It was one click away from going into cyber space when I decided to read the forwarded e-mail. I was glad I did. It was a humorous story and one that will help me to think beyond the practice of addition from now on.
What could do that? It was a simple story about a little boy who was having great difficulty with elementary math. In fact he was flunking it. His parents tried everything to no avail. They even changed his school in the end, to a Catholic school.
The parents noticed a difference in his behavior immediately. He would come home and without a hassle, go to his room to study and do homework. It became a priority for him to study more. They were elated even if they couldn’t figure it out.
Report card day arrive. The son handed his report to his parents and went upstairs to hit the books as usual. They expected to see the big “F” beside math and instead were surprised with and “A”. What had happened to their child?
So, they asked him. “What happened to change you?” The young boy answered, “When I started attending this school I knew they didn’t fool around with people in math class. I knew it when I saw the guy nailed to the plus sign dripping blood.”
Wow! I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad that guy did that for me. If we could only think about the crucifix as a plus sign in our lives daily, our lives would be more positive. Thanks Jesus!
What would happen if we each got down to business, quit fooling around and took seriously the act of love that took place on the cross? That story got me thinking about how we sometimes are just getting along or not putting a real effort into living for Christ. We stall, daring someone to move us into action. You can call it drifting, floating, or semi-committed if you like. Thank God, Jesus wasn’t.
The little boy found out he could do better with the right incentive, so can we. I think we make Christianity so big sometimes we can’t live up to our own expectations let alone God’s. I remember the first time I realized God must be holding back a snicker because of my behavior.
I went through the long skirt phase, the long hair phase and others as well, trying to please my Heavenly Father. I used to say yes to everything asked of me by others to discover that can leave you tired in short order. I was bringing a lot of “F’s” home; failure, fatigue and fear.
Like the boy, I had no shortage of instructors. I listened to tapes. I listened to all the television-teaching programs and live preaching that I could on the methods of living for Christ. I wanted to please God so much.
Then an old hymn came to mind, “At the Cross.” It’s words tell of where we first see the light. That’s it! I have to go back to the source, get back to basics. What was it that drew me to the guy nailed to the plus sign in the first place? Surely that would be where the answer was. It was.
As I looked in my mind, at Jesus on the Cross, I became motivated by the same thing that made him allow himself to be crucified to begin with—love. Love for you and me motivated him. God could not improve on what he already is but knew love would inspire people to be better than they are now. And it’s great, it is a one on one thing, no grandiose scale needed.
It took one Lord (one God, one Christ) changing the hearts and lives of those who knew him and believed in him to shake their known world. Somewhere along the line, did we change the plus sign to a minus and negate its power? We have, if you’re like me and let anything take away, even for a moment, the realization of what Christ did. When we do, we minimize the affect the passion of Christ has on our lives and let the clouds of doubt and despair dampen our existence.
Can you imagine how the boy must have felt when he knew he could really do the math problems if he applied himself? Suddenly the possibilities became endless, all because he got serious and appropriated his energies on the task at hand.
The question is simple. Does the same spirit that dwelt in Christ dwell in us? If the answer is yes then you can’t help but see the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s personification when you reach out to touch others for the cause of Christ.
Christ’s love will exude from you and draw people to know the Savior as you do.
Their question likely will be, “Why did Jesus die on that cross?” Love. Love that would change peoples thinking of themselves as less then, a minus sign, into a plus to others.
Thanks to a short story, we all can say, “I want to try a little harder because of that guy on the plus sign. He’s done so much for me, I can do no less for him.”
Like the forceful rip currents that beat the shores and ravish the beach, life’s turn of events can cut at the soul leaving you hanging on by a thread. It’s impossible at that point not to feel despair. Another piece of the bank is torn away. The erosion of the soul is painful.
“I cannot,” your soul cries. “Hold on,” God’s whisper is heard above the thundering roar of the ocean and you begin to identify how much pain and suffering one can endure and at the same time know this is what happens to him every time he sees his children straying and drifting further from his safety net.
Broken hearts are best left to God to repair as no one here knows what will keep a human going. No human can touch what hurts for them in order to make it stop.
Unbidden remarks pierce the saturated soul stinging with saltiness the wounds that try to heal. Add to that numerous mechanical failures in one week and one can surmise the mortal enemy of the soul is angry and trying to strip away, one finger at a time, the grasp of your hand clinging to the only hand left extended down into the abyss-your Heavenly Father’s. He is a strong tower and help in time of need.
The soul runs for cover and asks for the reassuring arm of God to surround it and renew stability within, for we are in Christ Jesus. Scripture washes the soul and momentarily refreshes the drenched spirit long enough to speak another scripture at the badgering adversary.
Yet another wave comes. The soul wavers. Will it fall? No!
And then a break in the relentless crashing waves of discouragement. A bit of good news is heard and hope springs back to full capacity and faith for all to be restored returns. Once more it is proven that those who depend on God will not fall and that Satan is exactly what God said he is; a liar. But, oh the depth of pain and anguish we must sometimes endure.
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine; But a broken spirit dryeth up the bones.”
Prov 17:22 (ASV)
“Beloved, remember what you have heard of your Lord Jesus, and what He has done for you; make your heart the golden pot of manna to preserve the memorial of the heavenly bread whereon you have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either felt, or known, or believed, and then let your fond affections hold Him fast for evermore.”—Morning and Evening
How does one do it without the wellspring of God’s grace to draw from? If nothing is stored away there is nothing from which to draw and despair is the only reward.
“Jehovah is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, And saveth such as are of a contrite spirit.” Psalms 34:18 (ASV)
“Our blessed Lord experienced a terrible sinking and melting of soul. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?" Deep depression of spirit is the most grievous of all trials; all besides is as nothing. Well might the suffering Saviour cry to His God, "Be not far from me," for above all other seasons a man needs his God when his heart is melted within him because of heaviness.”—Morning and Evening
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us….So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:7-18 (NIV)
It’s never easy to endure all that comes our way, but when the light of eternity shines upon life's events they are seen as the deterrents they are, trying to prevent us from reaching our goal of being with Jesus.
Jesus within us cannot be revealed unless we allow the floods and tsunamis of life to cover us and emerge from them victorious. Verse 14 says, “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” 2 Cor 4:14 (NIV)
We act often times as though we never heard the words in Peter; “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you:” 1 Peter 4:12 (ASV)
The destination is the focal point of this life, not the whirlpool trying to drown us with despair. We see that in scripture when Jesus said he was going to the other side of the lake and the disciples thought they would die in the storm. We see it when Paul speaks and says he will go to Rome and endures a shipwreck and in Stephen’s word’s, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” as he was stoned to death.
Things are going to happen and you will feel the seduction of being overwhelmed, but that is the pinnacle, where allowing the brokenness of yourself to identify with Christ. He has made the soul able to stand in the face of adversity. Is your armor in place? Then charge into a new day knowing you have laid your broken soul on the Rock Christ Jesus so you might be sustained. Feel the surge of his power. It is in brokenness that we are made whole.
I can still hear in my mind, the sounds of the marbles as they entered each new level after being dropped into the crudely carved hole on one end of the top board. The first level gave a high sound as the marble ambled along the slightly tilted strip of wood inside the box.. They picked up speed with each of the five levels.
The box my father made from orange crates probably wouldn't catch the eye of today's children. They were simpler times. It was unpainted and was all of three inches wide, two feet long and a foot, maybe a foot and a half high. It was my older brother's.
There were times when one marble at a time being plopped in was not good enough and we dropped hand-fulls in as fast as we could, creating quite a rumble. If the marbles jammed, all we had to do was shake the box vigorously side-to-side and away they would go.
Sometimes I would lay a hand on either side to feel the vibrations made inside the labyrinth's dark caverns as the marbles raced down the inclines. At other times, I lay my ear on the top wood to hear the sound better, especially the next to last which had a deep bass pitch. The assorted tones came from thin strips of different woods: oak, maple, walnut, pine and hickory. Odd how much enjoyment a few pieces of wood and a bag of marbles gave us.
No matter what kind of marbles we used the end results were always the same; put them in the top and they shot out of the only opening on the bottom. We never expected anything to change. It was a simple contraption that entertained us hours on end.
“Stupid they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” People going around the merry-go-round of life and not changing their way of doing things is on the rise. Popping pills, drinking yourself into oblivion, shooting up or running away, all produce the same results each time. Probably the saddest thing is that there is no one there with you to hold you up.
Kind of like the parable that Jesus gave about where you build your house. If you build your life on sinking sand, it's already going down, but add to that the storms of life and you soon are defeated, nothing to grasp or hold unto. The house has no foundation and is not built on solid rock.
Believers face the same life issues as non-believers with one sharp difference; they have someone to turn to every time, someone to see them through the hard places.
All through scripture we are admonished again and again to choose life rather than the death of living without the Savior, Jesus Christ. Refusing to make a change is not something new, nor the giant issues we deal with on a daily basis. No, God has been calling men and women to come to him since the beginning of time. One of the examples I think of often is Moses and the snake found in Number 21:8, NIV.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
God is use to rejection, rebellion and people thinking they know best. In the case with Moses, who was trying to lead the people from slavery into freedom, there was always drama and this was just one example of people who were grumbling and complaining and wanting their own way (kind of like us).
God sent fiery serpents among them and when the people were bitten they died... unless... they looked up to the snake wrapped around a cross. Easy right? Get bit (by a snake or the world) and live simply by looking up to what was held up for them to see and be saved. Did everyone live. No. One could say what was written in black and white and stamped by God was not good enough. And these were the people who had seen, with their own eyes, God in action: they walked through the Red Sea on dry land, saw water come out of a rock, etc., etc. We are asked to believe and use our eyes of faith.
The great lie is that God is not enough. We want bigger marbles, something that dings and bings when new levels are conquered. Somehow there has to be more, more, more. Back to the marble box - drop a marble in and listen and wait until it comes out. Plain? Yes. Simple? Yes. Complete? Yes. Satisfying? Yes. Lasting? Yes. There was a time when we were grateful for simple things that worked.
That's a good description of Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, look to me and live.” That's not complicated. Jesus is complete in and of himself for our salvation. He is the water of life and the bread of life. Most importantly, once we look to him, we not only begin to change how we live with better results, but now gain everlasting life.
You won't have to rely on memory, which is often faulty, but your joy will be new every morning and he will put within your heart a continuous melody. Where do you look to find answers that give you life rather than a monotone, flat, same old, same old?
Come, hear the heartbeat of the Lord as you lean on his breast and ask him to be your all. Jesus isn't a marble box. Your life will change... for the better. The process is simple and it works!