God's Word

The Jesus Diet

Are you searching for the perfect diet? Americans spend inordinate amounts of money on special diets, supplements, and exercise regimens. It’s a cultural obsession. One of many.

A while back, I wrote about a self diet but this will be a look at what could be called the Jesus diet. It has nothing to do with eating food or exercising but everything to do with life—what we focus on in life.

This part of the story of Jesus in Samaria begins with an awkward social situation. A Samaritan woman who comes to draw water from an ancient well leaves without it. The sight of Jesus speaking to this woman is unsettling for His disciples—it was socially unacceptable (John 4:9).

The disciples return from their food shopping excursion in town and try to convince Jesus to eat but to no avail. His reasoning for not eating their food leaves the disciples even more puzzled than the awkward social encounter as they arrived.

Scripture

At that time his disciples returned. They were surprised that he was talking to a woman. But none of them asked him, “What do you want from her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

Then the woman left her water jar and went back into the city. She told the people, “Come with me, and meet a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” The people left the city and went to meet Jesus. [vss 27-30]

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, have something to eat.” Jesus told them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” The disciples asked each other, “Did someone bring him something to eat?”

Jesus told them, “My food is to do what the one who sent me wants me to do and to finish the work he has given me.” [vss 31-34]

(John 4:27-34 GW)

Key phrase—

My food is to do what the one who sent me wants me to do

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is the reaction of the disciples to Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman?

  • What did they seem to want to ask Jesus but didn’t? Why do you think they didn’t?

  • What is the primary concern of the disciples and how is this obvious?

  • How does Jesus respond to the disciples’ urging Him to eat something?

Reflection...

The disciples found it difficult to understand what Jesus said many times and His explanations didn’t always clear up their lack of understanding. Most of us have similar difficulties today. Why? Because we, as they were, are restricted by our own personal perceptions.

The primary food of Jesus—His diet—was whatever the Father asked of Him and to do the Father’s will until it was finished. Jesus explains further what the work of the Father is in the remainder of the story.

But for now, consider what the priority is of your daily diet. Is it more like the food of Jesus or the concern of the disciples? Are you more concerned with God’s will or your own?

When our priorities in life are centered around us, they tend to be selfish and limited. When our priority is God’s priority—His will for our life—we’ll be free from the worry of what we’ll eat or drink or wear. God’s already promised to take care of those needs (Matt 6:31-34).

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How does this story show the Samaritan woman as more spiritually perceptive than the disciples of Jesus?

  • Have you found yourself struggling to understand God’s will for your life?

  • Why do you think it’s hard to see what God is doing in the midst of our life each day?

  • How do you provide time each day to seek the Lord’s direction for your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus was clear what His Father’s will was for His life. The disciples made their own priorities (food) important and tried to impose that upon the Lord. But the woman at the well—focused more on spiritual things than the physical appears more connected with Jesus than the disciples.

Prayer Focus— In your times of prayer, ask the Lord to help you see how you are displacing God’s priorities for your life with what’s more important to you. Then ask Him to help you see how to put His will above your own in daily life.

©2018—Word-Strong

In Spirit and Truth

Confusion has prevailed since the beginning of civilization about who God is and what He desires of those who would trust in Him. The reason is simple. We all tend to have our own ideas based on our own reasoning, rituals, superstitions, traditions, and the influence and opinions of others. This includes people raised in churches and who read the Bible.

This confusion is illustrated in the story of a Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at an ancient well. When Jesus—the Son of God—engages her in conversation, her confusion about spiritual things is evident.

When Jesus reveals what He knows about her, she responds with a challenge about religion. Jesus doesn’t mince any words. He tells her plainly, “You don’t know what you’re worshipping.” Sadly, this is just as true for many today as it was for this woman.

The woman dismisses what Jesus says by changing the subject. This is a common tactic when a conversation about spiritual truth goes beyond our understanding. But Jesus keeps the conversation centered on what is spiritually true, as seen in how the story unfolds.

Scripture

The woman told Jesus, “Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t get thirsty or have to come here to get water.” Jesus told her, “Go to your husband, and bring him here.”

The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus told her, “You’re right when you say that you don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you have now isn’t your husband. You’ve told the truth.” [vss 15-18]

The woman said to Jesus, “I see that you’re a prophet! Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews say that people must worship in Jerusalem.”

Jesus told her, “Believe me. A time is coming when you Samaritans won’t be worshiping the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You don’t know what you’re worshiping. We ⌊Jews⌋ know what we’re worshiping, because salvation comes from the Jews.  [vss 19-22]

Indeed, the time is coming, and it is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him. God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us everything.” (Messiah is the one called Christ.)

Jesus told her, “I am he, and I am speaking to you now.” [vss 23-26]

(John 4:15-26 GW)

Key phrase—

God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What water does the Samaritan woman ask for and why does she want it?

  • What does Jesus tell the woman to do and how does this result in a religious discussion?

  • What does Jesus say about “true worshipers”? How are they to worship God and what do you think this means?

  • How does Jesus respond to the woman’s comment about the Messiah?

Reflection...

Discussions about religion are difficult for many reasons, especially when emotions are driven by opinions and ignorance that interfere with clear thinking. Terminology and traditions also contribute to confusion and fruitless debates that are more emotional than spiritual.

As Jesus speaks of spiritual things—living water—the woman is focused on what’s immediate and physical. This illustrates what Jesus says about God and worship. Worship is neither mystical nor religious, but spiritual. True worship is based in a personal relationship with God not a specific action.

When the woman dismisses what Jesus says to her about worship by speaking of the Messiah to come, Jesus reveals who He is to the woman. As the story continues, she appears to believe Him and what He says about God and true worshipers.

God is spirit—spiritual in nature, not human in origin. He’s eternal—self-existent and above and beyond the natural world. True worshipers—those whom God is seeking—worship Him in a spiritual way rather than with rituals and traditions. True worshipers also worship Him in truth—according to what is revealed by God in His written word, the Bible.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How does Jesus’ discernment about the woman’s marital status relate to what Jesus says about worshiping God?

  • What is Jesus referring to when He says, “…salvation comes from the Jews”?

  • Are you a “true worshiper” of God? If so, in what way have you learned to worship God “in spirit and truth?”

  • When Jesus tells this woman He is the Messiah, how does this reveal who is included as the true worshipers God seeks?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God is spirit and we need to worship Him in spirit and truth in ways that are genuinely spiritual, that reflect His true nature, and are in agreement with the truth He’s revealed about Himself in the Scriptures.

Prayer Focus— Practice times of quiet reflection before and after bringing your concerns, petitions, and intercessions to God in prayer. Ask God to help you understand how to worship in ways that please Him.

©2018—Word-Strong

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 Self Diet

Dieting and weight loss have become a stand-alone industry. I'm amazed by the onslaught of ads and commercials everywhere I look—TV, social media, billboards. Physical fitness programs are often linked with specialized diets.

I don't know why I'm amazed by all the focus on diet and fitness. It all lines up with our cultural obsession with self and appearance. Of course, even selling "healthy" junk food and trendy cars appeal to this obsessive focus.

It's a paradox of sorts. Culturally, we honor self-sacrifice and service to others by first responders and military personnel, while we elevate the value of whatever promotes ourselves for our highest satisfaction. We're values-conflicted. Self-sacrifice and self-exaltation are two opposite values.

I use to hear people say, "America is a Christian nation" or that we have a Christian heritage. Not so much anymore. Perhaps one reason is our values conflict. As a Christian—a follower of Jesus—exalting our self isn't just a paradox, it's the exact opposite of Jesus' call to follow Him (Matt 16:24). Concerned about your diet? How about a self-diet? It's the diet John the Baptizer was on, along with Jesus.

Scripture

Later, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them and baptized people. John was baptizing in Aenon, near Salim. Water was plentiful there. (People came to John to be baptized, since John had not yet been put in prison.)

Some of John’s disciples had an argument with a Jew about purification ceremonies. So they went to John and asked him, “Rabbi, do you remember the man you spoke so favorably about when he was with you on the other side of the Jordan River? Well, he’s baptizing, and everyone is going to him!”  [vss 22-26]

John answered, “People can’t receive anything unless it has been given to them from heaven. You are witnesses that I said, ‘I’m not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of him.’

“The groom is the person to whom the bride belongs. The best man, who stands and listens to him, is overjoyed when the groom speaks. This is the joy that I feel. He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance. [vss 21-30]

“The person who comes from above is superior to everyone. I, a person from the earth, know nothing but what is on earth, and that’s all I can talk about. The person who comes from heaven is superior to everyone and tells what he has seen and heard. Yet, no one accepts what he says. I have accepted what that person said, and I have affirmed that God is truthful.  [vss 31-33]

The man whom God has sent speaks God’s message. After all, God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything in his power. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, he will see God’s constant [continuing] anger.” [vss 34-36]

(John 3:22-36 GW)

Key phrase—

He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What prompts John the Baptizer's disciples to question him about Jesus?

  • What seems to be bothering John's disciples about Jesus?

  • How does John answer the concerns of his disciples? What does he tell them?

  • In what way does John say he needs to decrease while Jesus increases?

Reflection...

John the Baptizer's final testimony about Jesus is consistent with what he said at the beginning of his ministry. He knew his role as the "the best man" to the groom—that is, Jesus (verses 27-28). John's own disciples were jealous of Jesus but John set the record straight for them— He must increase... I must decrease

John's testimony is what every follower of Jesus ought to hold true in their heart. A true encounter with Jesus and His grace is a humbling experience. We realize who He is and our place as a believer. As John said, "(He) is from above... I (am) from the earth (verse 31).

John's testimony at the end of this chapter (3) ties into the conversation of Jesus and Nicodemus at the beginning. Jesus told Nicodemus of his (and our) need to be born from above. It's an invitation to enter into a personal trust relationship with the Lord.

But there's a caveat. Whoever rejects trusting in Jesus will not receive eternal life. Rejecting a relationship with the Lord means continuing in a self-focused life. There is no upside to this choice. It brings exclusion from God's kingdom—His domain of gracious love and eternal life. This is a choice we all make at some point in life. If we're unwilling to go on a "self-diet," this choice is made by default.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • How is John's statement about decreasing in importance just as relevant for us now as it was for him then?

  • How is it possible for us to decrease in importance so Jesus can increase in importance?

  • In what way can this take place in your own life? How can John's example guide you?

  • Since this idea of decreasing our self importance is so opposite of what's common in our culture, what are specific steps that anyone can begin to take to do this?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This—  A personal relationship with the Lord Jesus only comes through a personal encounter with God's grace. When we truly experience God's grace, it will bring a humility and desire for the Lord's nature to increase in us and our selfish nature to decrease.

Prayer Focus—  Does your heart desire and cry out for the Lord's nature to increase within you at the cost of your own selfish nature? If not, ask the Lord to work in your heart in a fresh way by His grace.

©2018—Word-Strong

Drawn to the Light

Light attracts insects at night. Living in the tropical climate of the Philippines for many years, it seemed like zillions of insects came out at night. They would gather at porch lights and our security lights around the property. So would the geckos and other creatures who fed on them.

Light is powerful. Daily activity dramatically increases with the dawn of a new day. Many people are drawn to seashores as the sun breaks through the night and floods the sky and sea with its powerful beams of light.

When encouraging people in the midst of their personal darkness, we speak of light at the end of the tunnel as an expression of hope to come. But when a person's soul is crushed with anguish and hopelessness, they tend to draw back into the darkness and shadows around them. And too often, many dark deeds seem more likely to occur at night than during the day.

The first act of creation is God speaking light into existence (Gen 1:3) and God is—by nature—Light (1 John 1:5). John declares at the beginning of his gospel that, Jesus is the light of life for all humanity and His light is never conquered or extinguished.

Scripture

No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven. “As Moses lifted up the snake ⌊on a pole⌋ in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” [vss 13-15]

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. [vss 16-19]

This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen. [vss 19-21]

(John 13-21 GW)

Key phrase—

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who alone has gone to heaven and come from there? What illustration is given that is connected to this?

  • How does this statement about the Son of Man and this illustration relate to the famous Bible verse—John 3:16?

  • What great assurances and promises are given in this familiar Scripture?

  • What are the contrasting statements given in this text and how are they not in opposition or contradiction to each other?

Reflection...

Probably the most quoted Bible verse is found in this chapter—John 3:16. But to understand the greatness of God's love and His promise of eternal life, we need to understand its context.

John speaks of the Lord's death on the cross as a point of restoration and likens it to when Moses erected a bronze snake in the sand as a visual connection to God's healing power for those bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5-9).

John then points out the purpose of Jesus coming to earth—when God became human—to bring redemption for all humanity—to heal and restore humanity. God personally intervened in human history to provide a cure for the poisonous effect of sin.

But, receiving this promise of restoration and eternal life is a choice. Sadly, many people can't or won't let go of the darkness in their lives to embrace the light and receive this promise of abundant and eternal life Jesus offers. But those who are drawn to His Light and receive this promise are healed and restored by the great love of God.

Taking it to heart...

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

  • What condemns a person—their sin or their unbelief? How is this known from this text?

  • What is the important choice a person needs to make between light and darkness and why do you think it's difficult to make?  

  • Why do you think many non-believers see Christians as judgmental when Jesus did not come into the world to judge it?

  • How would you tell others these truths in your own words (IYOW) so they understood them?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God so loved the world but the world did not love Him back. God proved His love by giving His Son as a Mediator and Savior for all those who choose to trust in Him—turning their backs on the darkness of sin to embrace the powerful light of His love.

Prayer Focus— If you haven't experienced God's healing restoration by believing and trusting in Him, don't wait any longer—simply ask Him to be Lord of your life in your own words. If you've trusted in God's Son, ask the Lord for opportunities and simple, clear words to share this great promise.

©2018—Word-Strong