Come Drink the Water of Life

water of lifeI love to hear others talk about how they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Their stories always cause me to reflect on that day thirty-nine years ago when I became a child of God. They also remind me that we are never so far gone that God’s grace cannot reach us, we have never committed so great a sin that His mercy cannot forgive us, nor have we ever fallen so far from our walk with Him that His love will not restore us.

Regardless of what you have done, the new life in Christ is within your reach. Call out to Him and He will offer you life-giving water. This water brings an abundant life of joy and peace; even in the midst of a terrible tempest you will be able to rest knowing that Jesus is always with you.

This morning Ray Comfort shared part of his testimony on his Facebook page. I think he painted a beautiful picture of how Christ Jesus brought him to life.  I hope this blesses your heart as it did mine.

Comfort writes:

I love the scene in the movie “Ben Hur” where a Roman soldier is marching condemned galley-slaves through the desert. They stop in Nazareth for a break, but as the thirsty slaves are being given water, the head honcho says that Judah Ben Hur wasn’t to have a drop.  Judah collapses on the ground and gasps “God help me…”  Suddenly, a shadow comes over him and a hand gently lifts his weary head from …the dirt, and pours water into his parched lips.  I have watched that scene numerous times and have never failed to sob like a child, because what I see is so similar to what happened to me in my conversion experience. At the age of 20, I began to think deeply about life. I was very successful, financially secure, extremely happy, healthy,  I was my own boss, had a loving and beautiful wife…and I was suddenly very aware that, despite all my happiness, I was waiting around to die.  It seemed that the whole of humanity was in a long line, moving closer and closer to a 1000 foot cliff, and was, one-by-one, jumping off to their death. It was as though everyone accepted the inevitability of it, and so no one was trying to get out of line. So I, ever so reluctantly, stood in line and waited for my turn. At the age of 22 I heard the gospel for the first time. I am not exaggerating to say that I was like Ben Hur laying hopelessly in the dirt, and Jesus turned my head and poured the waters of life into my parched lips. I cannot express the relief and joy I found when I received the gift of everlasting life. To try and explain it to a non-Christian is like trying to explain light to a man who has been born blind.  To use another somewhat lacking analogy, it’s like looking at a crying newly delivered baby. You know what he is crying for, so you put him on the mother’s breast, and he immediately stops crying. He is suddenly gratified. He was born with an instinct to suckle, but he had no idea what he was looking for because he had never experienced it before. I had no idea that in my darkness I was searching for light, until I found it in Jesus Christ (see John 8:31-32).  He is the one who said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And Jesus is the only one who can say, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
To learn more about receiving Christ’s life-giving water,visit www.NeedGod.com or read God’s Purpose for You.

An Outrageous Love!

When we are truly in love with Jesus, there are no feelings within that can compare to the depth of love we hold for our Savior, Lord, and God. A genuine love for God requires every ounce of our being; there is no room for another. Nor is there a love like that between The Groom and His bride, between The Deliverer and the delivered, or between The Redeemer and His redeemed. A true love for Him consumes us. It compels us to “love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength” (Mk 12.30).

Those who have never opened their hearts to receive this perfect love cannot fathom its depths. In fact, they think us foolish for demonstrating our devotion with lives surrendered to bringing Him glory regardless of the cost. They cannot comprehend the simplicity of thought that denies one’s self the temporal desires of this life in order to pursue the immeasurable, limitless, infinite pleasures which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2.9).

However, those who have tasted the fruit of this sweet love gladly abandon their former worldly passions. They are no longer enticed by such bitter fruit, but are constantly satisfied and filled with a pure, unmerited, sacrificial love. A love with no pain, separation, or ending. They have gladly abandoned everything this world has to offer and counted it as loss that they might give themselves wholly to their one true love—JESUS!

It is curious that there are those who view such a love relationship with our God as foolish or strange. In his post “Oh, to Know Jesus!” Jon Bloom describes this relationship in simple terms that all can understand.

Bloom writes,

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

One thing is for sure: Christianity is not for stoics. The Bible is the most wild, romantic book ever written. The New Testament is no cool, reasoned analysis of Jesus’s system of thought. It is a passionate book written by people who were ravished by Jesus, who felt and said ardent things like Philippians 3:8.

You know what the world calls statements like Paul’s? Religious extremism. Fanaticism. You “count everything as loss”? Sounds dangerous. Have you thought about seeing a therapist?

But the world is full of such talk when it comes to romantic love. We expect lovers’ language to be obsessive and imbalanced. Listen to the way the poet John Keats speaks to his beloved Fanny Brawne:

You have ravish’d me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often “to reason against the reasons of my Love.” I can do that no more — the pain would be too great — My Love is selfish — I cannot breathe without you.

Keats’s overwhelming passion gave him a profound insight (in the same letter):

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion — I have shuddered at it — I shudder no more. I could be martyred for my religion.
 Love is my religion and I could die for that. I could die for you.

Paul is no fundamentalist extremist driven by fear or anger to force his creed on others. He’s a man in love. Keats idolized Fanny. Paul worshiped his Lord.

Christians are people in love with Jesus. He’s not our worldview; he’s our Bridegroom. We pour over the Word and pray to commune with our Beloved. Theology is only worth studying to help us know him! Preaching, teaching and evangelism is not our vocation or obligation but a longing that others know him too. “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Our love for Him is an outrageous love in the eyes of the world. It is a love that demands all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is not possible to express this love with mere words. No, it must be demonstrated through the works of genuine faith. It is a life designed to bring glory, honor, praise, and worship to our beloved. This love may cost us our goals, dreams, desires, or even our very life. Nevertheless, we gladly relinquish these ephemeral flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, in exchange for eternal love which has been poured out for us upon Calvary. It was there that Jesus’ love paid the dowry to remove any and all obstacles which would prevent us from being betrothed unto Him.

In a relationship that demands so much, one might ask, “What is in it for you?” Our Beloved gives us everything we need for life and breath and meaning. In Him we have light in the darkest of nights, warmth on the coldest of days, hope in midst of hopelessness, strength when we are too weak to stand, vision for eyes shrouded in darkness, love for the unlovely, forgiveness for the most egregious of sinners, rest for the weary, food for the hungry, and oh so much more. He is our Redeemer, our Sacrifice, our Propitiation, our Hope, our Light, and our Love, the God of all creation, and our personal Lord and Savior. Is it any wonder that we “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord, for whom [we] have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that [we] may gain Christ” (Philippians 3.8).

Finding Outrageous Joy!

A few weeks ago I posted an article by Paul Tripp, “Don’t Confuse Knowledge and Success with Maturity.” It was a reminder that mental assent is not a true measure of our spiritual growth. In our efforts to grow in Christ we can find prideful joy in what we have learned and begin to think we are maturing in Christ. This mindset can lead to more learning and less serving.

Head knowledge is nothing if it is not put into action. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are all gifts from God; however, these gifts have been imparted to us in order to give them away to others. As empty vessels, God fills us with spiritual gifts, then He desires to empty us into the lives of others that they too might be filled and then emptied. In Matthew 28.18-20 this is called the Great Commission—our assignment to go make disciples.

Making disciples, growing in wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and serving others only happens after our salvation. Once we placed our faith in the finished work of Christ we begin our spiritual journey “until we all attain to  the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a  mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the  fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13). This should be the burning passion of every Christian—growing into the “fullness of Christ.”

With our hearts set aflame with the consuming passion of glorifying Christ we find a life of great joy and fulfillment. However, just as our joy cannot come from mental assent, we cannot allow our joy to be rooted in ministry success. It is easy to find joy when everything you touch turns to gold for the kingdom. Joy comes easy when your Bible study group or church is growing rapidly. Joy isn’t hard to find when God is graciously using your testimony to lead numbers of people to Christ. Nevertheless, these successes should not determine our joy. They should lead us to a heart thankful to God for His Holy Spirit working through us, but they cannot be the reason for our joy.

In Tony Reinke’s post, “Why Rooting Joy in Ministry Success is disastrous,” we get a clear picture of where our true joy is to be found.

Reinke writes:

Is there a greater thrill than to know someone’s life has been permanently transformed because you reached out to them?

It is sweet to know your sister was saved through your series of conversations, or that you helped to disciple a struggling couple whose marriage was headed toward an inevitable divorce, or that you preached a sermon that God was kind enough to use in someone’s spiritual awakening.

Each of those things are treasured experiences — but none of them are intended to sustain our joy.

Jesus’ chose 72 of his followers and sent them out in his name. And they found incredible success in healing the sick and in watching demonically sabotaged lives get radically and immediately repaired. The experience must have been intoxicatingly fun.

But ministry success wasn’t the most stunning thing, and Jesus warned his followers of that when they returned. He told them to look beyond the fruit and see an eternal foundation: “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Written in heaven. That’s what he wanted them to see and us to see. Our highest joy is to know that our names are written in heaven. Knowing we are heirs to the bliss of God’s eternal presence is the foundation for our greatest joys.

And knowing that means:

  • Pastoring is not the most important fact about the pastor.
  • Missions is not the most important fact about the missionary.
  • The spiritual gift is not the most important fact about the Christian.

In the Slump

But Jesus’ words apply to ministry “sag” just as much as they apply to revival.

By unplugging the disciples’ joy from their ministry effectiveness, Jesus likewise protects them (and us) from depression during seasons of seeming fruitlessness. Seasons of what appears to be effectiveness and ineffectiveness come and go. Seasons of revival are replaced by seasons of stagnation.

Perhaps we can include all of the fluctuations of life. Marriage, parenting, work, school — all areas of life where we are called by God to bear fruit. Our joy is not rooted in our successes, and it’s not extinguished by our failures. Our joy is rooted in the unalterable fact that in Christ our names are written on heaven’s roll-call.

Paul reminded his ministry associates of this point (Philippians 4:3). And I need that reminder every morning. Because whether ministry is flourishing or not, we need to remind ourselves, and remind each other, that our names are written in heaven. And it is in heaven, in the presence of God forever, where our joy is rooted. May God protect us now, in the bustle of life and the wins and losses in ministry, from losing the sweetness of that truth.

Our joy should be rooted and grounded in our salvation. We are saved from sin, death, the grave, and hell. We stand fully justified before God. We have received the imputed righteousness of Christ. Our joy is found in this, “For God so  loved the world, that He  gave His only begotten Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3.16). When our joy is rooted and grounded in the fact of our salvation then we will live life with an outrageous joy!

Way To Go Bubba!

In recent years we have heard a lot of athletes talking about their faith in Christ. Last week after winning the Masters golf tournament Bubba Watson gave the following interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

Bubba Watson, first-time winner of a Masters Tournament who earned his green jacket on Easter Sunday, recently spoke about tweeting for God, the PGA Bible study he took part in and his newly adopted son.

Watson, 33, spoke with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association after winning the 2012 Masters Tournament on Sunday. The golfer who tearfully thanked his “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” after the big win, said he utilises his Twitter account to spread his Christian faith.

Watson describes himself on his Twitter page as “Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer”. The Christian golfer said he has lost at least 100 followers for tweeting biblical messages.

When Watson receives negative backlash for his biblical tweets, he responds with messages like “I will pray for u and ur family.” The golfer also quoted one of his favorite Christian rappers, Lecrae, saying he would like his followers to see God through him.

“Lecrae said it the best,” Watson told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Watson maintained his Christian principles during the golf tournament by engaging in an hour-long Bible study with fellow golfers each week. He described the importance of being able to connect with both God and his peers.

“For me it’s a way to get back connected with the Bible and with God and Jesus. Now you know other people you can talk to, ask questions to, tell them what you’re thinking, tell them what’s going on in your life,” Watson said. “Getting more in the Word and realising that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

Watson, who recently adopted a one-month-old baby boy named Caleb with his former WNBA playing wife Angie Ball, also described his first church experience. According to Watson, twin girls from his neighbourhood convinced him to attend.

“The girls asked me to go to church,” Watson said. “And after a few times going I realised this is what I wanted to do. This is truth here. And I gave myself to the Lord.”

After he began dating Ball, the couple decided to live for Christ. Watson decided to get baptised with his wife in 2004 as a student at the University of Georgia.

“We wanted to be Christ followers,” Watson said. “We wanted to do the right thing. We started turning to the Lord for our decisions.”

The professional golfer, who said he has never taken a lesson, said he was grateful for the people around him and the opportunity to live his life for Christ.

“I’ve really got a good team around me trying to help me succeed,” Watson said. “Not just in golf, but off the golf course, to be a light for Jesus.”

Here Comes the Groom!

I have performed many weddings over my eighteen years in ministry. Just before the wedding starts I always tell the groom, “Be sure to watch as the doors open and you see your bride for the first time. It will be a memory you will never forget.” They usually nod out of respect not understanding exactly why I gave them that simple piece of advice. But then it happens, the doors open and standing there before them is their bride. The grooms eyes widen, his smile grows, and then a mental picture is taken that he will always remember. The long-awaited day of receiving his bride has arrived, and now they get to spend the rest of their lives together.

Jason Johnson writes in his post, “Easter and the Great Wedding to Come,” some of the truths from Scripture about the coming of The Groom for His bride—the church. One day Jesus will return for His bride, and their will be a great wedding on that day. It is a future day which should bring great anticipation, expectation, and preparation.

Johnson writes:

Throughout Scripture the marriage relationship is used as a picture of God’s relationship with his people. The bride and groom imagery highlights not only the covenantal love of God for his people but also their position within that relationship as the beneficiaries of his redemptive pursuit. A common theme woven within the thread of Scripture, from the Old to the New Testament, is God’s unwavering, unalterable, unceasing pursuit of his people into the consecrating and cleansing relationship of eternal marriage.

This is why the hallmark of all God’s grievances against his people is spiritual adultery, a heinous infidelity on the part of his people as they pursue lesser lovers and stray outside the conditions of the covenantal relationship (Jeremiah 13:27; Mark 8:38). God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 6:14-15), not because he lacks in companionship but because he longs for the exclusive affections of his people, as a groom does for his bride.

Jesus adopts the imagery of bride and groom as it pertains to his present application of the New Covenant and his future consummation of salvation through the great, eternal marriage with the church. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus allegorizes himself as the bridegroom and urges his disciples to stay alert, because they do not know the day or the hour he will return and take them to the eternal wedding celebration, i.e., the kingdom. He again refers to himself as the bridegroom while instructing his disciples on the proper purpose and function of fasting (Mark 2:18-20). As the bridegroom he will return to take his bride home, yet in the meantime, while he is present with them, fasting and longing for his return is not necessary.

Anticipation, Expectation, Preparation

The central focus of the wedding imagery in Scripture is anticipation, expectation, and preparation. It closely mirrors the traditional order of a first-century wedding, which involved a father arranging a bride for his son and paying the predetermined “bride price” on her behalf. The son would then return to his father’s house to make arrangements while the bride consecrated herself in eager anticipation for his final return for her. The terms of the relationship were sealed with ceremonial sharing of a glass of wine before the two parted ways and entered a time of anticipation and preparation leading up to the final wedding feast.

In strikingly similar fashion, God the Father has sent Jesus the Son to secure his bride, the church. The terms of the covenantal relationship between God and his people have been outlined in the gospel, and a great price has been paid by the Father to secure the relationship, namely, through the sacrifice of the Son on the Cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). The night before he would go to the Cross, Jesus shared a cup with his disciples as a means of symbolically sealing their new covenantal relationship. He instructed them to partake of this cup after his departure in remembrance of the price he paid for them and in anticipation of his future and final return for them.

Upon departure he will go to his Father’s house to prepare a place but will return one day to bring his bride home with him forever (John 14:2-3). The day and the hour of his return are unknown by all but the Father (Matthew 24:26). The bride of Christ, the church, eagerly waits and makes herself ready, setting herself apart for him and him alone, purifying herself for the day when he will return for her forever (1 Peter 1:13-16). He will come, and when he does the eternal wedding feast will commence (Revelation 19:7-8).

The recognition of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter is not an isolated act of God but a pinnacle point in the ongoing bride-groom narrative running throughout the current of Scripture. It’s the celebration of God acquiring a bride for his Son through the ultimate price of death paid on the Cross. It’s the height of God’s radical, redemptive pursuit of a sinful and broken people to secure them as his beautifully treasured Bride.

Wonder of the Gospel

Easter is the joyous celebration of the wonder of the gospel—that God has gone to great lengths to secure us for his Son. We are forever bound to Jesus by his death that purchased us and his resurrection that secured us into a future inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).

So we live in this present day as those who are consecrated to our future Groom—holy, set apart, uniquely and distinctively his. We live today with an eager sense of anticipation for the return of our Groom on a tomorrow yet to come. We live today as those who are valued not by the standards of this world but by the infinite price our Savior was willing to pay for us on the Cross. We are invaluably his, and he is ours.

We anticipate, we expect, and we prepare. Our Groom is coming back to take us home.