stolen sand castles

Someone built a huge, detailed sand castle close to where I usually camp my beach chair and umbrella. I was undeterred by the many gawkers, and camped out in my usual place.

It really was an impressive sand castle. The morning walkers were all a buzz. I heard someone say they’d never seen anything like it. I looked to see if that person was also wearing a yellow radio headset to pull in their favorite FM station.

One onlooker glanced at me and then was awestruck by the sandy creation. She remarked, “Is this yours?” I said, “No ma’am.” She laughed and quipped, “You might as well take credit for it.”

Hmmm. Now there’s a thought I began to soak on. What if I DID take credit for it? Another lady walked by and somehow motioned with her hands the same question of sand castle ownership. I waved back in sign language slang that it wasn’t mine, but I thought about just saying “yes.” It would be kind of fun to sit there as king of someone else’s castle and kingdom. In the end, I waved off any opportunities to take credit. Instead, I sat back and watched the awe and wonder of a brilliant sand castle and the impact on all who came near.

I wonder if I’ve tried to steal Jesus’ castle, the Church? I’m sure I have claimed ownership. I’m sure I”ve operated either out of prideful confidence or unfounded fear. Those are forms of false ownership. There was probably even some positive reinforcement along the way when I said “yes” to other people’s inquiry into my leadership and pastoring. Taking credit felt good.

But it’s Jesus castle. It’s His church, not mine. He’s the one who regenerates hearts. Jesus makes dead people alive. It’s his gift of grace that saves us and prepares good works for us to do as a part of His Church. Jesus is the cornerstone. I’m not. He’s the head and holds it all together. I can’t, and thankfully don’t have to.

After 24 years of doing ministry and chasing ministry success, it’s good to let Ephesians 2 give the castle deed back to the King. It’s like signing over mortgage papers that were never actually in my name.

Were my feeble attempts at castle stealing, in reality, a misguided effort to gain righteousness apart from the cross? Was I more about doing than letting Jesus be done? That would be the same kind of religion Jesus would so often condemn.

I constantly struggle and condemn such religion. When a believer slams everything from a Corona to Cold Play and insists on legalistically separating from a lost world, isn’t that the same kind of self-righteousness that tends to focus on self effort but denies the cross? Ironically, what I struggle with in others may be exactly what I do when I take credit for Jesus’ Castle.

Jesus, forgive me. I want to do my part as a part of the whole, but it’s Your Church. I want to sit back and watch the awe and wonder of Your brilliant Church, and enjoy the impact on all who come near.

I pray, God, that the last half of my life will be blessed more than the first (Job 42:12) … exactly because of recognized ownership. I want no part of a stolen sand castle or Church.

Finishing Driscoll’s “Vintage Church” today refueled my passion and energy for JESUS’ Church. Great read. As Chris Case said, “It’s bread and butter.” Sadly in church world, the table has been left wanting bread and butter.

side note: we lugged all the girls music equipment to FL. Brooklynn wrote, recorded, and posted a song today called “Somewhere, out there.”

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