Hello: Here is the 2011 Best of Living Water! Thank you so much for your support and prayers! May God bless you in 2012. The full Living Waters from the below excerpts can be found at http://christopherbwolf.wordpress.com. Please take some time to write back/post about which ones were most meaningful to you and why. I would really love to hear from you about that Christopher
Proof, January 2011
What if people said of you and me, “I know what it is to be loved by God because of the way you loved me?” That’s the kind of goal or achievement I am seeking after. That my life, my loving, my faith – all pointed to God that clearly. And think of how transforming it would be within churches and beyond them into communities! When people look at our lives, if we are doing this faithfully, the only conclusion they can come to is, “Only Christ could be the author of that kind of life.” So as God’s “letters” – there really is only one true and faithful response – “Here am I; send me.” Here we are Lord; write us with your Spirit, address us to other lonely, broken, despairing human hearts and…send us.
One Bread, One Body, February 2011
Second, Paul’s description redefines success, making it based on the resemblance to Christ – unity, health and functionality. According to this passage there is direct connection between a church’s health and unity and its ability to authentically resemble Jesus. So that, it doesn’t matter the size, its worship “performance,” or its income – worldly measures of success. Do people experience the salvation, love, forgiveness, healing and transformation of Jesus? These are things that can’t be faked or fudged – a church that is depending on God and depending on one another will be obvious…This is about belonging to one another – to need others in the best and worst times of life and faith. It’s the difference between being a part of a religious social club and being part of the body of Christ – huge.
For Good, March 2011
So, can we come to a place in our lives, where we see our wounds, our mistakes and failures, disease, apathy and wickedness, even death – all of these terrible circumstances as part of a larger plan that we know and are convinced is for our ultimate good? And to be sure, Providence does not excuse or erase wickedness, apathy or other things; nor does it take delight in failures or catastrophes – it lovingly and compassionately supersedes and overrules them.
or +…It’s Our Choice, April 2011
But a big, yellow smiley face, as pleasant as it is, has no power. A smiley face has never equipped anyone to truly follow Jesus, or to forgive, to reconcile, to be merciful and gracious or to share the joy of salvation; but not only that, a smiley face has never enabled someone to overcome addiction, or leave guilt and pain behind. With all of this and more, only the cross has that power.
Resurrection, April 2011
As I am writing this, blossoms, buds, sprouts, and shoots, botanical ambassadors of new life, are fighting through wind, snow, earth, rocks, and other things to emerge from the ravages of winter, from death. And somehow the breathtaking symphony of color and fragrance always wins. Spring happens no matter how bad the winter was. You and I will never know what it takes for them to push through all of that to make it through to the other side. But we do know this. That through Jesus suffering and dying on the cross and being dead and buried, new life, resurrection emerged into this world and into our lives through faith. It wasn’t a snap of the fingers, it wasn’t a magic trick, it wasn’t a formula, and it was anything but easy. But it happened…
About Bullying, May 2011
At the same time, I just want to offer some solutions for schools, companies, churches and communities. First, if there is no truth about bullies, their targets and bullying episodes, there will be no healing. Schools, churches and companies can and often do try to cover it up, but it won’t work. Sometimes the calculation is made that “moving on” will cost less than “upsetting” everyone with the truth. False. The truth about bullying may be ugly and upsetting, but only when there is accountability, consequences, understanding and restoration can the body or system respond in ways that are healthy and life-giving. Because guess what – bullies and bullying systems don’t just stop after one target – and that’s just one target people may know about. If there is anything that we have learned in the last few decades about leadership – it is that credibility and dealing with issues head-on, no matter what the cost, is effective, builds trust (over time) and leads to a more secure future. Second, bullying is not just about individuals and communities – it’s a justice issue. Tolerating bullying is unjust and means that a school, church or community is operating for the few or for the “self.” Whatever you want to call them – the popular, the elites, the righteous – may be working in your school, church, company or community for the benefit of themselves and will protect it aggressively. Yet, when people are working against bullying and not tolerating it, it means that a school, church, company or community is committed to justice for all.
Possibility, May 2011
It’s happening right now somewhere – someone is facing an impossible situation – and they are getting down on their knees and praying their heart out; and somewhere someone is introducing and invoking God’s Word and Spirit where it has never been before – and with all of this – there is hope, real hope and possibility.
Worthy Worship, May 2011
The first is that we have to shift from thinking of worship as only a ritual to thinking of it as an encounter or meeting with God. Could we come to worship prepared to meet God? How, you say? You’ll find Him through hearing His Word read and proclaimed, through loving fellowship of other believers, through prayer, through praising – music or otherwise – God is there ready to meet us through the Holy Spirit…Second, and related, is that we have to shift our thinking of worship as a once a week activity to everyday. Anytime we thank, think of, devote time to, serve, sacrifice for God – this is worship…If we only walked or exercised once a week, our health and fitness would not improve much. Same thing with worship. Third, our approach as worshippers has to experience a paradigm shift. We have to go from “getting something” to “giving something.” We have to start coming to worship because we want to thank God for creating us, saving us and sustaining us. God is worthy of our worship in His own right, but then we also reflect on His marvelous works in our lives – and suddenly worship is more than an just an hour on Sunday.
Promises, June 2011
Beloved ones, I know that many of you are asking those and other questions today. Real, painful questions that you have been wrestling with for so long – without answers. Let’s stop shaking the Magic 8 Ball furiously until it gives us the answer we want! But when I have exchanged my search and demand for answers for remembering and embracing these promises – that’s when I have healed and moved on and seen God working new things in my life. Let God be God, and let us be His people to whom He has promised wonderful things through good times and even in the midst of suffering, trouble and sorrow. We may never have or find answers in this life – but we do have God’s promises – promises that can’t be diminished. I pray that you receive these promises as your own today – welcome, embrace, and cling to them.
Where You Belong, July 2011
Even with all its flaws, a gracious group of Christians sharing Christ and life together is the highest, purest form of community – because the bonds and connections are supernatural (the Holy Spirit) not performance or money or appearances or status – you just come and belong as you are. And it is the closest thing to thing to Heaven – it’s the closest thing to truly experiencing God’s love and presence. After all, a Christian community is an embassy of God’s Kingdom – where joy, love, justice and wholeness reign. So, hey there, what are you doing this Sunday? I know many of you have been hurt by church and by Christians. I know that it is hard to trust again. I know you want to belong and to be a part of something real. I know you might think what I am saying sounds impossible. But remember, with God all things are possible! I would love nothing more than to see you come through those doors, encounter God in new ways, as well as experience the loving embrace of people who may not know you but somehow have been waiting for you…the embrace of brothers and sisters to whom you can belong. I’ve prayed for it, I’ve dreamed about it, and one day…
Something’s Missing, August 2011
Like Red (The Shawshank Redemption), like the woman in this passage (Luke 7:36-50), when we seek and work to grasp – how forgiven we are, how we don’t deserve God’s grace (but have it anyway), how broken and hopeless we are without Him, how we can be freed of the past and from our sins, what it cost to save us (Jesus bearing our sins at the cross), and from what we are saved; our responses over time will be increasing – joy, passion, gratitude, devotion, service, hope, strength and more. Oh what is possible when a group of people who are acutely mindful of their “savedness” (over their “chosenness”) and therefore alive and new in Christ, get together and praise God, love one another and go out and seek to share that love with everyone around them in their community and the world! And when their worship and fellowship and mission and serving and giving and their living throughout the week is more and more influenced and impacted first and foremost by their joy and gratitude from being saved by God – watch out!
In The Broken Places, September 2011
I know you and I have our broken places. Real and painful. Some are because of loss and grief. Some are because of being harmed or abused. Some are because we made destructive decisions. Some are because we are addicted. Some are because we are separated or divorced. Some are because of dysfunctional relationships. Some are because of a lost job or career. Some are because of heartbreak and losing heart. There is so much brokenness in our lives and in this world! Oh, how I wish it weren’t like this! But all I can tell you is how God works – works through – not around – all the brokenness. And, He often meets us most powerfully, most obviously, and most vividly at our broken places…Strong at the broken places. Lower Manhattan Thriving after 9/11. For when I am weak, then I am strong. If you are waiting for everything to go back to normal, if you are waiting to wake up as if it were all a dream, if you are waiting until you are better or “more together” – that may not work nor may not happen. But please know you already have everything you need for God’s healing and restoration to begin…It doesn’t end at our broken places; it begins.
Walk With Me (the introduction to my new book, With You Every Step of the Way), October 2011
Like any good guide, I want to walk alongside you for a while, sharing, reflecting, and taking steps. Maybe we can even stop and sit and rest for a while together. All of our journeys include mountaintops, valleys, and wildernesses; and it often seems like the weight we carry doesn’t get any lighter. As you know, I can’t alter the journey God has graciously designed for you, but I can encourage you, whisper wisdom and insight, help reveal purpose and promise, laugh and cry with you, and make it more bearable, as well as illuminate pitfalls, landmarks, and breathtaking views along the way. So, would you walk with me for a while?
Heart Portrait, October 2011
Because, the kind of heart God is interested in, the kind of heart He can really work with is, “The sacrifices (worthy worship) of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” Though I am sinner, may God, through the Holy Spirit, also find a growing humility, repentance and contrition for those times when my heart is turned away from God. But also for those times when life has broken my heart, may I see the loving stitches from the hand of God sewing it back together. A heart that looks more and more like a vessel that is willing to be used and poured out for God’s Kingdom and for others.
Season’s Healings, November 2011
Have you ever noticed that the some of the most blessed, sacred, and wonderful things in our lives have come during or after the tears? Think about the hopes and dreams that have come after tears. Think about the strength and renewal that has come after the tears. Think about the clarity and focus that has followed after our tears. Am I right? It’s no coincidence that Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” As much as tears of fear, grief, sadness and isolation are a part of our lives and a part of our faith journeys, they do not have the last word; they are not the end. In fact, they are a gateway to God’s comfort, the comfort of others, truth, clarity, renewal and much more.
An Uncommon Love, December 2011
It’s the love you’ve been searching for, the love of which you’ve dreamed, the love you’ve been thirsting for…and it’s the love that doesn’t have to be sought after or found; it finds us…it has found us – that’s the baby in the manger!Oh, when we awaken to find and behold the gift of God’s uncommon love for us in our hearts and lives – it’s better than even the best Christmas morning gift opening! Then all the fear and self-serving and confusion can disappear as fast as the wrapping gets torn off presents. And then when you and I, depending on God, start to try to love others in these ways – loving spouses, children, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow church members, everyone faithfully, unconditionally, sacrificially and daringly…what’s possible is this amazing, uncommon love of God becoming more and more visible so that while it may not be a baby in a manger or a man on a cross or an empty tomb; but it will still be His body. Christ in and through you and I – loving, reaching, restoring, liberating, lifting up, and embracing right here, right now for all the world to see and know.
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is pastor of First Reformed Church of Saddle Brook and is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and With You Every Step of the Way (September, 2011); and the host of Walk With Me, Wednesdays 8 pm on WYFN 94.9 FM-NY and on www.yfnradio.com.
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright