Over the holiday break my wife and I spent a delightful extended weekend in Colorado. While journeying through the streets of Colorado Springs, one of our hosts pointed out the new marijuana shops that have opened up since the legalization took effect. All I can say is that some may get their “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” from cannabis, but ours came from the creation and especially the church!
What majesty is not only seen but felt as you drive or stand along the towering Rockies! The quietness and the power overwhelm, humbling you beneath their splendor. We spent a few days with our dear friends John & Angi Hindman and their family in Longmont. One day we drove up into the mountains to Brainerd Lake, with plans to hike around it a bit. But by the time we arrived the temperature had plummeted to single digits and the winds blew strong. So we remained in the van, enjoying the view as we partook of a hot soup and snack picnic. On the way back down, we happened upon the scene of a bull moose lumbering across a snow-covered field. As I had driven all over a park in Canada a few years ago looking for but failing to see a moose, I felt like a little kid upon this sighting!
At the invitation of Craig & Shanna Milroy, we joined their family on Saturday, including our friends and our daughter’s future in-laws Wade & Barb Mann, for more sight-seeing. We casually walked into a ritzy resort to view a large gingerbread house display, then afterwards drove to the Seven Falls Park to see the frozen falls lit for the holidays. The ice and snow prevented us from going up by stair or elevator to see the higher falls, but none of us minded as the cold made us glad for the warmth of the gift shop and then the car heaters on the ride home.
On the Lord’s Day afternoon we spent time at the home of David & Elke Reese, with Alex & Melissa Tabaka joining us. The Reeses have recently moved into their home that through one window overlooks Colorado Springs where David pastors, views Pike’s Peak in the other direction, and then peers right into the red rocks of the Garden of the Gods in yet another. What beautiful fellowship we enjoyed in such a beautiful setting! Later as David was driving us through the Garden, he casually mentioned the trail he uses to run up Pike’s Peak. I knew he was a runner, but had no idea he and his wife did ultra-distant trail running where runs of 50 miles or more are common. As I had a one year stint in high school of cross-country running where I thought 5 miles was too much, I cannot even imagine doing that tenfold or more. The thin air up there must make running all the more difficult, but then again maybe the lack of oxygen causes people to do such crazy things!
Yet the real glory of God’s handiwork was seen in the church. The churches in Colorado are multiplying. For instance, the churches in Denver and Colorado Springs have both daughtered works recently. Hearing about the Lord’s work, seeing the changed lives, and witnessing the enthusiasm for the gospel as we worshiped there was so encouraging to Miriam’s and my heart. I was privileged to speak to the youth from all over the presbytery on the subject of “Christ’s Bride, Our Mother: Loving and Delighting in the Church.” I addressed them alone as a group twice on Saturday, and then with the Springs congregation in both morning and evening services on Sunday. Here’s how I began:
Perhaps you saw it on YouTube. A year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2011, a 22-year-old lady named Erin Langworthy, an Aussie, was in Africa bungee jumping from the bridge on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe that spans the Zambesi River. It’s a 365 foot drop. The river is filled with rocks, rapids from the world’s largest waterfall, and crocodiles. Her collarbone broke when she hit the water, she momentarily blacked out, her feet were bound together, her cord got caught in rocks, but somehow she managed to free herself and swim to shore. She was banged and bruised, but made it.
In The Courage to Be Protestant, David Wells wrote these words in 2008:
“The last time I walked over the bridge that links Zambia and Zimbabwe (Note: that is the same bridge), just below the Victoria Falls, I watched a bungee jumper launch himself into space from the center of the bridge. The waters beneath are some four hundred feet down, full of froth and crocodiles. This is Africa. Equipment of the kind he was using may not be tested regularly and replaced on schedule. In fact, what I saw were cords that appeared already to have been overused. They were very frayed, and I wondered how long it would be before an intrepid jumper did not make the return journey to the bridge’s edge and simply continued into the churning waters in the gorge far, far below.” (p. 9) It took about 3 years to prove that Wells is somewhat of a prophet. Perhaps we should listen further to him then. For a lesson is contained in the “prophecy” of the bungee cord.
Wells was using this illustration in his book to describe what is happening in the Protestant churches. Like that bungee cord, evangelical truth is unraveling and it is causing youth to plunge into the world of unbelief. The core of gospel truths, agreed upon for a long time by most ministries using that name, has unraveled over the past three decades. Churches and ministries have been adding causes and entertainment and non-biblical beliefs to the gospel, and they have become the message rather than the gospel. Wells says, “The cords plaited together out of the formal and material principles became frayed and then, for increasing numbers, snapped. They are no longer able to return the jumper to the fellowship.” An example of that would be that studies are showing that more than half of college students who were in church before college leave it. A Barna study “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf…” said it was 61%.
That is why we have conferences such as these. We do not want you to leave the church nor the Lord of the church. We do not want you to fall to the lie there are things more thrilling out there, only to jump and find compromised truths are not able to return you to the Lord.
The leadership asked me to speak on “developing our Biblical responsibilities as the church in order to meet the needs of mercy and justice in both the church and community.” How does the biblical view of community involvement and service differ from that of the world? Is it important for that involvement to be through the church? How do we develop gifts now and as we grow up? Our focus will be on loving the church, for as we love her more we will serve her more greatly. To help us with this and to answer those questions, we will go to Isaiah. The Prophet Isaiah is calling people to the most thrilling truths man can know.
I then spoke on the four topics of:
- A Joyful Delight in the Church
- The True Worship of the Church
- The Fragrant Offering of the Church
- A Tender Affection for the Church
As this little travelogue attests, I saw some beautiful sights. But none were more wonderful or exciting than seeing the young people expressing their love for the Scriptures, one another, and the church. Witnessing that gave me hope that the Lord has a hold on their hearts that will not be broken.