Tag Archives: Source

The Source Makes All the Difference

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.
1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

Cleanliness is next to godliness,” the old saying goes.

That is not in the Bible, by the way. Scholars say it originated as a proverb in ancient Hebrew and Babylonian texts. It was first quoted in modern times by Charles Wesley in a sermon in 1778.

That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? What human traditions grow up around spiritual themes that actually take focus away from the Spirit to whom I’m supposed to be connected?

The Dutch protestant culture from which I spring has always been fastidious, clean, and hard-working. We memorialize it every year during Tulip Time as we first scrub the streets before the parade can begin. Eventually, however, the social and religious pressure to keep up clean and orderly outside appearances with all we are and all we own takes precedence over a Life-filled inner Spirit. The result is what Jesus described of the religious people of His time:

“Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

“Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.

Along my life journey I’ve been taught many ways to godliness; Spiritual disciplines, rule following, and following the trending spiritual fad hawked by Christian marketers (looking to make a buck) and the spiritual gurus they put on pedestals for us to idolize. I found myself struggling for so long. On the outside I appeared the poster chid of spiritual health as I dutifully kept up with all the outside rules, disciplines, and exercises. Inside my life was dark and out of control.

In today’s chapter Paul writes to his young spiritual protégé about the mystery [“Mystery is not something we can’t understand, but something we endlessly understand.” – R. Rohr] from which true godliness springs, and it has nothing to do with tidying up a la Marie Kondo. Paul goes on to quote what was an ancient poem or hymn about Jesus. True godliness is sourced in the person and work of Jesus. That’s it.

Paul has just finished giving Timothy multiple lists of qualifications for those who will lead the local gathering of Jesus’ followers. He then ends by reminding Timothy that all of these qualifications are not sourced in religious rule keeping and the keeping up of appearances, but in the endless pursuit and discovery of deep Spirit connection and Life-giving relationship with the resurrected Christ. Paul never wrote “I want you to know how to be good religious rule followers,” but he did write “I want you to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection.”

The source from which I seek godliness makes all the difference.

The Book, and the Journey

While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses.
2 Chronicles 34:14 (NRSVCE)

I was just 14 years old when I decided to become a follower of Jesus. The first thing I did after making that decision was to begin reading the Living Bible that I’d received for my confirmation a few years before with it’s puke green, imitation leather cover. I’d learned about the Bible all my life. I’d read verses from it, but I’d never really read it. Somehow I knew as I launched out on my faith journey that I had to read the Book for real.

A short time later I had an after school job and my boss asked if I’d like to do a Bible study together. I jumped at the chance. Every Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. we met together in his office. One of the first things he had me do was memorize Joshua 1:8:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (FYI, I typed this from memory. It’s still in there!)

That first memorized verse set the course for me spiritually. I have been journeying through God’s Message ever since. The Book is the source material of faith. I have read it through in a year. I’ve read it in different translations and paraphrases. I have studied it academically. I have studied it alone and in groups. I have memorized parts of it. I keep plumbing the depths, discovering new layers, and finding new meaning as I make my way through it again and again from altogether different waypoints in my own Life journey. (And, I continue to read it with those few brave souls who follow along here a chapter a day!)

In today’s chapter we are nearing the end of the Chronicler’s historical summary of the Kings of Judah. Mannaseh had reigned for fifty-five years and the nation had fallen back into its idolatrous ways. Now young Josiah becomes King and leads the people in a revival back to the God of their ancestors. First, he gets rid of all the idols in the land, then he begins a restoration campaign of the Temple of Solomon. This was not a quick process. The restoration of the Temple began 18 years into Josiah’s reign. During the restoration they discovered the Book of the Law (what we would know today as Genesis through Deuteronomy). In other words, the source material of the Hebrew faith had been lost and forgotten for years. They didn’t even know where it was, let alone did they remember what was in it!

How long had they been stumbling along without the source material of their faith? What were they relying on to inform them, encourage them, and instruct them? Oral tradition? The memory of old priests? How did they know they were living in accordance with God’s Law if they didn’t even have a copy of the Law to reference? The discovery of the Book of the Law was huge, as we’ll find out in the final few chapters of Chronicles.

This morning I’m thinking about my never-ending journey through the Book and the Great Story. How different my journey would be without this Source of wisdom, history, instruction, inspiration, encouragement, admonishment, and insight. I’m so thankful I took Joshua 1:8 to heart. I’m so grateful that I’ve not had to fly blind in my faith journey, that I’ve had the Book as my Source material.

Thanks for reading along with me.

Fahrenheit 451 and a Famine of Words

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Amos 8:11 (NIV)

Twenty-four years ago, in the summer of 1993, the City of Des Moines was hit with a terrible flood. No one living in Iowa had seen anything like it in our lifetime. The city’s water works facility was flooded and was unable to generate clean water for ten days. I will never forget those days of having to chug five gallon buckets of water from our apartment building’s swimming pool to use for flushing toilets. Walking to watering stations where tanker trucks would fill whatever receptacles you could find with fresh water to use for cooking. The mindless daily routine of showering took on new meaning.

We don’ t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone.

The same can be said for spiritual things. The first chapter of John’s biography of Jesus is one of the most beautiful passages ever penned. John introduces us to Jesus, the “Word.”

Food provides for our physical daily nourishment. In the same way God tells us that the Word provides us with spiritual daily nourishment. In our day and culture, this resource is ours in abundance and I know that I take it for granted. I have access to God’s Message on my bookshelves, library, cell phone, tablet, and computer. We don’t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone.

In today’s chapter God gives the ancient prophet Amos a vision of what’s to come. A spiritual famine was coming to Israel: “A famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” The famine did come generations later. The last prophet of the Old Testament was Malachi who died in 430 B.C. For over 400 years there was spiritual silence. There was a famine of the words of the Lord. Until a deeper and far older prophecy was fulfilled when, as John wrote, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

This morning I’m pondering the incredible luxury I have of enjoying such unfettered access to the Word. I have such rich spiritual nourishment so readily available to me 24/7/365 from countless sources. Such a thing was unthinkable just a few generations ago, and I wonder what happens when we begin to take such a thing for granted.

I’m reminded this morning of Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451. It was required reading back when I was a kid, but I’m not sure younger generations know it or study it today. In Bradbury’s dystopian vision parallels Amos’ vision of a famine of words. Society is given wholly to quick and efficient media entertainment. Books are first abridged then completely outlawed, burned, and forgotten as needless and having no value to society. The Bible and all great works of literature are tossed aside for easier, shorter, and more entertaining media. I’ve never forgotten Bradbury’s vision of a small group of people living in the wilderness and committing great works to memory to pass down to future generations.

I know there are some who regularly read these blog posts that I scatter like seed across the internet, and I’m grateful for those who care to read my thought and words. At the same time, I hope that readers click on the chapter and verse link at the top of each post and read the very chapter themselves. It’s one thing to read my thoughts about a chapter, but there’s nothing as spiritually nourishing as tapping directly into the Source.

Dead Sea to Living Water

israel floating in the Dead Sea cropped

He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.
Ezekiel 47:8-9 (NIV)

The Dead Sea is one of the more amazing places I’ve visited in this world. Located in the desert southeast of Jerusalem, it is the Earth’s lowest elevation on land and the water is 34 percent salt which is almost 10 times as much salt as you find in the oceans. The saline content is so high, in fact, that you float on the surface which is a surreal experience. It’s hard to stand upright in the lake if the water gets much higher than your waist.

Because of the salt content, the “Dead Sea” is aptly named. Nothing lives in it. It is too salty to sustain life. Which provides context for the remarkable vision the ancient Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, is given in today’s chapter. His heavenly host shows him a small stream of water flowing out of God’s temple in Jerusalem. The waters grow as the stream descends from its Source until it is a giant river. The river flows downstream to the Dead Sea and floods it with Life.

I am reminded this morning of Jesus’ conversation with a woman by a well. Striking up a conversation, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus spoke of a personal, spiritual transformation that parallel’s Ezekiel’s vision of the Dead Sea. A flowing transfusion of living water that brings Life where there had previously been death.

Water and Life go hand in hand. We need water to physically survive. We need living water to spiritually survive. Without it, we become as spiritually lifeless as the Dead Sea. When tapped into the Source, we experience Life that wells up in our spirits and resurrects lifeless parts of our soul.

Today, I’m thankful for experiencing the Dead Sea. I’m thankful for the Water of Life. I’m praying for a deep draught from the Source and an infusion of life.

Sewage and the Source

Septic Tank: Illustration shows how an undergr...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wickedness never brings stability,
    but the godly have deep roots.
Proverbs 12:3 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, Wendy and I had five dead oak trees cut down near our lake home. Add to that total the three dead oak trees we had to cut down last year. When we updated our family’s lake property a few years ago there was a small forest between the house and the shoreline, and the trees gave shade to the Playhouse each summer. Now, the trees are gone along with the shade they provided. I have to admit I’m a little saddened by this and was a little confused why we lost the trees so quickly. When Jason came from the tree service to give me an estimate for cutting down the trees this spring, I asked the arborist what the problem could be and what we could do to replace them.

Jason quickly pointed out the problem with our dead trees and the reason it will nearly be impossible to replace them. As part of our renovation of the property, we added a new septic system which introduced a sprawling leach field across our yard and between the trees. Sewage from our home goes through a system of treatment tanks and then is leeched out across our lawn through a system of buried sewage lines that zig-zag in a snake like fashion across our lawn.

The feeder roots for trees like our oaks, Jason explained, are between ten and eighteen inches below the surface of the ground. When we introduced the sewage lines and their easy, shallow diet of moisture and nutrients, the trees quickly become dependent on feeding off the leach lines. The network of roots that would typically dig deep into the ground to get food and moisture in times of drought tend to go dormant because they aren’t needed. Then, a time of drought comes. Fall and winter arrive when no one is at the lake house using the septic system. The leach field isn’t spreading its sewage. The trees are shocked by the sudden change. There is no longer an easy meal for the shallow feeder roots and the deep roots are no longer doing their job. The tree can’t make the adjustment and dies.

What an amazing word picture. I thought of our trees when I read the proverb above from today’s chapter. How easy it is to feed on the shit this world seeps into the shallows of our lives. Momentary highs, thin pursuits, fast food and intoxicating distractions that offer a quick fix to feed the emptiness in our souls. All the time, our roots aren’t digging deep. We never seek after the life giving springs that lay buried deep below the surface.

The further I get in my life journey, the more I feel a need for my roots to go deeper. I want to tap into the deep wells of God’s living water. But in order to do that, I have to abandon the leach lines I’ve fed from for so long and choose to go deep. I must direct my time, energy and resources to the slow, arduous, often boring discipline of digging, and reaching, and seeking out the Source. When drought comes, and it always comes eventually, I want the roots of my life tapped into that which will sustain me.

Chapter-a-Day John 4

Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Ha Ha Tonka State Park (Photo credit: Darin House)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NLT)

On Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, a nice long boat ride from our Playhouse, you’ll find Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It’s an annual summer destination for us. Park the boat at the dock and walk down the winding path along the banks of the cove. Deeper and deeper it goes as the cove narrows. Eventually, you arrive at a natural spring where water continuously flows from deep inside the Earth. I’ve stood there many times watching as water ceaselessly flows from that spot, seemingly out of nowhere.

Today, as I read Jesus’ words I thought about that spring in the Ozarks and all the water ceaselessly bubbling out of it. We call it a “source.” The place from which water flows. What Jesus told the woman at the well in today’s chapter was that He was the Source of Life-giving, spiritual thirst quenching, eternal flow.

What is the Source of flow in my daily life? That’s the question I’m asking myself today. Where is it that I seek after energy, acceptance, peace, esteem, provision, healing, or anesthetic? Am I seeking after the Source in a bottle, a relationship, a walk-in closet, a paycheck, a gadget, a job, or a jackpot? It’s interesting how Jesus contrasted the water the woman wanted to give Him with the flow about which He was speaking.

You know you’re seeking after the wrong source if after a taste it always leaves you thirsty and seeking for more.