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Boiling Pot

I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

I’m not what one would describe as “handy” in the kitchen.  I’m not even mediocre.  Cooking is just not my skill or interest.  Consistent with this reality, I have burned not one but at least two really nice pots in recent memory by letting the water evaporate out until only the pan itself was being cooked on the stove top.  Because this probably isn’t common experience, let me describe the smell that comes from “burning pan”…toxic (because it most certainly is emitting carcinogens into the air), oxygen eliminating and an odor that magically penetrates everything it reaches within our home.  Needless to say, the pot itself is then a goner because it can’t be used again, and certainly not without contaminating whatever food it would touch.  This image of a burning pot, one that needs water but is in constant danger of having it all evaporate, seems to best articulate the human heart’s need for Living Water and danger of becoming toxic to others without it.

Here are the things that evaporate my heart’s pot of water: my own sin as manifested in my words, actions, thoughts and attitudes, the well earned judgment of others for those sinful responses, the unearned judgments of others based on their own hearts’ sin, and of course, and then the additional laws (suggestions, lessons, activities, disciplines, demands, etc.) that are given or thrown at me like a chemistry set to make my own water out of hydrogen and oxygen.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:10-14

Here is what I need to be poured into my pot to keep it from burning and becoming toxic:  Living Water, the person and work of Jesus replacing my condemnable words, actions, thoughts and attitudes with His righteous ones, the power of the Holy Spirit producing talents and fruit in me to bring life to those around me, and the control of God over all things which trumps any other power, ruler, actor or player in all of life.  I need my eyes lifted to the hills to see God from whom my help comes!

Flattery, personal compliments, vacations, a delicious cup of coffee, nights out, concerts, fine dining, a good bottle of wine, a good book, time off or a good laugh might provide a cool breeze for my burning pot, but they do not provide Living Water which keeps it from burning.  When the water has evaporated, the law of righteousness does not provide the righteousness needed to keep me from becoming toxic fumes to my surroundings, fit only for being thrown out.  I need the only One who can keep me alive to pour Himself into me.

What I don’t need is for someone to tell me, “Oh no, you’re not so bad!” but what I do need is to be told, “You’re badness is no match at all for His goodness!”  In other words, the power of the gospel isn’t that I’m not as bad off as I think but rather that I am worse than I realize and God’s hand of redemption, restoration, reconciliation, healing, and regeneration are more powerful than my destructive nature.  His light is brighter than my darkness.

He is my keeper, not me.  I can’t keep myself from evil nor evil’s huge impact on me, but He keeps me from evil…not exhaustively, but ultimately.  The person and work of Jesus make it so I’m not left with only flattery or denial in the face of my sin and the hurtful realities of a broken world.  Because my stability, reputation and hope are all secured in His person and work, I can name and look at the wounding or otherwise shameful realities as they no longer have the final word, the final definition nor the final draft.  He has the final the good word, the final judgment and the final edition of this story and all the sub-stories being told.  Likewise, the health and well being of the lives around mine are not dependent upon my perfect health, perfect perspective or goodness (or there would be no hope at all!) but fully upon His perfect health, well being and ability to bring abundant life as my best days never make me capable of truly doing.

So then I have to ask, how do I offer Living Water to others whose pots are in danger of becoming toxic from the heat?  Do I instead merely offer them strategies for rest, vapid compliments or even worse, new laws to follow as I pass along that confounded chemistry set?  Do I expect that the weary and dehydrated  should get outside and dig their own well?  I think I do all these things and rarely offer what is needed most: the hope and certainty that the One who began His good work will carry it on to completion, no matter how His creation tries to thwart Him, He can’t be overpowered.  This is such good news, especially when He gives me glimpses of the wickedness I am capable or of the ignorant ways I can bring about destruction.  He helps me to understand how empty I am as a pot and how dangerous the condition is and then He assures me that He will pour His Living Water into me, never having to throw out this pot.  Hallelujah what a savior, hallelujah what a Lord!

I have set the Lord always before me;  because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;  my flesh also dwells secure.  Psalm 16:8-9

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