord, it is good for us to be here…

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” – Matthew 17:1-4 NKJV

It was a warm summer’s night on the Detroit riverfront. A dozen or more brethren from different fellowships had gathered there to preach the Gospel as was our custom to do. We had brought a cooler with food and bottled water for the many homeless in the area along with a PA system, Bibles, and Gospel tracts. In some ways this was a typical night, but to me it stands out among many like it. The presence of the Lord was so extraordinary during this summer that it felt like revival had fallen (and it had in many of our hearts) and the Lord bore witness to His word as the saints gathered to glorify Him and boldly preach the Gospel as it ought to be preached.

As a dear brother of mine was preaching that night a dispute broke out between two homeless men. One man thought my brother should shut up immediately while the other thought they should hear him out. The man who was most upset had a knife on him and the situation was turning very ugly. My brother stopped preaching, started talking with the angry man and before I knew it I saw them sitting off to the side, the angry homeless man eating a sandwich, tears in his eyes, as my brother sat there with his arm around his shoulder. I saw Jesus at work in a special way through His body at that moment.

Later that night as I preached over the PA a fairly large crowd had gathered to listen and a man walked past me apparently laughing very hard. He stopped and started to come back towards me and I thought I was in for a confrontation from a heckler. As the man approached me it turned out that he was actually weeping. He cried out “everything you are saying is true, I am lost in sin”. The man had recently lost his job, home, family everything because of alcoholism. We went and sat off to the side and talked and prayed for him. The power of God fell while we were praying and the man instantly became sober. He said “what is this that I feel, I have never felt like this before”. We explained to Him the presence of God, His Holy Spirit, and that the man must cast himself on Christ to receive a true and lasting peace. We also warned him that something worse might happen to him if he did not depart from his sin. We left him with my cell phone number as we encouraged him to head to the mission to spend the night and enter into a Christian rehabilitation program.

That night was like a page out of the New Testament and like Peter I wanted to set up the kingdom of God on earth right then and there. After praying with that man I walked over to the water’s edge and leaning against the railing closed my eyes. All was well with my soul, I thought “Lord, come back now or take me home, I am ready”. My heart was one with God in Christ, His presence was so near that I thought it would be a relatively minor thing to step out from time into eternity into His presence. Then just a couple of hours later when it was time for the long drive home things quickly changed. As I walked back to the car with the brother and sister that had driven with me a man and woman sitting on a bench threatened us that we would be shot if we came back there to preach the Gospel again. Thoughts of being followed home and my family murdered filled my head as I walked the rest of the way to the parking garage. As we approached the car I desired only to load it up and get out of there as quickly as possible though I gave no outward indications of this. While we were loading up the car the brother who I was with said to me something like “I know you’re to mature to have to deal with stuff like this, but sometimes I get scared when we come down here”. Little did he know at that very moment I was trembling like a baby inside, apparently irony knows no bounds.

Fast forward a year…

I had lost much of my health do to a somewhat strange illness. This had made it difficult to go to work and raise my family let alone spend hours traveling to continue with the street ministry. At the same time my wife’s little sister, whom we raised in our home like a daughter, became like a Demas and struck her hand against us. She also helped to turn other believers in our fellowship against us for selfish gain and soon we were back in the wilderness, alone. This added sorrow to sorrow for us as our lives became almost unbearable with grief. What a difference a year makes! The cry of my heart was no longer a blissful wish for the tents of Gods kingdom to be pitched on a riverfront but only a faint and mournful cry for the mercy and comfort of God to somehow uphold me and keep me from falling into utter despair and ruin.

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” – Matthew 17:5 NKJV

Looking back on this account of the transfiguration, I know from that night on the river a (very) small bit of how Peter felt at that moment and why he would want to pitch tents and keep the exceeding glory of the moment from passing. Yet the eternal God cuts off such an idea mid sentence and instead thunders forth that Peter would “hear Christ”. Saints it is so easy when we come to a place where we are so satisfied in the presences of Christ and everything seems so perfect to want to pitch a tent and stay in that place. This seems to be the same false idea Peter had when he sought to keep the Lord by his side and from being crucified, only to be rebuked with “get behind me satan”. I imagine the night Peter stood around a fire trying to warm his hands after the Lord had been betrayed. “I tell you the truth I don’t know that man Jesus” he called out three times in a night… what a cowardly departure from calling for the kingdom of heaven to pitch its tents on the side of a mountain!

Yet it was through all this that Peter apparently did learn to hear Christ as the Father had commanded, as His first epistle bares witness to:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ -1:6-7

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps -2:21

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. -4:12-13

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. -4:19

Peter had clearly heard the call of Gods beloved son who has called us to follow in His footsteps, to sometimes be rejected (even by his dearest saints like Peter for a season) and to carry a cross. This is not a call to find a perfect place where we are comfortable and to stay there for the rest of our days on this earth, though I thank God for those times and seasons of natural peace. There is little growth in such a place as that though. Instead there is growth on cold nights as we gather around the fire to keep warm with the mocking world (and worldly church) and hear the young maiden whisper “weren’t you with that man Jesus”. There is growth in trials, temptations, and persecutions, as the scripture rightly prescribes that we must suffer many things to enter into the kingdom of God. Not as a matter of earning our way into the kingdom but of God molding us into the image of Christ, teaching us to trust Him in hard times, to cleanse us of anger, bitterness, and every other selfish work of the flesh. It seems like after we go through these times we really learn of a greater inward peace and steadfastness in Christ that does not depend on the circumstances around us.

Yet I think it is even more than that still. Just as it is written (and should be understood in the proper context) that Christ was made perfect through His sufferings, so also God the Father was greatly glorified through those sufferings. In the eternal plan of the Gospel it seems it is appointed for God to be glorified through our sufferings too in a way that He could never be glorified if we were always camped out on the side of a mountain serving Him with no troubles. I am not talking about going out and finding ways to suffer for Christ either. We need not (and dare not) seek out our own trials and seasons of grief. If we belong to Him our steps are ordained already and we need only pick up your cross in faith and follow where He leads.
God knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust and will not allow us more struggles then He does grace to overcome them even if we don’t feel that way while we are suffering.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. – Matthew 17:6-8 NKJV

  1. Mark says:

    Wow! I loved this… thank you for this. This is what serving others toward Jesus is all about… praise God for you and your ministry.

  2. ian vincent says:

    Edifying, brother. How lovely on the mountains (and sidewalks) are the feet of him who brings good news.

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