After Easter

Since I won’t get a chance to write this morning, I thought I’d share an article I wrote recently for Heartlight magazine:

I think they were suffering a bit of post-Easter depression. Not the kind that comes from too many chocolate eggs or lack of sleep from going to a sunrise service. No, this was the real thing.

Peter and the other apostles had lived an emotional roller coaster that few of us can imagine. Their beloved Teacher, the one they thought was going to be king, had been arrested and killed. Then, a few days later, they learned that He had risen from the dead! They saw Him, ate with Him, then were told to go to Galilee to wait.

It was during that wait that I think they got the blues. Or, if not that, they at least got bored. So Peter suggested they do what they had always done before meeting Jesus: go fishing.

Chapter 21 of the gospel of John tells us how they worked all night without catching anything. A few weeks before, they had been part of the big show. They were the disciples of the Great One, the Maestro, the Messiah. Now they were spending all night throwing nets into cold, dark water, without anything to show for their efforts.

That’s when Jesus showed up on the shore. That’s when everything changed. That’s when one command from His lips filled their nets to the breaking point and almost capsized their boats. That’s when Peter and the others knew they were back in the presence of the Risen Lord. Jesus had come to meet these Galilean fishermen at the place they knew best.

How far is it from the temple in Jerusalem to the banks of the Sea of Galilee? It’s the same distance as it is from church on Sunday to the office on Monday. It’s the distance from Holy Communion to lunch out of a bag. It’s the distance from Easter bonnets to oil-soaked coveralls.

Special religious days can be nice for recharging our batteries, but the Christian life is lived out 24/7, both in holy places and on dirty streets. God comes to meet us anywhere and everywhere. He doesn’t just wait for us inside a church building on Easter Sunday. He’s willing to be there with us, every day of the year.

Jesus came to tell the apostles that it was okay for them to be fishermen. He also came to remind them that they had been called to be fishers of men. God wants to come and make your job a calling, to make your employment a vocation. He wants to make every day a holy day, and every place a sanctuary.

The day we call Easter comes once a year… but today and every day can be just as special! Let God transform your ordinary into something high and holy.

B&B Friday: Heartlight

OK, so Heartlight.org isn’t a blog per se. It’s much bigger than that. There are graphic resources, articles, study resources… a wealth of material. They also offer a number of daily e-mails, from “Today’s Verse” to daily blog-like articles.

Phil Ware, minister at the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene, developed and maintains the site. I first started receiving their e-mails over 10 years ago and now have the privilege of writing regularly for Heartlight. Our ministry team writes articles that are featured on the site each Wednesday.

If you haven’t visited Heartlight.org, do yourself a favor and explore the site a bit. There’s something there for just about everyone.

Finding What We Seek

[I'll be away from the Internet for a few days, so I'll share with you some of the articles I've written for Heartlight magazine. These articles also ran on the HopeForLife.org website, which is a ministry of Herald of Truth.]

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 us 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.

The Power of Hope

[I'll be away from the Internet for a few days, so I'll share with you some of the articles I've written for Heartlight magazine. These articles also ran on theHopeForLife.org website, which is a ministry of Herald of Truth.]

There’s a story that tells of a woman who volunteered with the school district in a large city. Specifically, she was helping tutor children who were forced to miss school due to illness. One day she was given a name and a hospital room number, with this written instruction from the teacher: “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now, and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”
When the woman arrived at the hospital room, she found a young boy who had been badly burned that was lying in great pain in the bed. Overwhelmed by the sight of this boy, all she could do was blurt out, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” After working with the child for a time, she left feeling foolish. What good were grammar lessons to a boy in his condition?

However, her visit had a tremendous impact on the boy. Before seeing the tutor, the boy had been slowly deteriorating. After her visit, he seemed to find his will to live, working with therapists, eating meals, responding to treatments. Later the boy explained, “I had just about given up, assuming I was going to die. But when this teacher came, I realized that I was going to be all right. They wouldn’t send someone to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” What this woman shared about grammar was of relative benefit to the boy. But the hope that she brought to his life made all the difference. It saved his life.

Is the story true? I don’t know. Is the lesson true? Without a doubt. Hope is a powerful thing, giving us strength at times when nothing else can. They say that as the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre drew close to his death, he fought against despair, insisting that he would die in hope. But he also acknowledged, “Hope needs a foundation.”

God provides hope. He is the perfect foundation for our hope, the one that will never fail. Hope built on God and His promises need never fail. I am convinced that this hope, more than any other, can change lives and provide a sense of meaning in this world. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Almost three thousand years later, it’s still true.

Overlooked Treasure

[I'll be away from the Internet for a few days, so I'll share with you some of the articles I've written for Heartlight magazine. These articles also ran on the HopeForLife.org website, which is a ministry of Herald of Truth.]

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.

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.