Archive for August, 2008
Turtles sitting on a rock. Nothing uncommon, at least not for turtles. Most reptiles, being cold-blooded creatures, like to sun themselves. The only problem was, these two turtles were in an artificial pond in the interior of a hotel in Varadero, Cuba. Although their instincts led them to believe otherwise, these two turtles wouldn’t find the sun that day nor any other day. The best they could hope for was to gather warmth from the air around them.
I couldn’t help but see a metaphor as I watched the turtles. These animals were hard-wired to climb out of the water on a regular basis to seek the sun and its warmth. Age-old natural forces led them to repeat this behavior even though experience would have told them it was a futile endeavor. I couldn’t help but think that we, mankind, have an instinctive need to seek God and his warmth, yet many of us fail to see that we aren’t looking in the right place. While the turtles have been fenced in against their will, so many of us find ourselves shut off from God’s light due to our own choices. God seeks us out and something inside each of us longs for him, yet we remain trapped behind walls of our own making, walls that keep us from going to him for the life-giving warmth that he gives. Some suffer behind walls of intellectual pride. Others find their way to God blocked by some sin that gets between them and their Maker, something they just don’t want to let go of. Many people can’t see past their possessions or their ambitions. For some it’s past hurts, for others it’s fear of the future. We’re driven to seek God, yet often settle for a substitute, settle for something that doesn’t fully satisfy.
Thousands of years ago, a Hebrew poet wrote: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) It took me some years to realize that the second part of that verse depends on the first part. When we learn to delight ourselves in the Lord, he becomes the principle desire of our heart. He becomes what we seek above all else. That’s the secret to true contentment. When we learn to seek God above all else, we either receive the other things that we want or we discover that those things are merely substitutes that will never satisfy the longings of our heart.
Just as those turtles are driven to seek the sun, there is something inside of you that needs God. Unlike those turtles, we have the power to put ourselves in the position of not only seeking what we need, but finding him as well. I’d like to help you find the warmth of God’s love if you’re having trouble finding it. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life looking in the wrong place.
Grace and peace,
Before returning to full-time ministry, I spent time as a commission salesman for a large advertising company. There were two events that happened during my last year with the company that I still vividly remember. One salesperson was a workaholic. He came early, stayed late, had perfect paperwork, helped write procedures and manuals, and trained other salespeople on procedures and paperwork. He was let go.
Another salesman got agitated during an after hours card game with some of the sales team and pulled out a handgun. He was reprimanded. At first glance, it sure seems the response to these two people was exactly reversed. However, the hard working salesman was consistently in the lower half of the sales force. The other one was consistently in the top five salespeople.
That’s the way the world works: performance outweighs everything. Marginal athletes get dismissed from the team for falling asleep during meetings. Stars get warnings. The bottom line is not character, it is performance.
That is one reason why the call of Jesus is so counter-cultural. Your “performance” has nothing to do with your salvation. You are never good enough to get into heaven on your own. You are never so bad that the grace of God cannot save you. Getting to heaven starts with what God did when he sent his Son to this earth to save us. I believe that is good news.
So what is the hardest part of this concept to grasp? Is it that we cannot be good enough, or that we cannot be too bad? Is it hard to believe that getting to heaven is not merit based?
As the massive Boeing 777 jet accelerated down the runway, then lifted into the air, I was again in awe at the magnificent power that would lift such immense weight to a cruising altitude of more than 43,000 feet. As the plane entered an area of turbulence and the giant machine was tossed about as though it weighed nothing, I was reminded of the tremendous, awe-inspiring force of the One who is the source of all power.
I witness His power in so many areas and ways as I journey through this world; in the roaring of mighty waterfalls, the glories of a sunrise, the churning of the seas, the birth of my babies. I witness the ultimate power of God the Father in my own life—in my own personal experience as I come to know Him as One who cares for and loves me individually and unconditionally. He knows and cares about every difficulty I face and each heartbreak I suffer. It is difficult to understand how such a powerful God, who rules the universe, would care for me on a personal basis. I must come to understand that God does not allow His work of keeping all things in the universe in its proper place to divert His attention from me, nor does it interfere with His working in my individual life.
His marvelous abundant power is majestically demonstrated in the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Only the power of God can remove the sinfulness of my heart and cleanse me through the blood that was poured forth at Calvary. Through this cleansing I experience new life and hope.
The darkest hours of those who had walked so closely with Jesus during His ministry were those days when the lifeless body of the One Who had claimed to be the Savior lay silent in a tomb. Had their belief been in vain? Even after receiving the reports of the Master’s resurrection, they remained skeptical. It was not until Jesus appeared to them and they witnessed His resurrection did they believe. Being witness to the power of God to raise the dead convinced the disciples of that power and their lives would never be the same.
Our lives, like those of long ago, will never be the same as we confess before God that we are sinners and need the power of His cleansing through the blood of the spotless sacrifice. Through our obedience to Him and submission to His will, we will experience the power of God, and will long to testify that indeed He is mighty to save.
Have you experienced this mighty power in your life? Do you know the peace that comes in being cleansed by this power?
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the television program Antique Roadshow on PBS. The show travels to different locations around the country and experts in furniture, coins, art, clothing, etc. wait as people bring in everything from junk to historical treasures. Those bringing items to be appraised often have no idea of the value of what they are bringing. Some come out of curiosity; others come wanting to show off their family heirlooms. A few come out of desperation, hoping to be told that they own something that others will pay a fortune for.
In one memorable episode, an elderly gentleman brought in a blanket that had hung in his grandmother’s house for years. The tradition in the family was that the blanket had once belonged to Kit Carson, so the man thought that it might be valuable. Don Ellis, expert in Indian artifacts, told the man that the blanket could be worth as much as half a million dollars, not because of the connection to Carson, but because of the historical value of this relic merely as an example of Indian artisanship. Ellis called it “a national treasure.”
The blanket’s owner, identified only as Ted, began to cry. He said, “My grandparents and parents were poor farmers ….” He was thrilled to discover that he possessed such a treasure, yet couldn’t help but lament the fact that his family had gone all that time without realizing what they had. They had lived in poverty, while owning something worth a fortune.
We often overlook the treasure that is available to us
I see lots of people living that way every day. So much hurt, so much suffering, such a lack of hope, while God freely offers exactly what they need. They struggle to find strength for the day, while God longs to give them power without measure. They search for meaning and purpose, while God waits with the eternal perspective that makes sense of everything. These people deal with guilt, remorse and shame, while God offers forgiveness and a new start. The treasure is there for the taking. All they have to do is recognize the value of what God has to offer.
The apostle Paul wrote: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God offers us riches beyond belief, not in material goods, but in spiritual ones, valuables that will never waste away. All we have to do is accept the treasure He has to offer.
So what do you think? How does the treasure God offers make a difference in our lives today? How are our lives enriched by what God offers us?