Eureka! The gold rush is on—again!

It’s been roughly 165 years since a half-million minors from around the world brought their picks and shovels to Sutter’s Mill in pre-statehood California. It was the country’s biggest news, headlined on every front page and announced by President James Polk in an 1849 address to congress. With each successive year, another half-million joined the digging force. The mother-lode, bless her heart, had given birth to gold—lots and lots of gold.

Fast forward to 2015—the mother-lode has a sister—but instead of a pick and shovel to retrieve your fortune, you’ll need a petri dish; instead of a pack mule, get scuba gear.

I digress.

Scientists recently discovered a world of unusual microscopic organisms known as extremophiles that serve as nature’s recycle centers. These tiny, living creatures literally breathe in dissolved metallic waste in the same way we take in oxygen. We breathe air, but extremophiles breathe discarded minerals as their oxygen. It’s their daily bread, their breath of fresh air.

More astounding is that when these organisms exhale, the once worthless matter comes out in its original solid form. In other words, the dissolved minerals are recreated into their original states. By breathing in and out, the extremophiles turn useless matter into useable material as though it had been reborn.

As technology increased, enterprising scientists-turned-prospectors used this same procedure on the world’s most valuable mineral—gold.

Deep in the ocean’s underwater canyons which house nature’s most hidden hydrothermal vents—an environment known for spewing dissolved metals from the earth’s hot core—are miles of deposits of dissolved gold. Sure enough, when the extremophiles are introduced, the microbes rapidly convert the useless, dissolved gold into a solid and valuable metallic form.

Now, the amount of gold retrieved from this process is small, but make no mistake about it, it’s gold: real, genuine, bonanza-building, cash-cow producing, Fort-Knox-kindred, goose-that-laid-the-golden-egg gold.

What once was ruined and abandoned by the white hot pressure of this world has been made whole again.

Sounds ominously familiar doesn’t it? It’s what God—through your ministry—does every week.

Radically reforming His creation is God’s specialty; giving new life to His people is His trademark. Throughout time, God’s countless reclamation projects tell their stories loud and clear:
• Zacchaeus had been a money-grubbing cheat among his own people, but one dinner with Jesus transformed Zaccheus into gold.
• Mary Magdalene, a temple of demonic insanity, had her curse cast aside by the miraculous power of Jesus, transforming Mary into gold.
• Nicodemus had devoted his life to the strict adherence of the law and found himself bound by it, but one visit with Jesus transformed him into gold.
• A dejected Samaritan woman, suffering from shame and guilt, had an impromptu conversation with Jesus and was transformed into gold.
• Saul, who’d tormented the church and kicked against the goads, had a one-on-one meeting with the Savior and was transformed into gold.

The story is always the same: What the world corrupts, God can fix. “But God… even when we were dead…made us alive.” Thankfully, there’s a solution to the ruinous attraction of the world. “You continually were straying, but now you’ve returned to the Shepherd.”

Despite our rebelliousness, God can turn us into gold. “He saved us, not on the basis of our deeds, but according to His mercy.”

Amazingly, He uses the smallest of micro-organisms—extremophiles—as living, breathing examples to showcase the transforming power of God. More amazingly, He’s chosen us to tell His people all about His forgiveness, His salvation and His transforming power.

No wonder people set their alarm clocks to rouse them on Sunday morning. They don’t want to miss what we have to say. We’ve got a message that’s completely contrary to the world’s. Our God can transform us into pure gold!

Ron Walters, a former pastor, is senior vice president ministry relations for Salem Media Group in Camarillo, California.

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