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Praise River

"He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers." Psalm 78:16

Rivers are important geographical features that often mark borders of states and counties. The monotony of an interstate drive is broken when a river is crossed. Just looking at a river seems to sift our problems out in the right order and relaxes us enough to notice the hand of the creator right in the middle of the every day drive in the course of life. Rivers were once the primary transportation routes for commerce and travel. And, in some areas, rivers still are depended upon to move valuable cargo from one place to another, even across the globe. A Midwest corn farmer may load a ship on the Missouri River with grain and that ship goes along the navigable waters to the Mississippi River and then to the Gulf of Mexico, and on to Europe or other countries! Rivers offer recreation and serenity in many areas too. Natural areas adjacent river boundaries are often pristine and protected from commercialization and development. The quality of land and the condition of people and wildlife are determined by the quality of water which flows in the rivers.

Did you know every Christian has a river?

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." John 7:38

God, by His powerful, wonderful grace and mercy, has shattered the rock heart sin made in us and placed a river fed by His Holy Spirit to flow out of us to testify of His redemption and sacrifice. The chorus of the hymn "Shine Jesus Shine" gives us the gist of the spiritual river life of the believer.

"Flow river flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy: send forth your word, Lord and let there be light." The river stage, or the height of the water relative to the normal level of the water at certain distances from the ocean, really determines what happens, or what activities can go on and even what precautions and preparations should be made. In other words, the river often determines what you can or cannot do. For example, if a preacher is going to preach in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, he can't do that in a mud puddle of human ego, nor in a lake of lukewarm, feel good goo. He will need a river flow, a spiritual under current of grace to do it. All of us, in order to bear fruit for God's glory, will need spiritual river overflows to establish the fertile flood plains where God's seeds are planted and increase is given. The Ohio River Valley flood plain is some of the most fertile land in America. The tilth of this organic topsoil is such high soil character because of the effects of the river. And, the quality and spiritual inheritance Christians enjoy in our witness zone called life on Earth, is directly the result of the river of spiritual life God has caused to flow out of our hearts. Not only does God cause rivers of spiritual water to come

forth from our once stony heart of rebellion when He regenerates us, but He also causes the river stages of grace to rise by breaking our hearts with conviction of sin during repentance and by sending flash floods of sorrow from loss and hurt. Our tears flow down our faces to increase the flow, to deepen our channel of need and to stretch our hearts' riverbanks so that we might hold more blessings, all the while depositing humility humus to form the fertile seedbed needed to produce food to sustain our souls and magnify our Father's goodness. This river of God is so wonderful, powerful, and beneficial; it ever flows with currents of praise. So let us go down to the river to praise!

First, we should praise God for the position of the river. God has not only given us His Spirit to cause us to flow and grow, but He has also planted us by a river to sustain us.

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" Psalm 1:3

Psalm 1 contrasts the righteous and the wicked. The difference in the two is the river! Praise God that He has planted you by a river. "Blessed" means happy, so you and I should be happy about the river God has given us; has planted us beside, because we all have seasons. Some seasons are dormant and sometimes life really does hurt, so we put our roots of faith down deeper into God's promises and draw from His river of grace. I don't see how anyone could go down to the river and not be happy. Something about the river will make you forget your troubles and focus on what's important; God and your loved ones. The river is such a powerful witness for God the creator that it overflows our souls so that we are moved to witness for Jesus Christ our Savior.

Man may be able to dig a pond, engineer a canal, or build a dam, but only God can make a river. God alone determines the river's course and there are often many turns and twists in the river of life. Sometimes, God may even change the river channel a little and form what is called an "oxbow lake." Applied spiritually, it's like when God takes away a part of our lives that meant a lot to us and changes our course somewhat. Now the same water is in the oxbow lake just as our affections and love may remain for what was lost, yet our lives have been altered though we still navigate the "oxbow lake" with reflection of gratitude, even gaining a place of quietness and strength from the still waters that still run deep there.

Be thankful for where you are planted. It's by a river you know, so you should bloom where you're planted. River life is not just to survive, but to thrive! Christians do not have any valid excuses because we have access to the river of God. Our Lord and Saviour is a river of water in a dry place (Isaiah 32:2) and if we drink from Him, we will never thirst.

Remember, that all rivers are heading to the same place, the ocean. As the redeemed family of God, all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are flowing to an eternal Heaven where a river flows from the throne of God. This world is not our final destination, but it is our assignment and we are at the right place at the right time to go down to the river to praise.

Second, Praise River is a persistent river. The purpose of a river is to flow. Its banks may contain great beautiful Oaks and Cypress trees or scaggy bushes and vines; its waters may be clear or muddy, may contain leaves, logs, or cooler lids, be swirling with sudsy white rapids or slowly moving lazy-like drifts - yet it must flow on. A river starts out as a trickling brook you can step across, and ends up deep enough to float a ship, but from its birth to its destination, its business is to flow. These may be places the river seems to be turning back, even flowing the wrong way, checked in an eddie, or a resisting arm of land, but the central stream moves steadily onward as though led by the Lord of destiny.

When God creates a river in our hearts, it will flow forever! The Doxology should be sung down by the riverbank of blessings! "Praise God from who all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen." God always finishes what He begins. In fact, our salvation has already been completed by the sacrifice our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ made for us on Calvary's cross. Yes, we can praise God because He is the author and the finisher of our faith. And, even though our spiritual river may ebb and flow, it never stops flowing toward the eternal home God has prepared for us. Because Praise River is so dependable and consistent we should never be discouraged.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Is not this steadfastness to mark and make the character of our lives in Christ? Is it not God's will that we should press on steadily and persistently to our goal in obedience to Him in channels of His choosing, whether in sunshine or shadows, in spring or winter, not detained or dogged by pleasure or pain? Remember the central stream of our Saviour's deep determination was doing the will of the Father. He truly lived out of the river of praise because He is The River! Jesus Christ blesses all who believe in Him with rivers of living water so that we will be satisfied in Him and so that the overflow will become a source of blessing to others.

God sometimes will build a dam across Praise River by seemingly not answering our prayers or coming to our aid as quickly as we want. Divine delays are hard for us to navigate because we may not understand why God doesn't answer our prayers or do something about our desperate need. A dam though does not stop the river, it only creates more power. The longer He waits and the more desperate our situation becomes, the more gracious and powerful is His deliverance, and the more gloriously He is exalted. God waits so that He can demonstrate His mercy more dramatically and thereby magnify Himself. Long delays are often followed by spectacular answers!

"And therefore will the Lord wait, that He my be gracious unto you, and therefore will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you..." Isaiah 30:18

Finally, Praise River is a river that flows with peace. The river is a good metaphor to prompt our praise upward to our Heavenly Father because as God leads us and we follow Him, He makes His way known to us; and, when we follow His direction, we enjoy an inner quietness and assurance that has all the abundance, freshness and persistence of a deep flowing river.

"For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream..." Isaiah 66:12A

The capstone of confirmation that we are walking in the will of the Lord is peace. If you don't have peace in your hearts, check your way and head for the river. The Bible says that we should "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." To 'rule' means to act as an umpire, to arbitrate or decide. So, an umpire called 'peace' is to make the final decision. Can you imagine a baseball game without an umpire? The pitcher and catcher says 'strike,' the batter says 'ball.' Thirty thousand fans are arguing and the coaches and players are divided. There is no way the game can go on with such confusion. But when the umpire makes the call, the uncertainty is over and the confusion is settled. Although not everyone will like the umpire's call, they won't argue long if they want to stay in the game.

Praise River is God's creation within us whereby He has provided an umpire for our lives to settle disputes and prevent confusion. When we go with the flow of His choosing, an inner tranquility and serenity will make the call for us, and a quiet confidence and contentment will come over us, enabling us to feel good about the direction we are going. There will be a river of peace as we drift with God with our minds and hearts at ease.

Sometimes the river flows over rocks and strong currents form rapids. Outside circumstances we can't control like weather, can rock our boat! Nevertheless, we can have peace in Praise River right in the midst of the storm. It happened to the disciples when they were doing what the Lord Jesus told them to do. Contrary winds and stormy seas evidently do not prove that we are out of God's will. Actually, we can expect trials, hardships, sacrifices and difficulties when we are in the will of God. If God's leading was clear when the sun was shining, don't doubt Him when the storms gather, praise Him! Trust the river within you and he will remove the uneasiness and restore peace.

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4

When we're right in the middle of Praise River, right in the center of God's will, with a firm trust in His sovereign care, peace will reign in our hearts though the whole world falls apart around us.

So, the next time you feel bored and discouraged, look for a river. Remember, you have a place; God in not through with you or you would not be here. Praise God for your place by the river. Sink your roots of faith deeper during life's hard seasons and draw from His power found in the river's eternal streams of grace. How high is the river of praise in your heart today? May God send a flood of peace so that our praise will float our greatest problem and drown our greatest fear.

Brother Randy

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