Sunday, May 29, 2011


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 6.4.11

What picture comes into your head when you hear the word refugee?  Probably it’s a picture of someone who’s far away from home, hungry, hasn’t had a shower in a while, not a pretty picture.

I heard an old Tom Petty song this week and the words got stuck in my head:
“Somewhere, somehow somebody/Must have kicked you around some/Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped/Tied up, taken away and held for ransom/It don't really matter to me/Everybody's had to fight to be free/You see you don't have to live like a refugee/I said you don't have to live like a refugee”[1]
Just so I know we’re talking about the same thing, here’s how my dictionary defines refugee:
“1.  a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.  2.   political refugee.”[2]
From what I’ve seen of refugees over the years, it seems like they are often people who are trying to escape some catastrophic thing, but they get stuck somewhere along the way in refugee camps, where they endure really awful conditions.  And sometimes, these people never get to the safe place they were originally heading for because of what happens to them along the way.

While I was trying to get Tom Petty’s song out of my head, it occurred to me that we are religious refugees (as opposed to political).    We have started our journey away from sin and toward Heaven, but we are stuck in this refugee camp.
Some folks are eager to tell us that we would have been better off if we hadn’t tried to get away from sin to begin with.  Some folks are sure we’re going to be stuck in this camp and nobody cares whether we make it out or not.
You and I know, though, that a huge humanitarian mission has been launched (from the foundations of the world).
“‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’”  Matthew 17:20-26
Then, while I was looking up the definition of ‘refugee’, I noticed that one of the synonyms listed was ‘prodigal’.  That really made me stop and think.  I’d never really thought about it before but after he had lost his half of his father’s forturne and was living with the pigs, the prodigal son was a refugee.  He was not where he’d started from, living large with lots of friends, and he’s not where he was headed – mostly because he didn’t know where he wanted to go yet.  The prodigal son was definitely stuck in between, with the pigs.
“The prodigal is far from his Father’s house, perishing with hunger. He is to be the object of our compassion. Do you ask: ‘How does God regard those who are perishing in their sins?’ I point you to Calvary. God ‘gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. Think of the Saviour’s matchless love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died to save us from eternal death.”[3]
There is absolutely no excuse for us to still be living like refugees…unless we choose to stay with the pigs. One of our problems is that sometimes we’re afraid to leave our refugee status behind and head for home.  Even the prodigal son held out for a while.  Why?  We’re afraid of being turned away from our destination.  Satan wants to make sure that we see our Heavenly Father as waiting to reject us instead of watching every day for our silhouette on the road home.
“In his book Waiting: Finding Hope Where God Seems Silent (InterVarsity, 1991), Ben Patterson, a man I treasure as a friend, tells a story from his personal life:
“‘In the summer of 1988, three friends and I climbed Mount Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite National Park. Two of us were experienced mountaineers; two of us were not. I was not one of the experienced two. ... As the hours passed, and we trudged up the glacier, the two mountaineers opened up a wide gap between me and my less-experienced companion. Being competitive by nature, I began to look for short cuts I might be able to take to beat them to the top. I thought I saw one to the right of an outcropping of rock--so I went up, deaf to the protests of my companions. ...
“‘Thirty minutes later I was trapped in a cul-de-sac of rock …, looking down several hundred feet of a sheer slope of ice, pitched at a forty-five degree angle. ... I was only ten feet from the safety of a rock. But one little slip and I wouldn't stop sliding until I had landed in the valley floor about fifty miles away! ... I was stuck and I was scared’
“Patterson's words are non-religious ways of describing the predicament that more than a few of us fall into. … They take the right-hand turn around an outcropping of rock, suspecting that at the end there will be nothing but joy and roses. Instead, they find themselves stuck.
“Back to Ben Patterson, who was stuck and scared: ‘It took an hour for my experienced climbing friends to find me. … one of them leaned out and used an ice axe to chip two little footsteps in the glacier. Then he gave me the following instructions: “Ben, you must step out from where you are and put your foot where the first foothold is. ... Without a moment's hesitation swing your other foot across and land it in the next step. [Then] ... reach out and I will take your hand, and I will pull you to safety. ... But listen carefully: As you step across, don't lean into the mountain! If anything, lean out a bit. Otherwise, your feet could fly out from under you, and you will start sliding down.”’
“Patterson says, ‘When I'm on the edge of a cliff, my instinct is to lie down and hug the mountain … not lean away from it! But that was what my good friend was telling me to do as I stood trembling on that glacier. I looked at him real hard. ... For a moment, based solely on what I believed to be true about the good will and good sense of my friend, I decided to say no to what I felt ... to lean out, step out, and traverse the ice to safety. It took less than two seconds to find out if my faith was well founded. It was.’” [4]
Our Friend, Jesus, has told us exactly what we need to do to get unstuck…do we trust Him enough to do it?

[1] Tom Petty, “Refugee,”  Damm the Torpeadoes
[2] refugee. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from website:
[3] E.G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, page 50
[4] Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121

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