Saturday, October 08, 2005

Living Safely

I spent some time out in Colorado this summer- out at CSU in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The place was amazing- the people were amazing. It is beautiful!

One morning at 3:30 am, I and some friends set off to hike a small peak called Horsetooth, which was aptly named for its likeness to a horse's tooth. We knew that it would take at least an hour and a half to hike up, and we wanted to be there when the sun came up. So we arrive in the dark, and start hiking- most of us still half asleep. It was a great hike- beautiful scenery, trees, rocks, dirt- you know, stuff in the mountains. We even saw a few mule deer on our way up. After about an hour and fifteen minutes or so, we come to a clearing at the base of the rock called horsetooth. To the far side, a small, narrow trail led up to the top, which looked quite threatening. It was still dark, though it was getting light quickly, and the way looked pretty rough; not a very safe way. If we waited until daylight, we would be able to see what we were doing and easily make it to the top, but we would miss the sunrise. If we went now, we risked possible injury and possibly our life. I realized that we had gone as far as we could go, safely.

So has American Christianity. We have gone as far as we can go, safely.

And the problem is, if we continue to do what we are doing, we will continue to lose our neighbors and friends to the powers of darkness.

We have built the largest subculture there has ever been. There are christian books, christian internet sites, christian radio, christian tv programs, christian clothing, christian conferences, christian everything. We can go to our beautiful buildings and sit and say we have won. We have transformed from a Christian culture, where most people accepted and followed basic Christian teachings, to a post-christian culture. If we continue doing what we have been doing, we will leave most of our generation unreached for Christ.

I believe that I am not alone. I believe that there are many of us, who have a restlessness in our hearts. We look at our lives and say "I want to make a bigger difference in the world for the cause of Christ that I have done so far- I want more!" I also believe that God is cool with that. You know when you go to a fast food restaraunt, and you are asked "do you wanna supersize it?" I believe God is saying to us, "Do you want your life supersized?" God wants to biggie size the rest of our lives! We have been chosen to live in this time in history for a reason.

I believe we are at the "Ester" cross roads. Check it out- she was born and put into incredible circumstances for a purpose. Her role in saving her people, all of the Jewish people, is absolutely crucial. But what she has to do is dangerous. She has to break the law. She has to risk her life. She saves the lives of her people.

We, like Ester, are living at a defining moment. Lives are on the line. You and I have been sent into the game in the fourth quarter. We are on the ten yard line with seconds on the clock. The pressure is on. This is not the time for first quarter mentalities. Now is not the time to relax, or lay back. This is the time where we throw caution to the wind, taking whatever risks we have to take. We must not play like a first quarter Christian when God has sent us to be an impact player in the heat of the game, when the game is on the line!

We are living in a defining moment, but we are also living in the most unreached generation in American history. Over half of the country is unchurched. Most have heard the name Jesus, but many do not know what that name means. People are hurt, people are desperate. They are crying out for love, and finding false gods to fill thier needs because we who know the answer are afraid to share it with them. There is only one unconditional love that can heal the wounds of those who are in wounded, only one truth that can break the chains of those who are in bondage.

Look at the story of Moses- God says "I have heard the cry of the people!" Moses says- Its about time. God says, I am going to rescue them! Moses says "yes!" God says I am sending you. Moses says...oh. I believe that God has bigger plans for you, bigger plans for you than you know of, bigger plans that you have fulfilled, bigger dreams than you have dreamed. I believe that now is the time. I believe that God has heard the cries of dying people all over the world, and he is coming down to rescue them, and he is sending you and me.

Taking care of the 99 is easy. Jesus said he has come to seek and save those who are lost.

When the Titanic went down, thousands of people went down with the ship. There were only 20 life boats, and hundreds of life jackets. Hundreds of people got life jackets and were floating in the waters. They were crying out, "Help me! Help me!" Twenty life boats, many of which were not full, just kept rowing in the other direction. Finaly, one turned around and went back, but by then it was too late for all but 6 people. When the funeral boats arrived a few days later they came upon the sight of 328 people floating in the water, frozen to death. They didn't die because the titanic went down, they died becasue the peole who werre already saved didn't turn around for the people who were not saved yet.

We have been born into a defining moment. We have been given a desperate mission.

In Matthew 1:21, it says, "You shall call him Jesus, for he will save people from thier sins." If you look at the Greek for the word save, it means "rescue." In Luke 19, you find it again- the Son of Man came to seek and to (rescue from dieing) save those who are lost. In John 3:16, the word "perish" means the same as the word for "lost" in Luke 19- it means that Jesus has come to rescue those that are lost, those that are dieing. The central heart of Jesus, the central passion of Christ is the rescue of those who are dieing!

When we go to the mall, or work, or class- he sees dieing people. Do I see dieing people? God open the eyes of my heart and let me see the desperate situation. How do we pray? Do we pray with the kind of intensity of a life and death situation? When you speak, is it as a dieing man to dieing men? With that kind of intensity?

Do not fall into the mindset of tasks to do, but lives at stake. That is so important. If we see ourselves as a rescuer of drowning people, if we see it as a life or death situaion, we all of as sudden, it focuses all of our attention.

On 9-11, the firemen of NewYork knew that it was all about rescue- they abandoned fear and focused their attention on saving lives. They knew it was life or death. They ran into the burning towers to save the dieing, to rescue the wounded. They dropped what they were doing, and went into the mindstate that personal safety doesn't matter- someone is dieing, I have to rescue them; abandoning it all; it is a rescue! Doing whatever it takes. Leaving safety to rescue the dying: that is the intensity, the passion that I want to live.

What are we missing out on because we are living safely? What hard place is not being reached because it is hard, because it is up the dangerous part of the mountain? Who will move beyond a safe place to a dangerous place where hope is rare? Take the risks. We cannot rescue from our comfort zone. Radical abandonment. We have a desperate mission. I want to wake up every morning with the knowledge that this is life and death.

You know what needs to happen to rescue the dying? We must awaken the primary rescuers. You know who the primary rescuers are? Not proffesionals. Not preachers. Not evangelists. It is the people that are around them every day. It is the average Joe Christians that are in contact with them all the time. All the Christians that are in our churches today.

Just a side comment- but do you realize what would happen if American Christians just tithed the ten percent that God asks? It is estimated that it would take about 70 billion dollars to take care of world poverty for one year. That is to cover food, water, medical care, and education for all of those in poverty in the entire world. If Amercian Christians tithed just ten percent, we could knock out world poverty every year, and still have about 60 billion dollars left over to spread the gospel. What would happen? There are two types of people in America- the stuffed and the starving. We as Christians are always asking for the blessing. We need to take our blessing to those who are starving.

The people who are most qualified to reach the dieing are the average Joe Christians. The people who feel least qualified to do the rescuing are in the best position to do it. We must awaken them. They have been underchallenged and over entertained. If you notice peole on mission trips start reading thier bibles, and making a point to pray more. Why? Because for that week they really need thier beliefs. Why don't we challenge them to go home and make it a year-round mission trip? A year round misison trip on thier campuses, in thier homes, on their job sites, in the gym, at the grocery store!

For this to happen, there must be a want to and a how to. If there is not want to, we are rowing in our lifeboats singing "I'm redeemed!" We must awaken Christians in America to the war around them, to the desperate cries of dieing people around them, and that they have a crucial role in rescuing those POW's. Then they must have a how to- if its just a want to, it will never get done. If they have a how to, they will have nice notes in thier notebooks and never do a thing. They need both.

Also, do you realize that in most Christian meetings, the lost have no voice? They are not in the room. No one speaks for the lost. We need to be reminded of what it means to be lost today. We cannot be consumed with the passion for rescuing dieing people if we do not know what it means to be dieing.

Lastly, it is crucial to start mobilizing a prayer attack for the rescue of lost souls. Could you immagine if every lost person in the circle of every Christian was prayed for by name? What if every prisoner of darkness was broken loose as only prayer can do from the clutches of the enemy? Prayer is love at war. Let us go to war.

We must stick to Jesus. We must not get off on religious discussions, or life style issues, but stick to Jesus. For I am to preach Christ and Christ crucified. Our job is to lead people on a walk up skull hill at calvary for the first time in thier lives. Let them see how much God loves them. We must also close it- ask for a verdict. If we only present the message and not give them an opportunity to make the decision, we are joking ourselves, Christ, and those who are lost. If it is life or death, we have to close.

As the American Church, if we are going to go to rescue the dieing, we must also be ready to take care of them. How is our nursery? Would God send us a harvest if we are not ready for it? We must prepare the barns. We must be ready to follow up.

You and I are living in a defining moment, we have been given a dicisive position. Are you ready to climb the steep and dangerous path? Are you ready to move to where you are not safe- where you are not socially safe? Geographically safe? Politically safe? Financially safe? Methodologically safe? Are you ready to move beyond safety? God desires for each of us to be apart of his glorious work that he is doing, to join the ranks of wariors, to enter the game in the fourth quarter with ten yards to go, and seconds on the clock. And I hope you are wiling to take that step, to take the undiscovered path, to step out into the unknown and reach for the heavens. We are at the path- we are as far as we could go safely. 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ climbed the dangerous path, and took the step of faith and lived dangerously and died gloriously to rescue the dieing.

I'll tell you what happened on that morning hike. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous "I have a Dream!" speech, I have been to the mountain top! We all decided to go for it despite the risk involved, and with some effort, we made it to the top, just in time to watch the sun come up over the great plains. I'll even indulge you- immagine you are standing on a small outcropping in the foot hills of the Rocky's-the highest point for several miles, and you are facing north. To your right, the sun is glowing golden orange on the horizon and lighting up the town below, and you can see forever. In front of you the green foot hills, growing larger from right to left, are glowing green as the light hits them and gives them life. To your left, you can see the shadows of the small peaks on the larger ones, and the foothills turn into small mountains, and then off in the distance the sunlight is hitting on the snow capped 14 thousand foot peaks, standing tall and strong in the morning. It is glorious. It is overwhelmingly beautiful. The air is crisp, the day is clear, the breeze whips around you like the Spirit of God. We spontaneously broke out into worship and prayer- it was absolutly amazing. Talk about basking in the glory of God!

So much for living safely...


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