Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Climb

Have you ever been hiking? I mean, really hiking? Gone up a mountain hiking?

I haven’t done much of it myself but when I did it was worth the effort. Les and I had gone mountain lake fishing in Colorado in mid-September. The snow had begun to gather on the peaks. We were driving around looking for this one lake we wanted to fish and found the trailhead. We parked and gathered our packs and began the 2 mile hike. Along the way we began to question whether this was a good idea. We couldn’t see this lake. How did we know if it would be there? No one was around to tell us for certain the presence of the lake. The map told us it was there and there were signs all around but could we know for sure?

At 11,000 feet we were out of breath and stopped to drink some water. We looked at each other and knew we had to keep going. There really never was a question, but our bodies and our feelings wanted to express opposition. At around 12,000 feet we had no clue how far we had come. We still saw no sign of the lake. Everything ached and we were out of breath. But we knew we had to continue.

Our desire to see the lake and to do what we had come to do was stronger than the desire to quit. We came to what we hoped was a final surge uphill. As we crested the hill what lied before us was absolutely breath-taking! It was at that moment I realized the camera was back at the truck. While I cannot show you what it looked like, I can tell you how wonderful, peaceful, beautiful, and exilherating it was to be there. I guess you will have to climb it yourself to feel that way too.

So it is in the life of a believer and the church. God is calling us to climb the mountain with Him. The only way we will experience the fullness of His blessing and beauty is to follow and reach the journey’s end. Today we stand at the trailhead. Many churches are gearing up for the new church year, late summer/early fall revivals and conferences, and renewed consistency in the people. Every year we stand here. God calls. Will we follow? To make it to the top we must work hard, make concessions, and commit. As the church grows as a family of believers that are spiritually thriving and impacting the culture we do so as God would desire. Like seeing the landscape at the top of the mountain, we shall see the fruit of labor come in the form of increased attendance, increased spiritual development, and increased impact on the community.

What goals do you have? What is the challenge God has laid before you? For us that day it was a 2-mile hike up a mountain. It was difficult to do but the result was worth it all! I have never returned, though I often consider going back. The picture is forever etched in my mind's eye. God is challenging us in the church today to come back to Him. God did everything necessary to get us in the relationship and now it is time we do our part. We must climb out of our pleasure-driven lifestyles and humbly crawl into the presence of God. We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. Without this sacrifice on our part we will never experience the exhileration and rush of God's presence.

I must climb. We must climb. The church must climb out of yesterday and look toward tomorrow. The air may seem thin and our chests will pound as certain changes take place; looking outward more than inward, service and sacrifice more than selfish desires. We will not be disappointed at the summit.

Today we stand at the trailhead. Let us climb.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live Well, Learn Much, Love Often

There are three simple things that God wants us to do as church family. God wants us to live well as a family. God wants us to learn much as we develop spiritually. God wants us to love often in ministry and service.

We begin living well as a family of believers as we experience God through worship. Gathering together is a beautiful opportunity for us to know each other better in light of God’s presence. Families get together rarely, usually around holidays, special events, or deaths. We have the opportunity to gather together one time a week! Let’s enhance those moments by getting to know one another and worship God together. In a multi-generational setting we have the opportunity to experience different perspectives. Learning from one another is integral in a family’s development.

Living well as a family deepens as we enjoy small group studies. In these small groups you are with people in a similar life stage. Just like those family reunions and gatherings where you see different sets of cousins sitting in groups. Each defined usually by age because every time they would gather that group would play together and eat together at the kid’s table. As they grew and the next set of kids came on the scene they took the kid’s table and the others found somewhere else to sit. Family development happens as we enable ourselves to live better through small group studies. These moments are well-suited to develop relationships in a relaxed but biblical setting.

A family lives well as it works together. We can live well as a church family by serving together. When the pressure is on we see each other without our masks. In this level of family we can finally love each other for who we really are. We can be real and authentic. There are times when having the entire family involved in a project can slow things down a bit but the bonds that are formed are worth it all.

The church family is a great way to live well, learn much, and love often.

When is your next family gathering?

Daddy, Daddy

When a child walks with a parent and comes to an anxious moment he will often turn and raise up his arms to be picked up. We often forget that feeling of being small and defenseless. A child feels scared because they cannot handle the situation around them and will seek safety in the arms of a parent. In turn, the parent smiles and tries to reassure him that all is well, but in some moments nothing will pacify until he is in the arms of mom or dad.

To the parent the anxiety may seem out of sorts and without merit. We can see the bigger picture. We can see above the knees and hips of the surrounding crowd. We can see the greater distance because of our vantage point. We see that all will be ok. Bu the child cannot see what we see and does not know what we know. They do not have the experience we have.

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. [John 1:12-13]

When the bible calls us children we should not take offense, but rather take notice. Our physical age is irrelevant. Our experience and wisdom lacks the perspective of the parent. We often become confused about life. We become anxious. We try, then, to figure it all out. We try to make plans. We ignore the obvious. We scramble around frightened and confused. All the while, God stands there with an empty hand. We removed our hand trying to fix our lives. If we would turn and raise our hands we would find ourselves in the grip of God’s grace. He sees the bigger picture. He has the vision and wisdom. He has the ability.

May we stop believing the lie that we can handle our lives, or that we should because of our physical age. We are called children of God for a reason. Never in scripture does it tell us that we are on our own after a certain time or age. Take your concerns to God through prayer. Listen for His response through the reading of scripture. Be patient and wait for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It will come. Be patient.