Consequences of Faithfulness

Freedom

Having and keeping faith.  Unchanging love and undying devotion.  Forever lasting loyalty and steadfastness.  Complete confidence and trust.  Sounds nice, I know!!  That’s the definition of faithfulness.  We have already been thinking about temptation from the earlier verses in chapter five of Proverbs (read more here: “When Temptation Comes My Way”).  The final verses of this chapter talk about the sanctity of faithfulness.  When we put it all together, I guess we could sum up Proverbs 5 as being about faithfulness even in the midst of temptation or when the odds are against it.  Proverbs 5:15-23 spells out some of the consequences of unfaithfulness and provides a glimpse of the consequences of faithfulness as well.

That said, day eight is Proverbs 5:15-23…

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15DRINK WATER FROM YOUR OWN CISTERN AND FRESH WATER FROM YOUR OWN WELL.  16 SHOULD YOUR SPRINGS BE DISPERSED ABROAD, STREAMS OF WATER IN THE STREETS?  17 LET THEM BE YOURS ALONE AND NOT FOR STRANGERS WITH YOU.  18 LET YOUR FOUNTAIN BE BLESSED, AND REJOICE IN THE WIFE OF YOUR YOUTH.  19 AS A LOVING HIND AND A GRACEFUL DOE, LET HER BREASTS SATISFY YOU AT ALL TIMES; BE EXHILARATED ALWAYS WITH HER LOVE.  20 FOR WHY SHOULD YOU, MY SON, BE EXHILARATED WITH AN ADULTERESS AND EMBRACE THE BOSOM OF A FOREIGNER?  21 FOR THE WAYS OF A MAN ARE BEFORE THE EYES OF THE LORD, AND HE WATCHES ALL HIS PATHS.  22 HIS OWN INIQUITIES WILL CAPTURE THE WICKED, AND HE WILL BE HELD WITH THE CORDS OF HIS SIN.  23 HE WILL DIE FOR LACK OF INSTRUCTION, AND IN THE GREATNESS OF HIS FOLLY HE WILL GO ASTRAY.”

PROVERBS 5:15-23, NASB

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I could sit here and attempt to extrapolate each iota of this passage, but I am not going to.  I could type up a hellfire and brimstone defense of Biblical, God-ordained, pure and honorable marriage, but I won’t.  (…Even though this passage does lend itself to and significantly adds to such a conversation! That stands as truth regardless.)  I just want to share a little bit of what I am coming to see about faithfulness from these verses.

There is freedom in faithfulness.  This probably seems like the most contradictory thing to say given the context at hand, especially in the 21st Century.  Marriage, and the commitments thereof, are often interpreted as being confining.[1]  Why should you have to be stuck with one someone ’til death do you part?  Yeah, because that’s the dream of every little girl– to be just another one of countless women like a second- (or third- or fourth- or fifth-) rate and forgettable movie sequel or to be tossed around between countless men like a cheap bag of chips at a football game.  NOT!  There is no freedom in a relationship where every waking moment is spent fearing (and or fueling) its disposability.  Newsflash…that’s not love.  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18, NASB).

“When you love someone with real practical deeds, you never hear a warning signal that says, “You’re going to get punished for this.”  Fear is what you feel when you have done something that ought to be punished.  But love is never threatened with punishment.  So there is no fear in love.  On the contrary, when you love each other with “perfect love” (i.e.: with the love of God overflowing and being completed in action)—when you love each other like this, it casts out fear!”[2]

Love is impossible apart from God.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8, NASB).  If we are Christ’s ambassadors (i.e.: having the responsibility of representing Him) and are called to live out His love for us in our relationships, especially marriage, what a fearful thing to think of having to account to God who is enthroned as King and established as Judge for misrepresenting Him!?!

So what does this have to do with Proverbs 5?  “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin” (Proverbs 5:21-22, NASB).  Being held within cords sounds like the exact opposite of freedom to me!

Which brings me to another point…

There is peace in faithfulness.  I am going to go out on a limb and state that peace is something we all crave, and desperately so.  What sense of perfect peace there is in knowing full well that someone shares an unchanging love and undying devotion, forever lasting loyalty and steadfastness, complete confidence and trust with you.

Trust.

Fearless.

Faithful.

Trust.

When it’s broken…that’s not freedom, that’s not peace.

It is all too easy to lose sight of, ignore, and or dispute the scope and severity of the consequences of unfaithfulness in such a sin sick world.  Unfaithfulness is everywhere.  But GOOD NEWS…our unfaithfulness will not nullify the faithfulness of God (Romans 3:3).  This is NOT a license to be unfaithful.  Unfaithfulness will make for one bumpy road on which things of incredible value– like freedom and peace– will be sacrificed.  This IS a reminder of why we need Jesus Christ more and more!  Our ways are already before the eyes of the Lord, He is already watching our paths.  So I pray…may our eyes look to the faithful Lord Jesus, the Maker of heaven and earth; He will not allow our foot to slip, He will keep us and our hearts steadfast in Him and reflecting His love as we ought to (Psalm 121:1-3, Psalm 112:7).

Victoria

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  1. Note that the term “marriage” in this post refers to Bible-defined, God-ordained, pure and honorable marriage.
  2. “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear.” John Piper. Available online at http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/perfect-love-casts-out-fear. May 26, 1985.

 

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Money Shredding Mornings…

Apparently, there is an alarm clock which shreds money should the sleeper dare to stay asleep longer than ten seconds after the alarm goes off!  The New York Daily News reports, “Seattle inventor Rich Olson came up with the device that rips up your money if you don’t hit a button within a few seconds”.  The United Kingdom Huffington Post similarly reports, “A new customised alarm clock has been designed to shred money if you fail to wake up”. 

Well goodnight!  Or more appropriately, good morning!  What an invention…to depict how money is the motivation for waking up in the morning!

Natt Garun of Digital Trends comments, “But nothing, we say, nothing beats the cold hard incentive like threatening your wealth… Desperate times call for desperate measure… If you don’t get up to dismantle the alarm in time, say goodbye to your precious dollar bill as it starts going down the shredder… Olson recommends that if you’re really bad at getting up, stick larger monetary values in there to better motivate yourself to get out of bed.  After a while, you’re bound to either wake up in time or go broke”.

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What motivates us to wake up in the morning?

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I couldn’t help but question, is it money which motivates us to wake up in the morning?  Perhaps we don’t have a money shredding alarm clock, but we drag ourselves out of bed in the mornings because we go to work for a pay check.  Maybe it is something else, like reading our friends’ latest tweets or Facebook posts, that morning cup of coffee (tea), breakfast, our reputation or schedule because we have things to do, places to go, people to see?

But what if all that stuff was taken away…

…the money

…the job

…the friends

…the technology

…the coffee (tea)

…the breakfast

…the reputaion

…the schedule

…what’s left to be the reason for our waking?

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“In the morning, when I rise,
In the morning, when I rise,
In the morning, when I rise,
Give me Jesus.” (Give Me Jesus)

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Psalm 5:3, 11– “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation…let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You” (NIV84).

Psalm 59:16-17– “But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.  O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God” (NIV84).

Psalm 90:14– “Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (NIV84).

Psalm 92:2-4– “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre.  For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands” (NASB95).

Psalm 143:8-11– “Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul.  Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.  Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me” (NASB95).

Isaiah 33:2– “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for You.  Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress” (NIV84).

Lamentations 3:22-23– “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (NRSV89).

“It was very early in the morning on the first day of the week. The women took the spices they had prepared. Then they went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from it. When they entered the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They were wondering about this.  Suddenly two men in clothes as bright as lightning stood beside them…Then the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here! He has risen…Then the women remembered Jesus’ words.  They came back from the tomb. They told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others” (Luke 24:1-9, NIRV98)!

Is Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love for us, the reason for our waking?  He ought to be.  We should be compelled to awaken in the mornings joyously singing His glory with every breath He lovingly gives us to do so!

Singing His Glory,

Victoria

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BRAIDS AND BRIDGES

braidsandbridges

Connect Mission Trips– Nashville.  Who knew that when Mission Discovery introduced their Connect Mission Trips for 2013 that the Nashville trip which caught my eye would soon thereafter catch my heart and the hearts of those in my church as well!  God did.  Although it probably goes without saying at this point, we recently returned from spending a week in Nashville serving alongside Mission Discovery making new connections and strengthening existing ones!

So “braids and bridges”…what’s that all about?

For one thing, our trip involved a lot of braids as evidenced bellow!

BraidsMural

Half of our group– the half I was with– had the privilege to spend our days at a local community center’s children’s camp!  This is where most of the braiding occurred 😉  While my hair was not quite ideal for scalp braiding, “my” girls fearlessly took on the challenge and gave me my first ever scalp braids!  They did an amazing job!  (If you need further evidence than the above pictures, you could check out this video from 1:55-2:03 too!)

The other half of our group– the half my brothers were with– had the privilege of building a wheelchair ramp for a really sweet lady who has cerebral palsy!  Once they began the building project, it did not take long for them to start referring to the ramp as the “bridge”…  Just look at the pictures below and you’ll probably also agree that the “bridge” is indeed an appropriate term for their project!

BridgeMural

More than the actual projects, I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we greatly enjoyed and appreciated the people we had the opportunity to connect with– or rather were braided and bridged together with 😉

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Connections (kəˈnekSHəns)– a relationship in which a person…is linked…with some[one] else.1

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You see, “braids and bridges” not only signifies the tangible (and very tight if I may add) scalp braids and wood bridge structure but the deeper connections that were made on our trip.  Deeper connections with one another in our group, with other Mission Discovery (and MFUGE) leaders and team members, with the Civil Group youth, with the children and staff at the community center, with Mrs. W…and especially with Christ!

In a song I wrote, What Matters Most, are these lyrics: “Did I know You for who You are?  Did I draw near, not apart?  Did I believe from my heart and show the world who You are?”  Answering “yes” to these question is (or should be) the ultimate goal in our lives… Do we know, really know Christ because it’s not just knowing about Him that is important?  Are we desperate to be nearer and nearer to Him with each moment?  Do we then encourage others to do the same as we live and love like Christ because we truly believe from our hearts that He is who He is?

I believe that it is only in the pursuit and appreciation of a genuine relationship with Christ that we can learn how to pursue and appreciate quality relationships with others!  He shows us what relationships, or “connections”, are to look like.  He is trustworthy, honorable, encouraging, and forgiving, a friend who loves at all times, sticking closer than a brother, regarding the interests of others, laying His life down for His friends…and the list can go on and on!

Towards the end of our mission trip, we were presented with a great idea: to pick a couple of names of the friends we had connected with during the trip and remember to pray for them every day for the next year.

In John 17, Jesus’ prayer for His friends is recorded.  He prays, “…I ask on their behalf…Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me…now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:9-19, NASB95).

What a beautiful prayer! And what a beautiful example for us…for me to follow and accordingly live and love like Christ!

Today, I pray for you, my friends that the Holy Father would keep you in His name, the name of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will have Christ’s joy made full in you, knowing His word and truth; that He would keep you from the evil one; and that you may be sanctified, being who God has called you to be and doing what God has called you to do!

Your Friend,

Victoria

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1. “Connection.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Available from http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/connection.

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Gently, Lovingly Leading…

At the beginning of this year, I began a chronological Bible study along with my family. We recently made it to the 8th century B.C. and are reading from 2 Chronicles, 2 Kings, Isaiah, and Hosea.

You know, one of the innumerable awesome things about studying God’s Word is that whether you’re reading or hearing a passage for the first time, the tenth time, or the thousandth time– God speaks to your heart every time (Heb. 14:12)!

So I came to the closing chapters of the book of Hosea which, as the earlier chapters do, speaks bluntly yet beautifully about the goodness and kindness and mercifulness of God’s affectionate love.  I did a double-take when I came to Hosea 11:4 in the New King James Version (82) which reads, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them”.

Gentle cords? Bands of love?

The Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon helped me understand that “gentle cords” means to draw humanely or kindly. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (09) translates Hosea 11:4 like this, “I led them with human cords, with ropes of love. To them I was like one who eases the yoke from their jaws; I bent down to give them food”; the New Living Translation (07) like this, “I led Israel along with My ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I Myself stooped to feed him”; and the New International Version (84) like this, ” I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them”.

The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible helped me understand that “bands of love” is parallel to “gentle cords”, again meaning to draw. “Bands of love” (or “ropes of love” or “ropes of kindness and love” or “ties of love” ) further implies a gentle, loving leading.

 So what does this have to do with me?

Essentially, Hosea 11:4 depicts God’s fatherly appeals of affection for you- His child!  Ever find yourself wondering if God cares about what is going on in your life– the victories and joys, the struggles and hurts, the certainties and uncertainties, the decisions and responsibilities…?  Well you don’t have to wonder any longer because He absolutely does care and will gently, lovingly lead you!  Listen and you’ll hear the Father’s soft, tender voice faithfully and affectionately leading you, His beloved child!

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“…the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78–79, NASB95).

“your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:10-11, NIV84).
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Being Gently, Lovingly Led…

Victoria

What Love Is This?

When we use the word “love”, what are we even talking about?  What does “love” mean?  What is “love”?  An emotion?  An action? An idea? It goes without saying that there are many different opinions on this issue.

So how can we know what love truly is?

Know its source.  If you want to know the true, intended definition of something, consult its source. True, intended love is therefore defined by from where or more appropriately from whom it comes. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:7-8, 16, NASB95).

Love is not separate from God, God is not separate from love.  It logically follows then that any expression or manifestation of love is a reflection of God– who He is.  True love is “grounded in the nature of God Himself”[1].  “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6, NASB95).

Know its structure.  “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11, NASB95).  We know what love is because God loves us and revealed Himself to us.  We are compelled to respond.

How do we respond?

Receive His love, appreciate His love, reflect His love.  Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5).  And love Him by serving others through love– loving your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:14).  It is interesting to note that God, though He does not have to, provides us with a qualification for why we are to love others: “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NASB95).  In other words, “love because I love”.  This also serves as a reminder that any expression of love toward others is a reflection of Him to be done for His honor and glory.

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Let’s not do a disservice to God by labeling things “love” and talking about “love” in ways which are so far from the true nature and definition of love and do NOT reflect who He is.

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Know its substance.  “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT07).  Love may be expressed as an emotion, action, or idea BUT if that emotion, action, or idea is not patient and kind but jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, unbecoming, irritable, disrespectful, distrusting, unfaithful…then it’s not love at all!

Love is an honest, humbling, and holy calling to be taken seriously, as we are to reflect God’s very nature. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NASB95).

To answer the question, “What Love Is This?”: this love is from God to be manifested in us and through us in such a manner that genuinely reflects who He is and what He has done for us in Christ through the Spirit!

Love In Christ,

Victoria

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1. Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

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But dust…

Sheep

“I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are” (Kari Jobe, You Are For Me <- click to view the music video).

The psalmist praises in Psalm 103:14,”For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (NASB95).  How awesome is that!  God Jehovah knows us!  He knows our weaknesses, our fallibility.  He knows we are finite and pathetic.

What’s more is that He Himself in all His Sovereign Perfection and Power has not abandoned us in our weaknesses, our fallibility, our finiteness, our inadequacy!  He pardons all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion, and satisfies our years with good things (Psalm 103:3-5)!

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward  t h o s e   w h o   f e a r   H i m.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on  t h o s e   w h o   f e a r   H i m ” (Psalm 103:10-11, NASB95).

“Compassion” in this scripture is translated from the Hebrew, rachumRachum comes from the root word rechem which pertains to the womb.  Rachum is concerned with the tender mercy of God.  “The root refers to deep love (usually of a “superior” for an “inferior”) rooted in some ‘natural’ bond”. 1  The word compassion expresses God’s parental love for humanity.

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“His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NASB95)

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So how is it that God who knows our weaknesses, our fallibility, our finiteness, our inadequacy and who is mindful that we are but dust is compassionate toward us anyway?

He is compassionate because of who He is!  By no means is it because we deserve it.  It is because of His good pleasure!  God has shown undeserved grace to us― a rebellious, undeserving people!  We deserve to perish because of our sins and iniquities, yet “it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14, NKJV79).  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6, ESV01).

Oh, that we would recognize the severity of our spiritual wretchedness and understand the significance of, and accept, the Father’s compassion toward us, revering Him for who He is!

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.  Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, nor remember iniquity forever; behold, look now, all of us are Your people” (Isaiah 64: 8-9, NASB95).

“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.  He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot.  Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19, NASB95).

God Is Good!

Victoria

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1. Harris, R. Laird, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999. 841.

Samaria…

Photo: BiblePlaces.com. BiblePlaces.com Image Library. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software (2009).

Photo: BiblePlaces.com. BiblePlaces.com Image Library. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software (2009).

The Woman of Samaria (also known as The Woman at the Well) is one of my favorite testimonies in Scripture.  In the past I have always tended to look at this Scriptural account from the perspective of the woman.  When I read the account this time, however, I endeavored to look at it from the perspective of Jesus.

Jesus was a Jew and the woman of Samaria was, well, a Samaritan.  The Jews were historically known to abhor the Samaritans so much that they wouldn’t even pass through the region of Samaria to get to their destination (even though it was the shortest, most practical route).  Samaritans and Jews would have no dealings whatsoever with each other.  No communion.  No transaction.  No association.  They wouldn’t even dare to drink out of a common cup or well, let alone share a meal.  And they would especially have no religious dealings.

“HE left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But HE needed to go through Samaria. So HE came to a city of Samaria called Sychar” (John 4:3-5, NKJV82).

Jesus NEEDED to go through Samaria!?! Why did Jesus NEED to go through Samaria?!?

John 3:16 says, “For GOD so loved the world that HE gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV82).  Jesus went to Samaria because of who He is ―the Lover and Savior of souls in desperate need of Him.  There were souls in need of Jesus in Samaria.

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Is God asking you to go somewhere or do something you usually aren’t fond of going or doing for the sake of others?

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Jesus went to Samaria.  He was tired, weary, and thirsty from His walk.  He broke through gender and ethnic barriers.  He was in Samaria to do the will of His Father.  Glory to God!

The woman who came to the well day after day for water to quench her physical thirst did not know that particular day she would meet Jesus and receive living water to quench the eternal thirst of her soul.  The LORD met her where she was and she was forever changed so much so that she left her waterpot at the feet of Jesus and went into the city to tell others about the Man who told her all things that she ever did.

Jesus ―God Himself― went to the cross for us!  He was despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, wounded, oppressed, and afflicted (Isaiah 53).  He broke through the barriers of sin.  He did the will of HIS Father.  Glory to God!

What a wonderful Savior!  He is respecter of no persons― His Salvation is not dependant on whether we are a man or a woman nor Ethiopian or Arabian or Indian or German or Australian or Canadian or American.  “[T]he righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:22-25, NASB95).  “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all” (Romans 6:10, NASB95).

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Is there a “Samaria” you NEED to go to?

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“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV84).

Mary

“Arch Enemies”

ArchEnemies

Holding grudges and being angry are things we all struggle with.  In a sense, each one of us has an “arch enemy” or “arch enemies” at some time or another.  You know that person who no matter what he or she says or does just makes your blood boil?

How many times have we become hateful?  How many grudges have we held?  How many times have we let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26)?

It’s easy for each of us to justify ourselves by saying, “But that person hurt me, so he or she was deserving of such emotions and treatment”!  Today our world is filled with so much hatred and anger.  It’s sad to say that our schools, workplaces, homes, and even our churches are among the very locations in which such emotions and treatments transpire.

Why are we contributing to the fulfillment of Matthew 24:12, “And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold” (ASV1901)?  What happened to forgiveness?  Have we forgotten Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:14-15, “if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (NKJV82)?

Jesus set the perfect example of forgiveness for us to emulate — “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Romans 5:8&10, NASB95)!  As Jesus was being beaten and hung on a cruel cross, He endured it for us that our sins may be forgiven!  As the whip and the thorns and the nails penetrated His flesh, He was thinking of YOU in love and grace and mercy!  Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (NASB95).

God does not want us to remain His enemies and unforgiven, neither does He want us to remain unforgiving toward those we consider to be our enemies.  Remember that we wronged God -and more severely than any person has or could wrong us- yet He lavished the riches of His grace on us, making His forgiveness accessible to us!

Just as Christ forgave us, we must also forgive others.  Not begrudgingly, but with love- the love Christ showed us.  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:7&19, NIV84).

Eph.4.31-32

Mtt.5.43-44

Nicholas, Vincent, and Victoria

True Hope Ministry Team

God Sightings (part 2)

I learned so much during my time in Africa.  In particular, I learned a lot about relationships – both my relationship with God and my relationships with other people.  It was absolutely awesome to experience the unity of the family of God through meeting my fellow brothers and sisters from the United States AND those who live over 8,000 miles away yet feel like, and love them like, I’ve known them forever!

My MisDis* Family with Momma Ruth (Children’s Home Manager of BMS*)

Photo Courtesy of Monica J.

While I was in Bulembu, I had some pretty rough days where I was not feeling well.  I even ended up using a meal time as a nap time.  (And for those of you who know me personally, you know that I had to be pretty sick to take a nap AND to chose that nap instead of a meal!)  Then my fellow family members, including those whom I had known not much longer than 48 hours, lovingly rallied around me and lifted me up in prayer.  It was beautiful!  I was witnessing the fulfillment of the Gospel!

Romans 13:8 informs us, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law [or the Scripture]” (NASB95).  Isn’t that remarkable!  TO LOVE is the single obligation we ought to have to one another.

But how can I know how to do this when it seems that everyone has their own definition of what it means “to love”!?!  Because the Scripture simply AND deeply explains exactly what it means “to love one another”…

Jesus said in John 13:34, “Love one another, e v e n  a s  I  h a v e   l o v e d  y o u” (NASB95).

Oh how we should ever increasingly desire to be more and love more like Christ!  But how in the world is it possible to do so!?!  Certainly not of ourselves!  It is only when the very the Spirit of God, who is Love, works within us─ conforming us (Rom. 8:28), transforming us (2 Cor. 3:18), and renewing us (Col. 3:10)─ to produce in us the capability to be more and love more like Christ’s disciples.

My fellow disciples and family members, will we fervently seek to fulfill the Gospel, being conformed and transformed and renewed by the Spirit of God so that we may be more and love more like Christ?

Victoria

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* MisDis= Mission Discovery; BMS= Bulembu Ministries Swaziland