Imagine this scene. It is windy and hot with the temperature close to 100 degrees. There is the sound of horses and wagon wheels and loud voices of impatient men. The air is filled with dust and anticipation. All has been left behind for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Families in covered wagons and individuals on horseback are lined up, anxiously awaiting the sun to reach its zenith. At high noon the gun will sound and these 19th century pioneers will be off to stake their claims.
It was September 16, 1889. These pioneers were off to settle a piece of land in Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip. Perry, my hometown, was packed with people, as it served as the headquarters for this Oklahoma Land Run. Each year this event is remembered with a weekend of activities known as the Cherokee Strip Celebration. After the Saturday morning parade, you can dine at the Cherokee Strip or the 89er’s Restaurant. Of course, you could go with me to our favorite, the Shady Lady. Yes, the Shady Lady is a family restaurant.
Funny thing about these pioneers that staked out the land around my hometown. They started out as pioneers leaving the past behind, and set out for unsettled territory. They endured the hot summer winds to stake new claims. But after their homes were built, they became “settlers.” Many would never move again. The very ones whose wagons bounced over the open plains became “stuck in a rut.”
In his book, Frontier, Louis L ‘Amour, describes the settler mentality. He wrote: “Everything within you and me begs, Take it easy. Don’t rock the boat. Leave well-enough alone. Back off. Why run the risk? If you leave the familiar and venture outside your comfort zone, you’re liable to mess things up.” That’s settler talk. Safe. Secure. Predictable. Boring.
Here is some more settler talk you may have heard somewhere along the trail. “It has never been done. We’ve never done it that way. We’ve always done it that way. When you’ve been here awhile, you’ll realize … We’ve got enough on our plate. We tried that once before a few years ago. See, I told you it wouldn’t work. Change anything, but that. That’s not in your area (translated: Stay off my turf). Let’s form a committee, I’ll chair it.” Settler talk. Ineffective. Immobilizing.
In the same book, L’Amour also described the pioneer. “It is our destiny,” he wrote, “to move out, to accept the challenge, to dare the unknown. It is our destiny to achieve. If we are content to live in the past, we have no future. And today is the past.”
Our present generation is being built on the crumbling foundation of relativism. Our culture smirks at absolute truths, making up the rules as it goes. Singles are staying single longer and wondering if the church knows they exist. Single parents, trying to balance all the balls, wonder if the church cares. Teenagers, bombarded with pressure and temptation, wonder if the church understands. Children, accustomed to the electronic media, wonder if the church will ever catch up to the level of technology that communicates to them. There is no time to settle down.
It is our destiny to move out, to accept the challenge of proclaiming the unchanging message of Christ to an ever changing culture.
To attempt things for Christ that we have never attempted before. To achieve things for Christ that we have never achieved before. Today is the past. And if we are content to settle comfortably in the past, there is no future. We hold in our hearts and our hands the Good News. Let’s keep it moving through our lips and our lives.
So saddle up your horses! Grab the reins! Get ready for a wild and glorious ride. There is unsettled territory just over the hill. And once we have staked our claim, it will be time to mount up and move out again. Our destiny is to bring glory and honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.