January 15, 2014A couple years back, I was presented with the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. It promised to be a tremendous adventure, East Africa, the highest freestanding mountain in the world with a great group of guys – what could be better than this? And what an adventure we had! We chased giraffes, winked at humping elephants, and witnessed the beauty and brutality of the savanna. We laughed and we cried. We were as silly as kids and as serious as monks. We spurred each other on up the ridge as teammates committed to finishing together. The final test came in the strange beauty of the early morning African darkness when we finished the ascent and were not found wanting.
The night before the summit, we slept a couple of hours in a hard structure called School Hut. School Hut had been constructed by the organization Outward Bound. For a period of time, the Tanzanian communists closed the border with nearby Kenya forcing the structure to be abandoned. After the communist party lost power in the early 1990's it was repaired by another organization and restored to it's original intent – giving ordinary people the opportunity to have learning experiences in extreme situations. It was nice to have a few hours in a hard structure before the summit. We used this as a place for planning and preparing our gear for the final push to the top. The hut was pretty stark, nothing like home, but it was a great base of operation to prepare for the final ascent.
Like that mountain hut, God has built a structure called "The Church.' It's nice, but nothing like home. The Church was meant to be a base of operation, where people get geared up for the final ascent. When Jesus came, He had no patience for the "huts" of the first century because they had forgotten the reason they existed. The religious institutions that existed in Jesus' day were respectable. They were well-organized, required high educational and behavioral standards for their leadership, and they handled their finances with integrity. But, instead of seeing themselves as a place of shelter meant to help people ascend the ridge of faith, they saw themselves as keepers of a home. So, he tore down those, proud, domesticated institutions and established a new and enduring system of huts – the church. Rightly perceived, the church of Jesus Christ is an outpost – a hut on a high mountain. It's a place to 'gear up' for God-inspired adventures in the beautiful, yet hostile, environment in which we find ourselves.
In keeping with Outward Bound's gusto-filled, learn-as-you-go, mission their motto is "If you can't get out of it, get into it!" You are designed for that kind of adventure, an adventure that will ultimately crest-out at a ridgeline that separates all that you have known in this life from that which is eternal. We live our whole lives on a journey toward that great divide not fully understanding what lies beyond.
The Bible is a our trail guide that's meant to inspire action, give us practical guidance for our experience on the trail, and inform us about what lies beyond the ridge. According to the book, when we crest the ridge it's vital that we are prepared. The necessary preparation is a relationship with someone who actually came from the other side, beyond the ridge, to lead us home. We can't go wrong following Jesus because He knows the way. He cut the trail.
As you continue on your personal experience of the trail, it's my hope that you will tether yourself to the One who will safely lead you home. You need a guide. You need the information found in the book. You neglect the shelter of The Hut at your peril. I hope that in spite of the discomfort and danger inherent in the journey, you'll conclude that: "You can't get out of it, so you might as well get into it!"