The Empty Boat
The Empty Boat Chronicles: You want me to do what?!
There was a point in time recently where I thought I knew what the world had in store for me. Honestly, I wasn’t that excited about it…at least nothing in my 8-5 routine lit my fire to a great extent. I worked in a very stuffy, controlled, non-original corporate environment that rewarded originality and creativity with a half-smile and a mediocre recognition for all things achieved, great or small.
All of this is only relevant to describe what “being in the boat” feels like. You know all to well what that empty, redundant, monotonous, purpose-less state of being is like. It’s sort of like your soul is automatically siphoned the minute you walk into the office and dilate your pupils on the warm glow of your computer monitor. Sound familiar yet? Now, let me say upfront that the way of the corporate existence, be it your career or simply a paycheck, is for most people a reality. Now matter how you slice it, you can’t live on dreams; and mortgages aren’t satisfied by good intentions.
But here’s the rub…Jesus came to give us life (see John 10:10), and not just existence, but true, complete, total, and otherwise comprehensive – lacking nothing – LIFE. Did you get that? How is it that we find ourselves so often just punching the time clock with no rhyme or reason, no direction, no passion that guides us out of bed in the morning. We are greeted at the beginning of our day by the same song and dance.
So enough of that…You know what I’m talking about, at least part 1 of what needs to be said. But what about part 2? In Matthew 14 we read an amazing account of two men that defied the laws of gravity, and a host of principles pertaining to physics. One was the Son of God, which we can imagine at least in our minds how this would be possible. The other? Well, he was an ordinary unschooled fisherman, but a none-the-less totally transformed man named Peter. What was amazing about this rough individual was his character and especially his courage as we read in this chapter.
Imagine what you would do if the Savior of the World appeared to you and asked you to “get out of the boat”. Better yet, imagine a more plausible possibility where He peers into your eyes with a strange grin and you begin to feel the unrest inside of you. Within a few minutes your stomach even births a few butterflies. After all, you once heard about this Jesus, this miracle man from some obscure town of…wait a minute, where was it again? Oh yeah, that’s it – Galilee. You feel the question echo in your mind for what seems like an eternity before the words are spoken. “Lord, you’re not asking me to get out of this boat, my comfort zone, my security, and do something that no man on earth has ever done before, right?!” I love the Lord’s response: “Come.” – no explanation given as to “how” or “why” but a simple one word answer. Notice He didn’t reason with Peter or tell him what would happen if he ventured out or even if he had stayed in the boat. Something tells me that our Lord believed in Peter, hence this amazing gesture of trust.
Would you do it? Even if you think the answer is a simple “yes”, you would still likely take a big gulp of air, close your eyes as you felt for the edges of the boat, and slowly lift yourself into the air. Your mind would be thinking, “I can’t believe I am doing this”. But, finally you make it onto the water. At last, an electrifying joy mixed with a fair amount of adrenaline shoots through your nervous system.
As much as this story can and should climax as it does in Scripture, the ending could really go two ways:
1.Congratulations! You just walked on water…”OK, Jesus, I’m here…Now what?!”
2.“There’s no way I am getting out of this boat, I mean for goodness sakes Lord, no one has ever done that! Won’t I get wet somehow? These are my best sandals! Oh wow! Those waves look fierce….Jesus, don’t I need a little practice in the shallow part of the lake before I try this right here? Come on, it’s what, three o-clock in the morning?! Uh-oh! Where’s the life preserver? This is not funny guys! Who was the knucklehead that decided to cast off shore without a life preserver? There’s no way I’m….” excuse, excuse, excuse. (Ad nauseum).
I can’t help but feel that most of us would see the ending to this chapter in our lives as the latter. We are often boldly and amazingly challenged to listen to the voice of the one that created the waves and the sea in the first place – the same one that spoke our lives into being from a handful of insignificant dust. Is it really that strange that we can find ourselves challenged to step out in faith and trust the one that calls us – not in the staunch, religious “just believe in God” sort of air, but one of innocent abandon, like a child to his father? Since when does following Jesus obliterate all risk and uncertainty from our lives? Wait. You didn’t get that in Sunday School?
As I have watched the Lord completely dismantle my way of thinking these past two months as it relates to His Kingdom, I can’t help but ponder the strange paradox that becomes evident whenever we surrender our lives fully to the Lord Jesus Christ. The key to stepping out of the boat, even if it’s just a change of mind rather than a change of scenery, is to first know the one that calls us. His name is Jesus Christ. From the beginning of time, Father God desired to reconcile all mankind back to Himself through the establishment of His rule and reign not only in heaven, but here on earth. The challenge of free-will is that God chose to reconcile us back to Himself when we cared nothing for Him or His Kingdom. Here’s a common day analogy: how hard is it to have a marriage when one partner cares nothing for the other?
The problem with religion today is just that…it’s merely religion. Have you ever had a warm fuzzy from singing the same memorized hymn several times? No, it’s not the hymn (for those of you that were about to say “yes”), it should be SUBJECT of our hymns – the Lord Himself. What about memorizing the “three key points” the pastor mentioned last Sunday? It’s OK if you don’t remember what they were. The bulletin is still stuck somewhere in your Bible.
Religion can never do for you what a relationship can. So, if I mention the radical difference between being an active church member versus a true son or daughter of the Most High, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, does it still sound religious? Most likely. Perhaps this is where a complete change of mind is involved. Most refer to this phenomenon as “repentance” or the action of stopping in one’s tracks, turning around and progressing in the complete opposite direction. It can be Paul on the way to Damascus blinded by a heavenly light just as it can be the shame and eventual repentance that is triggered when you give into that addiction one more time. The launching pad of Jesus’ ministry began when He first proclaimed the Kingdom of God on earth, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near”. Kingdomology 101: Step one in understanding the Kingdom of God is that Jesus came to reconcile all mankind back to God.
Let’s now progress to step 2. His “Kingdom” as Scripture mentions has at it’s core the hearts and souls of all mankind. As a new son or daughter is brought into the Kingdom of God, a new life and a new mind is given. This is where many churches and religions in general have mostly run aground. No amount of “Jesus” in easy-to-swallow tablets can stop the wind and waves (the trials in life) from coming at you. Even those that claim you can have it all “in the name of Jesus” are not completely accurate, for that was not the point of Jesus invading planet earth – just so you could have those two nice cars and the fancy house. In case this tries to fly from one ear to the other, hear me say that there is nothing wrong – NOTHING wrong with wealth or prosperity. In fact, many of us have convinced ourselves that we must settle only for the “table scraps” – the handouts that God might occasionally drop on us. Nothing could be further from the truth (to get a glimpse of the riches that our Lord commands, read Psalm 47 – think about the splendor and wealth that a great King such as ours has at His command). The difference is that as a Kingdom citizen the reaction to things like prosperity and money or trial and hardships require a vastly different and radical mindset from the mainstream “safe for the whole family” Sunday existence .
In God’s original design for the Kingdom, boldness replaces fear. Hope is transformed from regret. Courage eclipses cowardice, and a deep and abiding Love fueled by Passion becomes the heart and soul of the individual. To only invite the Lord Jesus into your life and march on, never venturing further and deeper into what the Lord has in store for you is to hear the words of Jesus, still accepting His forgiveness and even allowing yourself to be reconciled back to the same loving Father that has been calling you by name ever since the beginning of time; and YET, to forever exist as a child with childlike emotions and the inability to overcome most disappointments and regrets of life, just as much as the inability to enjoy the prosperity and happiness that does find us . Sadly, all that religion has to offer is an inadequate attempt to curtail the symptoms of a broken life with a host of suggestions that fall short of what Father God originally intended for us.
What would it look like then if church became a launching pad for Kingdom citizens, where we all congregated to passionately sing the praises of our King; and yet, we are “adorned” with crash helmets, combat boots, and full military gear…ready for the darkness because we fully and completely abide in the Light of the One that has completely and fully transformed our lives into something far more beautiful and grand than we can ever imagine. The amazing thing is that this fullness is ours just by a simple but heartfelt prayer of repentance and invitation for the Lord to rescue us from the path of destruction we were born to wander on. The full rights of the Kingdom of God awaits those that have the courage to get out of the boat.
Isn’t it time you started listening to the one that has been quietly calling your name these many years? Perhaps you already know the Lord, and are a citizen of His Kingdom but never seem to walk in victory. When was the last time your communion with the Lord was one of FULL communication – where you share what’s on your heart with your amazing Father and He in turn speaks His truth, His love and His healing into your life. If you have settled for the cold, empty offerings of the next religious flavor, and the frustration of one sided communion with God, think again what Jesus came to offer you. Maybe it’s time to draw a line in the sand of a new spiritual marker offering all of yourself freely and totally to the Lord, especially if you are still in the boat and making incessant circles paddling as fast as you can. Maybe it’s time to put the oars down, lift up your hands, and ask Him to make you the warrior you were destined to become before the foundations of the world. Just don’t be surprised if He asks you to sail someplace you have never been before with your sail down, drifting only by the current!
The point of all this?
1. First and foremost GET OUT OF THE BOAT. This may be by simply becoming a new individual through your acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross over two thousand years ago (Read the book of Romans for starters: Chapters 3, 5 and 7).
2. Secondly, live for your King. He offers you a life that is truly worth living.
3. Thirdly, proclaim His truth. Share what he wants you to say with others in your circle of influence, – nothing more and nothing less.
4. Don’t carry the bloated frame pack of religious hypocrisy that strives for a Sunday to Sunday existence. Instead, start with repentance and a healthy dose of full and total surrender to His desires for your life and be ready to be amazed as He makes you a conduit for his healing, mercy, provision, and encouragement. You’ll find that after a while His desires become yours anyway (see Psalm 37:4).
5. Share what He entrusts to your care with others…Stewardship 101 is recognizing that everything is His anyway.
6. And most importantly, enjoy the full rights that are yours as a true son or daughter of the King.