Christ, Our Treasure

The search for treasure is as ingrained in the human spirit as breathing is the body. A survey of literature and poetry, movies and music reveal our fascination with finding hidden treasure. Who hasn’t pondered what they might do if they won the lottery … or the sweepstakes? When we read stories about those who have come into large sums of money and experienced total life failure and meltdown, we assume that we would not do that.  Some people desire treasure so much that they simply take it from others, and even sometimes serve time in prison for it.

A rich young man had his treasure in hand, but still sought something else. Jesus told him how to attain that for which his heart yearned.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. The young man decided to hang on to the treasure in hand, instead of exchanging it for the unseen treasure yet to come. If he had really realized to whom he was talking, perhaps he would have followed the instructions of Jesus. Worth far more than any money in his bank account, the rich young man was standing face to face with the greatest treasure he could ever encounter. Jesus is the treasure.

Don’t judge the young man too harshly. After all, when deciding how to spend our own plunder we hesitate when it comes time to write the contribution check for church. We think long and hard about sending money to our favorite charity. That is money we do not spend according to our own wisdom (other than selecting the benefactor). Substitute most of humanity and even most Christians in the place of the rich young man and the story remains the same.

Jesus is so valuable, so rich in mercy and grace, so profoundly worthy of our worship. Yet, He often is like the dusty old lamp brought to an appraiser … thought by the owner to be of little value … but appraised for thousands by an expert. I wonder if Jesus is dust-covered and sitting in a corner of the attic of our heart while we remain enamored by the glitzy plastic toys of our time?

Christian, the treasure you seek in this world is elusive. The Christ-treasure that will fill your heart is within. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Corinthians 4). The death of Jesus doesn’t seem like such a treasure, more a tragedy. But that is because we are still looking at Him with our human eyes. When we realize that we do not have the power to understand what a true treasure is, then we can trust God to tell us. Why are you seeking treasures in your life, when you are carrying around this treasure – a power from God – a tale of death, burial, and resurrection that has become amazingly true.

Yes, Christ is our treasure … in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2). We pore over millions of books and allow our Bibles to remain laid in state on our coffee tables. What inkling of truth can you discover in the books of men that didn’t come ultimately from God’s book? And more so from Christ himself? These treasures of wisdom are not hidden from us, they are hidden for us. But as long as Christ is regarded as somewhat less than a treasure, why should we look there?

Richness is found in Christ, and in allowing His life to become ours. A prayer phrase jumped out at me last night. I’ve prayed it many times myself. “Lord, be with us” and “Lord, walk with us”. I’m still thinking that God is waiting for me to ask Him to do what He has already promised He would do! I should be praying, “Lord, help me be with you” and “Lord, I will walk with you.” When Christ is my treasure, then nothing holds more attraction to me than His living through me. When Christ is my treasure then I will be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6). Why shouldn’t I be generous and share? Can we ever plunder the riches of Christ to such a point that He is emptied? For all who regard Him as the true treasure of life and share that with others, Apostle Paul says that they will  lay up treasure … as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Life that is truly life. If I won the sweepstakes and could buy anything I wanted, I would not have true life without Christ. If I won the sweepstakes and regarded Christ as my true treasure, then I would have gained something less valuable than that which I already enjoyed. My heart would race, I would jump up and down in excitement. And I would know, then, that my heart had a long way to go before I understood that the life that is truly life is not found in a check of any size, but in Christ alone.

So, if you could choose Christ as your treasure – or a stockpile of money – which would you choose? We know the right answer. I’m asking you to look into your heart and come up with the true answer. Moses made a choice like that. Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Hebrews 11). I wonder how many of us are choosing to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time – at least that is our intention. We hope to get serious about Christ later in life.  We’ll give up our idols tomorrow. A better day is coming.

The treasures of Egypt /America are calling to us. But let’s look ahead to the reward. Do we know that Christ is our treasure? Or shall we walk away from him sadly, but planning on how to increase our earthly stock? If Christ is my treasure, then I’m free to stop looking for a mass fortune, and start the ‘with God’ life I’m called to live.

Dear Lord, please reveal to me more every day the unsearchable wisdom and treasure of Christ. Help me to walk with you.
Thanks for reading,
John

Five Years Later

My friend Roger Mills used to tell us about Hurricane Andrew and the total destruction of Homestead, Florida during the time he preached there. And then he liked to tell us about it a few months later. Then a few months later, he told us again. In fact, I heard that story many times, and I always enjoyed it. But I didn’t understand the retelling of it.

Until five years ago. Hurricane Katrina and the recovery effort became a formative part of my thinking and spiritual growth in such a pervasive way that I think I shall never escape it. I’m not sure I want to. Even now I catch myself telling ‘Katrina stories’ and try not to look at the person I’m talking to – afraid they’ll be rolling their eyes, or counting how many times they’ve heard the same stories.

But Roger and I…well…we just can’t help it. Unfortunately Roger withstood not only Andrew, but also Katrina. I’ve lost touch with him, and I’m ashamed of that. My blog is full of Katrina stories, so I do not intend to retell them today. It’s been such a busy weekend I have only thought about it once or twice.

I reckon the common understanding will always be that Katrina struck New Orleans. But that’s not quite accurate.  I (and the rest of the world) watched live television coverage of Katrina from New Orleans because that’s what was on television. We heard the news reports of the breaking levees, watched with horror as people walked up interstate ramps that led to nowhere – islands of helplessness. Nightmarish stories came from the Convention Center and Super Dome that sounded almost post nuclear or apocalyptic in nature.

But it was quiet in Waveland, Mississippi. That’s because there was nothing left where Katrina made landfall. It was scraped off of the face of the earth. Nearby Bay St. Louis came close to the same fate. All along the Mississippi Gulf Coast the storm surge wiped out thousands of square miles of homes and businesses. And for a few weeks, it was mostly quiet.  There were no news reports from South Mississippi for what seemed like forever. Once the thunder of recovery began to rumble, that all changed. I applaud our Governor, Haley Barbour, for his amazing energy for the state of Mississippi. Today he and his wife spoke to hundreds who gathered in Gulfport in remembrance.

No matter where you lived along the Coast or how you experienced it, Katrina is the tale of your lifetime. You’ll never stop remembering, telling those tales, reliving those moments. You couldn’t forget if you wanted to.  It was a time when you realized that your best friend in the world was the next door neighbor you had never met before. You found out that the human family rushes to take care of its own, even when it didn’t know your name. And the opportunity to learn one of life’s greatest truths was brought to your doorstep: you best find your way out of your troubles by helping someone else out of theirs.

Eighteen miles down the road my friend Al Sturgeon had his own Katrina experiences. You can read his five year reflection HERE.

Not sure I added anything to the Katrina conversation, but I felt like I needed to reflect on it all for a bit. Thanks for reading.

John

Three Costly Gifts

Today I received three costly gifts.

The first I want to mention is a ticket from Monroe Police Department for not wearing my seat belt. What a joy it was to be stopped along one of Monroe’s busiest streets with the flashing lights behind me. I wonder how many of our church members drove by? Ah well. Getting lax on simple things that can make a big difference is a recipe for regret. The officer was kind, and fair, and right. I expect he has witnessed the results of accidents where seat belts were not in use. I am appreciative of the reminder. Some gifts are costly!

The second is a carved olive wood statue of Jesus carrying the cross. It originates in Jerusalem. I think most of us are on the same page about worshiping icons … I wouldn’t know how. But a physical representation can gravitate our attention and focus our thoughts. I’ll also be reminded of the dear friend who placed this in my hands today.  I’m appreciative of another costly gift – a price I couldn’t pay.

The third is a copy of Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I talked about Bonhoeffer in a lesson and one of our deacons, a history buff, bought this book. Today he gifted it to me. I’m looking forward to diving in! The book cost a little, but Bonhoeffer’s writings are quite a gift to Christendom. Still, the price he paid for his commitment to Christ was the ultimate in costliness: his life.

I’m thankful for the gifts I received today … these three that I am acknowledging, as well as many more blessings that filled the hours. I am made aware that I am often ungrateful for all that God has done on my behalf. While I usually thank Him in generic, I’m moved to thank Him in specific today. What has been gifted to you lately that was costly to someone else?

Thanks for reading,

John