How Much You Matter - #5445
Friday, November 23, 2007
I got every baseball card but the one with my hero on it. When I was a kid, I'd go to the vacant lot near our apartment on the south side of Chicago and I'd collect old pop bottles. Then I'd go to the little store on the corner, trade the bottles for money and the money for as many baseball cards as I could afford. My team was the Chicago White Sox. My hero was an All-Star, Hall of Fame-bound second baseman named Nellie Fox. I got every White Sox player except one. I could never find a Nellie Fox card. Fast forward about 25 years. My nine-year-old son is now a determined baseball card collector. He has saved all his allowances for a while to go with me to a special baseball card show. At one of the first tables we visited, my son said, "Dad, look!" And there he was, under glass - Nellie. My Nellie! The card did exist after all. But being all grown up now and needing every dollar, I looked but I didn't buy. My son and I agreed to meet a few minutes later up front. He came with his hand behind his back. I said, "What did you get?" He looked up at me with those huge blue eyes, held out his hand, and handed me that Nellie Fox baseball card. Needless to say, I was a mess.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How Much You Matter."
I could not have felt more loved by my boy. He had literally spent everything he had on me! That's how God feels about you. He loves you very much, and He proved it. He spent everything He had on you. He gave His one and only Son for you. His love is the love you've been looking for your whole life. His love is the only thing that will fill the hole in your heart that has never gone away.
That love is expressed in our word for today from the Word of God in Romans 8, beginning with verse 32. It says: "He ... did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us ... neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Do you realize what God's offering you? A love that spared nothing for you. A love you can never lose. You can lose the love of a husband or wife, of a boyfriend or girlfriend, of a good friend, of a mom or dad - and maybe you have. But God says "nothing in all creation" can separate you from His love!
He spent it all on you. That's why what you do with Jesus is the most important decision you will ever make. All eternity - your heaven or hell - hinges on whether or not you take what He bought for you with His life. He paid for your sin. He paid the price for you to have eternal life. He's the only One who can give it to you because He's the only One who paid for it.
Imagine my son coming to me with the love gift that he had spent everything on and me saying, "That's nice, son, but I don't care." ... (I)f you've never reached out and received from Jesus what He died to give you, you are ... rejecting the greatest love there is. Forgiveness and heaven and a life that means something - bought with the blood of the Son of God.
Today He holds out to you His gift of eternal life. And you have a clear-cut choice to make. You don't need to outright reject Him to miss what He died to give you. You can just smile politely and do nothing. You're still rejecting what He did. And that could cost you heaven. ... The gift is in His hand. He spent everything He had on you. Don't just walk away. He loves you.
for this is God's will for you..."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Sunday's message was about giving thanks in all circumstances, and today I had the opportunity to put it into practice as I took the backroads shortcut home after Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's.
Now I have only recently moved to this area, and not yet become familiar with alternate routes, so I was quite taken aback by a roadblock right about where I needed to turn onto my road. I could see flashing lights in the distance, and what looked like a fallen tree, but no clue as to how else I could get to where I was going. So with much trepidation and prayer, I managed to get my car safely turned around on this relatively narrow road with ditches on each side, and headed back towards where I had started. Then, not knowing what else to do, I decided to drive towards my old town and find my way home from there.
Well, shortly after I turned on to the highway, I saw a road to my right named after my new town, and decided that should be a good bet to follow. And it was, except it turned out to be an unpaved, deeply rutted road.
At first I was frustrated and upset by the waste of time and gas, and what damage these ruts might be doing to my car, but then I started feeling thankful that it was still light out and that I wasn't trying to find my way in the pitch dark. That, in turn, got me thinking about the admonition to be thankful in all circumstances, and how it is not telling us we should be thankful for the circumstance, but rather to find things to be thankful for while in it. So I did.
For starters, because of the ruts, I had to proceed very slowly, and had plenty of time to take in my surroundings. The setting sun was painting a beautiful sky, and the mountains looked so magnificent with their plush carpet of red, and orange, and yellow leaved trees, and I found myself wishing I could capture it in words that would bring it alive the way my talented blog friend Jane could have.
When I got home, another surprise awaited me. The town was dark. The fallen tree that caused the blockade had also caused a power outage. Somehow I managed to climb the stairs to my apartment and, after quite a bit of fumbling, get my key in the door lock. That was something to be thankful for. And after that, it got easier.
Once inside the apartment, I reached for the large flashlight on my kitchen counter and was immediately thankful that I had decided to keep it there. I was also thankful for candles, and for battery powered radios and tape players, and for warm socks and PJs on a chilly night. In fact, all sorts of things crossed my mind that I usually take for granted and forget to be thankful for.
It was nice to be able to sit back and relax without feeling guilty about neglecting the chores I had planned to take care of when I got home, and as I watched the candle flicker, I thought of days gone by. I thought of circumstances I lived through that I would never have wished for or chosen, and played a game of looking for what I could be thankful for in each one. A surprising number of things came to mind. In some cases, even a blessing down the road I never would have dreamed would come out of it.
Before I knew it, several hours had flown by, and my reverie was interrupted by the beeps of electrical devices turning themselves back on. So I'm thinking what better way to end this day, than to jot down my thoughts on thanksgiving in the dark.
Why so disturbed within me? Put your
hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God."
Just as I was about to renew my lease at the apartment I had lived in for the past 11 years, a chain of unexpected events took place that led to my moving to another complex in another town. A good move, but a very stressful and suspensful one, as the time frame I had to do it in was so narrow there was no time for planning.
With only a couple of weeks to make all the arrangements and start moving myself out of the old place and into the new one, snap decisions had to be made as to what could go with me and what needed to be left behind, as well as how to dispose of those items I could not take. And then, when it was too late to turn back, distressing snags and would-be delays made me wonder if I had made the right choice after all. Yet by the 11th hour, the Lord had worked out all the details in awesome ways.
Not only did He give me supernatural strength to do things I would have thought impossible, but He sent friends to help me, interceded on my behalf with testy people who put obstacles in my path, and provided the most magnificent fall colors for me to enjoy on my endless trips back and forth between one apartment and the other. He even provided a car with a sunroof to transport a tall, gangly plant that would not fit in a van, and that the movers refused to put in their truck.
Yet now that the last box has been unpacked, the last knick-knack set in place, the last picture hung, instead of sitting back in contentment, I have found myself focusing on the negatives rather than the many positives that outweigh them, like the things that should have been fixed or replaced but weren't, the promises unkept and denied, a new and difficult management who I seem to rub the wrong way and whose bad books I have already entered. Not an auspicious start.
But truth be told, even if the clock could be turned back, I would have no desire to stay where I had been, and so I do not want to be like the children of Israel who were so caught up in the stress of the moment that they yearned for the leeks and melons they had left behind in Egypt, forgetting the cost of the brutal whip of Egyptian slavery the Lord had just delivered them from (Numbers 11:4-6).
As always, there are lessons to be learned. For one, my hope should be in the Lord rather than on deliverance from unpleasant circumstances. I need to take a step back and meditate on all that He's done, instead of remaining stuck in the now and focusing on the despair of the moment. And as always, I am so glad that He never gives up on me, that His love is unconditional, and no matter what anyone else may think about me, I am special in His sight, and He rejoices over me with joy and singing (Zephaniah 3:17).