From the pastor’s pen: streams of life
“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east… as I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And the angel said to me, ‘This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes’” (Ezekiel 47:1, 7-9)
Lately, in my personal time with God, my attention has been captured by Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem’s 4th Temple. That’s right, a 4th one! As Christians we are fairly acquainted with the first 2 temples (built first by King Solomon and then rebuilt by Zerubbabel) and we are also familiar with NT prophecies concerning a 3rd not yet built Temple. However, Ezekiel talks about a 4th Temple, one shrouded in great mystery.
But what really “twitched” my heart was a description of a stream of water, at first merely trickling down the eastern side of the temple and progressively growing into a very wide and deep stream bringing to life everything in its path – in particular the Dead Sea. Although the promise of such stream will find its fulfilment in a future and equally mysterious age, its significance is something that is particularly relevant for us today. In fact, at a spiritual level, we are all given the chance to carry such a stream within us.
In John 7:37-38 we read that, on the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus stood up in the midst of the (2nd) Temple and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” In that moment, Jesus’ was speaking from the perspective of Ezekiel’s prophecy, declaring a past promise of future events yet with very present implications. Jesus was in fact promising rivers of living water flowing out of the hearts of anyone that would believe in him. He clearly wasn’t talking about physical water gushing out of our chest (!), but rather streams of his life-giving Spirit (v.39). In that moment, Jesus declared that, before Jerusalem would see streams of life flowing from its Temple, it would see it flow from a “temple” made of his people.
As Christians, we are very familiar with these words, but not so much with the prophetic background behind them. Because of this, we often understand Jesus’ words to mean that whoever believes in him would never “thirst”, but rather find true life by faith in him – which is absolutely true! However, this is only half of Jesus’ message. For he didn’t just promise life to those who “thirst” for it, but life flowing from those who believe in him. The promise was not for a river of living water flowing in the heart of believers, but out of them – “so everything will live where the river goes”. In that moment, Jesus declared that the ultimate trademark of his people would not simply be life for themselves, but life for everything and everyone in their path. Again, this is a concept rooted in the Old Testament. In Psalm 84:5 we read: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca (lit. crying or mourning) they make it a place of springs”
It is passages like these that should helps us understand that our salvation isn’t just for ourselves, but rather a means of life and blessings for those around us. The question we need to ask ourselves is – am I a stream of life for those around me? At the workplace? At Uni? Among my relatives? Do I bring life, hope and encouragement in the valley of mourning? Do I bring light in darkness? Do I leave a sweet perfume of Christ in my wake? These questions may seem quite daunting to us but we need to understand that, just like in Ezekiel’s vision, this stream of life first starts as a trickle. Can we see that trickle in our lives? Or better, can others see that trickle? If Christ is in us, then that trickle will be there too. Let us therefore be more intentional about seeing that trickle grow into a stream that cannot be crossed. Let us not just wait for opportunities to be life to others, but create such opportunities – in word and action. Christ didn’t just give us a drink, he is creating a stream of life to carry wherever we go.
The Beacon Shadsworth
Speaking of being life to others, we are currently planning to launch our first campus in Shadsworth this September. On Monday 17th at 7.30pm, we are going to have a first strategy meeting and we would value your prayers greatly. Not only that, we need your help too! Particularly in the areas of ministry, youth and kids work, stewarding, music, tech and media and catering as we seek to establish a regular service every Sunday from 4pm to 5pm followed by a time of fellowship over refreshments.
God’s kingdom is not built by one or two professionals but by the entire body of Jesus. If you would like to get involved with this project and commit yourself to serve God’s Kingdom there, please do get in touch with Pastor Simon as soon as possible.
After two systematic series of teaching on the books of Habakkuk and Revelation, on Wednesday the 12th from 7.30pm to 9pm we will begin a new discipleship series based on the Alpha course.
This series will cover a number of subjects that are foundational to the Christian life and that will be a tremendous help to anyone who’s just started their journey with Jesus or that may still lack a solid foundation to their Christian walk. It’s also a great opportunity for anyone who’s been a Christian for a long time to support those who are just starting with advice and encouragement from many years of experience as followers of Jesus.
The format of each session is very relaxed and informal with plenty of opportunity for questions, discussion and fellowship around refreshments. Here below you will find a description of the full program:
12th June: Why and how I pray?
19th June: Why and how should I read the Bible?
26th June: How does God guide us?
3rd July: Who is the Holy Spirit?
10th July: What does the Holy Spirit do?
17th July: How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?
24th July: How can I make the most of the rest of my life?
(SUMMER HOLIDAY BREAK)
4th Sept: How can I resist evil?
11th Sept: Why and how should I tell others?
18th Sept: Does God heal today?
25th Sept: What about the Church?
Please let us know you’re coming by signing up on the event through ChurchSuite or FB. Just look for the series in the ChurchSuite events section or click on the link on the series post on our church.
Over 18s house group – Friday 14th at 7pm @ Joan and Peter Howarth’s
Church plant strategy meeting – Monday 17th at 7.30pm @ Church (invitation only)