August 9, 2017 § Leave a comment
From USA TODAY Tech: “The universe as we know it shouldn’t exist. Unlocking the reasons why may depend on once again striking gold in a mine buried a mile underground in rural South Dakota. … Scientists believe equal parts of matter and antimatter should have been created during the formation of the universe. But that didn’t happen, and no one knows why. Instead, the visible universe is dominated by matter. Neutrinos may be the reason why… Over the next 10 years, workers will remove more than 870,000 tons of rock and install a four-story high, 70,000-ton neutrino detector… The project will cost more than $1 billion, but scientists hope the payoff from about 12 million neutrinos per second passing through the detector will be far larger, tantamount to striking gold on a universal scale.”(1)
The fact that there seems to be more matter than antimatter in the universe has baffled secular scientists, but only because of Materialistic or Naturalistic presuppositions, assuming that matter and nature is all there is, and that you are an accident.
From Physics.org: “One would expect the Big Bang to produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter, and, since the two annihilate one another on contact, this should have led to a universe with no particles, filled only with radiation. This problem can be solved if there exists some process that favours matter over antimatter, leading to the excess that we see today.”(2)
Is there “some sort of process that favours matter over antimatter”? Christians believe there is a Creator who favours a certain kind of matter—us, and the universe He created to point us toward Him.
A physics community driven by the assumptions of Materialism will continue to dig for answers, this time going underground in a 10-year $1 billion search. We may discover great things in the process, but for the answer to why this universe exists, we can dig into God’s revealed Word and find it now for free:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) …God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see… He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)
An undirected, undesigned “Big Bang” should not have resulted in this universe. But this universe is exactly what we should expect if God created it.
“Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD,
and you will gain knowledge of God.”
1) Lackey, Katharine. “Secrets of the Universe May Lie in an Old Gold Mine in South Dakota.” USA Today. Gannett Company, 09 August 2017. Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/08/09/secrets-universe-may-lie-old-gold-mine-south-dakota/534457001/)
2) Physics in Society. “Why Is There More Matter than Antimatter?” Physics.org. IOP Publishers, Web. Accessed 09 August 2017 (http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=121)
March 16, 2017 § 1 Comment
From TIME Magazine: “This week’s TIME cover story, with exclusive data from GLAAD, explores a change taking hold in American culture. The piece explores how you-do-you young people are questioning the conventions that when it comes to gender and sexuality, there are only two options for each: male or female, gay or straight. Those aspects of identity — how one sees themselves as a man or woman, for instance, and who they are drawn to physically and romantically — are distinct but undergoing similar sea changes, as teenagers and 20-somethings reject notions of what society has told them about who they are supposed to be.”
What this article (‘Behind the TIME Cover Story: Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She”)(1) shows is that a generation is struggling to ground itself in any kind of firm identity, many opting instead to go wherever their feelings take them to search out an identity. Often we don’t like who we are, but I think the issue is more that we don’t know who we are. And we can’t truly know who we are unless we know who God is.
Objective truth can be grounded in the nature of God, but without belief in God or truth that is objective, absolute, or universal, we would have no reason to believe in something like the immutability of gender or sexuality. In fact, if truth were relative, what would it mean to finally decide who we are on our own? Any future conviction we may have about our identity would be just as subject to change as our current convictions. Facebook’s 60 options for a user’s gender are not nearly enough.
God’s word reveals that “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27) While God has no gender, it’s noteworthy that the completeness of the male and female complementarity came right along with forming mankind in His own likeness.
If nothing else, this tells us that male and female “binaries” are not merely “notions of what society has told them about who they are supposed to be.” This is our Creator telling us who we actually are and have always been.
The truth that we are God’s image-bearers, that He made us and loves us, justifies any notion of value or self-worth. If the God of the Bible does not exist, then we are likely accidental collisions of molecules. Do we matter then? Or are we just matter?
I met a high school student who had written YOU MATTER on both his own forearms with a pen. When I asked him about it, he said he’s not sure if he really believes he really matters, but seeing it there helps him through his depression. We only matter if God made us on purpose. This already depressed young man is in particular danger if he follows his atheism to its logical end.
Given the high degree of depression among the LGBTQ community, especially teens, and those with gender dysphoria, there is an accelerated danger in rejecting our Creator, His pattern for sex and gender, and trying to redefine both for ourselves.
We will never be fully satisfied in remaking ourselves in our own image because then we have idolized autonomy, choosing to live in “my reality” vs biological, historical, or spiritual reality. We’re told we can be whoever we want to be, but we need to start with who we actually are. A confused culture “in the throes of self-discovery” will not find its true identity until it finds God.
1) Steinmetz, Katy “Behind the TIME Cover Story-Gender and Sexuality: Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’.” TIME Magazine 16 Mar. 2017. TIME.com Web. (Link: http://time.com/4703058/time-cover-story-beyond-he-or-she/)
December 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
From “Do Christians And Muslims Worship The Same God?” by NPR on December 20, 2015, this recent controversy is summarized:
“Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, decided to wear a headscarf during the Advent season as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims. In doing so, Hawkins quoted Pope Francis, saying that Christians and Muslims ‘worship the same God.'”
A Christian response in the article:
“‘The question basically comes down to whether one can reject Jesus Christ as the Son and truly know God the Father,’ says Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. ‘And it’s Christ himself who answered that question, most classically in the Gospel of John, and he said that to reject the Son means that one does not know the Father.'” (John 6:46; 14:9; see also 1 John 2:22-23)
A Muslim response in the article:
“One theologian with knowledge of both Christian and Islamic doctrine is Hamza Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., the first Muslim liberal arts college in the U.S. Born Mark Hanson, he was raised as a Christian and then converted to Islam. He quotes the Quran as saying that God is immeasurable, so to define God in some particular way is impossible. ‘God is much greater than anything we can imagine,’ Yusuf says. ‘The Muslims have a statement in our theology: Whatever you imagine God to be, God is other than that.‘”
Dr. Mohler’s response has to do with knowing God by identifying Jesus Christ the Son, which Islam denies. Yusuf explains that in Islam, one cannot really have a clear definition of God. And this I think is key to why the answer to the question as posed, “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?”, has to be no. Christians, Muslims, and all human beings who are made in God’s image have an intuitive awareness of God. We all know He exists. We have an array of world religions because we’ve taken the general revelation of God and sought to define Him in various ways. But there’s a difference between recognizing God’s existence and worshipping Him.
Yusuf’s Muslim interpretation of the Qu’ran is not that God is “greater than” what we can imagine, but that He is “other than” what we imagine. There’s a distinction. We cannot fully comprehend the greatness of God, but the Bible assures us we can know Him (John 17:3). To say “to define God in some particular way is impossible” means knowing God is impossible, therefore worship is impossible. We cannot worship what we can’t know (though some have tried, like the Athenians in Acts 17).
Of course, Yusuf’s agnosticism about God (Allah) brings to light the Qur’an’s self-contradiction. The Qu’ran has 99 names for God, and you can’t name God 99 times without claiming to know perhaps 99 attributes of God. The description of God in the Bible differs greatly from the God of the Qur’an. They’re both Theistic in category, because we all recognize God exists, though some have suppressed this truth as Romans 1 explains. We know this without the Bible or the Qur’an. But in person, character and attributes, “God” is articulated very differently in both.
Miroslav Volf, professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, argues that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, but that “the description of God is partly different.” I would argue that it is fundamentally different. God cannot be both trinitarian and not trinitarian at the same time; God cannot both have a Son and not have a Son; He either sent Jesus to die in our place or He did not. These are basic logical absurdities and therefore cannot be descriptions of the same God.
And as Dr. Mohler explains, Jesus was God in the flesh, and a non-negotiable in the Christian identity of God. The Bible describes a triune God who sought to redeem us from our sins and reveal Himself by sending His Son to offer Himself on our behalf. A God who isn’t this or didn’t do this is not the same God. In 2002, Baptist theologian Timothy George noted, “Apart from the Incarnation and the Trinity, it is possible to know that God is, but not who God is.” (Emphasis George’s)
Another voice from the NPR article:
“Amy Plantinga Pauw, a professor of Christian theology at Louisville Seminary, says Christians can have their own definition of God while still seeing commonality with Muslims and Jews. ‘To say that we worship the same God is not the same as insisting that we have an agreed and shared understanding of God,’ Pauw says.”
Pauw touches on the crux of the debate but perhaps doesn’t see that true worship requires an accurate understanding of God. We can see “commonality” with many belief systems. Christians do share a common general knowledge of God and should share a mutual love and respect for our Muslim neighbors as fellow image-bearers of the Creator, even though we disagree over who He is. This means we can have solidarity where our common interests lie, even where they extend from our unique theologies. But when it comes to worship, something we can’t truly do without knowing the object of our worship, Christians share no altar with Muslims.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
NATURE IS SPEAKING is the name of a campaign to remind humanity of its place in nature, which according to Conservation International is the place of an ant relative to a boot. The warnings from this environmental organization with a genuine concern for the earth frame mankind as planetary parasites, voicing authority through movie stars chosen to portray elements of nature. This project reflects a popular secular environmentalist view today, steeped in Naturalistic thinking, so it’s worth examining from a Christian perspective.
In the project, Julia Roberts plays Mother Nature, Harrison Ford speaks for the ocean, Kevin Spacey portrays the rainforest, Edward Norton is dirt, Penélope Cruz is water (if she married Edward, would they be mud?), Robert Redford is the redwoods (see what they did there?), Ian Somerhalder is a coral reef, and Lupita N’Yongo is a flower (more videos have been added since I wrote the original post). The imagery is breathtaking and the voiceovers are thick with anger and sadness at our destructive attitude toward nature, and in some videos return a destructive attitude toward mankind.
NATURE IS UPSET
Julia Roberts, in her Mother Nature video: “I’ve been here for over four and a half billion years, 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t really need people, but people need me. Yes, your future depends on me. When I thrive, you thrive. When I falter, you falter, or worse. But I’ve been here for eons. I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you. My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests; they all can take you or leave you… Your actions will determine your fate, not mine. I am nature, I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?” (Roberts’ scolding tone here has been compared to the White Witch of Narnia’s.)
Harrison Ford’s lament in a perfect, growly, old-man-of-the-sea voice: “I am the ocean. I’m water. I’m most of this planet. I shaped it. …every living thing here needs me. I’m the source. I’m what they crawled out of. Humans are no different. I don’t owe them a thing. I give, they take. But I can always take back, That’s just the way it’s always been. It’s not their planet anyway. Never was, never will be. … Me, I could give a damn with or without humans. I’m the ocean. I covered this entire planet once and I can always cover it again.”
As a result many label this campaign as “anti-human”. Humanity has definitely caused harm to nature. Conservation International bids us to “change course now, because saving nature is the only way to save ourselves.” There is a lot of truth in these videos. Nature can definitely kill us, and we couldn’t live without it. “We need nature,” and it’s absolutely true that we have an obligation to preserve it, care for it, and live with it responsibly.
CREATION IS CONFUSED
Nevertheless the confusion here is where this obligation to the planet comes from, and where it comes from is important. The secular voices behind this project believe there is no greater force than nature and no louder voice than humanity’s to speak for it in order to save nature and ourselves. Forces of nature are anthropomorphized (animals or objects animated with human qualities, like speech and attitudes) because the clear principals of Naturalism and Naturalistic Evolution behind these films leave no room for anyone else speaking.
The Christian worldview offers clarity to the confusion this project expresses on several points. Starting from the ground up, the filmmakers need God in order for their point to be completely coherent. Without a Creator God as described in the Bible, mankind would be, as these videos imply, just another evolved animal species. As such we would have no moral obligations at all—not even the moral obligation to care about other plants and animals species, future generations, or even ourselves. Even if we are simply after self-preservation, Naturalism offers no purpose or value for life of any kind, including ourselves. But we claim purpose, not just instinct. Even the moral “good” of survival, passing on genes to the next generation, and basic altruism can’t be accounted for by Evolution. Why are these “good” without an objective and pre-existing moral standard for good? At the end of the day, survival and caring for the planet are subjective preferences if we imagine the world without God.
And let’s not forget that creation requires a Creator. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19b,20) From what has been made, we ought to recognize our world is not the result of the undirected processes of nature, a nature that can’t logically make itself. It was God who shaped the earth, not Harrison Ford’s ocean.
The videos point to humanity as the problem and despise it for neglecting nature. Such humility is a good start, but it’s incomplete on a Naturalistic view. God’s word says that humanity is loved but fallen (Genesis 3). God created a “good” creation (Genesis 1:31), and along with mankind, creation has fallen under the same curse of sin, groaning (Romans 8:22) for a day of restoration. The annihilation of the human race fantasized about in this project and as the theme of many of books and movies is misplaced. Our enemy is not nature or man, but the sin that has plagued both. We desire redemption.
NATURE SPEAKS TO GOD
Is nature really speaking through these prophets of Mother Earth? No indeed. If nature says anything, it declares the glory of its Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
GOD SPEAKS TO NATURE
At creation, it was the voice of God that spoke nature into existence.
And God said, “Let there be light,” … “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” … “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” … “Let the land produce vegetation…” … “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky…” … “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth…” … “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…” … “Let us make mankind…” And it was so.
GOD SPEAKS TO MANKIND
Our stewardship over the planet is a charge from the Creator.
“Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:26)
“You [God] made them [mankind] rulers over the works of Your hands; You put everything under their feet.” (Psalm 8:6)
This certainly doesn’t mean we have the right to abuse His creation, any more than we have the right to crash a car we borrow from someone else. Stewardship involves responsible care of what God has charged us with. That means we should be right-headed about the environment. We will always clash with each other about what “right-headed” means in terms of what may or may not be affecting the forest and the oceans and the ozone, but it’s critical to know first who the owner of all of that is. And He has identified Himself to us.
THE POINT OF NATURE
Nature is for us. Statements like that often have atheists up in arms about Christian hubris, but this is not to say that man is the center of the universe. We are not; God is. Our ultimate authority, the Bible, tells us that nature is for us to see and then point to its Creator, who is known by His marvelous works. God made the earth for mankind to live in, to care for, and to discover Him through. He created the heavens too, so that we may look in that direction for something greater than us, greater than nature, greater than the sin that causes neglect. Through nature we discover a sovereign Lord who set the earth in motion and reassures us that it will endure until His perfect timing brings its restoration (Genesis 8:22; Revelation 21:1-6). Yes, we absolutely should take better care of the earth, because it’s His. Christians can watch these videos and see our correct place in the world, as stewards of God’s amazing creation. And with the sound muted, we can watch these videos and worship not the creation (Romans 1:25), but nature’s Creator Himself.
[Related post: The Logical Failure of Moral Evolution]
February 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Is there anything better than a joyful reunion with someone you love? Maybe it’s an old friend you’ve lost track of over the years, or a long lost parent you’ve reconciled with that you’ve welcomed back into your life. Or maybe it’s the thrill of meeting a celebrity, or your favorite rock star, author, or rock-star author. We’ve all experienced the anticipation and excitement of that face-to-face meeting. I look forward to seeing my dad again in heaven. A grieving friend of mine recently spoke of two miscarried children she will meet in eternity. These are the reasons Christians mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in the Lord differently than the world does.
One Day, we will see the face of God. Take a break from this screen a moment and really think about that meeting. What do you think that will be like? Will you be thinking about your other relationships? Will you remember your joys or trials, your victories or losses? Will you laugh at or cry about the way you spent your time in this life? Or will you be lost in His gaze? Will anything else matter at that moment?
As mortal human beings, a look at God in His full glory would literally kill us. God, hidden in a pillar of cloud, answered Moses’ request to see His glory in Exodus 33:20: “No one may see me and live.” 1 Timothy 6:16 describes a God “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 also tell us that “No one has ever seen God” except God’s Son. What about seeing God’s full glory, His “unapproachable light”, would kill us? (A bug zapper comes to mind. Well, my mind. You can decide how well that analogy fits).
Jonathan Edwards wrote: “God is arrayed with an infinite brightness, a brightness that doesn’t create pain as the light of the sun pains the eyes to behold it, but rather fills with excess of joy and delight. Indeed, no man can see God and live, because the sight of such glory would overpower nature, . . . ’tis because the joy and pleasure in beholding would be too strong for a frail nature.”
As far as a medical cause of death, we’re probably talking about cardiac arrest here, which can occur in cases of extreme pleasure. I’m certain there are other views on what aspects of God’s glory is so overwhelming, or the ways God might physically and sensorily manifest His full glory (and what a portion of that glory really looked like to Moses)—but it’s clear from Scripture that it’s simply too much for human beings to behold.
God did allow certain people to get a glimpse of Him in a subdued form. There was a cloud as mentioned above, or a pillar of fire, a burning bush, a sanitized vision or dream, an angelic messenger, and of course Jesus Christ. Jesus retained His deity but was fully man too, His glory concealed in a wrapping of humanity. He did this so that He could die in our place and so that we could relate to Him and live. Much of who God is was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, but as far as the the “unapproachable light” of God, there were only brief glimpses in Jesus (i.e. the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2).
In Exodus 33, God acquiesces to Moses’ request for a taste of His glory. He gets a glimpse of His back as God passes by. This particular narrative ends before we find out how Moses’ reacted to seeing the backside (usually regarded as the worst side of anything) of God Himself, but in the next chapter “the skin of Moses’ face was shining” when he returned from the encounter (Ex. 34:29-35). Sort of a divine sunburn?
As mortal beings we can’t handle the full brunt of God’s glory, but what does a glimpse of Him typically bring? Although we don’t see Moses’ immediate reaction to seeing God’s back in Ex. 33, in the next chapter he is on his face in worship and repentence at God’s next cloud-masked appearance (Ex. 34:8-9). Other encounters with a glimpse of God in scripture reveal a similar penetant reaction. After Job heard and saw as much of God as he could handle, Job despised himself and repented immediately (Job 42:5-6). When God appeared to the prophet Isaiah in a vision, he declared “Woe is me!” as he lamented his own sin (Isaiah 6:5). Jesus’ disciple John, who walked with Jesus years earlier, saw a vision of Him in fuller (but not full) glory on the Island of Patmos and “fell at His feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17).
No doubt there was terror and awe in seeing just a part of God’s glory, but there is something about Him that made people want to also repent. When we are faced with God’s perfect holiness and righteousness, we can also see how far short we come to it. Repentance is an appropriate posture. This is part of what distinguishes the fear of man or monsters from a healthy fear of God (Matt. 10:28).
Francis Chan thought enough about our meeting God that he writes a great deal about it in a book that is supposed to be about marriage. On page 24 of You and Me Forever, Chan says, “Oddly, I meet very few people who think about that moment. Is it because we don’t really believe it’s going to happen? We think about upcoming vacations and imagine how much fun we will have. We think about upcoming trials and worry about how difficult they will be, Why don’t we think about seeing God for the first time?”
The moment we see God, no other relationship, not even our marriages, will come to mind. In fact the only relationship that matters in light of eternity is the one between you and Jesus Christ. And we could see Him at any moment. Any moment! That should change everything. Are you ready?
Everyone will see the face of God one day. We will be outside of the limitations of our physical body when we do, so we will not be able to “die” in His presence. If our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, we will be looking at the Savior. If we are still in our sin, we will be looking at our Judge. But “one day every knee will bow” (Rom. 14:11, Phil. 2:10), and we would all benefit from thinking about finally gazing upon His face. Especially if the realization of who He is (holy) and who we are (sinners) brings our repentance.
Fathers spend their time preparing for their children to leave home; our Heavenly Father is preparing a place for us to come home (John 14:3). This truth should leave with us with both hope and urgency. Our hope is the assurance that although we may be completely unraveled by the sight of our Savior’s face, He will be welcoming us home. A sense of urgency should come from the fact that many do not have this hope. The days are fleeting and we have work to do (Matt. 28:16-20).
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12). Wherever you are, think long and hard about seeing the face of God, and then decide what really matters.
October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
I was blessed to be able to read a copy of a talk that my sister Sue Korinko will be giving to a group of women at her church soon. She gave me permission to post it here so others could be encouraged by it. I pray that you are.
Words can lift us up or they can tear down. Words can crush and destroy—or they can encourage and motivate. Some words have a powerful impact on us in the moment; and some words leave an echo in your soul for years.
It’s not just about words … Our facial expressions and body language speak too. Have you ever seen one of those demonstrations on TV? It’s pretty interesting how these experts interpret what your body language is saying.
And of course, there’s a smile. People say that’s a universal language. I think you can even hear a smile in a person’s voice, even when you can’t see their face.
This isn’t rocket science. Making someone’s day can be as easy as smiling at them and saying “good morning”! Speaking life is about lifting the spirit of a person. Where does this idea come from? And how is God involved in Speaking life?
Well, He invented it! God is the Creator, the Giver of Life. BUT when He speaks life, it’s not to thank us for being good or congratulate us for our achievements. God’s words of life are always in harmony with what His will is for us. When God speaks life, His purpose is to restore in us the life He created that was destroyed by sin.
Here’s what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:5 “…even when we were dead in our sin, God made us alive together with Christ.” When God speaks life, the power of His words create life deep within our spirit, where we were dead, where there was no life. First Peter 1:23 says that we “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”
This life is rooted in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sin, and His resurrection from the dead. When we put our trust in what Jesus did for us, His Spirit comes to live in us producing life, hope, joy and peace that can only come from God.
Most of us know it as the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. John is the only one who records this particular event, and He tells us that the disciples went into town to buy food. But John records this dialogue in such detail, I sometimes wonder if he may have stayed behind with Jesus, and was sitting quietly nearby. We’re not told that, but I wonder.
As we go through the passage, we’ll hear Christ’s words of life spoken with sure and steady purpose. We’ll hear Him prepare this woman’s heart to receive what He wants to give her. We’ll see the eyes of her heart open as His words penetrate her hidden darkness and then give birth to new life.
It starts out with Jesus passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee. The Samaritans were considered mongrel Jews. Centuries earlier, during captivity, these Jews had intermarried with the pagan people of Assyria. Jews hated Samaritans and avoided them like the plague, even taking the long way around their cities just so they wouldn’t run into them. But we read here that Jesus, on His way to Galilee, is “passing through Samaria.”
Beginning in verse 5: “So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” The disciples went into town to buy food, and as Jesus sat there resting … “There came a woman, a Samaritan”.
When I did some reading about the culture of that time, I learned that going to get water from the well was mostly something the women did. It was normally done early in the morning or in the evening when it was cool. But according to some sources I read, the 6th hour meant it was mid-day, when this woman came. That would be the hottest part of the day, and she was alone.
This encounter didn’t take Jesus by surprise. He knew this woman would be there and He knew she’d be alone. But I couldn’t help wondering about her. Why was she alone? And what was it like for her if “being alone” was her life?
Jumping ahead in the chapter for just a minute, we learn that she had been married five times. Who gets married five times? What happened to end these marriages? Was she the merry widow? Or the happy divorcee? Or maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe she was grief stricken and alone, or abused and thrown away.
Being a widow is not only sad and lonely; in that culture it could be life-threatening. If a widow had no family member to take her in and care for her, she could starve.
What if the men divorced her. In that day, the term was to “send your wife away.” Whatever you call it, both scream of “I don’t want you anymore.” And most likely, if that’s this woman’s story, she probably heard a lot of words that spoke death to her soul long before the official papers arrived.
I read that in that culture, the Jewish laws about divorce had become so twisted. A man was permitted to send his wife away for almost any reason that she displeased him. Those reasons ranged from silly, like he didn’t like her cooking, to the more serious cases of immorality.
What about this woman? Could her coming alone to the well and having had five husbands mean she was shunned by the others in her town? Did she have a reputation that caused her to be the subject of sneers and gossip? We don’t know the whole story, but I think we can assume that her life had not been an easy one.
Some of our stories might read that way. Maybe not for the same reasons as this woman, but difficult in their own way. We all want to be loved and accepted. Sometimes that drives us into unhealthy situations. Insecurity and failure can make us feel rejected and alone. The more isolated we FEEL, the more we act on that feeling. Maybe that’s where this woman was…we just don’t know. So as she gets closer to the well, she must have noticed a man sitting there…
Hmmm, Who’s this? He’s not from around here. I’ll just pretend I don’t see him.
Jesus breaks into her thoughts with a request. “Give Me a drink.” The sound of his voice probably startled her. She wasn’t expecting him to speak to her.
She could have run away or ignored him, but she doesn’t. What we do know of her story might give us the impression that she wasn’t uncomfortable speaking to this man she’d just met. She was used to being around men. Nevertheless, she’s just a little suspicious.
“How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” But, if it was her habit of coming alone to the well, maybe deep down inside she was glad to have someone to talk to…even if he is a Jew!
Jesus knows the woman has one thing on her mind – get her water and go home. But Jesus sees the thirst inside of her that she isn’t even aware of. Her life experience has exposed all the symptoms of someone dying of thirst, but she doesn’t know the reason why. Jesus is going to reveal it using the most common need she has – her need for water.
Jesus had started their conversation by saying “Give me a drink.” Now in verse 10: Jesus 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.” He’s telling her He HAS water, “living water,” and that if she knew who she was talking to, she’d be the one asking HIM for this water. So the wheels must be turning…
Living water? What is this man talking about?
Of course, her focus is still on the water. But Jesus has got her thinking.
What did He say? If you knew the gift of God…? Who is this man?
What is the “gift of God” and what did she know about that? We learn from the text in verse 25 that she knew the Scripture prophesies about the coming Messiah.
Maybe she thought…
Is that what He means by the “gift of God?” Is this Jewish stranger referring to Messiah, the “Promised One?”
As she looked around, she noticed he didn’t have a bucket or a rope. In verse 11, She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water?”
And then she questions his authority, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?
Could she be thinking…
Is He saying there’s a better well somewhere, with sweeter water…something He’s calling ‘living water’?
And that brings up an interesting point: Sometimes speaking words of life to someone can sound confusing at first. That’s because of our perception of what we need. This woman was thirsty and all she wanted to do was fill her water pot. Jesus talked to her about “living water”—and she was trying to connect it to something tangible like the water in the well. But Jesus’ words of life were directed much deeper. He was speaking to her heart. Words of life go deeper than what we see on the surface.
When we’re in trouble, all we see is our circumstances. We don’t like hard things, and we tend to think, “Lord, please just get me out of this!” But often the circumstances are there so God can speak life into our heart, where we really need to hear it…where the real problem lies.
The question is this then, and it’s a hard one: Will I trust God enough to leave me in the circumstances as long as it takes for Him to get to the heart of the matter? I said that was a hard one, didn’t I? It’s a question God has been asking me recently. That’s a whole other message for another time.
But really, isn’t this God’s purpose for speaking life? To get to the heart of the matter? We’re seeing that right here in this passage. This woman at the well just wanted to fill her water pot, but Jesus wanted to fill her heart.
Before I met Jesus, I drank from one well after another, but nothing lasted. I just felt worse. I had religious training in school and God was interesting when I was a young girl. The older I got, the less interesting He became. I assumed He was busy taking care of the universe, so I was in charge of my life. And believe me, I didn’t do a very good job. It took me 28 years to learn that my being in charge was a huge mistake. But all that was about to change.
It began when my youngest brother, Michael, became very ill. He was just 4 years old at the time, the last of 7 children born in our family. He was a late comer and a surprise baby, to say the least. Dad was 50 and Mom was 46 when Michael was born. The youngest before him was 11 years old. Four of us older siblings were already married, and my parents were already grandparents. To make things even more exciting, Mom and I were pregnant at the same time, me at the age of 24 with my first child, and Mom, age 46, with her 7th. My brother and my daughter were born two months apart.
When Michael was 4 years old, he became very ill. This was a scary time for my mom. She’s a good woman, who had gone to church all her life. But the heart of the matter was that she didn’t know Jesus. And God would use this scary time and circumstance of Michael’s illness to speak His words of life into her. One night she was watching a Christian program on TV. As she listened to the speaker talk about the cross of Jesus Christ, my mom understood for the first time that Jesus didn’t just die for the whole world; He had died for HER. Her heart was opened and she turned her life over to Jesus Christ.
Only a short time after that, I was facing a crisis of my own. To make a long story short, all of our earthly possessions had been stolen and sold by a con man we had become involved with. Everything we owned was gone in a flash. It was like staring into a black hole. The loss was devastating, but the worst part was the guilt of what we had brought upon our two innocent young children.
We had to look into their little faces and know our stupid choices had done this to them. Sitting in my mom’s kitchen one night as I told her about the mess we were in, she said to me, “Sue, You need to give Jesus control of your life.” I wasn’t expecting that. But she spoke with such conviction, I couldn’t resist what she said.
I had believed God was up in heaven somewhere, but when she called Him Jesus, it was like He was right there in the room. His name, “Jesus,” had power I can’t explain. That conversation with my mom hit home in my heart and a short time later, Mom sent me a Bible and I started to read it. It was the first time I opened a Bible in my life. But God knew I was ready to listen to Him now and His word revealed what I needed to hear. The painful circumstance had brought me to my knees, but it also opened my heart so Jesus could speak life into my deadness. I am forever grateful for that loss, because it became my greatest gain.
And this woman here? Well, Jesus knows her heart is ready. She thinks the water from this well is the important issue; but Jesus knows better. He’s about to speak words that will change her life forever.
Jesus tells her that “everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” No earthly well, no matter what form it takes, can ever fully satisfy.
Long ago God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. Listen to what He says: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Jesus uses the reality of our circumstances to speak life into our heart. And in God’s plan, He calls us to be ready to speak these words of life to point others to Jesus. That’s what my Mom did with me.
We never know when God will give us that opportunity, so we need to be alert. First Peter 3:15 says this: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Last summer, my son, Jay, was prepared to lead worship at his church. It was Father’s Day and they had a guest speaker that morning: A former Chicago Bears player, Mike Singletary. So the atmosphere was exciting and upbeat. Just minutes before the start of the service, Jay learned that the parents of a young Marine who had recently been killed in Afghanistan, were in the service seated in the front row. They weren’t regular attenders but Parkview was hosting the memorial service for their son that following week, so they came to the Father’s Day service. Listen to what my son wrote to me in an e-mail about that morning:
Just before the service…“I was made aware that this young marine’s family were in attendance seated in the front two rows. The morning’s service had an upbeat atmosphere because of Singletary and all the Bears/football stuff. When I learned these parents were out there, I felt an extreme burden for their sadness, in stark contrast to the excitement of the morning. I felt overwhelmed with such a responsibility, because of their grief. What could I say? I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through my mouth in a way that would minister to their sorrow. After the service these parents indicated that they were extremely moved by the words God had given me to say, and although I did not mention them specifically, they said they felt God was speaking directly to them.”
God gave my son words that would speak life into the heart of those grieving parents—words that spoke of Jesus.
God’s words always speak life.
Now listen carefully to what Jesus says next. This popped out at me when I was preparing for this message. This is so important…I don’t want us to miss it! “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Do you hear what Jesus is saying to her? He tells her that He is the Possessor of this “living water.” He has the authority to give it away. This living water is the Source of eternal life. Only God can give eternal life. Jesus is telling this woman that He is God!
She still doesn’t understand, but now she’s more eager than ever to have this water.
In verse 15, “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.'” Her request is very revealing. It sounds like she didn’t like coming to the well. The other women in town may have looked forward to this task. It was their time to get together for some girl talk, to chat and laugh together. But not this woman. She came alone.
This just reminds us that people are so different from God. While God desires to move toward us, people are more apt to criticize, gossip and move away.
Maybe that’s what it was like for this woman. It could be there wasn’t anyone in her life that she felt loved her for who she was. Going to places where you’re just reminded of how isolated and lonely you feel… sometimes it just hurts too much.
So the idea that she might not be thirsty and have to “come all the way here to draw”—t sounds like that appealed to her. Even though she still doesn’t understand, she knows Jesus is offering her something good, something she needs, and she wants it!
That night I realized that Jesus had died to take my sins away. I remember saying, “I want that! I want what Jesus did for me!” Though I didn’t understand all the details then, I knew it was something good, something I needed, and I wanted it! I learned later that the “living water” Jesus gives is the Holy Spirit He sent to dwell inside me.
In John 7:37 Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive…”
Eternal life isn’t just about a place with no time. First John 5:11-12 says: “… that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
Knowing Jesus is eternal life. Jesus Christ is the living water. And that living water, in the person of His Holy Spirit, who comes to live within every believer, is a well of water springing up to eternal life.
This is what Jesus was offering to the woman at the well.
And now, because words that speak life also speak truth, Jesus must make her face the truth of what’s behind all her brokenness. The Bible calls it sin. There’s no way around it. God’s words of life have to go there. In verse 16, we see this is where they’re at now. This is her “fork in the road.”
Once she has asked Him for this “living water”, Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband and come here.” Now there’s a jolt. They were having this nice friendly talk about water and bam! “Go call your husband.”
Jesus knew her journey. Psalm 139 tells us God had searched her and known her. He had scrutinized her path and was intimately acquainted with all her ways. (Psalm 139:2-3)
This woman probably couldn’t have imagined as a little girl that she’d wind up being married five times. No girl would. Life obviously hadn’t gone the way she dreamed it would. But she was powerless to change herself or her circumstances. And so she was stuck in her deadness. Her life revealed on the outside all that was wrong on the inside. Our sin inflicts deep wounds and ugly scars as a result of living in the dark. We only come to God when His light shines bright enough to show us the way.
There’s a passage in John’s gospel where Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” That description fits here so beautifully. Though He was as direct as can be, His gentle manner appears to have melted away any attempt at the woman’s self defense. She responds by readily admitting the truth: “I have no husband.”
Jesus had begun to turn the pages of her life. He says, “You have correctly said, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands and the man you’re with now isn’t your husband.” There it is, the whole ugly truth. Jesus knows her whole story!
Five husbands! And now living with a man she’s not married to. Those were all just symptoms, but Jesus is going beneath all that. This woman came to the well that day weighed down by the reality of the deadness inside her. Like all of us, she had made herself god in place of the One who created her. “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
God knows when and how to bring us face to face with the truth of who we are. It is His kindness that leads us to turn to Him. Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Some of us lived in the darkness so long, the light of truth can make us flinch at first. But sometimes that’s what “speaking life” means.
Jesus is never easy on sin. He knew what it was going to cost Him. But His words do not condemn this woman. Rather He offers her life, forgiveness and freedom.
Well, she must have thought … “How does this stranger know all these things about me?”
In verse 19, the woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” Then it sounds like she tries to change the subject, but I’m not so sure about that. Maybe she just wants to find out more about this man and just exactly what authority he does have. She throws out to Him a long-debated religious argument the Jews and Samaritans had about where they should go to worship God.
In verse 21, Jesus said to her “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” The fact is that true worship to God isn’t about a mountain or a temple.
Then in verse 23, He says, “An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus had already reminded her that “salvation is from the Jews”. She’s waiting for Messiah too, just like all Jews. In verse 25, The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming. He who is called Christ; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”
And then, the veil comes off. Jesus says, I’m Him! “I who speak to you am He.”
John writes that just at that moment, the disciples return. We might think, “No, not now! Go away. You’re interrupting this important conversation!” But nobody interrupts God!
Jesus’ purpose in speaking with this woman had been accomplished. He didn’t leave anything out concerning her need. He revealed Himself to her. He was the Messiah, the “Gift of God,” standing right in front of her, speaking directly to her. And He offered her eternal life, a living forever relationship with God, His Father!
And so, in verse 28: John writes that the woman “leaves her water pot.” Her whole reason for going to the well in the first place was now forgotten in her joy and eagerness to share what had just happened to her.
“She went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?'”
Almost as if she has to pinch herself to be sure she’s not dreaming…
Did this really happen to me? Did I just see and speak to Messiah Himself, in person? Me?!
She came to the well that day a woman dying of thirst. Her water pot was still empty, but her inner being was filled up with rivers of living water that would quench her thirst forever. Jesus spoke life into her; now His words of life will enable her to point others to Him. And she doesn’t waste any time.
After telling the men in the city, we read in verse 30 that “they went out of the city, and were coming to Jesus.” And later in verse 39, we read that “from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word; And they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.'”
So what happens to her now? Did all her problems go away? Probably not. Life’s harshness doesn’t disappear when we turn to follow after Jesus. She may have still gone to the well alone every day. But I like to think that well was a special place to her now. It’s where she had come face to face with her Messiah. Now, when she went to the well, she could recall in her heart the words Jesus had spoken to her. His strong, gentle voice of authority, so different from the voices of the world around her.
Though others may not have valued her for who she was, it was at the well where she met Jesus, who knew everything about her and loved her anyway. Instead of being a prisoner to the guilt and shame of her past, being at the well would remind her that Jesus Messiah, the Judge of all the earth, had set her free.
It was true that abandonment and loneliness had been written with tears on pages of her story, but now she knows Jesus who promised He will never leave her or forsake her. His words of hope would continue to speak life into her soul giving her the strength and comfort she needed day by day.
All of us have a story. Every one is written with the ink of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, dreams fulfilled and hopes dashed. And, yes, even when we know Jesus, this world is a difficult place to live. We need to listen to Jesus speak His words of life to us, over and over again.
In the way that Samaritan woman went to that well to fill her water pot every day, we can imagine the Bible as our well. Like the water in Jacob’s well came from deep in the ground, the Bible’s pages contain truth that comes from the depths of the heart of God. Through these written words the Holy Spirit draws up His living water into our soul… words of life that will sustain us day after day.
This is our place to go. When we’re at the well, we’re reminded that Jesus knows everything about us and loves us anyway. When we cry there, Jesus knows the reason for our tears even when we can’t put words to them.
At the well, Jesus reminds us that He is our GOOD Shepherd and He takes perfect care of His sheep. He knows where and when we need to rest. He feeds us when we’re hungry and protects us when there’s danger. He knows when we wander off, where to find us and just how to bring us home. All because we belong to HIM.
We have times of joy and celebration at the well. And then there’s times when we’re exhausted and scared and feel like David did when he wrote this ”Oh, that I had wings like a dove so I could fly away and be at rest. I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.” (Psalm 55:6-8)
That’s when we need to go to the well to hear Jesus remind us of the simple things, the only things a child needs to know:
- That our Heavenly Father is good and that He loves us with an everlasting love.
- That His ways are FAR, FAR BETTER than our ways.
- That He does everything perfectly right.
- We can trust Him even when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.
Whenever we come to the “well”, we will find Jesus there waiting to speak life to us. It reminds me of this great little book written years ago, Hinds Feet on High Places. The main character’s name was Much Afraid. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, taught little Much Afraid, that whenever she was in trouble, all she needed to do was say His name and He’d be there right by her side, instantly.
Just saying Jesus’ name can shift our focus instantly toward Him. When we open our ears, His words of life bring peace. They comfort us and renew our hope, even in the midst of trouble. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run in and are safe.” (Prov. 18:10)
So, what’s written in your story? Is there a special page somewhere when Jesus spoke life into your spirit? Are there chapters you love to go back and read again because of the joy written there? And maybe some pages you tend to skip over because those weren’t such good days. Some may be stained with your tears. But you might notice that some of those very same pages have a sweet fragrance as you read over them.
Most of our stories include some blank pages too. When life and busyness kept us distracted and away from the well. But aren’t you glad that seasons change, and the things that once kept us away, are somehow removed as time passes. And we learn again how pleasant it is to spend time at the well.
Maybe you are hearing Jesus speak life into your heart right now, for the very first time. You’re like the woman at the well standing face to face with Jesus. He is offering you “living water”, the Gift of God. Christ’s finished work accomplished on the cross, and sealed by God in raising Jesus from the dead. If you’re that woman right now, I hope you’ll open your heart to receive what He freely wants to give you.
Wherever you are, Jesus wants to speak words of life and truth to meet whatever we need in every moment. I hope it will be that your story will have page after page that read something like this: “There came a woman to the well…” And it was me!
Author: Sue Korinko
August 27, 2014 § 8 Comments
Last week, atheist Richard Dawkins tweeted to a follower who had pondered the moral dilemma of being pregnant with a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She called it a “real ethical dilemma.” It wasn’t so much of a dilemma for Richard Dawkins, who responded: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” This of course ignited a firestorm of debate for and against his sentiments. Mostly against.
Knowing full well the reality that much meaning can get lost in the limitations of a 140 character Tweet, Dawkins wrote what he calls an “apology” on his web site the next day. Although the post was more of a clarification of his Tweet than a rescinding of it. He says that if he were allowed more than 140 characters, his reply would be this:
“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”
What he clarifies in his post is that he really meant what most people thought he said in the tweet. He exhibits really no fundamental change of heart.
The “apology” portion is on par with what many celebrities and political figures offer as an apology. His words: “Those who thought I was bossily telling a woman what to do rather than let her choose. Of course this was absolutely not my intention and I apologise if brevity made it look that way.” And then, “I regret using abbreviated phraseology which caused so much upset.”
Maybe a little Apology 101 is in order. A true apology expresses something like, “What I did was wrong”, or, “I regret what I said and I intend to change my direction.” What produced the greatest offense is what he said—that unborn children with Downs Syndrome are probably not worth saving—not necessarily how he said it. Dawkins’ apology centers on how he said it. It was more akin to “I’m sorry if you were upset or misunderstood.” An apology is one time where the offender should seek the spotlight, owning up to what he has said or done; the focus is on his actions and his appeal for forgiveness or an offer of restitution. Dawkins may regret the fact that controversy erupted, or feel sorry that others were incapable of seeing it his way.
The remaining two-thirds of his “apology” post was directed to “the haters” who were upset with him. Then he concludes: “what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.”
Far from an apology, his post is closer to an apologetic for the utilitarian brand of Atheism revealed in his pro-choice logic. Dawkins says, “My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”
Without God, the highest achievement can only be one’s own temporal happiness. Without God, personhood is endowed on a sliding scale according to a child’s growth toward (or an aging person’s growth away from) usefulness, a “a gradual, ‘fading in/fading’ out definition.” Without God, humanity has no value beyond what some men consider useful, so “the decision to abort can be a moral one.” Without God, there is no objective moral standard for good and evil, right and wrong, yet the moral law written on every fellow human heart created in God’s image compels even atheists to reason about “moral” choices, despite the reductio ad absurdum. That Law on our hearts can be suppressed for a lifetime, but ultimately convicts. Atheism is in every case a temporary state (Romans 14:11,12; Philippians 2:10,11).
Richard Dawkins’ pro-abortion statements make perfect sense on Atheism, which would make a genuine about-face apology quite unexpected anyway.