So the other day I was eating dinner at Pastor John's house like I tend to do at least once a week. When I first moved to Las Vegas from Tucson as an awkward loner, they adopted me as part of their family. It's been such a blessing being so close to my boss and his family.
On his dining table beneath the glass table top is a large world map that has inspired many a snazzy conversation and a plethora of good laughs. As Pastor John's daughter began explaining the geekiness of having a world map as a dining table, like usual, I got distracted. I began looking at the Middle East which was directly between the ketchup and vegetables.
I could see the Sea of Galilee flowing down the Jordan River in to the Dead Sea.
All through the bible, these three watery entities are important settings for so many stories; Jesus' baptism, Jesus calming the storm, the stopping of the Jordan River for the crossing of the Ark of the Covenant, the recruitment of Jesus' first apostles, and so many more! The Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea are pretty important places throughout the bible. So many lessons were taught by Jesus on the shores of these bodies of water, but one of the lessons was taught to me by a short, round, balding man named Tim Reed.
Tim Reed is a humble professor at Arizona Christian University who has had significant involvement in my life. He was the professor and mentor of my father, the man who wed my parents, my teacher during my short time at ACU, and a consistent friend and source of wisdom. He taught probably my favorite class of time: Biblical Discipleship.
In this class, there would always be some strange object on his desk like a model ship or a potato or maybe a bottle of bleach, and he would use these ridiculous objects to explain deep theological concepts and train us in discipleship. One day, there was no object. Just a drawing on the chalk board.
The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are less than 70 miles apart; that's a shorter distance than Tucson to Phoenix. Despite the short distance, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are completely different.
The Northern of the two is the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is known for its beautiful, clear waters, abundant life, and powerful bipolar weather. People have lived in close proximity to this body of water for generations thriving off of its abundant fishing waters and fertile surroundings.
The Jordan River flows both in and out of the sea which is one of the main causes of its fertility and clear, life sustaining waters. The Sea of Galilee is always flowing out as much as flows in to it. The Jordan River flows in to the Sea of Galilee, bringing in fresh, oxygen rich water, creating currents throughout the sea, and then the sea flows southward in to the southern Jordan.
The southern sea is the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is exactly that: dead. The salt content is so high that nothing can survive but sturdy strains of Mediterranean bacteria. The salt is so concentrated that fish cannot survive in the water for more than a few seconds. The salt is so dense, a full grown man can lay on top of the Dead Sea and not sink. Plants are scarce, fish are dead, and the water is poisonous to stomach.
The Dead Sea, though close to the Sea of Galilee, is the opposite. Both seas are fed by the same river, both are in similar climate and areas, but what is the cause of the vast difference? What could cause one to be radiant and life sustaining while the other is nothing but a reservoir of expensive salt?
The one difference is the Jordan River.
Both seas receive a constant flow of water from the Jordan River, but only the Sea of Galilee pours the water out. The constant flowing of the Sea of Galilee is constantly stirring and creating currents and spreading that oxygenated water throughout as well as continuing to push that flow south down the Jordan.
The Dead Sea is stagnant. All that water that is poured in to it just sits and becomes like the rest of the water around it. Bitter, useless, unusable.
I see a lot of parallels between our spiritual growth and these two seas.
In one hand, we have the Sea of Galilee; full of life, fresh, moving, life sustaining. This isn't just because of the water flowing in but more importantly the water flowing out. In our own lives, we are poured in to. We grow at church, small groups, books, personal quiet times, daily devotions, by being in nature. We have all these resources that are constantly pouring in to us and giving us the resources we need to be growing, active, radiant followers of Christ. But what do we do with it? Do we take in all this information and allow it to only bless us? Do we sit and relish in our secret wisdom of our own minds? What is the point of learning all of this wisdom and information? Why do we learn the importance of serving others? Why do we study the teachings of Christ that say to love your neighbor? What is the Great Commission even good for?
By not using the gifts and resources given to us, we are the Dead Sea. We are stagnant. We are being poured in to without allowing anything to be poured out. We are hoarding the love of Christ and denying anyone else the joy of experiencing the glory of God. Christ’s teachings were meant to be lived out and shared, not stored on the C:drive of our minds.
When we truly understand the heart of God, we see others not as a distraction from our own personal growth, but as the beloved creation of God.
We have been severed from the creator and lover of our souls by the sin that we harbor in our own hearts. The introduction of sin in to our universe split the intended order of things. When before, man could forever physically commune with God and all of his physical needs would literally pop up from the ground, now the presence of sin destroyed everything.
Imagine the heart break of Adam.
One day, he is walking through the garden with no shame, physically looking at the face of God, hearing His voice, rejoicing in every moment of the perfect world. The next day, his first and closest friend, his creator, his God can’t stand to be around him. And it’s all his fault. I can’t even comprehend being able to look back and remember the face of God and know that everything is going to be different forever.
Some people hate thinking of the depravity of sin. They think that the talk of sin or hell is too negative or not happy enough, but I feel the opposite.
When we really understand the twisted perversion of sin and the venomous ferocity of our sin, we look at God and marvel.
Maybe we feel ashamed.
Maybe we feel dirty.
Maybe we feel unworthy.
Maybe that’s all true.
When we look at our sin, and we look at God, we are humbled. In no way do I think that God should love us.
But He does.
More than we can ever understand. More than you can dream, God perfectly, completely, and eternally loves you. Why? Because that’s who God is. Love is part of His character. It’s who He is all the time, and that’s forever. In the same way that God is eternal, unchanging, omniscient, omnipotent, self-existent, ex-temporal, and perfect, He loves. He always has and always will.
Even through our sin.
When I look at my sin and then look at the grace and love of God, I am completely blown away. By understanding the depravity of sin, I better understand the love of God.
With this deeper understanding, I can’t just sit here and think “Wow, thanks, JC. You’re the man.”
I have to get up and take full advantage of this second chance that I have been given! God has poured His grace out on to me despite my sin! Not only does He love me, but He has removed my sin! Through Christ, we have been restored, reconciled, returned to glory! The relationship that Adam had with God in the garden is the relationship that we have with the Father today! My life is no longer mine! Everything I am, I completely owe to God, and I am going to use everything that Christ has given me to show what Christ has done in my life.
I feel a bit like a Wookie. I know some of you just cocked your head and said “what???”, but hear me out.
Spoiler Alert: if you don’t know me very well, I’m about as big a star wars nerd as it gets. I use a star wars reference in all of these blogs at least once. Sometimes accidentally If I was any nerdier, I’d be writing fan fiction and building a life size replica of an X-wing. Don’t know what that is? That’s okay.
If you’re not familiar with what a Wookie is, Chewbacca is a Wookie. Everybody knows Chewbacca.
Within the Wookie culture on Kashyyyk, they follow a strict set of social and religious rules. One of these practices is called a “life-debt”. A life-debt is one of the most serious and binding covenants. When a Wookie’s life is saved by someone else, that Wookie can swear loyalty and service to that individual for the rest of their days.
I don’t want to get too geeky. You guys will beat me up and take my milk money.
In the same way, that’s how I feel. Christ saved me from death. Eternal death. Because of my salvation, I want to commit my life to serving Christ for the rest of my life. I owe Christ a life-debt.
Christ has restored me. He has given life to my soul and blessed me with glorious purpose that He designed for me and only me. We have all been given purpose that only we can fulfill.
By God’s great love and grace, we've been given life and made right with God. When the creator of the universe comes in to your heart and changes your soul, there should be dramatic change. Stagnancy should not be an option. The Holy Spirit is constantly stirring and compelling us to grow and serve.
Sorry, Lumineers: I don’t want to be the Dead Sea.
Nate T B