When I was just a teenager my brother Joe and I took a vacation to Waikiki, Hawaii. It was exciting! The beach was beautiful, the water was warm, the girls were, well you know; it was a great vacation and more than any 17 year old could dream of. It was a time in our life when we thought we could do anything.
We decided to rent a car one day and explore the island a little more and ended up on a less known beach. I don’t remember the name of the beach, but there were no tourists on this beach and there were several signs posted that warned of an undertow. Now, my brother and I, we had grown up in Northern California swimming in the Pacific Ocean and in the American River and the Russian River. We didn’t think that those signs were for us. They were for people that were not strong swimmers.
We went out swimming like we owned that ocean diving into that beautiful blue water. The undertow hit me before I knew it. I remember as I was being tossed around in those waves I really could not tell which way was up. I don’t know how long it was, but my very last thought was how mad my mom would be when Joe came home without me.
Somehow I woke up and ended up back on the beach. I was slowly walking up the sand and I looked over at my brother and said you won’t believe what just happened to me. He looked at me and said that he almost drowned. At the same time we were both drowning and didn’t even know it.
I share this story today wondering if we are paying attention to the signs around us. My brother and I ignored the signs about the undertow. God spared us that day. The Bible tells of a time “when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Do we want sound doctrine? Or are we satisfied with our own desires?
This world has changed a lot in the last few decades; the church doesn’t need to follow along with the world. Or I should say the church cannot follow along with the world. We are to be different than the world. Catherine Booth who cofounded The Salvation Army once said, “When the church and the world can jog along comfortably together you may be sure there is something wrong.” We’re called to change the world for the better not be changed by the world.
Read the signs. They are quite clear. This is a time the world needs the church to stand strong with the hope only Jesus can bring. Not with a voice of anger, but a compassionate plea of love from one who truly cares. Speak hope, Church! We’re the only ones who have it.
Lt. Mark Cyr is pastor of The Salvation Army, 661 Colorado St. Carson City, NV 89701. For information, go to carsoncitysalarmy.org.