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There is a River
|(photo: John Faber)|
An old friend, Klaus Bockmuehl, from Germany and Canada, died some years ago. With great difficulty he managed to finish his last book. Devoted care from his wife and friends enabled him to overcome pain and comas and leave us Listening to the God who Speaks. Small wonder it is a deep book and simple enough not to be long.
He traces the story of God speaking to people through the Old and New Testaments. He writes: 'Jesus listens to God and again and again turns to Scripture.... He displays an unreserved availability for God, something we call holiness.... The Holy Spirit speaks, rebukes, reminds, and guides.... To act out of receiving, to be a people of prayer, will build God's Kingdom.' He quotes from Isaiah chapter 48, verse 18: 'Oh that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! Then hadst thy peace been as a river and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.'
What an amazing thing water is! Think of what it does. It washes, purifies, refreshes, softens, enables to grow, satisfies thirst, brings dryness to life. The water of the Spirit of God does all these things. Christ told the woman of Samaria that what He came to offer was 'living water'.
One of my favourite Bible verses comes in Psalm 46: 'There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.' What a wonderful picture, that we can each be a stream of God's river.
Think of the refreshment we can receive from a waterfall, a stream, a river, the beginning of the monsoon rains, the sound of the sea.
St John writes in Revelation, 'I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life, freely,' and, 'He showed me a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God.'
There is no pattern for listening to God and drawing on this living water. Everyone can work out their own way of doing it. It is a good challenge, I think, to live so openly that I can be prompted by the spirit of God at any moment of day or night.
I choose the early morning as a foundation for this, and I like plenty of time. Time to remove the mentality that believes that there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them! Time to listen, think, pray, look at the Cross, wonder, read something that feeds the spirit. Honesty and purity are a good mirror to look at myself and life during the morning watch.
Sometimes when I read the newspaper I write down bits that interest me, and I pass them through my quiet time. The same with books. C S Lewis wrote in one of his Letters: 'One of the main rewards of conversion is to be able to see at last the real points of all the old literature, which we are brought up to read with the point left out.' The classics are full of spiritual insights.
In The Art of Writing, Quiller-Couch gives his list of the greatest works of literature as The Iliad and The Odyssey (Homer), Purgatory (Dante), The Tempest (Shakespeare), Paradise Lost (Milton), Plato's Republic and Don Quixote (Cervantes). 'I will commend these classical authors to you,' he writes, 'because they conserve the norm of literature, the steady grip on the essential.'
And he puts the Bible into the category of great literature.
Dr Samuel Johnson wrote some 40 sermons and aimed through them to deal with what he called 'the hunger of the imagination'. He suggested that unless the imagination was nourished it would turn inwards upon itself to what he called 'the treachery of the heart'. 'The hunger of the imagination,' he said, 'could be redirected towards the stability of truth.'
Psalm 103 tells what God will do for us if we let Him: 'The Lord forgives all thine iniquities, heals all thy diseases, redeems thy life from destruction, crowns thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies, satisfies thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's, removes our sins from us, as far as the East is from the West.'
A quiet time offers the leisure for these remarkable things to happen.
I resisted Psalm 119 for years as being too long. But I was wrong. It is full of treasure. Listen to this: 'I have chosen the way of truth.... I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.... Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.... I am a companion of all them that fear Thee and keep Thy precepts.'
What wonderful language, as well as a great message. Nothing rigid, rather a road to walk. Way, truth, pilgrimage, companionship.
With these truths to feed on day by day, I write down the thoughts I get. Of course I do not presume that all my thoughts come from God. But they do come from an attempt to seek Him and seek His mind and seek His face. Writing them down helps me to remember them, helps my mind to move from one thought to another and enables me to share with my wife before the day begins.
With the bounty that God offers, we can indeed, each of us, be a stream of His river.
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