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Streams of Living Water

Scripture reading for November 2nd: John 6-8

Thirst is a great motivator!  When we were farming in Iowa, during the hot summers we had some jobs that made us very thirsty.  Picking up hay bales on a humid afternoon with no breeze really worked up a thirst.  The ones working in the barn out of the breeze had a “thirsty” job as well.   Another job was cutting sunflowers out of the soybean fields with a machete.  We had one farm with half-mile rows.  It would be a mile up and back.  In the hot summer sun, I would be thirsty before I got to the far end of the field.  I knew that I would have to cut my way back to the water jug.  It was a good motivator for the whole crew to work faster and make it back!

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living waster will flow from within him.” “By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” John 7:39-39

On this last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the custom was to get two large jars of water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out as an offering before the Lord.  It was probably at this time that Jesus stood up and spoke to the crowd.  He invited those that were spiritually thirsty to come to Him.  He promised that if they would drink of His life, a life-giving stream of “living water” would flow from within them.  John interprets this prophetic word of Jesus as referring to the Holy Spirit being poured out after Jesus’ ascension.   The Holy Spirit would be a life-giving spring that would bring rivers of refreshing and life to those who would believe on Jesus and receive the Father’s blessing!

Are you “thirsty” from your hard work and labors in this sin-filled world?   Has keeping the Law of God worn you out?  Do you need a rest and refreshing?   Jesus calls for us to come to Him for the relief we need. He was glorified  as He ascended into heaven and was seated at God’s right hand.  He poured out the Spirit on the day of Pentecost!  He alone is the source of this spring of special “living water”.  This water is obtained by faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  There is no other means of obtaining it!  That should motivate you to work your way back to the source and take a long drink!  Living water: there’s no other drink quite like it!

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“My Words Will Never Pass way”

Scripture reading for October 28th: Luke 19-21

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”  “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:33-36

None of us like change, unless it is for the better!  According to Scripture, there is nothing in this world that is permanent and lasting.  Everything is in a temporary state.  It is all decaying or passing away.  Change is inevitable in our present world.  Even our own bodies are decaying and changing. (2nd Corinthians 4:16a)  We are born with a sentence of death because of sin in us and this world.  This world is groaning and in it’s present state will ultimately pass away.

Now I am not in some kind of negative mood this morning that all I can think about is change and decay!  No, I am encouraged as I read the Word of God that there is something permanent that I can hang on to!  God’s Word is permanent and eternal.  What God has written for us is ultimate truth and reality!  We can be certain of it!  We can build our lives on it!  We can tell our children about it and pass it on to our friends!

Jesus warned His followers to be careful because of these eternal truths.  Heaven and earth would pass away one day.  There was a day of judgment like no other day when this would happen.  It would come upon those living on the earth suddenly, like a trap catching an unsuspecting animal.  (Luke 21:34)  Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful and in prayer because of these unchanging truths.  There would be many who would be overcome with a reckless attitude.  Some would be drunken and unable to rouse themselves.  Others would be overcome with the fears and worries of life.  They would not be prepared for that day and it would catch them unaware!

Those who are watching and praying, however, would be able to stand before the Son of Man.  They would be trusting in His grace and be ready to meet Him.  Let’s be certain today that we are really believing what Jesus taught.  A day is coming when the heavens and earth will pass away!  His Word will never pass away!

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Sunday Rest and Reflection: Jerusalem!

Dear Friends,

Greetings on this day of rest!  The beauty of the Christian faith is the rest we have because of God’s grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ!  We have been adopted into God’s family and made heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  We have been declared righteous and have been justified in God’s sight.  We can only rest in what Jesus Christ has provided and need not add another thing.  In fact, we must be faithful to enter that rest by faith or we will miss out entirely!

As I reflected on the readings this week, I immediately thought of Zechariah’s final discourse on Jerusalem and the importance of this city in the plans and purposes of God.  Jerusalem was known as the city of David, the beloved king of Israel, who took the city from the Jebusites.  It was there that David made plans to build a house for God and purchased the threshing floor of Araunah for a place of sacrifice.  (1st Chronicles 21:18-30) Solomon, David’s son, actually built the temple and Israel enjoyed a time of peace for 40 years during his tenure.  (2nd Chronicles 7:1-3)  As he dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord filled the house so that the priests could not enter!

Several hundred years later, God’s people had slipped into idolatry and a shallow religion that brought about their captivity.  The beautiful temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonian invaders and God’s people went into captivity.  After 7o years, Daniel the prophet read the prophecy of Jeremiah and saw that the time was nearly over and began to pray and fast. (Jeremiah 25:11-12)  Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the temple again would stand.  Nehemiah and Zerubbabel led the rebuilding efforts and the work went forward.  God moved miraculously on the heart of King Cyrus and he supplied the authority and finances.

Prophets Haggai and Zechariah both urged the workers to rebuild the city and temple.  God had plans for a greater purpose and glory yet to come!  (Haggai 2:9) ( Zechariah 8:1-3)  According to Zechariah, Jerusalem would be pivotal for God’s end-time program of judging the nations.  (Zechariah 12:1-3) The nations will gather around Jerusalem to seek to destroy it in a final battle.   In fact, Jesus Christ is coming back to Jerusalem and will again place His feet on the Mt. of Olives, causing it to split and form a way of escape for God’s people.  (Zechariah 14:4-5)  Following this great battle, the Lord will be king over all the earth and rule from Jerusalem! (Zechariah 14:9)

Jerusalem is the joy of the whole earth because it is the city of the Great King!  Psalm 48 was composed by the sons of Korah to extol the virtues of Jerusalem and God’s presence and protection of His people forever!  We surely should pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  It is the home of our Great King!

“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.  It is beautiful in loftiness, the joy of the whole earth!” Psalm 48:1-2

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“You’ll have plenty of wine and beer”

Scripture reading for September 19th: Micah 1-2

“If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people.” Micah 2:11

Micah lived in a day of fallen moral values, a time when  God’s people lived for materialism and pleasure.  Micah was called to warn God’s people of their sins and the coming retribution if they continued on their merry way.  This statement about a prophet who would tell them what they wanted to hear was meant to be funny and yet shocking to their senses.  A man of God telling them about plenty of alcohol to cure their sin would be like a doctor prescribing poison to cure a fatal illness!  Come to think of it, I guess that is happening today in some parts of our nation where euthanasia is legal!

As Micah exposed the sins of this people, he mentioned those who plotted to take the land and property of their brothers and sisters through fraud and deceit. (Micah 2:1-3)  The land was a promised inheritance for each family.  The promised land was divided by Joshua according to God’s plans by lot to each family. (Joshua 13 and following)  It was to be a perpetual inheritance.  When people have their own property and are responsible for it, they use their gifts and work hard to build a home and keep it beautiful.  They make the most of it for business purposes and to bless their family and others.  God is for personal responsibility and ownership under His authority.  If we can learn to be faithful with the little here, He can give us much in the coming millennial kingdom!

I think this property ownership is interesting in light of the founding of our nation.  We are a people who have always valued the right to ownership.  Our government has laws that protect property ownership and rights.  When any nation has denied that to people and made the government the owner, the results have been disastrous!  Look at the countries where communism has tried to make the government owner and provider for all!  It did not and will not work under man’s supervision.  Sins of greed and desire for dominance soon take over.  This is possible  in our nation, too, as it happened to God’s people in Micah’s day.  God is the one we are accountable to and he uses our stewardship as a test of faithfulness and to shape our character.

“In that day men will ridicule you:  they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined: my people’s possession is divided up.  He takes it from me!  He assigns our fields to traitors.'” “Therefore, you will have no one in the assembly of the Lord to divide the land by lot.” Micah 2:4-5

The loss of their land would bring about the ruin of God’s people!  This people would receive a false prophet who would prophesy plenty of wine and beer.   Their delusion would lead to their destruction and captivity.  They would lose their property and suffer eternal loss.  Oh that God’s people would listen to truth and be responsible stewards of God’s promises!

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Hammer and fire!

Scripture reading for August 10th: Jeremiah 21-25

“Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.  for what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord.  “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:28-29

When we were much younger and had small children we were in a church that sang Scripture songs from all over the Bible.  A lady named Laura who played an auto harp would use her King James Bible and lead us in singing.  One of the songs we sang was from these verses in Jeremiah.  It was a catchy tune and my younger son Marshal picked it up and was always singing it.  It is interesting to note that Marshal is preaching God’s word today and these truths are still working!

Jeremiah had to deliver some hard messages to his own peers in the ministry of that day.  He spoke a word to the shepherds of that day and accused them of scattering the sheep and destroying them.  (Jeremiah 23:1-3)  They were not caring for God’s people and were bringing about their death and captivity.  The shepherds he was talking to were the kings of Judah.  He warned them repeatedly but few appreciated his warnings! (Jeremiah 22:11-12) (Jeremiah 22:28-30)  He spoke of woe, death, captivity and loss of the land; some accused Jeremiah of being a traitor because of his strong words.

God, Himself, promised to raise up a ‘righteous Branch’ from the line of David who would restore justice and save the nation.  (Jeremiah 23:5-6)  This righteous king would bring God’s people out of captivity in the lands where they would be scattered and bring them into their own land.  (Jeremiah 23:7-8)

The godless priests and prophets were the cause of the people going astray.  They committed adultery and lived a lie.   They prophesied by Baal, the false idol of the Canaanites and led the people astray.(Jeremiah 23:13-14)  They told people who were living in sin and stubbornness that they would have peace when God’s word said they would have trouble.  (Jeremiah 23:16-17)  God was about to send a storm that would destroy the wicked and the prophets should have been giving them God’s word to encourage them to turn around.

God’s word never fails to produce the results that it speaks of.  Jeremiah saw the word of God as a fire.  The fire would burn out the dross to refine the metal and burn up the chaff as it swept the wicked away.  Jeremiah saw God’s word as being a strong hammer that could shatter solid rock.  The hardened hearts would be broken by this hammer.  Jeremiah’s heart was broken and his bones trembled at the thought of God’s holy words and their supernatural power.  (Jeremiah 23:9)  There are many gracious promises in God’s word, but also some very disturbing promises of judgment.  Let the Spirit, light, and life of God’s word keep you from the fire and hammer!

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Arguing with the Potter!

Scripture reading for August 8th: Jeremiah 16-20

“Then the word of the Lord came to me:  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord.  “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:5-6

One of the most interesting object lessons I have seen is that of a potter working on his clay while talking about God’s work on us.  Watching as the clay was formed gave me a new appreciation of God’s forming me– and a realization that sometimes I failed to cooperate.  The clay has to be moistened and worked to make it pliable.  It has to be placed on the wheel and spun while the potter applies pressure.  He applies his fingers on the outside surface and then thrusts them inside to form the vessel.  Sometimes the clay is flawed or needs to be completely reworked and the potter must smash it back down and start over again.

God sent Jeremiah down to the potter’s house and had him watch the potter working on his wheel.  As the potter was working, his pot was flawed, and he formed it into another pot, as it suited him.  (Jeremiah 18:1-2)  God then spoke to Jeremiah about his people being like the clay in the hand of the potter.  God was in charge of the clay and the shaping of the vessel that was formed!  If the flaws that were in the clay were not eliminated by repentance, then the potter would have to reshape the pot!  It was as simple as that!

The result of Jeremiah preaching this message to the people was that they plotted against him.  They attacked him with their tongues and then ignored him.  (Jeremiah 18:18)  Jeremiah cries out to the Lord for help against his attackers.  They had viewed his message as evil when God and he had meant it for good!  (Jeremiah 18:19-20)  They plotted to kill the prophet and do away with him.  Jeremiah was angry and asked God to not forgive them!  (Jeremiah 18:23)

In response to all of this, God gave Jeremiah another object lesson.  He was to go and buy a pot from the potter and take it to the valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate.   Ben Hinnom was the city garbage dump where there were fires burning all the time.  It is a picture of hell.  There Jeremiah was to tell the people about all the ways that they had resisted the hand of their Potter and angered Him.  Then he was to smash the pot as an example of what would happen to them if they failed to respond. (Jeremiah 19:1-10)

It doesn’t pay to argue with the Potter, God!  He is in charge and can do with our vessel as He pleases.  If we are responsive to Him, His desire is to make a beautiful vessel of honor for His house.  If not, we will be smashed down and reformed.  In the end, a useless vessel ends up in the valley of Ben Hinnom broken beyond further usefulness.

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The adulterous woman!

Scripture reading for July 6th: Proverbs 5-9

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.  for the lips of an adulteress drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil.  But in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” (Proverbs 5:1-5)

Solomon’s warning to his sons stands as a warning to men of all ages and times.  Many have heard these words and read them, but did not heed the warning and experienced the promised results.  Headlines blare every day about another famous person, politician, minister, or actor who has committed adultery and brought attention.  It is almost a badge of honor to those who are caught up in the world system!  God calls it “sin” and it was punishable by stoning to death in the old Testament!  Adultery leads to shame, disgrace, and ultimately death.  This sin is also a form of idolatry that God sees as “spiritual adultery” in breaking our relationship with Him!

Satan has used women and sexual desires to cause the ruin and death of many throughout history.  Solomon’s own father, David, succumbed to the temptation of adultery and his sin has been read about for over 3000 years!  Solomon, himself, had over 1000 women in his harem.  These wives were his downfall, because many worshiped idols and they brought idolatry into Solomon’s life!  Sexual promiscuity is itself related to idolatry.  We are setting up our desires as superior to the Word of God and creating an idol out of our own appetite!

Many times, men recklessly believe that they will not be seen or caught in their adulterous forays.  Even if the affair is secret to all others, God sees everything !  (Proverbs 5:21)  God promises us that the cords of our sin will hold us fast and we will die for our lack of discipline!  (Proverbs 5:22-23)  Often men blame the women for enticing them.  They may also blame their own wife for a lack of sex or affection that drives them to another woman.  The truth of the matter is God sees it as their own folly that is at fault!

The Bible is very clear on the consequences of adultery.  Death and the grave are both mentioned more than once as a consequence of going in with an adulteress. (Proverbs 5:5) (Proverbs 7:27)  Regret, oppression, depression and misery are also mentioned as following this adulteress.  (Proverbs 5:9-14; Proverbs 6:33)   Possible retaliation by the husband of the adulteress could cost your life and peace! (Proverbs 6:34-35)  The verse that talks about taking fire into his lap may be referring to sexually transmitted diseases.  Scientists have found that syphilis was common among the kings whose remains were mummified.  (Proverbs 6:27)  When looked at objectively, there are really no desirable benefits to adultery!

Wisdom will keep us from the adulterous woman.  Discretion will guard us and keep us away from her door.  The fear of the Lord will cause us to hate this evil and love truth.   Jesus Christ has been made to us our wisdom!  (1st Corinthians 1:30)

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Listen, my son!

Scripture reading for July 4th: Proverbs 1-4

I have personally read Proverbs dozens of times over the last thirty years.  For many years I read the entire book of Proverbs each month as a daily discipline.  For the past 8 years, I have read the chapter of  Proverbs for that day at the bi-weekly men’s accountability breakfast that I am a part of.  Even though I have read or heard Proverbs many times, I am still impressed at how they speak freshly to us about our daily lives.  Wisdom is a bubbling brook!

Hearing and listening can be two different things.  Almost everyone can hear what is being said but listening in order to learn and apply truth is a different process requiring humility and a teachable spirit.  As we begin the book of Proverbs, take a moment to check your hearing and listening abilities.  Put your mind in a learning mode.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you new insights about successful living and decision making as well as who God is.

Solomon is the author of many of the proverbs.  He was David’s son through his wife Bathsheba.  Solomon was visited by God and given an opportunity to ask for anything he desired.  He asked for wisdom to rule God’s people.  God was pleased and the proverbs are some of the written record of the wisdom God blessed Solomon with.  Solomon wanted to pass that wisdom on to his sons.  These early chapters talk about the benefits of wisdom and how it may be found.  The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  (Proverbs 1:7)  There are those who either don’t want wisdom or are so enthralled with their own way that Solomon gives them names.  Simple, fool, and mocker are the three names of those who refuse to listen and learn!  (Proverbs 1:7, 22)  Thankfully, those names are not descriptive of any of us!

Listening to wisdom has many blessings.  It brings knowledge and discretion to the young as well as guidance.  (Proverbs 1:4-5)  It brings safety to those who listen and they have rest and no fear of harm.  (Proverbs 1:33)  A person who listens to wisdom understands the fear of the Lord and finds knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5)  Your soul will find joy and you will rest in God’s protection.  You will be kept safe from wicked men who are on crooked paths leading to destruction.  (Proverbs 2:12-15)   You will also avoid the adulterous woman and her path that leads to death. (Proverbs 2:16-19)  Listening and keeping wisdom brings long life and prosperity.  (Proverbs 3:2)  Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her and they will be richly blessed!  (Proverbs 3:18)

Wisdom is to be prized above any other treasure.  (Proverbs 3:13-15)  We must lay hold of wisdom by taking hold of the words given by the Father.  (Proverbs 4:1-5)  We must prize it and faithfully esteem wisdom.  We must hold onto instructions of wisdom and guard them.  Wisdom is our life and health to our whole body!  (Proverbs 4:22)  Wisdom is to reside in our heart! (Proverbs 4:23)  Wisdom sounds a lot like Jesus Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! (Colossians 2:2-3)

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Prayer set before Him like Incense!

Scripture reading for July 2nd: Psalms 140-145

Have you ever experienced a prolonged time of sickness or trouble that seemed would not end?  Have you felt like God didn’t hear your prayer or wasn’t answering your call?  David’s life was one of deep trouble and prolonged times of pursuit by his enemies.  Often these enemies were from his own friends or family!  His brothers were jealous of him and spoke in a derogatory manner about him.  His boss, King Saul, tried to kill him and hunted him mercilessly for a number of years.  His own wife, Michal, despised him for dancing before the Ark!  His son Absolom tried to take his throne by force and hunted him for a time!  David had a habit of prayer that helped  him to keep his soul steady and in tune with the Lord.  These psalms are written down for us to give us encouragement to pray!

In Psalm 140, David is crying out to the Lord for rescue from evil men.  These men have sharp tongues and plot violence and war against him.  They would love to trap him and trip him up.  David realized that he needed God’s mercy to make it through the battles.  He prayed that those who surrounded him would be covered with the trouble that their own lips had caused!  (Psalm 140:9)  In other words, he wanted them to reap what they sowed!  He prayed that they would have burning coals fall upon them and that they would be thrown into the fire and miry pits.  He assured himself that the righteous will praise God’s name because God secures justice for the poor and needy!

In Psalm 141 David asked the Lord to come quickly and help him!  He asked that his prayer would come before God like incense.  The priests would add incense to the burnt offerings to make the smell of the burning meat more fragrant.  As they offered the prayers before the  golden Altar of Incense in the Holy Place, the incense on the coals would rise in sweet fragrance to the Lord before the veil.  In Revelation 8:3-5, John the Apostle sees an angel offering incense with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before God’s throne.  As the prayers and incense ascended, the Angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and hurled it toward the earth producing thunder, lightning, rumblings and an earthquake!  David knew the power of prayer and expected God to help him!

As we read this series of psalms, we realize that we are totally dependent on God.   He can be depended on!  One of the best prayers is found in Psalm 143:10-11.  “Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

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There is a river!

Scripture reading for June 12th: Psalms 42-49

Many nations have armies and air forces armed with weapons that help to protect them.  America has one of the finest and best equipped  armies in the entire world.  We have a great air force which has a wide variety of weapons to strike the enemy from afar and soften the opposition before ground troops go into harms way.  We have a military intelligence system that gathers information about the enemy and battlefield for the air force and ground forces.  But in spite of our great army and ability to protect our nation and people, there is yet a much more fearful and powerful force of protection recorded in today’s reading!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3

God’s ability to protect His people and help them in trouble is well documented.  He delivered David as a shepherd boy from the lion and the bear and then from the giant, Goliath.  He was able to deliver an entire nation from slavery in Egypt and then to protect them from the most powerful army on earth as they were being pursued.  He caused the Red Sea to close over the enemy army after His people walked through this sea on a dry bed!  Bring on those powerful armies!   Our God is a refuge and strength!  Fear not!

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall’ God will help her at the break of day.  Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Psalm 46:4-7

The source of strength is found within the Holy Place in the temple of the Most High God!  God’s presence is likened to a river of refreshing and life-giving water.  All who were inside the city and belonged to God, would have this source of water and life available to them.  God’ s presence makes all the difference!  In the midst of confusion of the nations, God’s voice melts the earth, causing kingdoms to fall. God is in charge and with His people.  He Himself is their fortress and protection during judgment and war!

“He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth, He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire.  Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:9-10

The final verses of this psalm tell of God’s final victory over all opposition.  God will ultimately bring peace to this troubled world.  We must silence our lips from fretting and fear and unbelief!  God is in control!  He alone is to be worshipped and honored!  He alone is a refuge and strength to depend on!

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