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July devotions

Please enjoy the Daily Devotions for July.
Each day, a new devotion will be listed at the top of this page.
 
To view previous month: June

July 23
Answered Prayer

I had signed up to help hand out flyers for the annual ISI fall picnic and friendship dinners. It was hot, the parking meter had just expired on my car, and I was tired. But, determined to hand out all my flyers, I looked for one last person to connect with.

I saw a tall Arabian looking student get off a campus bus and head toward a nearby building. I ran toward him, greeted him, and gave him my last flyer. Joe turned out to be a Muslim graduate student and that day marked the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

We’ve shared many meals and enjoyed numerous engaging conversations. In spite of his Muslim faith, he remains very open to talking about pretty much anything. I have shared Bible stories with him (like the prodigal son), given him an Arabic/English New Testament, given him the movie The Passion of the Christ, and shared worship CDs with him.

He has talked to me about his potential fiancé, and shared his love of classical, blues, and rock music! He asks me to pray for him, and I do – both with and without him present. Recently, after almost two years of friendship, he told me that the day we met, he was fasting for Ramadan and believing God for answered prayers. While on the campus bus just before I chased him down to give him a flyer, he had prayed to meet a kind American. What an honor and privilege to BE the answer to a specific prayer!

Whether or not I ever get to witness Joe giving himself to Jesus, I will treasure the opportunity to speak into his life while God works on his heart.


Reflection:

Be willing to let the Lord use you in someone’s life. Listen to what the Holy Spirit guides you to say and do, and be willing to follow through. You could end up as the answer to someone’s prayer too!


Romans 10:14-15
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

Submitted by: source withheld

July 22
Sounds Like…

Sometimes our interactions with students can provide an unexpected moment of humor! At an event hosted by ISI staff and volunteers several years ago, one young volunteer couple enjoyed a pleasant conversation with several Muslim students. As the evening neared an end, the volunteers wanted to continue the goodwill and interaction with the students and extended an invitation to join them for a meal in their home in the near future. 

That’s where things got confusing! The young volunteer approached me with a puzzled look on his face. He explained that they had invited the Muslim students to their home for a meal, just as they had been encouraged to do. He went on to explain, “But they said something about going to Ramada Inn instead.  We really can't afford to take them out for dinner, and besides, you told us they would enjoy being invited to an American home!" 

I’m sure my face held a blank expression for a moment as I processed the conversation as he had relayed it to me. Suddenly, it hit me! I burst out laughing as I explained that the Muslim students had actually said they couldn't accept the invitation at this time because it was RAMADAN and they were fasting! The communication gap had occurred over a misunderstood phrase and tradition, not because the students were greedy and wanted to have a meal at the Ramada Inn!


Reflection:

In interacting with people from other parts of the country, or even other countries, it can be challenging to make sure we hear and understand clearly what they want to communicate to us. May we listen graciously and make every effort to respect them, their culture, and their traditions.



Proverbs 12:15
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.

Submitted by:
source withheld

July 21
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

It’s been a bumpy road. Conflicts may be a normal part of everyday life but walking the path to restoration is tedious, inconvenient, and downright maddening! All one has to do is breathe long enough and there will be conflict.

In ministry, conflict can be a hallmark of great victory to come or, conversely, an obstacle to God’s greater plan and/or desire. I found that if I could persevere and push through the process—which basically means to see the process through until it’s finished—the outcome would be a great blessing, not just for me but for the ministry overall.

Shalom, which means wholeness and fullness of peace, is God’s design for us. We settle for table crumbs when we turn away from the conflict(s) that may be before us. Ask God to reveal Himself through and in the midst of your conflict. He gives what is necessary to persevere. Will you take what He has to give? It’s a veritable feast!

I did. And I will continue to. I am not the most courageous, humble, or even joyful person in the world. But I do admit that I am a Jesus Lover. And He has changed my mind and heart through the process of working out my salvation through conflict and resolution.


Reflection:

Let me encourage you as you lead. Be bold. Be honest. Be courageous. Be humble. Be willing with your words and actions. Be patient and longsuffering. Pursue God in all His holiness. It will cause you to see a bigger picture of what He has for you in ministry…and life. Don’t settle for a comfortable or numb approach. It will only block the fullness of God’s joy and desires for you.

 

John 16:32-33
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Submitted by: source withheld

July 20
Keep Spreading the Word

My wife led Ruth, a grad student, to the Lord in the fall. Not long after, Ruth met Pete, a visiting scholar at the university.  He mentioned to her that he had more interest in studying the Bible than the discipline he had come to the United States to study. When Ruth noticed that he only had a small Bible someone had given him, she really wanted him to have a big Bible, like the one we had given her.

So, Ruth came to ask us if we could give Pete a Bible. In response, we invited Ruth, Pete, and Pete’s family to our house for lunch.  We also invited another ISI staff couple to join us since we knew we would be leaving town for several weeks, we only had a small window of opportunity to reach Pete and his family before their return to his teaching position back home.

That evening, we gave Pete a parallel translations Bible and his daughter a Bible storybook. The other ISI couple shared their testimony and Pete agreed to meet with them to study the Bible. We got word while on our trip that Pete had made a decision to follow Christ, and then just before their return to their home country, his wife and daughter also became Christians.

Pete read the Bible storybook to his daughter every day and received training in the M:28 Discovery Bible study. They have returned home and we pray that the Lord will spread His word from this family into the lives of many families there.


Reflection:

What a blessing to see someone you have led to the Lord become a witness to someone else they have encountered. This perfectly exemplifies the spread of the Gospel the way God intended.


II Thessalonians 3:1
Finally, dear brothers and sister, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you.

Submitted by: Ray, Texas

July 19
Joy in the Suffering

Someone once said “Never waste a good crisis.  Embrace it.”  The Greek translation for that is “baloney.” Nobody wants to “embrace” a crisis. We just want to get through it and come out on the other side.

 The Word says over and over, that God wants us to have joy in our lives, and yet we deal with stuff daily that brings anything but joy. Joy and pain seem mutually exclusive. God brings things into our lives that seem to choke out the joy He says He wants us to experience. How can we find joy when a child is deathly ill, or our family is ripped apart by divorce, or we are alienated from loved ones? Where is the joy in a financial crisis or a deep disappointment? Or the death of a spouse or good friend? 

 I know that God uses trials to grow my faith and my confidence in Him. I know He enables me to deal with a crisis and that as I lean on Him, I will get through it stronger and more like Jesus. Experientially, I know that. I know that even in the deepest, darkest night of crying out for relief, God always meets me, assures me of His presence, and gives me the grace I need to survive. The joy must come from applying His word to my need. From watching God work in and through my life and the lives of my friends as we struggle to get through. The joy must come in the sacrifice of praise on the other side of my pain. 


Reflection:

Let us not shrink away from the hard stuff that God allows into our lives. Instead, let us welcome and embrace it for the work it will do in making us more like Jesus, our ultimate goal.

Romans 5:3-5
We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Submitted by: Pat, Missouri

July 18
Let Your Light Shine

As we befriend our international students, we never know what they will get out of our friendship. We hope seeds of faith will be planted at least and commitments for salvation at best. However, there are other things in our lives that students will observe... things that can make a lasting impression, things that can cause positive associations with the Christian lifestyle.

Recently, Kerry and his wife ministered to a group of 19 aviation students. Thomas was the designated leader of the group, and it was easy to see why. He was a strong leader whose personality soon won a special place in Kerry and Josie’s hearts. Kerry and Josie made an impression on Thomas too. Before returning to China, he wrote them this message:

“You are really good friends. Do not forget to contact me when you are in China.  Thank you for your help this year. …You are a really good husband and wife. I really admire you…  Thank you again, for everything you did for us pilots and for all international students. I really appreciate it.” In humble reflection, Kerry said, “We praise the Lord for any good things Thomas was able to see in us.”

It’s a sweet testimony to the Lord’s work in Kerry and Josie as individuals and as a couple. It is His work in their lives that shone through to Thomas. Seeds were planted on ground softened by a couple’s love for each other.

 

Reflection:

When we reflect God’s love through our behavior and words, our lifestyles become attractive to seekers. We are most effective in our ministry when we are closest to the Lord. We may be able to say the right things and act the right way, but without God in our lives, we can’t be truly effective. If we start each day with the Lord, and ask Him to direct our steps as it pleases Him, then will His light shine through us to guide a hurting world.

 

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world.
 A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Submitted by: Kerry, Oregon

July 17
A New Attitude

I grew up as the only child in a close-knit extended family. I didn’t spend much time alone and developed a dependence on people and security from these human relationships. But when I came to the United States, suddenly I had no security in anything. I felt lost in a new country, new culture and new language. I had no friends and became edgy and temperamental. I took my unhappiness out on those around me. One day when I looked in the mirror, I noticed my face looked so tense I could hardly smile. I realized I could not go on living this way.

I decided the first change I would take to make things less stressful would be to improve my English. I began attending a group called “Talk Time” at a local church. There, I heard about Christ for the first time. As one of the ways to learn English, they told the story of Jesus. This interested me, but many of the verses didn’t make sense and seemed so hard for me to understand and put into practice. For example, the concept of forgiveness challenged me.

But the more I attended, the more I enjoyed these sessions. I got to know some of the volunteers and began doing Bible study with some of them, in addition to working on my English skills. They also got me involved in several activities to experience American culture. All this really helped to improve my English, but down deep inside I could not understand what drove these people to choose to spend time with me. Why would they willingly give up their own free time to work with me?

One day I heard a sermon talking about love coming from God. Suddenly it all began to make sense! These volunteers chose to act like Jesus and reflect His love onto me. From that day on, I started to believe in Christ. I can’t honestly say my life dramatically changed because I continue to struggle with challenges, but I have noticed a new attitude.

Before becoming a Christian, I held back my time and resources for myself. After accepting Jesus, I learned that God gave up His son to die for me and for my sin. Wow! Compared to this unconditional love, my selfishness seemed petty. Now, when someone needs help, I want to do whatever I can, no matter how little. I don’t even care whether I get rewarded. I just want to pass along God’s love to those around me.

 
Reflection:

Changing our perspectives and attitudes does not usually happen overnight. Old habits die-hard and we continue to face tough challenges that test our faith. Continue to live into God’s love, making conscious choices that reflect His love to those around you.


I John 4:17-18
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Submitted by: Liz, Japa

July 16
So Many Questions

Recently, I took a road trip with a number of international students. The long hours together in a van across many miles gave us ample opportunity for lengthy discussions. Thomas, one of the Middle Eastern students seemed intent on drilling down for information he seemed to have been pondering over a period of time. He asked me question after question, specifically about Christianity, including, “What do Christians believe about hell?” “What do Christians believe about sex?” “What do Christians believe about other religions?”

His questions opened the door for me to tell him stories from the Gospels. He soaked them up and I began to understand how and why Jesus had used parables. When Thomas raised the topic of the purpose of life, I felt the Holy Spirit compelling me to quote from Mark, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Thomas looked visibly moved and then he told me this was one of the most beautiful statements he had ever heard.

As the miles rolled by, the questions just kept coming. I relied on the Holy Spirit to give me the words to answer him and keep him engaged. By the time we reached our destination, I had shared with him Jesus’ assurance that those who leave their life to follow Christ will find true life. Thomas had a lot more to think about after that trip!

Reflection:

People often associate America with Christianity and have preconceived notions about what that means. What a huge privilege and responsibility to help others understand the true meaning of Christianity and to live in such a way that they see and understand it lived out.

Luke 9:23-25
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. Bit if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

Submitted by: Mike, Nevada

July 15
His Love Through Me

For more than five years I have cultivated a relationship with Zoe, a Muslim student from a Middle Eastern country. She earned a doctorate from our local university and during those years here in California, Zoe sought me out for advice and perspective many times. Even though she’s in her mid-30s and no longer a young girl, I think she considers me a kind of mother figure. To this day, she has a picture of us posted on her Facebook page.

We have kept up communication even since her move to Kansas for post-doctoral work, and especially over the last few months. Because Zoe feels her biological clock ticking, she signed up with an online dating site in the hopes of meeting somebody special that she could spend her life with and start a family. After a few misses, Zoe met a man she liked and appreciated. Turns out, he was an American and a Catholic! What an answer to my prayers for Zoe to find someone with Christian beliefs.

But then, Zoe’s new love interest broke things off with her because he didn’t feel her culture and Islamic faith would work for him. Devastated does not begin to describe Zoe’s emotional state; she cried long and hard, something I had never heard her do before. In the midst of her despair, Zoe told me she felt ready to try Christianity. Grabbing the opportunity, I encouraged her to read the book of Luke—and she is doing it! Before even finishing the book, she asked to come to church with me.

I continue to walk alongside Zoe and be available when she needs to talk or process. I don’t know what God holds for her future, but I know He loves her and I want to live out His love to Zoe.


Reflection:

Sometimes just listening and caring can make all the difference in the world. We don’t have to have all the answers or know how things will turn out. We just need to live out Jesus’ love and minister to hurting hearts.


 
I John 4:11-12

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Submitted by: Karen, California

July 14
Full of Questions

Towards the end of our staff prayer time at the ISI city office, I heard someone walk in and sit down. Sneaking a glance, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Faith had arrived a few minutes early for our planned meeting. The staff continued bringing praises and requests to God as if a Muslim student walked into our prayer time every day. I noticed that she reverently bowed her head and stayed still and attentive until we closed.

Faith and I had previously made arrangements to meet at the office and whisk off to Niagara Falls in time to catch the sun set and get a close up view of the falls by going down into the Caves of The Wind. Even though our previous conversations have never ventured beyond fun and light-hearted, with lots of giggles and sharing about things happening in and around our lives, I could immediately sense that day would be different.

Faith peppered me with deeper questions like, “What do you mean God helps you deal with your singleness?" And, "What is the word for small worship? And, “What is the word for big worship?" As well as, “What do you mean God dwells inside of you? How can God be inside of you?” Throughout our outing, the questions kept coming. Obviously, Faith was thinking, testing, exploring, and pondering. She seemed fascinated with discovering that different answers existed than those she had grown up hearing and held to so dearly. I could sense the battle rising up from inside of her. What she had once accepted as true and secure, she had begun to question.

As Faith thinks, tests, explores and ponders, I want to be there to talk through her questions and provide insight with the Holy Spirit’s guidance.


Reflection:

So many people simply accept and carry on the traditions they were taught, never stepping back to question and analyze their beliefs. Be prepared to field all kinds of questions and encourage exploration to help them discover the truth for themselves instead of just accepting everything they have been taught at face value.

I Timothy 2:1, 3-5
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. …This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.

Submitted by: Lisa, New York

July 13
Shared Vision

Recently, I posed this question to several of my volunteers: “What are your hopes for the future of international student ministry in the Bay Area?” While my volunteers never cease to amaze and encourage me, the following volunteer response so beautifully expressed the very heart and reason for the ministry of ISI that I wanted to share it with everyone.

“My hope is that the church would wake up and be involved in these opportunities that the Lord has given us to reach the world through international students.

Of course, with the awakening there is a real need for training so that the evangelism is both culturally sensitive and effective. My hope and prayer is that students would come to know Jesus so that the Gospel would be brought back to their countries and have a rippling effect.

Coming home from the mission field, our family was seeking the Lord about where and how to serve Him. We were delighted to see that the Lord has brought the nations to the United States, and that we can continue to be involved in reaching out to the world while we are in the States.”


What a blessing to have the support and input of volunteers whose hearts have the same vision and desire to see the nations reached for Christ. We can only do what we do because they sustain and encourage our work.


Reflection:

Are you helping to get the work done? Is God moving on your heart to help reach others in your community? Your vision, assistance, encouragement, and commitment, can be greatly used of God.


Exodus 17:12
Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.

Submitted by: Leon, California

July 12
Life After Life

I have an Asian minister friend who connects me with all the Chinese, Cambodian, Nepalese and other international students he comes across. Recently, he referred a young man to come talk to me about the Bible. We met at a Chinese buffet near the campus, and when our waitress, Sue noticed our Bibles, she said that she had attended a Chinese Bible study, but did not consider herself a Christian. When she admitted she had some questions, I arranged to come back the following week to address them.

Sue said she felt like she didn’t really care about her life after this life. She had already pretty much checked out of the Bible study, grown disinterested and maybe even annoyed. I felt the Spirit leading me to talk to her openly about the realities of heaven and hell. I told her about the length of eternity, and then graphically described both heaven and hell. I reminded her that God does not want anyone to go to hell and described it as a lake of fire with no water, constant loud screaming, and filled with evil people and spirits overflowing with hate. In wrapping things up, I gave her a tract about eternal life and asked her to give some thought to why she should care about her afterlife. 

When I returned to talk to Sue the following week, I asked her if she had had a chance to read the tract. She told me she had started to, but suddenly decided to go to Bible study instead. That night, she gave her life to Jesus! I asked her what she felt when she did that, and her face changed as she described the peace that filled her. “I have no worry for anything now,” Sue said. When I enthusiastically told her that I wanted to support and encourage her, she exclaimed, “You did! You already encouraged me a lot.”


Reflection:

It’s easy to forget about the eternal ramifications of not choosing to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. We spend our days trying to live this life in a way that will honor God, often forgetting that those who do not find their way to God will suffer greatly for eternity.


II Peter 3:9
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Submitted by: Jeremy, Louisiana

 

July 11
Now My Life Makes Sense

While reading through my brief spiritual autobiography, my Missions pastor quickly picked up on the international theme in my life. “Germlish” was a common language spoken in my half-German, half-American family as I grew up in rural Texas. My family moved to a city where I was a minority in my public school as a white American. I loved learning about other cultures, for studying other languages was entertainment for me. One of my best friends in high school was a Filipino immigrant, and I spent extra time with his family when I got the chance. In college, I worked in the dorm where most of the international students lived, so I became friends with many of them (bringing some home with me on the weekends).

After college, I was looking for opportunities to use my degree in English and Secondary Education when God put a curve in my path. As I was exploring what God had for me, my pastor mentioned that I had a common gift set for missionaries (after looking over my Spiritual Gifts Inventory). I got excited because I was actively applying to teach abroad and use teaching as my life mission; I wanted to teach English during the day and lead women’s Bible studies at night. In our discussion, my pastor also mentioned that a couple in our church was looking into starting an international student ministry and encouraged me to give them a call. I called them and joined the interest meeting they were hosting a couple weeks later.

When I walked into the meeting, the room was filled with the Missions committee, the Missions pastor, and an ISI speaker. I was the youngest person there by about twenty years, so I was not sure how I fit in or measured up to this crowd. (I quickly disqualified myself as a potential leader since I was the youngest and least experienced.) The ISI speaker explained how international student ministry was the perfect training ground for foreign missions.

This made me realize how unprepared I felt for teaching abroad. Unfortunately, my previous churches were not “Missions-oriented”, and there were not any other missionaries in my family. That is when I knew there was a reason why I attended this interest meeting and a role for me to play in this ministry. However, it took a while for me to realize how significant a role God was preparing me for.

At first I thought, “One of these more seasoned missions people should take the lead, and I’ll simply help out along the way while I prepare to teach abroad.” As the days and weeks went by, I shared what I had learned about this new ministry with my friends. Through one of those friends, I met a professor who wanted to help the international students on his campus but did not have the time to do it on his own.

Within a few months, this professor and I held an interest meeting for international students to see if anyone wanted to start an on-campus organization. Once I met the seventeen students who came to the first meeting and began hearing their stories, I was hooked. I saw a definite need but wondered why no one was stepping up to take the lead. My frustration grew as I waited for someone else to take the reins—reins I had unknowingly already claimed.  I decided to apply to ISI and see what happened. 

ISI was quick to respond to my request, and I received an electronic application which sat in my inbox for a month. (After all, I already had my mission plans to teach abroad, and I was the least qualified from the original group that had attended the interest meeting!) ISI contacted me about the delay in my application process to inquire if I was still interested. 

Yes, I decided I was still interested.  Taking this big step in filling out the application led me to a moment when I realized, “Now my life makes sense!” My entire background seemed to lead to that moment. I was awed at how God had prepared me along the way and guided each of my steps. Five years later, God is still doing amazing things on the campus where I serve international students. He is the One leading!

Reflection:

Our qualification to serve the Lord does not come from ourselves; it comes from the work of Christ within us, and how He has prepared us along the way. Our unique spiritual gifting allows us to catch a glimpse of the direction in which He leads. What passion has He stirred within you where you have the opportunity to use your spiritual gifts?

 

2 Corinthians 3:5
It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own.  Our qualification comes from God.

Submitted by: Emily, Texas

July 10
How Will They Hear?

To a person coming from a Muslim background, Ramadan has as much importance to them as Christmas does to a Christian. The word “Ramadan” itself is the name of one of the lunar months on the Arabic calendar. During that month Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink (including water) and other physical needs during the hours that the sun is up. It is a time for them to cleanse the soul, focus their attention on Allah and practice self-sacrifice. It is as much a cultural phenomenon as a religious observance. Typically before the precise minute that the sun goes up, and after the precise minute the sun goes down (there is an iPhone/Android app to find that for any location in the world) the Muslim family would typically feast to celebrate the time. I remember driving by our local Arabic restaurant and seeing it packed at all hours of the night during this month.

Recently, I was able to go with my Muslim friend, Rashan, and two other key ISI team members to break one of the fast days this year for Ramadan. It became a wonderful time of fellowship and cultural exchange. Rashan was able to share so much about past family times around Ramadan and what those times meant to him. He found the best Arabic restaurant he could find in our city (which happened to be an hour away). It was fun too as he had his iPhone app out, and we went in to the restaurant 10 minutes before the official lifting of the fast to prepare so that we could hit the buffet line right at the time of sunset!

Coincidentally, one of the other ISI partners and I needed God’s guidance on something at that time. So we fasted and prayed too on that day. The fasting we did out of respect for him, but also because of our own needs. It sure was hard to be so thirsty with a cold glass of water sitting in front of us in the restaurant while we waited for the sun to go down. While I am okay with drinking while on a fast, Rashan was not. Still, as a result of the three of us sharing a fast, we were able to compare and contrast how and why we fast, and we were able to share about the special approachability of God through Jesus.

It was a nice time of sharing, and we were able to talk about stuff we usually never have the occasion to talk about. But because of this experience we had together, we earned the right to speak what was on our hearts as he told us what was on his. Afterwards, he went out of his way to thank us for sharing this time with him.


Reflection:

Our openness and willingness to understand the culture and traditions of those around us is the key to breaking down the barriers for their own willingness to hear the Good News we have for them. From this point, the Holy Spirit can do His work in touching hearts and minds.

Romans 10:12-15
Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!

Submitted by: Roy, Texas

July 9
From the Other Side of Ministry

Roy and his wife lived in New York where he worked in a bank at the World Trade Center. During their time in New York, they got involved in a church where they enjoyed friendships and social events and even attended a few Bible studies. In spite of their involvement, however, they never really considered becoming Christians.

After about a year in New York, they returned to Japan where Roy got a job in another large bank. The long hours and demands of work put a strain on their marriage; Roy and his wife wondered if it would help them to find a church in Tokyo. They followed through and found a church—and a Savior!

Their new life in Christ meant following His Spirit wherever He led them; therefore, after many years as a banker, Roy retired in order to attend seminary and become a pastor. The only reason I know their story is because after Roy’s seminary, God brought Roy (and his family) to serve as pastor for a Japanese church in Oregon!

What a privilege to enjoy this side of Roy’s salvation.  It’s unique, different, and wonderful to minister here together (instead of introducing him to Jesus while he lived in America and discipling him for his return to Japan). Here, Roy and I enjoy our friendship and meet Japanese students together on campus; we introduce them to a great example of how God’s love speaks in any language, any culture, and any life.


Reflection:

Perhaps you think of your work as more of a front-end ministry---planting seeds in others and watering them for whatever time we have with them. What a blessing to enjoy the fruits of others’ labors and watch God carry out His calling on the life of one who has already come to believe.



Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Submitted by: Dan, Oregon

July 8
The Challenge of the In-Your Face Shirt

Reflection:

Jesus called us to faithfully share His love with others, regardless of the results. This is because the core of ministry does not begin with results; it begins with a heart that is obedient to His leading. Are you willing to not only overlook a direct challenge to your faith but also reach out to its bearer with your most sincere expression of Christian compassion? If so, then you can be used by God.



Matthew 5:43-47
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?”

Submitted by: source withheld

 July 7
It takes Teamwork

If you have worked in ministry for any length of time, you already know that though you may reach out to people for Christ, you may not always see the fruit of your labor. Reach out you must, though, just as our Lord instructs us. At ISI, our mission statement begins with, “International Students, Inc. exists to share Christ’s love with international students…” We exist to share Christ’s love with them…period.  This does not mean that we love them unless they do not accept Christ. We may not witness their decision to accept Christ, but we recognize that God can take them to this step, even without us.

David, an ISI staff member, once shared how two Chinese men who attended their Bible study finally accepted Christ. David had told them about a Chinese evangelist who would be visiting a Chinese Church. Baojia and Huang decided to attend with some of their friends, and this was a life-changing event for both men. The first, Baojia, had requested prayer for a job. When he got it, he recognized it as an answer to prayer. He texted, “Thank you, Jesus!” David met Baojia for lunch where he prayed with him afterwards to accept Christ. Huang was also touched by what the Chinese evangelist had to share. He told David that he, “…believes in God suddenly.” David reviewed the Gospel with Huang, and though he made his initial commitment to Christ with the Chinese evangelist, Huang prayed the prayer of salvation again.



Reflection:

No matter what our ministry, we must embrace the idea that God may use other Christians to help complete His work in a soul. The work we do is just as important as the end work. So, we should not feel discouraged if we do not witness when a person commits to Christ. Instead, we should remain in prayer and watch in excitement for how God continues His work in lives. Do you share this life-giving water with others?



1 Corinthians 12:18-21
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

Submitted by: David, New York

July 6
Wrong Assumptions

When Quon came to America from China, he was a trained and committed atheist. Though he considered God’s existence something no one could really know for sure, he derived his philosophy of life from the assumption he’d been taught to believe. He wrote:

“I was born to be an atheist, just as I was born to eat with chopsticks. But after two years here, I completely changed my mind and made the decision to follow Christ. This happened when things started going crazy during my second year. I had to deal with never-ending tasks every day. I kept worrying even at night and couldn’t fall asleep.

In this time of great stress and anxiety, I found a link to a daily prayer website on a professor’s homepage. From the online prayers I read that God is in control of everything, He loves me unconditionally, and knows all my worries and needs. These words poured into my heart just like rain falls into dry lands and brings life and hope. So at that time, I put aside my atheist assumption, and accepted that God does exist; otherwise, I was dying. I started to pray every night, and experienced life dependent on God and the power of His Word.”

From this personal experience, Quon realized how lifelong assumptions had separated him from God. Fortunately, God’s truth transcends not only those assumptions, but cultural restrictions and boundaries as well.

Reflection:

What a blessing it is when rain from heaven pours onto different people with the same thirst! It gives new life to everyone in His kingdom. Do you share this life-giving water with others?


1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a
We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be His own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.

Submitted by: Scott, North Carolina

July 5
“Check ya O?”

The first time I was “down South” (Tennessee, to be precise) with my wife, I managed to get into a lot of trouble. In some ways, I was very much like an international student because I had great difficulty understanding what the people down South were saying.

 A classic moment was when I pulled into a gas station (before the days of “self-serve”), and the attendant came up to my window, saying something utterly unintelligible to me. He said what sounded like, “Check ya O?” I didn’t understand him, so I said, “Fill ‘er up!” He blinked hard at me, and I blinked hard right back at him---on and on and on it went.

What I realized later was that he was obviously saying, “Check your oil?” Like that gas station attendant, I am asking you the same type of question. However, I am asking about your “spiritual oil!” When was the last time you checked your “spiritual oil,” otherwise known as, “The Joy of the Lord?”

Just as a car engine cannot run without oil, neither can the soul of a Christian run the Christian race without “The Joy of the Lord” (the soul’s oil). Without it, we will freeze up; our hearts will get hardened and brittle. Then, the smallest good work will seem legalistic and arduous. Check your oil?

Ezra and Nehemiah told the returning exiles (who were weeping in sadness as they looked at the destruction all around them and heard the Word of the Lord being read to them) some very wise words:

“Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:9-10, NASB).


Reflection:

The joy of the Lord is our strength, folks. The joy of the Lord is to our souls what oil is to an engine. If we do not have the joy of the Lord, then let’s pray for God to fill us up! “Check ya O” lately?



Psalm 51:12
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Submitted by: Ed, North Carolina

July 4
Divine Appointments

In an effort to make new student contacts at a university that was resistant to Christian organizations’ involvement with international students, I signed up to be a Conversation Partner through an off-campus group.

I was excited to be matched with a Chinese man who lived in the married student-housing complex. I asked the Lord to give me favor, to allow us to build trust in our friendship, and to give me the privilege of serving this man during his temporary stay in California.

When I called the number, a Chinese man answered. I explained who I was and that we had been matched as Conversation Partners. He sounded a bit unsure, but he continued to converse with me. He told me of his life as a visiting scholar in California, and how his wife and daughter had come along with him. I shared about my interest in Chinese culture and language, and we arranged a time to meet together. I referred to his address on the Conversation Partner form to confirm with him that I had the correct information. Strangely, the address was different. Next, I confirmed the spelling of his name, and, to my surprise, his name was completely different. The phone number was one digit off. I had called the wrong number and reached Mr. Zhang instead of Mr. Chang. By God’s design, I had a new Chinese friend by dialing the wrong number!

Our friendship grew as we met for English conversation, holiday events, and hikes. I helped to introduce Professor Zhang’s grade-school daughter, Lily, to a Vacation Bible School (VBS) class and was glad to see that she was making friends in America. (Often, it is through children that the Lord draws whole families to Himself.)

One day when the phone rang, I immediately knew who it was. Professor Zhang. His voice had become very familiar to me; yet, this time it was shaky. Something was wrong; he explained that they were in the emergency room. Lily had been struck in the crosswalk while walking home from school---the Zhangs lost their only child while they were away from their home and extended family. They called me for comfort in their time of deepest pain; I was honored, yet overcome, with our shared grief.

Lily’s memorial service was attended by a blend of Chinese and Americans (especially friends from Lily’s church). On the cover of the program was artwork with a poem written by Lily. In it, she gave thanks to God for beauty, for family, and for life. The touching message was not only evidence of her spiritual sensitivity and faith but also a hopeful witness to all at the service. Her involvement in VBS had led to friendships and Bible study with peers and youth group leaders. Lily had come to know Jesus personally. Though Lily’s life was cut short, she had a message of hope to share with others.  God used the divine appointment of a wrong number to call a dear child to Himself and announce to others that Jesus saves.



Reflection:

It should be our prayer that the Lord gives us eyes to recognize divine appointments when He brings them our way. In all things…all things, we should give Him our praise.


Ephesians 5:16-17
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Submitted by: source withheld

July 3
The Ambassador with an Incredible Portfolio


Reflection:

For some, we have lived with the Gospel so long that it may be easy to forget how incredible the Good News really is. Our debt has been paid; we have Someone who has paid for all our sins. As we truly grasp the enormity of His gift, we should never fear or worry again. May we be ambassadors of this wonderful truth wherever we go!

July 2
An Unexpected Answer

A volunteer team leader with our ministry shared the following:

This [international student] ministry really excites me! The students excite me. Our great group of volunteers that give sacrificially both of their time and finances excites me!

The students are so warm, friendly, and happy to know the volunteers. We get to interact with them when they are experiencing the world outside their country for the first time. It amazes me how open they seem about God and the Bible.

I strive to share my faith with my fellow Americans, so I really revel in the openness these international students have for the Gospel. I am amazed by some of the stories they share about how God prepared their hearts even before they came to the United States. For example, one of the students who became a Christian and got baptized told me this story:

“I was a student at the university in my country. I was walking down a narrow alley way between buildings when a young man about my age came walking toward me from the other end of the alley. As we met each other in the alley, he asked me, ‘Are you a Christian?’ I did not even know what that meant or what a Christian was so I responded, ‘No.’ He told me, ‘Don't worry. In a little while, you will be.’ After we had this exchange and passed by each other, I turned to say something else to him—but he was gone! I was baffled how he could disappear just like that. There was no explanation for where he could have gone. I believe he was an angel.”

The Lord is so good! He has answered many prayers of our students for help with their studies, for healing, and for other situations that have strengthened their faith and ours.


Reflection:

Prayer is important in preparing and reaching others with the Gospel—even before we’ve met! Have you prayed for your future, present and past interactions? Are you believing God for great things?

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely m ore than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Submitted by: Kerry, Oregon

July 1

John 8:31-36

Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."
 

Reflection:

It doesn’t matter how free you believe you are, there’s always going to be something/someone holding you back—whether it’s your job, your colleagues, or even the restrictions you put on yourself. But what really restrains you is the sin you can’t—or won’t—let go of. Only Christ can truly set you free from that. And only then can you break the chains of slavery. Make today your Independence Day!

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