The Thrill of Discovery

(11 of 11 in a series)

Hanging on my office wall is an advertisement torn from a geophysical magazine several years ago.  The page size print shows a little girl at the beach holding tightly to her brother’s foot as he digs deep in the sand looking for buried treasure.  The picture of determination on the little girl’s face is priceless.  The caption reads, “If it’s there, we’ll find it.”

The reason this photo has followed me from office to office, job to job is because it captures, in visual form, the essence of the job of a geophysicist.  We use our training, skills, and keen eye for observation to look for buried treasure.  The “buried treasure” that geophysicists seek can take many forms:  oil, natural gas, water, minerals, fault lines in the earth and much more.  The thrill of discovery when our efforts find success is a powerful motivator for the working geophysicist.

A similar thrill of discovery is available to us in the spiritual world as well.  It is a discovery that has been made all over the world, throughout all cultures, by people of every race, for almost 2000 years.  Even by Mrs. Burgess.

When my wife, Rhonda, was a child, Mrs. Burgess was her next door neighbor.  Their two houses shared a driveway that forked and went to their respective homes.  Mrs. Burgess was always complaining about cars in the driveway and various assorted neighborhood challenges.  In short, Mrs. Burgess was a grump.

During her college years, Rhonda went to visit Mrs. Burgess at her retirement home in Northern Indiana.  When Mrs. Burgess recognized her guest she spoke warmly of Rhonda’s family being her neighbor and thanked Rhonda for her kindness as a child.  Rhonda had to double check the nameplate as this was not the Mrs. Burgess she had grown up with.  To paraphrase her elderly friend, Mrs. Burgess told Rhonda that she had become a believer in Jesus Christ.  She had accepted his offer of forgiveness and had a completely new outlook on life.  She now lived for others.  Her life had been transformed.  She had experienced the truth that sets us free.

In our era of celebrity, we get caught up in the comings and goings, thoughts and opinions of the rich and famous.  It drives our news and social media.  Mrs. Burgess’ story reminds us that in the quiet background, far from the media frontlines, thousands of people every day are experiencing the power of a changed life; experiencing the truth that sets us free.  This freedom, this transformation, this new life in Christ is available to all people, in all places, and for all time.  And most of all, it is being offered to you right now.  Won’t you join us?

True Freedom

(10 of 11 in a series)

When we hear the word freedom, we often think in terms of politics.  As part of a democracy, we are a free people.  Or we equate freedom with a suspension of the rules.  Teenagers are keen on gaining their freedom by having the house rules lifted as they get older.  Or we think in terms of morality, wishing we could act any way we please free from the ethics of our society, or religion, or peers.  Can this be true freedom?

The Bible teaches that true freedom does not equal autonomy.  Complete freedom in terms of total autonomy from any master, motivation, or influence is not an option for us in the human race as much as we like to think it is.  We are all servants of something or someone.  As Bob Dylan sang, “You can serve the devil or you can serve the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”

In our natural state, we are servants of our sin nature.  Just as cows eat grass because it is part of their nature, we commit acts of selfishness and harm because it is part of our sin nature.  No one had to teach us how to lie to smooth out a problem and stay out of trouble.  It is part of our nature.  No one has to teach a child to jump into the pool just after being told it is time to get out for adult swim.  It is in our nature.

That all changes, however, when we embrace the Christian message and become followers of Jesus Christ.  We are no longer servants of our sin nature but take on a new nature and a new master, Jesus Christ.  Let’s face it.  Our own selfish nature is our worst enemy.  And true freedom, the freedom offered by Jesus Christ when we embrace His message, is the power to live above our old nature.  We have literally been set free from ourselves.  True freedom is the power to love, to cherish, to protect, and to live in ways that are altruistic and morally beautiful.

The Lost Son and the Lovesick Father

(9 of 11 in a series)

Jesus told a parable – a story that illustrates a spiritual truth – about a lost son.  As the story goes, a wealthy landowner had two sons.  The younger son requested his share of the inheritance from his father so he could set out on his own.  The father agreed and the younger son took the money and headed off to a far away country.  After squandering his inheritance on loose living, the son ended up working on a hog farm in a time of famine and was in the process of starving to death.  When the son came to his senses, he said, “My father’s servants are treated so much better than this.  I will go to my father.  I will throw myself on his mercy.  I will offer to become a servant and work off the money I wasted.”  So the son returned home.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jesus paints a picture of a lovesick father waiting and yearning for his lost son to come home.  When the son returns, the father sees him from afar, is overwhelmed with compassion, runs to embrace him, kisses him, and announces a feast in his honor.  He will have nothing to do with his son’s plan to pay off the debt, but instead proclaims to all who will hear, “Rejoice with me.  My son who was as good as dead has come back to life.  My son who was lost has been found.”

Let’s stop the tape right here and say, “Wait just a minute.”  Are we to believe that after squandering his father’s money and inflicting the emotional pain of leaving without a trace, that all is forgiven?  What about working off the debt?  What about some probationary period to make sure the son’s change of heart is genuine?  And is Jesus’ parable really suggesting that this “unfairness of grace” is a picture of how God, the Father, accepts us?

That, my friends, is the absolute unadulterated beauty of the Christian message!  When we change our minds about Jesus Christ and embrace His message, all is forgiven.  There is no probationary period.  There is no “good works” requirement of being better than my neighbor, giving money to a church, or performing any acts of penance.  To our calculating and cynical minds this is too good to be true.  That is the uniqueness of the Christian message.  And this grace is being offered to you right now.

When you strip away the media caricature of Christianity, when you strip away the uninformed biases we have heard all of our lives about Christianity, at the heart of the Christian message is the story of a lovesick Father rejoicing in and accepting without reservation the person who embraces His message of good news.  And the good news is this:  Jesus Christ died for your sin problem and offers to set you free from its power.