I am as surprised by this post as you are. I write as I feel led by the Spirit, and that has typically been every 2-3 weeks. But God has something new to share today, so here I am.

Allow me to put a spin on the story of The Tortoise & The Hare, if you will.

The tortoise and the hare were in a race. The hare naturally had a distinct advantage over the tortoise. His speed, of course. But there was more. He was also born on the starting block. He was ready to run the very second the gun went off. He ran with such grace and agility. His quick legs carried him almost effortlessly through the long course. As he ran unchallenged, his confidence was high. In fact, soon his conficence became pride.

“Who would dare to enter this race? ” He thought. “It would be pure foolishness. It would be nothing less than epic failure, for no one could be as good as I am. Besides, it is my right to be here, and no one else has that.”

At last the hare approached the finish line. He stuck out his proud chest, raised his arms high in victory, and ran straight into the tape held across the end. The tape stretched…but did not break. In fact, it flung the hare backward onto the track. The hare was stunned, but gathered himself and ran forward a second time, then a third, and a fourth. Each time the tape held fast, and the hare was unable to finish the race as he had expected to do.

Meanwhile, the tortoise had not been born on the starting line. He was born quite a distance away. He struggled over rocks, through crevices, and under scratchy bushes at a painstakingly slow pace just to reach the start of the race. By the time he actually entered the race, he was incredibly thrilled to be there. At times his heart was so filled with joy that he leapt up in the air as high as his short legs would propel him. At other times he would stumble and fall. But each time he would get back up, dust himself off, and continue on steady and sure of where he was going. He ran the race steadfastly, faithfully, determined to cross the finish line.

Finally the tortoise approached the end of the race, where the hare continued to run fruitlessly against an un-relenting tape. The tortoise, humbly low to the ground, crossed the line…under the tape. He was met with shouts and cheers, and many hugs from the crowd who waited on the other side. The arrogance of the hare would not let him stoop to go under, and so he remained.

In Matthew 21 Jesus told the story of two sons to some priests and religious leaders (vs. 28-31). Afterwards he said this to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do.” (vs. 31 – NCV).

Can you imagine the reaction of the priests and religious leaders? I can. I can see the look of horror on their faces. Absolutely incredulous! How dare he! Who does this man think he is?! We are Levites! We were born to this greatness. We are set aside as holy to God. Not only will we enter the kingdom of God, we will enter with great fanfare and glory! This is our right! And these, these…sinners (you can almost hear that word being spit out with utter contempt), they will never enter the kingdom of God. God cannot bare to look at them, let alone allow them in His presence. This man’s words against us is hypocracy in itself!

And yet, Jesus said the sinners would enter before the priests. Wow.

Many of us were born and raised in the church. We have attended church every Sunday since…forever. We find security in knowing that we have spent our lives in the house of God. Salvation is ours. One day we will enter the kingdom of God with great fanfare and glory…wait a minute. What? Ouch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

There is a danger to being raised in the church. At times there is advantage to coming to the church later in life…salvation is a treasured gift that is accepted, not assumed. So should we all leave the church? Of course not! But we do need to recognize that salvation is not a right given to those who go to church, anymore than it was for the priests of Israel just for being priests. Salvation is given by grace, and grace alone, to the church goer, the good person, the sinner, and the really, really bad…as long as they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. As long as they make Him the Lord of their lives. No one can assume they are Christians because they go to church, and Sunday School…not even because they were baptized (at any age), or because they went through confirmation, or any other number of reasons.

Search your hearts. Have you ever gone down to bended knee and offered you life up to God? Have you prayed, as the old hymn offers, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.” Have you asked Him to mold you and shape you into the vessel He wants you to be? We are all cracked, warped, even broken clay pots, but God is ready and waiting to miraculously fill you and use you for His glory. You just need to place your broken vessel into His hands, and then let go.