The Fifth Of July

What’s the first thought that pops into your head when you hear the phrase, “Fourth of July”? For me, it’s two words: “sacrifice” and “freedom”. There’s first and foremost a reverence about Independence Day that comes with remembering the men and women who went before us, many of whom paid the ultimate price, to make – and keep – our country what it is: free. But the Fourth of July’s a time for celebration, too – a chance to enjoy the abundant privileges of life in this Land Of The Free. I don’t know that there’s any day of the year that better focuses our hearts on gratitude, respect, and appreciation for both sacrifice and freedom, than July 4th.

But this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the FIFTH of July. We set aside a day (and rightfully so) to intentionally remember and revel in an event of great magnitude. Our whole country stops and collectively basks in the enormity of the occasion. We CELEBRATE! But what about when the day’s over? When the parades are finished, the fireworks have all been lit, and the last refrain of “God Bless America” has been sung? For most of us, we’ll wake up on July 5th, and it’ll be back to business as usual, the festivities of the previous day already no more than a memory on Instagram.

The day we decided to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior, to ask forgiveness for our sins, to accept His free gift of salvation…that day was our spiritual “Fourth of July”. We saw life through a new lens of freedom for the first time – freedom bought at a price, paid for by Someone else’s sacrifice – and it made us want to live differently from that day forward. On that day, we stood on the proverbial mountaintop, and the joy and gratitude we felt could probably be seen and heard by everyone around us because we just couldn’t contain our excitement! Over time, though, those “peak” experiences fade; the trials and tribulations of life in a broken world start to wear and tear at the euphoria we first experienced on that glorious day when we became part of God’s family forever. Temptation draws our eyes away from our Savior and back to our circumstances. And like he always does, the enemy comes barging in to crash the party. Eventually, our spiritual “Fourth of July” fades, and our spiritual “Fifth of July” becomes just another, ordinary day. 

But what would happen if we chose to live the same way on the Fifth as we do on the Fourth? With hearts intentionally full of reverence for the sacrifices made on our behalf, full of gratitude for the blessings and privileges we enjoy on a daily basis, and full of joy that comes from living in freedom not one day of the year, but every day of our lives? 

Let’s challenge ourselves this FIFTH of July to wake up with the same deliberate sense of gratitude we felt the day before – not only for our temporary homeland here on earth, but for our eternal Home in Heaven with our Father. Let’s celebrate the victory that Jesus won on our behalf 2000 years ago, when He paid the price for us to become children of the Most High God. And let’s live on purpose for a purpose, knowing that we’ve been given the gift of true freedom in Christ – a freedom we’ll celebrate not for one day, but for all of eternity!

Four Gardens

Here in America, certain symbols signify the approach of Easter. Marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies abound. Parents scour the stores for kids’ matching outfits and toys to fill Easter baskets. We dye eggs and prepare big family dinners. But this season, the symbol I’ve found myself reflecting on is gardens. Not just any gardens, but four particular gardens. From the literal beginning of time, God’s made gardens a critical part of His story – and of ours.

It was in a garden paradise called Eden where God placed Adam and Eve, formed in His image, and He called His creation “good” (Genesis 2). He gave them all they could ever ask for, including a gift called the Tree of Life. Yet they still went searching for more, and in doing so they sent all of humanity spiraling into a life of sin from which we could never break free on our own. So God made a plan that He’d one day send His own Son to sacrifice Himself for us – to pay a debt He never owed, because we owed a debt we could never pay.

Fast forward through history, to one momentous night on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed right before He was arrested, and He begged His Father to change the plan (Matthew 26). We spend so much time focusing on Jesus’ perfect life, His sinless nature, His divinity, that we dismiss His humanity. We forget that He felt all the same emotions we feel, and that up to the last moment, He didn’t want to die. He asked God if there was any other way to carry out His plan to save mankind. But in the end, He accepted that He was the Plan – and that it was the will of God for Him to lay down His life.

It’s here that I often feel the urge to rush ahead to the third garden. See, I hate dwelling on the second garden. I hate realizing that I’m the reason Jesus agonized in Gethsemane, weeping with sorrow and begging for His life. I hate knowing that it was my sin that took Him from that garden all the way to the cross. But in order to fully appreciate the resurrection, we first need to grieve the crucifixion. We’ve got to recognize the weight of what He did for us before we can celebrate the burden He’s lifted from us.

Three days later, it was in the garden tomb near Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified, that He rose in triumph over death (John 19). Jesus took our sin to the grave when He died. I can’t imagine what those three days were like for Him. But every day I reap the rewards of His victory. It’s because of His death that my sin’s been buried forever. And it’s because of His resurrection that I’ve been given eternal life.

Which brings us to the fourth garden – my favorite one of all. It’s in the very last chapter in the very last book of the Bible that we read about the same Tree of Life that was in the Garden of Eden, only now it’s in God’s paradise, not the world’s (Revelation 22). That chapter tells us that the curse of death is gone, and that we, His servants, will worship Him forever. The story’s come full circle. The conclusion’s been re-written. The Lord, in all His glory, took what was destroyed in the beginning and redeemed it in the end – the same way He’s redeemed you and me.

This Easter, I’d like to invite you to take a walk in the Four Gardens. And as you do, may you worship the Gardener who planted each one, knowing that because of Him, your story’s been re-written!

“He is not here; He is risen, just as He said.” -Matthew 28:6

Waiting For Spring

Have you ever had a garden with perennials (plants that “come back” each year)? If so, then you know that a perennial plant’s life cycle revolves around the seasons — and that when winter comes, the plant enters a period of dormancy. It sheds its leaves and retreats into a kind of hibernation to protect itself against the cold. This season of inactivity is key to the plant’s later survival (revival) in springtime. Some would even call this dormancy a time of rest. 

But even though the plant’s gone dormant for a season, the gardener doesn’t stop nurturing its growth. Instead, they continue to care for it in preparation of what’s coming. During the cold winter, the gardener will break up the ground surrounding the dormant plant, just so the soil doesn’t “permanently harden”. Then, when the first new buds appear but aren’t yet in full bloom, the gardener feeds and waters it. And sometimes, the gardener has to submit the plant to the painful process of having its branches pruned so that it can produce more healthy fruit later.

As believers, it can often feel like our spiritual life goes through “dormant” seasons because we can’t see new growth taking place. We might retreat into a hibernation of our own in our walk with Christ, feeling distant and isolated from Him. Sometimes all we can see is the long winter that lies ahead of us, and where we were previously blooming with joy and enthusiasm in our relationship with the Lord, our spiritual growth now feels stunted. But God – the Gardener – knows the process that’s taking place under the surface. He understands that faith is a growing process. And so, he continues to pour into His beloved plants – you and me, His children – providing us with the nourishment of His Word and the Holy Spirit and patiently waiting for us to respond again in our coming “spiritual springtime”. And yes, sometimes that means pruning us too, even when it’s painful, because He wants us to bloom and bear more healthy fruit in the end.

See, even as the plant can’t see beyond the dormant season, the Gardener is aware of what lies ahead. While the plant’s busy just trying to survive the winter, the Gardener’s delighting in the knowledge of what’s coming in the spring. And when the growing season begins and the plant bursts forth in full bloom and the Gardener sees the result of all of His patient love and care, He stands back, looks it up and down with great pride and joy, and declares that springtime has arrived once more.

The Big Picture

Have you ever looked closely at mosaic art? The kind where a bunch of smaller images make up one big picture? I have a friend who created a photo mosaic poster as a birthday gift to her brother. She labored over it for months. When it was done, the final poster – a photo of their family on a recent vacation – was 2 feet tall, 3 feet long, and made up of more than 800 quarter-inch square photos from their childhood. You needed a magnifying glass to see them all clearly! And yet when you got up close, each picture was preserved in tiny, perfect detail.

Here’s the thing. When you put your face right up to the poster, it just looked like a bunch of cute but isolated little images that had been scaled down and put in rows without any apparent rhyme or reason. But when you stepped back and looked at the whole poster, it became crystal clear that all of these individual pieces made up a critical part of the bigger picture.

I think our relationship with Jesus can feel a lot like that mosaic. Our limited human perspective can cause us to question God’s ultimate plan – for our lives, for our families, for our world, and even for our eternal future. It can seem like we’re each just individual squares moving through this life, placed in rows next to one another without any real rhyme or reason. We’re the spectators, the ones standing with our faces pressed against the poster looking (often with confusion!) at all the separate little squares and wondering how they fit together.

But God…He’s the Artist. The One who labored over every little detail. The One who created each piece with love and intent. The One who determined in painstaking detail the order in which they would go. The Artist doesn’t make mistakes; He makes masterpieces. Colossians 1:16-17 (NKJV) says, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” When God stands back to view His masterpiece, He sees each tiny piece. But He also sees the bigger picture. And because He’s perfect, His creation is perfected through Him.

Sometimes it’s not easy to journey through this life, through the triumphs and the tragedies and the milestones and even the daily grind, with only our narrow perspective. Things happen that defy reason, whether in our personal lives or in the bigger world around us. If you can say you’ve never once asked God, “Why?” then you’re either a liar or a saint!  As flawed people, we have a natural tendency to question things that don’t make sense in the scope of our limited human logic. But God knew before time began the role that each of us would uniquely fill in His grand plan for humanity. He created every one of us to live here, now, in this time in history, and gifted each of us with a particular purpose. As followers of Christ, we’ve been called to share the Gospel with the world. Jesus left His disciples with that Great Commission, and He leaves it with us still today. Plan A is you and me. And there is no Plan B.

One day, we’re going to stand before the Father, and we’re going to see the Grander Design that He made us all a part of, in all its glory. And on that day, we’re not just going to see the individual pieces anymore. We’re going to see the big picture. His masterpiece.

‘Nowhere’ vs. ‘Now Here’

Cue the January winter blues. The holiday decorations have been packed away for another year. The radio stations won’t play 24/7 Christmas songs again for another 11 months (this is a good thing!). The kids are back in school (again, a good thing!). And most of all: you’ve written the wrong year enough times over the first couple weeks that you’ve finally trained your brain to write 20189…oh, never mind.

It’s also the time of year when we feel inspired to ask God what His goals are for our lives over the next 12 months. As those around us make (and break!) New Year’s resolutions, believers around the world come before the Lord to seek His will. We feel motivated and inspired to “reset” our purpose and our calling for the new year – to walk more closely with Jesus, and to better align our plans with His plans (and that’s ALWAYS a good thing!).

But what happens when we ask God to show us, “What next?”, and we’re met with what seems like silence? When we think we’re supposed to make big, dramatic changes, but He doesn’t open doors or move us forward in an obvious way? It can feel like we’re on a treadmill – we keep picking up speed, but it’s as if we’re going nowhere. Or are we? Could it be that we put so much stock in the idea of waiting for God to trumpet His will to us in some big, elaborate way, that we completely miss the fact that His will is for us to just take the next step – whatever we think that is – now, here, in this moment?

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Notice that it doesn’t say, “Wait until the Lord gives you 12 different signs to do something, and then do it” or “Do nothing until the Lord establishes your plans, and then you can take the next step.” It says whatever we do, give it to God, and let Him use it! For some, that could mean making big changes…and for others, it could mean continuing in what we’re already doing. There are those who will feel called in 2019 to pick up and move abroad to serve in international missions – just like there are those who will feel called to the trenches of the “mission field” known as parenting. Others will take occupational risks by accepting a promotion or starting in a new career field altogether. Some will graduate from school and enter a new stage in their lives, and others will go back to school, thereby entering a new stage in theirs. None is better or greater or more “noble” than another – but God can use ALL of them, because He uses ALL of us. What we do in this temporary life is minor compared to why we’re doing it. Are we reaching the lost? Sharing the Gospel? Spreading His love? If the answer is “yes”, then we’re doing exactly what we’re called to do, regardless of how it looks!

Our God doesn’t confine His will to monumental life events, nor to everyday tasks and routines – He’s in both. As believers, He’s given us the gift of the Holy Spirit so we can seek discernment, but also so we can live confidently and expectantly, knowing that whatever our circumstances are, He can utilize them for His glory. This year, instead of viewing ourselves as going “nowhere”, let’s rejoice in the fact that He’s placed us “now, here” for this exact time in history, to use the unique abilities He’s given us to make an impact on earth as it is in heaven!

Make Room

Even if you didn’t grow up in church, you’re most likely familiar with at least a few characters in the Bible’s Christmas story. There’s Mary, the teenage virgin who was told by an angel that she was going to give birth to the Son of God, the One who would redeem humanity now and for all eternity. And Joseph, who, when he learned that his soon-to-be wife was pregnant – not with another man’s child, but through divine appointment – chose to stand by her despite the scandal that it would’ve inevitably created in their hometown. Then there are the shepherds, who had a whole host of angels appear to them while they were out in the fields caring for their sheep (can you imagine what was running through their heads that night?!).

This Christmas season, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about another cast member in the story: the innkeeper. You know the one. The person who told the parents-to-be that he didn’t have space for them. The one who directed Mary and Joseph to an area out back, suitable only for livestock, not for a young mother to bring her newborn son into the world. The character in the story whose inability to make room for Jesus resulted in His first cradle being an unassuming manger, a lowly feeding trough.

Do you think Mary and Joseph told the innkeeper what the angel had told them – that she was carrying the Son of God, the King for whom the Jews had been expectantly waiting and praying for centuries? Do you think the innkeeper was there when the shepherds arrived, out of breath and filled with excitement as they recounted to the new parents the story of how a chorus of angels had filled the sky and told them to come to Bethlehem to see the Redeemer of the world? Do you think that only after the birth of the baby did it occur to the innkeeper that he’d been at the center of a holy miracle – and he’d missed it? Do you think that later, the innkeeper wished he’d made more room for Jesus?

It’s easy to judge him in hindsight, knowing what we know now about Who that baby grew up to be. After all, what Christian would say “NO VACANCY!” to Jesus? But we do say that sometimes, don’t we? Sure, not in so many words, but what about in our actions? Do we keep “Christ in Christmas”, but not in the rest of the year? Do we give God our wholehearted devotion when we need something from Him, but give Him less than our best when life’s going great and we feel like we’re doing just fine on our own? How about the fact that we’re so busy going into debt trying to buy the perfect gifts for our family and friends that we forget to even utter a “Happy Birthday” to our Savior? After all, maybe the innkeeper didn’t mean to shut Jesus out. Maybe it was just oversight. He was busy. Distracted. Wrapped up in his own circumstances. Sound familiar?

This Christmas (and beyond), I’d like to challenge all of us to “make room at the inn”. May we not get so caught up in the commercialism, the hustle and bustle, the “what” of Christmas, that we miss out on the “Who” of Christmas. May we not focus so much on the presents under the tree, that we miss the honor to seek His presence. May He find that we’ve made room, eagerly waiting in anticipation of the miracle that’s about to unfold. Merry Christmas!

Thanks-GETTING

This time of the year revolves around tradition. We dig out familiar decorations, play familiar songs, and cook (delicious, nap-inducing) familiar foods! There’s something comforting about these predictable rituals. One of the best-known Thanksgiving customs is that moment on Thanksgiving Day when everyone goes around the table and shares what they’re thankful for. Family, friends, health, jobs, education, religious freedom, the chance to be together, the list goes on. There’s no denying it – Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect, and to give thanks for all that we’re grateful for.

But this year, I’d like to challenge you to tweak that familiar Thanksgiving tradition a bit – and not just on the day itself, but for the rest of the holiday season, too! Let’s call it “Thanksgetting”. It’s easy to give thanks in a word or two when it’s your turn at the table, but who in your life deserves to get thanked, not just for what they do, but for who they are? Galatians 5:22-23 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

First, think about who in your life demonstrates any one or number of these qualities. Maybe it’s your mom, who still lovingly calls to make sure you’re taking your vitamins, even though you’ve been out of the house for 20 years. Perhaps it’s the co-worker who brings those delicious homemade cookies to the office every single Friday! What about your child’s teacher, who you’re convinced has the patience of a saint? Or is it that friend who has battled chronic illness for years and still cheerfully praises God for the gift of life each day?

Second, think about how that individual (or those individuals, if you came up with several!) can GET your thanks, not only during this season, but all year. How can you honor their gifts, the fruit of the Spirit that you see in them, as well as bless them and express your gratitude for the way they share those gifts in your life? It could be as simple as picking up the phone for the first time in months, sending a note in the mail, or taking them out to lunch. But regardless of whether your gesture is big or small, make it intentional. Don’t just tell them that you’re thankful for them – tell them why. Let them really GET your thanks!

Throughout this “thanks” season, take time each day to remember a special someone in your prayers, and thank God for the gift that they are to you. And when Thanksgiving Day arrives and you’re sitting around the table sharing what you’re most grateful for, tell your story of practicing ThanksGETTING this year. You never know – you might just start a new tradition!

“It is not joy that makes us grateful. It’s gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Rest Assured

September! If you follow the timeline of the big retail stores, you might’ve noticed that the back-to-school supplies have long since been picked through, and that (by the corporate watch) you’re already late to decorate for Thanksgiving. While we’re at it, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, too!

But seriously… This is the point where, for many, the year always seems to speed up. Whether you’ve got young kids and your life’s once again revolving around the school calendar, or you’re getting back into your own weekly activities – work routines, Bible studies, gym sessions – everything can collide in a cacophony of chaos and stress. The “dog days of summer”, when your life wasn’t run as firmly by the clock, are a distant memory, and as those sinister Facebook posts oh-so-cheerfully remind you that you’ve only got 3 months of shopping days left till Christmas, it’s hard not to long for a return to tranquility…to stillness…to rest.

However, this isn’t just a seasonal issue. We live in a culture that actively discourages the idea of “time off”, where piling more and more on our plates has become routine, respected, and almost revered. I’ve literally heard people compete for bragging rights over whose schedule is the craziest – as though that’s something to be proud of! Why do we do it? Some might say that it’s just the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But I’d argue that deep down, we’re often guilty of using activities and accomplishments as a way of “proving” ourselves worthy – of praise, of reward, of approval, of love, of whatever it is we’re seeking. We feel validated by our busyness. And perhaps more than that, we’re protected by it. See, if we fill our lives with enough busyness, then maybe it’ll drown out our fear and anxiety and stress, and even the voice of the Lord of the universe speaking to our souls. Because let’s face it: sometimes we’re afraid to hear what God’s really trying to say to us. We’re afraid that we won’t measure up… that we’re not enough… that we have to prove ourselves in order to win His approval.

Do you think maybe that’s why Jesus’ words to His followers on this issue 2000 years ago are still so powerful for us today? In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus tells the gathered crowd, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find REST for your souls (NIV).” Jesus lived in an age when religious leaders like the Pharisees were constantly policing the practices of the Jewish people, piously applying Torah law to every action under the sun, not in an effort to bring people closer to God, but so they could point fingers at others’ shortcomings. They took pleasure in extreme religious legalism, and all the activities, and rituals, and sacrifices, and offerings in the world, weren’t enough to satisfy the “holier-than-thou” attitude of the spiritual leaders of the day. In the midst of this mentality, Jesus comes onto the scene, challenges the dominant religious perspective of the day by turning it upside down on its head, and offers people FREEDOM from the burden of constantly having to prove themselves worthy of an unreachable God’s approval. Jesus invites them to exchange empty ritualism for the fullness of relationship with the Father Himself by way of the Son, who came to earth as a Bridge between an imperfect world and a perfect God. He tells His followers that they don’t have to wear themselves out any longer trying to “prove” themselves worthy, because none of us can ever be made worthy through our own doing; all they have to do is accept His invitation freely.

Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having an active, busy lifestyle, or wanting to make the most of every day God’s blessed you with by filling those days with rich and vibrant experiences. But if you’ve gotten into one of those ruts where you’re busy just for the sake of being busy, whatever your reasons might be, can I just encourage you to stop? Take a deep breath. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody. You can’t prove yourself to God no matter how hard you try – and He doesn’t ask you to. Jesus isn’t telling you to do – He’s telling you to just be. Take His words to heart: “Come to Me.” Then take a deep breath. And rest assured.

In Dependence

The 4th of July. Freedom. Red, white, and blue. Parades, picnics, and parties. Dusk arrives and we gather at the ball field, as children’s eyes fill with wonder as they gaze, open-mouthed, at the dazzling arrays of fireworks lighting up the night sky. We finally return to the neighborhood cul-de-sac with our bags of sparklers, whistlin’ petes, and pop-its.       

Our time-honored traditions pay tribute to the ideals of freedom and liberty that characterize our nation. So as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, let’s consider that word, “independence”, from a little different point of view.

We in the USA take great pride in our country’s autonomy and self-sufficiency. Given our history, that’s not surprising. Over a MILLION soldiers have paid the ultimate price to protect America’s shores and defend its sovereignty. In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln declared, “…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

So with resolute independence as a foundation of this nation’s existence, is it any wonder that we carry that mentality across to other areas of our lives? Think about it for a minute. Banks urge us to take advantage of low interest rates so that we can buy a home to call our own, instead of living under a landlord. Extreme weight-loss programs tout their products as quick and easy ways to get dramatic results, claiming we can do it all without the expert guidance of a personal trainer or a fitness coach. Kids (come on, we were all one of them once!) want to grow up as fast as they can, so they can make their own decisions and not have to live by someone else’s “rules”.

However, this human concept of “independence” doesn’t feature prominently in Scripture, but the concept of “in dependence” sure does! We don’t even make it past the second chapter in the Bible before we see that God’s plan for creation was the exact opposite of independence. His exact words were, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). I don’t know about you, but in a world where “social” media is increasingly taking the place of genuine social interaction, and suicides in the USA are at a 30-year high, those words ring truer than ever – “It is not good that we should be alone.”

But more than just creating us to inter-depend on one another, God created us to fully depend on Him.  In Isaiah 41:13, He says, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Jesus declares in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Psalm 121:3 tells us, “He who keeps you will not slumber.” WOW! While I’m busy trying to do life on my own, independently, the God of all creation — Who never sleeps, Who’s watching over us 24/7, Who went to the cross to sacrifice Himself for me — is telling me time and time again that I can count on Him. He’s never going to let me down. He’s never going to not show up. I can live in dependence on the Lord.

So as we celebrate Independence Day, I’d like to challenge you (if you’re not already doing so) to truly start living in dependence on God. I can’t think of a more appropriate “declaration of in dependence” for this 4th of July than this: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”! (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Thirst Quencher

 

When you think back to summertime as a kid, what comes to mind?

Other than NO SCHOOL OR HOMEWORK, perhaps it was afternoons at the park or in the pool, or the smell of the briquettes getting ready for delicious “tube steaks”. But best of all… summertime meant the return of the neighborhood ICE CREAM TRUCK! 

Do you remember that feeling when you’d be outside, playing games with friends under the blazing afternoon sun, drenched in sweat, worn out from the heat, and so thirsty that you were even willing to drink from the garden hose?

Then, all of a sudden, that familiar jingle made its way up the street. With a squeal of excitement, you’d halt whatever game you were in the middle of playing, you’d dig in your pockets (or race inside the house to beg for some cash). Then, as the ice cream truck finally came into view, you’d madly dash to beat the mob that was forming, as all the neighborhood kids descended simultaneously on this vehicle of sweet, thirst-quenching goodness! When it was (finally) your turn, you’d step up to the window and hem and haw over the options — Fudgesicle or Choco Taco? Firecracker or Cyclone? Grape or Orange?

When you’d made your decision at last (Hey, these are important choices when you’re 8!), you’d hand over your coins and take your treat in exchange. You’d collapse on the grass, rip off the paper, and with a contented sigh, you’d take that first bite and feel yourself almost instantaneously being revived.

I know this might sound kinda silly, but these days, whenever I hear the ice cream truck, I think about how it reminds me of Jesus (stay with me). In John 4, Jesus is traveling with His disciples from Judea to Galilee, and along the way they stop to rest at a well in Samaria. Jesus sends His disciples into the nearby town to get food while He stays behind at the well, and as He’s sitting and resting, a Samaritan woman comes to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink, and the woman responds with surprise, “How is it that You, being a Jew, asks a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? (v. 9)” Jesus replies, “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. (v. 10)” He then goes on to tell her, “Whoever drinks of this (well) water will thirst again, 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. (v. 13-14)”

As kids, we viewed the ice cream truck as this amazing source of life-giving goodness, and we got excited about it! Why? Because we knew the reward that awaited us at the conclusion of the “transaction” would quench our thirst (even if it was only for all of five minutes). How much more amazingly and awesomely exciting is it that God, in His infinite goodness, promises us LIVING WATER in the form of everlasting life? Not only that, He offers it at no cost to us, because He already paid the price through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So this summer, when you’re sweating it out in the hot sun, and you hear the jingle of the ice cream truck coming your way, consider buying yourself a frozen treat — and as you eat it, thank God for His gift of living water, that’ll quench your spiritual thirst for all eternity!