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“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits . .
who redeems your life from the pit”
– Psalm 103:2,4 –
The question behind this LifeLetter …
is simply this: what are you doing with your “empty”, your setback, your dead-end, your “pit” of delay and discouragement?
First, the millennial turn year 2000, saw the birth of Geocaching, an outdoor treasure-hunt of sorts in which participants use some type of a GPS device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.
Then, July 2016 saw the launch of Pokémon Go, a no-charge location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. It also saw the invasion of hundreds of neighbors and not-really-neighbors in parks and common areas not too far from your front door. In this game, players again use GPS . . but in this case, to locate, battle, capture and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on-screen as if they were in the same immediate real-world location as the player. To date, more than 130 million users have downloaded the app, nearly guaranteeing it to be the single most popular mobile interactive experience in history.
What’s remarkable is that while millions and millions of man-hours are being thoroughly invested in and consumed by these (and many other) gaming experiences, the treasure is imaginary, thinner than vapor-thin, void of substance and powerless to heal disease, overcome evil and conquer death and the grave. It is as though a generation of treasure-hunters have become obsessed with an interactive platform for “the journey” itself, a journey that really is little more than a imprint or shadow if you will of a God-given desire for treasure He has made . . if we will only refocus long enough to activate the GPS of our soul and tune out the fluff to get to the real stuff.
God Himself has repeatedly announced in His word that He is eagerly, longingly and actively looking for those whose hearts have become fixated on His kingdom “caches”. His promise? Seek . . seek earnestly, persistently, relentlessly . . and you will find. For any one individual to “have-not” simply means they have chosen a self-piloted life of “want-not”.
Here are 5 treasures (among many)
God promises you can find with absolute success:
1 – Himself
God is all about overcoming isolation, loneliness and disconnects and recreating relationship. He is doing anything but playing “hard-to-find”.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
– Jeremiah 29:13 – (see also 2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 8:17)
2 – Wisdom
God is all about positive outcomes and a productive, model legacy-generating journey through life. He is doing anything but rationing out wisdom.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
– James 1:5 – (see also Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 3:6)
3 – Fulfilled Desires
God is all about the “what-if’s”, the dreams and longings that, when believed in – reached for – and attained, bring glory to His name and hope to the hopeless. He is doing anything but slamming the door on our access to His goodness.
“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:8 – (see also Psalm 37:4)
4 – Mercy
God is all about pardon and the second chance. He is doing anything but stomping in the opposite direction of our brokenness and failure, muttering “I told you so”.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:16 – (see also Matthew 5:7; Micah 6:8)
5 – His Love
God is all about reminding us that we are His treasure, something proven over and over by an unbending perfect love that is never forced down our throats. He is doing anything but dripping miserly drops of affection in our direction.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
– Psalm 103:8 – (see also Isaiah 30:18; Proverbs 8:17)
The “11:Twenty-Five” & The “3:Twenty”
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,”
– Ephesians 3:20 –
The apostle Paul certainly reflected on the aforementioned list of worthwhile treasures and reminded his readers in Rome that we serve a God who is entirely, without exception, for us . . so for us that there is nothing to prevent Him from freely giving us all things (Romans 8:31-32). What is mind-blowing is that Paul never got stuck there, but saw his identity in light of the cross of Christ as a “bond servant” (Romans 1:1) – literally a Philippians 2 mannered “slave for life”, as opposed to being a needy, self-absorbed sponge, one who is looking to only soak up more of God’s favor and fringe benefits for himself.
The dynamic Pastor Steven Furtick (Elevation Church, Charlotte) echoed Paul’s perspective when he recently stated that “coming to church to see what God might do for me” is a wonderful place to start, but a horrible place to stay. Furtick rightly understands, like Paul, that we really don’t begin to experience the depth of God’s presence and power until we come towards Him and others with the desire to “see what God might do through me” as a Christ-follower.
I often remind audiences of the Proverbs-based “11:Twenty-Five” principle . . “He who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed”. But make no mistake, this is not a formula for blessing produced by a life-long string of self-manufactured good deeds; rather, this is a Ephesians 3:20 picture of life in living color when we get over ourselves and join forces with the Body of Christ to become a conduit of love to a hurting and broken world. When we sell out to that mission, God is more than prepared to blow up our box and pour out His presence and power beyond our wildest expectation. The power of the “11:Twenty-Five” is forever tied to the “3:Twenty” . . yes, we are moving, but it is God and only God who is working!
A Present-Day Treasure Hunter
Pastor Duane Miller had sold out to God’s calling, but like everyone else who is “on mission”, encountered his own season of adversity and soul-numbing discouragement.
In 1990, Miller was serving as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas where he contracted a flu virus that ultimately penetrated the mylan sheath of his vocal cords and damaged the nerve tissue beyond repair.
Miller was seen by 63 specialists and their teams (totaling over 200 doctors) to no avail. He was left with a voice that sounded like the worst case of laryngitis you could ever imagine.
Though the congregation had been incredibly patient with his disability, he resigned for obvious reasons in 1991. In Miller’s own words, “Everything I had ever done to earn a living had been connected to my ability to speak and suddenly my ‘tool kit’ was gone.” The Millers would move back to Houston, where Duane’s wife became the primary bread winner and a Sunday School class at First Baptist became their safe haven for retreat and restart.
In April, 1992, the teacher of their Sunday School class had to take some time away and Duane was asked if he would fill in temporarily. Two days previous, Miller had sat for hours in his living room with a shotgun to his mouth and had come to what he believed was “the end of himself”. He reluctantly agreed to lead the class and teach the scheduled lesson on . . guess what? . . Psalm 103, where David reminds himself to bless the Lord, to be mindful of His many benefits – including rescuing us on our darkest days when we are in that very pit of “no-way-out” despair.
Again in Pastor Miller’s own words, “I stood to teach the class of 150 that morning. I had never been more emotionally drained than I was that morning. I had never had less faith than I did that morning. The pit David described was swallowing me.”
Watch with me how Pastor Matt Fry of C3 Church in North Carolina retells this series of events in his own sermon titled “Get Back Up” …
Duane Miller faced his season of “empty” . . he chose not to pull the trigger . . he chose instead hours later to show up and “see what God might do through me”, even in the darkest night of his soul . . he chose to confess “I don’t know why God does things that He does – but I know that He does” . . He chose to let God be God and not put Him in a box defined by personal circumstance.
Doctors confirmed that his voice had been totally restored – to quote his lead physician, “I can’t find any evidence that you ever had a voice problem.” Since that experience, Duane Miller has gone back into full time ministry and traveled extensively to share the message of God’s grace, power and redemption to whoever has an ear to hear . . to whoever has found themselves on a treasure hunt that leads to nothing more than more “empty”.
The point? It’s one thing to believe in God’s presence, wisdom, power, mercy and love on the brightest of days, but will we hold fast to our “belief” in our “empty’?
It’s not so much what God did for Duane Miller . . but today is doing through Duane Miller simply because he chose to praise his God . . from the pit.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times,
having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:8 –
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