At the beginning of the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, we see a River.  A beautiful River, watering the Garden, giving it life.  At the end of the Bible we see a River, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, giving life to the New Creation.

It's the same River. 


We were created in such a way that we are only truly alive when we drink from that River.  We were made to draw life from the River, just as we breathe air. 

But if the River dries up, if we can't drink from it, it's like we're only half-alive.  Something essential is missing


The Bible is the account of how that River dried up, and how, at great cost, God caused the River to flow again.  The River stopped flowing the day Adam decided to be his own god.  And the story of the human race is the story of Adam's children trying to find fulfillment in a thousand things that can never give them what the River alone can give.


For instance money.  Wouldn't it be great if we could win the Lottery?  We'd be all set.  Our problems would be over.  We could go wherever we want, buy whatever we want.  We'd be independent!  


Sounds good.  But look at the people who have it.  Are they fulfilled?   Do you think those Wall Street tycoons with their billions are fulfilled?  Ask Bernie Madoff.   Money has it's place, for sure.  But money can never give us what the River gives.  


Then there are folks who are pursuing a dream of fame.  Sometimes for themselves, sometimes through their favorite idol.  American Idol, Canadian Idol, Dancing With The Stars, on and on and on.   Wouldn't it be great to make it to the top?


Look at the people who have made it to the top.  The rock stars.  The Hollywood celebrities.  Big time athletes with their obscene salaries.  Are they fulfilled?  Ask Barry Bonds.  Fame may have it's place, but it can never give us what the River can give.


We're talking about finding fulfillment.  Finding a life that makes sense, that satisfies.  Some people tell us that religion is the answer.  Spirituality.  But all you have to do is observe the priests and preachers and imams, and gurus of any religion.  The scandals we read about are the tip of the iceberg.  These religious men and women are living proof that religion cannot give us what the River can give. 


Then we have the folks who seek fulfillment in the pursuit of power.  Power to rule.  Power to control.  Look at the men and women who make it to the top of the political jungle.  Once they have power in their hands something weird happens to most of them.  Corruption begins to eat at their souls.  Soon it's written on their faces.  Power cannot give us what the River can give. 


Well, what about just doing something really good.  Going out there and making a difference!  That's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to make this world a better place.  I'm going to make a difference!   But as the years pass, I become frustrated by all the hypocrisy, the lies, the empty promises people make.  What's the use!  I think I'll just crawl into my shell and let the world do it's thing.  Just me and my family, that's all I'm going to care about!  Leave us alone.   Altruism, philanthropy, certainly have their place.  But they can never give us what the River can give. 


It seems that no matter what path we take, romance, adventure, riches, power, when the dream ends---and it always does—we find ourselves in a desert.   We were made for the River, and nothing else will satisfy our soul.


One day a wild looking prophet stood on a riverbank and pointed to a young man who had come to be baptized.  The prophet raised his voice and said to the crowd, "Look at this man!  Look at him!  This man is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  This man is going to break the curse that hangs over the human race!  He's going to take away our guilt!  He's going to make the River flow again!"


As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Messiah, John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!"

                                                            Luke 3:15-16


"This man, Jesus, is going to make the River flow again.  He's going to put you into the River of the Spirit of God like I'm putting you into the Jordan.  He's going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit!"


And what John prophesied came to pass.  Why do you think Jesus went to the cross?  He went there to take all the self-centered evil which has corrupted our hearts and blocked the flow of the River, and wash it away in his blood!


So that, alive from the dead, Jesus in this place where we now are, is here to make the River flow for us.  


On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

                                                                        John 20:19-23


"Receive the Holy Spirit!"  That was the first trickle.  It was followed fifty days later by a flood of the Holy Spirit so powerful that it changed the face of this earth. 


From that day the River of God has been flowing.  And sooner or later, every person who has ever been born will get their chance. 


"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross) will draw all people to myself."

                                                            John 12:32


"I will draw them to myself and give them a taste of the River.  And let them decide whether to drink or walk away."


To put it bluntly, if the River is not flowing in this place where we gather, what are we doing here?  What's the point?  Do you think God gives us Brownie Points for going to fellowship?  Going to fellowship is a waste of time if we walk out of fellowship week after week dry as dust!


But if the River is flowing in this place where we gather, we are absolute fools not to make the most of it.   Because the River is what it's all about.   The one reason why the Eternal Logos entered the human race…the one reason why he went up on that cross to die, and rose victorious….the one reason why he's in our midst at this moment is to put us into the River, to flood us with his life.  Now!  On this side of the grave!


"I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I has come, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he is here to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!"


 All we have to do is prostrate our souls before the living God and ask.  Every one who asks receives!


"Lord, here I am.  I'm thirsty! I want the gift of the Spirit.  I want to be lifted out of myself and flooded with your life!"


"I present myself to you with my heart wide open.  Pour your Spirit into me like you did those first believers.  Put me into the River.  Give me a drink of the living water!"


It's a prayer God always answers.  If you come to him with a thirsty soul, God will satisfy that thirst.


"If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

                                                            Luke 11:13


"But how will I know that I've received the gift of the Spirit?  Will I speak in tongues?  Will I prophesy?  Will I see visions?  Will I dream dreams?  Will I feel a surge of supernatural power flowing through my body?"


Maybe all those things.  Maybe none of them.  The proof that you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit is that you will begin to love God like you never were able to love God before.


Because when God's love is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit, your first love will be God himself!  And when you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, you will love your neighbor.  You will love your neighbor with a love you never had.  And you will be fulfilled.


It's like the first time you fall in love.  You don't know what hit you.  Things look different.  People look different.  Stuff that bothered you before doesn't bother you now.

You're in love … with God!  And because you love God --- not "church" not "religion" --- God … you want to hear from him … you want to please him ... you want to serve him.  Your heart starts to overflow with gratitude and praise.


Filled with the Spirit, moved by unspeakable love, you begin walking with God.  And as you walk with God, the River within you begins to flow out.  You will speak words that sustain the weary.  You will do deeds that create hope. 


"He who believes in me….she who believes in me….as scripture has said, out of their heart shall flow rivers of living water."

                                                                        John 7


People will be drawn to God, because you love God.  People are going to be healed, because a healing stream flows from you. 


In this world today there are hundreds of Christian denominations.  Dozens of theologies and doctrines.  But only two kinds of churches:


Churches where the River flows.

Churches, that for all the clamor, talk, outward beauty, are spiritual deserts.


Two kinds of Christians:


Christians who are ruled by the Spirit of God.

Christians, who for all the Christian jargon, are still slaves of their egos.


May God make our fellowship a place where the River flows in full power.  May the Spirit of God find his way into our deepest soul, that we may experience that full power.  May the Love of God be shed abroad in our hearts even now as we open our hearts to him.