Friday, November 13, 2015

Beyond The Wardrobe: Under The Waterfall

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink! Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  John 7:37-38

So....that week back in July when I stepped through the wardrobe....when I entered this unique fellowship called the Lamplighter Guild?

It was like standing under a waterfall.

I was overwhelmingly drenched in the love of Jesus, in the living, transforming power of His words, in the intimacy of His call for me to share in His creative work on earth!  I surrendered my whole being to His fullness and was carried away in the flood of His glory!

I was experiencing the water of Life....the Life of Jesus coursing over me and through me as I had never known before.  I can't describe to you the wonder of the moment when this revelation began to break over my heart and mind.  I felt as if I'd been waiting my entire life for this.  Even though I became a child of God at a tender age, I spent much of my life drinking from polluted, broken cisterns.  How do you explain the way God breaks a dam, the way living water suddenly flows freely through a soul?  I knew that at last I was drinking deeply of the Living Water, deeper than I had ever tasted before.....and it drove out every other thirst.  All those years, I had known with my head that Jesus offers Living Water that is supposed to satisfy my soul.  Since that week at the Guild, I know it is real.  I know it in the depths of my being.

Do you want to know what happened as I was caught up in the exhilaration of the waterfall pouring over me?  The enemy tried to sabotage my joy.  He sent fear to present me with a picture.  I saw myself standing under this immense waterfall with a measly little cup.  There I was, trying desperately to catch what I could of this life-giving water, so I could hold onto it after the rush was over.  You know what it feels like when you have a spiritual mountaintop experience,  It is so wonderful while it lasts....but then you have to go back down into the valley, and soon the glory fades away.  Fear was telling me that when I left the atmosphere and community of the Guild, I would be leaving the waterfall behind.  What precious little I could keep contained in my cup was all I would retain of this water.  I would try to hoard my treasure to make it last....but it could only last so long.

When I asked Jesus to confront this fear, He showed me what I wasn't seeing....I was never meant to hold this water.

Yes, you can hold a bit of water in a cup.  But you can't hold a waterfall.

I never had the waterfall in my hands.  The waterfall had me.  Captured in the torrent of Someone far stronger than myself.  Filled to overflowing with a Life that has no limits.

And this idea that leaving the Guild would mean walking away from the waterfall?  Lies.

No one lives under a waterfall.  But although I stepped out of the torrent, I never have to leave this driving force, this source of vibrant life.

The waterfall is inside me.

I will not always or often experience this rushing, roaring, soaking, euphoric force....rather it becomes the very life flowing through my veins, my entire I continually drink from the essence of Christ in me!  This is the Living Water that Jesus speaks of in the Bible.  It is Jesus Himself, His very life flowing through us.  He is always filling us, spilling over us, flowing through us, sustaining us in every aspect and every season of our lives.

Jesus invites every one of us to come to Him and drink.  He says,  "Everyone who drinks of this water (anything other than Christ that we seek to satisfy ourselves) 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 Living Water WELLING UP to eternal life."  John 4

Scripture describes the water of life as a well, a fountain, a spring, and a river.  As I meditated on these things, the Holy Spirit showed me different ways that this water can work in our lives.

One of the key Scriptures we looked at during the Guild is Romans 5:3-5.
"we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

God was emphasizing to us the necessary work of suffering in the believer's life.  We saw that sometimes He chooses to wound us, out of His sovereign love, in order to bring us into deeper intimacy with Himself, the only One who can complete us.  That deeper intimacy expresses itself in worship.

A well is deep.  Some wells are drilled deep into rock to find a source of pure underground water. Suffering in our lives is like the drill, painfully penetrating deep into the layers of a heart, producing intense pressure, until it seems that something must break.  But God says He is near to the brokenhearted.  And when our hearts break under the pressure of His hand, what comes forth is the life of Jesus Christ!  Only God knows how to tap into the deep waters of a heart that is trusting in Him, and so the suffering produces drilling into rock to reach pure, cold water.  And the Living Water begins to well up stronger in joy....the joy of the Lord is our strength!  This joy is greater than the pain of temporary circumstances and the trials of life.  The greater the pressure of the underground water, the stronger it wells up towards the surface, until it flows out in a spring of fresh hope....hope that will not disappoint us because it is not based on earthly things, but on the eternal promises of God.

So out of the deep places of suffering, the water wells up in joy and flows out in hope.....and now picture a fountain springing high into the air....this life of Jesus within you can no longer be contained, and it springs up in worship....this greater, intimate knowledge of Jesus that comes out of suffering and being formed into His character!  As you see Him better, you will be in awe of His beauty, love, and mercy.  His beauty makes your life attractive to others, just like a sparkling, gushing fountain of refreshing water.

And then come the Jesus proclaimed, rivers of living water flow out of your heart.  Not a river....but RIVERS!  So the life of Jesus flows from you in different directions, touching the people close to you, and running farther out to everyone who encounters your life, until the influence of your life in Christ is reaching people you don't even know about in ways you can't imagine!  All of us who have been re-born in Christ carry His life to the world....we carry His Story to all the people, the objects of His unfathomable love!

The last thing I want to bring out is that water is fluid.  It is like art....creative and unique in every life.  It is always in motion, changing shape and direction and intensity.  But this life of Jesus in us will steadily increase in its intensity, through the constant working of the Holy Spirit.  It keeps welling up stronger into the eternal life that is ours in Christ, and as we grow in our intimate knowledge of Him, we grow in the conscious experience of eternal life.  This water keeps moving forward, keeps cleansing us of every impurity, keeps carrying us further in to the grace and power and presence of Jesus.

And the Water of Life never runs dry.  It is endless, relentless, and will never leave you.

The waterfall is inside you.

Amen, Lord Jesus.....let the river flow!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Romania: Our Doings and Celebrations

Now that I've been here several weeks, Romania is beginning to feel a bit more like home.

Life here is not so different from America, but it does take some getting used to, and it has been a great learning experience so far.  We've had some highlights and celebrations in the last couple weeks, and I thought you would enjoy a peak at life in our little nest.

We celebrated Chili Bean's third birthday.  The hats were endured, but the treats were a huge hit!

Chili is the one is the pink hat.  Snoopy is her mom.  She seemed less than thrilled to celebrate her baby's birthday.  

This past Sunday, I was blessed to be part of a special event in one of the girls' lives.  Rachel (name changed for security purposes) was baptized into Christ, along with 29 other believers!  The wonderful evangelical church they attend makes a beautiful celebration out of this step of faith.  They held a special service in a pretty location.  Each emergence from the water was met with joyful song and applause.  The radiant smiles on the faces of those baptized was the most beautiful thing of all!

With Rachel before the service

Me and my girls!

Buried with Him in death....raised with Him to new life!  She has the most beautiful smile!

Beyond this, I am learning a little of the Romanian language, with the help of Ana (name changed), who is a willing and encouraging teacher.  I am helping her to grow in English vocabulary and comprehension as we are reading Bible stories together in English.  We have a lot of fun with this!

I've also enjoyed attending the Friday night youth church with the girls and taking part in a special craft day with the ladies of the church to help raise money for their new building.  It is a vibrant and growing church body, so they are needing to expand their facilities.  

Once a week, I go with a small group of missionaries and volunteers to a mental hospital quite a ways outside the city.  This is a ministry I was introduced to on my first visit to Romania, and now I get to be involved again.  We go in to to bring some sunshine to the residents.  We'll do some kind of simple craft or activity with them, sing some of their favorite songs, and supply plenty of snacks.  It is something they look forward to every week.  The lady who oversees this ministry has been going in for many years and by God's grace has been able to help facilitate significant improvements to the hospital.

As with all of life, some days here are pleasant and meaningful, while other days I feel down, listless, and weary.  One day I can feel a great sense of purpose in being here, and the next day it feels pointless.  And in the midst of it all, God's grace remains sufficient!  He continues to teach me to fix my eyes on Him for the strength to walk on the waves rather than tangling myself in the tide of my emotions and human understanding.  His thoughts are infinitely higher than mine, and His ways are astonishingly greater than I can fathom!  The prayer of my heart is to press deeper into Him each day He allows me to be here and wherever He leads me after that.  If you pray for me, ask Jesus to give me the grace to grow in surrender to the flow of His life, and that all who encounter me will encounter Him.  Let all the glory and honor and praise go to Him!

May your souls grow and prosper in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!