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Friday, September 18, 2009

Unsurpassed Value

One of our children had taken a keen interest in meteorology and at one point, was very careful to spend an exceptional amount of time each day watching the Weather Channel. A recent conversation touched down on the subject of tornadoes and warning systems, in which our brilliant child made the point that if a quick escape from the house were necessary, an extra pair of underwear would be the most important item to take along. One of our other children quickly demanded to know the reason for the choice, to which came the reply, "because if a tornado were to come close enough for me to leave, I would need to change my pants."

About three years ago or so, we did have to leave our house under threat of a tornado. Since we were living in a mobile home, we felt that was the best choice. Years before while living in another state, a tornado touched down about a mile behind us and we saw first-hand what happens to homes and trees. When we were under the threat again, we did not think twice, but loaded everyone up in the car and drove about a mile to a local shelter. While the rain blew upside down in the middle of that black night, lightning flashing everywhere, I stood outside arguing with a security guard (no, we couldn't talk inside) who didn't think we needed the shelter. Reason? Nobody else was there. We heard the weather reports and had first-hand experience of what was coming toward our house. He had not turned on the radio and really did not care to. He changed his mind just as I was about to toss a few thunderbolts of own when other people eventually showed up seeking shelter.

I rememeber when I left the house that night I made certain that I at least had on my jeans, with my wallet and ever-present Bible in the pocket. Other than that, I was focused on getting everyone else out of the house, into the car and out of harm's way. Nothing else seemed important at the time. I do distinctly remember the tension I felt about getting everyone to the shelter. That was all that mattered to me. We all became instantly prepared to let everything go--all our personal belongings. Everything. Nothing else mattered but getting everyone to safety. My people matter to me, not my stuff.

Return to the incident of the storm raging, my concern for safety and other man's indifference. Neither of us could change the storm or its affects. In the same way, dialogue, rhetoric or debate has no bearing on the inevitable. One learns at lightning speed during life and death situations that tradition bears no weight. Neither does ethnicity, clan or family. Education does not matter when the rain falls upside down and the wind howls. Talents, abilities, desires and dreams cannot abate a flood.

What really matters when there is an eternity just on the other side of this thing called "life?" Oswald Chambers shares his thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount:

"'Take no thought for your life' (Matt. 6:25). These words of our Lord are the most revolutionary of statements. We argue in exactly the opposite way, even the most spiritual of us--'I must live, I must make so much money, I must be clothed and fed.' That is how it begins; the great concern of the life is not God, but how we are going to fit ourselves to live. Jesus Christ says, 'Reverse the order, get rightly related to Me first, see that you maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concentration of your care on the other things.'"

Paul was a success story in his own right, and to top it all off, he had all the credentials for works-based righteousness. He was "circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." (Philippians 3:5-6). But when it came to matters eternal, he realized that he was bankrupt. What he needed was not religious righteousness, but the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ! He was brought to the point where he realized that he had a pile of useless garbage. The apostle Paul said it plainly. "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8).

Paul once highly valued himself as a person and all he accomplished. Then he met the Lord Jesus Christ who, like a storm that has stripped everything away, left Paul with an understanding of what was most important: knowing Christ. Charles Spurgeon explained that intellectual knowledge is the personal apprehension of Jesus as God who has revealed Himself in time and space; but a ton of head learning is not the ounce of heart knowledge. Affectionate knowledge is loving Him. Satisfying knowledge is content with Him, "that which my spirit panted after" as the bread of life that satisfies all hunger, living water that slakes all thirst. There is an exciting knowledge of Him. "The more I know of my Beloved, the more I shall want to know. The higher I climb the loftier will be the summits which invite my eager footsteps. I shall want the more as I get the more." Then there is the "happy" knowledge; that is, the sustaining knowledge of Christ that "bears me up above all trials, and doubts, and sorrows."

What are your assets? Compared to your Lord Jesus Christ, they are liabilities. How can one tell? Simply put them to the test: which produces righteousness before God?

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