Unsearchable Riches

I became fascinated with Mel Fisher’s discovery of the Atocha a few decades ago after reading about it in a National Geographic magazine. The Atocha was a 400-year-old Spanish Galleon that sunk somewhere in the waters outside of Key West. Fisher spend the majority of his life looking for it. Along the way he and his team experienced much hardship, poverty, illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and fights with the Florida state government and the US government over keeper‘s rights. Worst of all, he suffered the deaths of his son, daughter-in-law, and a diver when one of their search boats sank in the middle of the night.

When the treasure was finally discovered, it contained almost 1,000 silver ingots weighing 32 tons, 114,000 silver coins, huge masses of coins still fused in the shape of treasure chests, silver and gold artifacts, gold bars, discs, coins, and chains, and 3,000 emeralds weighing up to 77 carats. A few years ago I visited the museum in Key West that houses a good portion of the treasure, and it is overwhelming.

The world would look at such a haul and think that Fisher had hit the mother lode of riches. How do you define riches?

Paul speaks of the unsearchable riches of Christ in the third chapter of Ephesians. Let’s explore what he defines as “riches.”

Ephesians 3 (English Standard Version)

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 

Paul clearly identifies the unsearchable riches of Christ as the plan for the salvation of not just the Hebrew nation, but of all nations. This was a radical teaching for the Jews of the time. Their anticipation of a Messiah who would come to conquer the warring nations around them did not match the gentle shepherd from Nazareth. Paul’s task was to convince not only the Jews, but the Gentiles, who had no expectation of being included in the redemption plan that was offered to them.

It was indeed a mystery hidden for ages in God from the very beginning, and it was up to the church to explain it to everyone:

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Mel Fisher’s riches cost him everything. The good news for us today is that the unsearchable riches that are offered in Christ cost nothing. The price has already been paid. When we search for him we will find him, and the manifold wisdom of God is made known in the process.

I believe the church itself is one of those riches. If you don’t have a church home, I pray you will find one. The church is the vehicle God uses to make his riches known. If you’ve been burned by a church, find another one. The online options are endless.

Paul invites us to come before God with boldness and confidence. Christ is the access. The church is the door. It’s time to discover his riches. Today’s the day!

From the Mel Fischer Museum in Key West

The Shields of the Earth

Everything is hard right now, and for this pastor, not being able to do corporate singing is one of the harder things the pandemic has brought. That is one piece that we are struggling with as we consider when to re-gather for worship. Notice I didn’t say re-open. The church never closed, we just moved online. Many churches have seen an uptick in the number of people they can effectively reach because of this.

I call that the “Romans 8:28 factor.” In Romans 8:28, we are assured that God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him. So even in a pandemic, creative use of technology has enabled the church to not only remain open, but expand its witness.

But we can’t figure out a way to safely sing together. The droplets expelled from the mouth when singing are apparently significantly increased when the gathered people sing, so we have been discouraged from singing together once we re-gather.

Church without singing is like a day without sunshine for me. And I miss it to the point of tears.

Today’s Psalm makes many references to singing praises. In fact, “sing praise” is repeated five times. Way to rub it in, psalmist! In defense of the writer, one could hardly have ever imagined a time when singing praises was impossible, but here we are.

In concert with that instruction, we also are given an image of God as our most high King, who reigns over all the nations from his holy throne. Surely we can take comfort in that imagery. When Christ returns to establish his kingdom on earth, singing will not only be possible, but irresistible. Even the very rocks and stones will sing for joy.

Psalm 47 New King James Version

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

So while we wait, know this: the shields of the earth belong to God. In this context, shields is synonymous with princes. In a prophetic way, the psalmist is pointing to a time when the people of the God of Abraham recognize their messiah has come, and have gathered with the kings of every tribe on the earth and submit to the authority of God.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.

So today our song is, “E’en So Lord Jesus! Quickly come.”

Until we sing again…

Nothing Stops a Lab from Singing