Topic: John 3:1-21
O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain Psalm 30:7
In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. Psalm 95:4
The Appalachian mountains begin in Virginia and extend southward all the way into the northern part of Georgia. Called the Blue Ridge because of their often blue hazy color, they have a certain quiet and serene beauty. No part of the range is more beautiful or impressive than the Black Mountain area in Western North Carolina. There are more than eighty peaks above five thousand feet and nineteen above six thousand.
As I looked out today over the ridge and saw peaks too many to count, it looked as if God himself had used the palm of his hand to create ridges and undulations on the terrain and then used a giant brush to add touches of blue, gray and green. How can anyone look at something like that and not believe in a creating God? The Psalms cry out that the "Mountain peaks belong to Him."
Mt. Mitchell is the tallest at 6684 feet above sea level. Today, Beverley and I drove as far as we could and then hiked the rest of the way, finally climbing to the observation deck where it seemed like we could see forever. Next to the observation tower is the grave of Elijah Mitchell, for whom the mountain is named.
Educated at Yale, Mitchell became a professor at America's first state university, The University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill. When not in the classroom, he was in the field conducting studies in physical geography, particularly the measuring of mountains. At the time, Grandfather Mountain was assumed to be the highest point in the region, but previous trips to the area had persuaded Mitchell that the Black Mountains were higher.
Through the use of barometric pressure readings and mathematical formulas, Mitchell figured the highest elevation of the range to be 6,476 feet, higher than that of Grandfather Mountain. Subsequent visits to the Black Mountains in 1838 and 1844 led Dr. Mitchell to calculate the height of the peak at 6,672 feet - amazingly, only a mere 12 feet in error according to modern calculations. Dr. Mitchell challenged conventional wisdom and proved it wrong.
But, Mitchell was more than a geography professor. He was also an ordained Presbyterian minister who preached the Gospel all over North Carolina. When I visited the small museum near the summit, I was attracted to a tract that had been among his possessions printed by the National Tract Society in 1855, entitled "How Can I Be Saved?"
It reminded me of another inquisitive person from long ago, when a man named Nicodemus asked what he could do to be saved. At that time, conventional wisdom among the chosen people believed that salvation came through good works and abeyance of the law, but Jesus came to challenge conventional wisdom and to provide a better way.
I would like to have heard a message preached by Dr. Mitchell as he waived the little tract I saw displayed in the case and told people how important it was to be saved. It was important then and it is important today, a hundred and fifty years later.
Some things never change.
Yepper, being in the mountains really is a spiritual experience.
How would you answer Nicodemus if he asked you what it means to be "born again"?