Jesus said that we are worth more than many sparrows. That direct message clearly shows that every aspect of God’s creation has worth. There is nothing that has been created that is without worth. Even a worm has worth in God’s creation. Some of us have lived our lives as if there is no worth beyond our own desires. Then as we start to accumulate things and stuff in our lives, we discover that the very things that we have been drawn toward have little meaning. We may also discover that these things become a burden, rather than bringing us relief or joy. That realization may bring us down a bit as we discover our efforts have been focused on things that have no eternal value. We may even experience depression as we realize that we have made poor choices. But that reality is also a time for joy since it brings us to a point that we realize the true nature of our poor choices. It is at that moment that God stands ready to fill our lives with His very presence and to give our lives new meaning. It is never too late to come to this awareness. There is always a willingness on God’s part to accept us into a loving relationship with Him. That is what a new beginning means.
2015 represents an incredible opportunity for each of us. It can be a time of new beginnings. What is a new beginning? It means starting fresh from an unbelievable starting point. I can start right where I am, it does not matter what my current condition may be. I can be locked in a death row cell waiting for the state to take my life, or I might be trapped in a dying body ravished with cancer. I might be in the pits of depression, seeing nothing but personal darkness. Or I might be in a position of power and strength, where I can exercise my free will over others. Each of these positions are merely illusions. They are brief moments in time that pass rapidly into oblivion. They are just brief stopping points where God is trying to teach us about the deceptive nature of illusion. We are all works in progress. None of us has arrived, we are all arriving one step at a time, one day at a time. While it seems unlikely we are all traveling a similar pathway as we move onward toward eternity.
The chief illusion is that our lives are meaningful in themselves. The concept that what I do, what I say and what I create have value beyond this moment in time. It is like my flesh rears up and demands that I acknowledge my illusion of personal power as the core of life itself. All that I am and all that I do will pass away with my death. Few will remember me 20 years after I am gone. So what is it that I struggle with now? What is it that I hold as my primary values? Is it only the things that I can do by my own power and might? Or is there a measure of value beyond what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears? That measure, that standard is the spiritual essence of life itself. What I leave behind will have no lasting impact beyond the spiritual dimension. That spark of godliness within us that calls us to recognize our relationship with Our Creator. In that spark of life we are called to look past the illusions of life and see the true meaning for our being here.
Our very souls cry out for a lasting and loving relationship with Our Creator. We all desperately seek Him even while we are scurrying through life acquiring things that we hope will bring us fulfillment and joy. Most of us become consumed with the things of life and it is only when our fingers are pried off these transitory objects that we start to become mindful of the underlying meaning of life itself. As my grasp on life starts to slip, I wildly try to regain my stability by clutching onto everything about me. All of the things that I have struggled to acquire in my life. But none of these things can add a single moment to my life span. They are all illusions which will slip away with our coming deaths. Not even our closest family members or friends will hold the same value about these things as I have. They will never be able appreciate what these things mean to us, since they have their own set of things that are of value to them. So as our lives slip away, ultimately the very things that we have embraced will also slip away. It is a false economy of fools. It has no lasting measure in the scope of eternity.
The only thing that will survive our passage from here to eternity, is the relationship we share with Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No one can know the depths of our own thoughts and feelings. We can guess what others are going through, but we can never know for sure what their experience of life is really like. Only One knows the depth of our human experience and He is the One who paid the price for all of our sins and failures. This in the One who knows you and me intimately. Our most secret desires and our most painful fears. He walked this earth as a man, living out a sinless life. But He deeply understands how vulnerable and broken we are and how much we need a Savior. Can you imagine the One who gave you life, seeing all your wretchedness and pain, but still loving you dearly and passionately? A Creator who did not abandon you once He had given you life. A Creator who loved you enough to give you the freedom of making your own choices. He has blessed each of us with the gift of free will. He does not want His people to be mindless puppets who tell Him we love Him because we are programmed to serve Him. He gave us free will so that we might struggle with the substance of life and ultimately come to an understanding that the only true meaning in life is our relationship with Him.
When we have expended all of our choices on the incredible number of distractions in life, He hopes that we will recognize His continuous love for us and that we will turn to Him and surrender all of our sins and failures. That is true love, the kind of love that waits patiently for us to see the truth. I have spent the better part of my life chasing fool’s gold. Things that have no lasting value. I am an expert at running after illusions and distractions. These may have been new cars and fancy houses…or they may have come dressed in skirts or have assumed the shape of a pill or a bottle. Over and over again I have raised my head up to see something new on the horizon and have run away from God’s leading in my life to pursue the recklessness of sin and pain. I have embraced each new adventure with all of my strength and desire, only to experience a fresh sense of pain and despair. Still my God has stood by lovingly, encouraging me to grow from my most recent failure to turn and see what He has freely offered me. Through all of my wayward behaviors, through all the times that I rejected Him to pursue a life of sinful choices, He has never abandoned me to my wickedness. He has continued to whisper His promises of love and forgiveness when I have been most caught up in my pursuits of pleasure. Can you imagine a friend who sticks so close to you, no matter how many times you can cast Him away? You see, this is the same God who speaks to your heart in the moments when it seems that there is no way to make things right again in your life.
You and I can never make things right with God. We are hopelessly lost in our sinfulness. But God understands the destructiveness of sin, he fully understands how powerless we are in our sinful choices. Rather than abandon us to our wicked choices, He lovingly sent His Son to pay the price we could never pay. Rather than let me live in sin and perish in the eternal fires of hell, He loved me enough to send His only Son, Jesus Christ to pay the price for ALL of my sinful choices. I do not have to perish in hell for all eternity, Jesus has already made a way for each of us to have a righteous eternal relationship with God. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cruel cross on Calvary and rose again on the third day, overcoming sin and death for OUR sakes. The price, the eternal price has already been paid in full. All we need to do is accept His gift of life itself. His gift of mercy and compassion. All we need do is understand that having lived among us, He intimately knows all of our weaknesses and failures. When we come to a point of recognizing that we have failed, that everything we have done has no lasting value, we understand the desperation of a sinful life. It is only at that moment when we are reduced to nothingness, that we can come to a place of absolute surrender to Him. In that bitter moment of self-defeat, we begin to experience the depth of His love for us. In that moment He promises to make something valuable out of the mess that we have created. He sees with an eternal perspective. All that I can do is look into the future dimly.
When everything I have done has finally crumbled and I await that eternal call from God, am I still so blind that I am unwilling to surrender all of my shame and pain to His loving care? Will I grasp my history of destructiveness and sinfulness and ride it arrogantly through the gates of hell? Or will I finally recognize the loving hand of God on my life through all of my willfulness and failures? The only One who loves me with a fierce love. He has loved me aggressively throughout my life and has been unwilling to see me perish because of my ignorance about His great love for me. He has done everything possible to help me see His love for me, but in the final choice, it will be my own decision where I choose to spend eternity. He loves me enough to let me decide my future for myself. This is no illusion, this is the ultimate reality. God, the Creator of all, allows me to choose life with Him or eternity apart from Him. It is my choice alone, and no choice is a choice. If I ignore His loving presence in my life, then I am choosing to turn my back on Him. Is that a choice…an eternal choice? If you hear Him this day, do not harden your heart and turn away from that soft loving voice that speaks to your soul.
If I am trapped in a cancer-ridden body lying in a hospital bed or I am living in a tiny death row cell waiting for the state to take my life, I may validly ask what these words mean to me personally. Then if you are asking yourself this question I direct your attention to a small story in the Bible. The disciples were with Jesus in a boat. A storm came up which threatened to destroy them and all the while Jesus slept in the back of the boat. They came to Him and woke Him up with cries about their personal safety. They asked Him why He was not concerned about their predicament. How could He lay there asleep and not be concerned for their very lives? He awoke and responded to their cries. He rebuked the storm and it instantly stopped raging around them. This man of God had the authority to rebuke nature itself. He did that to give His disciples evidence of His power and authority. He also chided them for their fearfulness: “Of ye of little faith…” He knew that they needed divine protection in order to live out the pathways that He had called each of them to follow. He also knew that each of them would be called to far greater challenges than a storm that would threaten their very lives. Ultimately all but one of His disciples would die a martyr’s death. But for the moment they were only concerned with the one thing that was challenging their notions of survival. Jesus Christ saw into eternity, knowing that these men would spread the news of the Gospel and in doing so, they would lay the foundation for transforming the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now you stand in the midst of a similar storm and may feel that because of your failures and sinfulness that God could never use you. If that is what you believe, then you are wrong. Each of the men who was in the boat with Jesus that day had no personal worth or value. Their entire value was based upon their loyalty and service to God Himself. They surrendered their own will and became willing to give up their very lives to serve Him. He in turn took these men who were of no personal value to society and made their lives sacred in His divine plans. What they did by themselves had no value, but once surrendered to Jesus Christ they became infinitely valuable in His plans to reach others. That includes you and me. The disciple’s actions, their willingness to surrender everything to the Lordship of Jesus Christ has impacted our very lives. WE, you and I have become the beneficiaries of His divine plans. We have inherited the benefits of those individual acts of personal surrender. In the moment of rebuking the storm, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse into the future and showed them how they might become men of strength and power. We are called to have the same encounter with Jesus Christ. If all I see before me is my pending death, then I become overwhelmed. In that condition I can only look backward into my past life to find any semblance of meaning. If it has not happened in my past, because of my limited view of this life I am unable to fathom what the future holds for me. It is just a dreadful notion that death is the end. If I hold that view then everything of value fades into oblivion with my final breath. The Lord of eternity chides each of us with a whispered, “Oh you of little faith…”
What He has promised is to give our lives meaning beyond our wildest dreams if we will accept His gift of redeeming us from our sins and failures. It is not just a passive act, but His word promises each of us that even in the worst of situations He can bring great meaning into each of our lives. That meaning has NOTHING to do with our current circumstances. It is all based upon His promise to each of us to not only redeem us from our sinfulness, but to redeem our individual lives as well. Right now, if you focus only on grasping this life and what it may mean to you, it is impossible to envision ourselves of value to an eternal God. Yet that is exactly what He has promised to do if we get our eyes off of the limitations of this life and start to focus on the promises of God. The only way to find out about these promises is to search the Scriptures for yourself. His word will speak directly into your own life as you discover His divine message of unconditional love for each of us. God is a gentleman. He will never force His ways upon us. We have the freedom to make that choice and it has eternal consequences. Will you spend the rest of your days looking backwards, or will you grasp His hand and turn and look into the glimpse of the future which He offers each of us. Each of us must make the final decision for ourselves. No one else can do that for us. It is a total commitment to accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. We can do nothing by ourselves. We are totally dependent upon His ability to reach us and His promise that He will do that, if we invite Him into our lives.
I want to tell you a story that may help to illustrate the things that I have just spoken about. This story is about looking backwards blindly seeking something of value or looking forward toward His blessed promises. At the end of World War II, many of the Nazi leaders were captured and tried for their crimes against humanity. Other’s managed to escape to South America or the Middle East, where they spent their lives hiding from those who were searching for them. In one case, a notorious Nazi leader who had helped to engineer the deaths of millions of people had escaped to South America. Eventually he was found and brought to the State of Israel to stand trial for his actions. His name was Adolph Eichmann. This was the man who came up with the idea of removing Jews or anyone else who protested the Nazi murderous actions, sending them to concentration camps via a huge railway system designed to make it possible to destroy these lives. After arriving at the various concentration camps many were systematically murdered by the Nazi. Their personal effects were stolen, their homes plundered. Often times the gold fillings in their teeth were pried from the corpses and used to fund the Nazi war machine. They died namelessly and anonymously in gas chambers and their bodies were burned to remove any evidence of their previous existence. Age and sex had no pity upon those killed. Women and children were often the first to be marched to the gas chambers. The men would be sent later after they could no longer serve the Third Reich with their slave labor. Millions perished in this way. No one has any idea of the final count except God Himself. It was thought at that time to be the worst monument to evil that man had ever devised. Surely, nothing could be more evil that these actions against other human beings. Once captured Eichmann was transferred to Jerusalem where he told the story about his part in the FINAL SOLUTION. His interrogator’s reported that he was a friendly soft spoken man who did not try to hide his role in these millions of deaths. To him all of those who died were little more than vermin to be exterminated. He acknowledged that he was an atheist and had no belief in a God or Supreme Being. Perhaps that was the only way that he could live with what he had done. Once tried he was sentenced to death by hanging. He is the only person to be executed by the nation of Israel.
On the day of his execution he reportedly said goodbye to those who had captured him. He did so with great dignity and pride. He calmly climbed the steps to the gallows from which he was to be hung. Looking at the observers he offered praise to the German Third Reich and what they had accomplished. He stood on the edge of eternity and attempted to justify the murder of millions of people. He assumed the role of the Nazi officer and proudly drew himself up fully as the noose was placed around his neck. In seconds he would face the God of eternity and all he could do was seek meaning in the harm that he had helped to tragically create. He could only look into his past for some kind of meaning. Without that picture of past Nazi glories, his life would have had no meaning. He was just a small German man who had no notion of the pain that he had inflicted on others. He could not permit himself to make peace with a God who would forgive even him. He was a man totally without hope, but fueled by evil pride, as the trap door sprung under him and he was launched into eternity. What an exercise in the banality of evil.
The Bible talks about King Manasseh, living an evil life in rebellion against God. He had a godly father, but struck off on his own to live a riotous life. Eventually he was captured by the enemies of his country and then, when faced with complete failure and defeat, scripture tells us “THAT HE CAME TO HIS SENSES…” and called out to God for mercy and deliverance. The Lord listened to him and returned him to his own country and his people. He repented and changed his ways. You can read about his life in the 2nd Book of Chronicles. It is one of many stories about God’s tenderness toward those who are willing to look forward, rejecting the evil of past ways. As the New Year begins, each of us is given a choice to look forward, or to dwell in the past. Will you seek to justify your past deeds, or will you take this time to look forward and grasp God’s hand of forgiveness and mercy? That personal decision will have eternal consequences for each of us. I share this short reflection with you because I believe that each life has great value. We are all born with immortal souls that will live on throughout eternity. Do not take my word for it, search the Scriptures and decide for yourself. Truth is constant and consistent. It never varies. That is the nature of truth and of God’s word for our lives.
Knowing the truth and acting upon truth are two completely different things. The truth is that at some point I am going to die. I am going to say goodbye to this earthly life I have been given. Acting upon this knowledge I have come to a place in my life where I clearly see God for who He is. I acknowledge the wasted life I have lived and I ask for His forgiveness based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who paid my sin debt. I turn from my evil ways and seek to know more about the Lord every day and in doing so, I also seek to serve Him by serving others in His name. I am looking forward toward the fulfillment of His promises in my life. It is not enough to know about Jesus, we are called to have a personal relationship with Him. If that is to happen in your life, it is time to turn away from the past and look toward a future with Him. That is the core message of a new beginning. I gladly share what I have discovered in the hope that you will find the same joy and peace that has come into my own life. Lord please have mercy on me, for I am a sinner. I seek Your forgiveness and Your righteousness. Kevin and Quinta.