Rivers of Living Water (Pt. 1)

Rivers Part 1[Next Sunday is Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit was given to the church. Christians around the world will spend the next week reflecting on this tremendous Gift as well as its implications for believers, and I felt it was only fitting to offer a few comments myself.]

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…” (John 7:37-39)

Rivers.

It’s an interesting metaphor, really.

My pastor began a series on the Holy Spirit yesterday morning. He read John 7, and as he talked about the “rivers of living water,” I was reminded of the three laws of geography my cousin taught me several years ago.

Law #1: I don’t actually remember the first law.

Law #2: Mountains want to be flat.

Law #3: Rivers want to be straight.

Rivers can tend to be quite windy, but over the course of time they gradually erode the surrounding land and straighten themselves out.

Basically, rivers shape the environment around them. They’re supposed to, anyway.

Think about that for a second. Rivers can carve their way through nature. They tear their way down mountains. They cut out valleys. They transform land, they transform cities, they transform societies, they transform the world.

And Jesus said when you allow the Holy Spirit to flow out of your life, it’s comparable to these world-changing rivers.

I bet when Jesus invented rivers ages and ages ago, He knew He’d one day preach a sermon to a group of uneducated fishermen about the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. And He probably programmed things like erosion into them to demonstrate the sheer magnitude of His intentions for the Spirit-empowered church.

We are supposed to transform society. We are supposed to change culture. We are supposed to have an impact on the world as we know it. As Jesus said, we are supposed to disciple entire nations.

And Jesus told us exactly how to do it.

His disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they allowed the violent torrents of the Spirit to flow out of their hearts and turn the world upside down.

And we have been commissioned to do the same exact thing.

So get going. Let God’s words pour from your lips. Let His power gush from your hands. Let His life flow from your very being. It’ll change the world. There’s no way it won’t.

[Your Turn: What are some other cool things we can learn about the awesome power of the Holy Spirit by talking about rivers?]

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Important Lessons My Son Has Taught Me about God

jack13:16 am. The family is finally asleep. But of course, that’s not gonna last long.

3:19 am. Jack’s cries fill our bedroom.

Maybe he’s hungry. We try feeding, but he doesn’t bite. Jack continues to cry.

Maybe he’s in dire need of a diaper change. We check, but the diaper is clean. Jack continues to cry.

Maybe he’s cold. We give him a blanket. Jack continues to cry.

Maybe he’s warm. We strip off the onesie. Jack continues to cry.

I know. He just needs some bro time. I take him downstairs, and walk through our darkened kitchen with him gently cradled in my arms.

Jack calms down.

For about seventeen seconds.

Then he continues to cry.

And as I continue to pace back and forth with our crying infant in my arms, I think to myself, “If only he knew how to articulate what he needed, then I could give it to him.”

And right as that thought came to mind, God said to me, “That’s why most prayers don’t get answered.”

Christians are really good at crying. Experts, in fact. “Why does this always happen to me?” “Why do things never work out in my life?” “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

We are very good at vocalizing how terrible things are. We are also fairly decent at (erroneously) attributing all of our woes and troubles to God. But I’d venture to guess that 9 times out of 10, we never actually ask for a solution. We just whine about whatever is going on, then blame God when things don’t get better.

For example, if you feel a fever coming on, complaining about how you always get sick isn’t praying. Accepting the sickness because “God works in mysterious ways” also isn’t praying. Even silently hoping that you miraculously get better isn’t praying. To make it a prayer, you need to verbally ask God to heal you. Confessing a scripture or two that promises to give you what you need is an absolute plus (in the case of sickness, Isaiah 53:5, Exodus 15:26, Luke 9:11, 1 Peter 2:24, and James 5:15 are just a few). Then you need to sincerely believe that God will deliver. And to finish it off, promptly praise God for His goodness and mercy and love.

That’s the prayer of faith.

My son Jack couldn’t tell me what was wrong because he doesn’t speak the English language. He’s just a baby. And most Christians are unsuccessful in prayer because they don’t speak the language of faith. They are spiritual babies. Now Jack will naturally grow up as time progresses. But Christian growth isn’t automatic. It takes deliberate and intentional action. And unfortunately, most people are unwilling to put in the time.

The language of faith is simple:

  1. Ask God for what you need (Matthew 7:7, Romans 10:9)
  2. Continually confess a scripture that promises you what you need (Joshua 1:8)
  3. Believe that you receive (Mark 11:23, Romans 10:9)
  4. Thank God for always meeting your needs (Philippians 4:6, Acts 16:25)

So stop complaining, stand on the Word, and have faith in God.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

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Ten Logical Reasons Why Sickness Isn’t Good (and a Question for Good Measure)

homer-sickThere are plenty of scriptures that specifically cite healing as good and sickness as bad (there are at least 178 of them, to be somewhat exact).  There is also huge lack of scriptures citing healing as bad and sickness as good (there are less than one, to be somewhat exact).

However, I don’t want to list 178 verses for you here.  Rather, I want to look at the entire bible as a whole and derive ten logical reasons why sickness sucks.

Then I’ll end with a question with an obvious answer that sort of drives the point home.  Enjoy.

  1.      According to the Mosaic Law, sickness makes you unclean.

Being sick meant you were unfit to properly worship God.  You couldn’t enter the temple, couldn’t make sacrifices, and couldn’t hang out with other people.  That is generally viewed as a problem for God followers, since your primary job is to, you know, worship God.

  1.      Jesus healed the sick.

Jesus is the best picture of God we’ve got.  If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.  And when you observe Jesus, what you find is that He healed every single person who came to Him in faith.  Strangely absent from his three and a half year ministry: spreading malaria.

  1.      Sickness is a curse.

Deuteronomy 28 goes into extensive detail when describing the Curse of the Law.  In that chapter, God mentions just about every single type of sickness, disease, and infirmity known to man (it’s worth noting that He also calls out poverty as a curse).  Centuries later, Paul said Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross rendered us free from the Curse (Galatians 3).

  1.      The plagues didn’t touch Israel.

Generally speaking, the Jews weren’t harmed by the plagues that destroyed Egypt.  God made sure His people were protected.  So even in the event of a deadly virus that threatens to wipe out humanity, rest assured that faithful Christians (read: faith-filled) will be kept safe.

  1.      Sickness isn’t a biblical platform.

No matter which chapter of the bible you read, you’ll never find a story of a terminally ill person using their sickness to promote the gospel.  Rather, you find those people begging to be delivered from their painful plight.  There was no organization in the bible called “Blind guys for Jesus”; they called themselves “Blind guys who really really desperately want to be healed, and won’t relent until they can see.”

  1.      The bible calls sickness “evil.”

Remember the Rich Man and Lazarus?  In Luke 16:25, Abraham said that Lazarus’ life was characterized by “evil things.”  The two defining characteristics of Lazarus were sickness and poverty.

  1.      Sickness was viewed as punishment in the bible days.

There is a story where the disciples come to Jesus and ask Him, “Is this man sick because of his own personal sins, or because of the sins of his parents?”  The mainstream idea of the day was that sickness resulted from sin.  And guess what?  Your sins have been removed.

  1.      Healing was viewed as glorious.

Jesus responds to the disciples’ question by saying, “Neither.  But to show you the glory of God, I’ll heal Him.”  Then POOF!, the man is healed.  People draw all sorts of conclusions from this story, but we have to agree on at least two things: a) Jesus viewed sickness as an unfit state for the man; and b) Jesus called healing “glorious.”

  1.      The bible never says Christians will suffer sickness

Jesus listed many sources of suffering that could befall Christians.  Just about all of them related to persecution.  Sickness never made the list.

10.     Paul never suffered sickness.

Paul, too, listed many things that befell him on his travels (2 Corinthians 11).  Again, sickness didn’t make the cut.

And finally, a Question: Did Jesus ever get sick?

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Eight Guaranteed Ways to Lengthen Your Life

 photoEver heard a Christian lament that at any given moment in time, God might just decide to “take” their life? 

Absolute hogwash!

For one, God isn’t in the business of killing His people.  He is the Life Giver, not the Life Stealer.

And two, why would He tell us over and over and over again the many different ways we can extend our time here on earth?

Here are eight guaranteed ways to lengthen your life, according to God.

  1. Learn, remember, and keep God’s Word (Proverbs 3:1-2)
  2. Honor your mom and dad (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  3. Set your love on God (Psalm 91:14-16)
  4. Fear the Lord (Proverbs 10:27)
  5. Be honest in your business transactions (Deuteronomy 25:13-15)
  6. Use your words wisely (Proverbs 13:3)
  7. Be humble (Proverbs 22:4)
  8. Ask (Psalm 21:4)
  9. Don’t eat a mama bird if you find her in a nest filled with eggs (Deuteronomy 22:7)

Number 9 was a bonus.  I figured that most of us would rarely find ourselves in that sort of situation, so we all have eight applicable ways to lengthen our lives, and the avian biologists reading this got an extra one thrown in.

It’s worth mentioning that Ephesians 6:2 reminds us that the commandment to “honor your mother and father” is the first command with promise.  These are eight promises (or nine, depending on your affinity for birds) that God has made to you.

And assuming we can trust God at His Word, this is definitive proof that God wants you to live a long, satisfying life. 

We have a choice before us.  We can choose to believe the nonsense that a few preachers are spouting out.  Or, we can choose to believe God.

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.  Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

[ your turn: There are other “long life” scriptures, to be sure. Which ones did I miss? ]

Two Important Lessons on Faith You Missed from My Last Blog

Jesus(Read My Last Blog Post)

Jesus was unable to do “mighty works” for the people of Galilee due to their unbelief.  The people had hardened their hearts toward the notion of a miracle-working God, and they received exactly what they believed they would.

Nothing.

But here’s the silver lining most of us miss when considering this passage.

“Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” (Mark 6:5)

Even in the midst of their marvelous unbelief, Jesus was still able to heal a few of ‘em.  I don’t know how much a few is.  I’d say at least three, but we’d all agree that the bare minimum would be two.  I also don’t know what sorts of ailments he cured that morning.  Decide for yourselves if it was a common cold, a broken wrist, or a sprained ankle.  It hardly matters what He healed.  The point is that He did it.  Even when faced with mockery and detestation, God’s goodness still was present!

I also like that healing only three or so people of mild illnesses isn’t considered that big of a deal.  For most churches, that’d be a great year, but for Jesus, it was kind of a letdown.

There are two lessons we can glean from this story.

1. Even in churches with obscene amounts of unbelief, God can still show up.  If you’re willing to trust God, you can bring God’s kingdom wherever you go, and you can at least lay hands on a few sick people and heal them.

2. Don’t settle for less than what’s available.  The bible says that when only a handful of people are healed, it’s hardly worth mentioning.  God has so much more in store for those who have the audacity to trust in Him.

Don’t allow the unbelief of a few to slow you down.  Go out into the world and do the greater works Jesus has called you to do!

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The One Thing Jesus Couldn’t Do

beautiful-jesusJesus walked on water.  He calmed the raging seas.  He healed the sick, opened blind eyes and deaf ears, and caused the lame to walk.  He fed ten thousand people with a kindergartener’s sack lunch… on two separate occasions.  He went head to head with the religious elite, defended the widows and orphans, and transformed the world as we know it.  He did everything and could do anything.

Well, not quite anything.

“Now Jesus could do no mighty work [in His own country], except that He laid His hands in a few sick people and healed them.” (Mark 6:5)

Hold the phone.  Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Great High Priest, the Lion of Judah and Lamb of God, the Son of Man, the Jesus, couldn’t do mighty works?

That doesn’t make any sense.  What could have prevented the Word Made Flesh Himself from healing the masses, when He had already proven Himself more than capable?  What force possibly could have stopped Jesus Christ of Nazareth from performing mighty works?

“And He marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:6)

It was the people’s lack of faith that stopped the miraculous power of God from working in their lives.  They chose to believe that Jesus’ power wasn’t available for them.  And as a result, it wasn’t. 

Over and over and over again in the scriptures, we read that it is our faith that triggers God’s power to move in our lives.  Every single day, we make thousands of choices to trust in the world and the circumstances and whatever else there is, or to trust in God’s Word.

The Galileans chose to reject God’s Word.

I’m choosing to trust God.

What’re you going to choose?

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Every Biblical Example of God Making Christians Sick

sneezeSince becoming a Christian over nine years ago, I have noticed that the church is in the middle of tremendous conflict.  One camp of Christians says God is the Healer, while the other says God might occasionally make you sick, in order to teach you humility, suffering, dedication, or some other esoteric lesson.

So I have searched the scriptures, hoping to find biblical examples that would prove which side of the aisle God falls on.  And after years of research, I present to you every New Testament example where God made a Christian sick:

1.

So there you have it.  This list includes every time God injured one of His own children.  It’s a fairly short list, so feel free to memorize it.  It may come in handy someday.

[ your turn: God may not make Christians sick, but He sure does like to heal them.  Post your favorite healing story in the comments below! ]