Monday, September 19, 2016

Having Fun Along The Way

(Habakkuk 1:1-2,2:2-3)  The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. {2} O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save?  2:2  Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. {3} For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

Last week I stated that the point of becoming a Christian is not to reach some ultimate destination --- ie, perfection, or heaven,
but the point of being a Christian is to be on a lifelong
          Eternally lifelong
                   Journey with Jesus Christ

And the point of the journey is not reaching some goal (although, those things are great) the point is THE JOURNEY.
          Being a fellow traveler with Jesus and with each other.

When we pay attention to our journey in the present, we encounter the living Christ, and ultimately experience the power of Jesus in what we might call those "unexpected Holy moments" along the way.

But, on the other hand, when we see our Christian faith as a means to an end,
·         as a way of getting from A to B,
·         a way of getting from this life to eternal life,
·         and we pay no attention to life in between,
·         life tends to become miserable
the journey becomes long and arduous
and we cut ourselves off from the many ways that Jesus is waiting and wanting to touch our lives!

As we constantly seek to keep before us the notion that Christianity is a never ending journey
and when we realize that the point of the journey IS THE JOURNEY
then there are some "RULES OF THE ROAD" that can help make the journey more profitable and more fun!

I want to thank the Monday morning Bible Study for their help in coming up with some of these ideas,

Some of them are pretty simple and self evident

RULE # 1   We are in this together, so wear your name tag!

It is a lot more fun to know who you are traveling with

If you don't have a name tag --- then now is a good time to get one!

RULE #2.    If you are not sure just where you are going --- GO SOMEWHERE!

Too many Christians never get off the starting blocks in their walk with Jesus because they are not sure exactly where they are supposed to go, or how they will get there.

A young person once said to me:
"I know that God is calling me to do something, but I don't want to just try anything.  I want to make sure that I do the right thing --- rather than just trying something and finding out that isn't what God wants of me."

How many of us have said almost the exact same thing?

I know God wants me to DO something, but what that is, I am not sure
so I had better not do anything until I figure out exactly what that is.
I will wait for God to bop me on the head --- then I will get started.

If you are not sure just where you are going ---- PLEASE, just go somewhere.

Jesus tells the disciples to GO --- he doesn't tell them where to go — JUST GO, he says

Remember the stories I shared last week about my journey --- the biblical story of God calling ABRAHAM, telling him to "Go to the place I will show you"

There is an old Chinese proverb that states:
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Samuel Johnson once said:
"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."

There will always be temptations and rationalizations that tell us to seek the safety of doing nothing --- BUT God calls all of us to GO!
And if we believe the Gospel we also believe that God will lead us!

That leads me to my third rule: CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, MAPS REALLY ARE OK!

As you move along on your Christian journey --- do you consult your map?

And since the point of our journey is the journey we find ourselves on every day ---- do you consult your map daily'?


We have in our possession, the greatest collection of maps in the world.
Within that book are maps that will help us along the way on our journey
BUT, how often do we really consult it?

And do we really know how to read it?

I believe one of the problems today is many of us have lost the ability to read God's map.

How often do we go through life, assuming we know the Way.
Never consulting our maps --- only to find ourselves desperately lost and confused.

Take time to understand this "map" --- the Bible --- that God has given us.

The fourth rule is: just when you think everything is going smooth and you want to shift into fifth gear --- there is always a car doing forty in the passing lane!
To say it another way: LEARN PATIENCE.

It is hard to be patient.

Interruptions are a part of life!

The question we must ask ourselves is:
On our Christian journey are we angered by having to slow down'?
Or are we willing to seek the Holy moments that can be found in the detours of life.

Our scripture reading from Habakkuk reminds us that we must slow down.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save'? Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

Paul writes in the book of Colossians: (Col 3:12)
"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience."

But, boy --- is it hard!

If indeed, interruptions are a normal part of life, then we must learn the lesson from Paul and the author of Habakkuk.

We must learn patience — because in learning patience we can experience a fifth rule of the road. ENJOY THE DETOURS; YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU WILL FIND!

I hate detours ---- when I am on a long journey, the last thing I want to deal with is a detour

But, our Christian journey is filled with detours!

Unplanned interruptions, circumstances that make us alter our course and take a different route --- things that cause us to change our plans.

When we hit the detours we face a choice
·         we can be miserable and angry about how life is unfair, God is unfair, our friends our unfair, everything is unfair
·         or find some joy in the detour.

A train was filled with tired people. Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains and at last evening had come and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep. However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby and as night came on the baby became restless and cried more and more. Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group. 'Why don't you take that baby to its mother?" There was a moment's pause and then came the reply. "I'm sorry. I'm doin' my best. The baby's mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead." Again there was an awful silence for a moment. Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child. He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark. He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep. Then in loving patience he cared for the little child all through the night.

That man wanted to sleep, he wanted that baby to shut up --- but in the end, instead of allowing the detour to destroy him --- he allowed the detour to change him.

Detours are a fact of life.

They are a part of the Christian journey.
Sometimes we make a wrong turn --- sometimes the road gets blocked.

At times I feel overwhelmed with the interruptions that happen in the day I have planned out, but at other times I find precious God given moments in them.

How we handle the detours, the interruptions of life says a lot about how we view and experience our Christian journey.

When I was a junior in High School, my father got a crazy idea. 
He thought that a trip of just the Conger men was in order.

He convinced my two brothers and me that it would be a wonderful experience if we went canoeing in Quetico Provincial Park in Canada.

So we began the process of getting in shape.

The hard part about canoeing is not paddling the canoe (although that is not the easiest task to do for four or five hours every day!)

The worst part is when you come to the end of one lake and you have to carry all your "Stuff' to the next lake.

One of the things that makes Quetico so wonderful is that there are no motor boats allowed in the Provincial Park.
There are no stores, there are no bathrooms, there really aren't any campsites - it is primitive, especially once you get farther into the Park and away from Boundary Waters in Minnesota. 
So everything that you are going to need for your week long jaunt into nature, must be brought in by you and out by you!

For a couple of months, we practiced carrying the canoes and our packs around our neighborhood. I am sure the neighbors all thought that we were lunatics. We worked hard so that we would be in good shape -- BUT

The truth is nothing can prepare you for that first portage. We thought that we had done a good job in limiting what we were taking. After that first day, I was convinced that half of what we brought was worthless.

From that trip I learned our 6th rule of the road (I only wished I followed it better) and that is: When traveling long distances or for a long period of time --- it is best to pack light.

This simple lesson is also true for our Christian journey. Too many of us try to make headway in our Christian lives while still carting around a whole lot of baggage.

We over pack, refusing to throw away useless weight, and we find ourselves worn out and beaten down by our Christian journey.

Unfortunately, when that happens a lot of people just give up, forgetting that Jesus invites and encourages us to give up some of that weight.

As Christians we are called to pack light. Yet, still, time and time again I hear it. Most of us are so very good at storing away our old hurt, our past sins, so those things become like a mill stone around our necks weighing us down.

There is the person who says: “Christianity just isn't working for me. I'm just not loveable.”

Then there is the person who is consumed by their job, they wake up one day to find that their children have grown, their spouse has run off with somebody else. They are overwhelmed with the weight of guilt and shame - burdened by the “woulda, coulda shoulda’s” of life . . .  what could I have done differently.

To this Jesus speaks when he says:
(Mat 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

The point of our Christian journey is the Journey --- and if we are going to survive the journey we must learn to pack light!!

Jesus calls to us --- NO, Jesus pleads with us to drop our burdens at his feet. There is no need for us to journey with the extra weight, the garbage we walk through life with - Jesus will take it —  and he promises that he will give us rest!

In other words --- We must learn to forgive ourselves!

God has forgiven us long before we forgive ourselves.
Why are we so insistent on clinging to those old sins?

As we journey, why are we so insistent on traveling with weight that is unbearable, unnecessary, and foolish?

Why do we find it so hard to travel light? To lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus --- to exchange our yoke of sin and sorrow, which is so heavy, with the light yoke of Jesus?

If God is willing to wipe the slate clean and give us a fresh start, we too, must be willing to accept ourselves, learn to live with the past --- learn from its scars --- and move into the future with strength and determination.

Face it, most of the weight that you and I carry on life’s journey is unnecessary --- and Jesus says to us: "give it up, forgive yourself even as I have forgiven you."

Pack light -- Jesus wants not only our stresses and problems in life --- Jesus wants our old shames, guilts and hurts as well.


Face it we need each other.  As much as I don't like to admit it, I have found myself lost at times. I hate being lost --- And I bet most of you can identify with that feeling.

There are moments on our Christian journey that we feel utterly lost!

We have no clue as to where we are, where we are going, or how we are going to get there!

Listen to what Paul has to tell us from his letter to the Romans:

(Romans 12:9‑21 NIV)  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. {10} Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. {11} Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. {12} Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. {13} Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. {14} Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. {15} Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. {16} Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. {17} Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. {18} If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. {19} Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. {20} On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It's here.
It's in this place --- in the Body of Christ --- the church --- that we can in our times of loss, in our times of doubt, even in our times of joy --- find friends, and fellow travelers!!!

People who will help us find our way — people who will be supportive --- people who will hold out lights in the darkness — people who will help us keep perspective on our current journey.

Remember, us who sit here this morning --- we have got to always remember: We are the Church (I am not the church) and it is to the Church that hurting people come in their time of lostness and need.

In my book there is only truly one kind of hypocrisy that the church must really be concerned about.

And that hypocrisy is not that we are Christians and yet still sinners --- because that is the reality of why we are here, if we were perfect we would not need to come.

No the hypocrisy that I am concerned about is when we turn our backs on those who are lost, on those who need love, on those who need compassion and support.
Don't ever forget what Paul says in Romans: "Be devoted to one another in . . . love."

My final rule is this and it flows from the previous one: TAKE ALONG SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE ROAD!

A friend of mine tells the story about a time when he and his family were white water rafting. On this trip there were four boats. Now normally each boat has its own guide --- someone who knows the river --- knows the best way to get down the river --- and where all the trouble spots are that need to be avoided.

When they got ready to go, they were told that one of the guides was sick --- and they asked if someone would be willing to steer the boat down the river.
They said that this person's job would be simply to follow the other guides.

Needless to say, my friend volunteered.

And as he would tell the story, he was a good guide (at least for most of the trip!)

While they were heading into some pretty good white water, he was dutifully following the other guides in front of him and shouting out the paddling orders to the other members of his boat.

Suddenly, there was in front of them a boulder that had to be navigated around. Proudly, he says that is exactly what he did --- yet little did he know, but right after that big boulder was a second smaller boulder that also had to be maneuvered over.

He did pretty well at that too, most of the boat missed that little rock --- actually the only part of the boat that caught that rock was the exact spot where he was sitting --- and the result was predictable.

Once he fell, instinctively he grabbed the rope that encircled the boat --- he said that the water was so cold that he could not talk, nor even scream.

It wasn't until the others noticed that he wasn't screaming out orders that they even realized that he had gone over.

Fortunately they helped him get back in the boat and get it down the rest of the rapids successfully.

The point of the story is this: without a guide to lead us --- someone who is experienced in the journey that we are taking --- the results can be tragic.
We need someone to help guide us along the way.

As Christians that guide is none other than Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God's chosen disciples.

Have you noticed how Jesus went about preparing people to become guides?
He didn't say: "Go do it yourself"
No, what Jesus always did is say: "Follow me."

And then, once we have followed we can help others along the journey that we have firsthand knowledge of.

Paul always was busy trying to teach others, to show them the way first and then, and only then to let them become guides along the way, under the direction of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

All too often we travel along on our journeys and we lose sight of whom it is that is our Ultimate guide.

All too often we travel along on our journeys and we forget to enlist the help of our guide!

All too often we travel along on our journeys and in our bull headed nature we say --- the heck with the guide, I know a better way --- and it never fails, but we find ourselves thrown from the boat!

Christianity is a never ending journey --- and you and I are on that journey!

It is impossible to make the journey without a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.

The journey that we are on is at times long and hard, and it has far too many obstacles for us to travel on without an experienced guide!

Jesus Christ is the only one who fully knows the way, and is the only one who can be the trailblazer!

PLEASE, please take someone along with you who knows the journey.
find a prayer partner
find a study partner
find a friend in Christ

This morning I have shared eight simple, yet I believe profound rules that will make our journey more successful and more fun.

Christianity is a journey --- a journey through this life, experiencing God and all that God has for us.

Let us try to remember these rules as we go through our life.

Only you know what you need at this moment on your journey
courage to start
lessening of the burdens that you carry with you

Only you know.

Bring those before our Lord and receive his blessing and guidance!

Let me close with this story:
A college class was graduating on a hot and humid day. As the graduates walked across the platform to receive their diplomas from the president of the University, he smiled, shook their hands, and said loudly, "CONGRATULATIONS!" Then, in a much lower voice, one that was firm and could only be heard by the graduates, he would say, "Keep moving."

He was only trying to keep the line moving across the stage, but his words are good advice for a lifetime -- "Keep Moving."

After every achievement --- growing up, graduation, marriage, job promotion, even retirement --- the best advice is: "Keep moving. Don't stop. Don't stagnate. There is more to life than you have found thus far."

Even once we have made the decision to become a Christian, God says the same thing to us:

"This is not the end of the journey, only the beginning. Keep moving!"

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