Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 9

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet."  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."  John 4:19-24
In our last message we ended with Her question, which is, "Were do I go to worship Him?" and His response reveals to her that He is so much more than a prophet with a message. He lets her know that where she worships, on the mountain or in Jerusalem isn't really the issue. Where and how we worship comes from our understanding of this truth. God is Spirit. He is not corporeal and therefore He is not confined to one specific place. He is telling her that God can be and is supposed to be worshiped anywhere!

When Jesus tells her that, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." He is telling her that the Father is to be worshiped from the heart in keeping with the truth of who He is rather than through external forms like in a physical building. In the chapter before this in John 3 Jesus is explaining this same idea that God is Spirit and that if we are to know Him, means we to must know Him in spirit as well as body. He puts it to Nicodemus like this "...Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus that we are born, not with just a body, but rather body, soul, and spirit. He explains to him that if he is to know God than it is necessary for his spirit 'be born.' He is showing him that we must all have that moment when our spirit connects with the Spirit of God. How else can we truly know  Him? How else can we come into His presence? Why does our spirit need that moment when it is born and connects with His?  Because God is by His very nature, His very essence, Spirit, and if we are to truly connect and know Him then it will be in that moment when our spirit connects and comes to life in Him. Jesus seems to add this afterthought about not understanding the workings of the wind and how and where it blows. Here is the thing, How else are we who are flesh and blood going to know God, who is Spirit unless it is with that part of us that is spirit as well?

I think its important to note that a belief of the Samaritans was that the Messiah would come and reveal the Father to all men. As a Samaritan this woman would have been taught that belief.  Jesus tells the woman, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth," In doing so, He is in fact fulfilling a messianic role, as He reveals not only the truth about the nature of God; "God is Spirit" but the Father's hearts as well; "The Father is seeking such to worship Him." 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Press On!

He dumped the remainder of his drink into the fire, and took a step back as the flames licked up the alcohol and jumped skyward.  Not even wine could brighten his mood now. "Curse them by all the gods," he mumbled under his breath.

The camp was alight with a dozen or so fires, all surrounded with angry men. They had set up camp nearby the Jews. It was Sanballet's personal mission to destroy them, but when he got word that they had been granted permission from the king to continue building, Sanballet had exploded in fury. Now, he sat surrounded by his brothers and six or seven of the finest men in the Samarian army. They all chugged their alcohol, and then clumsily groped for the wine skins to refill their empty glasses and mugs. Nearby, the Israelite guards watched them like hawks, determined to make sure none of them would cross into their territory.

His younger brother, Cina, raised his own glass of wine to the roof. "Curse them by all the gods." he echoed. His voice was gruff and slurred from the amount of alcohol he had consumed.

Sanballat threw his empty glass into the flames in his anger, the fit of rage consuming and commanding his very soul. "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their temple for themselves? Will they sacrifice? No." He started to pace back and forth, and more of the sloshed men started to pay attention to his ranting. "Do they think they will have it finished in a day? The thought is laughable. They act like they can revive the rubble and heal the stones scorched by fire. Fools."

"That's right!" Tobiah, an Ammonite by birth, stood up along side him. "What exactly do they think they are building? If a fox was to climb onto it, he would break their stone wall!" He turned toward the Jewish camp and started screaming the taunt. The Jewish guards stiffened at their words, but made no moves to engage them.

The men around them roared with laughter. As the night went on, their mockery only grew in strength. Sanballat smiled for the first time since he got the news as he thought about all those fools falling asleep to their words of mockery.

Based on Nehemiah 4:1-3

So I wrote this scene to show how Sanballat and his cohorts were against the Jewish people. These people made it their mission to stop, oppose, taunt, and destroy the work that the Jewish people were doing.

Do you know what Nehemiah had to say about it?

"Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted our from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders." Nehemiah 4:4-5

The very next verses after Sanballet's taunt was Nehemiah's response to it:

God, you deal with them.

What did the Jewish people do next?

"So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work." Nehemiah 4:6

They went about their job, their call, their responsibility. They didn't let their enemies' words stop them for doing what they knew they were supposed to do. How often do we let the words of others, words of people who don't even serve God, deflate our will? We have to respond like Nehemiah and the Jewish people did. We have to pray, give it to God to deal with, and do what we were called to do. The enemies are going to hate and mock and taunt. You and I have to keep going.

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may recieve what is promised." Hebrews 10:36

"Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following...." Luke 13:33a

We have to endure to get what God has promised. That means not letting every stupid thing every stupid person says to us take us out of the race. We have to shake it off. We have to press on. Amen.

V. Joy Palmer

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 8

The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet."  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." John 4:15-20
Today's bite size message begins where we left off last and so, here we are, still in that amazing moment when she recognizes that His perception and knowledge about her isn't a natural one. She realizes that it is supernatural and therefore He too must be supernatural. He must be sent by God and her response reveals this new perception of Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet." To her, a prophet was a messenger sent by God with His message. By calling Him a prophet she acknowledges that she knows and understands that He was sent by God to reveal His message about His gift of 'living water' to her.

Personally, I believe that if we were there and could hear her response, that we would hear the awe in her voice as she declares to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." 

Now don't forget, this whole conversation has been filled with her questions about why He is talking to her? Why would He want to give her this gift? Now, with His revelation to her; that He knows all about her, about her past. He knew her sins, and yet He still came to her and He made the offer! Why the awe? Because its the moment when she realizes that God sent Jesus for her. 

You need to understand that knowing all this causes her to want to respond to God! So many people seem to misunderstand her next statement. They act like she is asking Him because He was a Jew and she a Samaritan or that it was a test question because if He was truly sent by God He should know the answer to the big debate but  I tend to think differently. Here is why.

Because I remember! I remember the moment when I realized that Jesus came to pay the price for my sins! It was to love Him back. To meet with Him. I say it because as a youth pastor I've seen this moment a thousand times over and the response, like mine and this woman's is always the same. Think back! Think back to the moment you realized that He came for you? What was your response? Wasn't it to respond with every fiber of your being by drawing near to Him, to thank Him, to praise Him, to worship Him?

How about this moment in Acts 2:37-41where Peter just finishes his first words after the Holy Spirit came as a mighty rushing wind on the day of Pentecost? It says, "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"  Peter then lets them know and it says in verse 41 that about 3000 souls were added to the kingdom. I personally don't believe her question was religiously or politically motivated. I don't believe it was a test to see if He really came from God. 

I believe it was her way of asking, "What shall I do? Where do I go?" In this moment of awe and revelation she wanted to approach God and she didn't want to do it wrong. Samaritans believed you worshiped on Mt Gerizim, the Jews the temple in Jerusalem. She didn't fully understand yet who Jesus was. In her mind He was a prophet that God had sent to her and she wanted to respond! Her question was a question for the prophet and it was simply, "Were do I go to worship Him?"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bigger, Better, Stronger

"Why didn't you just ask the king for a band of soldiers to protect us?"

It was a good question. Valid. It would have made sense, and it's not like the king would have denied the request.

"Because...." His voice faltered a little, and he could see the confused expressions mixed with the annoyed, he-doesn't-know-what-he-is-doing looks on the faces of the men around him. How did he explain what he was feeling inside? No, it was more then that. How did he explain what he knew to be true.

"I mean," Tebel started saying while throwing his hands around in exaggerated gestures. "It would have been so much simpler. Then we wouldn't have needed to stop work for this." The man finished spewing and glared at Ezra.

Ezra got up and started pacing in the the makeshift tent. Rocks were being used for tables and chairs. He had called the men he had relied upon while they trekked through the wilderness, the men he had called leaders. 

Men who should have understood this.

Ezra let out a weary sigh, and turned to face the other men once again. "I was ashamed to ask the king for help." There. He had said it.

Then he smiled. It actually wasn't that hard.

He pointed at the group of men, boldness suddenly consuming his entire being. "I was ashamed to ask the king for help because I told the king that the hand of our God is for good on all those who seek him, and that the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him. That is why I didn't ask for help. God's help is greater then any help the king could have given us." Ezra locked his steeling gaze on the men. "And that is why we will be having a fast to humble ourselves and ask for his help."

The men slowly started to nod their heads.

"Alright," Ezra said. "Let's get started."

Based on Ezra 8:21-23

Ezra had proclaimed that there was going to be a fast by the side of the river Ahava, so that they could humble themselves before God and seek from Him a safe journey for everyone and everything involved.

I love that this is written in first person, my bread and butter as an author. It is believed that Ezra authored most of the book of Ezra, especially when he appeared on the scene in chapter seven and the voice of the book moves from third person to first person.

In my mind, I don't see Ezra proclaiming a fast without a conversation like this going down. I love how he boldly says that he was ashamed to even consider asking for help from the king after claiming God was all that and a bag of chips. He wouldn't even consider it.

Anybody else feeling a little convicted right now? 

In my mind, Ezra was saying, "I'm going to put my money were my mouth is!" Do we, as followers of Christ, do that? Do we put our actions behind our "faith-filled" words? Or is it all talk?

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." Matthew 21:22

"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17

Ezra understood that if he would trust in God, then God would help. That God's help was bigger, better, and stronger then anything man could try to do. Ezra understood that if he wanted results for his faith, then he had to act on his faith.

There are so many things to be afraid of in this day and age! Diseases, war, death, and so much more. I will admit to you that I sometimes panic! Life is kind of scary, but don't let those things grip your heart and make you forget the One Who is able to take care of that junk and you in the midst of all that craziness. The One Who is bigger, better, and stronger than anything. Let's hold each other accountable when we start to forget. It's time we stopped saying we believe. It's time we show the world that we believe.

V. Joy Palmer

Monday, October 27, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 7

Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet." John 4:13-19
Today, in part seven of our bite size look at the encounter the Samaritan woman had at the well with Jesus we are going to look at one of my favorite moments in the conversation. We find it just after His response, His comparison of the well water and His gift of 'living water.' Her response to that comparison was, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus had convinced her that 'living water' is something worth having. She sees that it could mean that she won't have to go through this daily ordeal of having to collect water. If she had this 'living water' that He talked about than she would no longer be forced to endure the burden that collecting water from the well exposed her too, both physically and emotionally. She catches a glimpse of that possibility as His comparison become a reality in her understanding and her soul cries out with, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." 

Jesus responds to her plea with a question that on the surface might seem to be off topic but in reality He  gives her the very thing she needs in order to receive His gift of 'living water.' He says, "Go, call your husband, and come here." Just like that she is face to face with the very thing she is at the well to avoid. Her shame, her life's choices, and the very reason she is at the well collecting water all alone confronts her as He speaks those seven simple words, "Go, call your husband, and come here." With those seven words and that one simple command He brings her to the place of knowing and acknowledging her real need for His gift of living water in her life.

When she answers Him with, "I have no husband." Her response was still in part trying to hide that she was was living in a way that was considered by all to be immoral. Jesus acknowledges the truth of her statement about her lack of a husband with, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." Suddenly, she knows that He knows! I love this exact moment in this encounter! Why? Because its one of the best moments that she or you or I can experience. Its the moment when it hits you! He knows the worsts about you and loves you anyways! She is in this moment realizing that He knows and yet, He spoke to her. He knows and yet, He still offered her this gift of living water. He knows and yet, He wasn't condemning or judging, but instead, He was simply letting her know that He knows her. He knows her history. He knows all about her and He knows that she needs Him and His gift! This is the moment that she realizes and recognizes that His perception isn't a natural one but is supernatural and therefore He too must be supernatural and He too must be sent by God! 

"Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Thirsting For The Living God"

Psalm 42:1-2
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

Lord,  as we come into Your presence today we pray that You would lead us. Help us Lord, to always come before You, hungry and thirsty for more of You. Lord, more of Your glory, more of Your power, more of Your revelation at work in our lives. Help us Lord, to be the generation it talks about in Psalm 24:6. Let us be a generation that always seeks You out! Lead us and teach us how to be a generation that seeks Your face! Lord, just like the deer that knows which path brings them to the water when they thirst, show us Lord, show us the the way to Your living water! Lord, stir up a thirst for You that can only be quenched as we worship You in Spirit and in truth!

God Bless!!!

Staff of Snack Time Devotions

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Patriarchs' Wives

"Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children." Genesis 18:11

"Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children..." Genesis 25:21

"When Rachel saw that she wasn't having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die." Genesis 30:1

A few months ago, I realized that patriarchs had something in common: they all had a barren wife. Let's start with Sarai, later known as Sarah.

The most well know and respected of the patriarchs, Abram was promised descendants that rivaled the number of the stars. But his wife, Sarai, decided to take matters into her own hands. She had her husband sleep with her handmaid, and nine months later, Ishmael was born. Terrible things were going to happen to Sarah's future descendants. In fact Ishmael's distant descendant, Haaman, would go on to try to eradicate the Jews. Sarah's son, Isaac, was born years later, on God's timing.

Next up is Rebekah. She wasn't able to have children. So, what did her husband, Isaac, do? HE PRAYED! And God answered! With twins, even! Isaac and Rebekah, they did it right.

And, of course, there is Rachel. Now, Rachel had a difficult time. Not only was she barren, she had a very fertile sister who was also married to her husband! Every child that her sister had twisted the knife. She went to an old favorite: send the handmaiden to her husband. And the battle with her sister was on. Back and forth they went, having more and more kids. And in the end, when she finally had her own precious son, guess what happened. The children born out of this fearsome rivalry, the other sons of Jacob sold him. SOLD HIM.

Now, God used those kids for good. But so much hurt happened because of the lack of faith and trust. Why do we insist on trying to do things our own way? The Bible is FULL of examples of this, but we still don't listen. So, the next time we are going through something hard, trust God, instead of just digging into the situation yourself. Wait for God's timing. Follow the examples of Isaac and Rebekah. Trust in God's timing, don't try and force it.