How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

The grace of God we stepped into at the beginning will also lead us home.

Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.

  • When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
  • This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.

Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.

This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.

This also reflects our own spiritual lives.

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Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.

Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

(Picture: Meet Theo.)

I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.

For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.

But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.

Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.

Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.

My First, Second, and Third Reactions

  1. My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
  2. My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
  3. But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.

God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.

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4 Excellent Strategies to Really Conquer the Tug of Temptation

When you feel the pull, here's what to do.

Temptation tugs hard at our hearts at times. It’s like pulling a rope tied to an elephant. In this tug-of-war with our hearts, we need a mindset that goes beyond a defensive strategy and takes an active approach to sin and temptation.

4 Excellent Strategies to Really Conquer the Tug of Temptation

(Photo by Photodune)

Here are 4 basic strategies to help you battle the tug of temptation and sin on your heart.

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Finding the Motivation for Giving All of Your Heart to God

It comes from a past action that wasn't even yours.

There is a past action that dictates your motivation for living for God. It’s an action you can’t change. In fact, the action wasn’t even yours. But it can help you give it all to God.

Finding the Motivation for Giving All of Your Heart to God

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Years ago I owned a different car—a sports car. Sitting behind those eight cylinders, I could go from zero to too-fast in about five seconds. (Of course, I never did). After Cathy and I had our first daughter, I decided I needed a family vehicle. Car seats don’t fit in Firebirds.

So I sold the car.

A few months later, I found a spare set of keys to the car, and I thought: I need to get these to the new owner. Even though I could have kept the keys (as insignificant as it seemed), they really weren’t mine to keep. I had sold them, in a sense, when I sold the car.

Living for God is like finding a spare set of keys to a car you no longer own.

In fact, you have a whole lot of keys that aren’t yours, because of that past action I mentioned.

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Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

The exclusivity of salvation isn't a new question.

Of course, we can only approach God’s presence God’s way. The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament? Are there multiple ways? 

Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

(Photo courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).

Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.

In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.

This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?

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Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

Finding hope against a depressing backdrop of death and desperation.

Ancient travelers who made their way along the shores of the Dead Sea would no doubt shake their heads when they saw it. How could so much water stand in such a barren place—and none of it be drinkable?

Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

(Photo: The oasis of Ein Gedi beside the Dead Sea, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Before the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Jordan Valley looked like the “garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). But afterwards, even the many springs that bubbled beside the Dead Sea tasted too salty to swallow. The plentiful waters gave nothing in the way of sustenance.

They only offered a spiritual prompt of the need to take God seriously.

Against this depressing backdrop of death and desperation flows the Ein Gedi.

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Clear Your Guilty Conscience in 3 Steps

When God gets your attention, here's what to do.

It’s amazing how God can get our attention. I read that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle played a joke on 12 of his friends. He sent them each identical telegrams that read: “Flee! All is discovered!” Within 24 hours, all 12 fled the country. What Conan Doyle did in jest, God does to us in all seriousness.

Clear Your Guilty Conscience in 3 Steps

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

The Lord will use situations to awaken ignored or unresolved guilt, testing our willingness to come clean and clear a guilty conscience.

The Father may remove what He gave—money, possessions, even family—to get us to a place where we’re willing to listen to Him and to come clean with sin we’ve buried. We’d rather try to live with a guilty conscience than to face the pain of accountability and confession. But God provides the right circumstance to help us face what we’ve avoided—and this for our good.

When God puts you in a situation that awakens your unresolved guilt, are you willing to come clean before God and man?

How do you do that?

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Christians Struggling with Sin and 4 Lies We Believe

In more ways than one, the truth will set you free.

Everybody sins. But when Christians do it, reactions vary. The culture says we’re hypocrites—and often uses our sin to justify their own. Other Christians may view our sins as proof we aren’t even saved.

Christians Struggling with Sin and 4 Lies We Believe

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?

Very often, it’s ourselves.

That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe these four lies.

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How to Struggle with God and Win

Jacob's brawl at the Jabbok River gives a model of how to do it.

What does it take for God to change you? In the Bible, when the Lord changed Jacob, it took a brawl. Isn’t it often the same with us?

Struggling with God

(Photo via Vivozoom)

These times we struggle with the Father represent His grace, I believe. It’s never easy, and it often seems rigged in God’s favor.

But Jacob shows us how to win the struggle.

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Good Friday Gives Your Shame a Choice

Understand the choice between sin's penalty and sin's remedy.

Good Friday wasn’t so good for Judas. The guilt-ridden betrayer of Jesus hung himself and then fell headlong, spilling his innards. Hence, the residents later named the place where it happened, “Akeldema,” or “Field of Blood” (Acts 1:18-19).

Judas may have chosen this place to die for a specific reason.

Good Friday Gives Your Shame a Choice

(Photo: Monastery of St Onuphrius, traditional Akeldema, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Today, the peaceful Monastery of St. Onuphrius at Akeldema offers no clue to the fact that Judas killed himself at that site—nor does it reveal the Hinnom Valley’s sordid history.

  • Horrific atrocities occurred in the Hinnom Valley during the days of Judah’s kings (2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31).
  • In Jesus’ day, the city dump lay in this gorge. Some suggest that fires continually burned the trash, and so Jesus used the smoldering landfill of Gehenna as an illustration of hell’s eternal flames (Mark 9:43).

Because Jesus compared the Hinnom Valley to hell, one has to wonder if this is the reason Judas’s desperate regret led him to end his life in this ravine.

Like Judas, you have failed. But Judas’ shame doesn’t have to be yours.

Good Friday gives your shame a choice.

Peter shows us why.

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