Chained Lions

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As you all may know, Sarah and I lived and served for nearly a decade at Camp Maranatha in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California. During late summer when the San Jacinto Mountains become a dry, brittle and thirsty place, and the dust along the walkways becomes as fine as baby powder there was always one place there at the camp that always remained green and lush. Down in a gully behind the camp’s office a thin trickle of water flowed through a jungle of willow, nettles and wild rose. The plants crowded and overhung its banks, and their thirsty roots sank down into the moist soil to draw off the life-giving water. Naturally, animals were drawn to the place too. Deer, coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons as well as smaller creatures like quail, rabbits, ground squirrels and chipmunks frequented the shady arbor that hid the life-giving stream. The evidence of their comings and goings were pressed into the soft mud along the bank, and occasionally as I walked the rim of the gully I would catch glimpses of these animals through the layered leaves. The gully behind the office was always full of life, and at the heart of it all was the thin trickle of water, which flowed down into Strawberry Creek, which, in turn, flowed into the North Fork of the San Jacinto River, which flowed out into Lake Elsinore, which flowed out into Temescal Creek, which flowed out into the Santa Ana River, which emptied into the Pacific Ocean whose waters stretched out and joined the other great oceans in circling the globe.

Just a short distance away, in the heart of the camp, was a different sort of stream. A pump pulled water up from a reservoir and sent it tumbling back down over rocks and back into the reservoir. The water was continuously recycled in a loop. This fountain contained none of the life-giving properties of the stream behind the office. It was surrounded by a cement skirt, and, in fact, we routinely poured chlorine into the fountain to discourage anything from growing there. The fountain looked like a stream and sounded like a stream, but it didn’t flow out and it didn’t give life.

This reminds me of what Jesus said in John 7:37-38, “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.’ ” As followers of Jesus we are not to be like the fountain, a big splashy show, that never flows out to give life. We are the means by which God desires to pour out the hope of salvation into a dry and thirsty world. We have been sent out with the stream of living water flowing from our hearts for the purpose of giving life.