Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: living water

Living waters or bitter waters?

First posted September 11, 2012

Way back in 1948, when I was but a young lad of six, one of the most popular songs on radio was Cool Water written by Bob Nolan and sung by The Sons of the Pioneers.  It was the story of a man and his mule named Dan who were trekking across the desert in search of water.  A voice calls with a promise of water just ahead of them and they see it, but something about it makes the man warn:

“Keep a movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burnin’ sand with water.”

Then the man glimpses something far in the distance and says:

“Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the waters runnin’ free
and it’s waiting there for me and you.”

Most listeners of that time will have recognized the song as an allegory, referring to the River of Life flowing from the throne of God seen by Ezekiel and John in their visions.  It is the living water that Jesus promised to the woman at the well that would forever satisfy her thirst.  In another place, Jesus promises that this living water will flow from believers to bring refreshment to thirsty souls.

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,” (Psalm 46:4).  Why is it then that so many who name the name of Jesus seem still to be unsatisfied and joyless?  Are they mistaking a mirage for the real thing?  It is possible to have a form of godliness that looks real but does not satisfy the soul.

Even more insidious is the stream of water poisoned with Wormwood that flows through the desert of this world (Revelation 8:10,11).  Wormwood, or artemisia absinthium, is a plant with aromatic leaves that can be used to produce a bitter-tasting alcoholic beverage called absinthe.  Those who drink it claim that absinthe produces a clear-headed intoxication that opens the mind.

I wonder if this is what the Bible is warning us about.  When we drink of the bitter waters containing wormwood, we experience a condition where we feel that now we are seeing things more clearly than we ever have before.  The weaknesses and faults of fellow believers are so evident that we cannot understand why others do not see them.  Meanwhile, our own faults and weaknesses disappear from our view.  Drinking from the streams containing Wormwood undermines our faith in the Providence of God, poisons relationships and will eventually lead to death.

There is a warning in Ezekiel’s vision of the River of Life that should frighten us if we are among those Christians who see so clearly the faults of others: “But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Ezekiel 47:11).  Right here, in the shallows and marshes close beside the life-giving stream, there is great danger.  The water here cannot quench our thirst or heal our infirmities; yet so many seem to enter only this far into the water and scorn those who go deeper.

If we have a craving for bitter-tasting water because it gives us an illumination that exalts us above our brethren, we must stop drinking from this source.  It is wormwood, it will do no good thing for us, our families or our congregations.  We need to find the source of living water and drink deeply from its refreshing and healing stream.  That will restore our faith, our vision, our love for Christian brothers and sisters, and our love for all mankind.

Partager :

Stagnant water

There are many pools of water near where we live, filled by the spring runoff and then refreshed by the heavy spring rains. I went for a bike ride this evening and noticed that the warm weather we are now experiencing has produced heavy algae growth in those waters. They are turning green and they don’t smell very nice.

These shallow bodies of water are called sloughs here in Saskatchewan. They fill up in spring, but then get smaller and smaller during the summer. Some years they dry up completely. They provide ideal nesting habitat for all kinds of ducks and shore birds. But they are stagnant, there is no inlet or outlet and eventually they begin to smell. In some cases, a type of algae forms that is toxic to animals who drink the water.

Jesus promised that rivers of living water would flow from those who believed on Him. But what happens when we try to keep that living water for ourselves. If there is no outlet, if the water does not flow out to others, doesn’t it also become stagnant? Can the healing, life-giving water start to give off an offensive odour, can it even become toxic?

I believe the answer is yes. Ezekiel saw the river of living water flowing out from the throne of God. But he also saw that there were places on the margins if that river where the water didn’t flow, it formed stagnant pools. “But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Ezekiel 47:11).

We must allow the water to flow freely. There are so many who are dying for lack of its refreshing and healing properties. There is even a danger that we may die if we allow it to grow stagnant.

Clinging to the rock

The majestic elm tree was a landmark along the Autoroute des Cantons de l’Est south of Montréal. It stood straight and tall on the east side of the highway, near St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, but it looked the same in summer as in winter. Like most North American elms it had fallen victim to Dutch Elm disease and had been dead for many years.

It must have been eighteen years ago that a Montréal artist decided to do something about it. He collected as many discarded green plastic buckets as he could and cut out hundreds of elm leaves, then rented a crane with a man basket and fastened the leaves to the branches of the elm tree. It did improve the appearance of the tree; the leaves may not have been exactly the right colour, but they caught your eye as you sped by on the freeway.

Two months later, a strong wind came up in the night and the tree fell. Perhaps the leaves hastened the fall by catching the wind, yet we all knew the tree was rotten on the inside by now.

The oldest trees in Canada are the eastern white cedars along the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. These cedars are neither big nor beautiful, yet they cling to the rocky cliff and have survived extreme weather variations for an astoundingly long time. Many of them have very little bark left due to blasts from wind borne sand and the effects of freezing and thawing, rain, hail and snow, yet show no sign of aging or rot and produce seeds every year. Some of them are more than one thousand years old, still healthy and drawing nutrients and moisture from little crevices in the rock. The oldest is estimated to be almost 1900 years old.

Which tree does our Christian life resemble? Are we trying to hold up an artificial resemblance of Christian life for others to see, with no spiritual life inside? Or are we battered and worn yet still surviving the battles, clinging to the rock and sustained by roots growing deep into the living water Christ provides?

Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water

Geswende Bamogo was already an old man when the Christian Service International workers came to his village in 1977 to drill a well. The well was dry, but the old papa saw something in these men that became a spring of living water in his life. He visited often, learning all he could about their faith.

Two years later, the CSI workers left Upper Volta, but they gave Papa Bamogo the flannel graph materials they had used for teaching the Bible. He made good use of those materials, telling the stories to others and sharing the convictions in his heart.

Twenty-one years after the CSI workers had left, Papa Bamogo and a few others prayed for the return of members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite to teach them more fully the way of salvation. A few weeks later, visitors came to see him, investigating if the church should return to this country, now known as Burkina Faso. He was overjoyed and soon there were mission workers in the country.

December 8, 2001, Geswende Bamogo was baptized at Tandaaga. There were five more baptisms the following year and another six the year after that, including our aged brother’s wife. These baptisms were the fruit of one old man’s efforts to share his faith, later aided by North American missionaries.

Geswende Bamogo was at least 105 years old when he died in July of 2005. The congregation at Tandaaga is small, but it is growing, both in faith and numbers. In 2012 Souleymane Bamogo was ordained as the first minister of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Burkina Faso.

There are no missionaries anymore at Tandaaga, the congregation is indigenous. There are missionaries at three other locations in Burkina Faso, with a few members in each place.

The need for missionaries is as great today as it has ever been. The need is just as great here in North America as it is in Africa. Yet there is a limit to what a missionary can accomplish. It is only when local people become rooted and grounded in the faith and begin to live it, teach it and preach it, that we can have confidence that the faith has been planted in this location and will endure.

Flavoured water

My wife picked up a bottle of water to drink on the way home.  Once we got out on the highway, she picked up the bottle, unscrewed the cap and took a swig.  I heard a disgusted noise from the seat beside me, followed by “What is this stuff?”  She examined the label more closely than when she had picked up the bottle to buy it, and saw it contained watermelon flavoured water.

My wife loves watermelon.  But watermelon flavoured water, with artificial sweetener and various other mysterious ingredients, did not appeal to her palate.

A missionary friend recounted a story of a village that had no source of good water.  They would walk to a pond a mile or so away and fill their buckets with the brackish swamp water found there.

Eventually an NGO saw the need, drilled a well and set up a tap right in the village where the people could get all the pure, clear water they needed.  Several months later, my friend visited this village again and was surprised to see many of the people once again making the trek to the brackish pond.

“Doesn’t the pump work anymore?”

“Yes, it works just fine.”

“Then why don’t you use the water from the pump?”

“Well, it just doesn’t have the same flavour.”

Jesus has provided us with a source of pure, clear, life-giving water that will never run dry.  Why is it that so many who profess to be purveyors of that water feel a need to enhance it with artificial sweeteners and flavours, perhaps even a dash of wormwood?

Is it possible to get so accustomed to the tang of that flavoured water that we no longer have a thirst for the pure, life-giving water that flows from the throne of God?

Living waters or bitter waters? (Tuesday’s version)

(I wrote the first version of this late Sunday night and posted it.  When I read it the next morning it sounded flat to me and I had more ideas I wanted to incorporate into it.  Your comments and critiques are welcome.  Tell me which version you prefer.)

Way back in 1948, when I was but a young lad of six, one of the most popular songs on radio was Cool Water written by Bob Nolan and sung by The Sons of the Pioneers.  It was the story of a man and his mule named Dan who were trekking across the desert in search of water.  A voice calls with a promise of water just ahead of them and they see it, but something about it makes the man warn:

“Keep a movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burnin’ sand with water.”

Then the man glimpses something far in the distance and says:

“Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the waters runnin’ free
and it’s waiting there for me and you.”

Most listeners of that time will have recognized the song as an allegory, referring to the River of Life flowing from the throne of God seen by Ezekiel and John in their visions.  It is the living water that Jesus promised to the woman at the well that would forever satisfy her thirst.  In another place, Jesus promises that this living water will flow from believers to bring refreshment to thirsty souls.

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,” (Psalm 46:4).  Why is it then that so many who name the name of Jesus seem still to be unsatisfied and joyless?  Are they mistaking a mirage for the real thing?  It is possible to have a form of godliness that looks real but does not satisfy the soul.

Even more insidious is the stream of water poisoned with Wormwood that flows through the desert of this world (Revelation 8:10,11).  Wormwood, or artemisia absinthium, is a plant with aromatic leaves that can be used to produce a bitter-tasting alcoholic beverage called absinthe.  Those who drink it claim that absinthe produces a clear-headed intoxication that opens the mind.

I wonder if this is what the Bible is warning us about.  When we drink of the bitter waters containing wormwood, we experience a condition where we feel that now we are seeing things more clearly than we ever have before.  The weaknesses and faults of fellow believers are so evident that we cannot understand why others do not see them.  Meanwhile, our own faults and weaknesses disappear from our view.  Drinking from the streams containing Wormwood undermines our faith in the Providence of God, poisons relationships and will eventually lead to death.

There is a warning in Ezekiel’s vision of the River of Life that should frighten us if we are among those Christians who see so clearly the faults of others: “But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Ezekiel 47:11).  Right here, in the shallows and marshes close beside the life-giving stream, there is great danger.  The water here cannot quench our thirst or heal our infirmities; yet so many seem to enter only this far into the water and scorn those who go deeper.

If we have a craving for bitter-tasting water because it gives us an illumination that exalts us above our brethren, we must stop drinking from this source.  It is wormwood, it will do no good thing for us, our families or our congregations.  We need to find the source of living water and drink deeply from its refreshing and healing stream.  That will restore our faith, our vision, our love for Christian brothers and sisters, and for all mankind.

Living waters or bitter waters? (Monday’s version)

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,” (Psalm 46:4).  Ezekiel and the apostle John recorded visions of clear, pure, life giving water that flowed from the throne of God.  Jesus told a Samaritan woman that He could give her water that would forever satisfy the thirsting of her soul.  He promised that this living water would flow from believers to bring refreshment to thirsty souls.  Why then do so many of God’s children seem to have negative, critical attitudes?  Why is their thirst not quenched?

Could it be that they are drinking from the wrong stream?  “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter” (Revelation 8:10,11).

Wormwood refers to artemisia absinthium, a plant with highly aromatic leaves that is native to Europe and has become an invasive species in other places.  It is classed as a noxious weed in pastures here in Saskatchewan.  Absinthe, a bitter-tasting alcoholic beverage, is made from this plant.  It is often claimed that absinthe produces a clear-headed intoxication.  Some call it mind opening, others say it is a feeling of exaltation.

I wonder if this is what the Bible is warning us about.  When we drink of the waters that have become wormwood, we believe that now we are seeing things clearly, more clearly than we ever have before, certainly more clearly than our brothers and sisters who do not see as we do.  Drinking from the streams containing Wormwood undermines our faith in the Providence of God, poisons relationships and will eventually lead to death.

There is a similar warning in Ezekiel’s vision that should frighten half-hearted Christians who see so clearly the faults of others: “But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Ezekiel 47:11).  Right here, in the shallows and marshes close beside the life-giving stream, there is great danger.  The water here cannot quench our thirst or heal our infirmities; yet so many seem to enter only this far into the water and scorn those who go deeper.

If we have a craving for bitter-tasting water because it seems to provide us with an illumination that exalts us above our brethren, we must stop drinking from this source.  It is wormwood, it will do no good thing for us or our families.  We need to find the source of living water and drink deeply from its refreshing and healing stream.  That will restore our faith, our vision, our love for Christian brothers and sisters, and for all mankind.

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