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Fresh bread and water.

January 11, 2017
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“You are blessed when you hunger and thirst for God.  
He is the best meal you could ever have, and you will be satisfied.” 
(Matthew 5:6)
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In a ramshackle orphanage in rural China, a little girl named Song finds herself surrounded by drab, filthy, unthinkable conditions.
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Her young friends who aren’t yet potty trained are strapped onto potty chairs so that they won’t have accidents throughout the day.  They remain there for hours each day.  In the winter, when the drafty old orphanage is filled with frighteningly cold air, their bare behinds nearly freeze to the chairs.  In the summer, the bugs and the smells that encircle them as they sit strapped to their chairs is almost unbearable.
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She aches for her little friends.  And she remembers, with great sadness, her days spent strapped to her chair – day in and day out.  Her heart aches with compassion.
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The orphanage is understaffed and underfunded.  The nannies can barely keep up with their checklists.  They have zero time for nurturing or affection.  Their sole purpose is to simply keep the children alive.
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There are no toys.  There is no medicine when children get sick.  Cribs are hard, uncomfortable, and often soiled with bodily fluids.
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Some of the infants and toddlers spend their entire days confined to their cribs.  No stimulation.  No affection.  No human touch.
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Empty bellies abound.
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Each day, Song wonders when her next meal will come.  But, her concern isn’t just for herself.  It is for the children in the orphanage who have become like family to her.  She is concerned for them as well.  She aches for their bellies to be full…especially those who are sick.  There are many of them.  And she has seen far too many of them pass away, right before her eyes.
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She spends her days hungry, thirsty, and aching for the warmth of a parent’s love.  As do her friends.
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One day, something miraculous happens. Song is awakened by a booming, melodious voice coming from the lobby.  It echos down the long hallway to the room she calls home.  She hops up from her soiled mattress and follows the voice.  A visitor has come!  A visitor with an inviting grin on his face and a large bag slung over his shoulder.  Without thinking, she runs up to him.  The nannies try to stop her, but she breezes past them.  His eyes connect with hers and he stoops down to her level.  She stops.  His warm gaze meets hers.  She feels drawn to him.  She doesn’t know why.  But, everything about him seems to glow.  He seems so full of life and love.  He gently places his large bag on the floor.  As he unzips it, her eyes light up.  Bread!   Delicious bread!  Could it be?  Has he brought it for her?  He grabs a fresh, warm, individually-wrapped loaf of bread, and places it into her hands.  The nanny begins to reach for the loaf, stating that the entire loaf isn’t meant for her alone.  But, the visitor gently grabs the nanny’s arm, and tells her kindly that there are enough loaves for everyone – including the overworked nannies as well.  He also has fresh bottles of water with him.  Along with the bread, he places one of those into Song’s hands as well.  She is overcome with joy.  Warm, fresh bread and cold, clean drinking water!  The visitor spreads his arms wide, and she collapses into them.  He embraces her as a devoted father would embrace a beloved child.
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Refueled and awakened by the warmth of his love and the anticipation of what is about to happen, she furiously breaks the bread apart into bite-sized pieces and stuffs them into her mouth.  Delicious.  Heaven on earth.  The entire loaf is gone in no time.  And so is the bottle of fresh, uncontaminated water.  For the first time in a long time, her frail body is satisfied.  And so is her heart.  But, not fully.  Her heart isn’t fully satisfied because there is a room full of empty bellies and thirsty mouths just down the hallway.  There is a room full of children no different than her…no less valuable than her…no less needy than her…no less lovable than her…who are in need of fresh bread and water as well.  She knows this.  She loves them.  And she cares deeply about their well-being.  The nannies are nowhere to be found.  Overworked and underpaid, they have begun tackling the daily checklist from the orphanage director.  So, the little girl asks the kind visitor to wait for just a moment.  She runs down the hallway and shares the good news with all of her friends.  One by one, she unstraps her friends from their potty chair restraints, removes them from their cribs, and gathers them together.  She leads them down the hallway to the blessed stranger.  The blessed visitor.  One by one, he warmly embraces them. One by one, he hands them fresh bread and water.  Once every tiny belly has been filled and every mouth no longer thirsts, she is satisfied.  And her heart is full.
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The blessed visitor assures Song, and all of the other children, that he will come back each day with a fresh supply of bread and water, and continue to satisfy their hunger and their thirst.  He promises to wrap them in His embrace, day after day.  He promises to continue to meet their needs.  He promises to change their lives forever.
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Song takes him at his word.  She trusts him.  The other children do, too.
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And, remaining true to His word, He follows through on his promises. 
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Okay, friends.
Hold that thought.
Keep that scene in your minds.
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These days, being labeled as an “evangelical Christian” carries with it some negative connotations.  But, I sure wish it didn’t.  There are those who have a real problem with the “evangelical” part.  The desire that I have (and that many Christians have) to evangelize and introduce others to Jesus has nothing to do with judgment or self-righteousness.  Not at all.  Rather, the desire I have to introduce others to Christianity has everything to do with the fact that I have simply found what I believe to be fresh bread and water. I have found Jesus, the Bread of Life.  I have found Jesus, the Living Water.  And I want others to find Him as well.  Like little Song, I feel as though it would be incredibly selfish for me not to share what I have found with those I love.
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“Why share your faith?  Why care about conversion?  Why push your beliefs on others?  Isn’t that a bit self-righteous?  Shouldn’t you just keep your Jesus to yourself?  Why do you care so much about what others believe?”
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Why share?  Why care?
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Out of love.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.
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 Out of love, I want to bring others to the fresh bread and water I have found.  I want as many hungering and thirsting souls as possible to find them.  After all, I was once a hungering and thirsting soul myself.  I know what true hunger feels like.  I know how it feels to ache with thirst.
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 I am not much different than the atheist who lives down the street.
I am not much different than my Indian/Hindu neighbors that I regularly encounter.
I am no better than them.
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 The only real difference between them and myself is that I have simply found what I believe to be fresh bread and water.  Fresh bread and water that have satisfied my soul like nothing else can.  And I would love for as many souls as possible to experience that satisfaction as well.
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 If you are reading this right now, and you are bothered by Christians who share their faith, I ask you to please do something for me.  The next time you hear one of your Christian friends or family members speak highly of Jesus in front of you, or find yourself engaged in a conversation in which they share their faith with you, please don’t be angered.  Don’t allow that to be your knee-jerk reaction.  The next time one of your Christian friends or family members asks you to attend church with them, even though you have turned them down repeatedly in the past, please don’t become annoyed.  Please don’t feel as though they are trying to make you uncomfortable or trying to pester you to death.  Please don’t falsely interpret their motives.
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 If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t share.  I truly believe that.
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Chances are, they are simply trying to do what Song did for those she loved.  Chances are, they are simply trying to lead as many people as they can to the fresh bread and water that they have found.
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Just like the living conditions in Song’s orphanage, this world can feel awfully destitute at times.  Drab.  Filthy.  Cold.   And we can find ourselves aching for warmth, aching for comfort, aching for love, and aching for our hunger and our thirst to subside.
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It is my belief, and the belief of many others, that we can find the warmth of a loving embrace, and we can find satisfaction for our hungering and thirsting souls in this destitute place we call home.
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His booming, melodious voice is calling to us.  His words are a song of salvation, wooing us to come as He stands there waiting.  Waiting for us to run to Him with open hands. Hands that are ready and willing to accept the fresh bread and water that He longs to give.
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As Jesus was passing through Samaria, he came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.  A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, ‘Would you give me a drink of water?’ (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)  The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, ‘How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)  Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.’  The woman said, ‘Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?’  Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an everlasting spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.’ ”  (John 4:4-14)
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“Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. Once a person comes running to me, I hold on and don’t let go.”  (John 6:35, 37)
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