The Sand Bar Awaits
About 50-75 yards off shore, there is a sand bar begging for exploration. You can see the outline of the sand bar by the lighter color of shallow water. Occasionally you can also see brave, little-bitty (because they’re way out there) souls who make it to the sand bar… on the other side.
“On the other side of what?” you may be asking. To reach the sand bar, you must cross through and over a deep, cold passage of water about twenty yards wide. You can’t touch bottom nor see it. It’s a mysterious pirate’s guess as to how deep the dark, murky strait really is. Dangerous sea creatures, according to Michael, are sure to lurk in those treacherous depths.
IF… IF you can manage passage, the sand bar awaits you with hollers of sand dollars. Upon arriving at the sand bar, one can stand. The water hits your knees, and you are waaay out in the ocean. It’s pretty cool, but Michael just doesn’t like getting there. Once there, however, Michael beams with purpose and the rewards of his intentionality. He was made for the sand bar adventure.
We’ve gone twice. Our sand dollar count stands at 56. All our toes are in tact as well. What’s interesting is how most people prefer the shallow waters over the alluring sand bar. You see the general swimming populace staying closer to shore. Most toys and floatation devices are designed for the shallow waters, and so humans are trapped in mediocre waves by their own unknowing design. Only the serious and risk taking adventurers make it to the sand bar. For those who do come, the spoils of the seas await. All the sand dollars you can carry, and then some.
With a couple days left on this study break, God is really beginning to stir dangerous, deep waters within me. It’s the gospel. Jesus. I’m amazed at how I (and many churches) have opted for shallow waters over the years. Church toys like hip music, coffee bars (I still can’t forget the one called St. Arbucks), preaching untucked, topical/felt-needs messages, community groups for mere belonging, attendance numbers and more have kept many in the shallow waters — by their own unknowing design. These devices were only designed for shallow waters. However, so much church success seems to hinge on such human inflatable and susceptible toys. But the full, gripping story of Jesus is just beyond the waves where many Christians swim. His work there is deeper and better and complete. The gospel and it’s life-giving treasures are what awaits those who swim past mediocrity and human designs. It’s an adventure we’re made for.
Matt Chandler convincingly lay outs why the Church must make the gospel adventure to deeper waters. “If mission engagement is in the culture of a church without continual gospel reminders, the tendency will be to drift towards mission as a way to cleanse the conscience rather than as a response to God’s mission for us. If expressive worship is in the culture of a church without continual gospel awareness, the tendency will be to focus on what is done for God rather than remembering what He has done. If transparency and honesty are in the culture of a church without continual gospel encounters, the tendency will be to discuss sinfulness without repentance.” (from “Creature Of The Word”)
I’m challenged to see and lead and push for the gospel in everything. We had a family Bible study the other night from I Corinthians 11:20-34 (I’ve been studying through I Corinthians this break). I wanted my family to see the gospel. I wonder if at each meal we could read scripture until one in my family sees the gospel. Michael and I took a long beach walk and talked about the gospel. I want this instilled deep into his mind and soul. We need continual reminders. I want to read the Bible and always see the gospel. I read through the account of Solomon building the temple I Kings 6. Lavish. Excellent. Wildly elaborate. All this for the presence of God… as God came to earth to redeem and restore and be with the creation He loves. WE (as in all of us… the Church) are being built into His temple (II Cor. 6). His presence remains within us. Jesus died for us… oneness… His temple. How much more glorious should WE be? The gospel then motivates us in our unity and love for each other. The gospel is everywhere. Jesus. His story.
I read a weird account of lepers enjoying the spoils of a spooked enemy in II Kings 7. Last Sunday’s sermon (In Bradenton) was from this text. The pastors point was “do good.” My kids liked the service. There was lots of loud music, lights, free coffee, casual dress, laughter, story telling, and other inflatables — but in the end it was “do good.” That was the message. Why are people content with shallow water toys?
Fifty-four years of age, and I’m just now starting to get this stuff. On one hand, I’m saddened by own limitations and my own unknowing design. And yet, I cannot be more grateful for a God who is not done redeeming and restoring me. I am challenged by THE point, that I have slowly come to learn — and still have much of a way to go. I actually can’t wait to lead, teach, and love — with the gospel as a continual, forefront, prodding reminder.
Last night Sherry, the kids (minus Lauren… ding dang it), and I watched “Ragamuffin: The True Story Of Rich Mullins.” What a great movie. What an awesome artist tortured by strong inner-gospel stirrings and yet lacking the love of his earthly father. I downloaded Rich Mullins’ very first album… and listened to the whole thing this morning. I ran to it all again this afternoon. It is laced with a man freed by the EPIC gospel challenging me in return. Mullins sings: “I just need to see someone who cares enough that he would risk his life for the love of what he’s come to believe. But you say that a man like that wouldn’t last in a world like this. Well, I believe that the world won’t last if a man like that don’t exist. Mullins went out of this life like Elijah… on a gospel chariot of fire. This world, it seems, could not contain a man so full of God’s story. Jesus. Love.
This afternoon, as Sherry and the kids played in the waves, I finished Jonathan Merritt’s “Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined.” Merritt recounts his own tortured soul via a strict, religious southern Baptist upbringing as PK. The gospel has and is shaping Merritt. I couldn’t help connect the dots from Mullins to Merritt and clearly back to the EPIC gospel God is showing me everywhere these sunny days. Merritt’s book was a good, soul-searching read. I decided not to highlight, but just to read. For my soul and nobody else. I needed that. Twas good.
I’m beginning to shape conclusions on this two week break. I’m thankful I’m hearing and being stirred still at 54. I never want to stop discovering what God has in store as the sand bar awaits.