A new year is upon us, 2019 is officially here so happy birthday Earth?!? Now rather than me giving you a Christian horoscope about the coming year I want to talk about how we can embrace change and new beginnings in our lives so we can better serve and follow after God.
You need water to live. Each day your body required high quality H2O to continue its existence in this world. Yet that cool and refreshing living water can only do so much to bring life and restoration to the core of our being. I can flavor that water with anything I want, tea, coffee, kool-aid, tang, those weird little squares with syrup in them but no matter how I flavor that water it is still water. It can support my natural existence but it has no effect on my spiritual condition or my existence in eternity.
That is where we need something greater than H20, we need life, not just a glimmer of life but its very source, Jesus. Throughout the Bible we see this picture of “living water” appear in both the New and Old Testaments but it isn’t until the Gospel of John that we realize what God was talking about to the prophets. In John 4 Jesus in His conversation with the Samaritan woman comments on how the living water He possesses was far superior to the one beneath the well He was sitting beside. Let’s take a look at what He says:
John 4:10-14 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
It becomes obvious to us that Jesus is talking about something far greater than the water that was sitting at the bottom of that well. He is speaking about a source of life which can lead not to more natural life but can lead us to eternal life. Not a cup of water which flows out of us a few hours later, but the very power of God’s life and power in us which brings about a change that lasts far longer than a few hours. This is just one of the many instances where Jesus equates His life, purpose and reason for being on Earth is that those created in God’s image can once again receive life rather than the punishment of death through/by sin. Not long after the encounter in Samaria Jesus speaks of being the bread of life (living manna) which is once again available for God’s people.
John 6:47-51 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes [j]in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
This is the core purpose for why Jesus came into our world, to bring an end to the domination of sin, to break the power of Satan and to restore covenant relationship between the Creator and the created. Jesus came to bring redemption for our sins, to bring adopting for us into His family and to provide a means by which the futility of creation and life can be turned back into its original purpose.
Digging Beneath the Ice For Living Water
To me it feels at times that God has frozen His living water that is available to us in our modern world. As if a great winter has come upon us and the living water of Jesus is trapped beneath several feet of ice. We can walk and skate on that ice, build igloo’s and snow forts but we are unable to access the waters beneath with our bear hands. The water continues to flow beneath the ice, and those who are determined are still able partake of it will forcefully breaking through the ice, wither with a shovel, a drill, an augur or even with fire.
These people feel to be in the minority while most others will simply pass over it and wonder what it would be like to partake of that living water that supposedly flowed in the land long ago. So to can we take for granted what Jesus has not only done in the past but what He is offering to us right now. Have we learned to be accustomed to the winter and its snow, forts, ice and covering that we forgot what the land used to look like, full of greenery and life?
Do enough of us in the church today want to learn to dig through the ice so God can provide His living water to not only them but all of the people who are searching for fresh living water? No matter how much we sing or confess that we want the living water of Christ I fear that too many people have grown accustomed to drinking thawed snow picked up from the ground. Water which will not sustain them, and it is water which will only furthers their coldness of heart.
In this proverbial winter we have to learn how to seek after Jesus and watch for the places where He walks upon the ice and creates pools and openings for the people to receive once again His living water. I’m not trying to be super-spiritual here I am talking about following His words, following His presence and following where He is moving in our culture and world. To take in the living water of Christ we first have to be aware of where He is and what He is offering to us.
At the same time when we do find Him we have to remain closely behind Him because after He passes by those proverbial pools and openings they will gradually begin to freeze back over. Leaving only a memory of what was, this is not nonsense it is actually the picture of the cycle of revival in action. The hearts of the people were cold, so Jesus came and brought His presence and thawed their hardness. The people came and partook of His offer of eternal life, then Jesus moved on from that outpouring to somewhere else. When that happened the people had two choices either continue to follow after Jesus or remain where they were before and be left with nothing else but a memory of the time God came to town.
That is why we must continually follow Him as He goes about opening up new pools (opportunities for ministry, revival, miracles and so on), or else you could find yourself left without His water yourself. Those who are over taken by the winter of this world, those who saw life but became frozen once again.
The 5 R’s of the Living Water of Christ
Now for those who are searching for the living waters that Jesus has come to give us I want you to pay attention to what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him.” Look closely at what Jesus is saying here, He is stating that “if only she knew who I was, she would ask the right question. That is the beginning of our journey, it is the beginning to understanding God’s living water and it is the beginning to a life in eternity.
There are five things we can learn from Jesus as to what we must do to not only find the living water of Christ in our lives but also how to live out that new life: Revelation, Repentance, Relationship, Restoration and Revival.
Begin by seeing Jesus as He really is then and only then can we accept what He is offering to us. If Jesus is the Son of God who was crucified for our sins, raised from the dead and is now on the throne in Heaven then it would be foolish not to receive what He is offering to us. We need a revelation of the identity of Christ in our lives if we are ever to truly live, because any hope of life in our own lives is rooted and grounded in the eternal life which Jesus is comprised of.
John 7:37-38 37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
When we experience the revelation of who Jesus is we are left with two choices we can either accept His identity and offer and receive forgiveness or we can harden our heart like ice and continue on living our life without Him. For those who choose the life Jesus is offering us we now need to come into alignment with Jesus’s commands, expectations and desires for our lives. We take our revelation of who He is and allow Him to redeem and forgive us. But that redemption comes at a price we are to transform our lives so we no longer do the things or think in the same ways that we did before our great revelation of who Jesus is and what He did for us. That is what true repentance is, its not just saying your sorry then doing it again a week later. Repentance is when you make a fundamental change to your life, it is when you go the exact opposite direction than you were before. So you don’t end up in a destination of destruction, but your course has been altered to a destination of life.
Jeremiah 2:13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water. (see also Jeremiah 17:13)
After repentance comes our inclusion into the New Covenant, we have been made a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Our new life begins and we are able to pray and have a real two-way fellowship with God our Creator. It is a relationship that is grounded in word and spirit, that is to say it is grounded in the Scriptures and in our everyday conversations and experiences with God. When we don’t read and study the Bible our spiritual growth becomes stunted, and we either remain at the same level indefinitely or we regress into what we once were. Just like a river where as long as the water is moving down stream it can support life, but if fresh water is cut off or if there is no were to empty itself it becomes stagnant and the life within slowly dies (Luke 4:4). The same can be said about our spiritual life with God because without faith, prayer, experience and conversation with God all of our Bible knowledge becomes hollow and lifeless.
Hebrews 10:19-22 “19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Now that we are followers of Jesus, we have been redeemed with evidence of repentance and our relationship is alive with God the process of restoration begins within us. Now God works to undo the damage done by Adam, Eve and Satan by restoring the original image God placed of Himself in us. Here at this juncture we become like Christ, we begin to love, think and act like He did, not as some sort of clone or zombie but we see the world through His eyes and begin to walk our or lives wearing His shoes.
It is the process of sanctification spoken of by Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4), where we go through the process of daily refinement whereby we have the rust and barnacles of this world removed and we are polished and restored with the nature and conscience of God. This is the time where we begin to look beyond ourselves to see how we can serve God and be a blessing to others. It is the time when our priorities are challenged, our desires are refined and the truth of God’s opinion of us comes to light.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Revelation 7:16-17 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Here we are awakened and released to go and tell others about Jesus. The great commission and the call to discipleship begins to materialize in our lives as we look to tell others of the original revelation we had about Jesus and how that has changed our own lives. We go from the place of spiritual and scriptural milk and move on to the meat, the things which not just sustain but cause us to help others as well.
Zechariah 14:8, Ezekiel 47:7-12 and Revelation 22:1-5 speak of the river of living water which brings life back to the land and how the trees grow from it to bring forth fruit each month for healing of people (fish of the sea) and the nations. It is our duty through the Great Commission and the call to Discipleship to spread the revelation of Jesus where ever we are so that as many people as possible can enjoy the benefits of those prophetic trees, that they receive the endless life of Christ.
I am talking about more than the type of revival I mentioned earlier where we go from bareness to God’s presence appearing to awakening to monument building to slumber to bareness once again. I am talking about us coming to life, it is the passing from death to life that we experience when we partake of the living water Jesus offers all people from all tribes and nations. It is the life that comes through the power of the cross and resurrection, that life which transforms us and brings us to the point where we can walk around this world in the love, power and authority of Jesus.
Ephesians 3:20-21 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Come To The Waters
Jesus represents the living water which brings us life, before we had a revelation or access to Jesus we were all like lone pools scattered throughout a field. Each one of us contained water but because there was no fresh water coming in we either became stagnant or there was so little water that it all sunk into the ground leaving nothing but an impression in the soil. When Jesus comes it is like He is digging a trench to connect all of these pools into the great river of His love and presence. Not that we are emptied because of this but rather we are ensured continually water to keep us alive and able to support life.
Compared to Jesus our life is a stagnant substance, one that needs revitalization, cleansing and renewal. Hope is not lost because Jesus longs to come into our lives and bring forgiveness, healing, love, friendship and purpose (Job 33:4) to us.
Jesus brings a purpose which transcends our jobs or occupation and rather has to do with our reason for being on this planet in the first place. Not everyone is called to full-time ministry, not everyone is called to the arts, or office work, or trade work, or IT or what ever else you can come up with. Our purpose is rooted in our relationship with God and how we bring about more of Him, in this world. Life is about so much more than preaching, our daily lives are the greatest witnesses of the gospel there is. We need living and active believers who understand their purpose in every walk of life, in every social and economic bracket and in every type of work. So there are no excuses why anyone and everyone cannot have the opportunity to experience the great revelation of who Jesus is.
Isaiah 12:2-5 2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth.
Do you want “the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” present in your life? If you do want that then you have to ask the question “who is it who says to you” these things? When you know that answer then you can ask Him for some of that water, the water of eternal life, the water of change, restoration, transformation and adoption.
John 11:25-26 “25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
The Hunt For Living Water Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Good news everyone, it’s Christmas time! The time of year for presents, lights, music, decorations, fests, stress, shopping, fellowship and presents. Each year many people either loath or get excited for the magical Christmas season. A time of year full of white-haired fat guys, floating deer, The List Of Jericho… I mean Santa’s list, elves deported from Middle Earth, snow that covers all, egg flavored milk (or Bailey’s flavored depending on the day), department store Hunger Games, omnipresent glitter, Red Ryder Air Rifles, the conquest of pumpkin spice by the forces of peppermint, and finally Red Green, no wait a minute I mean the colors red and green.
Each year for a few short weeks (I’m talking to you shopping malls that put out their decorations in October!) the world around us changes from the dull and ordinary to a world full of cheer, colorful lights, and a little extra sparkle in the hearts of people. It’s the time when people happily skip through the malls looking for the latest unexplainably hot toy of the season, like Tickle Me (only after proof of consent) Elmo, Turbo Man, Johnny Switchblade, or even Paw Patrol Ultimate Rescue Hey Look A Squirrel Action Play Set.
For some this is a season of magic, others a blatant form of consumer driven religious sacrilege, and some see this time a year as just a slightly more chaotic and crowded version of normal life. No matter which category you find yourself in I hope that deep down you understand that there is something far more powerful and important that this season represents. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the birth of Santa Clause, or the commencement of Festivus, it is the celebration of the day when God came to town and changed the world as we knew it.
It’s More Than Just A Season
I’m sorry to say that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, I’m afraid Christmas is cancelled sorry again everyone. I kid but what this time of year and the day the early church chose has to do with setting aside one day a year to commemorate the day of our Savior’s birth (won’t get into the debate of them superseding an existing pagan festival here today). I’m not saying we need to change the day we celebrate on but rather I’m pointing out the importance for us to recognize the event which are we celebrate.
Personally, I lean towards Jesus being born in September or October, possible during the Feast of Tabernacles. I believe this because it lines up with what we know from the scriptures, and it explains the reason all of the inns were full and why the shepherds were outside in their pastures at the time. The Feast itself (Leviticus 23:23-24, Deuteronomy 16:13-16, Nehemiah 8:13-18, Zechariah 14:16-19) represents when all of Israel was supposed to come to Jerusalem and live outside its gates for several days in tents (temporary shelters) made out of animal skins until the Day of Atonement when the nations sins were whipped away.
Jesus came into the world wearing the skin (and its legalities) of human kind to be the once and for-all sacrifice which permanently wipes and erases all of our sins away. This also follows the pattern of the three major Jewish Feasts lining up with the life and calling of Jesus. Jesus was born on Tabernacles, killed on Passover along with the sacrificial lamb, and Pentecost which is the feast celebrating the first fruits of the field was when the church was born and filled with the Spirit.
The Christmas Gift of God’s Presence
At this moment I want to focus on the birth of Jesus, which is the most important and mind boggling miracle in all of the Bible. In Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20 we are presented with the circumstances of Jesus’s entry into the world. Here we see angels announcing the coming of God Himself into the world not in power and chariots of fire but through a baby entering the world.
You see what we need to focus on this time of year is not the gifts under our tree but we are to focus on the appearance of God’s presence in this Earth. That is His great Christmas gift to us and not only that it is also our God given solution to deal with the roots of all the problems faced by the world. Jesus didn’t come to bring a heavenly band-aid to cover our surface problems but rather He came to expose and repair the broken foundations of our nature and heart so we can experience an eternal solution for sin, death, rebellion, pride, fear, hatred and injustice.
We are to celebrate this season in commemoration of the day God entered our world. I’m not just talking about God’s presence like when He filled Solomon’s Temple but how His nature and heart entered into the world of mankind. On that day God entered the world through His creation and cried among us. Later He ate among us and as He grew he crawled among us, and then He finally walked among us so we could one day be picked up by Him who ruled from high above us.
Think about it, God didn’t force us to build a great tower to reach Him, He came down to us in a body just like ours so He could relate to us, redeem us, die for us, suffer for us, and be resurrected so He could reign over us as one of us and not an outsider or a distant God. God Himself closed the gap between the fallen and stained created and the Holy Creator. An action taken out of love, goodness and justice in order that our relationship with God would be restored, like embers that had grown cold that suddenly had fuel thrown on them.
Christmas is the time when we celebrate God coming down to us, we celebrate God’s goodness, grace and mercy for providing a way for us to reconnect with Him. He could have sent judgment, or fire or calamity to force our allegiance but that is not His nature. He came in love, power, mercy, holiness and justice to lead us back to Him. Christmas gives us an opportunity to show our gratitude and gratefulness for that mercy. The day the light of the world came and lived among us shining ever so brightly. This is not just good news it is “the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere!” (Luke 2:10 TPT).
This gift is not for a select few but it is available for anyone and anywhere to receive, there is no naughty and nice list which determines who gets to receive this gift. In reality everyone is on the naughty list and it is the great gift of God which moves us to the “nice” list.
The Great Gift of Salvation
This Christmas gift didn’t comprise of just God’s presence among us, that was only the introduction, the greatest gift came in the form of Jesus’s purpose to bring salvation and redemption of sin to us. This was the plan, this was always the plan going all the way back to Eden the plan was for God to come down so He could stomp on the serpent and undo the damage done that day.
We see this call through the name given to the Son of God through the angel, in Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31-33 both Mary and Joseph receive the divine call to call this promised child Jesus. I must remind everyone that this is the English form of the name and the angels spoke a different one. We see that Luke records the name given being the Greek name Iesous, while Matthew records Joseph receiving the name Yeshua (or Y’hoshua).
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son and you are to name him ‘Savior,’ for he is destined to give his life to save his people from their sins.” TPT
Luke 1:31-33 31 You will become pregnant with a baby boy, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be supreme and will be known as the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will enthrone him as King on his ancestor David’s throne. 33 He will reign as King of Israel forever, and his reign will have no limit.” TPT
I cover this topic of what Jesus’s original Hebrew name really means in The Secret Name of Jesus Christ, but to make a long story short the name given to Jesus literally means “savior,” or the LORD delivers/is salvation/is my savior. A name to ancient Jews was seen as a window into a person’s life, and especially so when God or an angel provided the name. From the beginning we see that the name we know as Jesus isn’t just a title but the name has a deep and glorious meaning. When we say Jesus is coming in our minds we think “a man named Jesus is coming this way.” While to those in the first century it wasn’t “Jesus is coming” but YHWH our savior and deliverer is coming.” We associate names with letters, but those ancient Hebrews associated names with meanings.
From the beginning then we see that Jesus’s purpose was set, He was Immanuel “God among us” and He was Yeshua “YHWH is salvation,” God’s presence and God’s salvation are fully seen through Jesus. On what we know today as Christmas that salvation and presence came into our world, that revelation alone justifies all of the celebrations we can come up with for this time of year.
What This Season Means To Us Today
Christmas time can be a contentious time even among Christians who disagree about what should and what should not be associated with this season. Some want Santa excommunicated, others want to ban tree decorating, others want all of the spotlight shone on a blond haired blue eyed baby in a store bought crib and others just want to make it to January without going bankrupt.
We need to come to the conclusion that our culture and everything we do to commemorate and celebrate this season only represents the decorations on the tree, while Jesus along with His purpose, nature and entry into this world is the actual tree which everything hangs upon.
I’m not against decorating a tree or giving presents but we have to understand the dividing line between the meaning of Christmas and how we as a culture choose to celebrate that truth. Christians in different cultures have various ways to celebrate Christmas but that does not make them more or less Christian. I have a tree and there’s nothing wrong with that (if I bow down to it that’s a different story) and I also exchange gifts. However, I see those matters as being part of a larger celebration, a fragment of something much larger. When your Christmas season only consists of decorations, presents and food then you are missing out on the larger picture.
Christmas is a time when we remember the miracle that happened and how it forever changed our world. So some will decorate a tree with lights and trinkets, others will put up lights outside of their house, others will have no decorations or cultural expressions at all. Some celebrate the event on December 24 at midnight, or even early January, with the rest celebrating on December 25.
How we celebrate at times is less important than what we are celebrating. I think at times that all of the pomp and circumstance which happens this time of year is a good thing, because it separates this season from all of the others. It is a time of year when for a few weeks everything changes, the music, the lighting, the activities and if done right it is a good thing.
We don’t want the celebration of Jesus’s entry into the world to go unnoticed like the August Civic Holiday in Canada or Presidents Day in the United States. The fact that so much changes this time of year points towards the centrality of Jesus in our world. Even though many people do not worship them they feel the effect of His grand entry into the world for a few weeks every year.
For us as Christians we then have to learn how to balance the event of Christ’s birth with the activities we engage in during this time of year. Because what does this season actually mean, is it about a serial home intruder leaving stolen toys from China under our tree’s, or is it about the greatest gift of all coming into our lives? Again, I’m not saying to abandon gift giving but we must understand that not matter what we give or receive it will never top what God gave us 2,000 years ago. These gifts we give and receive should remind us that no matter what is beneath that wrapping paper it will never compare to what we have already received.
The purpose of Christmas is to remind ourselves of the day everything changed, the day which marked God coming down not to judge us but to give us an opportunity to repent, receive forgiveness and become part of His family once again. Now then when you turn on a light remember the one who is the light of the world, when you open a gift remember the one who gave you the greatest gift, when you meet with family remember the family you have been adopted into and when you burst a button gorging on food remember the one who broke His body like bread to bring you salvation, redemption and life.
Luke 2:10-11 “10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” NKJV
The Greatest Christmas Gift Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
A core part of our relationship with Christ is rooted and grounded in our faith in the goodness of God. By that I mean we have a trust, love and respect for God which is built upon our knowledge that He is a good and loving God who is trying to restore a creation which has gone haywire. In the beginning we read repeatedly how God saw what He created as being good (Genesis 1:31). If God were not good and loving why would He have created a good and pleasant world in the first place?
Unfortunately, that good world which God created was infected by the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions. The world became corrupted, the nature of men and women was sent into chaos, but God did not change. God’s nature was not affected by the fall of man, His heart was not corrupted and the God who created a good universe didn’t suddenly become evil and vindictive. No, rather the good and loving God had been separated from His children because of sin. God’s goodness remained but that same goodness is misinterpreted as anger in the Old Testament because of the sin, brokenness and rebellion of the people. God wanted to be good and loving to them, so He poured our blessings upon them (Psalm 33:5) and eventually sent Christ.
We fail to understand that God’s anger or judgement is often a response to His rejected or abused goodness. This also applies to those who benefitted from covenant with God but failed to honor it. Be honest with yourself are you really that different from God in this manner, how do you respond when you try to love, bless, or help someone who just takes advantage of you, rejects your gifts or acts as if they are entitled to those things?
Why Is God Good?
This is the big question that many people struggle with, actually the biggest question people struggle with is “is God good?” We look at the chaos and problems of this world and assume that God is like an absentee father that doesn’t care how His kids are doing. This couldn’t be further from the truth God’s identity is rooted in Him being able to be the ultimate expression of good, to create good things and to show that goodness to those He has created (Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 6:25, Psalm 52:1, 100:5, Philippians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:11).
God’s default setting is not “vengeance on my enemies” but it is “I desire to bless those who lovingly follow me and listen to me faithfully.” I don’t think God wants His creation to be bombarded with pain, suffering, disease, sin, death, poverty, brokenness, disappointment or fear. I believe that we through our own actions (and/or in agreement with the enemy) bring those things upon ourselves, then we go about and blame God for them.
Just look at the life of Jesus, what did He do throughout His ministry? He taught the people and undid the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus loved the people, healed the people, taught the people and provided atonement for their sins. God is not bi-polar, He doesn’t have an angry side known as the Father and a loving side known as the Son. Both are the same, both have the same nature, both have the same capacity for love, goodness and holiness. You can’t say Jesus is one way and God the Father is another, when you see one you see the other (John 14:9). Do you think God was upset when Jesus healed the crippled, or the blind man, do you think God regretted Jesus’s actions? No of course not because through Jesus we get an idea of how God wants to interact with humanity without the barrier of sin in place. That is what we see through Jesus, the Creator walking with the created, a glimpse of what God originally planned for us.
God is good, Jesus is good and the Holy Spirit is good, they are the Good Shepherd spoken of in John 10 and Psalms 23. Yet we ascribe all kinds of evils to God and see Him as the source of the world’s problems. I’m sure the people of Jeremiah’s day felt the same way, I’m sure they saw themselves as holy and pure but fell so far short of their covenant obligations that God had to intervene. Do you think God enjoyed sending Babylon into the Southern Kingdom? Do you think He relished the opportunity to kill the majority of His people (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11)? Of course not, but was it God’s fault or the people’s fault that tragedy fell upon them?
We need to begin to have faith that God is good and has blessed and favorable plans for not just us but the world in general. Just consider these scriptures for example:
Psalm 86:5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
Mark 10:18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
The Goodness of God In Action
Going through all of this I don’t even think I can come up with an adequate definition for the word good which matches up with who God is. Everything we can come up with is far inferior than what God is capable of and when we begin to realize and accept that then we can begin to understand that God is Good.
The words used in the Bible for “good” are Towb (H2896) in Hebrew and Talos (G2570) in Greek. To get a better understanding of these words just look at how they are translated into English: good, better, well, goodness, best, merry, fair, prosperity, precious, fine, wealth, beautiful, favor, honest and glad.
Doesn’t this describe the promises of God given throughout the scriptures in both the New and Old Covenants? How often do we expect God to bring these types of things into our own lives? Or are we more concerned with bringing those things into our lives through our own work and merit?
How can we deny God being good to those of us who lovingly and honestly serve Him in friendship, holiness, humility, love and obedience? Just think about it, God answers prayer, provides atonement, speaks to us, does miracles, leads people to him, judges the nations, judges the church (Revelation 2-3), loves us, guides us, gave us the Holy Spirit, allows us to move in the power and authority of Jesus and genuinely cares for us despite our outward and inward circumstances.
Look at it this way, the land which the people of Israel were promised and lead into, was it a good land or a barren one (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)? It was described as flowing with milk and honey, it was a good land which would bless and sustain the people, but only as long as they followed the covenant. God didn’t bring them into the promised land to curse and condemn them, if that is what God intended then He could of just left them in the wilderness or in Egypt. God wanted something better for them, and for us today under the New Covenant we to have also been promised the goodness of God. Not just in the natural but also spiritually and with the greatest gift and expression of God’s goodness the cross, which brought forgiveness, atonement, justification, sanctification and adoption.
What all of this has in common is that for us to receive God’s goodness we have to be in a constant and life long process of cooperation and relationship with Him.
Job 36:11 If they obey and serve Him, They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures.
Psalm 107:8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The Price of Receiving God’s Goodness
What we have seen so far is that the outpouring of God’s goodness in our own lives comes with a cost. We are to live according to God’s standards, desires, nature, love, holiness and justice. The more blessing and goodness God pours out into our lives the more will be expected of us to live a Christlike life. This is nothing new and we see a similar expectation placed upon the servants in the parables of the Talents and the Minas. They were each given a gift and at the end a reckoning was brought about to see what they did with those gifts. The faithful were blessed with more while the lazy and unproductive were reprimanded.
We see this type of story play out over and over and over and over throughout the history of Israel. God would bless, protect, restore or empower the nation/people then the people would take those blessings for granted and return to living in the ways of the Canaanites. It seems to me that we want the blessings of God but without expectation for our lives to change. We want God’s best as long as God doesn’t make us do anything. We want to live like the world yet at the same time witness the miracles found in the book of Acts. We want to do mighty deeds like Elijah or Paul but we have the heart of Balaam, the devotion of King Ahab and the character of King Saul.
Do you not think that God is watching your lives after He blesses you? We can’t assume that God is some sort of celestial courier that brings us a present then turns His back and leaves us alone until another order comes in? It is this type of thinking that brought cycles of judgment upon Israel. The judgments didn’t come because God wasn’t good, they came because the people rejected, scorned, hated, and were ungrateful of what God had done for them. He tried to love them but they continually broke His heart. God tried to lead them back to their covenant, a covenant they relied on for blessings but also casually ignored when it wouldn’t let them do what they wanted.
We want the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 but also want to be exempt from the curses of Deuteronomy 28:15-68. We want sprinkles and rainbows to continually be over our heads but we also want to cherry pick which of Jesus’s teachings we actually have to believe and follow. You can’t have the goodness of God active in your life if you are unprepared to live the life God called us to live by.
Even back in the days of Joshua the people of Israel tried to get away with this. They took just enough of the land to get comfortable in and they settled for a fraction of what God had promised to bless them with. Do you know what God’s reaction was, He left them as they were, they abandoned the quest to receive the promise so God left them right in the middle of enemy territory (Joshua 23:13-16) and revoked His promise of totally taking the land.
Then over the next decades the people who had enjoyed the blessings of God became indistinguishable from the Canaanites around them, the covenant became a meaningless (with the exception of the people wanting its benefits), they participated in the terrible sins of their neighbors and it wasn’t until disaster came that they turned back to God. The people saw the clear blue skies and took advantage of their relationship with God, they ignored the winds, they ignored the voice and it took a mighty storm for the people to turn back to God. But then after the storm they got comfortable and went through the cycle all over again.
The Paradox of God’s Goodness
I think we see God move through the storm because we become so lost that it is the only way we can recognize Him. It’s hard to repent when things are going well, blessings are flowing, God’s favor is upon us but there are issues deep inside that God is trying to correct (and its not always sin issues). But we ignore those issues because everything is great, we stop praying because we have nothing left to pray for, we forget how Christ lived because it doesn’t seem to matter what I do because good days are hear and are never leaving. This is the goodness of God in action, yes, but it is also God’s judgment in action, the storm is never the judgment it is the result of unfavorable judgement.
God’s judgment doesn’t happen when we find ourselves in trials because those trials are often (but not always) expressions of God’s grace because He tried to get our attention during the good days and we ignored Him. The greatest tests and judgments always come on the sunniest and clearest days, because those are the days where we don’t fear the oncoming storms. Those are the days where our hearts grow dull, our ears become deaf, our eyes become consumed by what is in front of us and our relationship with God takes a back seat to the great things we have brought about with our hands.
The goodness of God is a great thing, it is good to call to God for blessings (Psalm 84:1) but we must remember that we are always supposed to seek God’s face before we reach out for His hands. Then when God does pour out His goodness on us we have to be extra vigilant to continue living the life He has commanded us to follow. We have to be pressing in even harder in prayer, we must be continually looking deep within ourselves to ensure there is no rot or rust present. Yes, God can forgive us, yes God can renew us and how much greater will that be if it happens on the clear and sunny day (Psalm 125:4) instead of the day the storms came crashing upon us.
I fear that many drift away and/or reject God in the good seasons and don’t realize it until the storms come. Often the storms come to break off the dead and dying branches from the tree, yet at the same time the heavy winds only strengthen the healthy roots.
In John 15:6 Jesus is showing us how God protects those who are a part of His family, people have the choice to join with Him or to remain on their own. Those who choose and remain with God receive life and blessing while those outside are pushed out (Jeremiah 21:10, 24:3-6, 29:32). This happens so the healthy vines are not corrupted or poisoned, which could spread to the other healthy vines (Romans 11:22). It is a hard thing to speak of but there are times when God expresses His goodness through protecting His honest, faithful and loving servants from those that follow in name only (or bear the mark of covenant/circumcision but have no change in their hearts). Hear this though do not go about as God’s judge and condemn your brothers and sisters your obligation is towards seeking out the corners of your own heart (Luke 6:42).
I fear that often we don’t see God as being good either in our own lives or in general, so many slump back into darkness and spiritual slumber and remain motionless and unproductive. God is a good and loving Creator which still watches over but it pains me to see so many people reject this idea (I’m speaking of those inside the church). We are called to be conduits of God’s goodness, love, holiness and message to the entire world and if we can’t settle the debate on whether God is good why would the world want to hear anything we have to say about it?
3 John 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (see also Amos 5:14-15, Micah 6:8)
In my time of prayer and journaling last month I was asking God about His goodness and He spoke of how we often miss out on recognizing His goodness because of our own ungratefulness (Deuteronomy 26:11). I asked point blank “God why don’t I naturally see you as being good?” His responses over a couple of days were:
“ungratefulness, life is about more than going from point A to point B, true progression happens when you value every step of the way even if your compass is telling you otherwise, to go forward sometimes you must go right (sideways) for awhile to get to the next path which will take you to your intended destination. Look around you, don’t get caught up in the leaves which all look alike but focus on the trees themselves notice their differences, their grain, their shape, study each one as you travel and you will learn more than you thought possible. Often my goodness is hidden in the details, in how one tree has deep groves in its bark while others have smooth thin bark. My goodness is found when you lean in and take a good look at the differences of the trees… You need to have faith in My goodness, just as the tree does not worry about the rain because of the stream so to must you ground yourself in the knowledge of my goodness towards you… Honor me by giving me time, honor me by taking my words seriously and honor me by concentrating on what I say long after I have said it, then you will understand my goodness… Rest and partake of my goodness, haven’t you figured that out yet, look at everything I am showing you, my goodness is your strength. You must embrace it, look at me as good and don’t see me as being far off or distant or ambivalent towards my creation.”
The next step for us to receive and witness the goodness of God in our lives is for us to first repent and cry out “God I accept your goodness and I repent for misjudging you and condemning our relationship. I repent for losing sight of our relationship and being ungrateful in the good seasons when I forgot what you have already done for me. I pray that you restore my heart and forge me into someone that resembles Christ on this Earth. I ask you to pour out your goodness, love, holiness and heart to me right now. I repent of ungratefulness, I repent of laziness and I repent for not taking our relationship seriously.”
Now after praying that prayer believe and hold on tightly to the revelation of God’s good nature and expect Him to be a living part of your life. And never forget these words:
Psalm 34:8-10 “8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
How To Experience The Goodness of God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Do you know what it is like to have a storm raging in your life? That feeling of being thrown up and down, up and down, side to side from point a to point b over and over again? In this life we are not exempt from troubles, difficult times or the storms which rage physically, emotionally, financially, relationally or religiously. Each one of us faces conflict, pain, frustration, panic, fear, failure and the like but often when we are experiencing those things we lose sight of God in all of it.
We become trapped on the waves in our little boat of our life, calling, ministry and purpose and with all of the rain and wind trying to knock us over into the water it is easy to believe that God isn’t with us. We look at the storms of life and assume they are God’s judgments, or that He forgot to protect us that day or they are the consequences of meaningless actions like forgetting to pray at the same time everyday. It’s almost like the Christian equivalent to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but we instead apply it to God and call Him the Ornery Careless Destroyer. Where if we get the slightest thing in our life out of place or we miss a devotional time (or heaven forbid Sunday service) God will come with a mighty storm to blow our house away, and the rest of the town with it.
We see the winds and waves and forget about not only God but His love and goodness, we feel the rain on our face and forget the very nature of God. We see things around us rise up to terrify or obstruct us and we forget that there is a way out, but we have to look up, high above the storm.
Terror on the High Seas
The disciples went through this very experience, in the early days of Jesus’s ministry they had witnessed countless miracles, demonstrations of authority, and acts of divine power in action. But one fateful night came about where after a long day of preaching and miracles Jesus had the disciples (and some others) set out on the lake in boats to cross it during the night. We can’t forget here that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen who grew up on this very lake, but that upbringing didn’t do much to help them that night.
Let’s turn to the gospel of Mark to see how this story plays out, I’m using The Passion Translation’s interpretation of this encounter because I want it to challenge how you normally read through this story.
Mark 4:35-41 “35 Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 After they had sent the crowd away, they shoved off from shore with him, as he had been teaching from the boat, and there were other boats that sailed with them. 37 Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. 38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. 40 Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” 41 But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?”” (TPT)
What happened here in this encounter? The disciples (and other boats) were facing a raging storm in the middle of lake Galilee and they feared for their lives. As I said these aren’t all land-lovers, but many were hardened fishermen who were that fearful of the storm they were encountering. You can’t blame them it was pitch black outside, there was no coast guard to come rescue them and there was a legitimate chance that they could drown before ever reaching the shore line.
The people were afraid of what was raging around them, but Jesus on the other hand was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat on his fluffed out pillow. What did Jesus know that the others didn’t, what separated Jesus’s reaction from that of the disciples. Was it that Jesus was a really sound sleeper or was there something else at work?
I know it’s easy for us today on the other side of this storm to look back and ridicule the disciples for their actions. We weren’t there but we assume that we would know better, just like we would know better about feeding the 5,000 or the interpretation of many of the parables. Yet we say and believe those things but we make the very same mistakes under different names. We are still just as susceptible to reacting the same way the disciples did in our own lives and in our own circumstances.
I know what natural storms look like, I grew up in Southern Manitoba and throughout the summers I’ve experienced many massive thunder storms. The kind where the thunder shakes the walls of your house, where the rain is pouring sideways instead of downward, and where gusts of wind would snap massive trees like tooth picks. I’ve seen black skies in the middle of the afternoon, I’ve run from golf ball sized hail pelting me on my walk home and I’ve seen the sky resemble spider webs made out of lightning. Those storms were real, they were fierce, they were destructive and they were the same kind of storms that Jesus took a cat nap in.
Natural Storms Don’t Shake Heaven
We have to first realize that the storms which blow in the natural have no effect on the spiritual realm or heaven. There won’t ever be a lightning bolt so fierce that it singes Jesus’s royal robes. No amount of water can ever flood out the heavenly holy of holies, and the angels won’t be left homeless because of a forest fire. It sounds cruel but we must remember that our problems aren’t really God’s problems, however because of His love for us He does respond and bring us assistance.
A hurricane has no effect on heaven but He can and does at times calm those storm to protect his people whom He loves. We have to understand that God is not always responsible for the storms which come into our life or the lives of others. Yet through grace and covenant God has taken a responsibility over out lives. We just need to trust Him enough to follow through on His nature and love for us.
Jesus slept well because He knew the Father was watching over Him as His body rested. The apostles did not feel that way, they saw the natural storm threatening them and assumed that Jesus’ power was limited and that He didn’t truly care about. In that instant they assumed that Jesus lead them into the wilderness of the waters to die. They reacted the same way the people of Israel did when they wrongly accused and complained against God and Moses while in the wilderness.
You see great and mighty works can only produce so much faith in a person’s heart, the real foundation of our faith comes from trust and relationship. One can see a miracle and not know God’s nature or love and continue thinking and believing the same way they did before. Real change comes when a person has a revelation of who God is, the calmer of storms, the protector of lives, the shepherd of lost sheep and the glorifier of broken dreams.
Miracles are good but they are not the foundation of our relationship with God, Christ is, atonement is, covenant is, repentance is, new life is. You should desire to see God move in miracles, healing, prophecy and such but remember those are simply the decorations on the tree of our life with Christ. When we realize that then it becomes easier to sustain our hope in the middle of a storm, where all the light is gone and the memory of past miracles and victories become a mirage clouded by the pouring rain and screeching thunder before us.
Why Are You Still Afraid Of The Storm?
Let’s take another look at Mark 4:40 in various translation to make sure we see clearly what Jesus is saying.
TPT: Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?
NKJV: Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?
NIV: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
AMPC: Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith (no firmly relying trust)?
The discipels had seen Jesus preach, and they had seen the broken people healed miraculously but they still did not know who or what Jesus was. They saw Him as someone who was powerful but limited, they took what they had previously seen and thought “well I guess that’s all he can do.” That is why when they faced the storm they assumed that Jesus was powerless, they had never seen Jesus exert authority over the weather before so why would they assume otherwise. Often we make this same mistake, we limit God by what we have seen with our own lives or in the lives of those close to us. We encounter a new type of storm and become unsure if God really has power and authority over it so we foolishly turn to ourselves for comfort and wisdom. Unfortunately that power and wisdom usually leaves us yelling out the same words the disciples did “don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” We could each replace the word “die” with our own words such as, divorce, bankruptcy, debt, estrangement, ministry, stress, suffer, move, fail, burnout and foreclose. We have to go beyond accusing God of not caring and instead look to Him the same way Jesus did as He napped.
Jesus slept because He trusted His Father, He knew that because God said to cross the lake He would arrive at the other side no matter what happened. Jesus had that assurance that no matter what it looked like outside of the boat, inside there was nothing to fear because God was there in the middle of the storm. God didn’t block the storm but He restrained it so that Jesus would not be harmed. Jesus got wet, but He still slept, and when the fear of the people overwhelmed His time of rest then He proved to them why He was able to be so calm. With a word the storm ended.
What is troubling is that God’s people today no longer have that same type of trust. So it is no surprise why every rogue gust of wind is treated like our own personal apocalypse. No longer do people hold out their hands to God in the storms because they instead begin to worship the storm in the hopes that it will be appeased and move away.
We must always remember that no matter what God is there, but people no longer see Him as good but as the destroyer and hater of all. God protected Jesus on those waters, and because of that protection all those with Him were protected as well, do you think that has changed? Proximity to the Son brings us closer to the Father, the closer you are to Jesus the more unfiltered you begin to see God, and the more God gives to Jesus the more there is which overflows onto us His covenant brothers and sisters.
Learn this truth: storms are nothing for God to quench, what is difficult is quenching the storms of the heart because they become ingrained into the identity of people. People set up shops and homes in the eye of the storm and a call it a blessed life, but eventually the storm moves on revealing the destruction which has always surrounded them, and eventually their place of safety is also consumed by the clouds.
Sleep Well In Any Storm
Jesus slept well because He knew God was there, he rested in the assurance that the Father was watching over Him. Despite the waves there was no real danger, despite the wind there was no real danger and despite the cries of those around them there was no real danger.
Wind and waves are not signs of God’s abandonment, they are merely casualties of the storm, God’s abandonment comes when people jump out of their boats and try to escape the storm by hiding under the water. There they feel no wind, they see no rain but soon they choke and drown, they drift to the bottom never to arise again because they trusted their own minds and strength rather than trust in God’s goodness and love. That despite the storms we face God is there to guide us home, despite the wind and the waves we will not be toppled over and despite the darkness of the sky there is always light waiting to pierce through (James 1:6).
Psalms 107:28-31 “28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (NKJV)
Everyone wants a testimony of great faith and perseverance but no one is willing to go through the storm to get it. In the same way people want to see God move through prophecy and miracles but never step out and give God the opportunity. Yes you will go through difficult times, yes you will have seasons where it feels like God is nowhere to be found. Knowing that we have two choices we can either jump out of the boat under our own power and drown, or we can grab our pillow and trust God to bring us through the storm.
You may get wet, your boat may be damaged, you may lose some cargo but you will endure because God is carrying you through. Always remember God will not abandon us if we make room for Him, so follow the model of Jesus who chose to rest in God’s love, character and nature rather than join in on the fear of the people who did not realize who He was or who was watching over that boat.
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
Surviving The Storm With Your Pillow Intact Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.