The personal jewels of Marie Antoinette are going on auction in November. You can buy her diamond and pearl pendant valued between $1 and $2 million, a pearl and diamond necklace valued between $200,000 and $300,000, and a diamond brooch valued between $50,000 and $80,000. There’s also a diamond ring containing a lock of the queen’s hair worth an estimated $20,000 to $50,000.
For slightly less money, you can own a box of cereal based on The Golden Girls television show, which aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992. The cereal features a toy figure of Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, or Sophia. It is selling out quickly, but you can buy a box for $50 on eBay. Someone is selling a single lot of eighteen boxes for $2,000.
In other news, the floor of a clubhouse near Clemson University collapsed yesterday morning, sending thirty people to the hospital. A train derailed yesterday in Taiwan, killing twenty-two and injuring 171 others. And three former Florida police officers were sentenced to prison for conspiring to falsely arrest people in order to improve their department’s crime statistics.
As long as people yearn to be more successful than they are, there will be a market for celebrity possessions and memorabilia. In our broken, unpredictable world, we yearn for security that transcends our circumstances.
But neither public celebrity nor personal security meets the deepest need of our souls.
Greetings from Israel
I’m writing this morning from Israel, where I’ve been leading study tours for the last two weeks. It’s been my privilege to travel to the Holy Land multiple times a year since 1995, but each time I come is like the first time. It is always a great joy to be here.
Yesterday, our group walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, one of the most astounding locations in Israel. In the eighth century BC, as the Assyrian Empire threatened his nation, King Hezekiah built a tunnel to protect the Gihon Spring and bring its water inside the city (2 Chronicles 32:30).
His engineers did this by carving a 1,750-foot waterway out of solid rock. They began at each end of the tunnel and met in the middle. To this day, archaeologists are astounded at their remarkable work. We walked through the knee-high water that still flows through the 2,700-year-old tunnel.
Later this morning, our group will visit the Garden Tomb. Located north of the ancient city walls, it has much to commend itself as the actual location of our Lord’s resurrection. Each time I visit, I sense his presence in a deeply moving way.
The tunnel reminds us that God intervenes in our world, working miracles in whatever way fulfills his providential purpose. The tomb reminds us that Jesus is just as alive today as when he walked on our planet twenty centuries ago. He is not just risen from the dead–he is living in our world right now.
How Jesus is at work today
I believe American Christians need to experience the living Lord Jesus far more than we typically do. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is returning one day. He is the subject and object of our faith.
But how often do we experience his living presence today?
Jesus is interceding for us at this very moment (Romans 8:34). He speaks to us through the word of God (Hebrews 4:12). He leads us through the circumstances of our lives. He moves in us as his Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
When was the last time you read the Bible and your life was changed? That was the last time Jesus spoke to you from his word. When was the last time you sensed your Savior at work in your circumstances or spirit?
Don’t confuse religion for relationship
We confuse Christianity with the world’s religions when we make Jesus the object of our faith but not a living reality in our day.
Buddhists don’t expect the Buddha to move in their lives. Nor do Muslims expect Muhammad to speak to them. Jews pray to Yahweh and seek to serve him obediently, but few expect to feel his presence or experience him intuitively.
Traveling in Israel so often over the years, I have come to love the Jewish people. I deeply admire their courage, resilience, solidarity, culture, and wonderful sense of humor. But I grieve for their religiosity that does not lead to a personal relationship with our Savior.
As one of my Jewish friends once told me, every morning the 613 laws of Judaism are laid on his shoulders and he must carry them through the day. He does his best to be obedient to his God, but he does not know the intimate love of the Father that we experience in his Son.
Let us not make the same mistake. Let us not turn the joy of a personal relationship with a living Savior into a set of religious obligations. What the world needs most is Jesus. The same is true for your soul and mine.
Playing the tuba in God’s band
Here’s the catch: we must be willing to be the body of Christ if we would fully experience the presence of Christ.
Jesus works through us as the “body of Christ” in the world (1 Corinthians 12:27). We often take these words figuratively, but the Lord intends us to fulfill them literally. We are the physical presence of Christ wherever we go, his hands and feet, demonstrating his compassion in our love and his relevance in our ministry.
We must breathe out to breathe in. We must give to receive. The more we are willing to serve others in Jesus’ name, the more we are able to experience his life-giving reality.
Bestselling author Max Lucado played the tuba in his high school marching band. He reflects on his experience: “Would you attend a concert of a hundred tubas? Probably not. But what band would be a band without a tuba? Or a flute? Or a trumpet? Or a steady drum? Get the idea? The operative word is need. They need each other. By themselves they make music. But together, they make magic.”
Then Lucado applies his experience to the church: “Not all of us play the same instrument. Not all of us make the same sound. Some are soft, and others are loud. Some convert the lost. Others encourage the saved. And some keep the movement in step. But all are needed!”
Which part of the body are you?