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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The first time I heard of Hernando Cortes was in 7th grade.

The first time I heard of Hernando Cortes was in seventh grade. My Social Studies teacher told a fascinating story of this Spanish explorer. In 1519, anxious to uncover the treasures of the Mexican mainland, Cortes formed a small force of 600 men to land on the Yucatan peninsula. His goal was to capture the treasures that had been in the hands of the Aztecs for more than 500 years. Maybe you've heard bits and pieces of this story...

Cortes was successful in conquering the Aztecs and doing what no other army had ever been able to do, capture the treasures of Mexico. While I don't approve of Cortes' motives, I think there is much to learn about goals from what Cortes did.

First, he devoted his life to this singular mission and did not allow himself to become distracted. Despite the protest of many who did not want him to proceed or the presence of obvious difficulties if he did, Cortes confidently moved forward with his plan. He made it his life's mission.

Secondly, he surrounded himself with others who had a similar goal. Six hundred men joined him on this expedition. It is said that he hand selected and "interviewed" each of the men who were chosen for this journey. He didn't want the people surrounding him to keep him from the goal.

Finally, he was wholehearted in his commitment to this journey. Cortes sold his houses and wealth. He paid for the ships and the men with his own money. He revoked previous titles he held in Cuba. And, just to prove his point, he went the extra mile to show his devotion to the mission. When Cortes' men landed on the Yucatan peninsula, a few of them had started to grumble. They were less than satisfied with the quest to that point. Some who months earlier had said that they believed God wanted them on this journey, were now saying God had told them to turn back (sounds like a lot of church attenders I know--be careful what you blame on God). So, to make sure he had their attention and devotion at the level it needed to be, Cortes gave a simple, three-word command: "Burn the ships!"

Cortes turned things up a notch for he and his men that day. Perhaps that is why they became unstoppable and accomplished what no other army had done in 500 years. Perhaps that's what we need in our churches today--a whole-hearted devotion and a singleness of purpose that says, "Burn the ships. This our mission. This is our destination. We will not turn back."

Many of us still have ships floating in the harbor--excuses, justifications, failures and fears that keep our focus off of God's glory and on ourselves. We aren't singular in our focus. We believe that we can be the best at everything and obtain all we want. It's a human impossibility. But most important, those ships are escapes. They represent a willingness to turn back from the mission that God has given you. It's become to easy to walk out on your marriage, to quit your job, to turn your back on your friends and family. Burn the bridges. Don't leave a door through which Satan can come in. Set your eyes on the prize and always move forward...there is a treasure that awaits you.

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