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.

Sam

Friday, October 24, 2014

Our Refuge And Strength

Psalm 46:1-7

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, Though the earth be removed, 
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.   Selah
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Lord, that we would have eyes to see and a heart that seeks to praise You even  in the midst of any storm!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can't Get Enough

He was finally here.

He didn't know if he should dance for joy or weep at the sight before him.

The rumbled remains of Jerusalem were still in the distance, and the sun gleamed behind the city like a beacon of hope. Or maybe it was a spotlight on their failures and all the work ahead of them.

He was going to look at it like a beacon of hope.

After all, God had made a way for him this far. He had moved King Artaxerxes' heart to send him and anyone who volunteered to go with him to Jerusalem. He had even sent the provisions and the original vessels from the Temple, as well.

Ezra could feel his heart twisting and jumping within his chest. He was so excited, and he couldn't hold it in anymore. He stopped abruptly and waved to the group of people tiredly stumbling around the rocks behind him. "Everyone, we are almost there!"

A weary, but happy cheer sounded from his traveling companions, and an older man, Tabza caught up to Ezra.

"Yahweh has set us on an excellent path." Tabza clapped him on the shoulder. Tabza just had this fatherly way about him. Tabza couldn't be more then fifteen years older then Ezra, but he supposed if he was also a father to ten like Tabza was then he would exude a fatherly attitude from his pores, too.

Ezra nodded. "Yes, the Lord has been good to us."

"You know why that is, don't you?"

"Because this is his will?"

"Well, yes," Tabza said with a chuckle. "But there's more to it then that. It's because you set your heart on God. You set your heart on his word, his law, to live and teach it." Tabza motioned to the city before them and the caravan traveling behind them. "It is because you were faithful to God. You set your heart on him, and he has blessed us and this endeavor because of you."

Based on Ezra 7, specifically verses 9 and 10.

"For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel."
Ezra 7:9-10

What I wanted to talk about today was how Ezra set his heart on God. Multiple times in chapter 7 it talks about how Ezra was skilled in the Law of Moses, how to do it, and teach it. Because of that, God's hand was on him.

Because Ezra was set so on learning and living God's Law, God greatly blessed him? It makes me stop and think: "Wow, am I doing that?" What about you? Have you set your heart on studying God and His Word?

I know, I know. I say "studying" and you flash back to high school and college days where you had to study. It was necessary to pass the test, and about the biggest drag ever. That's not how we should approach God's word. (Never mind the fact that we need it in order to get through life without screaming/spazing/crying/pulling our hair out.)

I'm an author. Books are my love language, so just stay with me. Recently some of my absolute favorite authors have been writing sequels to some of their best-selling series that had ended years ago. So any second I can get to read, even if it's just a page, I take it. Late at night, first thing in the morning, for five minutes on my lunch break before I have to run out the door. I carve out every bit of time to devour these delicious tales.

What if we approached God's Word like that?

Correction: Why aren't we approaching God's Word like that?

"I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil." Psalm 119:162

Awesome verse! This is how we should feel about God, the Bible, the Law, living and breathing all it. I want the kind of hunger for the Word, the desperation to read it that I will randomly just pick it up to read BECAUSE I NEED MORE OF IT, ASAP!

That's how it was for Ezra. The reason Ezra was so blessed by God was because he lived and breathed the Word. That's what we should strive for, the I-can't-get-enough attitude for God. Amen.

V. Joy Palmer

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Not Just Words"

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
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As I was praying about today's message I really felt that the Lord wanted me to share with you the message that I shared yesterday on our kids devotional. It is about the need to trust in God. There are so many things in the news and in the events of our lives today that would cause us to be fearful or distracted from the things of God. We all to often hear people speak the words, 'Trust in God' and I really felt that the Holy Spirit wanted me to share this word with you as well as the kids yesterday as a reminder, a reminder that the words 'Trust in God' are not just words but a choice we make.
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Trusting God isn't always an easy thing to do because it always involves making a choice and sometimes that choice can be a really hard one to make. Take a look at this example in Exodus 1:22-2:1-3 where a very special mom had to make just such a choice. When Moses was born the Pharaoh had commanded that all the babies that were born boys were to be thrown into the river and that all the girls could be saved alive. It says that when Moses was born she was able to keep him hid for three months but there came a point where she couldn't keep him hid and safe any longer so she made the choice to trust God to keep Him safe. Putting him in that basket in the river wasn't an easy thing to do! It would have been the hardest choice she ever had to make. She was trusting God to make sure he was safe.

It says that she ...took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed with asphalt and pitch, put the baby in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. Now if you keep reading the story of Moses you'll see that the choice she made to trust God was a good one! He did exactly what Proverbs 3:6 promises. He made a way for Moses to be found and raised in Pharaohs own household! He even made it possible for his mom to be his nursemaid so that she was able to still be involved in caring for him. She trusted God to make a way where she no longer could! It was a hard choice but as you can see by the outcome, it was the right choice to make. I love that this amazing mom trusted God with something she absolutely and totally treasured - the life of her son!

Later in the life of Moses where we see yet another opportunity where the choice to trust God is necessary. It says that ...Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 Think about it. Would you dare to step between the water as it is heaped up as a wall on either side you? Would you be able to trust God to keep the water heaped up there, looming up on either side as you passed through along the path He has cleared for you? Would you dare to even take that first step? I love that God's people dared to trust Him and step between the walls of water!

What about in Matthew 14:28-31 when Peter says to Jesus, "...command me to come to You on the water."
So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to on the water in the midst of the storm if He will just say the word. He trusts Him to direct his steps even if it means walking on the water in the midst of this storm. At Jesus' word he gets out of the boat and walks toward him...all the while trusting. After a bit he gets distracted by the storm and he forgets to trust in the word Jesus spoke. He starts to sink and is overcome with fear. What does He do? He turns to Jesus trusting Jesus to save him. Jesus reaches out a hand and catches him up. What happens next. I don't know if you ever thought about this but it goes on to say that after Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him that ...they got into the boat and the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, "Truly, You are the Son of God."  They got back in the boat together. That means that Peter and Jesus walked back to the boat together!
Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, ..." Now you might think that this is a bad example of someone trusting in Jesus but personally I think it is a terrific one. Look at what happens here. Peter lets Jesus know that he will trust Him and come to him

Trusting God is always a choice and that choice is always about linking up with Him, putting your choice in line with His direction, His provision. Trusting in Him means we look to Him for provision or direction or even a helping hand when being saved is the thing we need. He is and always will be faithful to meet all our needs if we will choose to trust!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Twisted Tongue

"But no on can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth." James 3:8-10

Why is it that we have such a hard time controlling our tongues? Its such an important part of us, capable of doing great things, but it also can do the very worst things. Build people up or tear them down, praise God or curse Him... as well as countless other things.

We must be careful with our tongues. They are so important in our walk with God. We should be using them for positive things, not for wasting them with idol words.

Matthew 12:35-37 "A good person produces good things form the treasury of a good heart and evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

Don't be foolish and wasteful with your words. They are more important than we realize. Every day, notice the good things that people do. Uplift them. Train your tongue to speak the good things. Let go of the bad things, and don't let them come out of your mouth.

Sam

Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 6

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" 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." John 4:10-14
Once again, as we look at the next two verses we see yet again just how awesome and amazing Jesus is at revealing truth in His encounters with the lost. Jesus doesn't respond to Her question, "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"  in a way that you or I might. He doesn't start making claims about His greatness or listing off His credentials or even offering up His title. Instead He responds to her question of "Are You greater? Is what You have to offer of more value?" by saying  "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." 

He immediately does the thing she asks Him to do. He reveals to her that what He has is in fact is of greater value! He compares what He has to offer with what she already has and knows. He points to the well and reminds her that while this water could quench her physical thirst its effects last just so long and she would indeed thirst again. He reminds her that she will be burdened daily with the labor of always needing to draw more. As she is contemplating this truth, this daily reality that she is all too familiar with He then compares it with the 'living water' that He is offering her and thus revealing its worth, its greater value when He says, "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."

He declared His greater value by letting her know that His offer of the gift of living water was of a different kind, a different quality! He tells her that it would quench her thirst beyond the natural thirst that her well water could. He declared to her that it would be 'a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.' The 'living water' that He was offering her would be by its very nature forever and always undiminished. It would be a fountain springing up, continually bubbling up within her soul to nourish and to satisfy its desires. He showed her that its value went beyond the physical, the natural, but to the spiritual and to everlasting life.

With this answer, this comparison, He accomplished the very thing He intended when she first encountered Him at the well and He asked, "Give Me a drink." She is now in the the place where she is truly thirsty! Because of the words that He spoke and the truth they revealed to her He has stirred up a longing in her soul. She now longs with a desire for more than she has know in the past. She came for water but now, she has a different thirst and it is now a thirst for the living water that He offers!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Only You"

Psalm 135:1-5

Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him,
O you servants of the Lord!

You stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God,

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
Israel for His special treasure.

For I know that the Lord is great,
And our Lord is above all gods.

Lord, we give you all our praise, all our worship! Only You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings!  Lord, as we come into Your house and enter Your courts today to praise and to worship only You, let it be with hearts that know You for who You are. Lord, we give You all glory, honor, and all praise. Lord, We lift up Your Holy Name and declare You and only You are worthy of all our worship!

God Bless!!!

Staff  of Snack Time Devotions


Saturday, October 18, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 5

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" John 4:10-12
Today's bite size message from our chance encounter is taken from the next two verses where the woman responds to Jesus' offer of living water. She immediately recognizes the offer and counters with what she sees as a problem. How is He able to give her living water? Where does it come from? How and where is He going to get it for her if He has no vessel?

She knows that without a vessel it is impossible to draw water from the well. She recognizes that it is humanly impossible for anyone to give living water and that in fact without a vessel, Jesus wasn't even able to draw water from the well itself. While, in the natural, all her eyes could see was His lack of a vessel, and the impossibility of 'living water' happening; there was also a part of her that responded to the hope He offered. He had sparked a need that also caused her to acknowledge, that maybe? Maybe there was a vessel? Maybe there was a way?

I love that and even though she doesn't yet recognize the she is looking at and speaking with the vessel that makes 'living water' possible she does recognize the desire He has stirred up within her to hope for more! She than asks Him, "Are You greater than Jacob?" Are You greater than what I've know in the past?"  "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus had just told her that He was the gift of God that could provide 'living water' to her. She acknowledges that Jacob's gift to them had been this well. She reminds Him that it had provided water to Jacob, his family, his livestock and that Jacob's gift had been providing water to them for generations. The water that she had come to draw was Jacob's gift to his children. She is asking, "Are you greater than Jacob? Is Your gift of  'living water' truly of greater benefit?" She's is asking, "Can I hope for more?"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Big Love

The crowd gasped as an old woman hobbled before Jesus. She looked downright contrite, clearly expecting the lecture of an lifetime. Jesus, however, did not wear an annoyed or stern expression. In fact, based on the curl of his lip, Jesus looked amused.

Jairus watched the woman and Jesus. He was trying to quiet the way his heart was screaming, "What about me?! Don't forget my daughter! She's dying! Jesus, don't forget about me."

Sure, he had some sympathy for her, but who wouldn't? The woman had suffered for twelve years from this affliction. Like so many others, she knew that Jesus was the answer. But he had gotten to Jesus first, and time was not on their side. They couldn't delay.

Jairus attempted to keep from bouncing in anxiety or tapping his toes in impatience. Jesus had completely stopped to deal with this woman. Apparently, Jairus had to wait his turn.

Finally things seemed to be wrapping up. Jairus was just about to jump back into the conversation and urge Jesus to follow him when he saw him.

It was a servant from his house. A trusted servant and long time friend.

Without even being close enough to speak, Jairus knew.

He met the other man's grim eyes, and watched as he shook his head slightly. It was like watching his whole world fall apart. His daughter was gone.

The anguish rolled toward him like a tidal wave, but just before it could claim him, a hand clasped his shoulder.

"Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well." Jesus spoke quietly, but firmly. Oh, how he wanted to believe those words and cling to them like the lifeline that they were! Without them, he would drown.

So he nodded, and followed Jesus.

It was his turn.

Based on Luke 8:47-50

Recently, I did a blog on this topic on our spin off blog, Snack Pack for Kidz. However, ever since then, I haven't been able to shake this thought, this message. Somebody, maybe all of us, needed to be reminded of this very important truth.

So here goes...

I started wondering one day about how Jairus must have felt watching this woman receive healing. What emotions would be tugging for control of me if I was in the one waiting there? Jealously, annoyance, and good old fashioned freaking out. I would be happy for the woman, but it would be forced in light of my own trauma.

I would be thinking one thing.

Hurry up! I saw him first and it's my turn!

Come on, I can't be the only one.

What I have come to absolutely love about this story, more then any other part, is that moment where the deep pit of despair calls to Jairus, but Jesus pulls him out with ten little words. "Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well."

It's that moment where Jairus has to see and believe that Jesus is big enough, powerful enough, and has enough time to help him, too. Despite what the natural says. I love to picture Jairus realizing that God is big enough to help him, too.

God has so much love for you, it would squash you like a bug! I know that's a silly statement, but seriously, it's totally true. God has all this love and time for you and your life and all the problems that come with it. Just because He is God of the universe, and has billions of other people to focus on doesn't mean He doesn't have time for you.

Point in fact, you are priority. You are a VIP to the King of Kings.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

God has big love for you. You can never hear this message enough. Probably because it takes so long to sink in... So I say again, God has big love for you. It is real. It is great. And it is big enough for everyone and their baggage. So don't be afraid to trust God. Only believe.

V. Joy Palmer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Light Shines Brighter In The Dark

We have all heard that we should be around the people that we want to be like. That way we pick up the good habits, the drive, the work ethic of the people that we look up to, rather than the bad habits of those we don't like as much. I remember as a teenager taking that to mean "Hang out with the Christians, not with the unsaved so you don't learn from their sinful habits."

Little did I realize that was the opposite of what Jesus did.

Mark 2:13-17
Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow me and be my disciple," Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed Him.

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable people. (There are many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners they asked his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?"

When Jesus heard this, he told them,"Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know that they are sinners."

Why do we hide our light? The world needs us to be out there, with the sinners, not sitting in church, wondering when the next time new people are going to show up. Stop being afraid! This is not the time to be sitting and waiting, but doing. In the Great Commission, Jesus said, "GO into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone."

He said GO. He didn't say "Pray that I will send you someone with a willing heart" or "Wait until someone seeks you out". He said GO!

Too long has the church sat back, in a defensive position, taking shots from the world, rolling with the punches. Go on the offensive, take the Good News to those who still don't know it. Shine bright in the darkness. Claim your city, your town, your community for Jesus.

I will not be silent. Will you?

Sam

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 4

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  Then the women of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan women?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." John 4:7-10                                                            
Today's bite is once again going to be found in the very next verse of our encounter with the Samaritan woman. It contains the response that Jesus gives to her question as to why, He, a Jew would be talking and requesting her to give Him a drink. He responds with, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." His explanation is amazing. He immediately responds and tells her what He is really there for; to bring her the 'Gift of God' that He brings to all of us. The chance to choose Him, to know Him as the Christ, the Savior. His response to, "Why would you ask of me?" Is basically, "Because of who I am." He is saying to her, "If you knew, if you knew who you are talking with, who was asking you for a drink then you wouldn't be asking "Why" instead you would be asking Me and I would be giving you the 'living water.' that can meet all your needs.

Why? Why did he break the 'rules and regulations' of religion and talk with her? Why reach out and use this perfect chance encounter with this lost, lonely, brokenhearted women? Because, Because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23  Why? Simple! Because of who He is and the gift He brings!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Man In Need

Pharis caught sight of the familiar, brown-headed man walking into the synagogue. He sat up straight and whacked his comrade in the shoulder. "He's here," he hissed.

His friend, Rash, looked where Pharis was pointing. "Good. It's about time he got here."

Pharis raised an eyebrow at his old friend. "So what are we going to do?"

"We will wait for him to slip up." Rash nodded towards Jesus. "He always does sooner or later."

They didn't have to wait long. A feeble old man soon hobbled into the synagogue. He hair was white as snow, he had age spots all over his face, and he couldn't even stand straight. The man had his hand tucked into this robe, clearly trying to hide it.

Ah-ha

Pharis nudged Rash again. He spotted the man immediately and jumped to his feet. "Let's go get him," he said, a huge grin of triumph splitting his face.

Gallivanting over to where Jesus stood surrounded by his horde of unsavory men, Pharis smirked. Jesus was about to get trapped. The man couldn't resist healing people. He spent days healing the sick.

"Tell me teacher," Rash said sarcastically. "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbeth?"

Pharis was practically bouncing up and down. This was it. The moment they had been waiting for. They would discredit this man, and things would get back to normal in his town.

Based on Matthew 12:9-10

The thing I want to talk about here is not the incredible point that Jesus made, the loving way He healed the man with the withered hand, or anything to do with the Sabbeth. It's about how those men looked for an opportune time to try and take Jesus down, and completely missed the man in need.

Are we ever so focused on legalities that we miss the point? The person in need? The chance to witness?

"As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." Romans 14:1-4

This section of Scripture is about clean and unclean foods. There were many new believers coming into the church, and many of the believers who had grown up under the law of Moses were distraught about the new believers eating or living so differently.

Sometimes we need to remember that it's not about whose right and whose wrong. It's about serving God. These verses have some parallel with the situation Jesus experienced with the man with the withered hand. Do we sometimes have a heart attitude that is all legalistic and no love? The Pharisees were out for blood. They wanted to put an end to Jesus. Their soul desire was to accuse Jesus. How different it would have been if they had humbly come up to Jesus, arms looped around the shoulders of their fellow brother, with the question, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbeth?" From that standpoint, it wouldn't have been about laws or traps, but the desire to see their friend healed?

Remember to take a step back. Are we arguing over things that don't really matter in God's eyes? Or are we missing the people who need Jesus in their lives? After we figure that out, we can focus on what really matters.

V. Joy Palmer

Monday, October 13, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 3

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  Then the women of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan women?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.John 4:6-9
So today's little bit is found in verse 9 which is the next verse in our not so chance encounter. I Know that personally I think that it is important because it reveals something about both Jesus and the woman at the well. In verse 7 we see the woman approach the well in order to draw water and we see Jesus do something that, on His part is actually pretty wonderful! He speaks to her and says, "Give Me a drink." He draws her into engaging with Him by asking for the very thing she is focused on. She is there because of her need for water and she is there, at this particular well, at this particular time, because she also has a need to avoid people. I love that He uses things like mustard seeds, wine skins, sheep, coins, pearls, or even a drink of water to touch hearts and to reach us where we are at. I love that He immediately speaks to her and asks her for a drink of water, because in doing so, He forces her to be in contact with Him.

I must admit that I also love that the first thing He does, is to break all the 'rules and regulations' of religion. He doesn't ignore her! He speaks to her and requests a drink. He doesn't snub her and pretend she isn't there or even more importantly He doesn't treat her like she is a non-person. After all she does have two strikes against her; she is a Samaritan and a woman! Jesus didn't care about either! He doesn't care about the 'rules and regulations' of religion. He came to meet with her! He came to meet her need to know that God loves her. 

His request for a drink quickly exposes her greatest need and in verse 9 we see her response. ...Then the women of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan women?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans... Her first immediate response doesn't even acknowledge His request for a drink but instead is strictly motivated by her surprise that He make such a request from her!  She immediately recognizes that He was a Jewish man and she is astonished that He would be asking her, an 'impure Samaritan woman' for drink. 

Remember she is there at this time, at this particular well to avoid human contact. We know from what Jesus says later in the account that she has a history that would cause the 'righteous' to judge and condemn. She needs water so she goes to the well at a time when no one else would be there to avoid all the 'righteous' people who would point, whisper, or who would be unkind to her. She is amazed when Jesus, a Jewish man, makes His request and she immediately responds with her question for Him which is basically asking, "Why me? Why would You notice me?" 

In Matthew 18:11 Jesus said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."  Honestly, who is more lost than a woman who is an outcast in her home town because she spent her life looking for true love in all the wrong places?   He came, He noticed her, and He made His request because He cared! He cared about her need to know that she was truly loved. He wanted her to know that she mattered! 

Theirs was the perfect chance encounter because she needed to know that God truly loved her, no matter what!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Lord, We Look To You!"

Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.   Selah

May He grant you according to your heart's desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses,
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright. 

Save Lord! May the King answer us when we call.

Lord, as we come before You today I pray that the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts would be acceptable in Your sight. Lord, that we, Your people would remember to look to You as the source of all that we need or desire. O Lord, accept our heartfelt gratitude as we rejoice in Your salvation and give to You the glory due Your name. Lord we look to You with all our offerings of praise and worship! 

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we, Your people, will remember that Your name matters most of all!

Staff of Snack Time Devotions

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 2

He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But he needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  John 4:3-8
Today, in part two, our bitesize message of our not so chance encounter can be found in the next two verses. It is when the Samaritan woman shows up on the scene. Have you ever wondered why it makes such a big deal about this encounter taking place at the sixth hour. The sixth hour in Jewish time was at the sun's zenith which means it is 12 noon. I think that the Word tells us this because it gives us some much needed information about the woman who Jesus is here to meet. 

It tells us that she is at the well at this time a day, by herself for a reason. She went out of her way to collect and carry water from the well that is outside of town instead of the well closer. It tells us that she went out of her way to carry water from a greater distance in the heat of the day when No One else was at the well for a reason. She was avoiding human contact. Have you ever gone somewhere, done something in the hardest way possible in order to avoid someone or people in general? This woman did and it was apparently her daily custom to be here, now, at this time of day when others weren't there!

Verse 8 tells us that the disciples, all twelve of them I might add, went to get food, after all it was lunch time and they all, including Jesus, were tired and ready to rest and eat. None of them stayed with Jesus? I find that an odd concept. It takes twelve grown men to go get lunch or? Do you think, maybe? Maybe Jesus sent them all after food because He knew about the woman and the encounter that was about to take place. Was He alone at the well so that when she approached she wouldn't be intimidated by the presence of so many Jewish men hanging out at the well? Was He alone so that He could have the opportunity for this not so chance encounter?

In John 1:44-51 we find the account where Jesus is calls Nathanael. It says that ...Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said to him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him?" "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Jesus saw him ahead of time and because He was able to tell him about this Nathanael believed. Personally, I think this is also what happened with this woman at the well. We know that later in the story that Jesus knew her situation without her telling Him. I believe that He was sitting there, alone, waiting paitiently for her to approach because He knew her. He knew her need and and the cry of her heart. He knew of her need to be loved.  He knew of her the loneliness and shame that drove her to be here at this well at this time of the day. He knew and He waited. As she approached He said, "Give Me a drink." and thus her perfect not so chance encounter begins.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Let Pride Rule You

We all fear the times of trouble, the times when we are vulnerable. We hate to seem weak. We like to be independent. We are taught to be independent, in our teenage years we fight to get it. Our culture is all about being independent, but our culture is wrong. Pride runs rampant when we are talking about our independence.

Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!"

Isaiah 26:4 "Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock."

Proverbs 15:29 "The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous."

God is always there for us, waiting for us to ask for His help. How often do we do things the hard way, because we don't think to ask for help? How often are we sick, and don't pray for healing? Can't pay a bill and go to our credit cards to bail us out? How often do we face any one of the dozens of everyday troubles and deal with it ourselves?

Best Advice. Don't be foolish. God is there for us. He wants to be a part of our everyday lives. Now, this doesn't mean that we should only be talking to God when we have problems. We should be living like He is always there next to us, always aware of His presence. But we should never be afraid to ask for help. Let your weakness show His strength. The Bible tells us of several times where situations had been set up to show glory to God. Let the situations in your own life show glory to God.

Sam

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Priceless Encouragement

The swarm of people seemed to multiply before him. Their voices rose in crescendo, and one thing was very clear to Hezekiah.

They were terrified.

Not that he could blame them. The king of Assyria had made it his personal agenda to destroy them. Hezekiah had been preparing and building up the army, but was that enough? He honestly didn't know. Next to the Assyrian army, it was very easy to feel like the fly next to the lioness.

He shook his head. No. I need to stop thinking like that, and I need to do it now! 

Hezekiah solemnly looked out at the panicky people before him. They were waiting for his leadership.

He motioned to his commanders, and several trumpets were blown. Slowly, the people quieted down and looked at him expectantly.

Hezekiah took a deep breath. He could do this. He had to do this. His people, God's people, needed this.

Hezekiah opened his mouth, and words of encouragement just spilled out to the people. "Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid or dismayed because of the king of Assyria and the horde that is with him. There is more with us, than there is with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God. He will help us and fight our battle!"

Based on 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

What I like about this part of Hezekiah's story is that when they were faced with peril and attack, he encouraged his people. He didn't sulk or whine or give up. He didn't freak out or doubt God. He prepared for battle, made weapons, organized the army, and told the people not to fear.

Hezekiah knew that the people were watching him and waiting for him to lead them. They needed him to be strong. They needed to be encouraged.

There are times when we need to be encouraged, and there are times when we need to encourage others.

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." Proverbs 12:25

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11

We need to build up, strengthen, and encourage one another. We are all going through trials and tribulation. What we long for is someone else to see that and offer us support.

When someone encourages you at work, don't you feel a million times better? I know I do! I may be having a bad day, a hard week, or a difficult year, but to be encouraged and complimented is priceless.

We need that kind of encouragement in all the areas of our life.

Hezekiah told the people of Judah not to be afraid, but to be strong and courageous. He said that the enemy's horde was nothing compared to the army standing with them - the army of God. Hezekiah reminded them that the Assyrian army was merely flesh and blood; they had God Who would help them fight their battles.

Guys, encourage each other this week. When you see someone struggling under the weight of life, remind them that God will carry their load. When you see someone hurting from their shattered past, remind them that God specializes in giving beauty for ashes. Guys, when your day starts to cave in on you, remember this post and be encouraged.

Because that's what we are here for.

V. Joy Palmer

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"The Perfect Chance Encounter" Part 1

He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But he needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. John 4:3-6
For days now I have felt the tug of the Spirit to take a look at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. I think I can honestly say that I have been trying to stall Him off. If you want, you can even picture me holding my hand up to Him and saying, "Hold that thought." At this point you might be asking yourself, "Why? Why put it off?"  Because I know that there is so much in there and that it will be a very, very, very, VERY long message that will take me FOREVER to write. Okay, so now you know I'm lazy, and I procrastinate.

Anyways, what we are going to do is take a look at it in little bites instead. That way I can be obedient and we can receive what He has for us. Today's bite is found in these first three verses. Now, you might be wondering what we can learn here since they haven't even met yet but lets take a look anyways.
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He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But he needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
      
It says that He left Galilee went to a city called Sychar and where Jacob's well could be found. It says, 'Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.' This kinda looks like Jesus just happened here in this place and at this time by chance. That it is where His journey and His thirst and need to rest led Him to be. Now I'm not saying He wasn't ready to sit and rest or that He wasn't really in need of water but I in no way believe that this chance encounter was anything but a divinely appointed one!

I say that because of what it says, 'But he needed to go through Samaria.' He didn't happen to go through Samaria, He needed to go. The King James version puts it, 'And He must need go through' meaning it was necessary for Him to go this way, this particular route. There was a different route that most Jews took, on purpose to avoid going through Samaria. But it says that for Jesus, on this day, it was necessary for Him to go through Samaria. Why? Some people think that it was because He was avoiding political issues with the Pharisees who had discovered that He/His disciples were baptising more than John and avoiding Herod's territory and so on and so forth, but I don't.

The scribes and pharisees themselves said, "...nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men." Matthew 22:16  Jesus wasn't afraid of men or their opinion. There is only One that He considered it "necessary" to heed, and that was His Father. Jesus Himself said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 If Jesus felt that He needed to go this particular way, then it was because the Holy Spirit led Him this way! Why?  Because, at the sixth hour, the Father had the perfect chance encounter all lined up!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Let Your Shout Ring Out!

Ruwa could feel the panic closing in on them. All around him men were panicking, losing hope, giving up.

They had been marching out to meet the Israelite army, and a scout scurried back saying that the army was just ahead of them. Then another scout came running up saying the army was behind them.

Behind them.

Ahead of them.

Ruwa was watched as the gravity of their situation dawned on the men around him all at once. You could see the devastating news suck the life out of every man's face.

They were surrounded. Completely, utterly, hopelessly surrounded. They didn't have enough men to fight their way out. Several weeks ago a spy in the Israelite camp had reported that the Israelite army doubled their own army. Ruwa attempted to swallow the lump in his throat. Truthfully, he was having difficulty keeping the contents of his own stomach down and not emptying it in a nearby bush. Not unlike every man there, Ruwa couldn't help but think of his family back home, his wife and young children, and how brokenhearted they would be...

Despite the vomiting and wailing all around him, there were several men running through the clustered ranks of the army shouting. Ruwa strained to hear what they were saying...

"Do not despair! Do not despair! They Lord will deliver us. Shout to the Lord!"

Ruwa didn't have time to ponder the silliness of such a statement. He just did it. What else could he do? Before long, everyone was shouting, and Ruwa could barely hear the sound of trumpets coming from further ahead.

Soon, their cries for help changed, and instead, they became a battle cry. They would not give up. They would not let the enemy win. They would keep going. The Lord God was with them. Ruwa knew this to be true.

They would win this battle.

Based on 2 Chronicles 13:13-16

In this story, the nation of Judah was stuck. Trapped. They were thoroughly surrounded on all sides! Jeroboam had come out to meet Judah's army in battle head on, but Jeroboam had also sent an ambush around and behind them. When the army of Judah realized this terrible twist of fate they...

- Gave up and let them enemy kill them?
- Prayed to the sun, moon, and stars?
- Cursed God Almighty?
- Ran away?

No. Nope. Never a good idea. All wrong. The men of Judah did none of that.

"And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah."
2 Chronicles 13:14-15

Have you ever felt like you're surrounded with life's battles? Sometimes we all feel like we are facing the battle in front of and behind us. Sometimes the enemy will ambush us, but just because we are surrounded doesn't mean we are going to lose.

We have God on our side.

Instead of panicking, which is my first response, we should shout to God (Literally, if you so choose. There's nothing like randomly shouting to freak out the people around you...). Instead of giving up, we should sing Him praise. We should raise our voices in a battle shout! Every battle is in God's hands, and He will win the war.

"Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 12:6

If you find yourself in the midst of the enemy's trap, remember that God is in your midst. So take a deep breath, clench your fists, arch your back, and let out your war cry. Because you are not going down. Let your shout of praise ring out.

V. Joy Palmer

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Seek Him, Search For Him, Find Him!"

  On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
  Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
  Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.  So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.
  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.
  Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
  Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
  But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
  Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I  do not know where they have laid Him."
  Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
  Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
  Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (Which is to say, Teacher).
  Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'"
  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.  John 20:1-18
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I know that this is a lot of scripture to type out but I wanted you to see what He showed me as I read today. I wish I could write it for the way that Joy does so well, telling the story from Mary's perspective and that you could feel and experience her desperation, her need to be where He is. But instead you'll have to make due with me and my telling of today's message.

It starts with Mary. It starts with Mary's heart to seek Him out first thing. Can you picture her? It says that she 'came to the tomb early, while it was still dark,' It wasn't even daylight and and she was on the road to the tomb. Her heart broken because of the previous days events. Her grief moving her forward step by step, needing to be close. All the while, remembering. Remembering each moment. Each memory playing over and over in her mind. She can still hear His cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" and she weeps; her heart broken at the loss of  the one she loved; the one who loved her.

It says that saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb and she immediately runs to tell the disciples. "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." She says the same thing to the angels later in the account and to Jesus. She thinks He is the gardener and she pleads with Him to tell her where He is. Her need to seek Him out and to know where she can find Him is the point of today's message. Her need to seek Him out, to be where He is motivates her to head to the tomb while its still dark. When she gets there and discovers Him gone she runs to the disciples to tell them not just that He is missing but that she doesn't know where to find Him.

Its tells us that the disciples run to the tomb to see for themselves. After they enter and discover the cloths folded in a pile and that the cloth wrapped around His head was folded and in another place, they left. It says, 'Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.' But the thing is Mary didn't. It says that she stayed right there! She didn't go home. She didn't leave! She had a need  to seek and to find; to know where He was. She wasn't willing to leave without knowing where she could find Him. ...But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

It says that she saw two angels and when they spoke and asked her "Why are you weeping?" She didn't say because Jesus, her Savior, her Lord was dead. She said, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." She was weeping because she didn't know where to find Him! She needed to know where He was. She saw two angels. She talked to angels. And still her only focus wasn't the angels or the fact that Jesus was dead but that she didn't know where to find Him.

I was reading this account today and verses 10 and 11 hit me ..disciples went home and Mary stayed. As that fact hit home this verse came to mind. ...For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13  Jesus knew the plan. It said in verse 9 ...For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. They hadn't understood yet what "The plan" was for the future, but Jesus knew. Jesus Himself asked Mary, "Whom are you seeking?" She was seeking after Him. She needed to know where she could find Him and because she sought hard after Him she did just that!

She sought Him out first thing while it was still dark. She sought Him even after everyone had gone home. She sought Him in her response to angels and her seeking continued even before Jesus Himself when she didn't recognize Him. She continued to seek and search because her one need was to know where she could find Him. The thing is ... because she continued to seek and search she did find Him!

And the best news of all is she gets the thing that she seeks to know, where she can find. He tells her, "Go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'"  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

Not only does she get to know, but she gets to be the one to tell everyone else, "He can be found!" He is with the Father!
     

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Beautiful Day"

 Psalm 63:1-8

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.
Thus will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.
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I pray that we too would be like the Psalmist and remember that today is a gift that brings us closer to You. Help us to look to You all day long. From the moment we rise, to the moment our heads hit the pillow. Lord, that we would look to You as we set our hands to the tasks of the day and Lord that we would meet You in our dreams as well. Lord, help us to remember that this is a new day. A beautiful day with limitless opportunities to praise You and to worship You because 'Your lovingkindness is better than life.'

Lord, its a Beautiful Day to Praise You!!!
God Bless!!!

Staff of Snack Time Devotions