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If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” John 7:38 (NCV)

Water is an amazing thing when you think about it. It’s springtime in the Midwestern USA. Although we look forward to spring and the end of winter, springtime brings some ominous partners with it. The Red River of the North flows north along the western edge of Minnesota and into Canada.

I remember going to Fargo ND for a conference one October. During a break I decided to drive to a park and walk along this mighty river I’d heard so much about. Every spring the Red River overflows its banks, sometimes with disastrous results. I have to admit I was somewhat surprised by what I saw. The river was much smaller than I expected. It was hard to imagine how this rather small river could cause so much havoc. However, the banks can only hold so much water and then it must find other ways to go. Stagnant water doesn’t offer much concern, but moving water; living water can not be stopped!

One day, Jesus was teaching in the temple. He told the people that if ‘anyone was thirsty, they should come to him.’ He wasn’t talking about physical thirst. He was talking about that thirst that parches our very soul. You know the kind. It’s like those times when you are very thirsty physically and can’t seem to get enough liquid in you to quench the thirst. The emptiness and the dryness leaves you longing for more.

Jesus promises us that if we follow him and his ways; if we confess our sins and change our lifestyle, he will quench that deep thirst of our souls. He is the ‘drink’ that satisfies.

But Jesus goes further. Not only will the water he gives satisfy our souls, it will overflow like a river that has overflowed its banks. Nothing will stop its progress. Everyone will take notice of it! The only difference is that this river that flows out of us is a river of life, not destruction; a river of forgiveness, not judgment; a river of righteousness, not selfishness.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are given living water that flows through us for the benefit of others. So, what kind of river are you today? Are you stagnant and seeking refreshment? Seek Jesus. Are you allowing the living water to flow through you and into the life of at least one other person? May we all be like the Red River of the North. May our lives overflow, not with water, but with the love of Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus I lift up those who are struggling with the unquenchable thirst of their souls. May they find refreshment in you. I pray for us as your followers. May the river of your grace overflow our ability to contain it for the benefit of others. In your name I pray, Amen.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25 NIV

It seems like we are deluged with pictures and stories of the horrific famine that is ravaging parts of our world. The pictures and stories anger us. They rip our hearts out and make us question why. Why does God allow this? Why don’t we do more to stop the carnage? Why are those people who withhold assistance allowed to continue to do so? Why….?

Latest estimates tell us that roughly 1/3 of the world will go to bed hungry tonight. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies from hunger. Want a better perspective of that gruesome thought? This Sunday while you sit in your comfortable 1 hour church service, 17 people will die of starvation.

These statistics are staggering. It may be of some comfort to know that comparatively few people die of starvation in the U.S.A., but it’s of little comfort.

Harsh as those statistics are, there is another statistic that’s even more staggering. It’s a type of starvation that will never make the news. Those who suffer from this type of starvation often suffer alone. Its effects are rarely noticeable. Some who have noticed have openly chastised these victims for their plight! Not only do they suffer from the starvation, they are blamed for their condition. Such is the plight of those who suffer from starvation of the soul.

Disease and starvation of the physical body is easily seen, but those who suffer from starvation of the soul, suffer in silence. They live in a world where nothing seems to go right. Relationships fail. Attempts at success are met with failure and on those rare occasions when they do succeed there is no one there to cheer them on. All of us long for someone to slap us on the back occasionally and tell us we did a great job. Soul starved people long for that but rarely see it.

The people of Israel knew what that was like. They had all the assets of the God of the Universe at their fingertips but never figured out how to make it work. They tried and failed and suffered the consequences. But there was hope. Jeremiah tells them that someday God would revive them, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

That refreshment comes through Jesus. Regardless of how deep your pain is, Jesus is there to comfort. No matter how dark the bruises of your heart, he is there to pour the soothing oil of his grace over them.

Jesus came to refresh us. It’s really a pretty cool word picture. The word would be better translated as ‘satiates’ (full to the top) or ‘inebriates’. You read that right. ‘Inebriates’. The same word we use to describe someone who has turned over control of their bodies to alcohol or drugs.

Each of us struggle in some aspect of life. It may be in our relationships. It may be with our jobs or our thought life. The bruises of an abusive past or the ghosts of our abusers may haunt us. Jesus came to refresh, to encourage, to make us so drunk (if I can be blunt) on his love and forgiveness that the pain of our starvation is filled and we can approach each new day filled to contentment.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I pray for those who are struggling physically. Let us not forget their plight or fail to meet their needs as best we can. But I pray as well for those suffering from starvation of the soul. May they find contentment and filling in you. Amen.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

It’s during those wilderness times that true character shows forth. Set aside for the moment the fact that Jesus was the son of God; that he was fully God and fully man. Born of a virgin, Jesus was perfect in all his ways, yet this divine person had within him the emotional and physical attributes of man as well.

Isn’t that the same as us in some respects? We are created in God’s image. Within each of us there is both divine and earthly, and in that is the conflict we deal with for all of life; the battle between good and evil; the struggle to regain the relationship with had with our creator and the desire to fill the void humanity has left in us.

Gerald G. May states: “There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our heart. We were born with it, it is never completely satisfied, and it never dies. We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake.”

Stunning words. Meditate on them for a moment. “A desire within each of us… We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake.”

That desire rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. When we are weakest it whispers in our ears. When our dreams seem less likely to be fulfilled it screams accusations. When our choices lead to pain for ourselves or others it mocks us.

Jesus Christ knows how you feel during those times of weakness. Forty days without food would make any man weak. Forty days without bread leads the body to scream for comfort; awakens the desire within for fulfillment.

When we are at our weakest desire pleads with us to take matters into our own hands. We don’t deserve to be treated this way. Life would be better if others would listen to us. I can find what I need in a new relationship, a new job, a new set of surroundings.

When confronted with desire in the form of the great enemy, Satan, Jesus response was classic. It’s not about bread. Even the physical yearnings of hunger and the weakness brought on by a lack of food did not keep him from being focused on the true source of fulfillment; the true cure for desire.

Later, Jesus would say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the ones who will be filled.”

Where has desire taken you? What path have you found yourself on that you never imagined you’d walk? What physical pain are you enduring because of your attempts at quieting the screaming voice of desire? Jesus is enough. His forgiveness, grace and guidance through the Holy Spirit is the only way desire will be silenced.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I wrestle daily with the attacks of desire on my thoughts and attitudes. I want it my way. I want to fill this hole in my soul with things I know are temporary fixes. Fill me with your Spirit and quiet the voice of human desire today. Amen.

Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Ephesians 4:2 (CEV)

The facts of this story are made up. The reality of the story is repeated at different levels all over the world. Those who Jesus prayed would love each other as a sign of God’s love spend time fighting about things of finite importance while the things of eternity are overlooked.

First Church was a charming church in a mid-sized city in the Midwest. The church was over 100 years old and had remained a solid influence in the community. Many were baptized, married and buried as a result of First Church.

As the small town grew, so did First Church. As a result it soon began to feel growing pains and it was evident that something had to change. Since it was located on a lot that encompassed and entire city block, the church leaders proposed adding on to the current sanctuary in order to minister better to the younger generation.

That’s when the trouble began. The thought of changing the century old building didn’t sit well with the Smith family. Great-great-grandpa Smith was one of the charter members of First Church. The family was wealthy and influential at First Church as well as in the entire town.

Then again, so were the Jones’. Old Martin Jones owned the lumber company that provided all the lumber for the building…free. Jones’ Lumber Company still held a sizable investment in the community and promised a good price on material for the building program.

Soon the church was divided between those siding with the official ‘Smith’ delegation and those who agreed with the Jones’ and the leadership that something must be done and adding on was the best, least intrusive way to improve the ministry.

Eventually, the disagreement moved outside church walls and into the courts as the Smith’s and Jones’ decided to duke it out in front of a judge. The lawsuit included the church and put a sizable strain on the church budget, not to mention the spiritual atmosphere of the church family.

The fight became so intense that eventually many left First Church and started their own church across town in the school gymnasium. The legal fees and the loss of membership not only tainted the image of First Church, it forced them to close their doors.

How we respond to people we disagree with determines our view of God’s power and their view of God’s Grace. The Apostle Paul challenged the church in Ephesus (and us?) to live in harmony with each other. The word ‘gentle’ can also be translated ‘meek.’ Meekness means we set aside our own feelings for a greater good. Meekness means we see the Kingdom of God as being more important than the work of a man’s hands.

The one admonishing the church to live in gentleness was far from gentle in his earlier life. Look at the description of Saul (Paul) before his conversion: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 (NIV)

What was the difference? Saul met Jesus. One need only to read the letters Paul wrote to the New Testament church to see that even in his gentleness, he never lost his tenacity. It was just redirected from his own personal convictions to the leading of the Savior.

We aren’t called to change people. We are called to be meek and allow God’s power to change people. The meek not only inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), they show the world the love of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you prayed in the garden for unity and love to show through us so others will see you. We haven’t done well with that. Help us to live in unity so others will see you. Amen.


Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (NLT)

How do you respond to someone who attacks you? Or maybe the question should be “Do you respond or react?”

Reaction is immediate, swift and impulsive. Response involves thought and time and deciding if the best action is non-action. Sometimes, of course, the situation itself dictates the answer to that question. For example, when physical harm is imminent there is no time to waste. Action must be swift.

There are other times when our best action may not be reaction but taking time to step back and consider our response. The human reaction when we are attacked is either fight or flight. The decision is often determined by our ability, or perceived ability to win. That’s what it’s really all about isn’t it? Isn’t that why the guy cut you off yesterday? You were in HIS lane? Isn’t that why you felt so good (for awhile anyway) when you didn’t give a tip to that incompetent, rude server at the restaurant during lunch? Isn’t that why you got into the face of your teenager when they were disrespectful to you ‘for the last time’? It was all about control, all about who will come out on top.

From the very beginning of time, every conflict has been about who will control what or whom. That was the motivation behind Satan as he entered the garden, it’s the basis of every national and family conflict ever since. We want to win and sometimes we want to win at all costs.

Psalm 37:11 teaches us, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.”

That’s just the opposite of how we normally think. It’s not the meek that get anything except to be treated as doormats. But meekness isn’t weakness; meekness is having power that is under control. As believers in Jesus Christ we are not called to be doormats, we are children of the king. We are, however called to be meek. We have all the power of the Triune God on our side, but we are to consider how we can be meek when it comes to our own way.

Meekness is hard because meekness means that even though we have all power and even though we may be right, we release the situation in which we feel attacked or mistreated to God so that he can handle it.

Meekness means we wait for God’s timing, not our own. God has promised to protect us. He’s promised to be with us, to walk with us during the dark valleys of life. Sometimes his promises seem slow, but they are not slow. He’s just much more patient than we are.

Meekness means we trust God’s methods. When we are mistreated or attacked we have a pretty good idea of how it should be handled. Usually, if we are honest, it will be handled in a way that gives us glory. However, God’s intention is never to give us glory; God’s intention is to bring glory to Himself; it’s never about revenge but always about restoration.

Meekness goes against every human part of us. It can only come as we learn to give control of our lives to Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I confess that many of the conflicts I’m involved in are a result of my demands for my own way and not for your glory or the restoration of others. Empower me with your Spirit to give you the control in the conflicts in my relationships. Amen.

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April 2013
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