Racial Tension, Riots, and a River of Living Water

The past several days have been heart-wrenching. Not only are we dealing with COVID-19 and the restrictions and fallout related to it, but we have also witnessed what is clearly the wrongful death of a man at the hands of police officers. To compound that, we have had six days of violent protest across the United States as many have turned to riots, vandalism, and theft. If we were not awake to the fact that we are living in a fallen world before this, we should be awake now.

If we spend too much time focused on the news or following social media feeds, we will soon be defeated and worn. If we spend too much time focused on this world without turning our eyes heavenward, we will quickly be hopeless because this world is unable to satisfy. The emptiness of this world is why scripture is continually calling us to turn our eyes away from the waves and turn them towards Jesus.

We see a perfect example of this when Jesus offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter four. What is especially relevant about this passage is we see racial tension at work in these verses as well.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he stopped to rest at the well in Samaria. The significance of this is that Jews and Samaritans, in general, did not like each other. Each group claimed the other group looked down on and mistreated them. The Samaritans were people who had married during Israel’s captivity, so the Jews did not believe they were genuinely Jewish. They were two or more ethnicities.

Adding to their racial differences, though the Samaritans believed in the God of Jacob, they merged their worship of him with pagan ideas. Some Bible scholars believe they worshiped him as a local deity who was only one among many. Due to these issues, the animosity between Jews and Samaritans went deep and cut both ways.

In walks Jesus, a Jew, and he engages the Samaritan woman in conversation by asking her for a drink of water from the well. Her response was to question why he was talking to her because Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Her question could have been honest, but most likely, her own prejudiced was starting to show. To put it in today’s vernacular, she could have been saying, “You Jews are usually too arrogant to talk to Samaritans. Take the hint; I am not interested in helping you.”

Jesus responds by saying, “If you knew who was speaking to you, you would have asked, and he would have given you living water.” What Jesus is doing, despite her disregard of him, is preparing to bless her. The first thing we need to notice about Jesus is that he does not play our culture’s race, gender, and class games. He simply treats this woman as a person made in the image of God regardless of society’s sins. The biggest problem is not this woman’s gender or race or even the mistreatment she has experienced at the hands of others; those are symptoms of a deeper issue. The real problem is her spiritual blindness, which becomes evident in her response to Jesus.

She says, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” Her exaggerated focus on the physical exposes her inability to see spiritually. All she can think about is physical water. This is the state of many people today. You talk to them about God, and all they want to do is require evidence and the only evidence they will allow must use the scientific method. Their blindness, often willful, has so reduced their world to the physical that they cannot see past it, and they try to find all their satisfaction in it because, for them, it is all that exists.

This blindness, however, is not merely a problem for some people. We are all born with this blindness. Every believer alive today was once just as blind, but Jesus did for us what he is doing for the Samaritan woman in the passage. He restored our spiritual sight and offered us living water.

When all you can see is the physical world around you, you will do everything you can to find your hope in it, because you know of nothing else. As Jesus continues to speak to this woman gently, he brings to light the fact that she has had five husbands, and the man she is living with now is not her husband. Whether it was by death, divorce, or adultery, this woman had tried to find fulfillment in men, and she was left empty, and Jesus had exposed her sinfulness. He did not need to condemn her. He simply opened her eyes, and she saw it. When we focus only on the things of this world, ultimately, all we will find is disappointment that will leave us weary and worn. In our attempts to address our weary souls without looking to Jesus, we will walk deeper and deeper into sin.

Despite the woman’s sin, because of the sacrifice Jesus knew he was going to make on the cross, he knew her sins could be washed clean, and she, a sinner, could be in a right relationship with the holy God. In light of the atonement he would make, He offers her living water and says, “Whoever drinks of this water will never be thirsty again, and the water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The water he is speaking of is ultimately the Holy Spirit who opens our blind eyes, points us to Jesus and the cross, makes our spiritually dead hearts beat again, and causes us to rejoice in our God of mercy. He took our sinful hearts and made us whole, he calls us his children, and his banner over us is love. Instead of the wrath we deserve, we find forgiveness and peace in his presence, and this river of living water is eternal. It will never run dry.

I am not sure where you are right now spiritually, but if you have spent too much time focused on the things of this world, I am sure 2020 has left you discouraged and broken. Even we as believers can experience this when we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our surroundings. This is what we see happening to Peter when he was walking on water, and he began to sink. The more we focus on the waves, the further we will descend until we find this world overwhelming us. Our society at large is undoubtedly sinking right now. This spiritual blindness so permeates our culture that it is attacking itself trying to find its happiness and hope in a world that cannot deliver.

What the world needs now more than anything is the living water that Christ offers, but we will only find it by being spiritually-minded and spending time with Jesus in his word and in prayer. As Christians, Christ is with us no matter what we face in this life. Sickness, racial injustice, and even riots cannot separate us from his love: even when injustice is directed toward us and at our front door.

The living water is a spring overflowing with joy, joy in the Lord. Joy in knowing he has forgiven us of our sins and healed us of our spiritual blindness. Joy in knowing no matter how bad this world may get, he will will not lose us and eventually return to set it all right. My question for you is, do you have this joy, or is your heart overwhelmed by the troubles of 2020? It is proper for us to have hearts filled with lament at times like these, but that lament can coexist in the full confidence in our great Savior.

How do we navigate these turbulent waters? How do we express our lament and reveal our hope? We cannot do it in our own strength, it is only through the Living Water himself, the Holy Spirit. If you are weak and unable to shine forth the light of your Savior, then turn to your eyes to him, he will restore your joy, and the joy of the Lord will be your strength. Did you catch that? The joy of the Lord will be your strength.

If there is anything Christians need now more than ever, it is strength. We need strength to be who Christ has called us to be, strength to be a city on a hill, strength to have hope during a pandemic and the resulting economic collapse, and power to model Christ’s example of the way past racial prejudice, violence, and anger. He broke down the racial wall when he broke down the wall between Jew and Gentile. In Christ, He destroys the artificial categories of class. All are one in Christ Jesus.

It is only in Christ that we will be able to love our enemies and return good for evil. It will only be in knowing our sinfulness and the grace we have received that we will be able to show mercy to those who mistreat us. As the world works to build higher and stronger walls of separation, Jesus has called us to break them down with the love of God, and there will be nothing easy about it. Others will mistreat us in the process, and as our scars begin to show, may the Spirit use them to draw people to the nail-scared hands, the only hands that can heal our world. We will only be able to live a life like that if we make sure our eyes are on Jesus, and we are drinking deeply of the living water.

-D.Eaton

Don’t Let Your Unworthiness Keep You From Jesus

  • When the Spirit would glorify Jesus, He humbles you.
  • When He would glorify His fullness, He makes you feel your emptiness.
  • When He would bring you to rely on His strength, He convinces you of your weakness.
  • When He would magnify the comforts of Jesus, He makes you sensible of your misery.
  • When He would fix your heart on His Heaven, He makes you feel your deserved Hell.
  • When He would exalt His righteousness, you find that you are a poor, miserable sinner.

My friend, let nothing keep you from Jesus. Whatever you need, whatever you feel is wrong with you, may it bring you to the Savior’s fullness! Oh, that all things may help forward your acquaintance with Him, I except nothing, neither sin nor sorrow! I would carry all to Him as one great lump of sin, and receive all from Him, as the only storehouse of good for wretched sinners.

In this communion I desire to grow; for this I desire to live. Oh, that you and I may learn it more, and every day get nearer fellowship with our sweet Jesus, growing up into Him in all things.

-William Romaine

The Great Depression, Pandemics, and a Benefit of Hard Times

The good times are to be expected, and the hard times are surprising and strange. Perhaps that unconscious assumption is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jayber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today. He says: “As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”

Though many wrongly interpret this disposition as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, politicians have promised us the world, and we have believed them. We may indeed chuckle at the thought that a single person thinks they have that much influence, still, conservatives and liberals alike often feel that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This thinking, of course, is foolishness. There are good days and bad days ahead for all of us. Pandemics, economic collapse, and the threat of government overreach are nothing new. They have all happened in the past, and they will occur again in the future. Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).

Bringing this to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust and our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to feel our weakness. The problem is that when our vulnerability is not apparent, a false sense of our competency begins to blind us.

For the Christian, hard times might not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much in the hard times as in the good, we have no reason to panic during the difficult days, as we are prone to do.

When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily dependence upon God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him. Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row, and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world. Even when evidence surrounds me, I deceive myself with a false sense of self-sufficiency, and it is not until life hits me with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind.  If this is true, then some of my “hard’ times are actually my good times, and some of my “good” times are my hard times. Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I am delusional.

For the Christian, our eternal well-being is not bound up in the pleasures of this life. The scoffers will say this kind of talk reveals our deficiency, and they are right. I will boast all the more in my weakness. I contributed nothing to my salvation, and I have no strength of my own to contribute to the Christian life. I will praise God for the days I lay helpless at His feet because those days he has promised that in my weakness his strength will rest upon me. When the hard times hit, and we find ourselves entirely dependent upon our God, it is time to draw up under the wing of our Savior and start paying attention because his power is about to be revealed in his people.

-D. Eaton

Our Quiet Times are Rarely as Quiet as they Appear

If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting quietly, soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.

To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything it can to stay on task and focus on the scriptures. The man has physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.

Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the Spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities; activities of idleness that turn his eyes from things above and divert his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect tranquility.

Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Employment anxieties, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.

The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. However, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. As he reads, the eyes of the Lord look to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked eyes on his child and will not turn away.

At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man be set apart from the world and be sanctified in the truth; the word of God he is holding in his hands.

As he sits and reads, engaged in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that by being comforted by God in times of difficulty, he is taught to comfort others. This is something he longs to do.

The Spirit then reminds him, through the scriptures, he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is in his brokenness that the treasure begins to be revealed. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress, bowed the heavens, and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.

The man, still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. His joyful intimacy with his Savior reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and, once again, the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.

-D. Eaton

Our Sins Are Like a Cloud

I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. – Isaiah 44:22

Sins Like Clouds

Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?

The Clouds Blotted Out

Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.

Return to the Lord

Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!

-Charles Spurgeon

A Pandemic in the Hand of God

The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. – Psalm 118:6

What can illness do to the Christian? Is it not in the sovereign hands of the Lord? Every pain and every distress is under the supreme authority of our God. Even if Satan and his legions are involved, they are only permitted to go as far as His hand allows, and He could reverse their work in an instant if he decided to do so. Even if the illness is due to sinful choices, is not Jesus the forgiver of sins and restorer?

If we face any illness, no matter the cause, God does not cease to be in control. Did He know this was coming? Does He have the power to stop it? Most certainly. The logic that flows from these two truths is that God is the final decision-maker for everything that comes against us.

What, then, can illness do to us if it is under the providence of God? It can afflict, but not crush. It can perplex, but cannot drive us to despair. It can even strike down, but it cannot destroy.

On the contrary, sickness, sovereignly wielded like a scalpel in the hand of our good God, can only heal us. For all things work together for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28), and disease certainly does not fall outside the category of “all things.” By it, He weans us from the passing treasure of this world, and He teaches us to redeem the time. In all of it, He is spurring us on to holiness, and holiness is where we will find our true happiness.

Lord, we resign ourselves to your perfect will. We will fight for our health because your word tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and anyone who destroys the temple will also be destroyed (1 Cor. 3:16-17). However, we leave the results of our fight in your hands because we know that even if the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).

We will not look on the things that are seen but the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). In this way, we will not lose hope, and we will find peace in the pain, deliverance in the distress, and healing in the hurt.

-D. Eaton

Whatever Your Trials, Christ Can Meet Them

Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings.

Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up, and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this life-buoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need!

Jesus is:

  • the living water to quench my thirst,
  • the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger,
  • the snow-white robe to cover me,
  • the sure refuge in times of trouble,
  • the happy home of my soul,
  • my food and my medicine,
  • my solace and my song,
  • my light and my delight.

The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy!

Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!”

-Charles Spurgeon

Why Christians are Concerned about the Sins of Others

Burning indignation grips me, because of the wicked who have forsaken Your law. -Psalm 119:53

My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David’s cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed by all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel’s vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem.

It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell! Christians know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze! Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God’s holy law, which it is to every man’s highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society! Sin in others horrifies a believer, for it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”

Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity–the nails and spear. How can a believer behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart–do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, and the just God will have it–or repay His adversary to his face!

An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s fooleries–lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your enemy, and your Lord’s enemy–view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.

-Charles Spurgeon

You are Like a Ship Sailing into Dangerous Waters

The following is a letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter.

My Dear Betsy,

Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!

The other day I was at the harbor, and saw a ship launched; she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, “Poor ship!” I thought, “you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may not return at all!”

Then my thoughts turned from the ship to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state, you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care, I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers by which you might otherwise suffer and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!

I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters, unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor, you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!

I am, with great tenderness, my dear child,
Your very affectionate father

-John Newton

Keep Fighting the Good Fight of Faith

I understand something of your warfare. Paul describes his own case in few words, “Conflicts on the outside, fears on the inside.” Does not this comprehend all you would say? And how are you to know experimentally, either your own weakness, or the power, wisdom and grace of God, seasonably and sufficiently afforded, but by frequent and various trials? How are the graces of patience, resignation, meekness and faith, to be discovered and increased, but by the exercise of trials?

The Lord has chosen, called, and armed us for the fight! Shall we wish to be excused from the battle? Shall we not rather rejoice that we have the honor to appear in such a cause, under such a Captain, such a banner and in such a company?

God has graciously provided: a complete suit of armor, formidable weapons, precious balm to heal us—if we receive a wound, and precious cordials to revive us—when we are in danger of fainting!

Further, we are assured of the victory beforehand! O what a crown of glory is prepared for every conqueror, which Jesus, the righteous Judge, the gracious Savior—shall place upon every faithful head with His own hand!

So let us not be weary and faint, for in due season we shall reap! The time is short! In a little while, the struggle of indwelling sin, and all the conflicts surrounding us, shall be known no more!

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life! -Revelation 2:10

-John Newton