Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Lure of the Mountaintop

(Click the title of the blog to hear Amy Grant singing about the mountaintop)

Some days I get sick of people. I mean, when I have too much of people and I want to go to the mountaintop. Yes, I want to be a monk in a mountain top monastery with thick outside stone walls (you know, protection against the Viking a.k.a. the Barbarians). I then would be safe and I wouldn’t have to deal with that many people. I’d raise carrots, tomatoes, and strawberries and none of them would speak back to me. Being more or less alone I’d clean up my act, not really but I think I would.

We think isolating ourselves from a sinful world would make us better and happier. I think the opposite happens. We could think we are safe from the influence of sin (the influence of others). Yes, on the outside we would look good unless we honestly deal with our sin, inside our heart. Escape from reality has been the sanctuary of many in the church over the years. We hide out until the perceived danger is past. At best, this is naïve and for many Christians this is all they know. Isolation from a hurting world, smiling and slapping each others back in the Christian ghetto is all we know, and we love it.

Peter, James, and John went with Jesus to a mountain top but for other reasons. The purpose was for the transfiguration of Jesus. The purpose of the transfiguration was to reveal the full glory of the Son of God. It was to be an encouragement to the disciples in future, sealing in their mind the truth that Jesus and God the Father are one.

Peter likes the idea of being on the mountain top and He wants to stay there; sound familiar? As it were, he told Christ, “Let’s camp out here.” Christ never answers his question; Christ goes down the mountain and it says in Luke 9:37: “The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.”

Jesus and His disciples did not campout on the mountain top, they went down and ministered among the people. We are to minister among the people not hold each others hand and sing “Kum Ba Yah” around the campfire. We need to get off our mountaintops and get our hands dirty.

A story is told of a priest in a small village who wanted to be closer to God so he climbed up to the top of the church steeple. He looked to the sky and cried out, “Where art thou God?” And God replied, “Down here among my people.”

God bless us, keep us, and use us in these days. Break camp; dare greatly and go to work.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The World is Watching – Every day life as a Christian

The world watches our Christian witness; they watch first and listen later. Many times my walk fails to live up to my talk.

I manage properties and some of our clients and tenants are Christian organizations. I become sensitive to the implication of my witness or walk (I should be), and the witness of Christian organizations, realizing I deal with Christian and non-Christians alike on a daily basis. I am starting to see a disturbing trend in our dealing with Christian organizations. This point has also been brought to my attention by the non-Christian participants in our encounters with our Christian tenants.

Some examples: This week we had a scheduled meeting with the head of a Christian organization; it was scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Four people were present at 11:30, agenda in place and the leader of the Christian organization was 30 minutes late. He waltzed in with no apology, conducted himself arrogantly. He is demeaning to most that come into his presence. After the meeting, one of the non-Christian participants said to me, “Jerry, I know that you are a Christian, but this guy is a pure dink.” It’s so easy to see the flaws of others yet he was right in his observation.

This week the cleaning supervisor of a property came to us to show us boxes of note pads that had been thrown in the trash, In good conscience, this Christian cleaning supervisor could not throw them in the trash but brought boxes of them to us. We wondered why they were being thrown away. We investigated and realized they were bonded wrong. The front of the note pads had the organization logo on each page but the bonding was upside down thus the pads were “wrong side up”. These note pads could have been used just by pulling off the piece of paper and turning it over or simply removing the cardboard, but they saw fit to throw them all away. What a waste of material and dollars.

As a Christian dealing with Christian organizations, guess what, I’m not impressed. How sad; we are sending the wrong message. We come off as arrogant and wasteful and according to some of my employees, the Christians are demanding and demeaning (this according to my immigrant cleaning crew and office support staff).

The good news is this—God is cleaning house. One Christian organization went broke at the end of the year; they could not generate additional funding. This organization had $750 chairs around their conference room table. Thirteen of these at $750 a piece, $10,750 worth of chairs used at best five times a week. They are out of business and in my opinion, it is good. God himself will rise up people to do their work. He already has and they will not drive $40,000 SUV’s or sit in $750 chairs.

I wonder if we as American Christians realize the joyride is over. Our character flaws or our sin, is becoming very obvious to the world, mine included. God has begun His refining process. The church may be struggling, stumbling over itself, but remember God’s plans are never thwarted.

God has issued us armor (Ephesians 6). God tells us to “put it on” which implies a battle is coming; as a matter of fact, the battle is here now and we are sitting in our $750 chairs showing up late for meetings with no apology, riding in our $40,000 SUV’s while a nation goes to hell in our very presence. What is the trend I see? We are isolated, self-righteous with a distant witness of our faith. God has and will rise up faithful people; His true church will prevail and assault the gates of hell.

American church, we will answer for our snitty, demanding, demeaning attitude. As God judges the American church, we cannot see ourselves naked and hungry. We may if God doesn’t withhold His wrath.

Forgive me Heavenly Father, for I have sinned. O Lord, help us witness this day. Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Don’t be afraid to live

Genesis 46:1-4 (NIV): "So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!" "Here I am," he replied. "I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."

My great nephew, AJ is the strapping, hard working teenage son of Western Wisconsin dairy farmers. He wants to play football and basketball. AJ has a heart defect; his problem was discovered in his early teens. Doctors, concerned about his heart valve, have recommended a “wait and see” attitude at this time. Recommendations have been made that he cool it as it were. You can work, but not too hard; you can play, but not too hard. Doctors and parents are cautious and AJ is getting frustrated.

We live in an age where we work very hard to minimize risks in our lives. I understand the common sense business portion of this but what has it gotten us--frustrated and sometimes timid people. In AJ’s case, you are only a teenager once and life is passing by. AJ’s Mom and Dad struggle with the everyday choices presented to them. How does one live a life under these conditions?

AJ has a problem, the blood that runs through his veins has come from a long line of hard working Austrian-German-Bohemian risk takers. Farmers, businessmen, soldiers, teachers, fighters all. How do you tell him to cool it? You don’t.

Life is a risk. AJ must live it; he lives his life with a smile. The “Big Hitter,” known as AJ, works the fields and barns of Western Wisconsin with a confidence and vibrancy beyond his years. A young man with a helping spirit, he must live life; we only go around once. He is an American, he lives with his boots on, and if it’s God’s will, he could die with his boots on, enjoying his young life to the fullest.

Oh, the world may criticize his and his parents’ decision on how to live his life. Don’t second guess them, it is not our life or our duty. It’s great to see some of this American generation take risks and live life with a vigor and zest seldom seen today.

Like Jacob, AJ may be afraid; don’t be--God is with you. One of the greatest lessons in life to be learned is this, you can only really live when you are not afraid to die. AJ, go to your Egypt--don’t be afraid because your God said He would be with us and He is. Go!

President Theodore Roosevelt said this, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

To God be the glory. Dare greatly and don’t look back.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Hen and the Hawk

Jeremiah 49:31Arise and attack a nation at ease, which lives in confidence,” declares the LORD, “a nation that has neither gates nor bars; its people live alone.”

Even though we are involved in two distant wars, very few of us have had our lives disrupted. Yes, our armies are all volunteer; we let “others” or so called “hired guns” fight our wars for us. We feel no threat of the draft, no fear of our sons or grandsons being drafted. Many profess the attitude, if they are dumb enough to volunteer, let them fight. How sad. We may not agree on the purpose, if any, of these wars; rightly so, but most of us could care less. How much is Pepsi on sale for this week?

We have lived at ease, our borders are porous, and we are supposedly a strong nation. Yet, we can’t mount the political will to secure them (no bars or gates). In the midst of all of this we have been wealthy “survivors,” even though lonely, while the barbarians storm the gate.

In “A Lifting Up for the Downcast” by Puritan William Bridge, he tells the story of the hen and the hawk on page 239-240.

The poor hen, you know, so long as she lives, is upon the dunghill, and there she is scraping, and picking up her living; but when she is dead, she is brought unto the master’s table. The hawk on the contrary, while he is living, is carried upon the fist, and upon the arm, and has good flesh and provision made for him, and a house to sit in; but when the hawk dies, then he is thrown out unto the dunghill. So it is in this case. So long as a poor, godly man is living here, it may be he is upon the dunghill and picking up his living, a little and a little; but when he dies, then he is brought into his Master’s presence. But the rich, ungodly man, when he dies, though while he lived he had great provision, yet then he is thrown out unto the dunghill, and comes no more into his Master’s presence. Oh, you that are godly, though in a low condition, would you then change your condition with the wicked? The lower your condition is, the higher is your obedience.”
We as a nation have lived as a hawk, when we as Christians should have been living as hens. Times are a changing—are you a hawk or a hen?

Let’s get off our hawkish perches, live with humility and sacrificial service. When we die, we will be brought into the presence of our Master, and at His feet we will “lay our trophies down.”

In the days ahead, endued with the power of the risen Lord, we will be hope and light on the dunghill of life. Beside us, the hawk lays dead.