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Daily Devotional 3-18-19

An Invitation to Sober Reflection
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves… 2 Corinthians 13:5
One of my favorite movies is called, “Why Did I Get Married?”  I have watched it several times, and I do not think I will ever get tired of watching it. In this movie, four couples who were experiencing difficulties in their respective marriages decided to go on a retreat together at a beach resort in the Caribbean. Their purpose was to spark the fire and fervor of their relationships. The spouses loved each other, but the harsh winds of life have blown so strong against their relationships that their commitment and passion were tanking and begging for survival. The movie is a true reminder that the vicissitudes of life will test your relationships. In other words:
The elements of life will come against your relationships—including your relationship with God. 
The Corinthian culture was populated with speakers and philosophers. Public speaking was very common, and in many cases, speakers would engage their audience with different rhetorical skills to persuade and provoke a response. In addition, the audience evaluated a speaker. Apostle Paul, being aware of this cultural situation, turns the world of his audience upside down when he invited them to evaluate and test their own faith in God.
The essence of Christianity is relationship: firstly, with God and secondly, with others. Periodic evaluation, whether formal or informal, is crucial for continuous improvement and the general health of every relationship. This is also true for our spiritual relationship with God. It is in the context of spiritual growth that Jesus invites us to evaluate our relationship with him.  Are you living the life of faith? Are you bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Are you still holding onto your convictions in Christ? How is your relationship with others? Is there any root of bitterness in your heart? How is your prayer life? Is there any sin you are entertaining in your life? What are you doing well that you need to continue? The list goes on. These questions are not meant to judge us into condemnation, but to draw us into a sober reflection, where we become true to God, and ourselves with the desire to repent and grow spiritually. This is the purpose and the spirit of Lent: to humble ourselves before him, and engage with ourselves in faithful introspection as we look forward to spiritual vitality.
Don’t give up on yourself; you are a working progress, and when the work of grace is done in you, Christ will present you spotless to God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, bring me to the place of self-awareness. Help me to face my worst fears that I may lay them at the feet of Jesus.

Daily Devotional 3-15-19

GRACE AT THE WELL: From Disgrace to Grace

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified…” John 4:25-26, 28-30, 39
The story began with the woman having no clue about the identity of Jesus, but ends with her recognition of the divinity of Jesus. This is the climax of the story: recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah for Jews, Samaritans, and for all people.
Do you see the change in her life because of realizing the identity of Jesus? This is wonderful! She left her water pot (she could care less about it anymore), and bolted into the city to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus. She could not hide the joy! Once she was filled with disgrace, shame and guilt, but now joy had taken over, and she could not hide it. What a relief! She ran with joy, confidence, and without shame to the community that had marginalized her because of her loose life.  This is only possible when you factor in the grace of God.  God’s grace cleanses us from within, showing forth fruits to the world around us.
The character of Jesus is to transition us from disgrace to grace and dignity!
Grace transformed this nameless woman with a very questionable character into an evangelist who told a whole city about Christ. Many Samaritans came to worship Christ because of this woman. This is the power of God’s grace.  Jesus saw in the woman what her own community could not see.  They saw a wayward woman, but Jesus saw a daughter of God; they saw a trash, but Jesus saw a treasure; they saw an immoral woman, but Jesus saw an evangelist.  I am reminded of Rehab, the prostitute, who by her faith in God became part of the lineage of Jesus. Don’t underestimate God’s grace!
Jesus specializes in turning the worst sinners into heralds of his kingdom.
Prayer: Lord Jesus help me to cooperate with your grace to produce the fruits of transformation in my life.
Question: The woman spread the news about Jesus. In what ways have you responded to God’s grace in Christ Jesus?

Daily Devotional 3-14-19

GRACE AT THE WELL: Awakened to Myself

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. John 4:16-19
Jesus continues to dig deep into the Samaritan woman’s life by asking deep probing questions.  Like most of us, this woman has many skeletons in her closet that she was not ready or willing to bring out. At this time, the woman was still oblivious to the actual identity of the man with whom she has been chatting. By divine knowledge, Jesus brings up the woman’s past relationships with five men. A revelation hit the woman like a thunderbolt with a massive dose of shocks. Jesus was serious with her. His intention was to make her holy, not just happy! As such, he would engage her on such a difficult subject.
Surprisingly, she did not throw a temper tantrum. She recognized Jesus as a prophet. Wow! How humble she was! She was suddenly compelled to face her hidden self. Barclay writes, “there are two revelations in Christianity: the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves.” We cannot really see who we are until we are in the presence of Christ. Our Christian journey begins with our realization of our brokenness, and our subsequent need for God’s redeeming grace. Isaiah saw a vision of God in the temple, and he recognized his own uncleanliness (Isaiah 6:1-5).
The prideful cannot receive God’s grace!
God’s work of transformation can only happen to us when we sincerely acknowledge our sins.  In a culture of guilt and shame, we often fail to face ourselves, because we cannot even bear the weight of our sinfulness. But, hear the good news: Christ has seen the worst form of shame on the cross, and is willing to show compassion and not condemnation.
For how long would you desire complete freedom, yet be afraid to offer your past to Christ? For how long would you allow your past to hunt your future? Jesus is inviting you to open your closet and pick up WHATEVER is in there and drop it at the foot of the cross.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, heal me emotionally and psychologically that I may break free from past that seeks to imprison my future of total freedom.

Daily Devotional 3-13-19

GRACE AT THE WELL: Quench your Thirst

Jesus answered and said to her,“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:13-15
At last, the relentless Jesus has found a breakthrough into the heart of this woman! But wait, she is oblivious to the spiritual nature and deep meaning of the words of Jesus. She is unaware of the eternal things mentioned by Jesus. Jesus was talking about spiritual thirst in the life of all people.  He meant the thirst of the soul for God.
The Psalmist spoke of his soul being thirsty when he said,
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2.
St. Augustine spoke about, “our hearts being restless till they find rest in God.” The fundamental truth is that, in the human heart there is a thirst for something that only Jesus Christ can satisfy.  This thirst transcends education, economic, racial and religious background. Every soul on the earth is longing to satisfy this thirst. “On the surface we seem quite different; but deep down we are fundamentally the same. We are unhappy about something—and we do not know what it is. Moreover, we cannot find happiness out of the things that human situation has to offer.” (The Gospel of John, Barclay)
The good news is that we do not have to journey through life being thirsty! The words of Jesus in our text inspire comfort and hope.  Whoever receives Christ, receives the fountain of living water that never dries up. In Rev 21:6, Jesus promises,
“…I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
You may have accepted Jesus as your savior and lord, but may still be experiencing thirst in your life. Your situation may be indicative of the fact that you have not fully yielded to Christ. Have you fully entrusted all aspects of your life to him?
Prayer:  Come Lord Jesus and quench my thirst with your peace and rest!
Questions: In what areas of your life are you thirsty? Are you quenching your thirst with sodas, or with Christ, the Living Water?

Daily Devotional 3-12-19

Grace at the Well: Blind to the Gift

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”  –John 4:9-12 The unnamed woman’s response to Jesus’ request for water reveals how she had been blinded by the history of hostility between the Jews and Samaritans. She immediately raised cultural boundaries and walls. She would not entertain any dealings with this Jew.  A lot of times in life, people who have unhealed history of brokenness and hurt often respond to those with good intentions from their past pain. They end up driving such people out of their lives because of the level of mistrust. However, Jesus would not relent in his pursuit of this hurting and hungry woman. God is not scared by our hurt-born negativities.  Jesus knew the woman was searching for something in life that only he could provide, and was willing to endure her negativity until she surrendered. Have you witnessed a situation where someone had rejected an important gift? This was the situation of this woman. She was in the presence of the Gift of God but could not recognize him. Jesus’ words to her were pointing to his identity, but culture, tradition, and her own challenges have tightly veiled her from seeing Christ.

True enlightenment leads to the recognition, reception, and the worship of Christ Jesus!
The woman saw Jesus merely as a Jew. How do you see Jesus? Do you see him as someone who could bring true transformation and satisfy the longings of your soul? Or you see him as a mere religious icon, and a moral teacher?
Your perception of Jesus determines what you receive from him!
Prayer: Lord, renew my perception of Christ so that I may whole-heartedly trust and be open to him.
Question: Are there issues from your past or present situation that are preventing you from receiving healing grace from Christ?

Daily Devotional 3-11-19

GRACE AT THE WELL: Divine Appointment
He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. –John 4:3-8
The Jews and the Samaritans had been hostile towards each other for centuries. However, Jesus, in whom the Kingdom of God is seen and experienced, would not join in this acrimonious relationship. Instead, he crossed strict cultural, gender, and moral status boundaries to meet a Samaritan woman who had been ostracized by her own community because of her questionable lifestyle.
The sentence “He needed to go through Samaria,” gives us insight into this text. Jesus could have chosen the regular route to travel, but necessity and divine appointment compelled him to pass through Samaria to meet a woman who needed to be set free.  Culturally, women in groups fetched water from the well in the morning or evening, not in the afternoon because of the heat. So, the fact that this woman was going to fetch water by herself meant she had no friends. She lived in a community, but had no connection. People surrounded her, but she had no one in her life. She was vulnerable, hungry and thirsty for a spiritual reality. During one of her lonely and ordinary routines of life, she stumbled into a divine appointment, meeting the Man who would change and restore dignity in her life forever.
No one has so been rejected, and ostracized beyond the embrace of God!
Through the Holy Spirit, God’s arm is stretched out to embrace all who are lonely, and lost in sin, and in life. Each day is a divine appointment for all because God knows, God cares, God wants to transform your life, for God loves.
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes, and grant me faith to see your waiting presence and longing love to meet me where I am.
Questions: Has life ever placed you in a situation where you needed social embrace, but had none?  How have you responded to the marginalized in your community?