Did You See That

Unforgettable Encounters | John 4:19-26

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” Genesis 16:13 NIV

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:19-26 NIV

John tells us Jesus HAD to go through Samaria – the woman at the well needed his insight and teaching. They have an honest conversation about her current living situation and about how to worship God. A good Jew having a conversation with a Samaritan woman was taboo, but Jesus talked with her, listened to her and taught her about true worship.

In Genesis 16 and in Genesis 21, Hagar, an Egyptian slave of Sarai, was in two different desperate situations. The angel of the Lord found her near a spring in the desert in Genesis 16, after she ran away from Sarai. She declared, “You are the God who sees me,” Genesis 16:13. Later, when Ishmael was a teenager Hagar and her son were sent away into the desert. After the water skin was empty, Hagar and her son were desperate for water, and cried. “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink,” Genesis 21:21.

Hagar was the first person to declare the Lord to be “the God who sees me.” The Samaritan woman and the Egyptian slave would have been used to being overlooked and not heard. Jesus saw the Samaritan woman and engaged her in a serious spiritual conversation. In Hagar’s second time in the desert, God heard her and Ishmael’s cries and provided them with lifesaving water, as well as telling them about Ishmael’s future.

Are you in a situation where you feel like God does not see you? Or that God does not hear you? Do you need encouragement that God is with you, that he sees you and hears your pain? Listen to this song by Phillips, Craig and Dean. Take heart, be assured our God sees you and me, our God hears you and me. He IS the God who sees.

By Grace Hunter

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Unforgettable Encounters | John 4:19-262020-10-15T13:23:25-06:00

Uncomfortable Conversation | John 4:16-18

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:16-18

Όνειδος (oneidos). It’s a Greek word that means shame, dishonor, disgrace, reproach, or opprobrium. It’s the feeling that is associated with the skeletons that lurk in closets; things we never speak of and never bring up, but secretly crush us on the inside.

I knew this feeling all too well. The shame was so acute and unbearable that I went to draw water from the well at the scorching noon hour. I preferred the sting of loneliness and isolation to the stares of derision I received from the other women; clean and chaste women with track records so much better than mine. After all, they were good and upstanding wives to one husband, but I had had five, and the man I was with now wasn’t even bound to me. The pain of my past was heavier than the stone jar of water I carried day in and day out, until one day everything changed!

A man, patient and probing, approached me—me, a shamed and discarded Samaritan woman, and asked me for water! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I felt like His eyes probed right to my soul, and I squirmed under His gaze. Then He spoke up, beginning to talk to me about some sort of Living Water. I inquired about it, wondering if it would slake the thirst in my soul as much as it would my lips. Then the subject abruptly changed to my relationship status. I could feel my heart in my throat, my palms getting sweaty, and the heat of the sun becoming oppressive. I stammered my response to this stranger’s questions, when wonder of wonders He revealed that He knew my past and current situation. But how could He? He didn’t even know me…yet, looking in His eyes, I saw something I had never seen before—a lack of condemnation. For the first time I understood what the ancients had written, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

My heart burst within me. This man truly was the Living Water, and for the first time ever, my shame had been lifted simply because one day I chose to “Come to the Well.

By Sheila Rennau

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Uncomfortable Conversation | John 4:16-182020-10-15T13:20:23-06:00

Unending Water | John 4:10-15

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:10-15

Two ultra marathoners out in the Sierra Nevadas took a wrong turn and found themselves with no water in the middle of an inhospitable environment. Unsure where to go next, they looked for any water they could find and stumbled across a stagnant puddle of water. As they sat hoping for rescue they faced the unhappy choice of potential poisoning, or potential death.

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan ‘woman at the well’ begins with an innocuous conversation about everyday water. He asks for water and she is confused, expressing surprise that a Jewish man would ask her for anything. His reply suggests to her that he may be more than what he seems on the surface and with no more proof she asks that he give her this water he has to offer. Suddenly the conversation is about spiritual water. A water that sustains the soul. While her reply suggests she still doesn’t quite understand (she expresses hope she won’t have to make the daily trek to the well for regular water!) something inside her now craves the fresh spiritual water that Jesus offers.

John 4:14 uses a greek word ‘pege’. John is not talking about a well so much as an artesian spring. Contrast that for a minute with the stagnant water our friends in the opening story encountered. Take a moment for inventory. Which image more closely represents your spiritual health? Are you quenching your spiritual thirst with things that aren’t healthy or allowing Jesus to transform your life into a spring? Just before drinking the stagnant water the two runners heard footsteps and a rescue party appeared around the corner. They carried fresh water with them. Jesus offers us the same.

By Alex Walton

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Unending Water | John 4:10-152020-10-15T13:13:20-06:00

Unexpected Love Story | John 4:7-9

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) John 4:7-9

We’ve all heard someone say, “imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes.” Reading Scripture is the ultimate practice in imagining what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes. As readers, we are called not just to hear the text from our perspective but to begin to think and listen as if we were ancient people hearing this text for the first time.

For John’s readers, this story probably reminded them of a few other stories that they had already heard. In the Old Testament there were several stories about men meeting women at wells. All of those stories ended in marriage. As they listened they probably thought, “Oh, I know this story!” John is a master storyteller and he uses that interest to draw his listeners in, but then he throws them a twist.

This story doesn’t end the way they expect, with a marriage. Instead, Jesus moves the conversation past the woman’s complicated relationship with marriage (she has been married 5 times and is now with another man) to things of eternity. Both the reader and this woman are caught off guard by this conversation. Everything about it is unexpected.

Isn’t that how life in the kingdom is, though? It’s full of unexpected truths. I guess you could say that we should expect the unexpected when we are in relationship with Jesus. Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the unexpected moments in your day. Ask him to reveal himself in those moments and to use you to bring unexpected kindness to those around you.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Unexpected Love Story | John 4:7-92020-10-15T13:10:46-06:00

Unlikely Territory | John 4:1-6

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples, he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” John 4:1–6 (ESV)

Notice the narrator’s comment in verse four, “[Jesus] had to pass through Samaria.”

A good Jewish person would never have traveled through Samaria because this was unfriendly, impure territory. Hatred between Jews and Samaritans went back over 500 years when Samaritans intermarried with pagan foreigners and established their own temple for worship (Ezra 4:1-5). So most Jews would have taken the extra long route to avoid Samaria. Yet, Jesus walked right through these barriers and wearied himself from passing through.

Why did Jesus have to walk through this unlikely territory? Perhaps he didn’t have time to go around. Perhaps he was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps he felt strongly he needed to take a stand against the socio-cultural barriers of his day. The Apostle John doesn’t directly answer this question but we can surmise Jesus was doing it for a reason because for all intended purposes Jesus disregarded unspoken signs stating “no trespassing – Jews prohibited.”

Does the love of God ever compel you to go to places human divisions tell you to avoid? How could you join with Jesus today in breaking through barriers between you and other people for the sake of God’s barrier-free good news?

By Yvonne Biel

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Unlikely Territory | John 4:1-62020-10-15T13:08:11-06:00

Love is Light | John 3:17-21

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in through God. John 3:19-21 NIV

I grew up camping, and we took our own four children camping many times over the years. A favorite highlight was spending time around a campfire, talking, roasting marshmallows, watching the flames lick and dance around the logs. It can be mesmerizing watching the flames and it is inviting to sit in the glowing circle of light a campfire makes in the darkness of night.

John uses light and darkness as a contrast for good vs. evil. He equates love with light and everything holy and true. Darkness is a symbol of hate and everything evil and false. In John 1:9a he calls Jesus, “The true light that gives light to every man.” In the Old Testament, God used the light of fire to lead his people. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night,” Exodus 13:21. God went before them – showed them the way to go while the Israelites were in the wilderness.

A campfire illuminates everything within its circle, but beyond its light is a pitch-black darkness, where very little can be seen. John describes Jesus as being the true light, the light to our path – just as the pillar of fire was for the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus’ kingdom shines light on our hearts, thoughts, motivations and our actions that come from them. John talks about this in I John 2:9-11. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”

Just as a campfire illuminates a circle around it – if we are members of God’s kingdom – Jesus’ love for us will spill out in our attitudes and actions towards those around us. Light a fire in a fire pit, use a candle, or a flashlight in a dark place. Notice how far the light shines beyond the source. Pray and ask God to reveal to you someone who needs that light of encouragement this week. Go share God’s light.

By Grace Hunter

Love is Light | John 3:17-212020-10-08T14:43:16-06:00

Access Through Belief | John 3:16

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

Looking around the world today, we see a whole slew of humans craving two things – love, and their best life now! If you don’t believe me, check out your most recent posts on social media. If we’re honest we want an all-access-pass to experience a never-ending life filled with peace, stability, joy, freedom, unconditional love, and rich satisfaction.

In this one sentence, Jesus sums up where we can find both love and our best life now. But notice, Jesus doesn’t say we can search and find it on our own nor does he say we can put it on our to-do list and someday achieve it. Jesus says access to everlasting love and our best life now is through belief.

Belief is an interesting thing. Believing is placing our hopes and expectations on something or someone outside of ourselves. This means believing is posturing our hearts in a vulnerable position where we could be left hanging, disappointed, or even wounded. Belief consists of trust, and trust is built on the character and consistency of the one in whom we are trusting.

Jesus invites us to place our trust and belief in him because he is trustworthy of giving us access to his love and his new life which brings forth all the things our hearts long for. So, take this opportunity today to look at Jesus’ character. From what you know about Jesus, why can he be trusted? List those qualities and ask your heart if you truly believe them. If not, pray “Lord, Jesus I believe in part but help my unbelief. Grant me greater faith to believe and trust in you, today.”

By Yvonne Biel

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Access Through Belief | John 3:162020-10-15T15:35:28-06:00

Heaven on Earth | John 3:9-15

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:9-15

There is a heartbreaking story about an Air Force pilot who, upon seeing a series of mountains approaching, pulled the plane up only to crash straight into the ground. The pilot had been flying upside down without knowing it. They had lost their perspective. Sometimes that happens to us as humans, especially spiritually. We feel we have a good handle on everything and then something happens that shows us we have it all flipped upside down. I wonder if that’s how Nicodemus felt as he talked with Jesus, and I wonder if he felt the same way at Easter when Jesus died and rose again.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that he (Jesus) must be lifted up like ‘Moses lifted up the serpent’. He is referencing an old, old story from a book called Numbers. In the story, the Jewish people have gotten themselves into one of their regular messes. They have complained against God and are suffering. We are told God ‘sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died’ (Num. 21:6). After they cry out God tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole and “when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived” (Num. 21:9). We don’t have space to unpack that fascinating story but Jesus tells Nicodemus that the events that will happen to him are similar. I wonder if they are similar in the way Nicodemus is expecting. The serpent is lifted up and in some ways glorified. The word could mean exalted. It isn’t a sacrifice at all. Jesus is lifted ‘up’ like a servant. He isn’t exalted, at least not in the way human beings would expect. The cross was designed to be humiliating. A death for the lowest of all. It is the upside down kingdom all over again! Jesus places himself lower than all.

The Father uses the incredible sacrifice of his Son for good. The worst news became the best news. The worst day became a precursor to the best day! In spite of the questions, Nicodemus is there with Jesus right at the end, even when it seems upside down (John 19:38-39). We are called to do the same. In what ways have you seen God use bad things for good? How has God surprised you with ‘beauty from ashes’? Is there a situation you are facing where you have to trust God knows upside down from right side up?

By Alex Walton

Heaven on Earth | John 3:9-152020-10-13T09:17:58-06:00

Spiritual Birth | John 3:5-8

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, 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 its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8

Dad had many sayings. One I heard almost too frequently when going to work with him was ’90-day wonder.’ I don’t think this is unique to the Navy. The phrase referred to someone who attended a civilian university or college then entered the Navy’s OCS (Officer Candidate School) program. By no stretch of the imagination was this an endearing or positive name. Quite the opposite. It referred to someone who didn’t have the experience to back up what they commanded others to do. They had the ‘head knowledge’ on what needed to be done but didn’t understand any of its purpose or implications. My dad’s line of work wasn’t as dangerous as combat, but his job did involve missiles, bombs, and ammunition, all of which have great potential for harm. Having the experience was so important.

In many ways, our spiritual life emulates our experiential life on earth. In life, experience can take center stage in many things. In our spiritual life, the heart holds that place, so much so that the things we say come directly from it, good and bad (Luke 6:45). Diving into the Bible, studying it, making it a priority moves the things we read and learn from our head to our heart. But sometimes, that journey from the head to heart doesn’t always take place.

If, in searching your heart and soul, you realize your heart isn’t where you thought it was, even after years of what you believed was a relationship with Christ, Jesus is still right there waiting for your surrender! If this is where you are, set thoughts of pride aside and surrender! Or, if you find your relationship with Jesus is solid, but haven’t publicly demonstrated it in baptism, seek to be baptized! While not having saving ties to your relationship with Christ, it will demonstrate to others your soul’s journey with Christ. Should you be blessed to have a solid relationship with Christ, and have demonstrated it in baptism, pray for those around you who may not have the same ‘experiences’ as you, and be willing to share (1 Peter 3:15)!

By Rich Obrecht

Spiritual Birth | John 3:5-82020-10-08T13:56:17-06:00

Born Again | John 3:1-4

There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.” Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:1-3

I have a love/hate relationship with language. The written word is rather difficult for me. I am an atrocious speller and grammarian, which often makes me feel limited when I write. On the other hand, I love the spoken word, specifically vocabulary. It gives me great delight to discover obscure words that more precisely embody the ideas that I want to portray. My wife often teases me saying, “no one uses those kinds of words!” One term that I recently started to use is non sequitur. It is when one statement doesn’t logically connect to a previous statement or idea. This interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus presents what seems to be a huge non sequitur moment.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus to have a conversation. He opens the conversation with a compliment, “You have come from God… for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him” (v. 2) Jesus proceeds to talk about being born again. It feels rather jarring how seemingly disconnected Jesus’ words are from Nicodemus’. Without hesitation, Jesus begins to craft the conversation into a specific direction, without acknowledging Nicodemus’ opening statements.

Have you ever prayed for something or asked for wisdom and it felt like God either wasn’t answering or that his answer was different than you had hoped? Talking with Jesus is often like that. We come asking God to help us decide between two things and he gives us a third to consider. Jesus is far more interested in cutting to the deepest issues and the core of those issues. Jesus knows the inner workings of our hearts and minds and he often moves us past the issues we think are important and into those deeper things.

When was the last time you felt like God directed you in prayer? Take a moment to ask him to teach you to hear his voice. It is possible to hear the quiet voice of the Spirit when you pray but what he says often feels like a non sequitur. Don’t worry, sometimes that is how he gets us past the surface and into the heart of the matter.

By Aaron Bjorklund

Born Again | John 3:1-42020-10-08T13:53:59-06:00
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