Archive for October, 2011

Do you treat a hotel differently than you treat your house? When you stay in a hotel, did you do anything to improve it? You probably don’t say to your wife or husband, “Honey, what this room needs is a new coat of paint. Let’s go down to the paint store and pick up a couple of gallons of that color we used in our bedroom.” You don’t likely say, “This bedspread is faded. I think we should go to the store and buy another one.”

Before you checked out,  did you tidy up the room? Did you run the vacuum cleaner or scrub the toilet or empty the trash cans? Did
you go to the manager and say, “Do you have any tools I could borrow? I feel like some things  in the room need a little attention.”

Of course, you didn’t. That would be silly. You don’t treat a hotel like your home. You have an investment in your home.

However, I find that some people treat their church like a hotel rather than their home.

If church is a hotel, you drop in, ignore everything, leave your trash, drop in $5 or $10 or $20, and you’re gone. You expect certain things, because, after all, you’re the customer. If you’re a customer, you come to expect service. You expect to find the coffee ready and the childcare to be wonderfully staffed with the best childcare workers available. If you treat your church like a hotel, you expect good service. And if you don’t get it, you can always try another church.

However, if church is your home, you walk in, and you say, “I need to serve. I need to  participate. What’s not getting done that I can do? What can I learn so that I can help out? What are the prayer needs?”  And you become emotionally invested. You serve. You give. You participate because your heart’s there.

So ask yourself, “Do I treat my church like a hotel or my home?”

Back in 1984, Joseph Schexnider’s trouble began when he stole a car. However, Schexnider compounded his problems by missing his scheduled court appearance. When the police showed up at his home to arrest him, that’s when Schexnider decided to disappear. He did a good job. He disappeared for 27 years. During that time nobody, not his mother, nor his family knew where he had gone.

But now Joseph Schexnider has been found, sort of.

As best as anyone can figure out, Schexnider decided to finance his disappearance by robbing an Abbeville bank. At least that appears to be his intent. A few months ago workers on the building found his body in the bank’s unused chimney. Apparently, Schexnider started to slide down the chimney and only made it part way – getting permanently stuck.

His mother never reported him missing because she knew the police were after her boy. The family never reported him missing because he had a habit of leaving town without telling them where he was going, or how long he would be gone. Authorities surmise that 27 years ago Schexnider, stuck in a bank’s chimney, died of dehydration. Knowing that nobody knew where he was, that nobody was looking for him, it had to be a long, a lonely way to die.

Of course, there was one Person who knew where Schexnider was. I wonder if during those long hours, were his thoughts ever turned to the Lord? Did he ask for help? Did he pray for forgiveness? Did he receive comfort from the knowledge the Savior wanted to be with him? The Lord alone knows the answers to those questions.

Now I doubt that any of us have ever felt as alone as Joseph Schexnider did. Even so, almost all of us have times when we feel alone. Most of us have experienced days, weeks and months when we felt nobody cared about us, nobody was looking for us, nobody would notice if we just disappeared.

If you have ever experienced these feelings, I hope you know there is no place where you can go that is too hidden for the Lord not to know where you are. Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD (Jeremiah 23:24). Even more, the Lord who knows also cares. He who gave His Son to bear your sin and save your soul from eternal damnation always cares.

There is comfort in that knowledge we have a Lord and Savior who will always care – no matter where we are, or in what situation we get stuck.

Stewart Ruch wrote an amazing article in the August 20, 2011, edition of The Wall Street Journal, about Karl Marlantes. At the age of 23, Second Lt. Marlantes led 40 marines during an intense battle in the Vietnam War. Marlantes had moved his men into the jungle as they waited for U.S. jets to bomb a hill that North Vietnamese soldiers had overtaken. Unfortunately, the jets came and dropped their bombs on the wrong hill. So when Marlantes led his men out of the jungle, they were instantly under fire from untouched machine-gun positions. Marlantes knew it would only take a few minutes before the enemy rockets and mortars found his troops. The entire mission ground to a halt as the U.S. soldiers ducked behind downed trees and huddled in shell holes.

Marlantes knew what he had to do next, writing, “If I didn’t get up and lead, we’d get wiped out …. I did a lot of things that day … but the one I’m most proud of is that I simply stood up, in the middle of that flying metal, and started up the hill …. I simply ran forward up the steep hill, zigzagging for the bunker, all by myself, hoping [my own soldiers] wouldn’t hit me in the back. It’s hard to zigzag while running uphill loaded down with ammunition and grenades.”

But then in the midst of his solo charge up the hill to take out the enemy, Marlantes suddenly saw some movement in his peripheral vision: “It was a marine! He was about 15 meters below me, zigzagging, falling, up and running again. Immediately behind him a long ragged line of Marines came moving and weaving up the hill behind me. Behind the line were spots of crumpled bodies, lying where they’d been hit. They’d all come with me …. Everyone was intermingled, weaving, rushing and covering, taking on each hole and bunker one at a time in groups …. We, the group, just rushed forward all at once. We couldn’t be stopped. Just individuals among us were stopped … but we couldn’t be …. I was we, no longer me.”

I find Marlantes’s story both inspirational and challenging. Inspirational because, as someone has written, “A Marine is trained for moments that demand uncommon valor, and remembered for a lifetime of uncommon virtue.” Challenging because our church family has rallied together to care for the significant needs of one family in our midst, we’ve experienced the body of Christ functioning well. Yet there’s still a part of me that is disheartened. I’m disheartened because, as a pastor for almost thirty years, I have often witnessed the lack of comradery among many which can leave the impression that “we’re on our own to fend for ourselves.”

God gave us the church – to grow us and strengthening us so that we might work together for His glory.