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Thursday, December 22, 2011

What is a watershed?

In recent years I've noticed a new signs along Interstate highways that announce
entry into a particular watershed.  For many this will be a mystery; what in the
world is a "watershed"?  The web site for the Environmental Protection Agency
gives this definition: "A watershed is the area of land where all of the water
that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place."

Waterways have been significant in determining locations of new settlements in
our country.  Water is one of the most essential resources for human sustenance,
as well as transportation and agriculture.  Look at a U.S. map and note how many
cities are situated on the banks of major rivers or at ocean ports.  People need
water, and they naturally settle where they can find it in abundance.

Not surprisingly, the word has become a metaphor as well.  A "watershed event"
is one which changes the course of things afterward.  The signing of the
Declaration of Independence changed the loyalties of colonists of the New World.
The Emancipation Proclamation forever changed the way in which some in the
United States viewed their fellowman as mere property.

An interesting list, found at
moments-in-history/, states the top 10 watershed events in human history.  Some
of the events I might have predicted: the invention of the printing press and
the development of the smallpox vaccine.  Other items on the list remind me that
I'm not as well-versed in world history as I need to be.

I was pleased, however, to see the number one item on the list of watershed
moments in human history: the birth of Jesus Christ.  A quick glance at our
calendars will affirm this claim: this is the year 2011, AD ("in the year of our
Lord").  All years before AD years were BC ("before Christ") years.
(Regrettably, there are strong efforts to change those designations from AD to
CE ("common era") and BC to BCE ("before common era").)

The coming of Christ means that God's grace has been shed abundantly upon
mankind.  Paul stressed that fact in Titus 2:11: "For the grace of God that
brings salvation has appeared to all men."  No one is left out of the
opportunity; any who wish may come to Christ for salvation.

But there's more to Paul's statement that needs to also be understood: "Teaching
us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12).  Jesus' appearance on
earth continues to amaze us.  But let us not fail to grasp the reason for His
coming: to lead us out of the darkness of sin to the light of righteousness.

John used this image of light when speaking of Jesus coming to earth: "That was
the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9).
Later in John's gospel, Jesus used a different metaphor: "He who believes in Me,
as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water"
(John 7:38).

There's the watershed we've been looking for!  Jesus, the Water of Life, can
give us what our souls need most.  As settlers of old who set up their camps
beside flowing rivers, let us pitch our lives beside the ever-flowing living
water.  In that way alone will we find everlasting, satisfying life!

Timothy D. Hall

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