Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Psalm 46: Going with the Flow of Life

KEY TEXT: Psalms 46:4-7 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

KEY THOT: When Adam and Eve were put on the Garden, they were confronted with two choices: Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge. Or simply Life or Knowledge. As long as they ate from the Tree of Life, they had God in their midst. Not only that, a life-giving river flowed out of Eden to water the garden: "A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers" (Genesis 2:10). God's presence brings God's life as symbolized by the river. The Garden of Eden was a type of the City of God: "there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God" (v.4). What makes a gathering of people the City of God is not their knowledge, but their life. Adam and Eve chose knowledge over life--and it led to their destruction and banishment from God's presence.

In our world today, including even in the Church, knowledge is often prized above life. But the Church is supposed to be the City of God where people go to find life, not knowledge. If knowledge is what the Church offers to the world, then there is no need to go to Church--the world already has plenty. (Just stay home and Google. Why go to church?) The only thing that the Church has which the world doesn't is life, not knowledge--God's very own life. And I'm not talking about "life after death" either. Rather I'm referring to God's life before death!

And this is symbolized by the river of life. And this river is closely linked to the Spirit of God: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:38-39). To reject or minimize the ministry of the Spirit with other substitutes is to reject life for knowledge.

Jesus came primarily to offer life through His Spirit: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). Jesus' words contain life when infused with the Spirit. It's possible to have words without life (we call that knowledge). But only the Spirit can give life in our words. And where there is God's life, "God in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns" (v.5). If we have life, we have God. When we have God nothing can shake us.

But we have to flow with God's river of life. When we are static, we don't go with the flow--and we become dead. I remember a momentary vision I had (not sure if I fell asleep in church), but it happened years ago when I was vicar of an Anglican church in the late 90s. I was sitting on the pew during service when I suddenly found myself riding on a boat and being carried along by a rushing river. I had no control over the direction the boat was going--the boat goes where the river flows. In that momentary vision, I saw how my future life would be defined: I must go where the river flows. 

And my ministry since then could be defined by this strange vision: Ride on the rivers and go wherever the river flows. Since then I've been on a wild but exciting journey: the River of life carried me to strange places and peoples--corporate boardrooms, cafes, prisons, churches to meet high-flying corporate personalities, denominational and non-denominational pastors, including the forgotten people locked away in prisons. The River also carried me to oversea places, ministering to different ethnic and linguistic groups in places which I would not have gone if I had not followed the flow. 

And my latest and least likely place where I'm going with the flow is Mongolia. In fact, the river there is rushing and expanding. I'm just catching a ride on the rushing rivers that God himself has generated. But I would be foolish to jump out of the rivers and stay on the banks to observe the flowing rivers. That's not the purpose of our lives: to watch the rivers flow past. We are to ride on the rushing rivers so God may bring us to places He has called us to establish the City of God where He can be in the midst.

Going with the flow also ensures that people are receiving life, not just knowledge. The best part, of course, of this attitude is knowing that "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved." And where the River flows, there will the City of God be established, rather than the City of Man (as St. Augustine would have described it). The City of God is not always found in the institutional settings because it is locked into structures and systems that cannot move--but the rushing River of God is constantly flowing. Whenever it meets an obstacle, it does not stop. Instead, it will simply flow around it or above it or push the obstacles out of the way. 

May the Lord grant us more faith to go where the river flows.

Abba-Father, You meant to give us life but we have settled for knowledge instead. May You restore our vision of the Life and help us go with the flow of Life. Amen.

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