Saturday, March 14, 2009

Streams in the desert

Friends asked on a private forum, “What is heaven-on-earth to you?”

Here are some of the answers:

When my son laughs with complete and utter abandon—for any reason.
The herbs and vegetables we've grown from seeds on our front porch.
Being with people who love and care about me.
Sweet pineapple and cottage cheese in the same bowl.
Heaven is being in the arms of someone who loves me for me.
Seeing the pure glee of children as you enter a house and they drop everything, scream your name, and run toward you with open arms and hug your leg so hard (before you can get your shoes off and drop your bags) that you almost fall over!
Heaven is warm: a nice warm cup of cocoa, a cuddly blanket by a warm fire, a warm and cozy bed, a warm embrace.
Heaven is a cat laying on your chest purring loudly, and a dog licking your toes withhis warm tongue.
It’s the scent of citrus blossoms on a meandering breeze.
Heaven is immersion in a pipe organ concert in a European cathedral.
Licking a spoon of hot peach jam made from home-grown peaches.
A Heath-covered Klondike ice cream bar.
The middle of a great book.
The moment you realize you're being used by God to help another.
The Milky Way seen from the floor of the Grand Canyon.
Heaven on earth is the scent of spring rain on creosote in the Arizona desert, with its multicolor lightning, chiaroscuro clouds that dwarf the highest mountains, the sweet herbal scents, the germination of poppies and daisies so fast you can almost see it, and watching dry gullies fill with flash floods that recede to pools where frogs and fish miraculously appear from the reconstituted earth.

The Lord loves a desert storm, too! Isaiah 35:1-7 NLT tells of God’s ideal party for those He loves and redeems. Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.

Streams in the desert. For those who live in a land of plenteous water, this may not resonate within. But to people born and raised in a desert, water does beautiful and miraculous things. It springs from a rock. It washes away impurity. It falls from the sky and makes the air and earth sparkle. It is a display of the glory and splendor of God. To the Israelites of the exodus and their Egyptian oppressors, to the Jews exiled to Assyria and Mesopotamia, to anyone who experiences a drought, God has often used the medium of water, indispensable to human life, as a metaphor for Himself. He is the living water and the river of life.

In Isaiah 43:19-21 NIV, the Lord says, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

If you’ve recently experienced violent storms and are facing deep and wide rivers in your life, remember that God provides a way through them (Isaiah 43:2), because He loves you. You are precious and honored in His sight! Rivers are not barriers when He leads the way, but channels of blessing and life-giving nutrients.

Jesus said that the water He gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:3,4 NLT.

God loves us and is coming to save us. That is heaven on earth. That is good news. That is the gospel.

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