New Year’s Reflection: On The Jordan, Giving and Receiving

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At a restaurant in La Trinidad, on Christmas Eve, there was a family of 15, all eating silently. The father had his back to his wife and kids, busy watching something moronic on TV. His wife was watching her kids. The kids were watching their cell phones or I-pads or whatever, at least half of them, but nobody was chatting with each other. It was as if they didn’t care about each other, or didn’t have a clue about how to carry on a conversation, or simply were not curious about what other family members were experiencing or thinking about. Sad.

Sad, because tuning into others is probably the best way to show love to them. While cell phones, by way of contrast, destroy brain cells so severely that England has outlawed them for children 15 and under. They are a lousy substitute for conversationally relating to each other. Yes, they give something: chemical releases in the brain, “endorphins”, and people by the billions are getting addicted to them, a very bad substitute for the joy of true relationships. True communication involves both self-disclosure and listening carefully to each other. The Bible again and again shows us a God who really listens to people, and responds! If we are made in His image, shouldn’t we do likewise?

Addictions, in contrast, are all forms of taking, not giving.

So it really is time when we should reflect on our lives, and the way we communicate, or not. We need to take seriously not just Scripture, but old Socrates, who famously said The unexamined life is not worth living.

Many people do examine their lives, some even to the point of making New Years’ Resolutions. One of the important questions we might ask ourselves is, “Am I more of a taker or a giver?” Which of course relates to the all-important question, Why am I on this earth? Many people think they’re here to be entertained, or to have fun, or to build a little empire, to get rich, even to be loved (like the song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places,” or Elvis singing, “Love me tender. . .”) There are many ways of taking, but none lead to happiness, even if they give pleasure.

Over 50 years ago when I was going through a rough time a psychiatrist told me, “You have a right to happiness.”  But he should have advised me, You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)  The blessedness Jesus promised (e.g., in Matthew 5, and 25—“Enter into the joy of the Lord”) is more like joy than the blissful happiness in a party or during conjugal love-making, and far more delightful than the “fun” of getting drunk.

(The following is a posting from Nelly Favis-Villafuerte, who recently graciously donated 80 bibles for the District and Provisional Jails in La Trinidad. She has columns each weekend in the Manila Bulletin.)

“The Jordan River is one of the foremost landmarks in the Middle East. It is mentioned in the Bible nearly 200 times.”

“There are three interesting facts about the Jordan River that relate to our lives in a spiritual way. First, the river covers an area of about 65 miles from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, but the River itself winds back and forth so often it is actually almost 200 miles long! Rarely in our lives do we have a “straight shot” from failure to success, but many twists and turns along the way.

“Second, the river drops significantly in altitude – more than 600 feet, which produces numerous rapids along the normally calm river. The same is true for us. We move at a steady pace, but every now and then we have a growth spurt and hit some fast currents.

“Third, the Scriptures tell us of many miracles that happened in or by the Jordan River. A heavy ax head floated on its surface, the children of Israel crossed it the same way they crossed the Red Sea, Naaman was cured of leprosy by dipping in it seven times, Elijah was taken to heaven just after crossing it, and Jesus was baptized in it.

“However, what the Jordan has done for thousands of years is provide life-giving water to people, livestock, and farms along its banks. Its waters have made the Jordan River Valley one of the most fruitful in the world. This is the daily miracle of the Jordan.

“As you experience changes of pace and direction, along with a miracle now and then, remember your daily miracle – bringing God’s life-giving Water, the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, to those around you. (Reference: Coffee Break with God)”

Remember two things: 1, The Dead Sea, at the south end of the Jordan River, is dead because it has no outlet!  (Unlike the Sea of Galilee, which has both an inlet and outlet.) It only takes!  Its waters are so salty that people can float in it, but nothing whatsoever will live in it.

  1. 2. It is more blessed to give than to receive! So, ask Jesus—the ultimate giver—just look at the Cross—to come and live in you, forgive you for all sins, including taking, and make you a giver, a lover, and thus giving you true joy. (And think of baptism as a dying to the old taking tendency, and a rising with Christ to a life of giving, of love, even by tuning into family members eating with you at a restaurant or at home.) Remember, God so loved the world that he gave . . . (John 3:16) and Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9: 15) Have a blessed New Year!–HPK
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