Amish Man Finds God

The following is the testimony of a man named Eli Lee. Eli was raised in an Amish community, but he found the teaching to not be in line with God’s Word.

I don’t know Eli. Never heard of him till today. But I believe I will meet him, and all others throughout history who have put their trust in Jesus as Savior, someday, in heaven.

Here is Eli’s story:

. . . . . .

From July 11, 2017

I was born and raised in the Amish culture. Growing up, I don’t ever remember desiring not to be Amish. I sincerely thought that being a part of the Amish was the only way I would have a chance to go to heaven one day.

When I was twenty years old, I married my wife, Leah. God then blessed us with eight wonderful children.

As an Amish man, I was very zealous about my religion and tried my best to live according to the rules and what I understood of God’s Word. I was involved in enforcing the excommunication of several people in my community because they claimed they could be sure that if they would die, they would go to Heaven. These people believed that salvation had nothing to do with following the Amish rules, which was not a permissible way of thinking.

My dad was a bishop, so it was very important that all his children remained loyal to the religion; we did not want to disgrace him. Every morning and every night, my whole family would get down on our knees, and I would read the mandatory prayers out of a prayer book just like my dad had taught me to do. I was doing well until I got sick at the age of thirty.

I became so sick that I couldn’t work. My wife and I spent all our time and resources over the next three years trying to figure out what my medical problem was, but the doctors and hospitals were unable to figure it out. I finally gave up on the doctors and told my wife that there was no point in continuing like this. If I was going to die anyways, I didn’t see the point of doing so in a way that left a large amount of debt for my family. For this reason, I quit going to my appointments.

We had a small home business that manufactured wood products. Since I couldn’t work and had to rely solely on hired help, the business began to go downhill. As a result, our finances were getting tight. One day, after realizing that we only had enough food in the house to last a few days, I went out and tried to work despite my health condition. I overdid things and ended up sick again and in bed for a week.

A few days later, my wife had to run an errand, so I was lying on the couch alone. I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore. I cried out to God and told him that I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew that His Word said that He would take care of his children, but I didn’t feel like he was taking care of me. Because of this, it made me begin to question whether I was his child or not.

I continued talking to God and gave my wife and children to Him. I told Him that I would trust Him to somehow take care of them because I was physically unable to do so and could not bear to continue seeing them go hungry. I also gave my business into His hands. I asked that He either make it become successful again or “run it to the ground,” so I could quit worrying about it.

As far as myself, that day, I asked God to forgive my sins, and then I begged Him to take my life. I told Him that I was tired of living and felt worthless here on Earth. I did agree that if there was still something He wanted me to do on this Earth, I would be willing, but I would need patience to endure whatever it was that I needed to go through until I got to that point. I asked that He put His Holy Spirit in my heart, so that I could better understand what His will was for my life.

As I finished up my prayer, I cried myself to sleep.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, I got off the couch and felt so light that I had to look down to make sure my feet were on the floor. I also felt an incredible peace like I had never experienced before. I knew that God has heard my prayer and that I was now in unity with Him. I realized that He had forgiven me of my sins, and that He had given me salvation.

At the time, I did not know what being saved was, but I knew deep down that I was born again. I also knew that God had given me salvation as a gift, and that it was not something that I would receive at the end of life only IF I followed the rules of the church well enough like I was always taught.

Later that same day, I walked to the neighbor’s house, who had a phone with an answering machine. As I was checking my business messages, I saw that one had come in. The message was from a customer, who wanted to order about $7,000 worth of material. I immediately began to weep and worship God because I now knew that not only had He forgiven me from all my sins and made me His child, but He had also taken over our business and finances.

Something else happened that day that I was totally unprepared for. The Holy Spirit now lived in my heart, and He immediately began working. I kept thinking about the newfound salvation that God had given to me as a gift. I knew that if anyone would find out that I now believed in this way of faith, I would immediately be in trouble with the church; this thought troubled me.

I had an unrelenting urge to know God better and to know God’s heart, though, so I pushed those fears aside and started reading the Bible more than I had ever done before. As I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit gave me understanding, and I began to gain meaning from scriptures I had never understood before.

The more I read, the more inconsistencies I found in the teachings of the Amish church. Now, instead of the Amish teaching me, the Holy Spirit was teaching me. It was so refreshing to receive insight from the Spirit, but again, it troubled me because it kept pointing out more and more errors of the religion that was so dear to me.

It soon became evident that there was a big cross road ahead for me. If I kept believing the things that the Spirit was revealing to me, I knew that I would get in trouble with the church. And, on the other hand, if I continued believing the things I was taught by the church, I would have to be disobedient to the Holy Spirit. I didn’t dare to talk to my wife about the turmoil going on inside me either because I knew that she would immediately get scared and run to the preachers to tell them about what I was believing. Then, I would be excommunicated and separated from my family.

After some time, I became deeply distressed. One day, I fell on my face before God and said, “God, I do not know what’s right anymore. At first, I had been convinced that I was hearing your Holy Spirit direct me, but now I’m not beginning to question if maybe it was Satan’s voice I was hearing instead. I have no one to talk to because I have lost confidence in the Amish preachers, but I need to know if this is you that is teaching me these things.”

As I continued with my prayer, I told God about a man I knew in the city that was a Christian counselor. Even though I didn’t know if this man was truly a believer or not, I knew that God could make even a donkey speak, and God laid it on my heart to visit and give it a try. I trusted God to put the words that I needed to hear into the man’s mouth.

I called the man’s number and made an appointment to go see him. I intentionally made the appointment at a time I was delivering things to my customers, so no one would know that I had gone to talk to him. I had convinced myself by this time that he was going to tell me that Satan had deceived me and that I needed to return and believe what I was taught from childhood. I just couldn’t imagine that God would want to have me choose my newfound faith and chance being separated from my wife and my children.

I didn’t get very far into telling this counselor my troubles when he surprised me by starting to praise God. After a few rounds of him praising God, I became a little irritated, and I asked him why he was praising God. He replied by saying that he was praising God because he could see that the Holy Spirit was at work in my life. I responded by asking him how he knew that this was the Holy Spirit and not Satan deceiving me.

Immediately, the counselor saw the seriousness of the situation, and he began asking me some more questions like, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” And, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ has died for your sins?” And, “Do you believe that Jesus rose again and went to heaven?”

My answers to all of his questions were, “Of course I believe that!” It was then that he got his Bible out and turned to first John where it talked about testing the spirits to see whether they are from God. He pointed out the fact that every spirit that confesses that the Jesus Christ is Lord is a spirit that is truly from God.

I soon realized that I was trying to convince him and myself that I was not being led by the Holy Spirit because of my desire to remain Amish. After I realized this, I got up and left.

Before meeting with the counselor, I had promised God that I would believe what he said. Even though a piece of me was relieved after talking to him, a piece of me was now also deeply distressed because I knew what lie ahead for me.

I went home, and I thanked God for answering my prayer. I felt much better at the time, but after about three weeks, the same doubts returned that I had before I went to the counselor. I prayed to God asking that he forgive me for doubting him, but in my mind, this was just too serious of a matter to be mistaken about. Not only did my eternal future rely on me making the right decision, but the souls of my wife and children were at stake as well.

Because I knew that God was not a God of confusion and that he was not a God that wanted to separate families, I began praying that God would begin working on my wife’s heart. I knew that I could not convince my wife to believe one way or another, but I knew that if this was really a God-led thing, He could lead and teach my wife in the same way that He led and taught me.

I agreed with God to talk to my wife about my newfound faith. I told God that if she agreed with me that salvation was by faith, then I would know that it was from God and would not doubt it again. However, if she would get scared and not believe that salvation is by faith, then I was going to throw the whole idea out knowing that it was all a lie from Satan; I would go back to believing what my father and the church had taught me.

After talking to God about my plan, I felt some peace but was also afraid of what might happen; this fear kept me from talking to my wife for about two or three more weeks.

Finally, I gathered up the courage and sat down to talk to her. I started with some of the smaller areas of indifference, and she agreed that what I said was right, so I kept talking. As I continued, I saw that she kept agreeing, and finally, I was able disclose everything to her including my belief that salvation was a gift from God by grace, not something that we may or may not receive after a lifetime of obeying the rules of the church. To my surprise, she agreed with that too!

At this point, I began weeping and praising God. I now knew without a doubt that God was truly teaching me, and that he had been working on my wife’s heart as well. From that day until this very day, I have never again doubted whether it was God or Satan that was working on me; I know that it was God all along.

My wife and I ended up spending most of the day talking about what our future and the future of our children would look like. We talked about what life might be like in the big, scary world that lay outside of the secure walls of our Amish religion. We knew without a doubt that as soon as they found out about our new beliefs, we would be excommunicated from the religion we had grown up in and separated from our parents and our siblings for the rest of our lives.

We also knew that as soon as anybody would find out, we would be bombarded by preachers and our parents about having been deceived. We would be told that unless we would repent, we would go to hell for eternity. Because of this, our plan was to not tell anybody what we believed for a couple of years; this would give us time to study the Scriptures and be able to defend what we believe.

I soon decided that I wanted to begin praying to God from my heart with my whole family. After talking to my wife and getting her consent, I talked to the children about it and forbid them to tell anybody that we prayed that way. I knew that if anyone found out that we were praying without the approved prayer book, we would be commanded to stop immediately or once again, be in danger of excommunication.

After making the decision to pray to God from our hearts instead of the prayer book, things felt a lot more pleasant; I felt that I had someone I could always talk to. I continued to pray that if the time came that God wanted us to speak up and be open about our new beliefs, that he would give us the courage to do so as well as give us the words to speak.

Even though we knew a lot of scripture from our upbringing, it didn’t necessarily mean that we knew what it meant. Reading the Bible was like taking the words of God and pouring them through the sieve of the Holy Spirit to see what came out on the other side. There were many times that I would quote a scripture, and as I heard myself saying it, I knew that what I had always been taught is not what it really meant; it had been taken out of context. I felt like I almost had to relearn what the Scriptures meant for the second time.

A few months passed. One Sunday, after church, the men were all sitting in a room visiting, and a young man started asking questions about going to heaven, about the church rules, and about the Bible. As I sat and listened to one of the elders give this young man all of the wrong answers and take Scripture out of context, I had a really hard time being quiet.

After thinking about it for a minute, I decided to not say anything and just sat back and listened instead. The young man was desperate for answers, though, and was not easily convinced because he had seen some things in the Bible that didn’t match up with what the rules of the religion said.

After listening to the Amish elder deceive the young man for about twenty to thirty minutes, the Holy Spirit finally took control of my mouth. I started asking this elder some questions about the things that he had said.

I heard myself saying things like, “Look at that scripture that you quoted; the verse before that says this ______________,” or “The verse after that says this _____________ and this ______________,” which, in most of the cases, completely destroyed his argument. I also began saying, “If what you said is true, what does this verse mean?” I heard myself quoting scriptures with references that I didn’t even know exactly where to find but that I knew were there.

Needless to say, the elder had a choice to make. He could either admit that he was wrong or try to defend himself. He decided to try to defend himself, but the Holy Spirit kept giving me Scriptures and truth to use in combat with his arguments, so his defense didn’t work. Soon, the elder became very angry and cursed me in front of everyone. Immediately afterward, everybody went home to their own houses.

That very week, the elder that argued with me went to the preachers and demanded that I be excommunicated right away. One of the preachers had been sitting in on the conversation that Sunday afternoon, and he didn’t think that I had said anything wrong.

Nonetheless, I was soon called in for a meeting, where I was asked all kinds of questions about what was said on the day of the argument. As I recalled the discussion, I was able to explain the true gospel to all of the religious leaders in the meeting.

The elder did not relent from his anger and decided to write a letter to the bishop and demand that he excommunicate me. Because of this, a few weeks later, a whole van load of bishops and preachers came from Pennsylvania, and they called me to another meeting. This time, again, the Holy Spirit took control of me and used me to quote scriptures and to explain salvation by grace to all those in attendance.

At the end of the meeting, the head Bishop told me that although he couldn’t really say that what I was saying was not true, he knew that it was not the way that our forefathers had taught us. I asked him what he was going to believe, what he knew to be true or what the forefathers taught him. He responded by saying, “Our forefathers taught us that we cannot leave this kind of talk alone, because if left alone, it causes much disunity and division in the church. So we don’t know any better than to do what our forefathers have taught us. If you are not willing to let go of your ideas of salvation, we are going to have to excommunicate you.”

I told them that there was no way that I was going to agree to the idea that it was not the Holy Spirit that had saved me and that was teaching me the truth, because if I did, I would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They then excommunicated me and my wife, since she too stood by my side and believed in Salvation by faith alone.

After the bishop quoted his memorized speech and a scripture about giving us over to Satan to destroy our flesh, I looked at them all and said, “You have taken it upon yourselves to fight against the Spirit of God, but I’m going to pray for you.” With that, they all hung their heads, turned around, went out to their buggies, and left.


This testimony has been published with permission from the owner.

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Encouragement for Writing

The following is a comment written to me by my friend Chad in response to one of my blog posts (this one: Giving Up On Writing) . I found it so encouraging that I decided to put it in a document, highlighting a few points in Amazinga font, with the rest in Adobe Garamond Pro font, and to print it out and put it on my desk, so I can refer to it until it becomes ingrained. I also wanted to share it with others who might happen to find my blog. May it bless you as it has me.

“I felt like encouraging you to write at your leisure, and don’t let anybody dictate rules about that – not even you.

I’d suggest sitting down to write as often as you get the time, but notice that all I said was sit down to write I didn’t say actually write necessarily, nor create an obligation to write and then feel lousy if nothing happens.

I’ve received that same advice (with more detail) and it’s the closest thing I’ve done to being something enjoyable and productive. Notice again, that I didn’t say it was enjoyable and productive – just the closest thing to it that I’ve tried.

It’s enjoyable more often than not, though.

It’s also enjoyable more often than it’s productive, and that’s an important piece to ponder, should you desire to do so.

One hint I can give you is that when I sit down at my desk, I’m not creating a law to follow; about accomplishment of any kind. I’ve learned that that never is a positive experience and rarely if ever produces anything, positive or not.

But what I do, instead, is first, enjoy a tiny little pocket of orderor quiet, as it’s commonly known. It usually takes a while for my brain to reach a state that I can call quiet. But when it does I just give myself license to enjoy it.

With God.

Praying and writing are not things I separate very often.

Then I just decide that I’ll write or I won’t.

I ask God, but I don’t strain.

I just enjoy a moment with Him, and I let it go where it goes, and if I happen upon some part of that time that maybe could be written down, then I start.

Without expectations.

That’s the important part.

Peace is vital to the process, therefore laws and expectations are antithetical to it.

Since you do have a specific project in mind, maybe you can still just write whatever comes to you, and stay loose, and maybe you wander into your project, or maybe what you write spontaneously turns out to form an unexpected element of the main project? Or maybe it jars a memory loose that’s relevant to it, or maybe it inspires something unexpected… who knows? Not us, so why form expectations? It ruins the enjoyment, and it stifles creativity. It may never have anything to do with the book you’ve planned, but it may stand on its own as something you and others value for decades to come, and yet more, it may form the basis of a main project that you hadn’t previously even considered. But there’s only one way to find out what it’s going to be….

Prayer for me is a great way to enter the writing process, and writing is a great way to enjoy God. So I combine them, and I trust Him to lead the proceedings. And when I approach it that way, it’s much more peaceful and much more enjoyable, and more often fruitful – and in more than just one way. And if something is not enjoyable, and there’s no gun to your head, it’s not worth doing in large part because the fruit (product) won’t be as good as it will be if it were an immersive, transporting experience for you, to create it.

Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.

Maybe you’re already doing this but lack the time to engage in such pronounced dissociation, or maybe you’re a different enough personality type that it’s not your thing (although I highly doubt that, from knowing you to whatever extent I do!).

Maybe, however, there’s some use you can make of something or other I’ve said – that’s what I hope, anyway – but either way, I pray you find time, inspiration, and most of all, enjoyment, in the desire and effort to produce, and in the process itself.

Can’t go wrong if ya pray for someone, no matter the quality of your advice! ☺

PS I apologize for the disjointedness and rambling, but I didn’t prepare and I didn’t edit. I rarely do in contexts like this – though folks may occasionally wish I had done! ?”

Biggest takeaway for me is this:
“Peace is vital to the process“.

Amen, so much amen, and aaaaaaaaamen! Yo!

Water Of Life

This will be a long blog entry because I am posting not only the first 42 verses of John chapter 4, to give the context of the verse cited in the above poster, but I also paste commentary by Alexander MacLaren that I feel beautifully explains the meaning of verse 14.

Here I quote from the New International Version, which is not my favorite for study, but it is in modern English and relatively easy to follow for reading’s sake:

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

1Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.a)

10Jesus answered her, “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.”

11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.”

15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.

42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Footnotes:

  1. John 4:9 Or do not use dishes Samaritans have used

And now I paste the commentary, from the expositions of Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910).

THE SPRINGING FOUNTAIN

John 4:14.

There are two kinds of wells, one a simple reservoir, another containing the waters of a spring. It is the latter kind which is spoken about here, as is clear not only from the meaning of the word in the Greek, but also from the description of it as ‘springing up.’ That suggests at once the activity of a fountain. A fountain is the emblem of motion, not of rest. Its motion is derived from itself, not imparted to it from without. Its ‘silvery column’ rises ever heavenward, though gravitation is too strong for it, and drags it back again.

So Christ promises to this ignorant, sinful Samaritan woman that if she chose He would plant in her soul a gift which would thus well up, by its own inherent energy, and fill her spirit with music, and refreshment, and satisfaction.

What is that gift? The answer may be put in various ways which really all come to one. It is Himself, the unspeakable Gift, His own greatest gift; or it is the Spirit ‘which they that believe on Him should receive,’ and whereby He comes and dwells in men’s hearts; or it is the resulting life, kindred with the life bestowed, a consequence of the indwelling Christ and the present Spirit.

And so the promise is that they who believe in Him and rest upon His love shall receive into their spirits a new life principle which shall rise in their hearts like a fountain, ‘springing up into everlasting life.’

I think we shall best get the whole depth and magnitude of this great promise if, throwing aside all mere artificial order, we simply take the words as they stand here in the text, and think, first, of Christ’s gift as a fountain within; then as a fountain springing, leaping up, by its own power; and then as a fountain ‘springing into everlasting life.’

I. First, Christ’s gift is represented here as a fountain within.

Most men draw their supplies from without; they are rich, happy, strong, only when externals minister to them strength, happiness, riches. For the most of us, what we have is that which determines our felicity.

Take the lowest type of life, for instance, the men of whom the majority, alas! I suppose, in every time is composed, who live altogether on the low plane of the world, and for the world alone, whether their worldliness take the form of sensuous appetite, or of desire to acquire wealth and outward possessions. The thirst of the body is the type of the experience of all such people. It is satisfied and slaked for a moment, and then back comes the tyrannous appetite again. And, alas! the things that you drink to satisfy the thirst of your souls are too often like a publican’s adulterated beer, which has got salt in it, and chemicals, and all sorts of things to stir up, instead of slaking and quenching, the thirst. So ‘he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase.’ The appetite grows by what it feeds on, and a little lust yielded to to-day is a bigger one to-morrow, and half a glass to-day grows to a bottle in a twelvemonth. As the old classical saying has it, he ‘who begins by carrying a calf, before long is able to carry an ox’; so the thirst in the soul needs and drinks down a constantly increasing draught.

And even if we rise up into a higher region and look at the experience of the men who have in some measure learned that ‘a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth,’ nor in the abundance of the gratification that his animal nature gets, but that there must be an inward spring of satisfaction, if there is to be any satisfaction at all; if we take men who live for thought, and truth, and mental culture, and yield themselves up to the enthusiasm for some great cause, and are proud of saying, ‘My mind to me a kingdom is,’ though they present a far higher style of life than the former, yet even that higher type of man has so many of his roots in the external world that he is at the mercy of chances and changes, and he, too, has deep in his heart a thirst that nothing, no truth, no wisdom, no culture, nothing that addresses itself to one part of his nature, though it be the noblest and the loftiest, can ever satisfy and slake.

I am sure I have some such people in my audience, and to them this message comes. You may have, if you will, in your own hearts, a springing fountain of delight and of blessedness which will secure that no unsatisfied desires shall ever torment you. Christ in His fulness, His Spirit, the life that flows from both and is planted within our hearts, these are offered to us all; and if we have them we carry inclosed within ourselves all that is essential to our felicity; and we can say, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be self-satisfying,’ not with the proud, stoical independence of a man who does not want either God or man to make him blessed, but with the humble independence of a man who can say ‘my sufficiency is of God.’

No independence of externals is possible, nor wholesome if it were possible, except that which comes from absolute dependence on Jesus Christ.

If you have Christ in your heart then life is possible, peace is possible, joy is possible, under all circumstances and in all places. Everything which the soul can desire, it possesses. You will be like the garrison of a beleaguered castle, in the courtyard of which is a sparkling spring, fed from some source high up in the mountains, and finding its way in there by underground channels which no besiegers can ever touch. Sorrows will come, and make you sad, but though there may be much darkness round about you, there will be light in the darkness. The trees may be bare and leafless, but the sap has gone down to the roots. The world may be all wintry and white with snow, but there will be a bright little fire burning on your own hearthstone. You will carry within yourselves all the essentials to blessedness. If you have ‘Christ in the vessel’ you can smile at the storm. They that drink from earth’s fountains ‘shall thirst again’; but they who have Christ in their hearts will have a fountain within which will not freeze in the bitterest cold, nor fail in the fiercest heat. ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a fountain.’

II. Christ’s gift is a springing fountain.

The emblem, of course, suggests motion by its own inherent impulse. Water may be stagnant, or it may yield to the force of gravity and slide down a descending river-bed, or it may be pumped up and lifted by external force applied to it, or it may roll as it does in the sea, drawn by the moon, driven by the winds, borne along by currents that owe their origin to outward heat or cold. But a fountain rises by an energy implanted within itself, and is the very emblem of joyous, free, self-dependent and self-regulated activity.

And so, says Christ, ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a springing fountain’; it shall not lie there stagnant, but leap like a living thing, up into the sunshine, and flash there, turned into diamonds, when the bright rays smile upon it.

So here is the promise of two things: the promise of activity, and of an activity which is its own law.

The promise of activity. There seems small blessing, in this overworked world, in a promise of more active exertion; but what an immense part of our nature lies dormant and torpid if we are not Christians! How much of the work that is done is dreary, wearisome, collar-work, against the grain. Do not the wheels of life often go slowly? Are you not often weary of the inexpressible monotony and fatigue? And do you not go to your work sometimes, though with a fierce feeling of ‘need-to-do-it,’ yet also with inward repugnance? And are there not great parts of your nature that have never woke into activity at all, and are ill at ease, because there is no field of action provided for them? The mind is like millstones; if you do not put the wheat into them to grind, they will grind each other’s faces. So some of us are fretting ourselves to pieces, or are sick of a vague disease, and are morbid and miserable because the highest and noblest parts of our nature have never been brought into exercise. Surely this promise of Christ’s should come as a true Gospel to such, offering, as it does, if we will trust ourselves to Him, a springing fountain of activity in our hearts that shall fill our whole being with joyous energy, and make it a delight to live and to work. It will bring to us new powers, new motives; it will set all the wheels of life going at double speed. We shall be quickened by the presence of that mighty power, even as a dim taper is brightened and flames up when plunged into a jar of oxygen. And life will be delightsome in its hardest toil, when it is toil for the sake of, and by the indwelling strength of, that great Lord and Master of our work.

And there is not only a promise of activity here, but of activity which is its own law and impulse. That is a blessed promise in two ways. In the first place, law will be changed into delight. We shall not be driven by a commandment standing over us with whip and lash, or coming behind us with spur and goad, but that which we ought to do we shall rejoice to do; and inclination and duty will coincide in all our lives when our life is Christ’s life in us.

That should be a blessing to some of you who have been fighting against evil and trying to do right with more or less success, more or less interruptedly and at intervals, and have felt the effort to be a burden and a wearisomeness. Here is a promise of emancipation from all that constraint and yoke of bondage which duty discerned and unloved ever lays upon a man’s shoulders. When we carry within us the gift of a life drawn from Jesus Christ, and are able to say like Him, ‘Lo, I come to do Thy will, and Thy law is within my heart,’ only then shall we have peace and joy in our lives. ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death.’

And then, in the second place, that same thought of an activity which is its own impulse and its own law, suggests another aspect of this blessedness, namely, that it sets us free from the tyranny of external circumstances which absolutely shape the lives of so many of us. The lives of all must be to a large extent moulded by these, but they need not, and should not be completely determined by them. It is a miserable thing to see men and women driven before the wind like thistledown. Circumstances must influence us, but they may either influence us to base compliance and passive reception of their stamp, or to brave resistance and sturdy nonconformity to their solicitations. So used, they will influence us to a firmer possession of the good which is most opposite to them, and we shall be the more unlike our surroundings, the more they abound in evil. You can make your choice whether, if I may so say, you shall be like balloons that are at the mercy of the gale and can only shape their course according as it comes upon them and blows them along, or like steamers that have an inward power that enables them to keep their course from whatever point the wind blows, or like some sharply built sailing-ship that, with a strong hand at the helm, and canvas rightly set, can sail almost in the teeth of the wind and compel it to bear her along in all but the opposite direction to that in which it would carry her if she lay like a log on the water.

I beseech you all, and especially you young people, not to let the world take and shape you, like a bit of soft clay put into a brick-mould, but to lay a masterful hand upon it, and compel it to help you, by God’s grace, to be nobler, and truer, and purer.

It is a shame for men to live the lives that so many amongst us live, as completely at the mercy of externals to determine the direction of their lives as the long weeds in a stream that yield to the flow of the current. It is of no use to preach high and brave maxims, telling men to assert their lordship over externals, unless we can tell them how to find the inward power that will enable them to do so. But we can preach such noble exhortations to some purpose when we can point to the great gift which Christ is ready to give, and exhort them to open their hearts to receive that indwelling power which shall make them free from the dominion of these tyrant circumstances and emancipate them into the ‘liberty of the sons of God.’ ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a leaping fountain.’

III. The last point here is that Christ’s gift is a fountain ‘springing up into everlasting life.’

The water of a fountain rises by its own impulse, but howsoever its silver column may climb it always falls back into its marble basin. But this fountain rises higher, and at each successive jet higher, tending towards, and finally touching, its goal, which is at the same time its course. The water seeks its own level, and the fountain climbs until it reaches Him from whom it comes, and the eternal life in which He lives. We might put that thought in two ways. First, the gift is eternal in its duration. The water with which the world quenches its thirst perishes. All supplies and resources dry up like winter torrents in summer heat. All created good is but for a time. As for some, it perishes in the use; as for other, it evaporates and passes away, or is ‘as water spilt upon the ground which cannot be gathered up’; as for all, we have to leave it behind when we go hence. But this gift springs into everlasting life, and when we go it goes with us. The Christian character is identical in both worlds, and however the forms and details of pursuits may vary, the essential principle remains one. So that the life of a Christian man on earth and his life in heaven are but one stream, as it were, which may, indeed, like some of those American rivers, run for a time through a deep, dark canyon, or in an underground passage, but comes out at the further end into broader, brighter plains and summer lands; where it flows with a quieter current and with the sunshine reflected on its untroubled surface, into the calm ocean. He has one gift and one life for earth and heaven-Christ and His Spirit, and the life that is consequent upon both.

And then the other side of this great thought is that the gift tends to, is directed towards, or aims at and reaches, everlasting life. The whole of the Christian experience on earth is a prophecy and an anticipation of heaven. The whole of the Christian experience of earth evidently aims towards that as its goal, and is interpreted by that as its end. What a contrast that is to the low and transient aims which so many of us have! The lives of many men go creeping along the surface when they might spring heavenwards. My friend! which is it to be with you? Is your life to be like one of those Northern Asiatic rivers that loses itself in the sands, or that flows into, or is sluggishly lost in, a bog; or is it going to tumble over a great precipice, and fall sounding away down into the blackness; or is it going to leap up ‘into everlasting life’? Which of the two aims is the wiser, is the nobler, is the better?

And a life that thus springs will reach what it springs towards. A fountain rises and falls, for the law of gravity takes it down; this fountain rises and reaches, for the law of pressure takes it up, and the water rises to the level of its source. Christ’s gift mocks no man, it sets in motion no hopes that it does not fulfil; it stimulates to no work that it does not crown with success. If you desire a life that reaches its goal, a life in which all your desires are satisfied, a life that is full of joyous energy, that of a free man emancipated from circumstances and from the tyranny of unwelcome law, and victorious over externals, open your hearts to the gift that Christ offers you; the gift of Himself, of His death and passion, of His sacrifice and atonement, of His indwelling and sanctifying Spirit.

He offered all the fulness of that grace to this Samaritan woman, in her ignorance, in her profligacy, in her flippancy. He offers it to you. His offer awoke an echo in her heart, will it kindle any response in yours? Oh! when He says to you, ‘The water that I shall give will be in you a fountain springing into everlasting life,’ I pray you to answer as she did-’Sir!-Lord-give me this water, that I thirst not; neither come to earth’s broken cisterns to draw.’

Please Don’t Say “Clearly”

When I am reading someone’s writing about or listening to someone talking about Scripture, and the word “clearly” is used, unless it is in the context of explaining something about 1 Corinthians 13:12, I automatically become wary of the information being offered.

They will say something like “We see clearly in God’s Word that this means such and such…”, but rarely do they explain how that clarity was achieved for them.

When “clearly” crops up like that, my thought is, “Them’s brainwashin’ words.”

If you really feel something is that clear, then show your evidence and let the recipient judge the level of clarity according to their own perception.

And Can It Be…?

Such a beautiful hymn, set to beautiful scenes of God’s creation, gently spurs me all the more onward to heaven where neither thorn, nor darkness, nor impending death can ever detract from the eternal enjoyment of fellowship as it was meant to be in all its perfection.

Watch and listen: And Can It Be?

And Can It Be?

Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 

Music: Thomas Campbell 

1. And can it be that I should gain 
an interest in the Savior’s blood! 
Died he for me? who caused his pain! 
For me? who him to death pursued? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 
Amazing love! How can it be 
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? 

2. ‘Tis mystery all: th’ Immortal dies! 
Who can explore his strange design? 
In vain the firstborn seraph tries 
to sound the depths of love divine. 
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; 
let angel minds inquire no more. 
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; 
let angel minds inquire no more. 

3. He left his Father’s throne above 
(so free, so infinite his grace!), 
emptied himself of all but love, 
and bled for Adam’s helpless race. 
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, 
for O my God, it found out me! 
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, 
for O my God, it found out me! 

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay, 
fast bound in sin and nature’s night; 
thine eye diffused a quickening ray; 
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; 
my chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5. No condemnation now I dread; 
Jesus, and all in him, is mine; 
alive in him, my living Head, 
and clothed in righteousness divine, 
bold I approach th’ eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 

My Views On “Doing Church”

I love Jesus. I really do – ever since I came to believe on Him when I was 20 years old. I am ever grateful for what He did for me at Calvary. So don’t get me wrong when I say this: sitting “in church” and listening to someone speak a monologue is verrrry hard for me. I tune out, I lose track, I get distracted, I get tired, I get frustrated, I write random notes that have nothing to do with what the speaker is saying, and I long to share my thoughts and to ask questions as one would do in dialogue.

It has bothered me for years that the way of modern “church” is to have one person stand up and give their speech for often upwards of an hour. From my own reading of the Bible, that doesn’t sit right with me (no pun intended). But I “go to church” sometimes anyway, to see some of the people I love.

Yesterday, I went to church. And I got to thinking, as I often do, about the way modern day church is “done”. I wondered if anyone else has these thoughts, and so I googled. I found this article, which says a lot about how I feel. It also provided some points of which I’d not thought, and into which I want to look further.

There is more I could say, but I will share the link, in case anyone would like to read it. I hope there are others who feel this way.

Where Did The Christian Sermon Come From?

And here is another link along the same line:

Problems and Limitations of the Traditional “Sermon” Concept

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

 

An Obscure But Poignant Hymn

I saw these words on the facebook wall of a friend.  The words are meaningful to me.  I post them for quick reference and to share in case they bless others:

A mind at perfect peace with God!
Oh what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood
This, this indeed is peace!

By nature and by practice far
How very far from God!
Yet now by grace brought near to Him
Through faith in Jesus blood!

So near, so very near to God,
I cannot nearer be!
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He!

So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be!
The love wherewith He loves the Son
Such is His love to me!

Why should I ever careful be,
Since such a God is mine?
He watches o’er me might and day
And tells me Mine is thine!

 

Marriage and Pina Coladas

I was thinking about how “marriage” has always in essence meant, up until recent attempts by some to change the definition, a contract between a man and a woman.

If it’s not a man and a woman in the contract, it’s something else, but it ain’t marriage.

I think of it like this:

There are two necessary ingredients that make a pina colada:  pineapple and coconut.

If you mix pineapple and pineapple, it is not a pina colada.

If you mix coconut and coconut, it is not a pina colada.

Pineapple and pineapple may be suitable for those who have never met a coconut that moves them.

Likewise, coconut and coconut may be the perfect tonic for one who prefers to avoid pineapple for whatever reason.

People are free to enjoy whichever drink refreshes them, but please don’t call coconut and coconut or pineapple and pineapple a “pina colada”, because without the two necessary ingredients for pina colada, it’s not a pina colada.

pina colada
Cheers!