2001-11-22 - The Polar Bear Club
Thanksgiving Day, 2001
There is a club or group of clubs I am aware of called the Polar Bear Club. The members of these clubs get together on New Year's Day, if I am not mistaken, and go swimming - often after they cut a hole in the ice to do so. They seem to have a great time of it, but I think I'll pass. I may have found a reference to a charter member of the club. Below is a passage from a favorite book of mine. In this chapter the author recounts the Pilgrim's trip across the Atlantic Ocean. That the time and the state of the technology of the day, it was not unlike a trip to the moon today. It pressed men and ships to their limits and at times beyond. Death and loss of ships were not uncommon.
Still another passenger nearly paid with his life for a "minor" disobedience. A dozen or so days into the storm, John Howland, a servant of John Carver, could no longer stand the stench of the crowded 'tween decks. The Captain, Elder Brewster, and his own master had each forbade any of them to go topside, but if he didn't get a breath of fresh air soon... . Finally, he decided that he was going to get what he wanted, and so up he climbed and out onto the sea-swept main deck. It was like a nightmare outside! The seas around him were mountainous; he had never seen anything like it - huge, gray-green waves lifting and tossing the small ship in their midst, dark clouds rolling on the horizon, and wind shrieking through the rigging - Howland shuddered, and it was not from the icy blast of "fresh air" that hit him.
Tonight I met a man who told me of someone he had recently met. He was a former Prisoner of War in the Korean War. While speaking with him, the gentleman I was talking with had noticed a small fish sewn into the cap of the former prisoner. He asked the man if he knew Jesus as his Savior. The man replied that he did, and told him how he met the Lord in that POW Camp under horrific circumstances.
It does not always take a crisis to confront someone to get them to consider seriously the offer of salvation Jesus presents to the world. It took a personal crisis for me to be confronted with my need of a Savior. It was nothing like this POW or Mr. Howland, but it was sufficient to rattle my then 17 year old world. Today, both these gentleman and I share the thanksgiving of knowing that Jesus ordered our steps into those terrible times and then allowed the ropes from the rigging to trail across out spiritual wrists. If we delay in griping the rope of salvation, death would be the end of it, spiritual death more devastating than mere exposure or guns and spears could bring about. If we grab on to the rope, He will haul us aboard and nurse us back to health.
There is a promise of eternity either way. The promise for the man or woman who does not know Jesus Christ whether through refusal or neglect is daunting to even consider. To be eternally separated from the love or presence of God would dwarf any physical punishment. To know that the love and protection that was available is now beyond reach for all time would be mentally and spiritually devastating. To know that it was my refusal to either accept or even consider that gift of eternal life with Christ after He had paid the price on the cross for my sin debt was the sole cause of my suffering would be humbling beyond thought or word. The promise for the man or woman who simply reaches out and admits that they have already missed the requirements and sinned at all, the requirement to enter Heaven set down by the Father. Perfection is the required standard for entry into the presence of the Father. The only way anyone from the human race will ever be perfect is to be washed in the blood of Christ for remission of his or her sins. The only way we can be presented as perfect is in the life of Christ.
I am thankful for many things. I have a few wonderful friends and family who care for me very much, and I for them. I have a warm house and food on the table, the bills are paid. We are all well and whole. We have this place to share our hearts and thoughts that God has given us. I wonder where I might be if I had not met the crisis that God placed in my path. This has been a difficult year for many. The tragedy of the attack on the World Trade Center towers touched families in dozens of nations. The rippling effects of that attack has cost tens of thousands of hard working people their jobs through no fault of their own. The threat of disease looms, and the terrorist network is damaged and shaken, but not yet destroyed. But none of these things can rattle the peace in my heart that was placed there by Jesus Christ in the middle of the storm of crisis.
Gal 6:14-18 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen. (NAS)
Thank you Lord for the storms and trials that shake us off our stance and humble us enough to know that we are not in control, that we are mortal. In those storms You pull us up and love us so that we can know that You will always be a safe place to lean and depend upon. Amen.
Grace & Peace,