Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is the Journey Worthwhile Part2?

Heb 11:9-11By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange
country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the
same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder
and maker is God.

The analogy of the Christian life and a journey is nothing new. It was said of Abraham that he "sojourned" (KJV) in the land of promise by faith. Many writers have picked up on this theme and composed songs, books, and sermons showing the strong parallel to the believer's search for a "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Off the top of my head, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and the line, "I wouldn't take anything or my journey now," come to mind.

Reading about the Christian life as analogous to a journey and living the Christian life as a journey are two different things. When one experiences a real journey and contemplates its spiritual implications, the analogy becomes more real, and one sees why the analogy is so good and often used.

Is the Journey worthwhile? A resounding YES. As stated before, this seems obvious, but upon closer examination, the answer is not so clear, howbeit still yes. I know that sounds a bit confusing, but maybe I can explain.

We started out early in the morning. It was Sunday! I usually get to sleep in on Sundays (even if I am going to a church service). But we had to force ourselves to get out of bed and get to the starting point. There was a lot of excitement in the air as everyone was getting ready to tackle the course (circuit) by either foot, horse, or mountain bike. We saw some people that we had met and said good morning and wished them a good day. Having been here for only 2 1/2 months we were not so familiar with the area. So, in order to help us along, someone gave us a map that marked out the area we were suppose to follow. Our friends from the town told us where to start and how to find our way if we were to get lost. We must keep an eye on the red arrows. But was anyone else going with us? We were sent out by ourselves with a map, some words of advice, and a will to complete the journey ahead of us.

As we started the rain began to fall. We got our bearings and found our first red arrow. Thankfully, someone had told us where the map started, otherwise we would have been lost from the beginning. We read the map backwards. But at our first red arrow, we knew we were on the right track. After the peace of knowing we were traveling in the direction had subsided, we were a bit sad. For we had thought for sure there would be others who would be taking the journey with us. That was our purpose in taking the journey; to meet others in our community. Well, we were still close to home, we could bail or keep going. We decided to keep going, but with a different purpose. We could pray, and pray we did. As we passed houses and farms we prayed for them. We prayed we might even be instruments in helping them find their own peace. We felt like real explorers when our path left the concrete roads and turned into muddy forest trails up and down hills winding through farms. Since we were the first walkers on the trail, we figured the other walkers would sure be behind us. As John the Baptist paved the way for the coming Christ, so we also prayed the path for those who were to follow. "Lord, may those who pass the point, recognize You and seek you. Reveal yourself to them right here and let them feel You. Let them know You exist. Shine Light and Life into their lives, for the sake of Jesus..."

What wonderful things we got to see!! Cows, hillsides, houses, valleys, green countryside.

Suddenly, we noticed our little forest trail had ended. Surely, this can't be right. We have been following our red arrows. It was kind of weird when the path changed from the familiar paved path to the unfamiliar dirt one, but our map and the arrows had indicated this was surely the way. But what if we had misread both. Were we to really take this road of pure mud measuring about an inch deep of standing water?? Why would anyone make the trail go this direction? There was a smaller trail going the other direction. It did not have any mud on it, but it was also not on our map. But we did not want to take the mud trail especially since the rain was coming down even harder. There was only one thing to do. Go back to our last red arrow and make sure we had taken the direction it had indicated. If that led us on the muddy road, we had to take it.

I went back up a small hill and found our red arrow. It did indeed indicate that we were to take the muddy road. There was no choice. Now, I was wearing new hiking shoes designed for hiking and "waterproof." But they had not been tested. I could slip. I could get my feet wet. R was wearing boots that had failed her before. This darn muddy road would be treacherous, but we had no choice. we had to go forward as best we could, helping each other and telling each other where the best place to put our next step. We made it safely to the end of the road leaving behind us huge footprints where we had stepped safely to the end of the road.

To our surprise we were right in the middle of some one's cow farm. The cows were eating and it smelled so badly. We questioned AGAIN, if we had done the right thing. Why would the person who designed the course put the walkers on some one's smelly farm? But we had checked the course, doubled backed and made sure we were supposed to take that muddy road. This is where it lead us. Our map did not have a farm on it, so it was currently of no use. There were absolutely no red arrows anywhere. The only red arrows were pointing behind us back to where we had just traveled. "Is this journey really worth it?"-We asked ourselves silently. That bed was sure warm and dry while we are cold and wet and slightly lost.

Thankfully, one of the farmers saw us and pointed us to the road (paved). AHH. Now we could see we were not alone on the trail. Some of the horse riders were coming down the hill. Our trail and the horse trail merged together. What joy to see others making the same journey even if by different means. We felt safe again and our joy returned. While being "lost" I had forgotten to pray. But when I saw the others, I started praying for them again. As each horse rider passed, I prayed a blessing for them and that they may find the light of Christ. Soon, we found out that our trail was not only the walking trail and horse trail, but the bike trail. We gladly got out of their way, and as they passed we commiserated with how awful the mud was and how wet we were from the rain and why were we even doing this.

When we got back to another paved road, the bikers and horse riders left us behind. Not too long after, we we were passed by other walkers. We exchanged "hello's," and it was obvious they had made the walk before. They were experts. I figured now there were walkers in front of us, walkers behind us;thus, we were surrounded by those making the journey with us. That was encouraging. For if something were to happen to us, those behind us may stop and lend assistance and if anyone ahead of us needed assistance as we passed we could offer help.

It was now time to make a turn. We looked at the map and found where we were. We just had one leg left back into town. We could see "town" (that's the good news), but we were steadily going downhill (that's the bad news because or town sits on a hill). This last leg would challenge us. We were already feeling tired. But there was no turning back. We were too far to go back, we had to march forward. There were so many little trails off to our sides. But warning markings told us not to proceed down them. But how tempting they were!! They appeared to lead us where we wanted to go but faster. But the map, the red arrows, and the markings all indicated that we should not go this way.
As we went we had to take more breaks, drink more water, and of course we get wetter as we went. While our course was now on the main road, we had to be careful not to get in any blind spots in the curves of the road. Cars were not paying attention to two drowned rats walking uphill.
This was the time we had to encourage each other. We were reading our map more and more, not for fear of getting lost or even finding the trail, but to have in our minds the next named spot. We talked to each other and we talked to ourselves saying we can do this, we have to do this, and we are not far from "X" place.
Then JOY. We saw the town's water tower in the distance. It was our final destination. It was where there would be warmness, dryness, and most importantly hot of the grill crêpes!! We were filled with energy. We dreamed of how life would be when we reached the finish line. Suddenly, we were joined again by bikers and horse riders. Oh yeah, we can make it!!!

I can not begin to describe the feeling of "making it", seeing familiar faces, getting out of the rain, sitting down, and enjoying a huge homemade local crêpe and a glass of Coke.
Two days later our bodies are still feeling the affects of a 8km walk (We did it in 3 1/2 hours. Slow, I know, but we are excited we actually finished). Was the journey worth it? A resounding yes.
But only at the end is it that evident. We know it is worth it, but we won't realize it until we reach that city whose builder and maker is God. It is not always evident that our next step following behind Christ is worth it. That's why by faith we put one foot in front of the other. Our faith will end in sight as we enter Celestial City. It is only then we will be able to really say The Journey is indeed worth while. Until then we encourage each other to walk by faith.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Is the Journey worthwhile?

Our community organized a walk around town today, in which we participated. I must say it helped me better understand the metaphor of "journey" and "life."

It also made me wonder if the journey truly is worthwhile. The obvious answer is yes, but I think this response is not so evident as we examine the metaphor in more detail. Realizing that not all metaphors have to stand on four feet, I would like to examine in the coming days if the journey is worthwhile.

Luk 14:28-30 "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
"Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Perception is Reality-Edited Version

After this post, I will need to go put out some fires across the blogsphere (well Dayspring Project is the only one I know about). I appreciate all the comments from the others ( Normality with TJ and Pastor Philip at Every Home a Church and my great friend Kc ).

I know I have a lot of conversations open. I kinda like that, in case I get stuck for content, I can continue them. =) I am going to turn the corner a bit today. Eventually, we'll get to the fact that I really am for non-traditional church models (despite what you may have read or thought from previous posts). But before I do, I wanted to see what others are thinking about concerning the mindset of a "church."

Anyway, this is the heart of this post. How do you take either a culture that thinks in a traditional church manner and transform a group of people into thinking of themselves otherly? In my limited experience (back in the States) I was asked to plant an ethnic church. I was able to group some believers and started a Bible Study, but they never did see themselves as a church. They only saw themselves as a group who got together to study the Bible. Even though I tried to let them lead, with partial success, they never saw themselves as a church. Of the churches I have been a part of or pastored, they would have never seen themselves as a church (in the sense of an organic church) if they were to go that route.

But apart from my anecdotes, if a group of people never see themselves as a church can they be a church? On the other hand, if a group of 2 or 3 can perceive themselves as a church, can they be organic? How do we change perception?

Some have said we instill in the DNA of the church the need to be outgoing instead of incoming ("Go and Tell" vs "Come Here" (to hear)). But if that group of people has in its DNA that the believers must go to a central place (house or house of God) on Sunday, will they really be organic in the Neil Cole's sense?

Maybe I am so far off base. I suspect I am.

(see further clarification on comments to Jeff)