words from a broken vessel

following Christ in the 21st century

What are you drinking?

glass faucetReports have surfaced about a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. According to the Washington Post: “Since the city switched suppliers in April 2014, corrosive tap water has caused the level of lead in kids’ blood to soar and has sparked fears of permanent neurological damage. In some cases, the water has been so poisoned by lead that it qualified as ‘toxic waste.’”[1]

As a father, I was horrified at the report. The thought of my daughter having lead poisoning because of a government decision infuriated me. No child should have to suffer from drinking something that is supposed to give life!

But then I thought about my own daughter from another perspective. Am I pointing her to Christ, the source of living water? Or am I allowing her to drink the world’s poison?

There is a point in her life that she must choose – either herself or Christ. But since she is given as gift of God, my wife and I have a responsibility to teach her the truth of God and Christ. We are to filter out what is not good for her at this young age.

Please understand: I am not talking about isolation, which does not prepare her for the realities of living in a sin-soaked world. What I am talking about is inoculation, which means training her to know about the realities of this world and the answers found in Scripture.

However, we are still responsible to protect our 3-year-old from things that she cannot fend off. We are to consistently and lovingly strengthen her by teaching her God’s Word and the reason to believe in the gospel.

But what about you? Do you claim Christ and still drink from contaminated wells? Or maybe you are not a Christian but are tired of drinking from the same polluted stream and recognize that it is not satisfying as you once thought. You have been from one person to another, one new fad to another, believed that happiness was found in material wealth, or that new job position, or that new someone, and yet…you are still dry inside.

In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well.[2] After asking for a drink, and some conversation about racial differences and historical ancestry, Jesus tells her: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[3]

So come and drink. There is no cost to you, although it did cost Jesus His life. And you will find it to be the purest and most refreshing water with a surprising health benefit – eternal life!

 

 

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/10/manslaughter-charges-possible-in-flint-water-crisis-says-top-investigator/ [accessed February 10, 16]

[2] The entire account is in John 4:7-42

[3] John 4:13-14 ESV

The Enigma Called Prayer

lightstock_157088_medium_walter_Many years ago, I searched out all the Scriptures regarding prayer, using a massive concordance and reference guides (this was before the Internet was a household item).

I read numerous books about the subject from well-known authors such as Spurgeon, Moody, and Bounds; I also read books by some not-so-well-known authors.

I watched multiple You Tube clips of preachers extolling the virtues of prayer and how prayer has been answered in their own churches.

I listened to various testimonies of incredible – even miraculous – answers to prayer.

And of course, I prayed myself.

After two decades of being a praying Christian, and as an announcement for 2016, I can finally declare what I know about prayer…

It is still a complete mystery to me!

I know…major disappointment. But continue to read to understand why I came to that conclusion.

As I said, I prayed for many years – sometimes consistently, and sometimes not. A few times I had amazing breakthroughs in a very short time; other times it has been long and arduous; in most cases the answer never came or appeared as a definite “no.”

This inconsistency has been frustrating. Why haven’t my prayers worked? What am I doing wrong? What sin in my life prevents God from answering? What must I do to make prayer work?

The problem with my complaint is the complaint itself. I forgot what is prayer. Prayer is not an object and it is not a method. Prayer is the personal interaction between a redeemed soul and a holy God. He is a being with his own mind, volition and will. He is not a vending machine. He is not my genie. When I pray to God, I am praying to someone who is completely independent from me. In Psalm 50, verse 12, God declares:

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.

Imagine if I treated my wife the way I treated God. I would communicate with my wife only a means of getting answers and having my needs fulfilled. Can you imagine what she would say to me?

One of my common complaints about prayer is why can’t God answer me the way he answer Elijah when he prayed for fire to fall down on the sacrifice (the account is mentioned in 1 Kings 18:36-40). He prayed and BOOM, it happened.

However, there was an interesting detail I had missed. Before this miraculous episode, Elijah had spent three years in communion with God as he waited for direction. Three years of daily reliance and fellowship with God.

Therefore, the first thing to remember about prayer is that we must spend a lot of time with God and to know him before the answer will come. It does take effort. Wesley Duewell says, “Prevailing prayer always involves a price, and Elijah paid that price for at least three years.”[1]

The second thing to remember is although God may have quickly answered a prayer before it does not mean that he will do so again. After Elijah had an instant answer to his prayer, he immediately prayed afterwards for God to end the drought that Israel had suffered for three years. He had to pray seven times before his servant saw a small cloud on the horizon and then the rain came.

So in the end, press on. Take the time and effort to have fellowship with God until the answer comes.

Sometimes the request will change as you seek God.

Sometimes you will change and the answer will not be necessary any more.

Other times the answer will not come.

But always remember that the reality of prayer is that you – an animated house of dirt – through the blood of Christ shed on the cross, have the privilege to commune with the Creator of the universe, and call him Father. And that should be more valuable than the answer itself.

[1] Mighty Prevailing Prayer, EPub Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 16.

“Just Like Daddy!”

daddy child feetI came home from prayer meeting one evening to find my wife curled up with by daughter Bella in bed. She was reading the Children’s Bible to Bella and mentioned that it was Bella’s choice since she wanted to be “like Daddy.” In fact, when she saw me, she held up the green hard covered book and repeatedly said, “Just like you, Daddy, just like you,” with a broad smile on her face, until I acknowledge that she was indeed imitating me.

When I was deciding how to write about this wonderful episode, I thought that this was an obvious lesson about godly parenting and how living by example influences children. However, I have to say that I have not been perfect (and only been a parent for three years). A few months later I contemplated on writing how we should be eager to follow God’s commands. However, several months later (I apologize for the delay in a blog post – several things came up in life) it finally hit me what God was showing me through this father and daughter interaction.

The question I really needed to ask was “why”. Why did my daughter (who was two at the time) make the effort and have joy in imitating her sinner-saved-by-grace Dad? And then it hit me. The reason was love. Bella loved her Dad and wanted to follow me by imitating me.

Jesus admonished to his disciples, “if you love me, follow my commandments” (John 14:15). Whenever I read this verse, I usually have a hard time with it. I sometimes bristle at the decree. It almost seems that the only way my love is to be shown to Jesus is by following a bunch of rules. What happened to grace? What happened to accepting me “Just As I Am” as the hymn suggests?

That is where Bella helped me. Bella was born from me and loves me. Therefore, she desires to emulate me (I wish that would include cleaning up her toys after she finishes with them, but that is another blog post). The point Jesus was trying to explain was that the normal progression of love is to imitate the one you love. If you love Jesus, then  you will follow Him, and obey him. Jesus said it in another way: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21 ESV).

Therefore, take some time out of your hectic schedule to meditate on Jesus Himself. What He has done. What He is doing in your life and the life of others. Remember what He did on that cross a couple millennia ago, dying as a common criminal on behalf of another criminal (look in the mirror at this point). Take the time to fall in love with Him all over again. When you see Jesus as who He really is then you will truly find that His commands are actually “easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 ESV). You will discover joy as you actively obey Him. Then you will be able to look at Him and say with a broad smile, “Just like you, Jesus, just like you!”