February 2, 2010

The Adventure of Godcaching

The Adventure of Godcaching


capOn May 1, 2000, Dave Ulmer couldn’t sleep. He figured the world would never be the same. What had happened on that day was, in his opinion, one of the most monumental events in the history of mankind.

What happened? President Bill Clinton signed into a law a bill that removed restrictions on the GPS network. By lifting the restrictions on the satellite technology, now it was possible to find any spot on the planet with near pinpoint accuracy.

As Dave tossed and turned in bed, he conceived the concept of geocaching. Geocaching is a high tech game of hide and seek. Treasures, or “geocaches,” are placed in public areas. Hiders post coordinates on the geocaching website. Seekers use the coordinates and GPS receivers to find the secret stashes.

2006 1533 page45Dave hid the first geocache. He stuffed a few treasures in a bucket: a George of the Jungle video, a book on Ross Perot, $5, mapping software, and a can of black-eyed peas. He buried the bucket twenty miles southeast of Portland and posted the longitude and latitude coordinates on a GPS website. Two days later some techies uncovered the treasure and the sport of geocaching was born.

Since then, the popularity of geocaching has exploded. Membership in the geocaching club has now eclipsed one million people! A new member is joining every 30 seconds. Back in 2000, there were fewer than 100 caches in a handful of countries. Now, in just six years, geocaching has grown to a point where they estimate that there is a cache within five miles of anyone’s house in most developed countries!

Whether you’re aware of this craze or not, these caches are everywhere. You just need a little technology to uncover the treasures.

Geocaching brings to mind a spiritual reality that I call Godcaching. Whether you’re aware of it or not, evidences of God are all around us. When we open our eyes we can see Him at work everywhere. When we do this, we begin to experience the adventure of God’s kingdom. Calvin Miller once said, “The world is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of the earth.”1

Jesus alluded to Godcaching in Matthew 13:44-46. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Over and over Jesus talked about the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus began His public ministry by preaching His Gospel: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

“The kingdom of God is near.” In other words, it is possible to live in the kingdom of God, here and now. That means the Gospel is not only about our eternity after we die. Of course, assurance of salvation and the promise of eternal life is a part of the Gospel, but primarily, the Gospel that Jesus reached was that Kingdom of God is at hand. So, over and over, Jesus kept describing what this kingdom is like. In Matthew 13, Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in the field; it’s like a pearl of great value that a merchant discovers.

In the ancient world this punchy little parable would have struck a familiar chord. It was common back then for people in Palestine to hide their treasures underground. Even though they had banks, the banks only serviced the very wealthy. Most people secured their cherished belongings by burying them. This helps us understand the common, rabbinic saying of the day, “There is only one safe repository for money—the earth.”

2006 1533 page45So this scene that Jesus described was common. A man discovers a treasure hidden in the field and determines to do whatever it takes to get that treasure for himself. According to the laws of their day, this act of purchasing the property to secure the treasure was not dishonest or unethical. It was a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t he secure the treasure?

Jesus then tells a very similar story of the merchant discovering a valuable pearl. In Jesus’ day, pearls were considered more valuable than gold. So when a pearl merchant discovered a pearl of unusual beauty and worth and he naturally sold everything he had to buy it.

In both of these stories, there is great joy in discovering the treasure. So it is, when we discover this life with God, there is great joy. When we realize the value of life in the kingdom of God, we’ll gladly exchange everything to secure that kind of life. And the good news is that this life with God is possible for every one of us.

Karen Mains, in her book The God Hunt, writes:

Scripture teaches that God is an active and communicative being, one who is present in his creation, ready to come to the aid of those who love him and eager to be in constant communion. Look at the biblical evidence. The men and women who discovered God were sheepherders, farmers, vinedressers, servant girls, slaves, fishermen, tax collectors, town whores, the sick and the dying, kings and commanders, religious dignitaries, the intelligentsia. No matter their status in life, they were all common folk, everyday people like you and like me who had uncommon encounters. The almighty intervened in their ordinary routines—in the desert, in the field, in the garden, by the seashore, along the river, in the town, at festivals and celebrations, during high holy days, on the Sabbath. He is where his people are, joining them in their daily lives.2

Hide and Seek

Karen Mains goes on to tell of how she made a game out of this with her family. Every evening at the dinner table their family would share God sightings of the day. They made it a game like hide-and-seek, always looking for evidences of God at work in their lives. And everyday, they would clearly see God.

With time and practice, you too can develop your skills at seeing God. He is all around us. The key to spiritual life, to life in the kingdom of God, is finding God, seeing that He is at work everywhere.

Garrison Keillor claims, “[God speaks] in ordinary things like cooking and small talk, through storytelling, … fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music, and books, raising kids—all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.”

Geocaching is a sophisticated game of hide and seek. Godcaching is a spiritual game of hide and seek. In Deuteronomy 4:29 God promises, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

In Jeremiah 29:13 God affirms, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Second Chronicles 15 tells the story of King Asa, who led Israel back to God. God’s people had wandered far from God. They were worshiping idols. But God promised Asa that they would find God if they would seek Him. So Asa gathered the people together and the Bible records, “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul” (2 Chronicles 15:12).

They made a covenant, a solemn agreement or contract, to seek the Lord. What if we were to do the same? Why not experiment with Godcaching? If after a week, you are not closer to God, you can stop playing. But I think once you learn how to see and know God, you'll never stop playing; for in this adventure you will find the treasure, the pearl of great price, and the secret of kingdom life.

George Harrison, the ex-Beatle, shortly before he died said it well: “Everything else in life can wait, but the search for God cannot wait.”3


2GKaren Mains, The God Hunt (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp. 11-12.
3As quoted at http://preachingtoday.com/24295.

Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College church in College Place, Washington.