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James 3:10-12  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

We were made in the image of God. How can we let our tongues get so un-godly? One minute we are praising God, the next we are cursing our brother who is made in the image of God.

I have often heard an expression that goes something like this: “When you get jossled what comes out of your mouth is what you are full of.” That is a frightening thought, but it gives us a clue about how to fix the problem. We need to fill our hearts and minds with those things that will bless others if they spill out when we get jossled. Spending time with Jesus and time reading his Word will help to fill our hearts with those things that will bless others instead of curse them.

Father God, lift our spirits and clean us up both inside and out in order to so fill us with your spirit that only good and uplifting things can spill out when our feathers get ruffled.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 4:14-15  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 These two verses immediately follow the account of Jesus and his time of temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This was the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Jesus went in the power of the Holy Spirit and began his ministry in the region around the Sea of Galilee. From these two verses, he must have been an instant success as the word spread quickly about him. He was permitted to teach in the synagogues and all the people praised him.

The emphasis for this verse, especially as we apply it to our own lives, is on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it exciting when we know we are doing the right thing – serving in the will of God – when we feel the blessings of the Holy Spirit on our efforts, and our efforts are recognized and appreciated by others?

But have you ever striven in your own strength and felt as if you were beating your head against the wall because you were going nowhere? This is not a pleasant feeling. We must be careful to always seek God’s direction before we try to do a great work for him to keep from spinning our wheels and wasting our strength on a lesser task he did not ask us to do.

But we must also consider that he may want us to persist in a task for a long time before we may expect to see the rewards from our labor. There are many testimonies of persons who prayed for the salvation of a loved one and witnessed to them for years before that person accepted Christ. There are testimonies of Missionaries who struggled for years before they saw a spark of interest in the hearts of the people, yet that first spark eventually did come as hostile communities finally opened their doors to Jesus.

Lord, help us to always seek your will through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Give us your discernment that we may know the difference between our own ideas and the leading that comes from you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Philippians 3:12-16 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Since the first verse in this passage reflects on the previous few verses, I’m adding an extra link here to keep us from taking anything out of context. When the author claims he hasn’t yet attained “all of this,” a reflection on these earler verses shows that he has been discussing the source of his righteousness and his desire to know Christ, to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the fellowship that comes from sharing in his sufferings, enabling us to become like him even in his death. What a tall order! The outcome of it all is that we too will be resurrected from the dead.

Fortunately for our consciences, Paul acknowledges that he has not already attained this, nor has he been made perfect, but it is his goal. He is committed to continue in that direction, not looking back, but straining as in a race toward his goal, the prize that God challenged him to attain through Christ Jesus.

Before we try to cop out on that last verse as if it had been an exclusive call for Paul, we need to consider verse 15 which says that all of us, if we are mature, should take this view of things. We can only expect that God will make it clear to us eventually if we beg to differ.  And verse 16 challenges us to live up to what we have already worked our way through in our faith journey, and not slip backwards when the going gets tough.

True Christianity is not an easy street. It is more than getting perfect attendance in Sunday school. It is taking everything we learn and making changes in our personal lifestyle, changes that reflect our faith in God. It is a faith that makes a difference, not mere lip service as if we were doing God a big favor by speaking well of him. Are you growing in your faith – growing at the pace of a runner striving to run a race? Or are you limping along just enough to get you by, enough so people will see you in church and know that you are a “good” person.

 Father God, pour the discipline of your love on us if it is needed to get our attention. Incline our hearts to draw so close to you that it will be obvious to us where we need to change our walk and our talk, and empower us to make those changes. Help us to get back into the race and out of the sidelines.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Hebrews 12:1-3  Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

This passage is such a wonderful challenge. How many of us truly recognize the baggage we carry around with us? What are the things that pull us away from a relationship with Christ? What is it that keeps us from extending Christ’s love to the sick, lonely and/or hurting people around us? Busy-ness? Business profits? Poorly utilized idle time? Self-centeredness? Pride? Worry?

Hebrews 12:1 commands us to cast off those things that hinder us. I have a lot of cluter in my life – both physical and personal demands I allow to be made on my time. How freeing it would be to cast it all off and to run the race with total abandon. May God help me through this process.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by our circumstances and to allow them to pull us down. Verse two tells us how to rise above them – to fix our eyes on Jesus keeping in mind how he endured even death on the cross to obtain his goal. Whatever our burdens are, they can’t begin to compare with what Christ endured, yet he not only endured it, he did it for the “joy set before him.” He set the example for us by looking above and beyond the current circumstances to the joy of heaven that awaited him. We can have that same joy. Let us not lose heart.

Father God, help us to recognize and cast off those idols and distractions that keep us from fellowshiping with you and from serving you. Help us to run the race with joy and abandon.

 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Peter 1:5-8 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens. 

This passage doesn’t ask much does it? (I ask with my tongue in my cheek.) This list of virtues can be a bit overwhelming at first glance.

This is such a huge passage to get my mind around, but as I look at it, I recognize a growing kind of pattern to the list: 

We start with proclaiming our faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior. Then we set out to do the good things that we know Jesus wants us to do. We soon realize that there is much we need to learn if we are going to follow his teachings. The more we learn, we begin to discover areas of our lives that we need to change requiring a measure of self-control. Some of these changes may be difficult for us, and we may struggle to persevere in them. As we make these changes we will show more godliness in our manner. This godliness should express itself in brotherly kindness to others, and ultimately a measure of love that only Christ can help us to attain.

Verse 8 tells why these qualities are so very important. If our Christian walk is to be effective we must continually reach higher in our relationship with Christ. What Christian in his/her right mind would be satisfied to be ineffective and unproductive?

I believe it would be helpful to print out this list of virtues as a challenge to ever grow in our faith. Here is the list if you would like to print it out. Or you may click on the link at the bottom for an MS Word file you can print out. I think it best to begin at the bottom as growing in our faith makes us taller in our faith.

Love

Brotherly Kindness

Godliness

Perseverance

Self-Control

Knowledge

Goodness

Faith

God’s Growth Chart (2)  (Click on link for 8.5 x 11 poster with clip art.)

Lord Jesus, enable us to see ourselves honestly in light of these virtues. Give us such a great hunger to know you better and to serve you more that we will grow closer to the top of this list day by day. Don’t let us settle to be second class Christians who are satisfied to blend in with the world and look and act like everyone else.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 

    8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'” Luke 13:6-9 (NIV)

     We have two fig trees in our yard that sound like the one in this parable. Every year we see 2-6 figs growing on the tree, but before they begin to ripen they just disappear. We haven’t cut them down yet, though I understand how the man who owned the fig tree felt. But the gardener has more patience in this parable than the owner and he wanted to work with the tree yet one more year. 

    Isn’t it wonderful that God, like the gardener, is patient with us. Yes, he wants to see fruit, but he is patient. But there comes a point when his patience gives out in the same way as was the gardener’s willingness to work with the tree one more year, after which he would cut it down.

     God has given us his plan of grace or salvation. But we weren’t placed in the family of God just to look pretty–like the fruitless fig tree. We are in the family to bear fruit.

     Since this parable comes immediately after the urgent command to repent that Jesus spoke, it seems appropriate to assume that this fruit is connected to our repentance. Without repentance we cannot bear fruit. Without repentance people are trying to do the work on their own strength–they are telling God they don’t need his help. Therefore, they shouldn’t be surprised when his help doesn’t come when they find themselves in want.      Lord, help me to have a repentant spirit. Don’t let me sweep my sins under the rug and pretend you don’t notice, but help me to come to you with open hands and an open heart that I may bear fruit for you.

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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