Support For Our Rwanda Trip

Greetings folks!

We’ve been grateful for the support we’ve received so far for our trip to Rwanda. Please remember that the most important gift you can give to speed us on our way is your prayers. Some have found unique ways to help us. Our coffee company, ours as in “we love the people who run this company and won’t buy elsewhere,” is called Driftwood Coffee Company. Driftwood sources their coffee ethically through direct trade agreements and the coffee growers get paid reasonable rates for their work.

They have made a commitment to give us proceeds from sales from their website. The people who own Driftwood have a heart for the Lord and love to find ways to give. We’re grateful for their support. So, buy a coffee cup. Buy a T-shirt. Try their great coffee! Use the link above to order, or click on the pictures.

  

These same people run a company called “Two Tiny Coins” that makes jewelry. The proceeds go to support missions in Central Asia. (I’ve been to that area and can vouch for the work going on there.) Their jewelry is beautiful and I’ve bought gifts there – since I don’t wear jewelry myself. ::smile:: I should note that I’m supporting Two Tiny Coins because I support the work that they’re helping with this ministry. Proceeds from any purchase there will go to support work in Central Asia. I just want to help you buy with a purpose.

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Preparing For Rwanda Trip – 2018

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to share with you that this June, Lucy (my wife) and I will be working with a team of educators in Rwanda through Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM) for our second time. Our trip will have three primary purposes.

We will:
1) Provide professional development for the teachers who work in the several ANLM schools,
2) Encourage the hardworking teachers and their amazing students.
3) Visit each sponsored child and family related to our group.

This trip is a very special opportunity for us since God has laid a burden on our hearts for the Rwandan people. Since our first trip God has only deepened our love for this country and its people. We are blessed to call many of these fellow educators and ministry leaders friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re humbled by the opportunity to share, encourage and co-labor with these amazing people.

We’d like you to be part of this exciting ministry and would be grateful of your support. While you may not be traveling with us, we need your prayers. In addition, we would greatly appreciate any financial support you may contribute. The cost for this trip will be around $4,500 per person, and we must be fully funded by May. Please read below to find out how you can donate for our trip through ANLM.

Thank you for your support, especially through prayer. Our specific requests are for:

  • Travel mercies
  • Health
  • God’s use of us as His hands, feet, and heart in Rwanda
  • Faithfulness in sharing the gospel while we’re there

Blessings,

Bob James

Instructions for giving online:
□ Go to http://africanewlife.custhelp.com/app/donate
□ Scroll to the bottom and click Mission Team Members.
□ Click the drop down arrow and select Lucy & Bob James and the amount you would like to give.
□ You will then receive an email receipt for your donation.

In addition, if you’d like to get up to date information about our trip each day, you can fill out our sign up form to get a daily link to a blog post or an email that will tell you what we’ve been doing, and what our plans are.

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Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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May 23 – Don’t Even Pick It Up

1 Chronicles 19-21 John 8:1-27

“Jesus raised up again and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?’ She answered, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.’” (John 8:10-11 NCV)

The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of the most famous stories about Jesus. Ancient manuscripts have been known to place it in other parts of the gospel narrative. Some would say that this shows the story to be false. I believe this story because it’s so scandalous that you’d think the early church would rather hide this story than let it come to light. Imagine – letting a woman caught in adultery go, rather than stoning her. Some would say that Jesus didn’t follow the Law. Yet Jesus wasn’t the one that committed adultery, the woman was. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t follow the Law, He chose not to enforce the Law. He gave others the opportunity, but then He added a qualification: “You can only enforce the Law if you yourself have not broken the Law. Needless to say, no one had the qualifications. When they left, Jesus showed her grace and mercy. He didn’t tell her that everything was fine, though. He, the Righteous Judge chose not to find her guilty, but, He also let her know that she should stop her sinning.

Some people retell this story but forget the last four words. When Jesus told her to stop her sinning, He wasn’t condemning her, He’d already decided not to do that. He was encouraging her to walk with God. Think about how she must have felt. She’d thought there was no hope, and yet Jesus gave her hope that she could leave the lifestyle that caused her to commit adultery and stop sinning. Have you ever had a habit you can’t break? an addiction that kept you hooked? a lifestyle that you knew God disapproved of? You’ve been told what’s wrong with you so many times, especially by Christians, so you believe that there’s no way God could love you – and yet Jesus offers you grace, forgiveness, and the strength to overcome your sin. The more I read this story, the more quickly I drop my stones. I know of some Christians who rebel against this idea. They’ll angrily tell you that Jesus attacked the Pharisees on their sins again and again. The Pharisees were the religious leaders. They, instead of showing God’s grace, sought to bring judgment. Jesus had harsh criticism for these religious leaders, true. At the same time, though, He showed compassion and grace towards the common people; the people left behind by their leaders. When I put myself in this story, I’d probably be on the side of the religious leaders with the stone in my hand. When I realized what I was doing, I’d drop the stone in shame. As I grow closer to God, the stone drops more quickly. I pray for the day that I don’t even want to pick up the stone.

Lord, so often I greet the people who need Your love and grace with a stone. While I drop it when I recognize Your presence, let me be so overwhelmed by Your grace that I learn not to pick up the stone in the first place.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 22 – You Mean I’m Not Always Right?

1 Chronicles 16-18 John 7:28-53

“When the people heard Jesus’ words, some of them said, ‘This man really is the Prophet. Others said, ‘He is the Christ.’ Still others said, ‘The Christ will not come from Galilee. The Scripture says that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived.’ So the people did not agree with each other about Jesus.” (John 7:40-43 NCV)

Passions were heated in the discussions about Jesus. He seemed to fit every prophecy about the Messiah – except one. Jesus was from Galilee. Not only does nothing good come out of Galilee, or so they thought at that time, the Scriptures foretold that Jesus would be from Bethlehem and from the family of David. The dispute raged on the streets and in the inner workings of the Jewish leadership. When Temple guards failed to arrest Him, the Pharisees went ballistic and when Nicodemus suggested they at least ought to listen to Jesus before judging Him, he felt their wrath as well. After all, no prophet came from Galilee. At that point, this seemed to be their strongest argument against Jesus. But they didn’t practice due diligence. They didn’t realize that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. If they had only known.

A number of years ago I was helping a person who was in a serious situation. People I worked with attacked me, letting me know that I should stay out of that situation and if the situation was really as bad as it was being made out to be, there would be a lawsuit. I kept silent. I had spent the previous day with that person and the lawyers who were planning a lawsuit. I was asked to keep that confidential. All I could think about was “if they had only known.” It’s easy to jump to conclusions without having all the information. When we do that, though, we end up looking foolish, especially if we argue vociferously on one side of the issue or the other. We not only have to be right in this world today, we have to be the first to be right. News outlets have looked foolish in the past for jumping the gun. Commentators have made bold pronouncements about situations while they were happening, only to eat their words later. As followers of Christ, we aren’t called to be right. Yeah, let me say that again. As followers of Christ, we aren’t called to be right. We’re called to be faithful in sharing the love and grace of Jesus. We’re called to minister to the hurting, the helpless, and the homeless. The only place where we need to be right is in our relationship with God – and He did all the work to make that happen. We aren’t even called to correct other people who are wrong, even on the internet. Instead, we’re called to minister the grace of God to all people, right or wrong, and let them know about His love. They may still be wrong, but that truth can help make all things right in the end.

Lord, why is it that I always have to be right, and that when I’m wrong, I push my ideas all the louder? Remind me that I don’t have to be “right” in every circumstance, but that I always have to be loving and showing others Your grace and love.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 21 – Jesus Schooled Them!

1 Chronicles 13-15 John 7:1-27

“When the feast was about half over, Jesus went to the Temple and began to teach. The people were amazed and said, ‘This man has never studied in school. How did he learn so much?’ Jesus answered, ‘The things I teach are not my own, but they come from him who sent me.’” (John 7:14-16 NCV)

After enduring the taunting from His brothers about going to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus ended up going. Who, what, and where Jesus was, became a recurring topic of discussion on the streets during the celebration. Then, in the middle of the Feast, Jesus made His appearance. He showed up at the Temple and began teaching in the Temple courts. This ignited a frenzy that included questions about His academic credentials. They wondered about His schooling, which, according to the customs meant the rabbi He studied under, just as His disciples learned from Him. Jesus schooled them by noting that His education came from God the Father. It became a discussion on those seeking to kill Jesus and healings on the Sabbath. The crowd had split opinions on the nature of Jesus before He taught, and His teachings seemed to confirm the bias that each person had before they started listening to Jesus.

I love education. I had a long career as a teacher – mostly to middle school kids. I earned a Master’s Degree. My wife is currently doing doctoral studies. Education is wonderful. It’s too easy, though, to lean on credentials and the letters you can list after your name than on a relationship with God. When the people asked Jesus about His studies, He let them know that His wisdom came from His time with God. Martin Luther noted that a plowboy with the Scriptures is mightier than the greatest Pope without them. Jesus spent His time not listening to others talk about God, but with the Father, learning from Him. That doesn’t mean that we glory in ignorance. I’ve seen preachers proudly proclaim that they don’t have a seminary degree and that all they learned, they learned from God. Then, when I heard them preach, I cringed and thought to myself, “Please don’t blame God for what you’re doing now.” We should study to learn all we can. We should get the degrees we’re able to get. Studying should sharpen our minds. An education is a great thing to have, but we must always remember that there’s no greater education than walking daily with God.

Oh Lord, help me to spend time with You and learn from You. May all my decisions, all my work, all my thoughts, and all my words show others that I’ve been spending time with You. Let all of those things inspire others to seek you.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 20 – The Only Way to Go

1 Chronicles 10-12 John 6:45-71

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, who would we go to? You have the words that give eternal life.’” (John 6:68 NCV)

Jesus’s teaching shocked many of those who’d been following Him. He’d given bread to 5000 people earlier. Many of these same people had followed Him across the Sea of Galilee, perhaps hoping for more bread. Jesus told them, in effect, “You want bread? I’ll give you bread from heaven. I am the bread of heaven. If you eat that bread, you’ll have eternal life.” He was speaking figuratively, but the image apparently bothered many people who claimed the teaching was too hard and left. Then Jesus turned around and looked at His disciples. He asked if they were going to take a hike also. Peter showed understanding by noting that Jesus was the One who had the WORDS that give eternal life. He then called Jesus the Holy one of God. Peter got it. Jesus reminded Satan that man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God. Peter, although he wasn’t around for the tempting time, showed that he understood the teaching of Jesus.

The people who left Jesus had one important thing right: His teaching is hard. There is this fantasy that some people perpetuate that those who follow Jesus will never have troubles. There are times I read things in the Bible that trouble me – especially in the Old Testament. There are things some groups who claim to be Christians do that bother me and leave me ashamed. I’ve thought of giving up faith in Christ as difficulties have overwhelmed me. These words of Peter have rung in my heart. The truth of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection comes to mind. In those moments I ask myself, “Where else would I go? Only Jesus brings eternal life.” It ain’t easy being a Christian. We may suffer harassment and teasing. Some suffer persecution. We look at events in the world and we fall to our knees with tears wondering why such terrible things happen. But, if we try to give up on our faith, we’re reminded that Jesus is the only hope for mankind. Those things strengthen my resolve and spur me to be more faithful in proclaiming the gospel.

Lord, I get discouraged. I wonder if there aren’t better ways to do things. In those times, I realize that so many of the problems of this world come because people have rejected You and the only way to do things right is by following You. Give me strength and encouragement in difficult times.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 19 – The Food That Brings Eternal Life

1 Chronicles 7-9 John 6:22-44

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you aren’t looking for me because you saw me do miracles. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied. Don’t work for the food that spoils. Work for the food that stays good always and gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because on him God the Father has put his power.’” (John 6:26-17 NCV)

Jesus could tell it in their eyes, or perhaps He read their hearts. However He did it, He sensed that the people would have sought to make Him king to overthrow the Romans. As good as that idea may have seemed to Jesus, this wasn’t His mission. Jesus took off to be alone. The disciples had rowed the boat out of Dodge, heading towards the other side of the lake. The people had seen the disciples leave and the noted that Jesus wasn’t with them. They searched for Him and found Him with the disciples on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They asked Jesus about His travel plans and Jesus responded by noting they didn’t really care to follow Him as Messiah; they wanted to follow Him as the miracle worker and restauranteur. He let them know that even more important than physical food, was spiritual food that brings eternal life – and that food was found in Him.

Jesus switched back and forth between the literal and the figurative often when He taught. He’s using the same figurative language that He’d use later when He told the disciples that this was His body. Jesus needs to be in us for us to have eternal life. The concern Jesus expressed is that too often we spend our lives worrying about our food, our clothes, or our housing. Today we could add concerns about our jobs, our cars, our electronics, and our recreation. We worry about, and focus on, all these things and fail to make sure that Jesus comes first. When we put Jesus first in our lives, a lot of other things change as well. The pursuit of wealth doesn’t seem as important as caring for the people God loves. Accumulating things becomes less important than meeting the needs of others. Lifting others up is more pleasurable than putting them down. Jesus will give us this food, because that’s why God gave Him the power to do so. We have this food, this forgiveness, grace, and mercy, this love of God because Jesus died for us. The key to success in life is being a hungry man, sharing the bread of life with other hungry men.

Help me to see Your miracles, Lord, but not seek them for my own pleasure. Help me to eat the bread that gives eternal life and then share that bread with others who need to know You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 18 – “Test? Nobody Told Me There Was Going To Be A Test!”

1 Chronicles 4-6 John 6:1-21

“When Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough bread for all these people to eat?’ (Jesus asked Philip this question to test him, because Jesus already knew what he planned to do.)” (John 6:5-6 NCV)

The crowds were coming, and Jesus not only recognized a major logistical problem, He had a plan. Then came time for the pop quiz: “Hey Philip. Where and how are we going to buy enough bread for everyone to eat?” Philip got a 50 on the quiz for understanding the magnitude of the problem. He said, in effect, someone needs to do a year’s worth of work to get that much money if that much bread was even available. Andrew got a 75. He brought a kid to Jesus who had some food, but he had no idea that Jesus could use that little bit to feed the crowd. We have no idea what the other disciples got, maybe a participation grade for helping to seat the people before Jesus revealed the answer. He prayed in faith and acted on that prayer. Let’s face it, He was ready because He maintained a constant stream of communication with the Father. He prayed to thank the Father for the blessing of the food for all, and then acted in faith.

Pop quizzes are a part of life. When you know a big exam is coming, you can prepare and study for it accordingly, although, to be honest, I still waited ‘til the last minute to cram and hope I covered everything in my sleep deprived status. To do well on pop quizzes, though, you’ve got to be ready. When it comes to life’s pop quizzes, the only way to be ready is to be in constant communication with God. If trouble comes, and it will, you can’t ask the trouble to stop and wait while you stop and pray about the situation. Sometimes you must be ready to act. Unless you’re in continuous contact with the Father, you’ll be confused, and you’ll probably mess up. Look back on yesterday. How many pop quizzes came into your life? Perhaps it was a person you should have shared God’s love with. Maybe you needed to step out on faith in some area. Maybe God called you to meet a need. How many “quizzes” did you not even recognize? Now, take heart. God offers forgiveness. Accept His forgiveness, but then get ready for today’s quizzes. Pray. Seek God’s protection and guidance for the day. Then act in faith when God gives you another pop quiz – or should I say, “God opens another opportunity for you.”

Lord, I miss so many opportunities to serve You each day. Prepare my heart and mind for action before you place those opportunities in front of my and then help me act in faith to show others Your love and grace.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 17 – Enjoying the Forest

1 Chronicles 1-3 John 5:25-47

“You carefully study the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. They do in fact tell about me, but you refuse to come to me to have that life.” (John 5:39-40 NCV)

When Christians think about the Pharisees, we see all that’s wrong with following religious rules and regulations. To first century Jews, though, the Pharisees were the elite God-followers. They searched the Scriptures to make sure that they were following the Law. They would be the rocks that would prevent what happened when the previous Temple was destroyed as God’s people were sent into exile. Jesus noted here that they were studying each tree so closely, that they couldn’t see the forest. They were so involved in minutia, that they forgot the big picture of God’s love and grace that was eventually revealed in Jesus Christ. In this passage, Jesus tried to get the Pharisees to look at the forest knowing that if they saw the big picture, that God loved the world and sent Jesus to die for the world, they’d recognize who He was. A few would eventually get their noses out of their scrolls and recognize that Jesus was the Messiah predicted by those scrolls, but most refused to look up, not even recognizing whey they played a part in fulfilling prophecy when they sent Jesus to die on the cross.

Some Christians get caught up in this Old Testament, Pharisaical way of looking at things. We decide just what it is a Christian should do or not do; just what a Christian should think or not think and then watch to make sure that people are following Jesus the right way. We know we may not be perfect, but by God’s grace, we’re going to enforce perfect behavior on you. It was through Jesus Christ that God revealed His mercy and grace to the whole world. We have the most amazing message of love to share with people and instead we treat them like little kids trying to get all the lint off their clothes before going to see grandma. Grandma never worried about the lint. God’s already taken care of the sins. Our job is to show God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We weren’t called to be Pharisees, enforcing God’s Laws on the world. That was understood as long ago as Acts 15. Our job is to serve as ambassadors, proclaiming the message of reconciliation with the God of the Universe. When people understand our message, they should see Jesus when they do search the Scriptures.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to see Jesus when I search the Scriptures. I see a message of grace and reconciliation. I see hope for the world. It’s too easy to fall into the habit of judging others when they appear to be walking away from You. Let me reflect Your love and forgiveness and help draw them back to You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 16 – Jesus Gives So That We Can Give

2 Kings 24-25 John 5:1-24

“Then Jesus said, ‘Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.’ And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (John 5:8-9 NCV)

They were lying around a pool of water. This water was special because they believed an angel stirred the waters which brought healing to the first one in the pool after that. Some had friends or family who sought to help them be the first one in; the man Jesus encountered didn’t. He’d been sick for 38 years. Jesus asked him a question: “Do you want to be well?” The man answered in the only context he could imagine. In short, his answer was, “Yes, but I’m too sick to be the first one in.” Then, Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk. I can’t help but imagine that people Jesus healed felt a surge of power, because we don’t see them questioning Jesus. This man picked up his mat and walked away.

Trouble started later because Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. We read a lot about healings on the Sabbath. I don’t think that was the only day Jesus healed, but those healings made the Pharisees unhappy, so those stories are more interesting. The other question is what happened to those people that Jesus healed once He left the area? Beggars could make good money back then because giving alms was a religious obligation. Those who were crippled, chronically ill, or had other conditions that prevented them from working would beg, and the religious elite would satisfy their obligation to give alms. I’ve been called a terrible Christian for believing this and there’s no biblical evidence either way, but I believe that when Jesus healed people He put them in a position to be a productive member of society. It might take a while to begin working and earning enough to live on, but Jesus didn’t heal people only to leave them in the same position they were in before. Just like we don’t receive salvation so we can keep on living a sinful lifestyle, Jesus didn’t heal people so they could continue living as an invalid. That’s a two-pronged approach we need to take in dealing with people today. We share the gospel in the belief that others will come to know Jesus Christ and share the message themselves; we help people in their difficult situations so that, if possible, they’ll grow out of those situations so that they too can help others.

Lord, You’ve given me the gift of new life in Christ so that I can share Your love with others. You’ve provided me with more than enough to meet my needs so that I can share with others. Help me to do a better job of sharing new life and find ways to help people meet needs.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 15 – Planting, Watering, Fertilizing, and Harvesting -Teamwork At Its Best

2 Kings 22-23 John 4:31-54

“Here the saying is true, ‘One person plants, and another harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a crop that you did not work on. Others did the work, and you get to finish up their work.” (Luke 4:37-38)

The story of Jesus in Samaria is amazing. First, Jesus was in Samaria. That in itself was amazing, given the hatred Jews and Samaritans shared. Second, the Samaritans asked Him to stay. In another instance, the Samaritans let them know they weren’t welcome and James and John wanted to call fire down from Heaven to destroy them. Third, Jesus looked at the Samaritans and noted that the fields were white and ready for harvest. The Samaritans knew that the Messiah would come. The woman at the well had talked about the Messiah before Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah. Then, because of Jesus’s ministry, many Samaritans believed. His teaching about the harvest – that the fields were ready to harvest – happened in Samaria. It was in Samaria that Jesus reminded us that sharing the gospel is a combined effort. Sometimes we’re planting the seeds that will result in people following Christ at a later date; sometimes we’re talking with people who’ve been thinking about Jesus because someone else planted the seed. In the long run, evangelism doesn’t happen because of who we are, but because of who God is.

Evangelism is one of the most exciting works of God. When evangelism happens right, we get to see the miracle of a life being changed. But evangelism is not just about the harvesting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard vocational evangelists tell airplane stories. You know what I mean: he sits down and talks with the person next to them about Jesus and by the end of the ride, they’ve come to know Jesus. Me, I try to talk with someone on an airplane and get inconsequential grunts or the eye that says, “back off, weirdo.” As we understand evangelism from God’s perspective, though, airplane stories happen because someone’s already planted a seed. That seed may have been planted by someone else sharing the gospel who went home thinking that they’d failed God because the person hadn’t accepted Christ. It may have been planted by someone showing the love of Christ to them in a difficult time. It may have been planted through seeing or experiencing first hand a person helping the homeless, or caring for a widow, or supporting God’s work. I have no doubt that in most instances, the seed was watered and fertilized by the prayers of people who loved that person. Jesus makes it clear that when people come to follow Him, it’s a team effort. Sometimes, we’re planting. Sometimes we’re watering and fertilizing. Other times we’re harvesting. We never fail God when we’re faithful to His call to share His love, mercy, and grace with others. We may not harvest, but we’re making that harvest possible. No matter what your part was in the harvest, you’ll experience great joy when you realize you were faithful to God and the miracle of new life in Christ happened, in part, because of your faithfulness.

Lord, thank You so much for allowing me to be a part of Your team. Remind me that when I’m faithful to Your call on my life, I play a part in people experiencing the same joy I do. Let me plant, water, fertilize, or harvest by sharing Your love with all the people You put in my path.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 14 – Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go – except maybe that place…I’ll think about it

2 Kings 19-21 John 4:1-30

“But on the way he had to go through the country of Samaria.” (John 4:4 NCV)

The disciples were baptizing a lot of people. The Pharisees had heard about this and Jesus, because it wasn’t the right time, decided to leave the Jerusalem area and head back to Galilee. It’s perhaps a throwaway verse to many, but John mentions that Jesus had to go through the country of Samaria. That’s a jarring statement. No good, self-respecting Jew would travel through Samaria. Jews would take an extra day or two to journey north (or south) by crossing the Jordan River to travel to the east of Samaria. Just breathing Samaritan air could taint a good Jew for life. (Ok, I threw that last sentence in there as an exaggeration to show how much the Jews hated Samaritans.) So why would John say that Jesus “had to go through … Samaria?” I think he said it because that was Jesus’s explanation for not walking around the country. “Hey, Jesus, why we walking into Samaria?” “Because we have to.”

My dad’s non-explanation explanation for actions like that was “I’ve gotta see a man about a dog.” Jesus could have said, “I’ve gotta see a woman about some water.” The result of this trip was a most amazing conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Let’s be honest about this encounter. It’s a great theological conversation that would never happen with most Christians today. Most of us wouldn’t be seen with a woman like her. She was an outcast among the Samaritans. She couldn’t get water with the rest of the women, early in the morning, because “good” people didn’t want to be around her. She had to come during the heat of the day to get water and move the stone covering the well by herself. She herself noted the absurdity of a Jewish man asking a Samaritan woman for anything. The shocking part of that conversation is that Jesus makes it clear that He’s the Messiah and gives the impression that He was offering her hope of salvation in spite of her sinfulness. She got so excited, she ran back to town, leaving her water jug at the well, to tell the very people who ostracized her about the Messiah. What’s that say to those of us who claim to follow Jesus? First of all, we need to see people as God sees them. Jesus looked at this woman who’d failed at marriage so many times that she’d apparently given up on it and now just found a way to get her physical needs met as a person who needed to know God’s love. We need to see people as God sees them, not as the sum or their sins. Second, when she realized who Jesus was, she told everyone, even the people who’d wronged her. We need to be more diligent in telling others about Jesus. We need to be ready to share the gospel, and eternity, not only with our friends but also with those who have hurt us the worst. Third, we need to be ready to follow the Spirit’s leadership and do things we wouldn’t likely do in order to share the gospel. After all, it is all about the gospel.

Lord, remind me that I need to be ready to go wherever You send me and share Your love and grace as I travel the road of life.  Give me a willing heart to follow You through any situation.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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