X Marks The Spot
Have you ever seen a treasure map?
I don’t know why but ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated in finding lost treasure. I lived a good portion of my childhood in Arizona and there is a famous legend there maybe some of you have heard of. The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.
In many treasure maps there are clues or landmarks that lead you to the treasure. You reach a certain SPOT based on a map and search for clues to help you find the next SPOT then ultimately the treasure itself.
A treasure hunt can be exciting and a map can motivate you to begin the journey and direct you where to go.
If you’ve ever read the book Treasure Island as a kid or seen the popular movie when I was in high school called the Goonies then you might understand why things like these have always been interesting to me. I still like watching shows where someone has discovered sunken treasure from lost ships at sea based on historical data and maps of the ocean and nearby land.
I would like to share my story of a journey I took to find a lost treasure. I didn’t know at the time I was even on the journey but I can clearly remember very specific moments where I was in a specific SPOT directing me on the journey.
As I’ve studied my Bible over the years there are often times little things I catch that are sometimes just a single word that will stick with me and open my heart to help me see things in my life through a spiritual lens. Helping me to see that God has been active in my life from an early age.
Have you ever read Luke 19:1-10?
Zacchaeus The Tax Collector
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””
Luke 19:1-10 NIV
I can relate to this story in so many ways. First of all I know what it’s like to be short. I’m only 5’8. Just like Zacchaeus, I’ve tried to overcome that by extra effort to compensate and I’m also a sinner.
But did you catch the two words that caught me?
Jesus reached the SPOT. Then He called Zacchaeus by name. It implies that Jesus was on a journey to that very SPOT to meet Zacchaeus.
I would like to share several SPOTS in my life, that I now know, were places where God met me and was leading me on a journey, pointing me in a direction and leaving me clues to a very specific SPOT in time. A place where I too would meet the treasure I didn’t know I was even seeking.
The Treasure Map
When I was in about the fourth grade I found something. It was laying on the ground in the dirt near some playground toys. Nobody else was around. I picked it up. It was a little red book. Tiny little book. I didn’t know it at the time but it was a little Bible tract. Someone had lost it and I had just found it. I didn’t tell anybody I found it and I began reading the verses in it daily even though I didn’t fully understand them. It introduced me to God and I began asking Him questions even sometimes as I lay in my bed at night. Silly questions like why I couldn’t see Him? How big was He? How did He make everything? I haven’t stopped asking Him questions to this day.
I still have this little booklet and it is one of my treasures.
It began my journey. It was the treasure map leading me to the SPOT.
In my teens I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I had several run ins with the law for little stuff such as getting a ticket leaving high school on my last day right outside the high school. The officer put me in the back of his patrol car while my friends driving by are all screaming “Yeah!!! Joe!!!” Cheering me on as they were driving by. I was doing a slalom like drive through the centerline of the street. I was just showing off. The officer wasn’t amused and put me in the backseat to lecture me then just wrote me my first ticket. First of many.
I started drinking in high school and people I worked with at my part time job would buy me beer. We were always going to after work late night drinking parties at someone’s house or just out in the woods. That started me down a journey where all through my twenties I lived for two things. Drinking and chasing girls. I had gotten a pretty good job compared to my friends when I was 21 as a letter carrier for the Postal Service thanks to my mom signing me up to take the test. I aced that test and it was the only test in my life I knew I aced. That’s a story for another day.
I worked a lot and made good money. I spent a lot of it partying, drinking with my friends and vacationing with girlfriends. The crowd I hung around with now had more legal problems than traffic tickets. Many were into drugs that I knew to avoid but I drank like a fish.
I’ve been in bar room brawls and drove drunk more times than I can remember. Somehow I avoided jail. I often joked that my car had an automatic pilot and knew the way home. We hung out in a place called Burien Washington and we knew all the bar maids and could often time drink for free for a big tip or at least get doubles for the price of singles. We called it the “Burien Triangle” because there were three specific watering holes we hung out at frequently. There were times I was so drunk the barmaid would give me a ride home and I would have to remember where my car was. It was bad. Nothing I’m proud of.
All this time I was working hard at my job and staying out late drinking at least four or five times a week. My boss loved me because I could do any route and multiple routes faster than about anybody there. But I had a habit of calling in sick. They used to call me the “ Saturday Kid” cause they would take bets to see if I would show up to work on Saturday. I earned sick leave by the hour and because I worked a lot of hours I always had sick leave. My boss who liked me would let it slide cause I always made her look good when I was there. But then we got a new office manager who took one look at my sick leave record and placed me on sick leave probation. If I called in sick even one time for the next year they were gonna suspend me without pay for a week. Did I slow down my drinking? No. I just showed up to work hungover.
Then one Friday I had been out drinking late and even went to an after hour bar near the airport we knew about and the next morning I slept through my alarm.
Something woke me up. I looked at the clock. Panic. I was supposed to be at work in fifteen minutes. I was at least twenty minutes away from work. No time to sober up or make coffee. Quick got dressed and jumped in the car. It was an early Saturday morning, not much traffic. I had the petal to the floor when I hit the freeway. Got the speedometer up to 115 and only minutes from my exit I looked in my rear view mirror. My heart sank. Police car.
As soon as I hit my brakes his lights began to flash. This was it. I was going to get a driving reckless ticket and since I was still drunk and smelled like a brewery, I was also going to get a driving under the influence. I was going to be arrested and lose my drivers license that I needed for work. I was gonna lose my job. My life was over.
I was in a tight SPOT. Literally a fork in the road and I had taken the wrong path.
As I pulled over I realized there wasn’t just one police car but there were three.
No hope now. I just threw my life away. I sat there and when the officer walked up to my car and asked for my license I barely cracked the window cause I didn’t want him to smell me. I must have looked like crap. He took it and walked back to his patrol car.
I sat there and did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God. I could only say these words.
“Please save me! Please save me!” I began to weep.
I waited for what seemed like forever then he walked up to my car and asked me, “Are you running late?” I said “Yes.”
He handed me my license and said “Have a nice day.” Then walked away.
What just happened? I was in shock and began to cry. The police cars left and I sat there crying. I didn’t deserve it but I was rescued. When I got to work I was yelled at for being late but I was there and I was thankful.
You would think that being given a second chance would change my ways, but it didn’t. I was still a sinner doing the things I was before but maybe at a slower pace.
A few years later, I was still drinking and chasing girls for several nights a week with my softball buddies. I remember sitting at the bar one night in the middle of the week with some of them and I felt empty. A thought wouldn’t leave my brain. A question. “Are you gonna be sitting here ten years from now still doing this?” I felt depressed. I looked around at my buddies and one by one I answered the question in my head. Will they be sitting here ten years from now?
Yes, he will. He definitely will be. Him? Maybe not. But I could picture almost all of them right there ten years from now doing the exact same thing.
But I was tired. I was tired of this life. I was tired of having no future and tired of wasting my life. I went home early.
I got home and I laid on the floor and I talked to God. I told Him I was tired of my life. That I wanted a wife. I wanted children and a house. I wanted a future and something to live for. It was time for me to grow up. I needed an excuse to escape this life.
God heard me. On my bedroom floor by myself I made a request to God. This would be a big moment in my life. This SPOT I was in where I was sick of my life, was where I made a request and God gave me exactly what I asked for but I wouldn’t even realize it till years later.
Mere months after I had made my request to God I met my first wife. In a bar of course but it was early evening in the middle of the week which made it a lot better for casual conversation. I already knew her because I had dated her sister years earlier. We hit it off immediately. We started hanging out a lot which pulled me away from the bad influence I was around which was a good thing.
Then I got her pregnant. What was just another fun time fling just got serious. It was time. It was time for me to grow up. There was no way I was going to abandon my child like my biological father had done to me.
I started looking for a house cause I lived in a one bedroom condo my parents owned where my rent was almost nothing. We needed a bigger place because she already had a three year old daughter and with a baby on the way a one bedroom condo wasn’t going to work. Our realtor found us the perfect place that had everything we wanted and was about 25% cheaper than everything we were looking at. The reason? It was in the next county. We loved the place though so we bought it and moved in. Her family wasn’t happy because to them it was like we were moving to another country instead of just another county. We were only about 45 minutes from them and it was about the same in the other direction to my family. It was perfect. Next thing I did was propose to her and she accepted. We waited to get married till after our little girl was born. Life was good.
I now had a wife, we had a great little three bedroom house and two beautiful daughters and because we moved farther away from where I lived, I also stopped seeing and hanging out with my drinking buddies. This SPOT where I lived and now had a family was my escape from a life I was tired of. It was my own personal Exodus. My request to God had been granted though I had long forgotten about laying on my bedroom floor asking Him for these things.
I was still on the journey.
I was sitting in my lunch room at work one day, eating my lunch and reading the newspaper, when I overheard a conversation. Two clerks I knew were discussing a news story that had gone national. It was the story of a woman on death row for murder who was about to be put to death and it became a major news story for several reasons.
Do you remember the name Karla Faye Tucker?
She was on death row for a brutal pickaxe murder of two people. Her appeals had finally run out and she was scheduled to be put to death for her crime. While on death row she had become a Christian and put her faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins.
There was already a divide between people on both sides of the death penalty issue but now Christians around the country were calling for her to be given a life sentence instead, including the Pope and Pat Robertson.
As I sat in the lunchroom listening, Norman, who was a Christian, was explaining to the other person that it didn’t matter if she murdered someone, that if she truly put her faith in Christ, she would be saved. That she would be going to heaven if they put her to death.
That shocked me and I couldn’t help myself from interrupting the conversation.
I said, “ Wait a minute! Are you trying to tell me she’s going to heaven because she became a Christian in prison even though she murdered someone? Are you trying to tell me that if she had murdered my kid she would be standing there in heaven next to me and my kid? That’s crazy!”
Norm looked me in the eye and said, “Yes. She would be, if she truly put her faith in Christ.” He explained that it didn’t matter what she had done, what mattered is what Jesus had done for her and all of us at the cross.
I told him that was crazy! But I never forgot that conversation.
One Sunday morning I was lying in bed flipping through the channels on TV. I was waiting for football games to come on and a channel suddenly caught my attention. I don’t even remember what channel it was, but what grabbed my attention was what I heard. It was a preacher and he was giving a passionate presentation of some Bible scripture.
His name was Adrian Rogers. He was a Tennessee preacher and his ministry was called “Love Worth Finding.” He was a Southern Baptist preacher who told it like it is but did it with compassion for the lost. Always pointing them to Jesus and sharing how much God loves us.
Here’s some great quotes of his.
“God can bring . . .
peace to your past,
purpose to your present,
and hope to your future.”
“The grace of God . . .
will exalt a person—without inflating him;
and will humble a person—without debasing him.”
I sat through his whole program that day. Soaking it in. He was speaking straight to my heart. Words I needed to hear. I found myself every Sunday from then on tuning in to his program before football came on. I started looking forward to it and even found a Bible my grandmother had given me years earlier so I could read along as he taught. He was my first teacher and I was an eager student.
I remember a specific moment during this time when I was sitting there watching Adrian give another great lesson and my previous wife was walking by and saw what I was watching. She did a double take then looked at me sitting there with my Bible and rolled her eyes at me.
I’ll never forget that moment. I don’t blame her at all for doing it. Trust me. Anybody that knew me then or my past would have done the same thing. Who was I to be reading a Bible? Who was I to think that God really loved me or would accept me? Me? A Christian?
I deserved that eye roll and I’m thankful for it. What it did was it caught me by surprise but also made me stop and think. How could I ever be a Christian? What church would ever accept me. Could God really love me?
I know my past and everything I’ve done. All my regrets. There are so many I don’t even remember them all. But I certainly remember all the really bad ones. The only one who knows them all is God. How could He possibly love me when I don’t even love myself because of the things I’ve done?
Do you think it’s a coincidence that a preacher with a ministry called “Love Worth Finding” would catch my attention? Do you think God didn’t already know that this one thing was the very thing keeping me from Him? Creating distance between us? Could I ever be forgiven? Could I ever be redeemed? Am I truly loved?
I felt empty again.
I remember sitting there and suddenly realizing that God had answered my prayer. He had given me everything I had asked for years earlier and provided the escape from my previous lifestyle but I still felt empty. I had a good life. So much to be thankful for but something was missing.
I now had a hunger in my heart to know God but was ashamed of my sin. Nobody needed to convince me I was a sinner. What I didn’t know was that I needed a Savior and who that Savior was. This was the SPOT where I realized my great need. I had climbed my own Sycamore tree and was now looking for my Savior.
God knew exactly what I needed.
His faithful servant Adrian Rogers preached it as if it was meant just for me. The “Good News.”
This was it. The SPOT. The place I had been led to for most of my life. The place where I would receive the “invitation.” The path I was led down to discover a true treasure. To finally meet my Savior and be given forgiveness.
I will never forget that day. It was November 2, 1999 and around 10 am. After hearing that message from Adrian I went into my bathroom and on my knees with my face to the floor I prayed for Jesus to save me. To forgive me of all my sins and to come into my life.
Then something happened I never expected. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. A heavy burden I had carried for far too long was removed. I felt it physically. My life was changed forever in an instant. I had finally met Jesus. My treasure.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
That was my journey.
A little Bible tract book that I found as a child. I was lost but now I’m found.
A decade of living in debauchery that I was rescued from like the Prodigal son.
A Christian friend teaching me that even murderers could be forgiven of their sins just like Moses, David and Paul.
And a faithful servant giving me the invitation I needed to hear that would change my life.
What’s your story my friends? Are you on the journey? Have you had an amazing journey to meet Jesus too?
Are you burdened with guilt? Do you need love? God is pursuing you just as He pursued me.
“Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””
Luke 19:9-10 NIV
God will use your good moments and your bad to lead you to Him.
I hope and pray you have accepted God’s invitation to the Great Banquet that is coming my friends.