Flowing from the Heart

timingOn the last and most important day of the feast Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. John 7:37-39

There are no mistakes in God’s timing. There’s nothing unintentional about his Word. What God does and when he does it is purposeful.

John records Jesus speaking on the last and most important day of the feast. The timing is significant. Jesus stood and spoke in a loud voice. The delivery was significant. What he was about to say was important, and Jesus wanted everyone to hear. The subject of his promise was “anyone.” His inclusion is significant. No one is left out of “anyone.” He spoke about something familiar to everyone: thirst. Everyone has experienced thirst. Everyone seeks to quench thirst. Jesus also spoke in declarative sentences. He often used questions to teach. Through the answering of questions, Jesus wanted people to process the content of what he was teaching. He wanted people to draw parallels of common, everyday life into spiritual lessons of faith in order to challenge growth. In this case, he spoke with authority as he delivered a promise. He wanted everyone to understand the important truth of what he was promising.

What he promised is the Holy Spirit. The entire, brief promise he delivered is purposeful. It’s intentional. And it’s about the thirst-quenching Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke where, when and to whom he spoke in order to deliver a promise about the Holy Spirit. It was significant – not only to those listening that day but to us today.

What do you believe about the Holy Spirit?

What significance does the Holy Spirit have in your faith and, specifically, in your daily life?

God gives us himself in the Holy Spirit to reside within us to guide, encourage, and convict us. The Holy Spirit equips us to live out our faith every moment. The Holy Spirit is living water: nourishing your faith. But you must listen, yield, and obey.

Live It. Tie a colored ribbon around your wrist as a visible reminder through your day to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Avoid rationalizing why you should respond in certain ways. Instead, trust God’s guidance, acknowledging you’re giving the Holy Spirit authority in your life.

Time to Move

you-are-stuck-141When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?”

The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.”

Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. John 5:6-9

We can sit right beside the source of our healing or growth and not access it. We might think we can’t. We focus on the limits instead of the possibilities. The man beside the water had an excellent location for healing but was still sick. He didn’t know how to access healing. He thought his limitations would stop him from accessing the water and healing. Then he encountered Jesus, who has no limits.

God doesn’t exist within our limits. To him, all things are possible, but all things aren’t probable. He is not limited, but he has limits because he sets them himself. He will not do everything even though he can because he knows the best choice and timing for every situation and person. Our unlimited God responds within the limits of what is pure, true and noble. He will never do anything outside of his character. Of that we can be certain.

When have you let perceived limits stop you or hold you back?

When has God shown you a limit that led to growth?

We don’t always get our way. It’s a good thing, because we’d be spoiled brats. God sometimes allows us to get a taste or glimpse of what we think we want. We can do this his way or choose our own way…and eventually get back to his way because we (hopefully) realize our way was inferior from the beginning. His way is best. He knows the best limits to set although the possibilities for him are limitless.

Live It. Jot a list of every area in which you currently feel limited. Cross off anything on the list over which you believe God has no control. Circle everything else, and spend time in prayer, intentionally giving each one to God, trusting him to set the best limits for you in each area. Step out in faith, trusting his timing and provision.

Give Me This Water

indexJesus said, “If you only knew the free gift of God and who it is that is asking you for water, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, where will you get this living water? The well is very deep, and you have nothing to get water with. Are you greater than Jacob, our father, who gave us this well and drank from it himself along with his sons and flocks?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so I will never be thirsty again and will not have to come back here to get more water.” John 4:10-15

The Samaritan woman at the well didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. She thought he was talking about the physical water she drew from the well – the well she trudged to and from every day. The conversation between the woman and Jesus was on two levels: the practical level, which the woman focused upon, and the spiritual level, which Jesus superimposed.

The woman kept pulling the conversation back to what she knew. She could only think in the context in which she lived. She was practical. She needed water and disliked trudging back and forth to the well, likely for a variety of reasons, and if she could find a way to not have to continue the routine by accessing what Jesus said was eternal, she’d choose his way!

We often respond to God in the context of what we understand. We can’t get outside of our own world long enough to see the possibilities God places right before us. We think things can only work a certain way because we’ve worn ruts in the road, just as the Samaritan woman had worn along the path to the well. The journey was automatic. What about your journey is currently automatic?

God wants to reveal himself to you in fresh ways. He wants you to acknowledge him instead of remaining focused on your daily routine. He wants to offer a refreshing drink to you. Will you accept?

Live It. God will refresh you today. Watch for it. It might be through a friend’s encouraging word or a stranger’s smile. It might be an unexpected email or text. It could be a gorgeous sunset or fluttering butterfly. Be prepared, and give God the credit. Soak up every drop of his nourishment.

Water the Seed

seed1A farmer went out to plant his seed. While he was planting, some seed fell by the road. People walked on the seed, and the birds ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it began to grow, it died because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorny weeds, but the weeds grew up with it and choked the good plants. And some seed fell on good ground and grew and made a hundred times more…The seed that fell on rock is like those who hear God’s teaching and accept it gladly, but they don’t allow the teaching to go deep into their lives. They believe for a while, but when trouble comes, they give up. Luke 8:5-8, 13

Seed will die without water. Water provides the nourishment it needs. It’s just one aspect of nourishment, but without it, the seed will die. The same is true about our faith. In order to grow, we have to have water. We have to receive the nourishment God provides for us.

When have you experienced a dry season of faith? What did it feel like? How did you respond?

Our relationship with God won’t automatically grow. No relationship will automatically grow. Any relationship will default to atrophy. Without intentionality, we’ll become distant. We’ll question the importance of the relationship. We’ll wonder why we were in the relationship in the first place and might even begin to reframe it in negative ways, justifying why we’re no longer in it.

Faith takes nurturing. If ignored, it will cease to grow at all or grow in unhealthy ways. We have to pay attention. We have to invest. And we have to remember the relationship is not just about us. Our relationship is with God, which means he has significant input. We have to listen to him. We have to become familiar with him. We have to respect him. He is God and doesn’t need to prove his trustworthiness and sovereignty, but his consistency proves it in time as we interact with and rely upon him.

We pray, not just sharing requests but praising God and allowing him to pour his encouragement and admonishment into us. We study, not just for head knowledge but for heart knowledge, placing intimacy with God far above familiarity for trivia. We worship, not just during a weekend service but as a lifestyle, striving to praise and honor him in everything we do.

Live It. How is God challenging you to become more intimate with him today, pouring life-sustaining water into you? Don’t wait. Respond today. Small steps are fine. Inactivity is not.

If You Say So

fishWhen Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Take the boat into deep water, and put your nets in the water to catch some fish.”

Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish, and we caught nothing. But you say to put the nets in the water, so I will.” When the fishermen did as Jesus told them, they caught so many fish that the nets began to break. They called to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full that they were almost sinking. Luke 5:4-7

When have you prayed something like this when God has guided you to make a particular decision? God, I hear what you’re saying, but I have to say that I don’t think it will work. I’ve tried already. I’ve been patient. Nothing has happened. But if you say so, I will.

Or have you been more stubborn and explained to God why something wouldn’t work, not adding the additional commitment to yield to his instruction?

Simon trusted Jesus. He obeyed even though it didn’t make sense to him. It was more important that he follow Jesus than do it his own way. His rationalization didn’t cause him to ignore Jesus. He took the focus off the solution and placed it firmly on the one who was giving the solution. He might not have trusted the solution, but he trusted the solution-giver.

When has someone given you advice that you ignored because you were confident it wouldn’t work? When has someone given you advice you thought might not work or would be uncomfortable for you but you followed it anyway because of the respect you had for the person?

When people have proven themselves trustworthy to us, we’re more likely to listen. When we prove ourselves as trustworthy, others are more likely to listen – even when what we suggest goes against what someone thinks will work. Of course, we as humans aren’t always going to have the right answers, so we have to discern whether or not the advice given matches with God’s Word and his character. When it does, we can proceed. Even when we’re not sure but can find nothing that conflicts with God’s Word and character, we can at least proceed with caution. God is trustworthy. Build trust in relationships he is bringing into your life.

Live It. Take a trust inventory. Who in your life is consistent with God’s Word? How consistent are you? You don’t need to isolate yourself from those who are inconsistent. After all, we all have faults and are growing. However, be discerning. God will guide you as you invest in relationships.

Be Still

TrustLeaving the crowd behind, they took him in the boat just as he was. There were also other boats with them. A very strong wind came up on the lake. The waves came over the sides and into the boat so that it was already full of water. Jesus was at the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a cushion. His followers woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning!”

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm. Mark 4:36-39

God cares about our responses even when he knows they’re unwarranted. We can be frightened when there is no reason to be frightened, and God can calm us. We can be angry when there is no reason to be angry, and God can give us peace. We can be frustrated, anxious, or sad, and God can either reveal the truth of a situation to us or reveal himself to us by changing the situation. He does both.

Jesus could have tried to explain to his followers why they didn’t need to be fearful. He could have said, “Have you not noticed I am not afraid? As my followers, you can follow my lead. If I am at peace, you can be at peace as well. I will not lead you astray. I will not deceive you.” Or, he could have explained why the wind and waves would not harm them. He chose neither approach. He chose to simply respond with action.

God responds in different ways in different situations. He is unchanging. He is reliable. However, he is beyond our comprehension and prediction. He will respond in a way that is consistent with his character but not always consistent with our expectations.

When have you expected God to respond in a certain way and was surprised or disappointed when he didn’t? When has God pleasantly surprised you in an unexpected response or provision?

God knows when we need to wait. He knows when we need to immediately experience him in a big way. He doesn’t make us respond in a certain way, but he helps create a situation that is best for our growth. He wants to draw us close to him, and that means knowing us well enough to provide specifically for our growth needs. He knows when to water, wait and prune. We might want things faster, slower, smaller or bigger, but he knows “just right.”

Live It. Accept a situation as “just right” today. It might not match your expectations but ask and trust God to give you his peace through it. Be sure to thank him for knowing and loving you.

Do Not Be Afraid

DoubtButtonImmediately Jesus told his followers to get into the boat and go ahead of him across the lake. He stayed there to send the people home. After he had sent them away, he went by himself up into the hills to pray. It was late, and Jesus was there alone. By this time, the boat was already far away from land. It was being hit by waves, because the wind was blowing against it. Between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When his followers saw him walking on the water, they were afraid. They said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out in fear.

But Jesus quickly spoke to them, “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Peter said, “Lord, if it is really you, then command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

And Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. But when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. Jesus said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?”

After they got into the boat, the wind became calm. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, “Truly you are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:22-32

We ask for God to show his power. We ask him to show himself in our lives. We want to experience him. Yet when we do, we often doubt it’s him. We want proof. We want to make sure the presence of God is actually the presence of God, so we test and ask and plead.

Jesus did what no one could do. He revealed himself to followers. Instead of being amazed, they were afraid. Jesus comforted them with words, assuring them he was Jesus. Peter tested him. Jesus was certainly patient, doing what Peter requested. Peter apparently didn’t doubt for long, because when he became afraid and began to sink, he immediately called out to Jesus. He needed someone to save him and trusted Jesus to be that someone. Once the water had calmed, everyone in the boat finally acknowledged the presence and power of Jesus. Well, it’s about time!

It’s easy for us to read this account of Jesus and his followers and wonder what took them so long, but there are similar situations in our lives. When have you questioned, doubted, or ignored God’s power or presence?

Live It. God doesn’t have to show up in monumental ways in order to reveal his power or show his presence. He’s present and powerful in the daily. Watch for him today and jot a note each time you experience him.