Into Thin Air

I finished another book last night -- Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. This is the story of the deadliest single day and year in Mt. Everest's climbing history. On May 10, 1996, 8 climbers lost their lives (and a total of 15 for the entire '96 climbing season). Krakauer was on assignment from Outside Magazine to write about the commercialization of Everest expeditions. Due to a deadly storm that hit on their summit day, the content of his article and subsequent book changed dramatically. Of the 11 expedition members on Krakauer's team, 5 lost their lives.

I loved this book as much or more as I loved Richard Preston's The Wild Trees. It was truly a page-turner. I have to admit I'm somewhat fascinated with the whole Everest thing and mountaineering, though I've never attempted it myself. I've actually set a goal to climb a fourteener in the next couple of years. I want to climb something like Shasta to see if it's a sport I'd actually enjoy (or if I just enjoy reading about it). Don't know that I'd ever attempt Everest, but I totally understand it.

One of the aspects of Into Thin Air I found interesting was the way Krakauer depicted the loneliness of climbing Everest. Krakauer is an experienced climber and all his previous expeditions were very team-oriented. But evidently there's something about the nature of climbing Everest that forces the climber to really depend on themselves and overcome their own mental and physical anguish, despite the fact that their supported by a team of dozens. It honestly made me think of church work.

In church we definitely have a team of people to rely on as we follow Jesus and tackle different missions, but sometimes I experience crushing loneliness in ministry. Maybe it's the nature of ministry, maybe it's a ploy of our enemy... Whatever it is, it can easily be crippling. I've often described discipleship as a team sport that requires incredible individual effort. My point is that no one can do discipleship for you. They can encourage you, support you, equip you... But ultimately, like Everest, it requires you making the decision to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Part of this incredible story was a man named Beck Weathers. Who was twice left for dead on the mountain. He had been stranded, exposed overnight, severely frostbitten, and more. No one on his team could conceive a reality where he would be able to recover and make it down the mountain. He was once assumed dead, then found alive, and then abandoned as a lost cause -- left for dead (which is the title of his own book). To everyone's surprise though, he came walking on his own power, mummy-like, into camp. After another brutal night on the mountain he was even closer to death. His team decided to leave him on the mountain a second time! Beck was able to rally though and get down the mountain.

It's just a reminder to me that in this process of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, whether you feel left for dead, or are considering leaving someone behind that seems to be a lost cause --- I don't believe "lost cause" is in God's dictionary. Ask and allow the Holy Spirit to give you the extra power to keep going (or to help someone else keep going).


Jesus Manifesto

Last night I finished reading Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola. The subtitle of this book is "Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ." I REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK! Jesus Manifesto is equal parts guidance for Christian living and layman's theology. It's been a while since I read a book that was more singularly focused on Jesus that this book. Jesus Manifesto does a great job of connecting the dots of our faith. Sweet & Viola are able to write in a style that seamlessly weaves Scripture throughout this narrative of salvation, Kingdom, and Christo-centric living. I seriously wish I could get every person in my church to read this book. I think they would have a much clearer view of Jesus, atonement, justification, and what their response to all of this should be.

I'm going to give this little book the highest praise I can think of by saying, if it catches on, Jesus Manifesto has the potential to be the 21st century answer to C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Please read this book! It'll be a priceless investment of your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Last night Jamie and I were laying in bed talking and she asked me how I was feeling about the church. I told her I felt very good about Living Hope. I still love this church almost as much as my own family and love being her pastor. I also told Jamie that sometimes it's easy to feel impatient, though. I know for some pastors things move lightening-fast. We hear stories of churches that grow from 4 to 4,000 in 4 years, or churches that had a vision for a big mission or ministry and God dropped a $4,000,000 gift in their laps and it moved from dream to reality overnight. But for the other 99.9% of us, ministry moves a little slower.

Even though I'm a big dreamer and fully expect God to blow us away with all that he'll accomplish in and through Living Hope Church, I told Jamie last night that I'm not at all discouraged by the slow pace. The reason is that I have this overwhelming sense that we're being faithful. I believe we are seeking the face of Jesus earnestly. I believe we are loving each other sincerely. I believe that we are serving this community and the rest of the world humbly. And I believe we give of ourselves and our resources sacrificially. In the end, that's what we're called to do. The question will be, "Were you faithful?"

That's not to say, that we couldn't write a 200 page book on all the ways we could improve our ministries and all the people that we're not reaching that we could and should be reaching. But I feel like we're serving God faithfully. We'll continue to allow him to change and improve us and we'll trust him for the increase. I would rather us be a healthy, faithful church that grows according to God's timeline, than for us to manufacture unnatural growth because we covet what other churches have.

I write all this to say, Living Hopers, if you're serving God faithfully, keep it up. Keep serving, loving, worshipping, giving, praying, studying, sharing, and dreaming! If you're not, then get on board, because we need you!