Saturday, June 27, 2020

What ever happened to her?

When you read about a character in the bible, don't you often wonder, "What ever happened to them?" Like: whatever happened to the Good Samaritan, whatever happened to the Demoniac after Jesus left town, or what became of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well? 

I think that would make for some interesting blog material.

Radio personality and newscaster Paul Harvey had a program I loved and tried not to miss. Its was  called, "The rest of the Story." In this five-minute segment, he would discuss significant events in the life of a well-known person, and then - after a commercial - he would tell an amazing story about the person that was mostly unknown.

John the Evangelist describes the event when Jesus met a woman at "Jacob's Well" near the Samaritan town of Sychar, He showed His love by engaging her in a serious conversation. As a Samaritan, she was an outcast and unclean with five unsuccessful marriages, and was now living with a man who is not her husband. She had little to recommend her to Jesus. But He saw beyond her disqualifications. He saw her as one created for true love. He saw beyond her sin. Jesus saw her as one destined for a genuine relationship with God and with her fellow humanity. Jesus knew she was a bearer of His image and likeness. He beheld the accurate image in her. Despite her brokenness, He saw her as one created for a worshipful union with God and complete relationships with others. He invited her to partake of the living water of His love. 

We read in John's Gospel how this woman went into town and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah to all who would listen, but did you ever wonder whatever happened to her after this encounter with Jesus?

Here is the rest of the story.

Baptized on Pentecost along with her five sisters and two sons, she took the name Photini meaning the enlightened one and followed the apostle John. 

She then began a missionary career, traveling far and wide, preaching the good news of the Messiah's coming, His death and resurrection. When Nero, the emperor of Rome, persecuted Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."

When Nero, the emperor of Rome, persecuted Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."

Nero ordered his soldiers to bring her to him, but Photini expected them. Before they could arrest her, Photini, with her son Joseph and her Christian friends, went to Nero. When the emperor saw them, he asked why they had come. Photini answered, "We have come to teach you to believe in Christ." The half-mad ruler of the Roman Empire did not frighten her. She wanted to convert him! Nero asked the saints their names. Again Photini answered. By name she introduced herself, her five sisters and younger son. The emperor then demanded to know whether they had all agreed to die for the Nazarene. Photini spoke for them. "Yes, for the love of Him we rejoice and in His name we'll gladly die." Hearing their defiant words, Nero ordered their hands beaten with iron rods for three hours. At the end of each hour another persecutor took up the beating. The saints, however, felt no pain. Nothing happened to their hands. Photini joyfully quoted words of a psalm by David: "God is my help. No matter what anyone does to me, I shall not be afraid." Perplexed by the Christian's endurance and confidence, Nero ordered the men thrown into jail. Photini and her five sisters were brought to the golden reception hall in the imperial palace. There, the six women were seated on golden thrones, In front of them stood a large golden table covered with gold coins, jewels and dresses. Nero hoped to tempt the women by this display of wealth and luxury. Nero then ordered his daughter Domnina, with her slave girls, to go speak with the Christian women. Women, he thought, would succeed in persuading their Christian sisters to deny their God.

Domnina greeted Photini graciously, mentioning the name of Christ. On hearing the princess' greeting, the saint thanked God. She then embraced and kissed Domnina. The women talked. But the outcome of the women's talk was not what Nero wished.

Photini catechized Domnina and her hundred slave girls and baptized them all. She gave the name Anthousa to Nero's daughter. After her baptism, Anthousa immediately ordered all the gold and jewels on the golden table distributed to the poor of Rome.

When the emperor heard that his own daughter was converted to Christianity, he condemned Photini and all her companions to death by fire. For seven days the furnace burned, but when the door of the furnace was opened, the fire had not harmed the saints. Next the emperor tried to destroy the saints with poison, Photini offered to be the first to drink it. "O King," she said, "I will drink the poison first so you might see the power of my Christ and God." All the saints then drank the poison after her. None suffered any ill effects from it. In vain Nero subjected Photini, her sisters, sons and friends to every known torture. The saints survived unscathed to taunt and ridicule their persecutor. For three years they were held in a Roman prison. Saint Photini transformed it into a "house of God." Many Romans came to the prison, were converted and baptized. Finally, the enraged tyrant had all the saints, except for Photini, beheaded. She was thrown first into a deep, dry well and then into prison again. Photini now grieved that she was alone, that she had not received the crown of martyrdom together with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve and Kyriake and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. Night and day she prayed for release from this life. One night, God appeared to her, made the sign of the cross over her three times. The vision filled her with joy. Many days later, while she hymned and blessed God, Saint Photini gave her soul into God's hands. The Samaritan Woman conversed with Christ by the well of Jacob, near the city of Sychar. She drank of the "living water" and gained everlasting life and glory. 

That is the rest of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who, when she encountered Jesus, her entire life changed forever. 

The love of God has the power to transform our entire being.

Do you have a life story to add that we can use in "The Rest of the Story?" If you do, visit and click on the "rest of the story" in the menu. And pick up a free book while you are there.

Bill Johnson

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Cost of Control

It was a cloudless day in San Diego’s Mission Gorge area. The marine layer had burned off early and it was another beautiful day in paradise. My spirits were high, and I was overflowing with the love of God. It was Monday, but very different from the rest of my Mondays at work. After returning from a men’s retreat over the weekend, I was basking in the afterglow of God’s presence. Morning had arrived too early, but lack of sleep could not destroy my sense of joy. At the office, most of the team was off on assignment so I dug into routine items that needed my attention, avoiding serious stuff.

At lunch time I took a leisurely walk down Mission Gorge to the Soup Plantation restaurant and for soup and a salad. Grabbing a tray and an enormous salad platter, I fell into line behind two well-dressed men having a rather animated conversation about Jesus. They were joyfully proclaiming the greatness of God and His work in their lives. While talking between themselves, their volume was loud enough to be heard by most people in line.  After paying the cashier, they sat down at a table in a corner. A desire to stay near their joyful enthusiasm led me to take the table right next to them..

After they sat down,  prayed, and ate, there was a drastic change in their moods. The loud joyful praise turned into a serious, subdued discussion, and their countenance transformed.

Suddenly I wanted to crawl under the table or sneak away without being seen. But God had other plans. He had a lesson for me to learn, but it took several months for me to understand what I heard and saw. There was no voice or outward manifestation but deep within my spirit there was a sense as if the Lord said to me, 

“Pay attention, this is important, I want to teach you something.”

Seated about six feet away and slightly behind them, one man was facing toward me, while the other had his back to me. I was only getting one side of the conversation, but eerily I heard from the man with his back to me while I missed what the man facing me said. I realized these men were pastors and the one whose back was to me was seeking counsel from the man facing me. Hearing only one side of the conversation was strange but revealing. To this day, I remember the exact words spoken by the pastor with his back to me.

“I know now why my church is having so much trouble, the members do not submit to me as their pastor.”

After more discussion he made a second memorable declaration, “The trouble with my family results from my wife not submitting to me as her husband.”

Almost immediately, I sensed a different voice speaking to me from some-where inside of me, “This man does not submit to God.” 

Fresh from a spirit-filled weekend with other spirit-filled believers, I was ready for anything. Being shy, I avoid confrontation, but today, on this day, if need be, I could go to that man, point my finger in his face, and declare, “You are having these problems because you do not submit to God.”

Then I remembered the earlier words, 

“Pay attention, this is important, I want to teach you something.”

That incident occurred over 20 years ago, and I am still learning its lesson.  When we get insight from the Lord, we like to share it, even when it is just for us. That evening at a home group meeting, a lady complained about her financial problems. (She had financial issues for years.)

Armed with my noon-time revelation, it compelled me to share my insight, “You are having financial problems because you have not submitted your finances to God.”

The woman’s face turned purple with anger and my wife looked at me as if I had just committed the unpardonable sin.

The meeting ended abruptly, but there was no escaping the woman’s wrath. She was our neighbor and was our ride home.

I had several more opportunities to give away my new insight but decided not to share. Then one day, unexpectedly, it hit me. Rita and I were driving up Balboa Avenue on our way to lunch when a light bulb lit up my mind. Slamming the dashboard with my right hand must have scared Rita, as I shouted, “I finally got it!” 

God protects that that belongs to Him. What does not belong to Him, He is not as much inclined to protect.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. [James 4:7 (NKJV)]

The lesson God had been trying to teach me was now clear. The enemy of our soul is able to attack us in the areas of our lives that we have not submitted to God.

It is as if we are under God’s umbrella of protection as long as we let Him be in control, but when we tell Him that we would rather do it our way, He may back away and say, “Okay, go for it.” 

That is where we get in trouble - not submitting ourselves to God.

The word "Submission" evokes images of abuse and the sense of becoming a doormat. Yet both the Old and New Testaments show there are great benefits in submitting to God.[1]

The word translated as “submission” in the NT means to place or arrange under like products arranged on a display-table, or an army deployed ready for battle. Submission is also used to accept someone’s admonition or advice.

In our lives we often submit to our boss, the government, our spouse, our pastor, or a spiritual authority. We also submit to our possessions, pride, and sin.

Jesus Himself submitted to the Father. He did not do it from weakness but from strength. Our submission must be as Jesus modeled. Submission is not becoming a doormat. Submission is more like an elevator.

An elevator lifts things up. As we submit to God, we elevate Him. When we submit to our spouse, we elevate him or her to a higher position. The purpose of submission is elevation or exaltation. As we submit to God, we exalt Him.

The entire basis of submission is not control but love.

There is an enormous difference between obedience and submission. Think "Passive Aggressive." 

You can obey without submitting.

As we submit to God, we elevate Him above our agenda. As we submit to our spouse, we elevate him or her above our wants.

Submission is the cure for our control issues.

[1] Job 22:21; James 4:6-8