Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oyster Bed Markers and The Word of God

A few years ago I took a short vacation to visit my friend Mark and to stay at his condo in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Shortly upon my arrival we went out on his new boat with his son, Joshua. “Why can’t we go past those white markers,” Joshua asked in a tone that expressed both frustration and anger. “Because it’s too shallow and dangerous,” his father replied, “Besides, those are the rules.” We hadn’t been on the river long before Joshua became anxious, wanting to take the boat faster and to navigate past the oyster bed warning markers. I don’t know why but I’m always surprised when God teaches me spiritual truths in  “ordinary” situations. Could it be that all of creation reflects His glory and communicates truth? Let me explain. Years ago on this very same river, near this very same spot four high school boys from my hometown drown. What started out as an early morning fishing trip turned deadly because fog had almost completely masked the distinction between water and land. Wearing their waders and traveling at an excessive speed they failed to see the oyster bed warning markers and the boat capsized. It was  weeks before their bodies were recovered. I recounted this story to Joshua, urging him to consider the consequences of abandoning the rules. “Joshua. Those rules are meant to give us greater joy. They are there to give us greater freedom. They are not there to rob us of freedom and joy.” My growing frustration with Joshua immediately turned to self incrimination and repentance. “Joshua and I are very similar,” I thought, “We both need to understand the deeper principles of God’s Word which are on display today.” The lesson was clear. God’s word, God’s instruction, all of it, is given not to restrict our freedom and joy but is there to establish our freedom and joy. Just like the boundary markers provided warning so too God’s word provides warnings, not because He wants to take away our fun but because He loves us and wants the very best for His children. This must be what James meant when he wrote, “But the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). It’s true and it doesn’t change, wether you are a teenager or a pastor, God’s word is perfect, providing joy, peace, and freedom for those who trust Him.