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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 31
Truth Seeker

Not five minutes into my first conversation with Thao, a young student from Vietnam, he asked me frankly, “Can you tell me the Christianity in five minutes?” Wow! I offered a quick prayer for clarity and brevity and launched into a compelling description of creation, God, sin, the solution to sin, and the way to heaven in only three-and-a-half minutes!

Apparently that summary piqued his curiosity, because Thao followed up by asking if we could have lunch after class. So, later we met at a Vietnamese restaurant where three more students joined us. The discussion began with Thao asking me to describe the difference between Catholic and non-Catholic. God gave me the words to describe the differences in an evangelistic way. Then, providentially, Beth, a Vietnamese lady spontaneously joined our conversation. She shared that she had been raised Catholic, but after reading the Bible sought a personal relationship with Christ. Thao couldn’t get over the fact that he was sharing a meal with a Vietnamese Christian. In Vietnam, Christianity is often the described as a “white man’s religion.”

I explained to Thao that Christianity actually traces back to the Middle East. When he asked about why people consider Rome the center of Christianity, I explained about the days of the Roman Empire and how the Roman Catholic Church had retained that location. What an inquiring mind!

Further intrigued, Thao invited me to take part in an interview for a class assignment about Christianity. As a sort of field trip, I invited him to church where he met my family and some people from the mission board. He showed receptivity to everything and enthusiastically told me of his intent to return.

The next time I spoke to him, Thao admitted that he used to call himself an atheist, but now wants to learn more about God and Christianity. I believe Thao will come around and accept Christ as his Lord and Savior before long. His hunger, thirst and avid curiosity draw him closer and closer to the truth.


Reflection:

We cannot rely on our own resources or aptitude to have the right words to say when someone asks about our faith. We must rely on God to speak through us and reach into the heart and mind of that person, at that time. Our job is to always be prepared and willing to be used as a vessel for God’s work.

I Peter 3:15-16
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

Submitted by: Jeremy, Louisiana

July 30
Transforming Love

 “I've had a change of mind,” said Timothy earnestly. The young business student continued, “Back in my country, I spent most nights out with my colleagues and rarely came home to eat with my wife.” But due to his recent Bible reading, Timothy had recognized the consistent priority placed on loving family. This caused him to reassess his own priorities.

In subsequent visits, we talked more about the Bible, especially the gospels. He noticed big differences with his traditional background, and sensed that following Christ might prove costly.

After a few more weeks, Timothy’s wife, Claire, came to visit him for a month. When we first met her, we were amazed. What a beautiful smile! What sparkling eyes! Her husband looked like he was walking on Cloud Nine! When she got off the plane in Los Angeles, she immediately recognized a change in his heart. His care for her shined through. Their love story began all over again. They looked adorable on the tennis court wearing matching outfits and grinning from ear to ear.

Claire began asking questions. She wondered what could have made such a difference in her husband. As patient friends explained to her all about God's love, she truly understood. She wanted a love that could revive the dead. According to Claire, her relationship with Timothy had been as good as dead, and now everything had come fully alive. Within just a couple weeks, she decided to open her heart to this love. She trusted Jesus as her savior, and sealed her resolve to follow Him faithfully with baptism.

Timothy supported her, yet continued to hesitate on his own personal conversion. Just a few days before Claire’s return home, we sat down to talk with them about the basics of living as a Christian. As part of that, we encouraged her to pray with us out loud. We each took turns praying, and after Claire had prayed, a pregnant pause followed. Suddenly, Timothy’s voice broke the silence:

“Lord, I want my first prayer to be that I will follow You...”

As if lightning had struck, energy charged through the atmosphere in the room. As soon as Timothy finished his prayer, Claire leaped into his lap, threw her arms around him, and started bawling. She said, “Oh darling, my love has not been patient. My love has not been kind. I've been so selfish...”

What a holy moment! Later, we marveled over and over how a young woman, so young in Christ, could have internalized the truths of 1 Corinthians 13 so appropriately and genuinely. It was further evidence of her regeneration and the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life. We felt so thankful that this new young couple could lean on and encourage each other through the rigors of life and faith.

Eight years later, they continue walking together and following Christ. What an excellent example of God's transforming love! Timothy’s choice to align his priorities with those found in Scripture triggered a miracle in his marriage. Claire responded to his love, and ultimately to Christ’s love.


Reflection:

Sometimes all it takes is a shift in priority or focus to become more fully aligned with truly living out God’s calling on your life and heart. How are you doing at living out God’s love for others? Do others experience God's love expressed through you?

I John 4:12
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: Ian, California

July 29
Truth in Deed

Ashraful came to America from Bangladesh as a young Muslim student, but in private conversations, he shared that he intended to, “…read the Bible and the other most sacred books to determine real truth.” He was an avid learner. In fact, the day after arriving at our home, he asked me to take him to the library and a map store. His knowledge of world history and geography was most impressive.

After Ashraful got settled into his apartment with other Muslim roommates, we stayed in touch. My wife and I really enjoyed the new community he was in and fellowshipped together. We had all the guys over to our home one evening for a swim party (and swim lessons). Every time we visited their home, they had us sit down, so they could serve us a glass of juice with some food.

As we all got to know each other, we had a chance to observe their celebration of Ramadan, as well. The day before the Ramadan fast ended, Ashraful called to ask me if he could come over to our home for the Eid al-Fitr Feast. He told me he and his roommates had the day off of school, as it was a major Muslim holiday. I told him we would love to have him and his friends over for a feast. I also asked him if they’d be interested in attending the local mosque during prayer time, and he was really touched by the invitation.

When I picked the four guys up the next day, they were dressed nicely in their white Muslim clothing. They kept thanking me over and over again for helping them on their special day. We went to the Convention Center in downtown Phoenix for the 10 a.m. prayer. All the mosques came together, making it a very large, international, and colorful event. As I sat outside, waiting for the half-an-hour prayer time to be over, I watched hundreds of Muslims pass by. I was surprised at how “non-religious” they seemed. It reminded me of a festival…with families dressed up as they gathered together, displaying their faith and culture. When Ashraful and his friends came out of the event, they wanted to take many pictures.

Later that afternoon, we relaxed around the table after finishing a nice feast; I was glad I had the opportunity to take Ashraful and his friends to the prayer gathering and have a feast at our home for them. I considered it an honor that he had asked me, a follower of Jesus, to help him celebrate his special day. Our prayer is that God reveals Himself to Ashraful through the power of the Holy Spirit, using His Words and our actions.


Reflection:

Some may be thinking, how does bringing a Muslim to his place of worship help bring him to the Lord? It seems counterproductive. However, what ministry workers have seen, time after time, is that when we love others, this opens doors for them to ask about Jesus. Eventually they come to Christ, not by condemnation, but by Christ’s love shining through us.


1 Corinthians 2:4-5­
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power.

Submitted by: Charles, Arizona   

July 28
Whatever You Do

Mark started attending our “International Living Room” group after benefiting from a Furniture Fair put on by ISI staff in our area. The International Living Room brought together a number of young adults from our church who were focused on reaching out to people from other countries. We shared a weekly meal and a Bible Study. My wife and I loved the way these American students and young professionals wanted to include foreign students in their community.

Mark began bringing some of his friends to the weekly study. They came early to use the kitchen and to prepare their contribution to the meal; they seemed to enjoy being included in this social event. We had no doubt that these international students were not believers; however, they participated in the Bible study and shared great observations, insights, and questions. They often explained that they were not Christians, but our group continued to include them as if they belonged to the family.

Many of the regulars in the International Living Room had served as volunteers at the Furniture Fair that first brought Mark into contact with us. He had received items he did not have to purchase or figure out how to get for his apartment. Because of this, he responded positively when offered an invitation to join our weekly gathering.

After a few months of attending, it became obvious God was calling Mark to make a decision. He had heard the Gospel presented almost every week, and his questions confirmed the spiritual hunger and growth happening inside of him. Once, in a discussion about how following Jesus means we do things differently, he brought up what he had heard announced at the beginning of the Furniture Fair. It had obviously stayed with him.

“Some of you might wonder why all these people from a church donated their furniture to you. You might wonder why all these volunteers are here to help you pick out things for your new home and deliver them to you. You might wonder why they give to you but ask nothing in return. The reason is because they are all followers of Jesus Christ. They read and follow Jesus’ words in the Bible and try to do the things that Jesus did. We believe that Jesus would be helping people new to our country. We’re just doing what we believe Jesus would do.”

Not much later, we all rejoiced when Mark announced to the group that he had become a Christian.

What a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do! Sometimes, all the activities can seem like a chore or a duty. We focus on increasing our productivity, our efficiency, our timing, etc…We can forget that Jesus focused on relationships; He entered into the lives of those around Him, giving them a glimpse of His love, His grace, and His compassion. That is the example He left us to follow.

So, we look around and find ways to get involved in the lives of the international students around us. One day, it might mean helping someone with directions; another day, it might mean delivering a desk to an apartment. Next week, it might mean helping someone with conversational English or inviting them to share a meal in your home. Be alert! Don’t miss an opportunity.


Reflection:

Where do people see evidence of Jesus in your life? Do you give of your time, energy, and resources so that others can see a glimpse of His kingdom on earth? Find new ways to reach out beyond your front door and make a difference in someone else’s world today.


Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.


Submitted by: Charles, Arizona

July 27
Always at Work

One fall semester, a large number of visiting scholars from China attended the University of Oregon. Many of them came to our campus Bible study and joined in our Bible class at the local Chinese church. I had a conversation with one of these scholars who had just heard the Gospel for the first time, not long before he was to return to China. He asked me sincerely, "What about my friends and family who have never heard this message? They are really nice people. Will they all go to hell?"

I replied, "Maybe that's why God brought you here—so that you can go back and tell them. It's our responsibility to tell others when we have heard the good news. After that, it's up to them how they respond. The question is: What about you? What are you going to do with Jesus?"

It is very difficult to see God at work in the hearts of international students, only to see them return home without having made a decision for Christ. I almost feel like a failure, but then I remember that God is alive and well in China (and every other country on earth). It is not over just because these students do not become Christians in the United States. We have planted seeds that God can and will continue to water and nurture in these students—regardless of where they might go.


Reflection:

The nature of ministry is that we do not often get to see the “end of the story.” People move in and out of our lives, and we don’t always get to know how the Lord continues to move in their hearts and lives. Let us never stop praying for their ongoing development.

 

Philippians 1:6
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns.

Submitted by: Dan, Oregon

July 26
The Ripple Effect

Sitting by the lake, I throw a small pebble into the water and watch the ripples moving out from the center long after the little stone has fallen to the depths of the lake. I recognize a good analogy for our ministry. We seek to reach international students while they are in our vicinity, so that when they return home, they can spread the message of Christ in their countries; the ripple effect.

Many of the students who attend the activities I hold at my home come from the upper-class Chinese. They are the children of government officials, business people, and other national leaders. One of our graduate students is the daughter and granddaughter of generals in China. Certainly missionaries to China would not easily reach these kinds of people, but through the ministry of ISI, we have the opportunity to invest in people who will naturally interact with these generals, government officials, and business people!

I think of my work with the students as the pebble landing in the water. That marks the beginning of the ripples. For example, Mindy had already been in U.S. for two years before we started our ISI meetings and activities. She asked me where we were before, because her life would have looked very different. If Mindy had been in ISI activities earlier, she would have had the friends and encouragement that she routinely got from our activities. She casually mentioned her attendance at our group for international students to her parents, sharing that we meet at American homes and treat them like family. Immediately, her family became suspicious and ordered her never to attend again. They warned her that as Christians, we would try to brainwash her and if she became a Christian she would never succeed in life in China.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Mindy told me her response to her family: “No, these people are not like that at all. They never try to make me do anything Christian, but they love me and have made me part of their family. They even help me with my homework, so my grades have gone up since I started attending ISI!”

Mindy grew comfortable enough with Christians that she began a nursing program at the largest Christian university in Southern California. Once she had been accepted, her first question was, “Where is the closest ISI group to my new school?”

I can see in the lives of Mindy and others who have not yet found a personal relationship with Jesus, that the little pebble I threw into the lake sent its first ripple outward to my students. Then I see evidence of the second ripple when their parents gain an entirely different perspective of Christianity than they have assumed. They witness their children thriving because of their friendships with the staff and volunteers reaching into their lives.

Over time, the ripples will continue reaching outward as they return to their homes and interact with others in their countries. We, as the pebbles will probably never see those ripples, because we will have fallen back down into the water. But in heaven, the ones who have found salvation at least partly through our ministry, and rejoice with them at the feet of Jesus will greet us.

 

Reflection:

Perhaps from the perspective of the pebble, a gentle plop into the water doesn’t seem too impressive. Only from the big picture can we see the effect and ripples generated. Don’t become discouraged when your small part doesn’t seem to make any difference. The ripples will reach farther than you might imagine.


Isaiah 55:10-11

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my Word, I sent it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Submitted by: Vicky, California

July 25
The Right Words at the Right Time

It was a cold and dark time of the year, more a time for curling up and relaxing in the warmth of my home. “Why go out in the cold and hang out with international students?” I asked myself, “How many will show up on a night such as this?” In obedience to what God called me to do, I went to campus that night. From the moment I got there, I forgot about the cold weather and enjoyed fellowship with the students.

It was during the small-group time that God placed on my heart to share an illustration I had used many times before. Why did He do this? He knew how it would impact those who were in my small group that night. I shared with those present that night:

Let’s say you are driving down the highway going 85 mph with a speed limit of 65 mph. The police pull you over for speeding. You are guilty of speeding, and you have to admit it because the police have the proof. The officer says to you, “Today the judge is in session, and you will have to appear before him immediately.”  You appear before the judge, and he asks you, “How do you plead?”  You say, “Guilty.”  The judge gives you a penalty of a $4,000 fine or three days in jail. You do not have the money; so you have to take the three days in jail. As you are being led to jail, the judge steps down from his bench, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his checkbook. The judge begins to write the check for the $4,000 fine. Only you and the judge know that the judge is your real life father. So as a judge, he had to declare you guilty; but as a father he steps in and pays the penalty. You just have to accept the check.

As I shared this illustration, Fred, a student in our small group was amazed by the story. He shared that a couple of weeks ago, he himself was caught speeding; going 91 mph. Fred received a $500 fine for the violation, and had no idea how he would pay it. A week later in the mail, he received a $500 check from his aunt who lives in California. The aunt did not know anything about the speeding violation. She just knew that Fred was a student in the United States without much money, and she thought it would be a nice gesture to send a $500 gift. As Fred listened to the story, he felt that God was speaking directly to him.  It was amazing how God chose that illustration for me to share, so that Fred could hear such a clear Gospel message that would penetrate his heart. It was not my words or any convincing I used to share this gospel message. I hadn’t practiced that illustration. I didn’t know beforehand that Fred would be in my group; I hadn’t even talked with Fred. So I didn’t know about the speeding ticket or money from his aunt. But the Holy Spirit knew the condition of Fred’s heart and nudged him to show up on that Friday night. The Holy Spirit placed Fred in my small group and brought that Gospel illustration to my mind. The Holy Spirit caused Fred to be attentive to the gospel and his heart to be open to accepting it. I was given the right words at the right time, not by planning but by being willing.


Reflection:

We should be willing not by our human energy and strength, but because God has called us to tell others the Good News. As ministers of the gospel, it is not the rehearsal of words that empowers us, nor is it placing ourselves in key strategic places at the right times. It is having a clear and receptive mind so we can hear and speak the words given to us by the Holy Spirit at the right place and time. Today and every day, no matter the season, we need to be willing to be used by God.




2 Timothy 4:5

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

Submitted by: Tim, New York

July 24
Test the Spirits

Some international students think they have an idea of what Christianity is because of some experience they had in their home countries. We can’t always assume that their experience was with other Christians. And so, we reach out to them and hope their prejudices based on prior experiences won’t keep them away. One such student, Hiro, from Japan was involved in our ICF for a couple of years. Recently I received this letter from him.

“When I was in Japan, I spent my weekends getting drunk. I tried to forget frustrations and stress and carried on meaningless conversations with friends. One day, I had the chance to listen to the lecture of a new popular religion and I almost agreed with the leader. I was about to become a believer, when I realized that love seemed missing. Their temporary kindness seemed fake.

Then, I came to the United States to study English. I began attending an ICF. My only purpose at that time was to practice English with native speakers as my English skills were terrible. After a couple of years, I began to study the Bible in Japanese at church. At first, I was just curious about Christianity, and I thought believing in Jesus as Savior was just a superstition. Then I read about Jesus’ disciples and how they were timid and hiding when Jesus was arrested. But after His resurrection, they came to believe and proclaim the Good News with boldness. Acts 16:31 encouraged me very much. I decided to follow Jesus and be baptized.”

 

Reflection:

We welcome everyone into our ministries. And when they share that they know about Jesus, we have a responsibility to be sure they have an accurate understanding. Just as we might test the spirit of believers who become part of our church, we might also test the beliefs and teachings our new friends may hold and gently guide them to truth.

  

1 John 4:1
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

Submitted by: Simon, California

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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