(January 10, 2017) Stuart Reynolds brings a timely 2017 challenge…
Thirty-five years ago the media outlets in the United States carried a most unique story about a 33-year-old man called Larry Walters. Perhaps approaching an early mid-life crisis, Larry decided he wanted a new perspective on life where he lived.
He came up with an ingenious plan – he purchased 42 weather balloons which he inflated, having friends attach them to his securely anchored lawn chair.
Along with some refreshments for the journey he also took a pellet gun, so he could shoot each balloon as he would make his descent. Walters thought the balloons would only take him a few hundred feet in the air – the reality was that they launched him some 15,000 feet and into the flight traffic pattern for the nearby Los Angeles International Airport!
Realising his dilemma, he frantically started to shoot the balloons, but in his panic dropped his gun. After two hours of ‘flight’ it finally took an Air Force helicopter to bring him down.
When the ‘Lawn Chair Pilot’ (as he became known as) was safely back on terra firma and charged by the police, he faced the music of the news reporters. He was asked, ‘Were you scared?’ His response was, ‘Yes, I was, but wonderfully so!’
When asked ‘Why did you do it?’ he replied ‘Because you can’t just sit there.’
Without suggesting that we be reckless and cause chaos, even danger, isn’t there a message here in Larry Walters’ words that we, as God’s people, need to hear and heed? – ‘You can’t just sit there!’
The old camping song comes to mind: ‘You can’t get to heaven on a rocking chair, Cause God don’t like no lazy-bones there!’
Think of the early church and their Christ-given mandate: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Yet, by the end of Acts 7, they were still in Jerusalem!
- It took persecution to finally drive the early church out of Jerusalem and to ‘the ends of the earth.’ What about the whereabouts of the present-day church?
- What will it take for us, to get us moving, to take us from where and why we are to where and what we need to be?
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 32:11-12, ‘Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The Lord alone led…’ This is in the same context of trusting God enough to move with him.
2017 is a vital time to move in God, to reachout with the gospel at both home and abroad. As Walters would paraphrase it: ‘You can’t just sit there!’
Recognising our deception
We have been so financially duped by this world-system – literally buying into it – that because of mortgage payments, pension schemes, credit card contracts, and other investments that it is now virtually impossible for the disciple of Jesus to live as Jesus taught!
In Matthew 6:25, 33-34, he said: ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.’
We live in a day where the call of God to full-time service in the pastorate and on the mission-field is no longer a vocation but a profession, with an expectation and even insistence that a ministry assignment will come with a professional level of salary and certain standard of accommodation, in keeping with the achieved degree of learning and title of status.
Jesus says to those he calls: ‘Take no bag for the journey – no staff, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them’ (Luke 9:3-5).
We have drifted so far from this as to live below and without it. But that great old truth is still a reality: ‘Who God calls – he keeps!’
Removing our distractions
There are many distractions! Our…
- Obsession with ‘numbers’
- Bombardment of noise instead of genuine worship
- Supposing that our pathetic attempts to be like the world will win the world
- Ultimately going with the world in how we think, what we value, who we listen to, why we make the choices and miss the chances we do.
On the heels of Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 and then 4,000, even with the Bread-Supplier in their boat the disciples were foolishly discussing with each other their lack of bread – ‘… we have no bread’ (Mark 8:16).
How dumb and distracted we are at times – thinking it’s about us, up to us. We have become so distracted in our clever committees and endless discussion groups, seeking to cover everything that we can now have church on Sunday whether God is there or not!
Everything must be found, fuelled and funded up-front, there is no need of the supernatural in the life of many individual believers; no longer any real expectation and thus experience of divine Intervention in both the worship and work of much of the church.
My deep concern for those who pride themselves as the Post Modern church is that such are…
- Long on wishy-washy emotion that quickly evaporates into nothing
- Short on solid life-changing truth that leads to something
- Experts in self-congratulation of self-indulgence
- Showing little of selflessness and sacrifice that knows God and trusts him.
As opposed to being distracted in our ‘discussions’ over our lack of ‘bread’ Christians, and particularly leaders, today need to trust God enough to take him at his word, to focus, simplify our lives and clear out the clutter. We either believe and trust God or we don’t!
We need to be going with God away from the glare of the ‘stage’ and beyond the end of the performance of a song into a life lived that doesn’t make sense and cannot be explained except by David’s 1 Chronicles 14:11NLT testimony of ‘God did it!’
My own life-text is found in Proverbs 30:7-9: ‘Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God.’
Recording our decision
When Henry David Thoreau was imprisoned because of his disagreeing stance on America’s involvement in the Mexican War, he was visited by a friend. Looking through the bars, the visitor asked, ‘Henry, what are you doing in there?’ He responded, ‘I have to ask you, what you are doing out there?’
Christian – ‘You can’t just sit there!’ Time and opportunity are running out. God knows where we’re at, taking note of our choices, giving us our chances. Sadly so many are content to ‘sit and discuss.’
Personally I want to be among those of whom Malachi wrote: ‘Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not”’ (Malachi 3:16-18).
My own current record is this…
2017 has seen me leave the pastoral ministry I have loved for over 25 years and start a new journey of itinerant ministry in preaching and teaching. At present we don’t know where and how – but we know what God has asked us to do and we ‘can’t just sit there!’ I have never needed more than now but I declare the following, I will be like…
- Paul – forgetting the things which are behind and press forward
- David – lifting up my eyes to the hills from whence comes help
- Abraham – trusting implicitly in my God
- Enoch – walking in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father
- Jehoshaphat – preparing my heart to seek God
- Moses – choosing rather to suffer than enjoy the pleasures of sin
- Daniel – communing with my God
- Job – being patient under all circumstances
- Gideon – standing firm even though my friends be few
- Aaron – upholding the hands of my spiritual leaders
- Isaiah – consecrating myself to God’s work
- Andrew – striving to lead my brother to a closer walk with Christ
- John – leaning on the heart of the Master
- Stephen – manifesting a forgiving spirit toward all who hurt me
- The heavenly host – proclaiming the message of peace and good will.
But what about you? You too can’t just sit there!
Personally I know that I can’t. Hand me those balloons – now!
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is UK based ministering as an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. Links: email@example.com / mobile/cell, +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries
This is the voice of a pastor speaking candidly to the ear of the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting due to feeling like a failure having had the last embers of self-worth kicked and stamped out of them. Stuart Reynolds writes from the heart and pastoral experience encouraging broken pastors that they are not useless, that they can move on and still benefit the kingdom despite the reality of foolish congregational censure and non-appreciative boards that don’t understand the challenges that pastors face. A timely read for the whole church.
Thanks for this refreshing and personal reflection, also a real challenge, Stuart — I find the temptation to sit is frequent — so I think I also need those balloons!