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     22  Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Luke 12:22-24 (NIV)

     This teaching begins with the word “Therefore” which means we need to look at the preceding verses.  Jesus had just told the Diciples the parable of the rich man who planned to store up all his riches for himself, only to have his life come to an end that very night.  So when Jesus tells his Disciples not to worry, he is telling them not to be overly concerned about saving and hoarding to meet our own needs. 

     God urges us to observe the birds of the air and consider how he cares for them.  They only need to gather food every day.  They neither plant nor store up food for tomorrow.  God cares for the birds.  But he values us much more than the birds.  We can trust him to care for us.

     I am reminded of how God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert.  If the people tried to store up extra for the days ahead the manna spoiled.  They were to only gather as much as they needed.  God was teaching the Israelites to trust him to provide for them.

     Likewise, we are to trust God with our tomorrows.  God expects us to work and make a living, but we should not concern ourselves with storing up wealth so we can take life easy and indulge in our own pleasures.  Neither should we worry that we might not be able to earn enough or save enough.  If we are diligent and not lazy, we need not worry about our tomorrows.

     Lord, help us to so abide in your love and care that we will naturally trust you to provide for all of our needs.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26 (NIV) 

     Do not worry – this is so easy to say, but it can be harder to follow through on this command. I suppose every age has it’s own set of things we can allow ourselves to worry about. I’ve been through most of them by now, but still don’t seem to get it at times. I draw closer to retirement and wish and worry all in the same breath.

     But when we fall into the worry trap we waste precious energy that could be channelled into more productive activity. But even more grievous is the fact that when we worry we are subconsciously expressing our lack of faith in God’s ability to take care of us. 

     When I read verse 24 I wonder where we draw the line between worry and personal responsibility. I don’t believe God means for us to throw all caution to the wind and live irresponsibly, expecting God and/or other people to pick up the slack. From the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden until now man has been under the curse of a fallen world. Each must labor and deal with the thorns in his/her field. Even the birds have to gather their own food.

     But it is one thing to have to work and quite another to render ourselves unable to work because of undue fretting and worry. We can trust God to be faithful and to bless our efforts, so that we may eat the fruit of our hands.

     Lord help us always to trust in your ability to provide and your eagerness to do so.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.
   Psalms 31:1-5 (NIV)

     Have you ever been wrongfully accused or treated unfairly?  David experienced this over and over in his life beginning with the persecution from King Saul and later by his own son Absalom.  Yet David continually put his trust in the Lord and found him to be his strong fortress and salvation. 

     Notice in verse 3 how David boldly prayed that God would lead and guide him for the sake of God’s name.   If we dare to live faithfully for Christ, we too can pray with this boldness for the sake of His name. 

     This is a great scripture to use as a prayer when you are feeling oppressed or persecuted by others, and know that if God was there to see David through, he will be there for you as well. 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
3 When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted
. Psalms 138:1-3(NIV)

     On one occasion in my life when I struggled from oppression coupled with depression, I found myself unable to bring myself to attend Sunday morning worship service, because I knew how prone I would have been to sit and cry through the service.  But my grief didn’t prevent me from worshiping my God, who I knew loved me.  I armed myself with my Scripture song tapes, songbooks, and my Bible, and went to a quiet spot beside the lake in the state park near my home.  I cried through one Scripture song after another, and looked up the Bible verses many of them represented.  As I sang these songs, most of which sang God’s praises, God began to speak to my spirit, lifting me above my circumstances.  I left the park with tear streaked cheeks, but with eyes that shone with the joy of the Lord. 

     As I read the third verse in the above passage, I was reminded of that morning so long ago, and of other similar times, when I called and He answered me.  He made me bold and stouthearted. 

     Praise the Lord!  It will do your heart good.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”   (Luke 11:13   NIV) 

     This verse follows Jesus teachings on how much God wants to give to us generously what is best for us.  It seems apparent to me that he is telling us that the Holy Spirit is the very best gift of all.  When we are truly led by the Holy Spirit, we are fully within the will of God and fully blessed. 

       1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.   (Acts 2:1-4  NIV) 

      God’s Holy Spirit came down the most dramatically on the day of Pentecost.  This was the day the Disciples were told to wait for when Jesus last spoke to them before descending into heaven.  This was the Spirit of encouragement and empowerment that changed a group of frightened men into men of courage, strength, and power—men who went out to the world and faced their opposition head on. 

       The first gift the Spirit gave to the Disciples was the spirit of tongues.  They were quickly surrounded by people from all walks of life and from all parts of the known world, people who would not have understood the Hebrew language.  God put his Spirit into the Disciples to enable to speak to every person in the crowd that had gathered around them so that they could boldly speak and be understood by all.   

      When we pray we should ask for the best gift God has to offer—his Holy Spirit.  This is the Spirit that will lead us to do the will of our Father in heaven.  This Spirit will give us courage when we are afraid, Boldness when we need to take a stand, and discernment to know when to take action and when to let God take the lead in our behalf. 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 

    4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” 

    6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”   (Luke 18:1-8  NIV)

     Our God is faithful.  The judge in this parable acted on behalf of the widow because she was wearing him down, not because he was a good judge.  But God wants to bless us. 

       Jesus does encourage us to be persistent in praying for our needs to be met.  I believe this is because our constant prayers are our lifeline to God.  If God’s answer is wait, we can have confidence that the waiting is for a good reason.  By being persistent, we are keeping in touch and growing in stature as one of his blessed children.  We will be blessed in God’s time, if not in ours; and the blessing will be glorious. 

     It is when we attempt to take matters into our own hands and run ahead of God that we fall flat on our faces–like Sarah helping God to give them a child by offering her maidservant to Abraham.  We are still suffering from that disaster.  I have had a few such disasters of my own where I tried to run ahead of God–with many regrets.       Verse 8 seems to catch me by surprise as if it doesn’t fit the parable.  But then I realize that it may very well be referring to those who through their lack of faith resort to taking matters into their own hands.  Then I see that it fits the parable perfectly. 

     I have been planning a children’s book and project that I want to get published.  I think it is good.  I believe God gave me the inspiration for this project, though it has been a loooooooong time getting it to where it is now and I face the very real possibility that it may end up in one slush pile after another.  It is very tempting to take drastic measures that could hurt me in the long run–especially if these measures are of my own logic and not of God’s directing. 

     Have you been tempted to run ahead of God in some way because you became weary of waiting on Him? Lord God, help us to be patient when you seem to keep telling us to wait.  Help us to trust that our times are truly in your hands and that you will bring to pass your perfect will for our lives.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”    (Luke 11:9-12  NIV)

God wants us to bring our petitions to him.  He promises to answer our prayers.  But does he promise to give us everything as if it were an itemized list?

The examples we have in verses 11 and 12 assure us that God will give us only good gifts. Therefore, it follows that if we ask for something that is not good for us, he might give us an answer that is not what we thought we wanted, but something better or more appropriate.

The important thing to take away from these verses is that God wants to give us what we ask, and he wants us to ask. We can ask with confidence knowing that whatever God gives us is what is best for us.

 

Verse 12 ends with the words “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” I believe Jesus is reminding us that the Holy Spirit is the best gift of all, and he will give us eyes to recognize how he is answering our prayers when the answer seems unexpected at first.

 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

 

(Ask and you will receive – kid’s version: http://honeycombkids.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/ask-and-you-will-receive/ )

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’   

       7 ”Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.   (Luke 11:5-8  NIV)

     As I read this passage I think of a co-workers who seem to always get what they wants when they wants it, yet others of us seem to be overlooked.  Perhaps it is because they have learned the art of petitioning with boldness.  This is what Jesus is encouraging us to do when we ask our petitions of him.  Sometimes we have to wait for our answers to come, but God still wants us to continue to ask for what we want.

     James tells us that when we ask, we must believe and not doubt, “because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  (James 1:6-8)  If we truly believe God will answer our prayers, we will continue to ask and not give up when God says wait.

     It never hurts to stop and analyze our requests to be sure we are in line with his will, but as long as we believe we are led by his Spirit we should continue to be persistent in prayer.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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   1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”     

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“‘Father,
     hallowed be your name,
     your kingdom come.
     3 Give us each day our daily bread.
     4 Forgive us our sins,
     for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation. ‘”
   
  

As the Disciples observed Jesus praying, they wanted him to teach them to pray.  The Disciples must have recognized the benefits of prayer, even in the life of Jesus.  So Jesus taught them the things that make prayer effective. First, Jesus taught them to acknowledge God as our Father, and to praise his name.  We must know who it is we are speaking to, not only for the sake of praising God, but also for giving us the confidence that he is powerful enough to do what we ask. 

The Disciples were then instructed to pray for God’s kingdom to come.  We must always pray for God’s will to take place above our own.  If we are to serve him, we must align our will with his.

They were told to pray for daily needs, not for great wealth and riches.  I am reminded of the Israelites as they crossed the desert with Moses.  They were given daily manna.  If they tried to hoard it up it would spoil.

They were told to pray for God to forgive them of their sins and in the same sentence reminded to forgive others who sin against them.  Forgiveness is not a one-way street.  If we are unwilling to follow Christ’s example to forgive others, then we should not expect God to forgive us.

They were also instructed to pray that God would keep them from temptation.  This too is a daily need as there are temptations all around us demanding our attention and our time.  It is our relationship with God that enables us to overcome temptations of every kind.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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6 Praise be to the LORD,
     for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
     my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
     and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
     a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
     be their shepherd and carry them forever.   (Psalm 28:6-9  NIV)

     Do you remember the first time you prayed a serious heart-felt prayer for something and God answered?  God answered such a prayer for me when I was in the second or third grade.  I was a farm girl and had taken my only pair of shoes off one Saturday in the field behind the barn where we were hoeing and pulling weeds.  The next morning I couldn’t find my shoes for church and remembered taking them off in the field.  I didn’t want to miss because I was trying to get perfect attendance, so I hurried to the field and searched the long rows from one end to the other without finding them.  Then it occurred to me that this could be something I should pray about.  I don’t remember my exact words, but my thinking was something like “God, if you really do answer prayers, help me find my shoes.”  I had no more than finished my prayer when I opened my eyes with new hope, turned around and there were my shoes on the ground behind me.  It was so awesome!  What a powerhouse this memory has been to me even to this day, some 50 years later.

     I could recall many other such experiences such as the time I prayed it wouldn’t rain on a particular outing of the Science Club.  I was looking forward to the trip so much and was afraid the rain would ruin everything.  I learned that day that God has a sense of humor.  It rained, but who cared?  We got hold of some squirt guns and had a blast.  It was one of the most fun outings in my memories of high school.

     And on a more serious note, I once came so close to a major financial catastrophe when I had misunderstood the fine print of my college loan.  I had gone too long without registering for another class which meant I would have to take 9 hours credit per semester instead of 6 or start paying my loan back immediately.  The only way out was for me to enroll in a class within a week and I wasn’t free from my job as school librarian for five more weeks.  The loans for my masters’ degree had seemed to be such a fantastic blessing from God, nothing short of a miracle in itself.  “How could you allow this dreadful thing to happen to me?” I poured my heart out to God.  I was heart sick.  I wanted to shake my fist at God.  “What can I do now?”  I pleaded with him.  I had to work to have an income.  I couldn’t afford pay for the loan; I was expecting to have it forgiven in return for service as a school librarian.  And I knew I couldn’t carry 9 hours of graduate work in addition to holding down my full-time job.  After much discussion of my situation with God, I picked up the letter that had come in the mail and decided to call the loan officer.  The only thing I could do was to enroll in a class within a week.  I looked again at the summer school schedule.  The summer term would start soon enough, but I would still be in school for four of the five weeks of class.  Praise the Lord!  There was one class, a class I needed, that was offered as a TV course with only two Saturdays that I would have to drive to the campus.  To quote David’s psalm, “Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.”  God had pulled yet one more miracle of many during my college career.  I was able to finish my degree with no more lapses in  time, and every class I needed to take was available at a time I could take it.

     I didn’t mean to spend so much time writing about myself, but it is through serious praying that we learn that God is there for us.   One day when we finally receive our heavenly reward and we see our lives pass before us, we will be astonished at how much was accomplished in our lives as a result of prayer.  Sadly, we may also have revealed how much we missed in life because we neglected to spend more time in prayer.

      Verse seven says God is my strength and shield.  It is through prayer that we lay claim to this strength.  God works through our prayers as well as our regular Bible reading to keep us strong.  Have you been keeping close contact with God lately, or do you need to move a little closer?  He promises that if we will draw near to him, he will draw near to us.  (James 4:8)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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