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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15 NIV)

Do you have days, sometimes weeks, months, even years, when you find it hard to be thankful? …times when life’s disappointments and burdens weigh you down and you find yourself dwelling and stewing over them? It seems unpatriotic or sacrilegious to mention such a thing now, one day before Thanksgiving, but for many it is reality. Thanksgiving and Christmas bring with them great expectations of family celebrations and traditions… and disappointment over unmet expectations.

I suggest Colossians 3:16 may offer some insight to how we can rise above these situations and cultivate a spirit of thankfulness. If we cultivate the peace of Christ in our hearts, and if we make it a matter of will to keep our eyes on Jesus, we will feel his presence lifting us up even in our disappointments. The Bible often mentions a “sacrifice of praise.” This happens when we praise God in spite of our disappointments, even daring to praise him for the things that cause us grief. In my own experience, it has been the hard times that brought me closer to God. What I would have missed if life had always gone my way – what a spoiled brat I would have become.

Make your Bible your favorite book. A good concordance may help you find scriptures to meet your particular needs for the day. The Psalms are a great place to go when your spirit needs a lift. Spend time in prayer, and sing praises to God. If you listen to Christian music, especially scripture and praise songs, you bring in the assistance of those recorded voices to lift your spirit. Be pro-active in your praise and sing with them. God isn’t concerned over how well you sing, but he loves the sound of your voice when it is praising him. If you feel like crying, then cry your heart out to God. Remember that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” He cares about your grief. Keep the music playing until you have cried it through, and let the praise songs lift you up into his presence.

A song that brings out how God blesses us through our trials is entitled, Through it All. Click the link and listen to the version I found on YouTube by The Booth Brothers. I hope these words bless you like they do me.

Father God, help us to truly be thankful to you as we experience the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Bless the needy out of your bounty so they can see your face and feel your peace.

© 2009 by Janice D. 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.

1 Timothy 6:10 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Timothy warns us against the love of money which causes us to turn our eyes away from God. This principal comes to mind when I watch the flocks of Pine Siskins that have covered our bird feeders this winter. Most of these birds are content to gather together and enjoy the free food. But there are a few in each flock that are determined to claim the whole dish for themselves and agressively chase all others away. We onlookers laugh at the absurdity of it all, as the tiny bird could not eat the pile of seeds in the dish. Furthermore, while the bird so relentlessly defends his claim he doesn’t have time to eat.

God owns everything. He promises to care for us, his flock. If we trusted Him to keep his promises, we wouldn’t have to expend so much energy guarding our posessions. Is God watching out His window in heaven and laughing at our pettiness? Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and allow the Heavenly Father to bless us out of his unlimited supply.

Father God, help us to keep our eyes focused on You. Restore our trust when our anxious thoughts take our eyes off of You, and restoreYour peace. Enable us to be satisfied with Your provisions and to hold them with open generous hands.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:22-23, Matthew 5:10-12  Click on these links to read the passages. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Are we willing to stand in the face of persecution and proclaim Jesus? Or would you prefer to fall in with the crowd to avoid being singled out and identified as one who has a higher calling on your life? The true saints throughout history have been willing to stand on their faith, even to the point of death. Jesus tells us we will be blessed if we suffer persecution for his sake.

Worldwide, more Christians are being persecuted for their faith than in any other time in history. Anyone who doesn’t believe this is encouraged to type the words “Christian Persecution” into a Google search and be prepared to be shocked.

Few in our country (USA) have suffered persecution for the sake of their Christian faith today, though it does happen on a lesser scale. People have lost favor with employers for standing up for what was right. Men and women may face abuse from their spouses or other family members over their decisions to worship Christ and to follow his teachings. We may experience rejection from our friends.

But times are changing, and there are more and more examples of religious persecusuion in the news every day. Just this past week two major publishers of the Bible have been sued by a homosexual man for their translations of the Bible which specifically call homosexuality a sin. Click here for more on the story. Bit by bit the ACLU, athiest groups, and other ultra liberal organizations are at work trying to chip away the evangelical Christian’s rights to openly share their faith.

Does this strike a sense of terror in the bottom of your stomach? Jesus wants to set the record straight for you by encouraging your heart. He tells his followers that those who are persecuted for his sake will be greatly blessed in heaven. The Apostle Peter also shares some encouraging words for those who suffer for the sake of Christ in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter encourages us to rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ.

We can’t help but admire Cassie Bernall, the high school student who allowed herself to be shot and killed in the Columbine High School incident because she confessed faith in Christ at gunpoint. It is wise to resolve in your heart in advance what you would do in various situations in which you could be persecuted. Having done so will make it easier to hold fast to your convictions in any given situation.

Father God, what we know personally about persecution for our faith pales in comparison to what Jesus went through when he suffered persecution even to death on the cross so that we might find forgiveness and eternal life with him in heaven. Give us the will and the courage to accept the persecution that may come to us in our lifetime, and enable us to endure in the faith giving praise and thanks to you, that we might share in your sufferings.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:17-23 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

When most people think of blessings, they think of the last time they received unexpected money, honor, man’s applause, being healed of a disease or injury, gifts, things going right making life easier for ourselves… the list could go on and on. But Jesus gave us a new twist on how we should view blessings in the spiritual realm.

The word had gotten out about Jesus’ power to heal the sick and the multitudes began to seek him out wherever he went. Jesus saw that the people were seeking him only for the physical healing he could give them. He then spoke to his disciples explaining the source of true spiritual blessings. His words suprised the people then, and still surprise us today. They are like a foreign language to those who are unable to see the wisdom contained in them. It is clear that Jesus expects his followers to rise above the “me first” way of thinking and to be willing to sacrifice our own needs and wants for the sake of others.

I plan to deal with each statement in the Beatitudes with separate posts.

Lord give us wisdom to understand everything you have to say to us. When your words seem difficult let us seek you out with hearts that are willing to listen. Help us to step outside earthly wisdom to seek the higher wisdom that you have to give to those who are willing to seek it.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Proverbs 3:5-12 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens. 

Proverbs 3:5-6
     This proverb is one of the best. It challenges us to put God’s directions above our own judgement. Yet how many times have we responded to a scripture with a “yes, but…” and failed to do what was clearly set forth in the passage. Sometimes we can legitimately affirm that a particular passage was intended for a specific time and place in history, but we must be careful not to dismiss eternal principles such as love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you. If we want God to make our paths straight, we must be pliable in our spirits, and apply the teachings from his Word to our lives.

Proverbs 3:7-8
     This passage is similar to the previous two verses in that we are to consider God’s wisdom above our own and shun evil. God offers us health and nourishment through following him.

Proverbs 3:9-10
     Is this the passage that causes us to begin to fade away or drop out? Do we give to God from our firstfruits, or do we wait to see what is left over before we decide how much to give to him through our tithes and offerings? Is this one of your “yes, but…” verses? What priorities are you placing ahead of God in your giving.

Proverbs 3:11-12
     When the going gets tough do you find yourself warming up to God, or do you begin to nurture feelings of resentment toward him as if he weren’t giving you a fair shake for all you have done for him? I try to remember to pray that God will not allow a particular time of troubles and hardships go to waste, but that he will help me to learn the lessons he is trying to teach me through them. 
     With a poor father the kid is actually in charge; the father simply reacts. His discipline comes only when the kid irritates him. A good father is intentional; he has a plan for what he wants his child to become. God is a good father. God is in charge.
     We need to develop an appreciation for our troubles as even these are a form of God’s blessing. God has a plan for growing us up to make us the best we can be. Embrace his plan knowing that he is putting his trust in us with the amount of troubles we are called upon to endure. 

Father God, how blessed we are to have your Word to guide us. Open our eyes and our hearts to see your guidance and enable us to follow your directives. Satisfy our hearts as we seek and follow your will.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Psalm 121:1-4 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

As a child I misunderstood the first verse of this Psalm. Of course, at that time, the King James Version was the only version available, so it read “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Did God live in the hills? Did my help come from the hills? Fortunately, the newer translations have helped to clarify this for me. The first verse asks the question, where does my help come from? And the second verse answers it, my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

These are very comforting verses for us when we begin to feel apprehensive over our circumstances. God is always watching over us, guarding us with his protection that is better than any insurance policy or bank account can afford. He is always available to us, 24/7. We can sleep on this knowing that God will neither slumber or sleep.

Father God, we thank you for your faithful loving care. Help us to remember this when we feel anxious over circumstances that seem out of control. Remind us that you are watching over us and that we can rest in your care.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Daniel 1:18-21 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

The three years of grooming in Babylonian culture and training for service to King Nebuchadnezzar had finally come to an end. Daniel and his three friends had continued to remain faithful to God throughout this time, and they had chosen not to indulge in the rich foods the king had offered to them and the other young Israelite men the king had singled out for this special treatment.

 

Daniel and his three friends were superior in every way to the other young Israelite men. They had also exceeded the wisdom of all the king’s magicians and enchanters. So they were chosen to enter the king’s service.

 

When we serve God appropriately, we are prepared to serve others, even those who do not revere God. By serving God with our whole heart, we give him the opportunity to empower us to be salt and light to the world. Serving God demands that we serve others to our best ability without compromising our faith.

 

Our Father, help us to keep our focus on you as we try to live out our lives in the secular world that surrounds us. May our willingness to be different serve as a positive witness to those who are inclined to seek you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Psalm 119:25-32 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

We are about to begin a study of Josiah, the boy king. I believe this Psalm was selected for today’s scripture because it reflected so well the barrenness of the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation when Josiah began his reign.

This passage would not only have encouraged Josiah in Bible times, it is written for us today as well. Perhaps you are at an all-time low and you are tempted to believe that God has abandoned you because of your circumstances. The psalmist is writing from the perspective of the dust heap–he is feeling great sorrow.

But the psalmist is lifting his eyes to the Lord. He is pleading with God to teach him his laws so he could meditate on them through his time of sorrow. He is praying that God will strengthen him through the scriptures, that he will keep him from becoming deceitful, from trying to rise in his own strength. He resolves to continue in the way of truth with his heart set on the laws of God, and prays that God will not allow him to be put to shame. The psalmist is able to run in the freedom he has received from following God’s paths.

Are we willing to trust in the scriptures to lift us out of our own despair? I recall a Sunday when I was so deep in despair that I couldn’t bear to attend our worship service for fear I would make a spectacle of myself through my tears. Instead, I armed myself with my Bible and some scripture-based music tapes and drove to a secluded place to worship my God in private. I cried as I listened to one song after another. I looked up the scriptures the musicians sang. Even though the tears continued to flow, they gradually changed from tears of grief to tears of hope and then joy. I returned home with a new lift to my spirit. I was ready to face whatever came my way.

Father God, we thank and praise you that you know our hearts and that you care. Just as Jesus wept for Martha and Mary in their grief, you weep for us when we are hurting. Help us to never forget your love, and to never forget to lift our eyes to you when we feel discouraged. You have promised to never let us down. Thank you for always being there for us.

P.S. As I was uploading this message God blessed my heart with the song “You Are My Hiding Place” on the radio and my tears again flowed, as he had been my hiding place on that day I just wrote about. God will bless you if you will give him the opportunity. (Psalm 32:7 is the scripture that inspired this song)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     20 “There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel–the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22  You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God. 1 Chronicles 17:20-22 (NIV)

After giving God all the honor and praise for taking him from a lowly shepherd to a king, and for the blessings God promised to his descendants in the years to come, David continues to exalt the name of God. He continues his discussion with God with his thoughts concerning the Israelite people. He acknowledges that it was God who redeemed them as his own people, and it was God’s mighty deeds that made them great. It was God who made them his people, and they made him their God.

Here in the United States we have a history that is closely tied in with God. The first successful settlement was by the Pilgrims who left their homes so they could worship God as they pleased. Other Europeans had tried to establish colonies and failed. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights include references to God. The Christian influence in the early development of our country was strong in many areas.

Today a new breed of historians is trying to erase all evidence of God and Christianity from our history books. We also get bombarded daily with biased news on television and in our newspapers and other media. Movies and TV sitcoms systematically make Christians out to be bumbling idiots. I tremble for the day when God may remove his hand of protection from our country. If we could only, like David, openly acknowledge the hand of God in making our nation great, we might find answers to the issues that are tearing away at the foundations of our nation today.

Father God, help us to continually acknowledge your hand at work in everything we do, and to openly give you the praise. We praise you for your hand in making our country great, and beg you to work in mighty ways to restore the honor and dignity to our government that once made it strong. Work in the hearts and minds of our citizens to recognize the candidates that are able to serve our country best because they look to you for guidance.

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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     7“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.      “‘I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you:1 Chronicles 17:7-10 (NIV)David wanted to build a house for God, but God let David know of his plans to bless and to protect David. God also had plans for the people of Israel, to give them a home of their own. He would protect them from wicked people and subdue all their enemies.

Isn’t this an interesting sequence of events. David wanted to bless God, and God in turn blessed David. Isn’t that just like God? If we would only remember who holds the keys to the storehouses of blessings for us all.

David was so different from many other kings who set out to make a name for themselves, and attempted to reign for as long as possible, even if it meant killing their own sons to prevent having an heir who might challenge the throne.

David wasn’t a perfect king; only Jesus could live up to that expectation. David made many mistakes which were recorded in the Bible. But he did have a servant’s heart, and he kept the good of his people in mind as opposed to using his subjects to build a kingdom for his own glory.

Father God, help us to see how it pleases you for us to have a servant’s heart. Help us to put others’ needs ahead of our own. Help us to serve you by serving others.

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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