Living Water

Water is vital to life. You realize that so much more when you’re in a place that has much less of it.

Haiti is a place like that. In 1990, I accepted the challenge to restart an NGO well drilling program in the Artibonite Valley. Dr. Larry Mellon, inspired by Albert Schweitzer, drew from his family’s fortune to found a hospital there in 1956. Drilling wells for clean water was a way he could reduce admissions. He completed hundreds of wells while he was able. Mrs. Mellon tells their story in her autobiography, My Road To Deschapelles.

When I arrived, Dr. Mellon had just passed. Boss Murat had drilled wells with Mellon for years, and despite his advanced years was available to help. Mellon had commissioned the construction of a cable tool rig that could drill up to 200 feet deep. Though that rig was long gone, we learned that similar rigs in various stages of disrepair still existed in country. We finally located and purchased one from the Baptists.

The re-building effort meant machine shop and carpentry work. It was a contraption of wooden wheels, belts, heavy bit and bailer, and a single cylinder diesel engine, all bolted to a re-purposed heavy truck frame. We made an ad hoc wood lathe to turn the main drive wheel to look like the iron one on the restored steam tractor from my Auburn days.

What a scene when we first fired up the whirring, clanking apparatus! It reminded Mrs. Mellon of her dear Larry’s work. But we weren’t there just to restore a drilling machine. I had an engineering degree but never drilled a well. Murat was thrilled that his dated experience had renewed significance. We were quite a pair.

We began the grueling work to access potable water for a growing population. It meant traveling for days, sleeping and eating in quite rustic conditions. Breakdowns happened. Repair parts were fabricated or ordered. The machine had few safety shields. One time, a rotating part caught Murat’s coveralls and began a deadly twist. I shut it down in time to avert a terrible accident.

Facing danger and challenges to implement a water plan is not new. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). He declared that He is the promised Messiah, and you know what He endured to implement His plan for you.

It was my privilege to stand before Haitian friends at the opening of new and repaired water sources and share Jesus’ words. His cup always has enough for one more to drink of His Living Water.

His Story

An obscure verse in the Hebrew Scriptures describes the sons of Issachar as “men who understood the times.”  Could we, if we step back and look at the big picture?

Ideologies exist today that would remove Christians and our gospel, if not from the face of the earth at least from visibility.  Over there, it’s by violence.  Here, because they dared to live by faith, a baker, florist, teacher, judge, and business executive lost their jobs and more.  Neither the world nor western culture can agree on what is good for human flourishing.  We can’t even agree on the value of human life.

God isn’t done yet.  Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).  Look at history since then.  After Stephen’s stoning, the early Christians found a reception for the gospel among the Greeks of the region, and in Europe.  In the 7th C., the Saracens drove out Christians in the Mediterranean Basin.  At the same time, Scotland and Ireland began to embrace the truth about Christ.

In the 17th C., while the Church of England punished non-conformists, the Pilgrims left on the Mayflower seeking religious freedom in America.  In the 18th C., as French revolutionaries overran Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, William Carey took the gospel to India.  In the 19th C., the church grew in Korea and China.

Now, despite the headwinds of communism, Korean missionaries number almost 30,000 worldwide, and China could soon be home of the largest Christian population in the world.  The Chinese church has accepted the call to send missionaries to the Middle East.  Despite hostility, the church among Iranians and Kurds has experienced startling growth.  Many claim Christ spoke to them in dreams.

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).  F. W. Boreham opined that the movement of God is more like a bird than a candle that can be snuffed out. “If you startle a bird, the gentle creatures flies away and sings its lovely song upon some other bough.”  Ravi Zacharias adds, “The bird is singing its song.  But the melody must first be sung in each of our hearts.”

“God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  Take heart, Christian!  Ours is the God of creation and providence.  The story of this world is His Story.  The gospel of Christ Jesus is your story.  The One who has shone light in you can yet brighten the darkest places on earth.


My “poll” question for this Father’s Day was, “Describe a time when your dad made you feel protected, provided for, or rescued.”  Here you go:

“As a young adult, I signed a lease that was a bad deal for me.  I don’t know what he said to the landlord, but he got me out of it.”

“One night after an event in town, my friends played a horrible joke on my dad, calling to tell him I’d been kidnapped.  He tore the town apart looking for me.  He cried when he found I was safe all along.”

“We were in the barn during a storm.  I heard a loud noise and the next thing I knew, I was being snatched up from the floor.  As I regained my senses from the lightning strike, my dad was holding me up.  “Are you ok?”

“We knew an escaped prisoner was in our area.  One evening my sister caught him peeping in the window.  Daddy and a friend chased that man down and caught him.”

No dad is perfect, but many of us thought he was when we were little.  As we age, we recall the good times and can appreciate him despite his flaws.  For those who had no loving father, all is not lost, for the best of fatherhood resides in One who is always there.  Gene Edward Veith (Patrick Henry College) writes, “Earthly fathers have certain remote similarities to Him.  The essence of fatherhood is found in God, not in human beings.”

The Bible says, “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’   The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:15-18).  Our heavenly Father knows we suffer in this fallen world.  But in that suffering He reveals that the present time inevitably yields to the glory of eternity.

I saved the most poignant story for last.  “My sister was killed in a car wreck caused by another teenager in our small town.  Our father went before the grand jury to plead leniency.  ‘We have lost one child of this community.  We should not ruin another child’s life with a conviction.’  I don’t know how to describe that gift.  I can’t say enough about what a generous heart it takes for such a thing.”

He was willing, and acted to rescue the guilty one who caused the death of his own child.  That dear reader is the heart of God, our Father.


Too Bad

Does God throw someone away because he is too bad to save?  Someone like David Berkowitz, arrested in 1977 for terrorizing New York with serial killings as the “Son of Sam”?

Berkowitz is still serving a life sentence.  He now claims faith in Christ and a decided change of heart.  He admits he brought suffering on many people, and prays for them.  He talks about forgiveness saying, “I’m not worthy of these things.”  He puts his prison lockup in perspective.  “The Lord set me free from self-sabotaging behaviors which causes chaos all my life.  He set me free from the power of Satan, who had a hold on me.  I have freedom to share my faith with others.  I’m free from the power of sin that had me bound for so long.  My freedom is found in Jesus.”  He summarizes his life with, “No one has done so much evil that God will not forgive them.”

If you think that Berkowitz doesn’t deserve heaven, you’re right.  But neither do you nor I.  Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).  But surely some sin is worse than others?  Certainly in terms of earthly consequences, but in view of Divine judgment it’s all the same.  “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  So the objection is moot.

If the thought of Berkowitz in heaven makes you think less of it, you’re sitting in the shade with Jonah pouting about God’s compassion.  Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous” (Luke 5:32).  That’d be the person that is too good to share heaven with those “sinners.”  Every sinner needs the same Savior, the same cross, the same compassion.

We cannot truly grasp the extent of God’s vast and abiding love.  The Bible says, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7).  That kindness, mercy, and grace is the same for Berkowitz as it is for you.

The cry from a repentant heart to the Lord Jesus Christ is a prayer He will hear.  I don’t know Berkowitz’s heart, but I can say this.  If he’s too bad for God to forgive, then we all are.  Heaven will be full of people redeemed from even more wickedness than shown on cable TV.  The feast is booked, paid in full by Jesus.  See you there!