Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Restoring Oasis

Today, Craig Cortright shared an awesome message with us prior to the baptism of several people. I just love watching baptisms, and the messages connected with them always speak to my heart.

Craig related the baptisms to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). We all go through “fiery furnaces” in our lives and God is with us through it all! We are never alone!! God never leaves us or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He walks through the fires with us, just like He did with the three men in the story. So, fear not!! He loves us and we belong to Him, and He’s always by our side helping us walk through our hardships (Isaiah 43).

Jesus is our source for helping us wander through the wilderness of life. Jesus is our living water and He restores and refreshes us. Craig effectively described the difference between “living water” and “dead water.” He said the Jews knew exactly what both of those terms were. Living water described the pure, fresh, and good water that one got from a waterfall, stream, or pure source. Dead water was water that came from stagnant pools, ponds, or even cisterns. Craig said that they used to have a cistern as his house when he was young. It was water collected in a large cement hole that came from the rain water collected from the spout. Isn’t that nice? Can you imagine drinking or bathing in such water? Craig said that sometimes when it hadn’t rained in a while, and the water wasn’t so fresh, there would be “things” growing in it. He said his Dad even had to fish a dead rat out of it one time. How lovely!!

Craig explained the concepts of living and dead water so all of us could understand what God was saying when He was using those terms in Jeremiah 2:11-13: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

As evidenced by the scriptures, living and dead water was a metaphor used to describe one’s relationship with God. Living water is God’s substance and provision and dead water is the cheap substitutes of this world. Craig showed us a quote of John MacArthur’s that describes what Jesus’ living water is: “Salvation in all its fullness, and the ability and desire to live an obedient life that glorifies God.” I like that quote, particularly the first few words that affirm that living water is “salvation in all its fullness.” Jesus said that He wanted us to have an abundant and full life, and that comes from the living water that He provides. If we live on nothing but dead water from cisterns, how full is our life going to be? Do we really think that gunky, stagnant, dead water is going to satisfy us? Who in their right mind would choose that water over pure, fresh, clean, and thirst quenching water?

Sadly, many of us drink that cistern water. We do it because we are “looking for an earthly need to provide a spiritual need.” It’s much like the situation of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus. Five husbands hadn’t fulfilled her deepest need, and Jesus knew that. No person or thing could possibly fulfill and satisfy her in the way she was most longing for. That is why Jesus offered her His living water (John 4:10).

We are all guilty of turning to things other than God to fulfill our deepest needs. Craig said there is a “restlessness” and that word really resonated with me. There is a “restlessness” when you aren’t satisfied, content, and at peace. That is why we all must spend time in our own private oasis of living water with Jesus. This world is a wilderness and all around us are temptations for “dead water.” But, refreshment and restoration is what we really need.

Thinking about that concept reminds me of something my friend Phil once told me. Phil loves to ride his bicycle for long distances, and of course, that’s a monumental accomplishment - not everyone can ride twenty miles or more at a time!! He said that he often eats salads because the nutrients in them strengthen and replenish what he has lost. Phil understands he needs to renew his strength after such long expenditures. He doesn‘t foolishly think that he can just keep riding long distances like that without proper nutrition and rest.

That’s the mentality we all need to have. If we are to keep going on in this journey of life, we need to replenish our strength and nourish ourselves!! Where does our strength come from? Our strength comes from God, our oasis!! Spend time in the cool of the pool resting and relaxing. Drink up the living water and let it nourish the depths of your soul!! Let the peace and wisdom that Jesus brings to you restore you with the strength you need to keep trekking on the path of life!! Forsake the cisterns of dead water and pass them by!! Go to the pure source!!

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