The living waters

I can see why the pillars of the religious establishment were at their wits’ end. A good crowd had come to town for this festival, but now that fellow was standing out there shouting, “Is anyone thirsty? Then come to me, believe in me. Rivers of living water will flow out of your heart.” Can you imagine the scene?

Just who did he think he was, anyway?
Well, they knew who he thought he was. And that was the thing that really upset them.

Once we stop chasing mirages and we find the true fountain of life, the real oasis in the desert, an amazing, miraculous thing happens. That Source comes to us and we become a part of Him.

Isn’t that astounding?

These rivers of living water that God promises to refresh and revive His children — this is not for our sake alone, it is also so that we become conduits of that water.

Jesus said He was the light of the world; then He turns around and tells those who follow Him that they are the light of the world. He said He was the living water; then He says that once we come to Him and drink, the living water will overflow, gushing out of us.

Why flowing OUT of our hearts?
Why not just “bubbling up” or “filling up” or even “overflowing” ?
No, He said “flowing OUT.”

Could it be that our refreshment is also meant to flow out to others?

Many people believe that when Jesus was talking about streams of living water, He was talking about the Spirit of God living within us. The true fountain of life. The real oases in the desert. Living right with us, to slake our thirst in parched land, to revive us when we are ready to collapse from exhaustion.

I believe that’s what Isaiah is referring to when he talked about drinking from the fountain of salvation. With joy you will drink deeply. (Isaiah 12:3).

He lives right here with us. Our own oasis of refreshment is never too far away. Only a prayer away: “Revive me, Lord.”

And then, the living waters not only revive us but also pour forth to refresh fellow pilgrims trudging wearily through their own deserts.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

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MORE on God’s promise of refreshment: Psalm 23:2,3a; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 85:5-7; Psalm 103:5; Psalm 107:4-9; Psalm 119:49-50; Psalm 119:81-82; Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 35:4-7; Isaiah 41:17-20; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 49:10; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 6:16; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Matthew 11:28-30; John 4:10-13; John 7:37-39; Acts 3:19, 20

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Weary? Come. Find rest.

I want to re-learn one of those verses I’ve known forever. Read it, if you can, as though you’ve never heard it before. And I welcome your thoughts and comments on the depth of these lines. Matthew 11:28-30:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear,
and the burden I give you is light.”

I’ve been asking the Spirit what this means for my life. I’m still learning. But here are some thoughts thus far:

“Come to me.” Jesus starts right off with saying He is the answer. He’s the one to come to when we are exhausted from the weight of whatever heavy loads we carry. Guilt? Grief? Fear? Worry? Concern for others? Persecution? Restlessness? Discontent? Demands of life? (That covers a lot!) Whatever it is — Got that? Whatever. — Jesus is the one to go to.

We go so many other places. To other people. To other ideas — this idea of self-sufficiency, pride, our own strength and powers, success (however the world defines it). And when we do, we are just chasing a mirages instead of going to the true fountain of living water.

There’s a saying in the world today: “Know the right people.” That can be applied here. Know the right Person to go to.

“and I will give you rest.” I don’t need to enlarge on that idea. Your soul tells you what that means.

“Let me teach you.” These are the words that have been on my mind constantly. “Let me teach you,” Jesus says to me. Let me teach you about God. Let me teach you about living in the kingdom of heaven. Let me teach you about yourself and your mission on earth. Let me teach you about others and how God sees them and how you’re to live with them. Let me teach you about those burdens you carry … Let me teach you.

And then there are the words about taking up His yoke because it is easy to bear and the burden He gives is light. This is the hardest part for me to understand. I grew up under a strong tradition that said I must do this … I must not do that … It was a heavy burden. It is still a heavy burden because it weighs me down, even though I’ve learned much about grace from experiencing His grace and mercy in my own life. But is Jesus talking about His grace? Is he talking about His commandments? His commission of His mission to us? What is He saying?

A friend shared that when she reads this verse she always sees that Jesus carries the other half of the yoke. Always carrying with us. But what is His yoke? What is the burden He gives us? I still need a clearer understanding of this, so I will let Him teach me and I’m listening.

You will find rest for your souls.” Twice in these short lines, Jesus promises rest. Relief. Refreshment. That part — I understand.

 

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:to t

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Repentance and refreshment

The more I read Scriptures, the more I understand that God’s commandments are not given to keep humanity under His iron fist. That’s the lie that the enemy has whispered into our heads, just as he did in the Garden of Eden.

No, God’s instructions are meant, instead, to lead the way to a good life, a peaceful, secure, joyous life.

You might wonder why I use so many Scriptures from the Old Testament, and it’s simply because they tell us so much about God, about us, and about our relationship with Him.

He does not change, He tells us in Malachi 3:6. And although everything in the external world has changed since Old Testament times, the story of the human heart’s search for or rejection of its Creator has remained the same throughout the centuries.

This is what the LORD says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel in its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”
(Jeremiah 6:16)

First, let’s straighten out our thinking on that word godly. It does not mean perfect. Can anyone of us be perfect in our ways?

But it does mean seeking the way God says is perfect and good. It means seeking God and His path so that we can walk in it. It means seeking to live the way God intended for us to live when He created us in His image.

We come to many crossroads every day:
A choice of whether to bless or curse the one who treats us badly.
A choice of making a decision in favor of our own interests or the interest of others.
A choice of truth telling or lying.
A choice of offering up our sacrifices to the idols of the world or giving our living sacrifice to the Almighty God.

The list could go on and on…

When we reach those crossroads, Stop. Look for the godly way, the good way, many translations say. Traveling along that way, we will find rest for our souls.

There’s one more line to verse 16 in Jeremiah 6. And it’s a short, sad line, but we all are familiar with the words:

“But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’”

We have all said those words. And then acted on them.

Jump to the New Testament, to Peter’s powerful preaching after the Holy Spirit starts working in him. In the Temple, after healing a lame man, he tells the crowd,

“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.” (Acts 3:19, 20)

Repent … and times of refreshment will come.

When we’ve said, “I want to choose my own way,” at the crossroad, we have often ended up on muddy and rough paths (as Jeremiah says elsewhere) or in sun-scorched, parched deserts (as Isaiah describes it).

Then repentance is necessary, and refreshment will come from the presence of the Shepherd, leading us back to the right road and rest for our souls.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

In a parched and weary land … refreshing springs

Our pilgrimage takes us through all kinds of terrain. In those parched stretches where we grow thirsty and weary, we long for oases. Refreshment. Sustaining water for our souls.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

This is the cry of a weary heart trudging along in the desert. Have you been there? Are you there now?

It reminded me of Psalm 85 that promises this:

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
(Psalm 85:5-7)

For pilgrims who draw their strength from the Lord as they walk toward the new Jerusalem, a valley of weeping becomes a place of refreshing springs, a place clothed with blessing. What a promise, Father!

We will all walk through these valleys or deserts; that will not be avoided.

But as we depend on our Shepherd, He sends refreshment along the way.

I have set my heart on this pilgrimage, Lord. This land can be so parched and weary, but my thirsty soul seeks Your strength, O my God.

And for you, fellow pilgrim, if you are in the weary desert today, may He give you refreshing springs.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Revive me

Have you noticed the prayer for this week? When we are at the end of ourselves and our own strength.  When we have nothing left in us. When we simply want to sink down into the dust and go no further, here’s our prayer:

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

This prayer always reminds me that we came from the dust of the ground. God’s own breath gave us the life we have. Without that, we are still only dust, returning to dust.

If I do not always draw my breath from that Spirit of God living in me, I often sink back into the dust.

And I lie there, depleted. Exhausted.

What revives me then?

The second line of that prayer. His Word.

His Word also lives and breathes life.

It revives and brings us up out of the dust.

I’ve found it helps me tremendously to mark those passages in my Bible that speak to my soul. Another option is to keep a journal, simply copying the verses that you hang onto. In the parched times of my life, going back and reading His words — His words to me, His loved child — always refreshes my soul.

Especially when I’m lying in the dust.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I lie in the dust;
Revive me by your word.
(Psalm 119:25)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)