Dirtied Jewels

picture of smokey quartz crystals

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0

The children were extremely bored, so they wandered around the house in a futile attempt to entertain themselves. Their mother was next door preoccupied with the neighbor’s new baby. Their father was stuck at an airport heavily entrenched in snow. Then an ugly scenario began to unfold after the children discovered a box containing mother’s jewelry collection.

“Open it! Open it!” the children cried in unison, while one of the older boys pried unsuccessfully, first at the gap in the lid, and then under the lock. After several minutes, their disappointment turned into mild anger as some of the children begin to push and pull at each other. Then the bureau was jarred. Suddenly the jewelry box crashed to the floor, bursting apart at the hinges. Precious jewels scattered everywhere and glee was the result. The room filled with awe and squeals of joy as necklaces with diamonds, earrings with rubies, and bracelets made of emeralds were passed around like candy. It wasn’t long before the whole group was in the backyard strutting around in a manner that would leave a fashion diva aghast.

Given their fleeting attention span, the children (mainly the boys) soon lost interest in the jewelry debacle. One boy then made the challenge to the others that jewels will still shine even if they have become dirty. Naturally, a handful of children jumped at the opportunity and started churning some jewelry through a muddy patch in the yard. But their escapades did not stop there. One discovered a small bin nearby of odd lawnmower parts with lots of oil and grease in the bottom. If there ever was a possible point of stopping their progress and restoring everything to its original state, they had long since passed it. The jewels they smothered in mud, grease, and grime were now virtually unrecognizable. Then one girl taunted the others, “OK, let’s see all that shine you boasted about!”

Sadly, there was now absolutely no shine, no glimmer, or anything good left to remark about. When they held the jewels up, they were nothing but a collection of black blobs. Another boy took a clean rag from the shed. After a great deal of scrubbing, he tried his best to get them to at least hint at sparkling again. But, to his great dismay, the jewels refused to gleam. In fact, they would not even come close to being clean. Then he tried dipping some jewels into a heavy-duty cleaning solution full strength. Yet, after a lot of soaking and wiping, they still were only about seventy-five percent clean. The rest of the children peered over his shoulder with great concern.

“What’s Mom going to say when she sees these?” one girl inquired. A boy retorted in exasperation, “She won’t see them! Quick, take all the other jewelry and put it back in the case.” He then ordered one of his brothers to repair the broken hinges and lid. “Maybe,” he muttered softly to himself, “just maybe, she won’t even notice.”

To the relief of all the children, days passed into weeks without a single mention of the jewelry case. One older boy scrubbed and scrubbed, but the film and dirt that remained kept the beauty of the jewels from reappearing. He knew their mother would not overlook the grimy residue, so he continued holding on to the jewels, hoping to figure out something he could use to get them totally clean again. But he got no opportunity to try again.

“OK, who has been in my jewelry box?” their mother yelled down the stairs. “Where are my precious jewels?”

“Uh-oh,” the boy who had tried cleaning them muttered loudly to himself. He knew that it was hopeless at this point to try to hide or escape. He grabbed the jewels and ran to his mother instead. “Mom, it’s all our fault. I mean, actually, it’s my fault,” he blurted out, as he began to sob. “I made a challenge to everyone that the jewels would still shine when they are dirty.” Now he was crying. “I tried and tried to get them clean, but they just won’t look pretty anymore.”

His mother reached over and gave him a big hug. She told him how she appreciated his honesty and willingness to come forward. “But why did you hide this from me?” she gently inquired.

“Because I was afraid of what you and Dad would do to us if you saw how dirty these are.”

“My son, your father and I greatly love you all. You still need punishment for what was done, but that does not mean that we hate you or want to hurt you. Besides, I have methods to clean these jewels you don’t know about. You should have come to me in the first place. You never could have solved this in your own efforts; in fact, you might have ruined them permanently.”

picture of clear gemstone

Do you realize that God sees each one of us as a perfect, sparkling, precious jewel? We usually see ourselves as dirty and blemished, like the jewels mentioned here, and are constantly trying in our own strength to make ourselves shine. And, like the boy trying his best to get the jewels clean, we go through all kinds of programs and rituals, yet in the end, we are still just as soiled as before—if not worse. We try so often to make ourselves pure and right, but we usually cause even greater damage to our hearts and lives instead. The devil wants to keep us believing the lie that we are too polluted and have to keep working at getting our life straight before we come to God. So we hide from Him, hoping He will never notice what we have done. This only causes our relationship with Him to suffer. “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22).

Only God can cleanse us so that the true beauty and purity He alone sees in us will shine forth. The key is that we must yield our self to Him and let Him do the work. The more effort we do, the more we remain mottled and murky. But if we actually could cleanse our heart and life ourselves, then it would just lead to boasting and pride—making us dirty all over again. “Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:9). Therefore, we need to stop trying to clean up our heart and life by our own efforts, and yield our self to Jesus instead. He wants to make us into the bright polished precious jewel that He sees, not the muddy, imperfect, unclean one that we see. He is the only One who can do it.

The Photograph That Can’t Be Deleted

A preview from a digital camera of a blurred street scene

Sally and her brother Steve are photography addicts. Whether it is an armadillo in Florida, a mountain range in Canada, or an amoeba through a microscope, between these two, they most likely have photographed it. Start a casual conversation with either of them, and you’ll end up sloshing through a pool of jargon. Recently someone commented about a passing sailboat and was inundated with exposure, ISO, metering, figure-to-ground, rule of thirds, bluket joins, rabbles, monkey stops and kewn. They own dozens of digital and film cameras, a multitude of lenses, and numerous accessories.

‘Delete’ should have been Sally’s middle name, since she deletes all the pictures she doesn’t like, even if just the slightest bit imperfect. Steve, on the other hand, is a ‘keeper.’ He feels that almost all of his pictures could be used for something, even if they don’t originally seem acceptable. The result? Steve has hundreds of thousands of photographs stored away for future use, while Sally had only a fraction of that.

Steve commented one day while Sally was engulfed in one of her many deleting sessions—about someone who never deleted the pictures captured. Sally paused and abruptly turned around.

“Are insinuating that I keep way too few pictures and should stop deleting so much?”

“Not at all—it was just something I thought about while reading a book last night.”

“Ha! You can read? That’s a good laugh!”

“No, seriously, I read about how God keeps a record of everything that we do, say, or even think. It’s like what we do with our cameras, except it’s in full action with unlimited detail. I mean, He knows everything about each one of us!”

“And does He share this with the world’s governments, or is it exclusively His own? Or is this how Santa got his secret information on every child on the planet?”

“You don’t care in the least! Look, this isn’t science fiction, a conspiracy theory, or some kids’ tale—it’s for real!”

“Okay, I’ll humor you. What does God do with the ones He doesn’t like? You know—the images that are all messed up and unusable. I refuse to believe that He has some kind of photo editing equipment that corrects mistakes.”

“Of course not! Actually these are not photos that you and I know of, but a written record that translates into a viewable image. It says so right here in the book I was reading:

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

All that He records is perfect; we are the ones that are a problem.”

“Uh-oh, here we go with that judgment stuff. Look, you might not be in the best standing with God, but I have accomplished lots of good works to help counter the bad things I’ve done in my life.”

“Well, from what I’ve read, that doesn’t improve our record in God’s book. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. He said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That means we were in the wrong from day one. We have to commit our life over to Him and let Him correct the ‘image’ He has on file.”

“How can God correct what has happened in our past? Does He rip pages out of this book you mentioned? You just said that He doesn’t use editing equipment, and now you say He corrects what was recorded about us—I’m confused.”

“Let me clarify. Our image is not exactly corrected; it is covered completely from God’s sight. We have given God such a bad reputation that we never come to fully realize the magnitude of His love for us. Another place in my book says,

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I’ve never known of anyone to give up any of their children for the sake of the whole world. In addition, His Son Jesus willfully chose to die on a cross for our sins. It was His blood shed on that cross which made it possible for the record of our sinful past to be removed from God’s view.”

“Where did you suddenly get all this knowledge? Just a few weeks ago you couldn’t stop rambling about the picture of the eagle flying at sunset that you missed. Now you’re an instant theologian! And what’s with this talk about shed blood?”

“Some time ago I found this old Bible, and since I had to wait for hours while a time-lapse photo project finished, I decided to read some it. Since then my life has changed and I can’t seem to put the book down. Anyway, I read about how only the blood shed from the sacrifice of an innocent, defect-free lamb could temporarily cover the sins of the people of that period. Yet when Jesus came, He took the place of that lamb, and through His sacrifice of His shed blood, now everyone’s sins are permanently covered. God no longer sees that old photograph recorded of us or anyone else.”

“That is pretty deep! So now, because of His blood, we all are covered and everything is good with God, right?”

“If the story ended right there, then yes, that would be the case. But it continues on over to us.

We have to make a choice of whether to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as our own, since we deserve to be put to death due to our sins.

Or to reject what He has accomplished for us, and suffer God’s wrath and eternal punishment due to the sinful life has been minutely recorded about us in His book.”

“Oh! That’s what I was afraid you would say. You know, I’m thinking that I would rather give my heart and life over to Jesus and follow Him and His ways. The thought of God’s photograph of my whole life with everything I’ve done never being deleted, and my inability to make it better, is not going over well with me.“

What about you? Is the image or record of your life blameless? Has it been covered by the blood of Christ? Every detail has been minutely recorded from when you were formed in the womb, to the moment you read this. Each and every thing you have done is in His book, ready for that day of His judgment.

You can’t hide anything from God. Even if you’ve forgotten about it, He still remembers. Jesus said, “…for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known” (Matthew 10:26).

Yet it doesn’t have to remain that way. By accepting what Jesus has done at the cross, and allowing Him to work in your life, you can have that record washed clean, or “covered with His blood.” While this photograph can never be deleted, Jesus made a way for it to no longer be visible before God. Won’t you follow that way right now?

To find out more on how to have this undeletable photograph covered and made clean please visit our main website by clicking here.

A Fountain of Water or a Beautiful Sculpture?

A three-tiered fountain with water flowing down around it

Ever notice that a fountain doesn’t do anything but let the water building up inside it gush out and fill the area all around it? There is almost no effort on its part. It just fills with water and then releases it for all to see. It makes no attempt to conserve the flow of water or to block it completely. As God’s children, He wants to flow through us by way of His Spirit. When we yield to Him as a willing vessel (or “fountain”), we allow His love to flow out of us for others to see.

When we try to express God’s love without having much love for, or devotion to, Him ourselves, we prevent Him from flowing in our life. But the more we allow Him to fill us with His Spirit, the more His love will flow out and all over us, through no effort of our own. When a fountain no longer streams forth water, it becomes just a nice-looking sculpture. It might have beauty outwardly, but there is nothing going on inside. In the same manner, when we block God’s Spirit from flowing through us, we may seem appealing on the outside, but there is little or no activity spiritually within us.

“Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets” (Proverbs 3:16).

Let’s increase our time and intimacy with Jesus, so His love will overflow abundantly from us like “rivers of waters in the streets” for all to experience.

Want to Build a Fire?—Let Go of the Wood!

Two recently cut sections of a small tree

The woodpile grew rapidly as Leo and his dad finally cut up the old tree in the far end of the backyard. The huge tree fell eight years ago after a Nor’easter hit the region. It did not really obstruct anything, but had become an eyesore and home for many critters that raided the trash bin. Leo felt torn between holding onto the old tree and breaking it down for the fire pit. He had lots of fond memories of climbing and hiding between the various crevices of its larger branches. Sometimes when he was upset, he would sit on its large trunk pondering the meaning of life, or, at least, what little he knew of it.

The crisp Fall morning grew warmer as the sun climbed across the sky. Leo’s dad urged him to pick up his pace if they were to finish the tree before sunset. As Leo picked up a small bundle of cut branches, his mind wandered back to the time when the tree became his snow fort. It was impenetrable as long as he kept below the trunk. One time he failed to, just as a hard-packed snowball slammed into his forehead. Then he recalled the five-hour emergency room visit and head bandage.

A chain saw cutting a tree trunk

“Leo!” shouted his father over the chain saw growl, “if you don’t get that wood stacked immediately, I’m going to….” His voice disappeared as the growl changed back to a snarling roar. Leo quickly abandoned reminiscing and resumed his vigorous collecting and stacking of cut branches. Then the noon chime sounded on his watch, and he recalled the day when the neighbor’s dog slipped into his yard, chasing what Leo thought was a black cat with a white stripe. After a few minutes assisting the dog, a pungent ‘fragrance’ filled the air. Leo grabbed a broken branch from the tree and chased the dog instead, shouting, “Get away from here, you crazy dog! That’s not a cat!” but to little avail.

Lunch was a brief break before he and his dad prepared a crude fire pit in a sandy clearing. “That ought to help keep the fire in one place,” his dad remarked, while turning toward the house. “Leo, start stacking those logs while I go for the water hose and then get the fire underway. And I want results this time.”

Leo grabbed a tiny section of trunk. The day had become quite warm by then. This, along with his dad getting the hose, reminded him of the time when his friend came over to help build their version of a water park. They drilled holes in the newly-fallen tree, and were going to put sprinklers in at various intervals—until he broke the drill.

“Leo! What is taking so long? What’s going on in your head?” his dad angrily interrupted. “Stack the logs in the pit so I can get a fire going! How hard is that?”

Leo sighed, grabbed more logs, and stacked them down while his dad stuffed wood scraps all around the logs in the pit. He then turned one branch into a torch, lit it, and started setting the scraps on fire. Initially, Leo kept adding more of the old tree to the pile, but before long, strangely enough, he decided to take a few logs back and lay them aside nearby. Then he just stood staring at the newly-started fire and retrieved a few more branches that by now had begun to catch fire. It seemed like he wanted to get rid of the tree and all of the problems it caused, but at the same time, he didn’t want to completely let go of it.

A bonfire at night with large flames

“Leo! Come over here for a moment,” his dad motioned. Leo hesitantly walked a short distance from the fire. “Now you and I, along with everyone else around here, want this tree removed, right? Yet ever since we began, you have been daydreaming and taking your time. I’ve finally reached the point where we are able to burn the tree and get rid of it. But here you are, holding onto some of the logs. You’ve even gone so far as to pick them back up from the fire!”

“But I…” Leo started his defense.

“Look,” his dad interrupted, “we can’t get this fire going if you won’t let go of the logs!”

As believers in Christ, we are often guilty of doing the same thing with God—not with wood and a fire, but with leaving our problems and concerns at His altar. So often we want God to take care of our situation, but our unbelief won’t let Him. We go to the altar, commit our needs before Him, and leave. Then, after a few days, weeks, or even just a couple of hours, we return to the altar to retrieve what we left there. We never give God a chance to do much of anything. As a result, we become down in spirit or depressed. We may even complain that the problem doesn’t go away. Maybe we never truly wanted to give up the concern in the first place. We were moved in our heart to let go, but our old self, or “the flesh,” rose up and overruled—denying us the victory.

As our Heavenly Father, God wants us to come to Him with our needs and concerns. In fact, He will often allow, or even bring about, problems to affect us, to bring us to the point of committing them over to Him. In His love for us, He wants us to come to Him first and leave all of these things with Him. When we take them back (or never give them up in the first place) we are not allowing God to work in our lives. In essence, we tell God that we want to be free of the situation—but only on our terms and in our time frame.

Looking up a a stone cross with clouds behind

When Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for us, it was a complete, finished work. There will never be a return trip and another sacrifice, much less multiple sacrifices. He did everything required and was victorious, so that we can be victorious. But we must lay our concerns on the altar and leave them there, putting our complete faith and trust in Him and His victory at the cross. Don’t be like Leo, and hold onto, or, worse yet, retrieve the logs from the fire. How can we start a fire, if we don’t let go of the wood?