Empty Wells

“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:15

A friend sent me a book last week called Sipping Saltwater by Steve Hoppe, and I wanted to share a bit about it on here today. The title intrigued me a lot. If you’ve been to the ocean, you know what a mouthful of saltwater tastes like and you certainly wouldn’t want to sit and drink any of it.

We’ve all heard tales of shipwrecked sailors clinging to life because they don’t have fresh water. We all know what it’s like to be thirsty on a hot day. Imagine being completely surrounded by cool water but unable to drink it.

What happens when a thirsty person drinks saltwater? It basically shrivels you up from the inside. Lovely thought, no? It might satisfy for a moment, but in the end it will dehydrate and even kill you.

The premise of the book is that we are all in some way or another sitting around “sipping saltwater” by thirsting after things that 1) don’t satisfy and 2) will eventually do us great harm. We sip, we drink, we chug, we get addicted to things that dry us out and leave us thirstier than before. We shop. We drink. Eat. Exercise. Work. Obsess. Worry. You name it.

Too much social media? Saltwater.

An overly packed family schedule? Saltwater.

Knowing more about Hollywood stars than the people under your own roof? Saltwater.

Good things turn into harmful idols because we turn to the thing itself to take away that thirst.

The good news? The Bible has lots of things to say about this dilemma of ours.

Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

Isaiah 55:1-2

We are spending money on what does not satisfy. Isaiah is warning the people to quit wasting their time. Interesting that no matter the time in history, this is a problem for us. I wonder what people in Biblical times thirsted after? If they had this problem, how much more do we need to pay attention? Are times are unique, but he condition of our hearts is ever-wandering. We are chasing after things that don’t satisfy.

Time to start eating what is good – not sipping on saltwater. Jesus tells us when we satisfy ourselves in Him, we won’t ever thirst after these other things (John 4:14). It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy them, but that they’re actually much more enjoyable when in their right place. Enjoy the blessings, the work, the shopping, the entertainment… but not above fellowship with Jesus or others. It’ll dry you up inside like saltwater.

We have to recognize our natural condition is to thirst after something, but that only one thing can fulfill it. Jesus promises to satisfy that condition. The more we try to do it ourselves, the worse it gets.

It’s probably going to be a crazy week for most of us, more than usual with the approach of Christmas. Take a break in your day to let Him be the water you need.

We must be careful of the ‘wells without water” and the “polluted wells” that instead of offering what satisfies, are bone dry or poisoned (2 Peter 2:17, Proverbs 25:26). We have one source, one well from which we draw. The rest is just drying us up inside.

We are all like the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus meets us and offers us something we can’t draw on our own. Jesus, give us that water, that we may not thirst not waste our time at empty or poisoned wells.

Life Is Too Short For Chess Games

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I saw an Instagram post yesterday with a framed picture by a fireplace that read very simply “Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

The quote under it, from author Lore Ferguson Wilbert stuck with me all day:

“I made it as a reminder for us and those who cross the threshold of our home. We don’t play chess with our lives, making the most strategic, financially savvy, career-making, and good for mostly us decisions. We walk by the words of scripture, the Living Water, and the book of Life. Nothing else trumps the word of God.”

The chess thing really struck me for some reason, perhaps because my 10 year old recently taught me how to play and I’m really bad at it. There’s a purpose and an end game to every single move you make. You need to not only watch what you’re planning, but what your opponent is cooking up. There’s short-term tactics and long term strategy. You gather information and store it up. It’s fascinating, but can be mentally exhausting.

Like a giant game of chess, many people are just out to make the “good for mostly us” kind of decisions. We’ve been conditioned to make moves based on where it’s going to land us on the board. Life has taken on the appearance of a giant competition, and seemingly those who know the game are the ones getting ahead.

Of course, we are given brains and logic by God Himself to make wise decisions about our lives. We aren’t robots and we aren’t cave people. Life requires all kinds of judgments on our part to keep moving, and naturally we want to do what is right for ourselves and families.

If you’ve walked with Jesus for any amount of time you’ve probably come to realize this truth: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8-9

I think we often read this and think “oh well, God knows best, que sera sera… whatever will be will be.” That’s flying blind and I don’t think that’s what He intends for us. Once we understand that instinctively our thoughts don’t always match up with His, (we have this thing called flesh, it has a tendency to get in the way a lot) we can also see that that’s not the stopping point. His thoughts and ways are higher (better) than ours. Not unattainable, just something greater to which He desires to reveal to us.

Paul tells us that we have the MIND OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 2:16), therefore we can be a part of these ‘thoughts and ways’ if we are surrendered to Him. When we have the mind of Christ, we desire what He desires. It’s naturally going to be the best thing for us, but we aren’t stuck in the prison of self-serving, self-promoting strategic chess playing with our decisions.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death…” Proverbs 14:12

So much of it is a trap. You fight for something that in the end doesn’t satisfy, you burn bridges to get ahead when it only leaves you isolated and alone. We’ve all had our well-laid plans derailed and seen how in the end, God’s way was far better.

I don’t think we serve a God of chaos who just throws random circumstances at us willy-nilly to see if we’ll choose the right door, like some cosmic game of Lets Make a Deal. I actually think we often create our own chaos by not putting His precepts first. We could save ourselves a lot of confusion and heartache by doing what that little sign by the fireplace said. Focus on God, not the outcome. He has that part handled. When we make the Word of God our dwelling place, not just our drive-through, we actually enjoy just being with Him in the process. We attain the mind of Christ and His thoughts and ways. We can relax and not obsess over all the next moves, because God will reveal them to us.

The “good for mostly us” kind of lifestyle has left behind a trail of chaos in it’s wake. It trickles down from bosses to employees, friend to friend, parents to children. Have you seen any little league or kids sports lately? Just last week I saw an 11 year old get caught cheating and his response was “if you don’t cheat a little sometimes, you’ll never win.” I’d rather lose with my integrity intact, thank you very much. The point is, when we let God’s Words slip through the cracks in any area, we become a slave to self-centered positioning. It’s the natural progression everything will take if we take our eyes off Jesus, and it will always lead to an empty, unfulfilled, chasing-our-own-tail kind of life. I think God honors humility, not strategic moves.

Life is too short to be playing chess all day. We can’t see four moves ahead, and I think that’s not a bad thing. When we yell “Jesus take the wheel!” we actually should mean what we say. We don’t totally check out, but we do need to allow Him to show us the direction to go. We don’t have to be swindlers to pull ahead in life, quite the opposite actually.

Lord, may we delight in Your Words to us and desire to put them before any outcome we may desire. May we not obsess over attaining a position, but be humble in where we are placed and wait on You to promote us the right way.

Find something that reminds you and those you love of this truth: in this house, in this life, we put God’s ways above the ways of the world. We may lose position sometimes, but we will also gain it back, in unimaginable ways. Let Jesus be one who moves you around the board, let Him decide what gets sacrificed and what stays. He’s the outcome, He’s our end game. Fix your eyes on Him and watch as the rest flawlessly falls into place.

 

The Results Are In… Now What?

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It’s been a week since the election, and we are still here! Praise indeed.

It’s been a draining week, an emotional week, and I for one have never felt such an acute ache for God’s presence to just come and soak through every fiber of my being as I did these past seven days.

We said we’d feel better once this was over, but I’d venture to say that most of us just felt a kind of ‘shift’ from one unknown to another. The anxiety of not knowing the outcome has simply been replaced with a new kind of restlessness now that we have our end result.

So what now? Half the country nervously awaits, biting their fingernails and hoping the guy they voted for doesn’t completely blow it and prove them to be incredibly foolish in their choice of candidate. The other half are shaking their heads, woefully disappointed at best, completely unhinged at worst, skipping work and demanding a re-do.

We are living in two Americas. Heels are dug in solidly on both sides and nobody is going to move. Politics have become our religion and religion has become our politics. Focus on it too much and too long and it will finish you. Anyone with a Facebook account will tell you this past week has been trying on the soul.

This election cycle boiled us all down to the sum of our labels. Republicans are (fill in the blank). Liberals are (fill in the blank). Feminist. Socialist. Libertarian. Can I be brutally honest? None of them mean anything unless and until we know ourselves through the One who created us. I can not sing “Hail To The Chief” until I first sing in my soul “Hail Jesus You’re My King” and mean it. We will support our leaders but also speak up for injustice as needed. We are not blindly following any party or person. We are first and foremost the Church of the resurrected Christ, both  with a capital “C”.

Christ-follower. That’s the only label I remotely desire at this point.

We are more than a political party, we are a BODY. We are here to elevate truth, to speak it with conviction and love. I’m not afraid to dip my toe in the political waters, but I need to make sure I have first immersed myself in the fountain of LIVING WATER that only Jesus offers.

Church, we need the Truth now more than ever. Regardless of where it lands us on the map of political correctness, people are desperate for it. It may earn us the label of “ally” and it may get us branded as the “enemy”, but please don’t let it hinder your voice. At times it will be lonely, but we are never alone. Let’s not put all our hope into a party or platform or human being… let’s pray for our nation and put our hope in Jesus because the truth is, He has already overcome it all. Woefully lamenting our circumstances and shouting gloom and doom isn’t worthy of our position as believers. It’s never going to be perfect in this world, but we must remember to take heart, because we follow the One who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

We are strangers in a strange land and it would serve us well to remember that fact. The world is going to ebb and flow as it always has. We serve a God who will never change, and that must be our firm foundation.

“A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck… Our heart longs for joy as we bow before One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.” Charles Spurgeon 

Trees and Branches

IMG_5297I came across a poem the other day that made me laugh. Not in the sense that it was funny, but in the sense that it was so strange it made me chuckle and cringe all at the same time. It was written by a self-proclaimed “spiritualist” and made it’s way into the “Christian” (loose air quotes here) blog world.

Here’s the crux of the poem:

You take a walk in the woods and see all these different trees. Some are crooked, some tall, some not very healthy. You understand that certain trees just didn’t get enough light or water and thats why they are how they are. You don’t get upset about it, you just accept it. So why can’t we just do that same thing with people? Why do we judge and get upset when people are not what we want them to be? We should practice turning people into trees in our head and let them be as they are.

Serious. Just imagine everyone like a messed up tree and they won’t seem so bad and you’ll be a better person for it.

It was received with a thousand “amens” and multiple comments about how practicing “non-judgment is the most important thing…” etc.

I get it, I get the gist of what the spiritual guru man is trying to say – there’s stuff that happens that makes us windswept and crooked and stumpy and imperfect and we need to let everyone be who they are. No person (or tree) is perfect. We can’t look at the faults of our fellow “trees” while ignoring our own, etc.

I appreciate the comparison, but this is where spiritualism, in all it’s fanciness, diverges with Christianity. The spiritualist reaches out and tries to make sense of the imperfect with more imperfect. It’s like a short journey down a dead-end street. As Christians, we have God’s word, thank goodness. It’s clear. It’s pretty simple. It’s always the best way. This is why I’m so cautious about these popular sites and authors who just write down whatever sounds fashionable and comfy for the moment.  When you take out God’s word and insert popular opinion, things get muddled.

I do not believe our highest goal in life should be to “not judge”… I don’ even think thats Biblical or possible. Letting people stay thirsty or in the dark (like the sad, proverbial tree in this poem) is not what God wants for anyone.

God created man in His own image, for relationship and growth and experiences. 

If we want to compare ourselves to anything in the tree family, it should be a BRANCH. Jesus gave us the example himself in John 14.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (v 5). 

Branches cannot exist on their own. They are connected to something bigger. If Christ is our vine, we have all the water and light we will ever need. Branches get pruned and taken care of so that they may bear fruit.

That wild, twisted, thirsty, light-starved tree in the poem? It bears no fruit. It’s half-dead. That’s how we would be without Jesus. The enemy would love for us to just accept that lowly position and “let it be”. Christ came to transform us, and to rescue us.

In all the “not-judging” going on, people are wilting away and starving for truth. In the name of “letting each other be”, we are letting each other remain in the dark.

I guess the tree analogy isn’t so bad after all – but it should point us to what we DON’T want to be. For the “spiritual” the very best they can hope for is acceptance of all the ugly and unhealthy in life. The most important thing to them is that we don’t judge them for it. I so wish they could see the freedom Christ offers. Living water and endless light and life when we join ourselves to the Vine. We still have our knots and bumps. We are all crooked. Branches need a lot of pruning. But we don’t have to go at it alone.

We aren’t meant to live separated from our source of water and light. And we aren’t called to leave others in the dark either. It’s ok that there are crooked, thirsty trees in our midst – we all were at one time. Let’s point them to the light and the water though, because none of us were created to stay that way.