Monday, November 26, 2007

Looking Up & Looking Ahead

It was just a short car ride with Uncle Roy, just down the path at Bancroft Bible Camp. Yet, it yielded two great phrases that I’ve been pondering for months.

Though retired, Rev. Roy Thomas is part of the staff of Bancroft Bible Camp. A WWII Vet – he was across the island from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 – Uncle Roy has learned a thing or two in his many and often hard years.

An orphan boy from Chicago’s south side, Roy was a pastor for many years. He and his hard working spouse Evelyn, have faithfully and diligently served the Lord in many roles and places.

Getting out of my car that day to go into chapel and lead singing at camp, Roy cheerfully told me: "Keep looking up." Live with an eye to the sky, anticipating the Lord’s return. Things may be bad down here, but be encouraged, He will return. This is a source of hope and accountability; be ready.

This gentle, playful soul must have sensed the humor of telling someone who was about to drive off to "Keep looking up". So Uncle Roy – as he known by countless campers at Bancroft – added with a smile and twinkle in his eyes: "But keep your eyes on the road."

This was more than just a witty word of driving advice. This in fact completed the encouragement to "Keep looking up." Yes, we must live in light of the blessed hope, the return of Jesus, the setting up of His kingdom, the consummation of the ages. We are also to be faithful and wise servants day by day.

"Keep looking up. Keep your eyes on the road" - not a bad couplet. One could do worse for spur of the moment advice. Live in light of the hope of heaven. Live out your calling while here on earth.

Can one be – as the phrase goes – so heavenly minded you are no earthly good? Yes, if you do not keep your eyes on the road, traveling the path Jesus laid out for you, fulfilling your calling which God sovereignly designed just for you (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 8:28-39; Jeremiah 1:1-11; Psalm 139).

I recently looked through a Hymnal and noted that the first 80 plus songs were about heaven. Not about God per se, but about mansions, streets of gold, rest and the sweet bye and bye. Frankly, the impression I had was one of escapism.

Do not misunderstand: I praise God for His gracious promise of heaven through Christ (John 14; Revelation 20-22). Yet, I somehow sense He did not mean it to be an excuse to just wait out our time here.

Much like the exiled Jews in Babylon, we are told to settle in and serve Him until the time is right (see Jeremiah 29:4-14); an eye on the road, and an eye towards heaven.

With apologies to my Catholic friends, there are more Protestant monks than any other variety. You know them – might be one. People who have so orchestrated their lives that they have all but eliminated life-contact with anyone but other Christians. God warned against such faulty living (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

Between continual internal church events, having Christian mechanics, grocers, beauticians, these functional Monks rarely have to risk involvement with the lost. Even their dog goes to a Christian Vet, where other Christian dogs congregate. May I add, Christian fleas are the worst.

Such Monk’s quick forays into the world are done holding their spiritual breath: in and out, avoid contamination, minimize risk of compromise. Yet, they also eliminate any chance of helping others, having impact, being salt or light. People who live only looking up will not be found in service to their Master, wasting their talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

We can also be consumed with keeping our eyes on the road. I find that when I am solely looking ahead and not looking up, as I ought – remembering Him and why - I become frazzled and fruitless. Remember Martha (see Luke 10:38-42)?

When we get too busy going and serving, taking care of life’s business every day, in every way, living in overdrive, we need to get back to turning ours eyes towards heaven.

Casting an eye upward helps me remember why I am running so hard (see Colossians 3:1-11). As Twila Paris sang: the warrior is a child, who needs in the midst of life’s battles to drop their sword and look up for a smile.

Wisdom can’t be contained. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We bring out what we have stashed in. Roy was kind enough to remind me to keep the faith, be hopeful, live with obedience and anticipation: keep looking up.

Roy was also seasoned, sensible and – with all due respect – silly enough to remind me to be alert, take care, fulfill the job that was at hand: keep my eyes on the road.

The Lord took my dad home about three years ago. When an older man is now fatherly to me, I have a new appreciation for it, even at age 46. Young pups, don’t kid yourself: we always need wisdom that comes from those with experience. Especially those like Uncle Roy & Aunt Evelyn who keep looking up and keep their eyes on the road.

Monday, November 12, 2007