Water Welling

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“As the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

Water. All life on Earth is sustained by this one element. It is the essence of all natural life. In the same way, Jesus is the essence of spiritual life. He is the source of nourishment for our souls.

It may not surprise you to know how often scripture acknowledges the necessity of water in daily living. Throughout the Bible, water is often symbolic of the presence, or Spirit, of God. We thirst for Him as we do water, even if we are not necessarily aware of our thirst.

If you have never experienced the presence of God in all His splendor, the only way to describe it would be to say that it’s like desert rain penetrating thirsty soil. It is long-awaited, even though the soil of our heart had forgotten it’s need. Both heart and soul are replenished by His love and faithfulness as the Spirit makes His way through the cracked surface of our being. It leaves you feeling restored and refreshed in a way that defies words. When we neglect to spend time with God, to rest in His presence, our soul becomes parched once again and not soon after we start to experience the symptoms of a dry soul – hopelessness, despair, lack of ambition, to name a few, but if we consistently seek His presence our desolate soul will flourish again. As the Bible would say, our leaf won’t wither. (Psalm 1:3)

In the Old Testament, God would sometimes withhold the rain if His people had become sinful. This is another physical reality that translates to a spiritual truth. When we are in sin we sever the Spirit of God in our lives. Not so much that He withholds Himself from us, but from our sin. God will not tolerate the presence of sin. We must choose one or the other, the presence of God or the presence of sin. If we repent, He is just and merciful to forgive and He will restore our relationship with Him.

Moving forward to the New Testament in the book of John, we find Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well as He claims to be the life giving water. This is what He says to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Now, remember that the Spirit of God is often symbolized by water. When we come to Jesus in repentance and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior truthfully, He sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is the same Holy Spirit that seals us for eternal life. We have the very presence of God living within us at all times and He is constantly restoring and refreshing our soul. Unlike the Old Testament where the presence of God was restricted to specific places and people due to the sinfulness of man, we have the honor of having access to His Spirit at any time or place. This is all only because of the sacrifice of Jesus, it wa only by Him taking our sin for us that we are given this gift. That’s not to say we no longer need to seek out God, but our soul will never have to thirst again.

It is because of the life giving water of Jesus that we are provided with sustenance for our heart and soul. He is standing at the well now, beckoning us, come, drink deeply!

Snow and Scarlet

There, in the midst of a bitter cold morning, the sun peaked over the horizon greeting us like a welcome friend. The air froze as it left our lungs and the inhale felt like little needles poking at our nostrils. As the light began to shine across the expanse of snow and ice, we soon found that it brought with it little warmth. The glare of the sun kept us looking at our feet, but the beauty that enfolded during those early hours made it difficult to keep our eyes veered for long. The crunch of snow beneath us brought back memories of winters past. This time of year always brought much excitement and much dread.

It was late November and the snow had arrived early. Where we lived we were accustomed to the blankets of snow that fell overnight. Winter always seemed to arrive with a sudden shout, “I’m Here!” Just as predictable were the complaints about the amount of snow we would receive, but behind those complaints was a subtle pride that came with knowing we would come out every winter like we conquered the season.

The snow stretched out before us as we made our way from the front porch to the car. It always seemed cruel to interrupt the flawless surface of freshly fallen snow with our hard, imperfect footprints. Something about that thought began to resonate within me and brought to mind a word from God, “though your sins are like scarlet; they shall be as white as snow.”[1] Suddenly, the sound of the car door being pried open made me jolt and my thoughts dissipated. My husband was struggling with the door as the frozen metal creaked. He handed me a shovel and we began to dig. The car was easily buried under two feet of snow. After that first battle of the winter was over and our car was adequately uncovered, our fingers tingling from the cold and our cheeks rosy from exertion, we headed back inside until it was time to leave.

The warmth hit us like a wave. The room that felt chilly upon awakening now felt too warm. We stripped off our layers of clothing and the first thing I headed for was a freshly brewed carafe of coffee that was awaiting me in the kitchen. Usually, it was the first place I headed in the morning, but on these occasions snow removal took precedence. As I settled in the couch with my cup o’ joe my mind began to wander while I watched the white flakes drift down past my window.

“What was once scarlet was made white as snow.” It amazed me how God speaks to us in these seemingly insignificant moments. It was just another winter day, but He wanted to tell me something. The realization that I was made as pure as the brilliant white of the first snowfall, glistening in the sun, was not conceivable. Then I recalled what the ground looked like before the snow fell; It’s once green grass had browned and the mud was unavoidable. Is this not comparable to the way Jesus covers us? Except the mud of our lives is our sin and He covers us with something more pure than the blanket of snow outside. I thought back to the moment I first stepped out our doorway and how the sun shined so brightly off the snowy landscape. This must be how we appear to the Lord when we accept the sacrifice of His Son, shining brilliantly as his Glory reflects off of us. I tucked this conversation in to the pocket of my heart and was ready to face the day with a new sense of thankfulness and wonder.

                                                                                             [1] Isaiah 1:18

Obedience: Easier Than It Seems

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As children of God, we show our love for God by obeying Him. It’s the same concept in any parent-child relationship. Why is it that children obey their parents in the first place? Children obey for many reasons, but perhaps the greatest is to simply please their parents. We want to please our parents because we love them. Obedience naturally springs out of love. The same concept can be applied to our relationship with God. I choose to obey God because I love Him. I trust Him to know what is best for me; He knows more than I ever could. Sometimes I wonder why so many people struggle with this idea.

A complaint I often hear from many non-Christians is that there is so much we “can’t do”. It’s as if they think there is a long list of things we check off as we go through our day. “Okay, I did this- Check. I didn’t do this today-Check. Oh, I screwed this one up, can’t check that one.” No, that’s not how it works. See, God knew we wouldn’t be able to obey everything He commanded by our own ability. He helps us through every step. God is the ultimate Father. He gives us rules to follow that protect us and help us, but knowing we can’t do it ourselves, He offers us His hand by His Holy Spirit.

I heard a story the other day. A child came home from school and asked for a chore because she had learned that helping out at home was a nice thing to do. Her parents decided to honor her request and asked her to wash the dishes. After all, cleaning dishes is an important skill to learn and just like any chore it also teaches us responsibility. It didn’t take long before her family learned that she was not very good at it. To her untrained eyes the dishes appeared clean, but not so much in the eyes of someone who was more capable. Her father decided that he would wash the dishes for her first. He would then leave them in the sink for her to wash when she came home. The result was that she learned responsibility and she eventually got better at washing the dishes herself, it just took a little help along the way.

I feel as though God does something similar in our daily lives. The mess is already cleaned and, much like the father in our story, the work has already been done. The victory has already been made; we just have to follow it through. We have already overcome because He has overcome. Think about it like this, we show Him our love by our obedience, but He is the one who make obedience possible to us at all. I like this little motto: “Try your best and He’ll do the rest.”

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:1-5

More Than A Tune

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When I first became a Christian I struggled with the concept of grace. Growing up in the world I learned that the definition of grace was elegance and I thought of things like the liquid motion of a ballerina. When we sang about grace at church or heard the word preached from the pulpit I had a hard time understanding what was being said. Reading certain verses in the Bible with this definition made it all the more challenging. Take Ephesians 2:8-9 for example, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” In this context, my definition of grace made no sense. I took it upon myself to do some study; I knew there had to be more to this grace thing.

I learned that the Greek word for grace is Charis and it means something quite different from the modern definition. Simply put, the definition is favor or kindness. The picture started to come together for me. Going back to the verse I mentioned earlier, it starts out saying, “it is by grace you have been saved.” With my new definition of grace I replaced the word with favor and kindness. It is by the favor and kindness of God that I had been saved! Wow, let that sink in for a moment. God favored you so He saved you. He wanted to show you kindness so He saved you! Going on further in the verse we realize that it is through our faith. All we have to do is believe in what Jesus has done for us. God does all the work. There is nothing we can do and nothing we can add. It is His gift to us. It has absolutely nothing to do with what we do. We do not have to prove ourselves or earn our way into Heaven. Think about it this way, He showed us favor when we were still in sin and saved us because He is kind. The only thing He asks in return is simple-Believe.

I am astounded by the truth of this scripture. That He favors ME and He favors YOU. He longs to show you His kindness. All you have to do is believe. Now that IS amazing!

Unity: the Key to a Strengthened Church

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“Is Christ divided?” This thought has been mulling about in my head the past few days. It’s the same question Paul asked the Corinthian church. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of unity within the body of believers. Take this verse for example:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

How did we get so far from this simple biblical concept? There are countless denominations and variations within each denomination and different schools of thought. What happened to one body of believers being united by their faith? The answer, like always, is found within scripture.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses the issue of following certain leaders. The early church was divided in their thinking, some were saying they followed Apollos, others were saying they followed Paul or Peter. As you can imagine arguments arose and people started to form their own opinions about each leader and what was being taught. Left uncorrected, I imagine the church would have eventually split off. Do we not see this in churches today? This is how many churches and denominations were established and continue to be established even now.

I see this in my hometown every day. I live in a small city. There are a great numbers of churches, but none of them have a great amount of attendance and still there are new churches forming every year. The result is a broken fellowship and struggling churches. What we need is not more churches, what we need is more unity!

To get back on track, the Corinthian church was already forming divisions despite the command not to. Even in this day, we ignore the command for unity. There will likely always be divisions and disagreements and I certainly don’t think we will ever completely resolve the issue at hand, but I want to share with you what I felt the Lord spoke to me last night. In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul is wrapping up the subject and this is what he says “Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” The part that grasped me was “Do not go beyond what is written,” meaning that we should not go beyond what scripture clearly says. It is easy to speculate on things that are not spelled out for us such as predestination and it’s relation to free will, but I believe that this is the point, that scripture says what it says. If the Bible does not give a specific answer there is a reason and the mystery has not been revealed to us yet. I’m not saying that we should never talk about or study these topics. What I am saying is that we should not allow it divide the church body.  If someone at my current church doesn’t agree with my particular view on something that is not clearly written for us I’m not going to leave and start my own church, but this kind of situation happens more often than we’d like to think.

In the next portion of the verse, Paul goes on to explain what happens when we do not go beyond what is written. He says “Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” On the other hand, if we DO go beyond the word of God, then we WILL be puffed up. In other words, if we go outside of scripture, trusting in human words and wisdom for opinions, it will result in pride and the Bible is clear when it comes to pride. Proverbs 16:18 is one example; “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We know the end of the story, we know Christ wins, but without unity the church will be significantly weaker in the days to come.

This is a call to set aside silly arguments, to put an end to our divisions. I don’t care if you listen to T.D. Jakes, MacArthur or Billy Graham. I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or Baptist, but I do care if you are a fully devoted follower of Christ. To me, it doesn’t matter which Earthly leaders you prefer, if you love Jesus with your whole heart you are my dear brother or sister. Your denominational difference does not change that. Sure, let’s talk about the issues, let’s dig deep into scripture, but people looking in are not going to judge us based on our sound theology so much as our love for one another. Jesus put it best, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

A Reflection on Wisdom

What is wisdom? In the biblical sense wisdom means an understanding. It goes beyond knowledge and implies action. We can KNOW something, but never put it into practice. Knowing something to be true and then DOING something about what we know is wisdom. We can know Jesus Christ is the key to salvation, but we are not wise until we do something about that knowledge.

The Bible puts a high importance on wisdom. There are whole books dedicated to the subject. Why? Because God values wisdom. He desires us not only to seek it out, but to find it. He longs for us to ask for wisdom and he will pour it out to us just as he did Solomon.

When seeking out wisdom the Bible gives us plenty of advice on what to look for. The wise listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15), is cautious and avoids evil (Proverbs 14:16). Wisdom itself is pure, peaceable, gentle, open, merciful, impartial, and sincere (James 3:17). The fear of the Lord instructs us in wisdom (Proverbs 15:33)

We should always keep in mind that the wisdom of God is not the same wisdom we will find in the world (1 Corinthians 3:19). This is just one reason why studying the scriptures is a necessity to the Christian. Do we want Godly wisdom or worldly wisdom? As for me, I long for the wisdom of God. I desire to seek out truth and put what I know into action. I believe that is what God is asking of us. May we take what we He teaches us and not just store it in our minds, but may we actually live it out because that is what wisdom is-knowledge in action.

Love the World as Christ Did

It is easy to feel insignificant in a world filled with madness and chaos. Eventually, most of us slip into a pattern of thinking that says we can never make an impact. I am here to tell you that it is not true. How do we change the world? We do it with one smile, one word of encouragement, and one warm embrace at a time. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but if we all lived with the intent to love as much as we possibly can soon the powers of darkness would grow weak in the lives of those around us. That is how we make an impact and that is how we change the world for Christ, by our love.

Deny Yourself

Self-esteem, society says it’s something we all need more of. Teachers endorse it from the front of the classroom, psychologists tell us it’s necessary for proper mental health, but do we really know what it means? The definition of esteem is respect or admiration for someone. In essence, self-esteem is really self-admiration. This practice is contradictory to what Jesus teaches us. You may ask, well what about people with low self-esteem? My answer to that would be to stop focusing on the self at all and start to focus on Christ. Once focused on the One who gave all, you will no longer be focused on yourself and, thus, you will not have low self-esteem, actually you will have no self-esteem because your are no longer obsessing over yourself. Your worth is not based on appearances, abilities, skills or any other outwardly thing. It is based solely on the fact that God thought you worthy enough that He paid the highest price for your very soul. Drop the self and esteem God.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Reservoir of the Soul

As soon as the glass touched my lips I was overcome with pure bliss. The cool liquid met my parched mouth with a burst of instant relief. I felt renewed and refreshed; Water is both satisfying and essential. No human can survive without it. It is the primary mode of transportation for all nutrients and rids the body of it’s wastes. As I sipped away my mind drifted off to Jesus as the life giving water. He alone can quench an arid soul bringing in all that is good and healthy and removing all that is impure. This living water is essential to spiritual well-being and satisfies the soul. Perhaps, the greatest difference is with physical water we will continue to thirst, but with Christ our thirst will be eternally satisfied. May we drink deeply.

Some inspiring words from Charles Spurgeon:
” The worldling does not care for Christ because he has never hungered and thirsted after Him. But the Christian is athirst for Christ. He is in a dry and thirsty land where no water is and his heart and his flesh pant after God, yes, for the living God! And as the thirsty soul dying, cries out, “Water! Water! Water!” so the Christian cries out, “Christ! Christ! Christ!” This is the one thing necessary for me and if I have it not, this thirst will destroy me!”

For further reading open up that Bible of yours to John 4