“THE RIVER IS FLOWING!”
March 7, 2008
On May 11th last year I wrote about a word which I received from the Lord concerning what He was about to do in Northern California. He woke me up in the middle of the night with a Scripture passage from the book of Joshua running through my mind.
“After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before…’ Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’” – Joshua 3:2-5.
“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…” – Joshua 3:14-16.
The following is a condensed version of what I wrote last May in an article I entitled, The Lord Will Do Amazing Things:
I felt the Lord saying, “The time has come! Run through the camp and tell my people to get ready. When you see my presence going before you, rise up and follow me. But before you do, you must consecrate yourselves.”
Consecrate yourselves? I wonder what the Lord means. When I studied this passage previously I discovered the literal meaning of the term “to consecrate” meant to “wash your clothes.” But why would Joshua want the people to wash their clothes, especially since they were headed into battle? Their garments were bound to get covered in blood, sweat, and all sorts of filth from combat. Why bother to wash them before the war? In the past I just assumed God wanted us to be cleansed from sin before we could be dedicated to His service. And I suppose that is part of the answer. Now, however, I understand there is much more to it than just spiritual cleansing.
The Israelites were covered in desert dirt. For forty years this band of runaway slaves had been wandering in the wilderness. The present generation had grown up knowing nothing but the ways of the desert. They had spent their lives as wandering nomads huddled in twelve tribes bent on protecting their own from the fierce elements which surrounded them. Now God was issuing a new calling to them. They were about to invade the enemy’s territory. They were being asked to form a mighty, invincible army of righteousness. The defensive-minded, retreat-prone, fear-motivated, return-to-Egypt-hearted wilderness wanderers were compelled to transform into fearless warriors and conquer the land. They would have to completely let go of the past and learn methods of warfare totally unfamiliar to them—Walk around the enemy fortress seven times and shout; ask the Lord to make the sun stand still; always follow the commander of the army of the Lord remembering He is not here to fight our battles but rather we are here to fight His. There was so much dirt to wash away; so much new to learn.
The people of God are still covered in desert dirt. We are nomadic wanderers bouncing from one church to another searching for the choicest pasture. Many of us have grown up knowing nothing but the ways of the traditional church wilderness. We are runaway slaves who have spent our lives huddled in our own tribes bent on protecting our own sheep from the fierce elements which surround us. Now God is issuing a new calling. We are about to invade the enemy’s territory. We are being asked to form a mighty, invincible, army of righteousness—one army, waging one war, against one enemy! The defensive-minded, fear-motivated, return-to-the-familiar-prone, cower-behind-the-walls-hearted wilderness wanderers are being compelled to transform into fearless warriors commanded to conquer the land. We must completely let go of the past and learn new methods of warfare “since you have never been this way before.” There is so much dirt to wash away; so much new to learn.
I have always been intrigued over how the Jordan River stopped flowing at precisely the time when the feet of the priests, who were carrying the ark of the Lord, touched the water’s edge. In order for the timing to be perfect God must have been working upstream as much as an hour in advance piling up the water in a heap. God is always working upstream for His people. He is already busy stockpiling the resources, devising the strategy, and preparing the battlefield for skirmishes with the enemy which we will not experience until tomorrow. However, we may not realize His efforts on our behalf until our feet touch the river’s edge.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, I believe we are about to experience the opposite of the miracle of the Jordan River crossing. Instead of piling up the water in a heap upstream, God is releasing the water which has been prevented from flowing down the dry riverbed. In California right now we are suffering from a drought which has lasted for over a year. The spiritual drought, however, has been continuing for a generation. Is this thirsty land about to taste a fresh flow of living water? The word I heard was that the water has already been released! It remains for us, His “called out ones,” to follow the presence of the Lord into the dry riverbed. As soon as our feet hit the river, the water will begin to flow. Yes, it is harvest season! And yes, the river will be at flood stage!
Is this message meant for just California or is it aimed at the entire country, all of North America, or even beyond? I’m not sure. But I’m sensing that this revival is greater than any one region. Wherever the people of God hear the voices of His servants crying, “Get ready, consecrate yourselves, follow the Lord into the river,” it will likely mean the water has already begun to flow. Our Lord has already been busy upstream stockpiling the resources, devising the strategy, and preparing the battlefield.
The harvest is upon us; it is ripe and waiting for the feet of the harvesters to enter the river. For those of us who are willing to consecrate ourselves and wash off the “desert dirt,” who with faith and courage are daring to follow the captain of the army of the Lord into the river, this promise still rings true: “…tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
For the past ten months I have been waiting for the water to arrive, begging God to show me where the river is flowing. “Tell me where the river is, Lord. I want to jump in; I want to swim in it, bathe in it, play in it, rejoice in it, and float with it wherever it may lead. I want to tell others where the river is located so all of your people may be immersed in it. Please, Lord, show me where your river is flowing.” In a fresh word last week the Lord revealed to me the location of His life-giving stream. The river flows through us! “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” – John 7:38.
This is the image I believe the Lord showed to me. We live in a very dry land, a spiritual desert. Those of us who have tried to minister in this area for any length of time know how hard-packed and dry the soil is. For years we have tried to plant seeds only to see them fail to germinate or wither and die in such a harsh climate. For whatever reasons the flow of the river has been shut off somewhere upstream, “piled up in a heap,” and prevented from following its natural course. But now God has broken through the dam and released the water. This is not just a small trickle, folks. The floodgates are opening and a mighty deluge is beginning to flow. And get this: It is flowing through us! Wherever we go, the river goes with us. Wherever we minister, the river flows through us.
C. S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe tells us that in the presence of “Aslan” the harsh winter turns into spring and everywhere he steps, flowers spring up. It will be similar with us. Wherever we go “living waters” will flow. Wherever we step, the parched soil will drink from the flow and seeds which may have been planted years ago along with those recently sewn will suddenly sprout and thrive. There is a life-giving, healing, nurturing, refreshing, stream flowing through us and irrigating the surrounding desert.
Last Saturday some thirty individuals crowded into our home to seek the Lord about where He might be leading us in the simple-church movement. When the facilitator asked us to discuss our corporate identity, who we believed we were in the kingdom, I knew why the Lord, just two days before, had revealed to me the location of the river. After I shared what the Lord had spoken into my heart we began to describe what this identity means to our movement. In just a few short hours our entire focus had begun to change. Instead of a church-planting movement, we were becoming what God had intended us to be, a river of life.
We were reminded that Jesus did not command us to plant churches, but rather to “make disciples.” – Matthew 28:19. Our Lord did not say His reason for coming was for us to have churches, but rather “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Our emphasis should not be solely on planting churches, but rather simply allowing the river of Jesus to flow through us. We are to be a continual flowing stream of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22. God’s grace, mercy, and earthly provisions, whatever blessings He sends down the river, are to be constantly flowing from us to others. In the process of allowing His living water to flow through us, Jesus will build His church…in His way (organically)…in His timing…with those He chooses to gather, whether in small pools or wide places in the river.
We were reminded that water always follows the path of least resistance. Likewise, we must be flexible. Whenever a pathway is blocked, we need to move on to another channel. Water is the perfect mixer. We need to be open to flow out to those of every race, ethnicity, gender, age, and economic status. Indeed, we are learning that those who have been the most marginalized in our society are the very ones who most need to experience the river’s flow. Water always seeks its own level. There is no hierarchy here. No matter what our function in the river may be, our status remains on the same level with everyone else. And there is still a need to periodically consecrate ourselves. Unfortunately, desert-dirt is still prevalent. If it builds up in us it will restrict the river’s flow cutting off the living water from those around us. Whether the dirt is from personal sin, an attempt to apply institutional correctives to the flow, or an effort to direct the flow where we desire instead of allowing the river to follow its own path, we need to occasionally “wash our clothes.” Otherwise, once again the waters will pile up in a heap somewhere upstream.
As if to confirm what the Lord was revealing to us last Saturday, one of the participants in the gathering at our home received a text message shortly before we adjourned. It was a prophecy that had been received several days earlier, shared with someone else, and sent from the second party to our gathering. The message came in the form of a passage of Scripture and was given to reveal where the Lord would be leading us. The fact that we received the message at the end of our time together made us all realize that something truly supernatural had just taken place. The passage was from the book of Isaiah.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.” – Isaiah 35:1,5-7.
The river is flowing, my brothers and sisters, and it is flowing through us. May it flow continuously, unrestricted, in an ever-increasing rate, deeper and deeper, until the entire Bay Area and all of Northern California are completely immersed! Please, Lord, may it be so!
Bill, a child of God through whom the river flows