Category Archives: Mountain God

Mountain God 6: Facing Idols (1 Kings 18)

elijah-and-prophets-of-baal“It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.” So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Nobody said a word; nobody made a move” (1 Kings 18 The Message).

Idols.  False gods. We all have them. We live in a world worshiping at the altars of many self-created gods and goddesses we turn to for life, meaning, fulfillment, cheap thrills and pleasure.  Money. Sex. Power. Popularity. Body Image. Eternal Youth. Most of us simply keep our own Ego on the throne of our lives and serve our own desires and longings.  

Today we marched up to another high peak and found a nice spot to sit and dig into this famous “Show down on Mount Carmel” between Elijah, the prophet of God and our hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah.  With our cell phones, televisions, iPods, Facebook and other daily distractions and entertainment far away, this was a good time to do some serious soul-searching and perhaps decision-making.   Continue reading Mountain God 6: Facing Idols (1 Kings 18)

Mountain God 5: God’s Quiet Whisper (1 Kings 19)

hearingc“Then Elijah was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper” (1 Kings 19).

 Here we sit around a warm fire some 11,000 feet above sea level.  The evening is quiet as the breeze has died down for our evening devotions.  God sits in with us for the conversation; for God loves this particular topic and is glad we have chosen this story tonight.  The topic is “Hearing from God” and the story is of Elijah.  

We live in a noise world that worships the five natural senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.  The problem arises when we rely on these natural senses when approaching the supernatural.  The world is brimming with the presence of God and his invisible angels.  But this much is clear: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). 

So, as we sit around this fire and read this story of Elijah in dire need of hearing from God, we are reminded that God does not reveal himself in ways we might wish he would.  Faith exercises a sort of “sixth sense” that transcends the natural senses.  Oh, how we wish God would just show Himself plainly in a powerful wind, a mighty earthquake or a blazing fire. God has indeed resorted to burning bush appearances and fiery, mountain shaking theophanies.  

But Elijah discovers the all-too-true reality of God’s presence and voice.  God’s presence usually comes without pyrotechnics, great fanfare and visible signs.  He whispers to our hearts through inaudible words of assurance.  We sense his quiet presence through inexplicable inner nudges.  We “hear” God’s voice much as we feel strong convictions in our soul and internalize truths that set our hearts on fire and move us to action.  

Tonight we lift our eyes to the stars and ask God to speak to us in that quiet, inaudible whisper.  We need no outward sign tonight.  The stars speak plainly enough to his unsurpassed majesty.  The gentle breeze on our skin is enough to feel his grace.  The rain drops pattering on the tent as we fall asleep remind us that he is a God who makes things grow and flower.  

Lord, quiet our hearts and silence the noise of our anxious thoughts so we can hear your quiet whisper tonight.

Mountain God 4: Faith & Obedience (Genesis 22)

abrahamI’m reposting this series from 2009 when I was a youth pastor leading a trip to Colorado. Enjoy! -JB

After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!” “Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” 2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.” Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him… The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed” (Gen 22:1-5, 15-18). 

 As you read this post we are most likely resting against a hard rock, or cooling off in s nearby stream, perhaps telling stories around a campfire.  As I momentarily slip away from the group to gather some wood for the fire I’m reminded of our ancient father Abraham who obediently woke up early that fateful morning to chop wood and head off to his own mountain of testing to build a most unthinkable fire — a sacrificial fire for his precious son Isaac.

Why did Abraham go through with it? Continue reading Mountain God 4: Faith & Obedience (Genesis 22)

Mountain God 3: A Holy God (Exodus 19)

Moses on Mt. Sinai

I’m reposting this series from 2009 when I was a youth pastor leading a trip to Colorado. Enjoy! -JB

God said to Moses, “Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready (i.e., “consecrate them”) to meet the Holy God. Have them scrub their clothes so that on the third day they’ll be fully prepared, because on the third day God will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people. Post boundaries for the people all around, telling them, ‘Warning! Don’t climb the mountain. Don’t even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain dies—a certain death. And no one is to touch that person, he’s to be stoned. That’s right—stoned. Or shot with arrows, shot to death. Animal or man, whichever—put to death.’ “A long blast from the horn will signal that it’s safe to climb the mountain.” Moses went down the mountain to the people and prepared them for the holy meeting. On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God” (Exodus 19 The Message). 

Oh, how we need a reminder of the unapproachable, untouchable, absolutely unequalled holiness of the Living God!  All Christians, pastors and preachers  of every persuasion (myself included) tend toward one of two extremes when it comes to our perceptions of the character of God.

Some emphasize the sovereign, severe, holiness of God.  My Reformed friends constantly remind me of these characteristics of God.  They have not lost track of passages like this great and awesome theophany — the God whose presence is accompanied by “loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast.”  When was the last sermon you heard that concluded with a warning to be careful or you may “be shot with arrows, shot to death”?

Yet, many of us today slide over to the other side of the spectrum and emphasize strictly the love, compassion and approachability of God most clearly displayed in the life and character of Jesus.  We have a warm and fuzzy, “Jesus is my homeboy” or best friend kind of relationship with God.  This picture of God seems incompatible with severe, holy God of the Sinai encounter.

Neither of these views are wrong (though both can go too far in their direction and distort God’s holiness or God’s love) but need to be in proper balance. Continue reading Mountain God 3: A Holy God (Exodus 19)

Mountain God 2: A Holy People (Exodus 19)

Israel encamped at Mt. Sinai
 

 

 

 

I’m reposting this series from 2009 when I was a youth pastor leading a trip to Colorado. Enjoy! -JB

Three months after leaving Egypt the Israelites entered the Wilderness of Sinai. They followed the route from Rephidim, arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai, and set up camp. Israel camped there facing the mountain. As Moses went up to meet God, God called down to him from the mountain: “Speak to the House of Jacob, tell the People of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. IF you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you’re special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation’ (Exodus 19:1-6).

I am on a bus full of energetic teenagers, many of whom have never been in the real mountains.  We are headed toward Buena Vista, Colorado, and about to get thrust into nature to a degree I have never been.  Proof?  One of the first skills our trained guides will teach us is which leaves work best for wiping after going the bathroom behind the nearest bush.  Yes, we will be obeying the “Leave No Trace” policy.

My strong desire and expectation is that the Holy Spirit will NOT be following a leave no trace policy when it comes to making an impact on these teens’ lives.  The first Mountain Encounter we will be studying definitely describes a moment where God definitely left a mark and made a strong impression on Moses and the special chosen people who we know as the Israelites.  Just as in the passage above, God led the people into the wilderness in order to make Himself known to them and give them a new identity and special calling, we too are about to make camp “facing the mountain.”   Continue reading Mountain God 2: A Holy People (Exodus 19)

Mountain God 1: Introduction

mountaingod

I’m reposting this series from back in 2009 when I was a youth pastor. Enjoy! -JB

“The mountain is no ordinary place.  It is a dangerous environment of holiness, the place where the ordinariness of human, earthly life has contact with the holy that destabilizes and consequently transforms.  We have trivialized “mountaintop experiences” as though they are romantic opportunities for religious self-indulgence. This account [at Sinai], against any such domestication, portrays the mountain of holiness as a dangerous meeting place that will leave nothing unchanged” (Walter Brueggemann).  

I leave today to lead a group of senior high students into the backcountry mountain wilderness of Colorado the week of July 26-August 2.  Adventure Trips such as this are designed to get students away from the ordinary in order to experience the extraordinary.  Our team will be led by experienced professional trail guides form Noah’s Ark, a Christian wilderness outfitter located near Buena Vista, Colorado,that leads groups like ours year-round.

Our group will spend the week engaged in fun mountain activities which include rock climbing, whitewater rafting, backpacking and wilderness camping.  I am certain the trip will be filled with fun adventures, new and stronger relationships, many laughs, plenty of physical challenges and much more.

My hopes for this trip, however, are focused on the spiritual.   Continue reading Mountain God 1: Introduction