Rivers of Living Water

The idea of life-giving water is found in a number of places in scripture with key passages about it found at the beginning and end, Genesis and Revelation (see also Ezekiel 47:1-12).

10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. Genesis 2:10 (NKJV)

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1 (NKJV)

Now I don’t know if you have considered this, but Eden was not all of the garden. The rivers flowed from Eden and watered the garden. To get a better understanding of Eden we need to move ahead a bit in scripture.

13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. Ezekiel 28:13–14 (NKJV)

Here we see that Eden was a holy mountain in the garden and that the ‘anointed cherub’ was there and ‘covered.’ The mountain was Yahweh’s dwelling place on earth, the site of His throne, the place where heaven met earth. In the culture of the day when Genesis was written throne guardians covered/guarded thrones. This anointed cherub was Lucifer, the light bearer who became Satan, the adversary. His role was to protect the throne but he rebelled and attacked the throne.

If we take this a little further, water flows down from mountains and becomes streams and rivers that eventually flow into oceans. Water is a source of life and growth. From Eden, the throne, flowed the source of life for the garden. This was the beginning, and as we see from the quote from Revelation, Yahweh’s throne is again depicted as the source of the water of life at the end when heaven is fully joined to earth.

1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1 (NKJV)

Yet in scripture Jesus pointed us to another place that living water is to flow from. The place that is to be His present dwelling place on earth – us!

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37–39 (NKJV)

Jesus taught that as a result of the new birth and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that He would flow as living water out from the thirsty. A key point in this passage is that if we want living water to flow forth from us, we must first be thirsty! Jesus said that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled (Matthew 5:6). Isaiah invited all who thirst to come to the water (Isaiah 55:1). As we thirst, we drink and what we drink flows out from us.

One of the ways we express our thirst is through worship. In my experience and that of others, worship stirs something up in me and as a result of my thirst living water flows out from me to touch others. It may touch them through intercession, practical help or prayer ministry to them. The important point is that our thirst releases something to bless others, His life flows out from us! When we have enough thirsty people releasing enough water, we change the spiritual environment in our homes and communities. If we want to see change this coming year then recognize that the more we thirst and come to Him to drink, the more living water flows through us to those around us. In the kingdom economy what we thirst for we release! Pray for a deep thirst!


Of the many interesting and important things Jesus said, the following two are relevant to introduce our subject, Presence.

8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. Luke 16:8 (NKJV)

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)

Here Jesus encourages us to be as wise as the world around us. He doesn’t tell us to function as them, hence His exhortation to be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ We are to exercise godly wisdom in the world, not behave like the world in our daily interactions.

As we look at Presence, first some background that relates to the scripture references above. While Christmas shopping, I saw an ad prominently displayed on a large screen in a store, “Here for the Presence.” Now, as a public service announcement, I don’t recommend going to a mall in the afternoon in mid December! However, as I had done that, I had plenty of time to reflect on the ad while waiting in line. That aside, the ad caught my attention and stirred my heart. Some clever marketer hit on promoting the idea that people came to this store not merely to shop but to experience a certain atmosphere, a presence in that place. Which meant there had to be something beyond the merchandise drawing them. That could have been being part of a certain subculture, a sense of identity and belonging.

In my brief interactions with the staff, I also sensed that they also were attempting to create a presence. The ad and behaviour were aligned and it was reflected in the long line up at the sales counter. There was congruence between the stated goal of the ad, ‘presence,’ and the behaviour of the staff. Thus, while still in line I put a note in my phone as I wanted to write about what I had encountered.

In my reflections I began to think about our gatherings as His body and wondered what drew us and whether we intentionally sought to create an atmosphere that would draw His Presence. My qualifier here is that there is a difference between the Lord’s omnipresence and the degrees of His manifest presence. I am focused on the latter. In my experience, with some notable exceptions, most events I have attended over the decades have focused more on gathering people than drawing presence. While we need people, we need them to encounter Jesus when we draw them. I deeply believe we should focus more on aligning all we do to draw His presence. I think we need to spend more time in corporate worship and prayer, seeking to bless the Father’s heart. I believe we need to create space for more to share their hearts and learn how to minster to one another as a body.

I believe that if we think and practice along these lines, we will draw His Presence and His Presence will draw us. Why not build our gatherings around Jesus’ agenda and engage in a wholehearted pursuit of His Presence the way it is reflected in scripture.

4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8 (NKJV)

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

Here is a song reflecting a heart desire for His Presence.

 Lord Let Your Glory Fall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGdpMbZey4Y

The Church: Addendum

My friend Mark Adams, a faithful pastor and teacher for many decades in Edmonton, provided a comment on my last post listing the various things we may engage in as we gather as His body. Mark’s list is the basis for this addendum. I have not included the scriptures as that would make this an extremely long post, but the references are there that support the practices. I have done some minor editing and additions. Mark did the hard work. 

Here is a list from the New Testament of activities that the church was encouraged to engage in when they gathered as the body. Activities that by extension we can and should engage in.

Singing/Worship: (1 Cor 14:26; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Mk 14:26) Singing psalms (songs of devotion), hymns (songs of doctrine) and spiritual songs (spontaneous songs given by the Spirit during worship).

Testimony: (Acts 14:27; 21:19) Thankful reports of what God was doing in and through the believers.

Teaching: (Acts 2:42; 11:26; 20:20; 1 Cor. 14:26) Instruction from the word of God to lead people in the way of truth.

Admonishing/Encouraging: (Col 3:16; Acts 15:32; Rom 12:8; Heb 10:25) Giving a word of exhortation, warning, encouragement or similar that motivated the people of God to keep the faith.

Prophesying: (1 Cor 14; Acts 2:17; 1 Th 5:20) The speaking of a timely and specific message that God wanted to convey to his people. God’s ‘mind for the moment.’

Tongues & Interpretation: (1 Cor; 14; 12:10; Acts 2:4) An inspired message spoken in a heavenly or foreign language that was interpreted for and understood by the church for their corporate edification.

Prophetic Revelations: (1 Cor 14:26 & 30; 12:8; Acts 5:3) Visions, dreams, words of knowledge and words of wisdom given by God and shared with the body.

Prayer: (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:24; 12:5; 14:23; Eph 6:18; Col 4:2)) Public prayer has always been a part of what happens when the church comes together. Included can be prayer ministry for individual needs resulting in healings, deliverance and miracles. (See James 5:14 and 1 Corinthians 12:9).

Reading of Scripture: (1 Tim 4:13; Acts 17:11) The Scripture needs to be read when the church comes together.

Preaching: (1 Tim 4:13; 5:17; Acts 6:4; 20:20) Proclaiming the gospel message of salvation in Jesus and the reality of His kingdom in our midst.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: (Acts 2:41; Mt 28:19, Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:23-26). The early church faithfully observed these ordinances.

The Breaking of Bread: (Acts 2:42 & 46; 20:7) Eating and sharing food together in genuine fellowship.

Giving: (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:7 Acts 4:34-35) A regular practice of the body giving monetary gifts to support leaders and the work of the body in ministering to others and extending and demonstrating His kingdom.

As a follow up to the list here is a final reflective question. When you gather with others in the body are your relationships and interactions with fellow believers moving forward the kingdom of God – Jesus’ agenda?

NOTE next week we will look at the place of Presence.

The Church Part 5

I noted in my last post that here I would address what a gathering might look like based on what Paul taught to the Corinthians, the focus of Paul’s prayers in some of his letters and the role and importance of church discipline in fulfilling our mandate to represent (re-present) Jesus to one another and the world around us.

I begin with a verse in 1 Corinthians that I am often drawn to reflect on. A perspective from Paul that reflects the Lord’s heart and that I believe we need to find a way to operationalize when we gather.  

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)

First the context. Paul is referencing the gathering of the ekklesia. ‘Come together’ is a single word in Greek and it means to gather or assemble. What is important is what Paul says should happen. Different ones are to bring different gifts to share with the rest of the body. Paul qualifies the purpose of these various gifts – the building up of the body. Yet his view is not that one person would dominate a gathering, rather that leaders would create an environment where many would share and everyone would be blessed. In most church services does that happen? Does everyone feel they have an opportunity to hear from the Lord and share or have we primarily scheduled the Spirit out of our services?

I acknowledge that many good things happen in most church services on a Sunday morning or whenever people gather. Yet I believe that they can be much better. I believe that we can shift our focus so that more are involved and exercising their gifts and the body as a whole is being blessed in the process. I will return to this but first a shift to Paul’s heart for the ekklesia.

Galatians was Paul’s first letter. In it he expressed what I believe was, and remained throughout his life, his apostolic heart cry. The prayers in his later letters are anchored in this verse. Here is what I have long seen as Paul’s apostolic heart cry.  

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

The ‘you’ is plural and his entire focus was on seeing Jesus formed in the ekklesia. He expressed it this way in Colossians.

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:27–29 (NKJV)

This is what Paul laboured for and we see it reflected in his prayers. Please read and prayerfully consider how these prayers apply to the ekklesia, a corporate body meant to reflect Jesus to a dying world.

16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:16–19 (NKJV)

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22 (NKJV)

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. Philippians 1:3–7 (NKJV)

9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; Colossians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

Paul’s heart cry was for wisdom and revelation, spiritual understanding and an awareness that we were being built into a spiritual house. In Ephesians 4:16 Paul said the body of Christ, believers, are “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies” and went on to say that the for the body the grow the work of the various parts must be effective. An important reality is that a joint is a relationship between two parts. As we are effectively joined to others in the body, we build one another up. This ties back to 1 Corinthians 14:26.

To be effective, we need not only relationships, we need healthy ones built on koinonia, genuine fellowship. When this is in place, we create a family environment where relationships are open and respectful. An environment where humour and laughter are honoured. I remember when my son was a teenager and his friends would come over to our house. I used to say I knew his friends were comfortable in our home when they started making fun of me too – which a number of them did. They did it because they felt comfortable and safe to do so and many of them also knew me as their coach in sports. What they never knew me as was authoritarian. While I exercised authority, I also respected them and treated them with dignity.

We now come to our final area. In my first offering in this series, I referenced the following passage and said I would come back to it, so I close addressing these verses.

18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:18–20 (NKJV)

This passage is frequently referenced regarding praying together or agreeing in prayer, fine things in and of themselves. Yet the context is church discipline. The preceding verses deal with how we are to address someone sinning against us by first going to them, then going with witnesses then bringing the matter before the assembly. The reference to ‘two or three’ in the culture is that the creation of a synagogue required ten men. Only two or three were required to constitute the ekklesia because Jesus was also present. Paul knew this and referenced the idea in dealing with disciplinary matters in the church at Corinth.

3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:3–5 (NKJV)

Paul went on in chapter 6 (6:1-11) to upbraid the Corinthians for not acting as judges in issues of sin among the ekklesia. I recognize this is difficult in general and in our present culture in particular. I am an administrator in a Christian and Atheist debate group on Facebook. At one point a young fellow joined the group. When I responded to one of his comments with disagreement, he informed me that he was going to report me to Facebook for bullying. I pointed out that he had joined a debate group and people were going to disagree with him. He left the group. While the example may sound extreme, culturally that type of thinking is becoming more the norm with the emerging generation (a good book on the issue is The Coddling of the American Mind).

While addressing issues, in particular sin, is difficult, in a healthy family environment, issues are in fact addressed and dealt with. In our walk with Jesus if we are seeking to create and be part of a kingdom ekklesia, a family, rather than furthering our present church culture, we will find a way. Leaders will foster an environment where we receive support, flow in our gifts and are free to challenge one another.

The Church Part 4

In my last post I raised the idea of whether principalities and powers tremble as we gather as His ekklesia. I think they should and I will explain both why and how. In the process I will attempt to address what Jesus envisioned when He said, “I will build my church/ekklesia” and the importance of the injunction in Hebrews 10 to be ‘assembled.’ If you are concerned that I am going to delve into how we rebuke and bind spiritual entities, let me assure you, I believe that to be both foolish and potentially dangerous! I want to focus on how we simply walk and live out our faith in genuine spiritual fellowship and community. In recent years I wrote a manual on hearing the Lord’s voice and in my introduction noted that hearing from Jesus isn’t about lofty visions and spiritual encounters. I am all for those if He is initiating them, not so much if we are trying to drum them up. However, my point was that those experiences are not the norm for most of us, nor does scripture suggest they should be.

The same is true of the gathering and assembling of the ekklesia. It has been well said that it is easy to miss the spiritual looking for the supernatural and my whole series on the ‘church’ lies in the shadow of that danger. However, I press on.  I believe that when we are found faithful and walk in love in the midst of ‘this present darkness’ our behaviour is a witness to heaven and the demonic spiritual realm of the power of His love to transform us. Principalities and powers influence the spiritual atmosphere over areas. The more we walk with and are found in Jesus in spite of this oppression and opposition the more we weaken and break their hold and influence over areas. We are not called to bring heaven to earth as much as to walk in a depth of koinonia that demonstrates heaven on earth.

I recently read some material from Dutch Sheets where he shared how believers were praying and not experiencing anything in the moment. No great visions or prophetic words, simply being found faithful, and later learning of the important impact of their prayers. My friend Wouter shared how during WWII a small community in Germany prayed fervently for protection from the Nazi regime. They came through the war without losing their sons and were protected from the Nazi scourge in their country. We have no stories of them seeing angels or other supernatural signs. What they experienced was spiritual reality. The commonality in these stories is that a group of people were engaged in intercession together. They were united for a common purpose. They had gathered, assembled and taken up a task together.

Now, some reflections on a church service compared to a gathering and assembling of the ekklesia. I think the main difference lies in intent and focus. The church and the ekklesia may both gather on a Sunday to worship, pray and hear a message. The church and ekklesia may both proclaim salvation, yet those who recognize that they are the ekklesia also seek to shift the spiritual atmosphere over cities and regions. They engage in this because their responsibility, that they are called out, gathered to Jesus to accomplish His purposes in a region and that they carry the necessary spiritual authority to accomplish the task Jesus has assigned to them.

My real goal here is to help us as the church to see that we are actually called to be the ekklesia. A gathering of people called to assemble and exercise spiritual authority over an area to extend and demonstrate His kingdom. The gathering piece is important, the assembling is critical. I have used this illustration before. If you purchase a product from Ikea or a similar store when you bring it home you need to assemble the pieces, each in the spot it where it was designed to fit. The same is true of Jesus body. We all have a function, and while gathering believers together in a room is a good start, the important step is identifying and releasing said believers into their calling and purpose, both individually and corporately.           

As an individual I know my place in the larger body and like the rest of the ekklesia one thing I am called to is daily prayer, intercession if you will. At times I doubt the efficacy of my own prayers and my ability to hear His voice, even though I have written a practical manual on hearing His voice. Perhaps I need to read it! Yet at the same time I am faithful to read the scriptures, pray and engage with His presence of behalf of others. Out of this I find that when I respond to His promptings to call or email someone because I sense He has placed them on my heart I invariably hit the mark. This is the fruit of simply seeking to be found faithful to this aspect of my calling. I pray you embrace the same goal.

In my next post I will look at some final areas. What a gathering might look like based on what Paul taught to the Corinthians, the focus of Paul’s prayers in some of his letters and the role and importance of church discipline in fulfilling our mandate.