Streams Of Living Water

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog on my thoughts about a verse from Proverbs, titled “Have A Heart.” The verse reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I’ve been thinking about that blog and this verse a lot lately, because I’ve had a nagging feeling that I didn’t go far enough in my analysis. The safety of our heart’s is kind of a big deal, after all. I alluded to J’s assertion that he wants us to have more than just life, he wants us to have abundant life, which if you’ve read many of my previous blogs, you know I’m a bit obsessed with finding that promised quality of life. Maybe that’s why I felt like there was more in there than I had previously considered.

A few days ago, I began rereading John Eldredge’s “Waking The Dead,” and he mentions Proverbs 4:23 early on and also quotes a verse from the Gospel of John, “Whoever believes in me [Jesus] as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” When I read these two verses side by side, it was like a key (John’s verse) opening a lock (the verse in Proverbs), and I felt like I was beginning to understand something. The paradox I found in Proverbs in that while we had to guard our hearts because it was the wellspring of life, we, at the same time, needed that wellspring to have the ability to guard it had been perplexing me. Was this some sort of “what came first, the chicken or the egg” irony? What I realized after considering these two verses side by side is that, once again, a verse in the New Testament confirms, or explains something from the OldTestament.

Jesus says streams of living water flow from within believers. Proverbs states that the heart is the wellspring of life. Notice the “water” connection here? This is where I see the connection, if we believe, we literally have Jesus in our hearts, and from that wellspring of faith comes the “streams of living water that flow from within.” Our faith in Jesus is the “wellspring of life” that gives us the strength to guard our hearts. See the correlation? There are other instances where seemingly meaningless or not very important phrases take on greater meaning in the context of the New Testament. For example, a line in the book of Psalms that reads “taste and see that the Lord is good” is artistic but doesn’t necessarily move me intellectually. However, if you think about it in terms of taking Communion it makes more sense, to me anyway.

Before I leave this subject, I think it’s worth noting that there is something awesome that’s going on here. It’s not just that faith in Jesus gives us the power to guard our hearts, we now also have streams of living water that will flow from within us. If that water is flowing from within us, then it is flowing out of us as well, and extends the love and power of our faith in Jesus that can affect the hearts of others. To quote one of my favorite phrases, “pretty cool, huh?”

 

                                                                                   

                                                                                  

A Distant Kind Of Tomorrow (Worth Waiting For)

“The horizon fading below the Atlantic’s gray waves appears to tell only stories past because the sun glides over and away toward the west, leaving the promise and prophecy of tomorrow to a distant land.”

Tomorrow, not the day but the promise of a new beginning, seems lost somewhere between the wilderness we walk through and the sun shedding its light on the other side. Tomorrow, the day we stress over today, will arrive with the insistent demand of the alarm clock. “Tomorrow” is the promise of better things to come, the destination we dream and sing about where happy endings and reunions really happen. Tomorrow is New Jerusalem descending, a city we will enter to be reunited with loved ones and protected by the presence of the Lord. We certainly need to feel a hint of that to help us to continue through the ominous wilderness called life.

The breeze blows and for an instant we feel the peace of the inexplicable, the presence of the Holy Spirit, who touches us to remind us that “tomorrow” with all its peace, rest, and glory is not only coming, it’s coming toward us, indeed it is coming for us.

It’s early springtime and the winds that blow harder everyday as the celebration of Easter approaches, remind me that the promise of tomorrow is in some sense already here.

Is It Hip To Be The Teacher’s Pet?

I recently saw a photo on a friend’s Facebook page that was a notebook page with the words “When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test” written on it, and left the comment “And gives the answers if you show up for class and ask.” It’s a quaint phrase designed to bring comfort. Yet, it can be considered a truism of sorts. My first reaction was to remember teachers who would sometimes give pop quizzes when most students failed to show up for class on days when the snowfall in eastern Kansas made it hard to get there. These teachers would write the answers to the quiz on the chalkboard, thus rewarding the brave minority with a few extra points. I don’t think they ever changed the overall outcome of my grades but it was kind of fun to be a part of an inside joke.

Now, I’m thinking about how this applies to the idea of a Teacher who gives answers to those students who make the effort to show up when the weather called life’s challenges seem intent on keeping them inside for fear of the discomfort of braving them. Another “quaint” truism we have all heard is that, “the answers are in the Book (Bible).” True, but we’re still here experiencing the inclement weather, wondering where the shelter (comfort) and the food (answers) are to be found.

As long as I’m throwing out truisms, “seek the truth and you will find it” fits that bill. God is a patient teacher, waiting for that rare student who will make a visit to his office to learn the answers to the questions, whatever they may be at any given moment during their lives.

I went to a school (Kansas University) where many classes had fifty or more students in them. I can tell you the teacher feels just as distant from the student as the student does from the teacher. Be one of the fifty that makes the effort to get one on one teaching from the teacher and they will go out of their way to help you. Not just that day but for the rest of the semester. They’re just like us, they need to know they’re being heard, that what they are doing means something.

I think this may be a fair, if flawed, example of how God feels. He desperately wants to be relevant in our lives and responds in kind to those who reach out to him. Yeah, it’s scary (and quiet) when we are going through tests but having the desire, and let’s say stubbornness, to brave the storms to take the quiz (and get the answers) begins to build a stronger long term relationship with our Teacher.

Have A Heart

I was reminded of an Old Testament verse recently, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (NIV).” I don’t spend a lot of time in the book of Proverbs for reasons I haven’t really considered. Maybe it’s the wave after wave of words of advice that can be quite overwhelming. And come to think of it, there haven’t been any verses that have, up until now, stuck with me. But I recently met a nice girl who went to the trouble of having the verse tattooed on her arm. Now that’s a long term commitment. So, I thought I would take another look at the verse and taken by itself it is quite profound.

Do I guard my heart? No, I rarely, if ever, even think about my heart. It’s so much easier, at least for me, to think about the hearts of others. Maybe it’s because I tend to be compassionate by nature (here, I pat myself on the metaphorical back) and try to be a positive influence on other people’s lives. I like to be that guy, the one people can count on. Of course, the bonus of living out the Golden Rule is that it makes me feel good and feel relevant. That’s all well and good but if I let my heart die aren’t I committing a sort of spiritual suicide?

The first thing I have to remember is that it is OK to “guard my heart” as long as I don’t get caught up in a victimization mindset. How do I defend my heart without dwelling on the assaults on it? The second part of the verse is intriguing to me, “because it is the wellspring of life.” First, I must guard/ protect my heart against its enemies, but second, it’s the source of my ability to defend it. I’m thinking now about when J told the crowd that He came not only to give us life but abundant life. It appears that the writer of Proverbs is here foreshadowing the source behind “the wellspring of life,” the originator and the power and importantly, the renewing energy behind it. That’s an encouraging thought but not the end, I think.

We are told to guard our heart’s. That’s the command. We have the responsibility of guarding the heart given to us by God. The war, as we all know, is coming at us whether we want it to or not. So, as what typically happens, J starts with one thought to get me to another. It’s not about a victimization mindset, causing me to fight to survive but a victory mindset that there is a power already inside me, which was given to me by J. That is a comfort. J calls the one he sent the Comforter, after all.

I must guard my heart because it’s the wellspring and source of abundant life. My life. It’s a positive command for a more practical and purposeful way to approach the trials I/we face. And I can get behind that mindset.

Sufficient

For a child’s innocence, my soul cries out on heavy days. What I would give to dine on milk when a lack of peace stays the food of grace from my mouth. Today, I read about perfection formed by forty days of flood and famine for the man who does not stray from the course determined by God.

The night always ends with the rising of a new day, and I find again the patient one waiting, smiling, and saying once more, “isn’t this the day I made?”

 

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Rereading a book that contains so much wit and wisdom like GK Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” is a return to the feet of a great teacher. In it, he talks about the contradictory remarks non- believers use to try to discredit Christianity. One example noted is that it produces weak people fixated on a fantasy land and that it is also a fierce religion that is responsible for all the world’s major wars. For more, see the chapter titled, “The Paradoxes Of Christianity.”

Basically, those opposed to Christianity (they’re generally in favor of their view of J) are trying to have it both ways, in order that we see that Christianity is wrong and/or false in all ways at all times. Of course that’s not true in any way at any time. J’s life and death gives us purpose in all things and at all times and behind that purpose is a will and intent.

As I’m prone to digress, or rather, deviate into another thought, I’m thinking now about having it both ways in my life. I want to be blessed, but I don’t want to change anything in my own life. Not that God’s blessings are directly linked to our good deeds because obviously they’re not. But I want them to be. If I “overcome evil with good,” as Paul the Apostle writes in his epistle to the Romans, then surely I deserve a reward, or maybe a spiritual pat-on-the-back, so to speak, whatever that looks/feels like. I do tend to get caught up in the works producing rewards mindset, especially when I feel like lifeis kicking the crap out me.

Of course, it’s not about my having it both ways, deserving or receiving rewards, overcoming evil, or even receiving an unexpected blessing. It’s about the hardest thing of all, for me anyway, it’s about waking up in the morning and thanking J for the day and feeling grateful for it even or especially because I don’t feel grateful for it. I imagine J says to me on those days what Robin said to Batman in my favorite Batman reboot, “Batman Forever,” “You have a real gratitude problem.” And if I’m honest, I have to respond, “you’re right, sir.”

   I’m going to allow myself one last digression or deviation in an attempt to sort this out. How can I have it both ways in my life? I can choose to continue my fight to overcome the evil that surrounds me, and I can thumb my nose at life/evil/Satan when I’m getting beat up and respond “sorry, dude, I’m going to keep saying I’m grateful until I feel it.” Living to fight another day isn’t about survival but winning a battle I thought I had lost. I’m here aren’t I? I’ve survived to write about the experience, and I’m grateful for that.

Wonder

High and higher that is what you are to me, Lord, God, and Savior. Not aloof but a lifeline. The sun shines, the warm winds blow and joy sits beside me for a little while.

Let go. Large words like analyzation destroy the moment. The lion roaring waits in anger to devour the moment. Peace comes in like a flood but behind it waits sharpened fangs and claws. So much hate stalks the world we live in. Joy brings rest but hate does not rest for fear it will be forgotten. Perhaps that’s what the dragon fears most from Man and God, the words “depart from me, I never knew you.”

Now I think I know why praise of the one who started it all releases Joy and her sisters Faith, Hope, and Grace from their silent prisons. Adventure. “Run don’t walk/ climb don’t lie down,”

I feel my spirit cry out to flesh and bones silently wanting more than TV and late night snacks can offer. Live. Live in the moment. The oasis inside the swirling battles between Joy and the dragon. No wonder it, no wait, wonder at it all. Wonder at the honor and attention each soul deserves. And wonder at the joy and fury the words “holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty” command from both the willing and the unwilling.”