example

A Story About Water

It's important to read a story from the author's point of view—including their time and culture. If we don't see it from their point of view, we'll miss both essential and more subtle details.

Here, Jesus and His followers are traveling from Jerusalem in Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. This causes them to go through the region of Samaria. The Samaritans were considered a mixed breed of people with a false religion by the Jews.

The Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans who responded with antagonism towards the Jews. Prejudice and mistrust between people groups have existed since ancient times.

Jesus and the disciples stop in Sychar near Shechem at Jacob's Well. Jesus stays there while His followers go to town to buy food. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the heat of the day, Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. This in itself would be unusual, as revealed in the story (below), but their conversation takes an even more unexpected turn.

Scripture

Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. (Actually, Jesus was not baptizing people. His disciples were.) So he left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

Jesus had to go through Samaria. He arrived at a city in Samaria called Sychar. Sychar was near the piece of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus sat down by the well because he was tired from traveling. The time was about six o’clock in the evening. [vss 1-6]

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus replied to her, “If you only knew what God’s gift is and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink. He would have given you living water.” [vss 7-10]

The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have anything to use to get water, and the well is deep. So where are you going to get this living water? You’re not more important than our ancestor Jacob, are you? He gave us this well. He and his sons and his animals drank water from it.”

Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.” [vss 11-14]

(John 4:1-14 GW)

Key phrase—

The water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the specific details we're told about the situation in this story?

  • What seems to be the turning point in the conversation between Jesus and the woman?

  • How does the woman respond to the statements Jesus makes?

  • What kind of water does Jesus offer and what do you think He means by this?

Reflection...

Jacob's Well was hundreds of years old even in the time of Jesus and was quite deep. The region of Samaria was disputed land then as it is now. This is evident in the story by the woman's contentious responses to Jesus.

But Jesus immediately flips the conversation by telling her she should be asking Him for a drink of living water.

The woman doesn't back down. As Jesus so often did, He turns what seems like a typical conversation into an opportunity to reveal spiritual truth.

He offers her living water—water that continues to flow like an artesian spring—giving eternal life. This conversation and the story continue, but we'll stop here to consider how Jesus turns a contentious situation into an opportunity to share spiritual truth.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How do you typically handle or respond to contentious people and situations?

  • We are not Jesus, but what can we learn from how He responded to the woman?

  • How does Jesus describe what He has to offer her, and us, by shifting the conversation from a focus on the physical to the spiritual?

  • Have you personally experienced what Jesus says about the living water He offers?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— When we focus on the true need of a person, we can choose to see them through the lens of God's love. We can trust God's Spirit to lead us in how to turn mundane conversations into opportunities to consider eternal concerns.

Prayer Focus— Ask the Lord each day to help you see the people you encounter as He sees them—who they are, their needs and life situations. Pray for wisdom and grace to turn everyday conversations into opportunities to share your faith.

©2018—Word-Strong

A Bloodless Sacrifice

What image springs to your mind when you hear the word sacrifice? Do you visualize a primitive pagan sacrifice of a bloody animal offered on a rock altar? Perhaps you think of a soldier or first responder's sacrificial bravery?

Not all sacrifices require blood to be spilled or the exchange of one life for another.

No Permanent City

The Old and New Covenants are not just two different covenants or commitments between God and His people, they are two different relationships.

What separates them is the motivations they are based on. The first—the Old—acceptance was based on obedience to the Law of Moses. The second—the New—acceptance by God is based on God's grace given to us through Jesus.

Don't Give Up!

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Chariots of Fire." A favorite scene is when Eric Liddell, a Scottish runner, is knocked down by a competitor but gets up to finish and win the race.

Eric Liddell went on to be a gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But his greater victory was finishing his life well as a missionary in China.

Liddell is a modern-day example of one who ran the race of the Christian faith well and never gave up. His heart was fixed on Jesus, the focus of his faith.

He learned the importance of removing whatever would hinder his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus saw beyond His gruesome death on the cross and was filled with joy for what His resurrection would bring to the lives of those who trust in Him.

Scripture

Since we are surrounded by so many examples ⌊of faith⌋, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.  [vss 1-3]
(Hebrews 12:1-3 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers surrounded by? Who is included in this "great cloud of people?"

  • What do we need to do "run the race" and what are two things believers need to "get rid of" from our lives?

  • Who are we exhorted to focus our attention on and how is He described in relation to faith?

  • Where is Jesus now? How is this relevant to this exhortation and the whole book of Hebrews?

Reflection...

Why do we get discouraged and want to give up? Because we rely too much on our own self-effort, and because we lose sight of why we have a true hope. 

Jesus is our example but He's also the source and focus of our faith. When He is any less in our life, we will stumble along the path of life, easily distracted and drawn away from following Him.

We are responsible for what we choose and pursue. So, we need to remove what gets in our way and holds us back. But how?

We need to stop giving attention to what hinders and entangles us. We need to fix our attention on Jesus—our personal trust in Him and His life example. We need to replace the former with the latter, the better focus of our attention.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does what Jesus suffered and endured relate to the original readers and hearers of this exhortation?

  • Have you struggled with your faith? What things in life get in your way and distract you from focusing on Jesus?

  • What are specific ways you see that would help you refocus your attention on Jesus each day?

  • Are there specific times you've overcome hindrances and distractions to your faith?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Better Country

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each election cycle with the hope of making our country better. But what is better? It depends on your point of view.

Too often, people settle for what seems better but it's not good enough. Better is a term of comparison. Better than what? It depends on what the comparison is.

Many people will accept the status quo and mediocrity because it's familiar and they're not willing to risk losing it for a possibility of gaining something better.

We won't risk losing what we have unless our hope for something better is stronger than our fear of loss. True faith—trust in God—enables us to see beyond the status quo and seek what God promises is better—much, much better, in fact, the best.

Scripture

Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. [vss 11-13]

Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them. [vss 14-16]

(Hebrews 11:11-16 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

These men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about Abraham and his faith? How did reality in his life seem to contradict God's promise to Him?

  • What promise did God make to Abraham and did it come to pass?

  • What is a seemingly contradictory statement made about Abraham and others before him?

  • What is the testimony of Abraham and Noah's faith according to these verses?

Reflection...

We Americans are free to complain about our country and have the freedom to bring change in it. But as believers, we have a better country to look forward to than any nation on this earth.

Are you longing for a better life on earth or a better country in this world? As Jesus said, "Wherever your heart is—what it longs for—is where your treasure is."

Faith isn't wishful thinking, like hoping to win the lottery. Faith is a confidence in God and all His promises. It is a hope based in our relationship with God that remains even when circumstances seem to contradict His promises.

True faith enables us to move forward when others turn back.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If these men didn't receive all that God promised, how and why did they continue to trust God?

  • In what way is this "better country" a fulfillment of what God promised to Abraham?

  • How are Abraham's and Noah's life testimonies of faith relevant for us today?

  • Are you longing for a "better country" and do you have assurance in your heart about that?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews