Monthly Archives: January 2017

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Friday, January 27, 2017 – “In Spirit and in Truth…”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”         – John 4:21-24

The conversation between Jesus and the Woman of Samaria turned to worship.  The Jews and the Samaritans were divided in many ways, including by where and how true worship takes place.   When the woman recognized that Jesus had spiritual insight, she wanted to know who was correct.  Jesus’ response reframed the woman’s question and focused on the greater issue, the spiritual aspect of worship.  “The hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” Jesus told her.

Just as in the previous chapter Jesus informed Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, that a true life of faith – eternal and abundant – is possible only through spiritual re-birth, so too he tells this outcast woman of Samaria that the only way to worship God authentically is in spirit and in truth.   The teaching is clear, that worship is not about the place, not about the type of music, not about the preacher, not about the ritual – true worship is a matter of the heart and soul.

Jesus does not reject temple worship in this teaching.  Instead, he simply redefines the temple.  The temple was considered sacred space because God’s presence dwelt there.  In like manner, as believers come to faith and receive the Holy Spirit in their lives, their bodies become a dwelling place of God, a temple of the Lord.  Whereas in the Jerusalem Temple animals were sacrificed, so too there is sacrifice in spiritual worship – the old nature, the sin nature, the human nature is sacrificed, and lives are transformed by the work of God into the likeness of Christ.

New life is at the heart of true worship, Jesus teaches, and that worship is in spirit and in truth.

Good Father, lift my spirit above the things that distract me from true worship that I may open my life to worship you in spirit and in truth.  Amen.

A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston

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Thursday, January 26, 2017 – “When the Gospel Gets Personal…”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” – John 4:16-19

After attempting to engage the Samaritan woman in a conversation about spiritual matters, Jesus turned the conversation to a personal level.  “Go, call your husband, and come here,” Jesus said.  It seemed that Jesus knew the area of her life where there was pain and brokenness and neediness.  By asking about the woman’s husband, Jesus took the encounter to a deeper, more intimate level.

Don’t be surprised by Jesus’ inquiry.  The gospel always gets personal.  That’s part of what the incarnation is all about.  God gets personal.

It’s one thing, and relatively easy at that, to discuss theology, to talk about beliefs, even to probe the scriptures in an objective way.  It’s something altogether different to relate to the gospel on a personal level – to let it affect your passions, to challenge your prejudice, to elevate your loves, to inform your choices, to deepen your relationships.  Of course faith is not really quickened in our lives so long as we keep it at arm’s length, when it’s just a matter of discussing doctrine or debating dogma.  Faith comes alive when it gets personal, when it leads us to make changes.  That’s what happened with the woman of Samaria; that’s what happens with you and me.

Jesus moved the conversation from the theoretical to the personal, and faith came alive.  That’s pretty much the way the gospel works.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for trying to keep you and my faith at arm’s length.  Help me trust you enough to let you get personal with me.  Amen.

A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017 – “A Need-to-Know Basis”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”  Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” - John 4:11-15

As we read the encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, it seems that the two are having completely different conversations.  Jesus is talking of an eternal spiritual kingdom of light; the Samaritan woman is talking about the harsh reality of her hard-scramble life.  When Jesus uses imagery of abundant water to offer her new life in God’s kingdom, she is ready to settle just for the water.   “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw,” she replies with great hope.

This kind of thing happens all the time.  There is a huge human tendency to seek comfort more than healing, ease more than insight, riches more than righteousness.  When offered a fulfilling life of meaning and purpose, healed of brokenness, redeemed from sin’s claim, this woman (as perhaps most of us would) just wanted life to be a bit easier.

Perhaps we understand the Samaritan woman because we too have a variety of needs.  Abraham Maslow posited a hierarchy of needs, which we ascend as our lower-level needs are met.

need hierarchy

Our needs for immediate survival overpower our needs for meaningful relationships.   Our needs for security overpower our needs for achieving excellence.  Once we have food and water, we can seek friendship.  Once we have meaningful relationships, we can seek self-esteem.  It seems to me that this woman responds to Jesus in genuine faith at her level of neediness.  Jesus does not denounce her for being needy on such a base level.  Instead, he uses her recognition of her need as an opportunity to claim the blessings of a life of faith in Christ.  It seems those aware of their needs are the ones most open to Christ’s offer of abundant life.

Good Father, you are the fount of every blessing, help me acknowledge my needs and find deeper faith in Christ.  Amen.

A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017 – “The Well is Deep…”

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying 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….” – John 4:10-11

John tells us that Jesus used his own physical thirst to reveal the spiritual thirst of the woman from Samaria.  He had asked her for a drink when she arrived to draw water from Jacob’s well.  When she expressed surprise that he had engaged her in conversation, Jesus invited her to seek the living water which he alone could provide.  Before acknowledging her spiritual longings, she pushed back Jesus’ offer in a way that revealed both misunderstanding and insight, “You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.”

The Samaritan woman was misguided in her assessment of Jesus’ inability to provide water, for the water he was talking about required no bucket.  “Living water” springs from the heart of those who seek it through Christ Jesus, and it becomes a source of life in them just as a river provides life in a dry land.

The unnamed woman was correct, however, when she remarked that Jacob’s well was deep.  While she was speaking of the physical well, Jesus redirected her thoughts to show just how deep Jacob’s well of faith was – deeper than the divisions between the Jews and the Samaritans, deeper than the social norms that held men and women apart, deeper than the brokenness that brings pain and the sin that brings defeat.  Jesus’ offer to this woman was to drink deep from the well of faith to experience the deep, deep love and grace of God.

Good Father, remind me in the shallowness and limitation of life that your great love runs deep.  Amen.

a Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston

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Monday, January 23, 2017 – “Caring and Carrying”

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.   – John 4:7-9

John tells us that while Jesus was resting, a woman came to the well, and Jesus asked her for a drink of water.  It appears that Jesus was not only weary, he was also thirsty.  While these expressions of Jesus’ physiological needs are important, we can’t help imagining that they point to something greater.  Perhaps Jesus was weary of the prejudice and hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans, and maybe he was thirsty for reconciliation, justice, and peace.  On the other hand, perhaps Jesus’ neediness simply served to reveal a greater neediness of this Samaritan woman, who was weary from her hard life of disappointment, brokenness, and shame; and who was thirsty for acceptance, forgiveness, and love.  It could be that Jesus so identified with those who had been hated, mistreated, and cast out that he fully experienced the pain and burden this woman was carrying.

Whatever the back-story, Jesus entered into this woman’s world by expressing his own neediness.  He, a Jewish rabbi, asked this Samaritan woman for a drink of water.  She was shocked by his gentle intrusion into her life.  She had been told all her life that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans.  Jesus’ conversation with this outcast Samaritan woman challenged her worldview and changed her life.  It would have been comforting for Jesus simply to affirm that God cares about Samaritans.  It would have been amazing for her to hear that God cares about outcasts.  It was life-transforming for her to learn that Jesus carries her burden with her, feels her weariness, and knows her thirst for something more.

John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” said late in life as he approached death, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things – that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”

Lord Jesus, thank you for caring about me and for carrying my burdens.  Amen

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” – Isaiah 54:4

A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston