The Peaceful Pond
"I've got a river of life flowing out of me.
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I've got a river of life flowing out of me!"
A song many of us remember from childhood Sunday School classes speaks much deeper to me today.
But few of us (at least I didn't), know the second verse:
I’ve got a river of life flowing within me;
It started gushing up when God set me free.
That I keep the flow is my only plea.
I’ve got a river of life springing within me.
That I keep the flow is my only plea... Yet, how often do we lose that gushing? That flow of the Spirit that pours out God's love? The desire to grow and respond to the move of God?
At what point did we stop growing and just start existing in our own little space-time continuum as Christians? We're not ashamed of the title necessarily. We'll even admit we are Christians. The braver ones will let people see them reading their Bibles. But we get really good at tactfully squelching anything wanting to move us out of our comfort zone. (And when I say "we", I'm including me.)
We're not ashamed to be a Christian. We are just ashamed to be around those Christians who talk too loudly about God, who openly offer to pray for strangers and get too overly emotional in church or Bible study or any other gathering requiring solemnity and restraint. We don't feel "called" to seek the Spirit or get too crazy. Even us Evangelical Protestants need to tone this whole Holy Spirit thing down a bit. Can't wake the neighbors.
Wait. What? Where does the Bible say that again?
That's not what the disciples experienced. They didn't wait in the Upper Room for God to send His Holy Spirit to move on them so the modern church could brush it all off and wash that nonsense down the drain. They weren't beheaded and crucified and tortured and jailed because they kept Christianity toned down and politically correct. They didn't risk their lives to publicly proclaim the gospel of salvation so we could later bottle it up and put a lid on it.
Christians around the world, even today, are facing persecution of all kinds, and we (we, still including me, and referencing American Christians as a whole) have hunkered down and gotten super comfortable in our pews. We have taken God for granted and started to hoard the Life He gave us. It isn't for sharing or talking about. And we definitely don't need anymore of that Spirit poured out. Our pitchers are just fine at half-full. (Half-empty if you are a pessimistic Christian.)
Jesus said He provides the kind of water that will become in us a spring...welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). He doesn't want us to fill our jar once and sit tight until He shows up or we die. He wants us to continue seeking Him, to be full and overflowing. The Bible says it over and over; God wants to pour His Spirit and His love into us. A container with water constantly pouring into it remains clear and new. A bubbling spring is fresh and clean. Safe to drink from, refreshing for those who thirst.
Are we refreshing to those who thirst?
In a conversation with my sister, she made a comment about the phenomenon where people in the church avoid making ripples in the peaceful pond. (See sis, you get credit.)
But a peaceful pond is still and grows algae. Scum and waste gather up and stick. The water evaporates and slowly disappears. Things get gross in a pond where the water doesn't move. Yet how many of us are happily floating in a stagnant pool of water right now? We're not seeking change. We don't need spiritual growth, and it's probably best we kick anyone making waves out of our pond for good. Waves mess up the algae growth pattern. Ripples are contagious and hard to stop. We can't handle that.
Well, guess what? The Holy Spirit doesn't stick around in a place that is stagnant and self-righteous. Jesus Himself would not play in our pond. When I read Luke 12:51 today, I immediately imagined rocks splashing into a pool, causing waves and ripples... division, if you will. Jesus said He came to bring division because He knew how controversial the Gospel would be. Splashy cannonballs. Yep, the life Jesus called us to live would mess our peaceful pond all up. He would not approve of our calm, toned down Christianity. And He wouldn't pretend that He did. And sometimes, those who try the hardest to keep the pond calm end up setting off the tidal waves of change. And, as much we sometimes dread it... change is good!
Wake up! Be refreshed!
Seek God's will and embrace the move of the Holy Spirit!
Yes, it will get messy.
No, lily pads and floaties are not allowed.
And I'm just as guilty as the next (maybe worse) of being afraid to move out of my pew. But today, I'm going to stand here, in my kiddie pool, and say I feel God is calling us to move into a Spirit-filled life. A life that is a fresh and bubbling spring. We can't be afraid of what God wants to do in our lives, in the church, in this town. We need to be ready to follow His lead. It isn't about what we think should happen. I'm envisioning a life more like white-water rafting than lazily floating in the muck. And for this girl who was perfectly happy in her shallow pool of water, it's a hard statement to make.
But recent events have opened my eyes to the kind of muck I've been lounging in, and I am ashamed. I'm scared that I, too, might grow roots in this pond and feel justified in rejecting those who make waves. I'm terrified I have become stagnant, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that stagnant is the opposite of what God wants the church to be.
His river of life sets the captives FREE!
Jesus provided us with the life jacket. So what are we waiting for?
For we know, *sisters* loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
1 Thessalonians 1:4
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12
Examine your own life... is there something you feel God wants you to do?
Seek the answer in prayer and in God's Word.
Are you afraid to move out of your comfort zone? I am too! Pray and ask God for strength. He does not give us more than we can handle. Even though it sometimes feels that way!