“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” – John 4:9

There are two forms of greetings practiced by the Kamba people of Kenya, where I was raised: a verbal greeting and/or a handshake. Biological and social relationships determine which is used. It is a taboo to use the wrong form of greeting.

In greeting me, Jarra, a co-worker here in the United States, gave me a hug, and I immediately told her that I was married. I had thought that would make it clear to her that hugging was inappropriate, but she did not understand my meaning. I brought my daughter to work for Jarra to understand I was really married. She kissed my daughter and hugged me. I decided to have Jarra meet my family and she hugged all of us. Unknowingly, Jarra had broken down cultural “walls” and opened a new channel of thinking for me.

The woman in our focus verse asserted that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. They were not to share a drink out of the same cup or well. Jesus’ disciples marveled that He would break with tradition. What was He after and why would He talk to the woman? Their reaction was probably much the same as mine when Jarra hugged me.

However, as a result of Jesus’ visitation with that woman, she received salvation and inner peace and wanted all the inhabitants of her city to have the same thing.

What would have happened had Jesus not taken the initiative? That woman who had a heavy burden, having been married five times, would not have had the hope of eternal life. Historians indicate that such a woman was not respected in her community. However, after her encounter with Jesus and her past was revealed, she had the courage and motivation to stand in public and declare, “Is not this the Christ?” The Bible says, “Then they went out of the city, and came unto Him.”

By taking the initiative, Jesus lifted the burden from this woman, restored her respect, and created an opportunity for a city of Samaritans to hear His message of salvation.

When we consider reasons not to help out or reach out, this prevents us from helping to lift the burdens of other people. Today, let’s purpose to share the joy of the Lord —even if that means we need to break through cultural, racial, religious, educational, or economical “walls.” Let’s help restore hope, and healing, to those in need!

Shut In

“And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.” – Genesis 7:16

When I was in my junior year of high school, I occasionally went to after-school activities with a friend from another school. One day he invited me to his school concert. After the program he wanted to show me the outdoor courtyard of his school. He explained how unique it was because it was in the center of the school, and was totally surrounded by classrooms.

As we went through the doors into the courtyard, I remember hearing the doors clicking shut behind us. After admiring the beautiful courtyard, we headed across the way to the doors on the opposite side to re-enter the school. My friend pulled on the door handle but it refused to budge. He ran across to the doors we had just entered through, but they were also locked. We were shut inside the courtyard.

Today, as I thought back on this now-humorous situation, I pondered on how Noah must have felt when God shut him in the ark before the Flood. He was completely locked inside with his family and the animals. This must have been a somewhat astounding situation for Noah, but he trusted God. He knew God was in control of all that was happening and that He would never fail him.

Sometimes in our lives, a door of opportunity shuts and we can begin to panic or become afraid. We might feel trapped, as though there is no way out of our circumstance. However, we do not have to be afraid if the Lord is with us. Like Noah, we can put our trust in God, knowing that He is in control and He will take care of us.

That night when I was visiting my friend’s school, I had confidence that he would find a way to get us out, and he did. He crawled through an open window and then came and opened the door for me. God also took care of Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. After the water subsided, the ark landed safely and they exited without harm. If you feel shut in by circumstances today, keep your confidence in God. The One who shut Noah and his family into the ark, and took care of them and the animals during the Flood, is the same One who is guiding your future. God has not changed since He did that mighty work for Noah, and you can rest assured that He will care for you right now, wherever you are and whatever your situation.

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” – Luke 1:80

I had carefully placed a healthy green hanging Boston fern in the far corner of our living room where there was a convenient and elegant hook for hanging plants. Each day I watered it and checked to see how it was doing. A month later, I began to notice that its luster was gone and it was starting to look yellow and sickly. I was disappointed. I had given it all the attention one could lavish on a fern and still it was not growing well! My husband, who had previously worked in a greenhouse, told me that it needed to be moved because it was not getting enough sun. So I moved the ailing fern near a window. I noticed an improvement immediately. In a week, the leaves turned green again and new leaflets sprang up. The new location made all the difference.

Where a Christian resides has an effect on how he will grow spiritually. We may enjoy a quiet Sunday at home in our little corner where we can worship God by ourselves, but are we getting enough of the Son’s light there? We may settle by a window overlooking a shaded garden of trees. Here seems to be the perfect place to serve the Lord, we think. But are we growing new leaves and producing fruit for His glory?

The Lord has a special plan for everyone, a location that is perfect just for us. It may not be in a place that we have ever been before. It could be across town, or in a place where we do not know anyone. The focus verse tells us that John the Baptist grew up in the deserts, which would probably not be the first choice for most, but there he “waxed strong in spirit.” God knew that was the best place for him, and if we follow the Lord’s leading we will also grow spiritually and become healthy, fruitful Christians.

Today, are we growing as Christians? Are we where God has placed us? Only the Lord knows best where we can grow abundantly for Him. Let’s allow Him to take control and change our location if necessary, so we can grow spiritually and be effectively used by Him. That perfect spot, hand-picked for us by God, is where showers of blessing will fall.

“A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time.” – Isaiah 60:22

I recently attended a band concert performed by children in middle school, grades six through eight. It was obvious that most of the members were just beginning to learn their instruments of choice. The eighth-grade band was reserved till last, because they were the best.

When the director introduced the band, he invited the audience to join in singing the first piece they would play. When the first note was played, I knew it was our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.” I stood up immediately and began to sing the familiar words. Just a few measures into the song, I realized I was the only one standing. I started to blush. It crossed my mind that since I was the only one, I should just sit down. But, No! I resolutely determined to stick it out. Very soon, others began to stand and sing, and by the time we reached the words, “at the twilight’s last gleaming,” the entire audience was on its feet honoring our nation’s struggle for liberty.

Can we be just as resolute in our determination to stand for the Gospel of Christ, even if we are the only one? We may literally be the only one in our family who is serving the Lord, but it is important. Who knows? One by one, some may join us.

When my mother was saved in 1952, she was the only one in her large family who had ever been saved, as far as she knew. In the mid-1970s, some of her children tried to calculate how many had been converted as a direct result of her stand. We counted up to seventy-two! It is far more than that now, because she never stopped standing up for the Gospel. You see, she was resolute!

God honored her, and He will honor us as we stand for Him.

“And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith Deliver me; for thou art my god.” – Isaiah 44:17

When I was in my early teens, I went through a particularly hard time where it seemed things were always against me. There were troubles at school, troubles with siblings, and troubles with my parents not understanding me or treating me right.

To make things better I found a refuge from all my oppressors. I would leave our home and walk or run the small distance down to the river below our house. There I would take a short game trail through the brush to “my” tree. This tree had a large branch that stretched out over the water. It was positioned in a way that I could sit on the branch with my back against the tree’s trunk and daydream or drop a fishing line into the water. When up in “my” tree, somehow all my anxieties would disappear, as if I were alone in the world. But within a few hours, after my initial depression disappeared, it would be time to head up to the house to go to bed or have supper.

As I walked back up toward the house, I would normally be calm and resigned to the unfairness of the world toward me. And though time at my tree had allowed emotions to subside, it had provided no lasting relief or deliverance from them.

The focus verse from Isaiah talks about all the things man can make and call a god. But for all his effort, his god is just something created by man, unable to respond in any way. As a boy I tried to find help from a tree, but ultimately it could not change a thing about my problems. Nothing created by man can provide comfort, guidance, peace, protection or anything else we may need. They are empty and powerless. 

How different that is from the one true God whom we serve! He does hear our prayers, and we can find real deliverance in Him. The salvation God offers is life-changing, delivering from sin and its hold on a person’s life. He makes life new, giving individuals purpose and promising to supply every need. He is the only One we can always turn to, and there is no problem too big or too small for Him.

God is always available to supply the endurance we need in the hard times, and protection from the traps of the enemy. Whatever challenge we may be facing today, let us be sure to seek deliverance from the God in Heaven who hears and answers prayer.

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” – Matthew 12:34

Many things can characterize winter in Poland, but when I look back at my time there, I will always remember one thing—coal smoke.

One day as I was walking home from work I noticed a scene that was quite poignant. Three houses side by side were burning coal in their furnaces. Smoke was billowing out of the chimneys of each house, but each plume was a different color. The first chimney’s smoke was a dark dingy grey, while the second one was lighter but brownish in color and the last was a slightly off-white color. I was puzzled by this for a moment but then remembered something that my high school biology teacher had told us, “The quality of coal determines the amount of smoke it will produce. Cheap coal produces a lot of smoke; more expensive coal produces less.”

Another day I was walking in town and the coal smoke became unbearable. Someone was burning really low-grade coal and the smoke was practically suffocating. It was so thick that it obscured the path in front of me, making it hard to see. The smoke was so strong that I finally had to wrap my scarf around my mouth and nose to keep from breathing it in. The fire was supposed to provide welcomed warmth from the harsh weather, but instead it was intolerable. I hurried to get through the cloud of it as fast as I could!

A parallel can be drawn between the condition of the coal and the state of one’s heart. The quality of what a person has in his heart will be shown in his speech. If we allow questionable content to settle in our hearts, the evidence of it will show in the words that come out of our mouths.

Take a look at your speech today. What effect does it have on others? Does it, like the heavy coal smoke, suffocate the people around you? Does it make them hurry away from you? Does it hinder others instead of helping them? If this is the case, take time today to check the contents of your heart. Make sure you have good, quality fuel in your heart and your speech will show it.