Wednesday, December 2

Being ordinarily un-ordinary

"Christ is not weak in dealing with us, but is powerful among us.  For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.  For we are weak in Him, yet by the power of God we will live with Him to serve others."  (2 Corinthians 13:3-4)

Mt Everest, 29,029 ft. above sea level, is the highest mountain on earth. Many have tried to climb to its summit; some 4,102 ascents have been made by 2,700 individuals since 2008. Costing 25,000 dollars for the permit, such ascents are considered life changing. Indeed, some have been life ending, with 210 lives 'claimed' by the mountain…..permanently left on the mountain's death zone (anything above 26,246 ft), because conditions (temperatures dip to very low levels that will cause frostbite on any exposed body part, the snow is very frozen (slipping and falling hazard) and high winds are a increasing threat in the 1/3 atmospheric pressure) are so difficult to risk recovery. Many of them are visible from the climbing route.

The first expedition on the mountain, a British one, was exploratory in nature and was unequipped in 1921 to make the climb, though a route to the summit was viewed. Thirty-two years later, in 1953, the ninth British expedition put the first two successful climbers on the summit, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at 11:30 a.m. local time May 29th, 1953. Many ask the simple question, "Why?" Why climb a mountain that is the highest in the world, costing so much money, to reach the summit and then turn around and come back down….especially when there is such a significant risk to your life? The answer is simple, because this Tibetan mountain known as Chomolungma ("Saint Mother") is there.

Out of 6,707 billion people in the world, only the small percentage of individuals have attempted to climb Everest's harsh climate….. point 03% if I did the math right (math not being my subject, but that seems to be about right). .03% of the world's population are considered heroes and objects of adulation because of their foolish desire to pit the fragileness of their physical bodies to the harsh, unforgiving and unrelenting environment of Everest. For a sum of money that would be my yearly salary, from my old job…..

We sing the accolades of the un-ordinary for such human things. And yet we stand fretfully when our brothers and sisters voice opposition to the liberal President's agendas, Planned Parenthood's euthanasia plans and the God-given foundations that our forefathers' felt led to write in the 'governing' document of our nation; the Constitution. We don't like those brethren who speak of the only way to Heaven because it crashes harsh upon the ears of a world that seeks to marginalize or effectively kill the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We don't like loud prayers, we hate the 'old-time' gospel music and need to listen to a post-modern, easy-to-digest, story of a God who loves everyone so much that Jesus' death on the cross was just a bit part in the whole salvation thing. A God who loves us will take us simply as we are, without a declaration of our faith in Him and definitely doesn't want us to be 'offensive' in the world…..we're to be like the Harry Krishna's….."Love, Love, Love"….

"Today's "ordinary" Christians go to church, maybe pray a bit in the morning or at night, read their Bibles sometimes, perhaps participate in a Bible study group, and try to live a quiet, peaceable, non-confrontational, and productive life in the economy and the world. I can't imagine lay people today praying the offices - working their way continuously through the psalms in prayer, keeping three, or five, or seven appointments for prayer each day, and maintaining a consistent raft of other spiritual disciplines besides. No lay person today who kept up this kind of spiritual regimen would be considered "ordinary." Indeed, he'd probably be regarded as weird by his fellow believers."~~~ T.M. Moore, Principal of the Fellowship of Ailbe.

It is not simply the leadership of the Church, that universal church that Jesus Christ handed to the Apostles to shepherd and that has been marginalized down through the centuries since… is each and every Christian that views the importance of comfortable seats, flashy stage productions and a modern building to attract the community around them with mass-mailing cards inviting them to try something new, something different…..something unlike "traditional church". We stress convenience, no-stress and friendly hands to attract the unbelievers, the seekers and the humanists to the doors of our local congregations… once church puts it, "You don't have to do anything!" We want to carry the life of comfort that we strive for in the world into the walls of our churches….ensuring we have enough money for staff, capital building and a paltry penance called "Benevolence" to help the 'unfortunate.' Our lives aren't on the offering block, except in those countries were the Gospel is illegal, and we thank our lucky stars that we only have to deal with the liberal Democratic agenda….our house note, car note and sending our sons and daughters to 'good' schools to learn a skill so they can continue the tradition.

So long as we can maintain everything else…..well, let's throw a few bones at the Commission….otherwise, forgetaboutit. Self is paramount; sacrifice isn't something we talk about in the lofty halls of our church homes.

"I believe Western Christians have allowed a culture of convenience to become what Tim Bascom has aptly called "the comfort trap" (cf. The Comfort Trap, InterVarsity Press, 1998). Our lives are too comfortable. We are exhausted by a long list of multiple choices that we face daily. We are so busy that we have no time for friends or for real encounter with God. The very things we think we need do not bring satisfaction or joy, only bondage. What we crave is deep, true joy but we will never find it easily in this culture. At the root of this problem is our fear. We fear losing control. We fear losing influence and money. In short, we fear being taken out of our comfort zone." ~~~~John H. Armstrong, Acts 3 Ministries.

We will never be that .03% of the population who dares frigid, man-killing temperatures for the sake of moving outside their comfort zones amid the lower (and warmer) climates. We will never seek to dare ourselves to pursue a God who stands upon that mountain top far higher than Everest's summit and calls to us to dare…..not to climb with ropes, cleats and other mountaineering gear…but to step out with what we carry within us to that mountain and begin to dream in the face of impossibility, dare to have faith in the midst of freezing temperatures and to reach the summit under the power and mercy of God's own hand rather than our own…..why, that would be CRAZY!!!!

As crazy as the fifteen people who died during the 1996 climbing season on Everest… Doug Hansen and Scott Fischer (USA), Andrew Harris and Rob Hall (New Zealand), Yasuko Namba (Japan) and Subedar Tsewang Samania, Lance Naik Dorje Morup and Head Constable Tsewang Paljor (India) all perished on a disastrous day, May 11th, alone.

As crazy as the estimated 160,000 martyrs of the Christian faith in the 20th Century. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in Hitler's Germany), Oscar Romero (Soviet Union) and Hridoy Roy (Bangladesh) to name a few. In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, 45.5 million (65%) were in the last century, according to "The New Persecuted" ("I Nuovi Perseguitati") by Italian journalist Antonio Socci. Again, if my math is correct, that's 4.6% of the world's population in the last century.

Or even crazier, the Christians who continue to spread the Gospel upon the mountain of persecution in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jordan, North Korea, Laos, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen. Of 196 countries in the world, 35 countries (31%) are actively imprisoning or killing those who dare brave the mountain and speak of Christ……as opposed to the dangerous temperatures and winds of Everest, these heroes are hit with the two currents that fuel the persecution of Christians anywhere; Communism and Muslim fundamentalism.

And yet, we don't view them as heroes and heroines…..but rather the 'radical' elements of our faith. They, who dare to face the mountain of ever-increasing worldiness and self-centeredness of a world trying to kill God, not in the cushy seats of the modern building of their churches, giving tithes and lip-service to God one or two days a week….but actively living in uncomfortable and dangerous conditions to reach that summit where they can experience a "time of exaltation on the mountain, when [they] have seen things from God's perspective" (Oswald Chambers). And then begin the trip back down off that mountain top….back into the world of the valley……

"We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength." Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost For His Highest, "Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop." Because we cannot, we seek to recreate the 'daring' of the experience in the mudanity of our lives instead of living in faith and pursuit of God in the valley. We seek the feeling of living on the edge within the halls of our church in these postmodern times….daring music, controversial theologies and tempting 'money-making' and 'attracting' schemes to draw a huge crowd in on Sundays……..many churches spend the majority of their 'budgets' on Easter and Christmas productions….these, after all, are the only times when the majority of valley-dwellers will come to the mountain side……not climbing more than a few feet from the sea-level.

What would happen if we walked in the valley like those Everest summit climbers? What would it look like if we lived in the perceived craziness of weakness and stood our faith in each and every area of our lives……equipping our families, our wives, our children and those stumbling around in the darkness with the equipment necessary for the mountain climbing? What if we showed what we learned on the summit, in the exaltation and joy of God, in our mundane and 'boring' lives in the valley? What if?

I think it would look like the 'second' part of the verse above…… "For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.  For we are weak in Him, yet by the power of God we will live with Him to serve others." 

Climbing our own Everest's of a fallen humanity…..freehand, without the protection of our own trust and our eyes not upon the possessions of a world that persecutes and kills us, but on the face of the Almighty Father God who stands on the summit and cheers us on……………….



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