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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.

Luke 4:23-30 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Jesus had been healing people in Capernaum and the word was out. But in his home country no one was willing to believe and none were healed. The people didn’t want HIM to heal them.

Jesus reminded the people of other situations where God had led prophets away from their own people to perform miracles: Elijah was sent to a widow outside of Israel during the famine and Naaman the Syrian was the only man Elisha had healed of leprosy.

People have a way of putting stumbling blocks in front of those who are closest to them. The people who grew up with Jesus weren’t willing to believe that he could perform miracles. I can’t help but wonder how often brilliant people are held back from doing all they could because the people who surround them find reasons to discourage them.

Even more, how many times are we reluctant to ask God for a miracle because we are limited by our own faith? I must confess that I have at times refrained from publicly praying for a particular need because I didn’t want to “put God on the spot.” Perhaps I was being as callous as the people in Jesus’ home town.

I have known people who refuse to believe in miracles. Because their minds are made up and their hearts are hard, they have denied themselves the opportunity to be fully blessed by God. They remind me of the woman with the headache in the old commercial, “Mother, please! I’d rather do it myself!”

Father God, help us to have trusting hearts. Help us to be willing to believe You are who You say You are. Enable us to shed our own pride and to reach out in faith to You expecting to receive the blessings that can only be granted by a God of love, power, and might.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

Whenever I read this passage I think of those Christians who have led me to a relationship with Jesus Christ. This list includes a variety of people, but among the most influential of these was a small group of Christian women who began a Bible study group in which I participated for many years. These women knew Jesus in such a personal way and were able to relate to him in any and all circumstances. They ministered to me through a very painful marriage and gave me the courage to go on.

As I re-read these scriptures I recognized the reason they were able to minister to me so well. It was because the grace of Jesus was so visible in their daily lives. They put their full trust in Him. They spent time with Him daily in prayer and Bible study. And they lifted one another up in prayer on a daily basis. God blessed us all with a fullness of His Spirit that we never could have manufactured on our own.

Re-read the entire passage and you will find that it isn’t about how wonderful the Corinthians were. It is about how wonderfully faithful God was to enrich them in every way. In my Bible study group, it wasn’t how wonderful the women were (although they truly were wonderful to me). But the full picture is about how wonderfully God worked in and through their lives and enriched and blessed us all.

Father God, help us to seek You with all our hearts. And keep us from getting big heads over our own spirituality. May we always remember that is is not about us, but all about You.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Several years ago when I was struggling in a marriage that eventually failed, I was going through a time of depression and low morale. As I drove down the street that turned beside the Post Office in our town I was suddenly aware of two cardinals fluttering up and down immediately in front of me. One of the birds hit the hood of my car and dropped into the street.

I immediately parked my car and got out to lift the bird from the street and laid it on the grass. I was remembering a time when a bird flew into a window and only knocked itself out, later to recover and fly away. I hoped that the cardinal might revive in a similar way since I had been driving fairly slowly. But the bird showed no signs of life. The other bird watched from a near-by tree.

I circled the block several times in the next two or three hours but my cardinal did not revive. I was reminded of the scripture about how God notices when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Read Matthew 10:28-31.

If I cared enough to circle the block so many times for this little red cardinal that I night not have even noticed had it not flown into my car, how much more God cares about me and the things that were weighing me down. I returned home comforted by God’s love.

I’ve always loved the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Perhaps you will find comfort in it as well. This is a link to Sandi Patti singing it on UTube.

Father, Thank you for watching over me through your infinite love and compassion. Thank you for helping me through many troubles. Help me to remember the times you showed me your love when I become burdened with the cares of today. Help me keep my eye on you like you keep your eye on the sparrow and on me so I can be filled with your eternal joy.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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

The book of James was written not by the James in Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, but by James, the brother of Jesus. James was writing to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I interpret this to mean the Christian Jews (the twelve tribes) who had scattered among other nations because they were being persecuted for their Christian faith. That understanding makes this book especially valuable to Christians today who are suffering persecution. Unfortunately, most Christians (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the persecution that is being targeted at Christians today, especially in foreign countries. This persecution of Christians is also picking up momentum in the United States. The skeptical need only type the words “Christian persecution” into a Google search to locate a wealth of convincing information on the topic.

In the first chapter, James is writing to the persecuted Christians who have scattered to the surrounding nations, and he is encouraging them to persevere in their trials. He is also encouraging them to be “doers” of the Word and not just hearers only. We all need to take this instruction to heart.

Father God, stir in our hearts a greater compassion for the suffering Christians around the world. Let their perseverance motivate us to pray for them and to reach out to them as you lead us to do. Enable us to recognize the shallow areas of our own faith and to commit ourselves to seeking to know you better by studying your Word that our faith may be strengthened.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Philippians 2:1-4 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

What a list of “ifs”! If we claim to know Christ as our Savior and Lord we should score on at least one of them. Are you encouraged from being united with Christ? Are you comforted? Do you have fellowship with the Spirit? Do you feel his tenderness and compassion?

Before I assume that everyone answered yes to at least one of these questions, let me digress to consider that some may feel a serious barrenness as you read the questions. If so, you have a serious heart problem that needs to be taken to Jesus in prayer. You can’t follow through with the rest of this passage without a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Trying to do so will only cause burnout in your faith. Don’t allow this void in your life be a stumbling block. Become proactive about growing in your relationship with Christ. Read your Bible, pray, and find one or more Bible believing Christians who can encourage you in your quest.

If you answered yes to any of the “ifs” in verse 1, then verse 2 challenges you to be like-minded with Christ sharing that kind of love with others. At this point I feel the need to review the list again. How can I show encouragement to others? Is there someone I should be comforting? Who do I know who is in need of Christian fellowship? Do I know someone who needs to be shown tenderness and compassion? If we are honest with ourselves, we should have had several individuals come into mind as we considered these questions.

In verse 3 we are encouraged to check our motives. I have to swallow hard on this verse. How much easier it is to offer service to others when people know we are doing it. Do we read our Bibles more seriously if we are being called upon to share it with a groups of peers, than if we are whisking through a daily passage or morning devotion out of a sense of duty? We are reminded in this verse not do operate out of ambition or conceit, but through a sense of humility as we place others above ourselves.

Verse 4 reminds us to bring the needs of others into our daily “do list.” In this day and time most of us feel so overwhelmed with the tasks that are already on our plate that we feel we have no time to give. I doubt if Jesus accepts this excuse, and I am as guilty as anyone with being fully absorbed in my own agenda.

Jesus, you tell us your yoke is easy. Help us not to encumber our lives with “do lists” we can’t handle, with “do lists” that prevent us from being like-minded with you, so we can show you to others in need around us. Make us willing to have a burden for the hurting around us, and inspire us to be like-minded in showing our love and compassion to them.

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 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.” 1 Chronicles 28:20-21 (NIV)

Solomon was young when he became King of Israel. Not only was he a new king, but he had laid out before him an enormous task – to build the temple of the Lord. He had a set of plans that would have been mind-boggling to any building contractor. It would be easy to imagine Solomon feeling overwhelmed with it all.

But David spoke words of encouragement to his son, reminding him that God was with him and would see him through the building of the temple. David had also prepared the priests, Levites, and skilled craftsmen who would help him with the task.

How did David encourage Solomon? Did he say things like “Hold your head up high,” or “Keep a stiff upper lip,” or “Look for the strength you need within yourself?” Not according to this record. David first pointed Solomon to God assuring his son of God’s strength and help. He also supplied people to help support him through the task.

I remember a very difficult day at work when I felt so defeated that I shared through my tears with my co-worker that I thought I would go home early. She immediately built me up by sharing bits of wisdom from her Christian faith. I can’t specifically remember the difficulty that brought on my despair, but I’ll never forget the warmth of her encouragement. She also took care of some of my responsibilities while I regained my composure to face the afternoon.

Almighty God, help us to remember just how mighty and powerful you are on those days when we feel the need for encouragement. And open our eyes to see the opportunities that are always around us to offer Christian encouragement and assistance to others who are overwhelmed or discouraged.

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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