Devotions

Samaritan Woman

Lesson Fourteen | Devotion #6: Samaritan Woman
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend who is a new believer. We meet every week to study and discuss some of the main fundamentals of our faith in Christ, and it is an absolute joy for me to see her learn and grow in God’s Word. After we finished our lesson, we got to chatting about how we can share Christ with others. She shared with me that she has someone very close to her who is sick with cancer, and she does not know Jesus. She knows ‘of’ Jesus, she knows some of His teachings, but she does not believe that He is the ONLY way to be saved. “I think you are her person” was the first thing that came into my head and out of my mouth. My friend was silent and quietly flipped through a prayer journal that she kept and showed me what she wrote that same morning, “I think I am her person.”

Do you not love it when God uses us to do His work? In this case, my job was simply to encourage a friend. God was already nudging her in a specific direction and then sent me in to nudge her again. Her job is to plant the seed in her loved one’s heart that Jesus is the Messiah, and pray that one day soon that seed will blossom. Of course, my friend wants nothing more than to see that happen, but as we talked, I could see the worry on her face. Worry screamed, “I am not equipped for this!” and “how could God use me for such an important job? I barely know the basics!” Have you ever felt like this? I know I have! But one thing that I am often reminded of is that God equips those He calls, and He loves to use the ordinary underdogs to change the world.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 4, we are introduced to a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were considered “half-breeds,” part Israelite part foreigner, and were universally hated by the Jews. In verse 6, we find her at a well when Jesus happens upon her. Now not only was she a Samaritan and a woman, but she was also a woman with a pretty bad reputation, known to be living in sin. No respectable Jewish man would ever talk to such a woman, but Jesus did. Does that not just sound like Him? He was and is always breaking barriers and social norms to reach those that He loves, reminding us that the Gospel is for EVERYONE! Jesus asks the woman for a drink, which confuses her: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9). He then goes on to tell her that while that well offers physical water, He offers “living water.”  In verse 14 Jesus says, “Whoever drinks of the water…will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It took a few minutes of conversing with Jesus for her to understand what He was talking about, but when she got it, she knew she wanted to tell everyone about it! She immediately dropped her water jug, ran to town, and told others about Jesus, urging them to come and talk with Him.

As Christians, we are called to share the Gospel with others. Perhaps just like my friend, God has placed a specific person or group of people on your heart to be “their person.” Maybe you are fearful that you do not have the adequate tools to go to work. Maybe you feel embarrassed by things that you have done in the past, wondering why anyone would ever listen to someone like you. But look at the Samaritan woman! She immediately dropped her baggage and told everyone she knew about Christ, despite her background, despite her reputation, despite her lack of knowledge. See what happens. “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony…And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:39-42).

Be encouraged. Plant those seeds. Tell others about Christ and let His words do the watering. The harvest is ripe!

Demas

Lesson Fourteen | Devotion #5: Demas
Roger Allen | Recovery Director

“For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”
2 Timothy 4:10

The present world was having such a draw, Demas could not resist. By all indications, he was an aristocrat from Thessalonica, who would have brought many skills with him. By his name alone, Demas (meaning “popular” in Greek), we have some insight into the man. He was a man of many means, most likely a gentile of higher learning. He was someone that would draw others to himself. Not unlike Paul, he would have stood out in a crowd! What happened?

One thing is for certain; he must have faced the same persecution that Paul had during their time together. The hardships they faced must have brought them closer together. Seemingly inseparable, they faced the same challenges day in and day out. As we know from Scripture, Paul took nothing from the church but would finance his work with his hands. Would he have expected anything different from his team? Probably not.

Some would say that Demas was not saved.

1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

However, I believe he was. Demas spent almost five years with Paul. The demands of the 1st century would have taken a non-believer out of action rather quickly. Facing real persecution and possibly death, they would have chosen another line of work. So, what happened? Did he succumb to sin, or was the temptation of a more comfortable life more than he could resist? Was there a disagreement with Paul? The Bible never says. All we know is that Demas was not there at the end of Paul’s life.

We see the same thing happen today. People who appear to be the strength of the church, disappear. We will often ask, “What happened to them?” Never really knowing the full story, we assume the worst. At times it could not be further from the truth. In an attempt to meet the needs of the many, those in ministry can and do burn out. Long hours, spiritual battles, and emotional needs of others will leave them a shell of their former selves. By not maintaining their own needs, they become ineffective to others.

By not saying “no,” their family and others pay the price! Whether you are staff or volunteer, make wise use of your time. Biblical priorities must be set and followed for the enemy is seeking to destroy you!

1 Peter 5:8 warns, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Cornelius

Lesson Fourteen | Devotion #4: Cornelius
Philip Piasecki | Worship Leader

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion who feared God. Most Romans believed in many different gods, but Acts chapter 10 tells us that Cornelius believed in the one true God. The Lord sends him a vision and in it tells him to send for Peter to come to his house. So he sends men to get Peter, and as the men were approaching the city, Peter has a vision as well. The details are very interesting, and I encourage you to read all of Acts chapter 10, but the basic message of the vision is found in verse 15. Acts 10:15 says, “And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” Peter did not fully understand what God was saying to him until he returned with Cornelius’ men to Cornelius’ house. When Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house, he finds Cornelius, his relatives, and close friends all awaiting his arrival. It is at this point that Peter understands the vision from God.

Acts 10:34-36 says, “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all).’”

Peter begins to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Up until this point, Jewish people had considered the gentiles unclean. However, God reveals to Peter that His Kingdom is for all people, and Peter responds by preaching right away to Cornelius and his friends and family. As Peter is preaching the Gospel, something amazing begins to happen.

Acts 10:44-48 says, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” 

Everyone in the house who heard the Word was saved, the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon them, they got baptized, and they began to proclaim the work that Christ had just done in their lives. This would have been such an amazing and powerful moment to be a part of for Cornelius. When we think about world changers in the Bible, Cornelius needs to be towards the top of the list for us Gentiles (anyone who is not Jewish). It was at the house of Cornelius that we see God pouring out His love to the Gentiles, and making it known to Peter that they needed to share the Gospel with everyone! The lesson that Peter learned is so powerful in our lives as well. God loves every single person on earth, and He desires for every single person to be saved. In this day and age hate is so rampant throughout our culture and our churches. We would rather be the one to judge someone, than love someone. Scripture tells us that God is the one who judges, and commands us to love one another. In Peter’s mind, the Gentiles were unclean people, and God had to reveal to Peter that He shows no partiality. Anyone who believes in the work of Christ and surrenders their life to Christ can be saved. The account of Cornelius shows us, “that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). We just need to be willing, as Peter was, to share the hope of Christ with all those people. There are people that the world deems as “unclean,” and there are people that the church deems as “unclean,” but we cannot avoid those people. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, they can all be made holy in the eyes of God.

Woman with Blood

Lesson Fourteen | Devotion #3: Woman with Blood
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

I wish I had learned the value of putting myself in the character’s place when reading the Bible a long time ago. Taking the time to imagine things, like wandering in a desert for 40 years, relying on daily manna to fall from the sky, and confronting a giant with only a sling shot and stones, has made the Bible come alive to me.  It has helped me connect with the people and their struggles in ways I never imagined.  I believe it started when I was asked to portray the ‘woman with a blood issue’ in the Passion Play. Buried in the books of Mark (5:25-34) and Luke (8:40-48), between incredible stories like healing a paralytic and raising a little girl from the dead, there is a little story about a lowly, unnamed woman with a chronic medical condition.  In her culture, bleeding made her an outcast, isolated from everyone. Not only was she broken physically and emotionally, but spiritually as she was not permitted to attend the temple and worship her God.  Hopeless and desperate, she has an encounter with Jesus that would change her forever and place her among the world changers of the Bible.

From this story, we learn much about receiving healing from The Healer. First, we must believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ. Mark’s account of the story tells us the woman spent her entire life savings seeing many physicians over a period of 12 years.  Not only did she not find a cure, she “suffered much…was no better…and grew worse” (5:26). She placed all her confidence in the latest medical treatments, recommended by flawed doctors.  Finally, after hearing reports about Jesus, she made the decision to place her faith in Jesus. One touch of the Healer and immediately her bleeding stopped.  Jesus said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (5:34).  If you focus on the physical healing, you risk missing something much greater, her spiritual healing. This is THE moment she receives Christ as her personal Savior.  Jesus claims her as His child, adopted into the family of God. He teaches that the key to all healing is faith. In what or who are you placing your faith?  How long will it take for you to realize there is only One who can meet your need?  Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

The second truth we learn is that we must pursue the Healer. After many physicians and treatments, this woman had no reason to believe there was any hope.  I can only imagine the discouraging thoughts she must have battled. In the play, I had two friends escorting me, helping me push through the crowd. The entire time they were discouraging me and listed all the reasons I should just give up: there are too many people, Jairus, the rich leader, has asked for help, you are unclean, and the Rabbi would never help you. With friends like those, who needs the enemy. I am certain she had to quench voices within and without. She knew that to experience Jesus’ healing power, she would have to do more than being part of the curious crowd. She needed a personal encounter. So she took captive every thought and made them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and she pursued Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, and all her mind (Matthew 22:37). Have you allowed deceit to plague your thoughts or have you realized the importance of knowing the truth to battle them?  Have you fallen prey to the voices that tell you God is not concerned for you?  Have you become content listening to a good message filled with examples of how your pastor is experiencing a real God or have you decided to pursue Him personally?  Matthew 6:33 says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Finally, the most important lesson: proclaim the Healer.  When the woman touched Jesus and realized she was healed, she remained quiet and seemed to try to go unnoticed.  But Jesus publicly called her out, demanding to know who touched Him.  Jesus wanted the crowd to hear her testimony.  This is how a believer becomes a world changer.  The purpose for our pain and life-changing encounter with Christ is to share it with the lost and broken.  If it remains hidden, it is all in vain.

Do not stop with a personal experience with Christ!  SHARE THE WEALTH!

Ananias

Lesson Fourteen | Devotion #2: Ananias
Ken Perry

Did your parents have to tell you twice to do some things? Mine sure did. It was usually regarding chores, and I cannot recall specifically the reason I did not do whatever it was on the first asking, but it was probably due to laziness. Maybe I thought they would forget, but they never did.

In the book of Acts, we read of three men named Ananias. Acts chapter 5 records one that was struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit and Acts chapter 23 has Paul appealing before a high priest with the same name. However, in-between we find another Ananias recorded in Acts chapter 9. According to Paul, in fact, this Ananias was a “devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews” (Acts 22:12 KJV). Perhaps his devout character is what allowed him to be uniquely used by God.  Acts 9:10-19 records the story for us, “Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.”

Did you read it? In verses 11 and 15 the Lord tells him to “go.” Granted he was being asked to lay hands on the notorious Saul of Tarsus, a man who according to verse 13 was doing evil to the saints in Jerusalem. I think I would have hesitated also.  Ananias, just like me in my youth, complied on the second asking and are we not glad he did. What a life after conversion Paul led. The result was that he had the honor of being used to remove the scales and preside over the public profession of the inward change that occurred in Saul, whose name became Paul. Oh, I am sure that God’s plan would have been accomplished with or without Ananias, but what a privilege it was, and is, to be used in the plans of God.

I came to realize that my earthly parents did not mean anything bad when they asked me to do my chores. They were simply teaching me lessons that were crucial to my development as a productive member of the family. What a parallel we have when we think of how our good, good heavenly Father wants to make us productive members of His family as well. We would do well to learn the lesson quickly that listening to God the first time He asks, is always a good thing.

How quickly do you comply with God?

What lessons are you struggling to learn because you resist the asking from God?

Please remember dear Christian, God always wants the absolute best for us His children. Listen, obey, and think of the privilege it is to be used by God for His purposes.



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