Faith Matters: God is with us and brings peace, love and joy

The summers while I was growing up in Virginia were brutal.

We didn’t live close enough to the beach to get relief from the constant breeze, and we didn’t live close enough to the mountains to get relief from lower humidity.

We were stuck in the middle, and the middle was hot.

That is, until the fire department in our small town decided to open the fire hydrant in front of my house.

Woodlawn Avenue quickly became a river filled with shirtless kids attempting to swim it.

Taking turns at the inundation of water, some would try to block the flow as it came out, causing a rainbow of spray.

Some would simply lay in the gutters and let the cool water wash over them.

And some, in a vain attempt to curb their thirst, would try to drink from the hydrant.

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Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto.

The gushing water would beat against their faces, entering their mouths, and inevitably the water bounced out. Very little water, if any, would reach the desired destination. It was just too much at one time.

Sunburned and tired, the kids would eventually give up and go home.

I wonder if this is how people through the ages have felt about the Bible — especially the Old Testament and the countless rules found therein.

There is just so much of it. To read it can be overwhelming. To live it impossible.

Spending time in books such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy can feel like we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. We want our spiritual thirst satisfied, but it’s just not doing it.

I wonder if in part this is why God came to us.

In his infinite wisdom, he knew the laws were too much. He knew we wouldn’t be able to keep them. He knew we would be overwhelmed.

And as Galatians 4:4 says, “… when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son.”

At just the precise time in history, Jesus came. Knowing the rules and laws in the Old Testament were given not to save but to point out our need for a savior, Jesus came: “Immanuel” — God with us.

Jesus brings peace, joy and hope. Not in a superficial Bob Hope Christmas-special sort of a way, but rather in an intrinsic depth of our soul sort of way.

When God comes, our spiritual thirst is quenched.

When God comes, our attempts to get close to him aren’t in vain.

And when God comes, we can’t help but to rush toward him like weary hot kids in July toward a draining fire hydrant.

Except now we can drink deeply.

And now we go home satisfied to the soul.

Because God is with us.

Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto. Reach the church at 941-722-7795 or visit