During the revamp of the Rocky Mountain Conference’s priorities for this current term, attention was given to something that had been on the conference website for some time. Listed as priorities were some items that would need to be embraced and done as individuals, some as a local church, and some as a conference as a whole.

As I worked to refresh and refine this list, I split things out into two separate sections. We now have a separate section for Aspirations and one for Priorities. The Priorities list shows concrete steps the conference organization needs to pursue as those are things that the conference can address directly in various ways.

The Aspirations list also includes things that can be addressed directly, but they are not things that your conference can legislate and make happen just “because we said so!” They require a personal buy-in. They require each of us as members in a local church to respond with prayer and study to see how we can best live out the Gospel commission where we are. Living the aspirations I have prepared, and that the Executive Committee has voted, will help mark our churches in a consistent manner throughout our conference though the circumstances vary greatly from church to church.

My next few articles will unpack these Aspirations, and it’s my earnest prayer and desire that each church member will decide in each of our churches to endeavor by God’s grace to rise to these aspirations, for they, together, represent what a healthy and well-functioning body of believers can do together. All of these Aspirations are written in the present tense, as if they are all happening everywhere right now. I believe they are all attainable, and I believe that these already exist in our conference to varying degrees.

It’s my personal belief that if these are all lived strongly in the present in each of our churches that this conference will be a powerful force for Christ—the kind of force He can use to build us His kingdom here where He has planted each of us.

While the list of Aspirations is not listed in any particular order, the One at the top of the list is there on purpose. That’s where we’ll start because it’s, or rather He’s the most important.

Jesus is Our Highest Focus

Easy to say. And we even mean it when we say it. But, in my lifetime as a Seventh-day Adventist, I’ve noticed we don’t always live that way in reality.

We have entire cottage industries in our faith community devoted to something that each organization feels is really the most important thing. Jesus, yes, but this, too, is the most important thing. In fact, I’ve noticed that some in these cottage industries react as if you don’t really love Jesus or take Him seriously unless you fully buy in and think what they are telling you or selling you is the most important thing, too.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not indicting anyone here. Most of those in these cottage industries are all about good things. But there is only One first thing, and His name is Jesus.

Some of you might have heard my take on the Biblical scene we call the Transfiguration. It was that brief, holy, tearing of time and space where Jesus was revealed in His full glory before three rather frightened friends—Peter, James, and John. James and John knew enough to keep their mouths shut at such a time, but Peter blathered on about building three tents or huts or something for each of these three glorious beings to occupy—as if any earthly dwelling would be enough.

Remember who was at that scene with Jesus? Moses and Elijah, as you well remember. Two great heroes and legendary figures in Jewish history. If you had asked most any common Jew of that time who the person from the past they’d love to meet, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t say Moses or Elijah.

And it wasn’t that there just weren’t many people to choose from in heaven who had once lived on earth, I believe these two were chosen for another reason. The Old Testament is referred to in the New Testament as “The Law and the Prophets.” Moses wrote the books containing the Law, and who better to symbolize the prophets than Elijah?

When the great voice spoke from the cloud of glory surrounding Jesus and His companions, I can’t help but think God placed a specific emphasis on one particular word: “Him.” Instead of saying, “This is my beloved son, listen to Him,” I rather think God said, “This is my beloved son, listen to Him.”

Do you count the significance of that? Who could possibly be greater than Moses and Elijah? What could possibly be greater than the Scriptures themselves? Him. Jesus. The others were certainly good things. But Jesus was above them all.

I recently was blessed to hear a devotional sermon by Elizabeth Talbot, director-speaker of Jesus 101, an official media ministry of the North American Division. Her text was John 4, the familiar story of the woman at the well. Among the things she pointed out was the worship issue between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews, of course, only believed you can worship on their mountain, and the Samaritans only believed God could be worshipped on theirs.

Dr. Talbot rightly pointed out that it’s far too easy to make our preference into our principle. Forgetting that our principle is really only a preference, we make our preference the first thing and then we judge others by their fidelity to our preference, our first thing.

Only a determined effort to keep Jesus as our highest focus will keep us from making other things first. Keeping Jesus first is the only way I know of to protect us from going off on tangents and detours, however compelling they might seem.

I challenge each of us to be so determined—so focused on Jesus that when others look at your face, they will wonder what’s going on inside of you! I promise you that if Jesus is your highest priority, if lifting Him up is the highest priority of your church, that God will bring into your path those who are ready to follow Him. And isn’t that what we all most want?

Until next time,
Pastor Mic

—Mic Thurber is RMC president.