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CHURCH CORNER: Just aske yourself better questions

“God’s realm is like this,” Jesus was saying. “It’s like a treasure that a man finds buried on a piece of property and he buries it back in the ground so no one else will find it. Then, because he is so excited about it, he goes and sells everything he owns so that he can buy that property and lay claim to the treasure.

“And, you know what?” Jesus continues, “God’s economy is like this. It’s like a merchant who finds the most exquisitely valuable pearl he’s ever seen, and sells everything he has to buy that pearl so he can call it his own.”

Hmmm.

I used to think these two stories were primarily about how I should feel about Jesus. But, a few years ago, a good friend challenged me to take another look. The people of Jesus’ day heard from the religious leaders about what God’s economy was like, but Jesus was telling them something he knew they’d never heard before. In all the other stories Jesus told along with these, the main character represented, as explained by him, not a human being, but God or his heavenly agent. It made me think.

What if the main point of these parables is not how we should feel about God, but how God feels about you and me? What if, in both instances, the “man” or “merchant” is God? What if, in both instances, you or I are the object of immeasurable value? What if?

What if your life was so valuable to God that he decided, just for argument’s sake, to give up his most precious possessions and come rescue you from the dirt or remove you from the hands of a lesser owner to make you his own? What if? If you believed that were true, how would it change your life?

Do you believe that you, all on your own, no matter who you are, what you wrestle with or where you are in life, have a kind of built-in value? At 50 years old, I’m just a know-nothing kid compared to some, but I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve been a pastor for while and ministered to old and young. You know what I see most often? I see that people consistently undervalue themselves – that negative self-images and negative self-talk often fill their hearts and heads.

I understand. I spent a long time believing there was something wrong with me that knocked my market value way down. I confess there was stuff in my life that led me there, but there were also other voices that were ready to tell me, “You’re right! You aren’t worth much!” Some of those came from places that were supposed to be about love, value and grace. They meant well, but they forgot Jesus’ words about the value of Papa’s babies. They sounded more like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day than Jesus himself. When I got older, I’m sorry to say I joined them for a while. Please forgive me for that. I confess that I now know a whole lot less than I did back in my late 20s and 30s…and that God knows a whole lot more!

What about you? If the voice in your head isn’t very positive I challenge you to start asking yourself better questions. Start with this one: Who or what determines my worth as a person? Ask these too: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Who will go with me? I submit to you that it doesn’t matter what your papa said about you, what your mamma said about you, what your brother or sister or friend or enemy or stranger said about you. God says you are worth so much that he would sell it all in order to make you one of his. That’s what he thinks when he looks at you right now. It’s what compelled him to give up his son to come and rescue you. It’s what prompted Jesus to say, “Yes!” to the Father when asked to go on the rescue mission.

If God sees that in you, what is it that you see in yourself that’s such a flaw that God would not pursue you? What if the Father’s estimate of our value is more important or truer than what we believe? What if?

There’s always someone out there, religious or secular, who will tell you the pearl merchant doesn’t know what he’s doing. They were out there yesterday; they’re out there today; they’ll be out there tomorrow. If you have someone telling you that, then re-evaluate the voice rather than the pearl merchant. Look, Jesus said the merchant found the pearl and then made it his own. In other words, it wasn’t his before – it was apart from him, on its own, mixed up with other stuff that hid its true worth. But, the merchant saw its true value – hidden though it was. What are you gonna do about this? I encourage you to stand up on your pearly little legs and say, “Yes, here I am. Take me! Take me! I want you to own me!” It just might change your whole life.

-- submitted by Michael Limanni, Cedar Community Church

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