FINDING YOUR BEER
There are four wells — three I’ve found, one I’ve dug — where I find God, or He finds me. I need these wells in season and out; I need them lest I stop seeing God who sees me, stop speaking to the God who hears me, stop hearing the God who speaks to me. Lest I forget that He is the Living One. Lest I forget where I come from, and where I’m going.
Here are the four beers I believe are for in season and out: worship, the Word of God, prayer, and community.
Worship is the beer to which Jesus draws the woman at the well. She, we saw, is a kind of Hagar (if you want to read my last post, go to IN SEASON AND OUT AND BEER LAHI ROI by tapping on it and there Mark gives special insight into Hagar), fleeing a situation she can’t stand but can’t change. The conversation she has with Jesus shifts, at her prompting, to questions about worship. Does God like old or new, this place or that, one tribe’s brand over another’s? Is God charismatic, classical, liturgical, emergent? Does he listen to Wesley or Redman? Does He prefer smells and bells, shouting and clapping, genuflecting or back-sprawling, solemn procession or a wild-eyed free-for-all?
Jesus cuts through all that tired debate with a clear word about what God is really looking for: not a kind of worship but a kind of worshiper. “A time is coming,” Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:22-23, emphasis mine).
“The kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” God seeks something in us. He desires not a given style (though, in my view, there’s no question that country and western is beyond pale) but a kind of person. If there were an opportunity for Jesus to resolve, once and for all, our entangling and exhausting debates about musical and liturgical preference, this is it. This is the perfect moment for the Spirit to superintend a declaration from Jesus Himself that establishes for all eternity God’s likes and dislikes in such matters: “Well, woman, the truth is, God will only really warm up to our worship several centuries from now, when white Europeans in cathedrals built in the Middle Ages whose transepts enhance the human voice will wear formal dress and sing hymns written by academic theologians set to Bach.” Or, “Matter of fact, lady, it’s not until the emergent church arrives on the scene, the late twentieth century, and gets the right combination of free-form grunge-tinged music and high church pomp, set in converted warehouses or British-style pubs, that the Father will say, ‘Ah-ha! That’s what I was thinking all along!’”
Jesus doesn’t do this. He shifts the basis of the conversation away from the kind of worship God wants to the kind of worshiper God seeks.
One who worships in spirit and in truth. That’s as close as Jesus gets to answering what kind of worship God wants. Simply, worship in spirit and in truth.
Meaning? Spirit here refers not to the Holy Spirit but to our inmost selves — the human spirit within which the Holy Spirit dwells, with whom the Holy Spirit consumes, to whom the Holy Spirit speaks. The soul of you. Jesus is saying that God seeks people who seek Him in the inmost places. There seeking is beyond mere gesture. It’s more than fidelity to creedal statements or a proficiency in ecclesial postures. It may, in fact, be less obvious on the surface: no hand-waving or hand-folding necessary, no leaping up or kneeling down as a matter of course, no long stern faces or radiant upturned ones as a sure sign of God’s presence. Instead, it’s a stirring down in the root cellar, a hunger and an aching in the part of us who hat no one but God and we can see, and sometimes only God.
And God seeks those who worship in truth. Jesus is clear enough what He means: “You Samaritans worship what you do not know, we Jews what we know.” Worshipping what we know — the God we can name is better than the God we guess at — is better. Yet the next thing Jesus says pushes what He means even beyond this: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when [we] will worship in . . . truth.”
Worshiping in truth includes worshiping what we know, but it transcends it. Such worship begins in theological precision but moves quickly to impassioned adoration. It builds off not a rubble pile of wishful thinking, ill-sorted superstitions, anecdotal evidence, wild speculations, but Biblical revelation tested by centuries of theological reflection. It starts here, but if it stays there, it becomes merely an exercise in academic correctness.
Worship in truth (and this is something we do corporately, as the church, but also individually) is theologically sound and intellectually engaged and emotionally connected. It names God, then mediates on and celebrates the name. Is God good? To declare that is to worship what we know. It is indisputable creed. But to engage it intellectually and connect with it emotionally, we must also remember, recite, and anticipate the goodness of God. We must reflect on His acts of goodness, throughout history and earth and to us personally, recite them (speak them out) and anticipate them (expect that God will now and always act according to His goodness).
Worshiping thus, in spirit and in truth, spells for me the difference of whether I live or die, spiritually speaking. To merely go through the motions of worship for the sake of appearances, without engaging my deepest self, and to worship in either theological vacuity or rigidity, empty-headed or all-head, only makes me worse. To worship in spirit and in truth is to meet afresh the God who lives and who sees me.
This is a well I go in season and out, in good times and bad. The corporate part is simple enough. I’m a pastor. That bring its claptrap of hazards — the Uzzah syndrome, for one, where I get so distracted with all the rigmarole, making sure that the ark of the covenant arrives on schedule, no glitches, no stumbles, that I end up meddling when I should be dancing (see 2 Samuel 6). But at least I have unhindered access to holy ground, and a built-in expectation that, at a minimum, I’ll show up. The individual part takes more discipline. No one but God waits for me here. None other rewards my attendance or punishes my truancy. I can stay as long as I like, but also leave as soon as I wish. But when I’m alone, like Hagar, that I meet God most profoundly. So even though I’ve come to the well many times and left with not much more than a cup of water, I’ve seen the God who sees me enough times, too, that it’s always worth the wait.
I’m finding that I need this well as much, maybe more, in good times as in bad. I don’t know why, but good times have a spiritually numbing effect. Ease is the breeding ground for complacency and mediocrity. My spiritual life, like everyone else’s, is imperiled by adversity, but not nearly as much as by prosperity: the times I’ve been most spiritually shallow have been the times I’ve been materially flush, and started to indulge that and expect that.
When life gets tough, and when life gets easy, I need this beer, this well in the desert where I recover my sense of the aliveness of God, and the sure knowledge of His watchcare.
There is no season where worship is unnecessary, the wrong activity. We’ve seen: pruning is ill-timed in summer, harvesting futile in spring, planting foolish in fall. But worship is good in season and out. Each season may change the visage of worship, its outward form. Summer May catch us in the mode of play or rest, spring in all the modes of industry and expectancy. In fall we might in exuberant thanksgiving, in winter brokenhearted lament. But never should a season find us bereft of worship.
The way Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well ends says it all. When she realizes who He is, what He gives, she runs to town to tell everyone. Whatever barrier of estrangement has arisen between her and the townsfolk, a single encounter with Christ is enough to pull it down. “Come and meet the Man who told me everything I ever did,” she tells others. “Could this be the Messiah?”
Come meet the Man who knew where I was coming from, and who told me where I am going — who offered me a whole new destination. Come see the God who sees me, and loves me all the same.
The well of Jacob has become her Beer Lahai Roi. The place of evasion has become the place of encounter.
God found her. It changed everything.
THE WORD OF GOD
When it comes to beers, I cannot overstate how important the Word of God is. This sounds like an old preacher’s harangue, and I guess it is. I feel like I’ve joined the ranks of all those Jeremiahs, those prophets of doom, decrying the famine of the Word of God in our day.
Except, they’re right.
If “people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” then many in our churches are starving to death. I have reached a point of holy impatience about this: when someone comes to me and tells me their marriage is crumbling, or their anxiety is skyrocketing, or their addiction is spiraling, or (fill in the blank), I first say, “Tell me what God is saying to you in his Word?” Most times this elicits a blank stare, then either an apologetic scrambling or a testy push-back. Either, “Well, you know, I should be reading the Bible, I know, but life is just crazy right now, you know.” Or, “Are you not hearing me? I’m telling you AI’m in a three-alarm emergency, and you’re telling me a little Bible reading is going to make it all go away?”
Which is not what I am telling anyone. What I am telling them, without apology or accusation, just straight up, is that a steady practice of Bible reading, in season and out, is going to give them strength beyond themselves and wisdom above themselves and courage bigger than themselves, all the things they need when crisis comes.
That’s Jesus’ promise and warning both. He said that the community gathered around Him divides in two — those who hear “these words of Mine” and put them into practice, and those who hear “these words of Mine” and don’t put them into practice. Everyone’s a builder, Jesus says, build something. Two builders can build with equal skill, both using the right materials. The difference is not in how they build, what they build, with what they build. The difference is what they build upon. The difference, literally, is foundational: rock, or sand. That which endures, or that which erodes. That which can permanently secure whatever rests upon it, or that which eventually destroys whatever’s set upon it. Christ’s words practiced are a foundation of rock. His words ignored are a foundation of sand.
But from the outside, on a bright spring morning, no one can tell which house is which. It’s possible — this happens often enough — that the sand trap is bigger, better, and brighter by all accounts, bar one. It’s the eye-catcher in the real estate flyer. It’s the house you slow down to look at when driving by. It may be composed of higher quality materials — slate tiles on a complicated roofline, cedar post and beam in the entrance, real shiplap beneath the siding, actual river rock in the fireplace, hardwood floors from Brazil, marble countertops from Italy, nickel-plated door handles, solid fir window casings. The other place, by comparison, drab and boxy: asphalt shingles on a single-crown roof, cheap laminate floor, particle board cabinetry, door handles that feel like empty tin cups in your hand.
The lasting value of each house is disguised until a storm hits. And storms do come. Not all houses, not all lives, of course, are built in the hurricane corridor or the typhoon alley (though we can think of people we know whose houses are built in such precarious places), but no house is immune, lifelong, to a tempest. Storms do come. Illnesses. Betrayals. Church splits. Corporate downsizing. Financial set backs. Divorce. A child, or two, gone tragically astray. An old temptation firing up after years of dormancy.
Storms do come. The rain falls, the wind blows, the river rises.
And even the best built houses, if the foundation lacks integrity, collapse. And even modest houses, if the foundation is solid, stand.
Jesus speaks to the community gathered around Him — this is not a word directed to the world but to the church— and Jesus distinguishes within that community between those who practice what He preaches, and those who don’t. But Jesus assumes in both cases that all have heard “these words of Mine.” Jesus doesn’t even consider the possibility that someone within the community of faith might be ignorant of “these words of Mine.” Hearings a given. The only option, in His mind, is obeying or not obeying.
Which worries me. There are people in my church who’ve been sitting there a very long time, decades in some cases, who’ve hardly an inkling of what Jesus says. I don’t think their ignorance is from a serious deficiency in our preaching, or from a scarcity of classes and resources readily available through our church. They just have no appetite for the Bible. They are entirely dependent on for their Scriptural nourishment on the rations we hand out on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Like the Syrian-Phoenician woman Jesus speaks with, they eat crumbs falling off the table (Matthew 15:27).
Storms reveal it. Adversity tests foundations. And if those are inherently unstable, all we build — regardless of how hard we worked to built it, what skill and diligence applied — collapses.
But I see the other side of this too. There is a woman in our church who, as I write, is caught in a perfect storm. It’s converging from several fronts: financial, medical, familial, marital. It’s a conspiracy of earth and sky and sea to shake her to the bedrock. After all those things have done their worst, there is a point where they can do no more, and when all has been shaken, the house still stands, not by virtue of the house, but by virtue of what the house stands upon. Her life, in season and out, has been an immersion in God’s Word, and a faithful heeding of it.
It‘s rock all the way through. When another piece of hard news crashes in, she anchors deeper to God’s promises and God’s character, all of which she learned, precept upon precept, in quieter times. Her heart is breaking. Don’t misunderstand me. But she won’t break.
The Word is a good beer. But — please — don’t wait until the storm hits to go there. Develop a habit of drawing from it in season and out.
And don’t just hear the aWord. That’s dangerous. Better not to know what God requires than to know and not heed. The Word demands a response. Do what it says. Someone who only hears the Word, James says, and doesn’t put it into practice is like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and then walks away, forgetting what he looks like. Egg on his face. Seed husks in his teeth. Hair tousled. Tie crooked. Dandruff on collar. Mustard stain on his lapel. He thinks, Before I go and meet my fiancée, or present to my clients, or interview for a job, or argue a case in court, I should do something about how I look.
Then he walks away, straight to where he’s heading.
James captures the subtle but huge difference between hearing God’s Word under an “I should” clause and hearing it under an “I will” clause. Our churches throng with the former, are sparse with the latter. The former hear the Word of God and say, “I should.” I should tithe. I should stop looking at porno. I should spend more time at home. I should take care of the oppressed. I should give to the poor. I should make God first.
And so on.
I should is the watchword of damned. Only, with the damned, there’s a single verb added to the clause: I should have.
I will is the salute of the redeemed. God’s Word compels them. For them, the distance between hearing the Word and heeding it is a single step. The time delay between the audio and the audition, the hearing and the doing, is no more than the time lapse between pulling the trigger and firing the bullet, turning a tap and drinking water, flicking a switch and the light coming on. The hearing causes the heeding.
So here’s what I suggest. Do not go one inch deeper in knowing the Word of God until you’ve taken one step farther in obeying the Word of God. What do you already know that you’re not doing? Knowing isn’t the sticking point. More knowing isn’t going to catapult you into action. It’s not the solvent that loosens your bonds, the shove that breaks your inertia. More knowing will only make matters worse.
You already know enough.
If you’re not careful, claiming you need more knowledge will actually become your alibi for inaction. “Always learning,” Paul says, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7 NASB). Sometimes getting knowledge is merely a strategy of evading truth.
Just do it.
Take something you already know. Maybe it’s something as banal as tithing. You may be ignorant of the Greek and Hebrew words involved or of the history of interpretation concerning this, or unable to line up all the Biblical texts that speak to it, or confused whether you tithe from your gross or from the net.
But you know enough to do just to do it.
Or take the manifold calls to unity and humility in Scripture. You’ve read them a hundred times, heard them preached a thousand. You know how unity and humility are rooted in the very example and nature of Christ Himself. You know they are the most convincing testimony the church can give to a broken and wary world. You know they are mark’s of the church’s foundation in God and announcements of the Gospel’s universal truth.
And more besides.
And you’re not the exception. Your little tiff, your hurt feelings, your misgivings about the way the elders handled the land purchase — these don’t entitle you to an exemption, warrant your forming a faction and stirring up dissection among the brethren.
You already know enough.
“Anyone who listens to My teaching and follows it is wise, like the person who builds a house on solid rock” (Matthew 7:24 NLT).
Where else would you want to build?
Hear the Word, and heed the Word, in season and out.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
What is worship? What is the Word of God? We all like when something is going good. For Christians, they thank God. When, if ever, do you praise during the midst of a trial? Christians know with their minds that trials are the way you get closer to God (James 1:2-3). For a long time, this one aspect of living the full life that God intends for me escaped me until I had experienced it first hand. Well, actually, several times leading up to one incident in which I had to totally rely on God.
For most Christians that I know, either through personal friendships, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the like, they make known to everybody in the world (or so it seems) their personal things and stick a Bible verse (or two) in the post to make it seem like they have it all together in the Christian world. They have to keep up with those who post things for all the world to see by social media via the internet. Yet, all the while they are becoming like the world. However, I am going to tell you of a verse that I committed to memory back when I was 12 years old. It was when I realized that my secret mentor wasn’t coming back to the private Christian school I was attending. He was going off to college.
See, I was in 7th grade, and he was in 12th grade; I decided that this guy would be my mentor at the ripe old age of 12. I began the school year looking for a mentor, and I finally decided that it would be him through his faith and actions. Yet, about two months was left in the school year, and then I found out that he was a senior and going off to college; then the Holy Spirit prompted me to remember what was I going to do next year after he had gone leaving me without a mentor. Searching and searching the Scripture (my teachers would have been so proud of me) to see if I could find relief for my aching heart since that is where your answer lie to every problem. After a couple of hours, I was almost ready to give up. Then, all of a sudden, I landed on this verse:
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24 KJV
That is just the verse I needed, at that time; however, little did I know what the future had in store for me. Shortly after I graduated from high school and experienced my 18th birthday, I got into an accident. Not your minor accident, but a horrific car accident on the highway where I hit my head with granite rock (one of the hardest rocks you will find). After miraculously surviving that, I was in a coma for 30 days where my whole right side was paralyzed. If you want to read it, go to my page “Running With Christ”. And yet, my hospital room was surrounded by tapes/cd’s of worship music put there by my mother.
However, I could not tell you the emptiness and the aloneness I felt, yet the Holy Spirit inside of me reminded me of this verse:
“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24 KJV
And that alone (knowing that I wasn’t alone but Christ was feeling it with me according to 1 Peter 2:21) gave me the power to persevere on. Recently, in fact this past Sunday (which is also known as Palm Sunday), we got a homework assignment to let the pastor know of where in your own life has the Word of God (using specific verses) made a difference in your life. I think I have the perfect one.
Which leads me to a question: Overlooking your life, what is the verse or verses in which you can say I wouldn’t have been able to get through this ordeal unless it had been for those verses? 🤔
Please respond. If you would like a more private way to respond, then my personal email: email@example.com or you can text me @ 1-603-533-7351. I am excited to hear the responses I get, for it is worship and the Word of God to that I covered in this post (2 out of the 4 beers or wells that you can go to in season and out.
~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger of TrueLifeChristianity.com ~