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Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”— when you now have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-32 (NIV) (Click on this link to read this passage in your preferred version of the Bible. You may select your version after the link opens. )

Who hasn’t yet heard about the earthquakes that devastated Port-au-Prince in Haiti last Tuesday?  It has been the dominating topic on all news casts on television and radio stations for the past several days. The devastation and needs are unfathomable.

What is the Christian response for those of us living in our comfortable homes as our TVs, radios, and computers bring the reality of these people’s sufferings into our living rooms. We can go to our kitchen sink or refrigerator and get a fresh glass of water or other beverage – they are unable to find water. We pat our stomachs after a full meal – they may have to fight to get or keep a serving of food. We can turn the TV off to give us a little distance from the suffering – they can’t.

Sadly, the first response many have to meeting the needs when crises like these occur is to run to our closets and pantry to look for things we need to give away – things we won’t miss. Some want to jump on a plane and fly to Haiti to offer physical labor and expertise. But a closer look reveals some bottle-necks that will keep any of these first responses from being helpful. In fact doing these things may only cause increased hardships for a while.

The airport in Haiti is small and can handle only a little traffic. The roads are so damaged that it is nearly impossible to move clothes and household goods, they are only in the way at this time. The shipping ports were also damaged for getting goods into the country. So initially we can only wait patiently until the bottle-neck is cleared.

As Christians, our first line of defense is prayer. There is no bottle-neck preventing us from praying for the people of Haiti.

The second thing that can be donated immediately is money. Cash is flexible and can be used to meet whatever need is prominent at the time. Unfortunately, it won’t be found on a neglected hanger in your closet or in the back of your pantry with the food that has been sitting in your pantry undisturbed for some time. Cash comes from the bottom of our pockets. In our current economy, reaching for cash calls for greater sacrifice.

We may think we don’t have cash to spare. That’s when we need to turn the TV back on and make some comparisons. Can we truly say we have nothing to give to these desperate people?

We can also start organizing other forms of help to have them ready when the bottleneck is cleared. The Haitian people desperately need water, food, clothing, and volunteers. Volunteers need to have these supplies ready for shipment as soon as the all-clear signal is given.

The following organizations are excellent for getting resources to the people. Not only do they work long and hard to meet the needs of the people, they also provide these services in Jesus’ name and offer spiritual encouragement as well.

Samaritans Purse

The Salvation Army

Mennonite Central Committee

World Vision International

United Methodist Committee On Relief

Global Aid Network

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 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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James 5:1-6 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James describes the woes for the wealthy. God doesn’t offer any redeeming words to rich people who obtain their money by taking advantage of the poor. Neither does he condone persons who use all their wealth for self-indulgence. I have occasionally heard wealthy Christians wrestle with what the Bible says about wealth. As I understand the scriptures, both here and elsewhere in the Bible, the bottom line is whether the wealthy hoard for themselves, or hold their riches with open hands asking God to lead them to be good stewards of their wealth in service to his kingdom.

This question may put money in its proper perspective: Does your money own you or do you own your money? If you are consumed in worrying about your money (even your lack of it) that you can’t joyfully serve the Lord with it, then your money owns you.

I find it interesting that this passage isn’t one of the familiar passages we hear frequently in the pulpit or even in our Sunday school literature. James 5 was the passage for last Sunday’s lesson, but the writer of our literature ignored it completely and began with verse 7 to build his lesson. Read the passage again. James doesn’t mince words to avoid offending the wealthy.

Father God, Help us to hold our finances and possessions with open hands that we may serve you with our whole hearts. Give us the courage to make the changes in our hearts and lives that would be pleasing to you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Proverbs 3:13-18  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The world today puts great value on wealth and power. Unfortunately, even our churches give in to this kind of small thinking and give leadership roles to those who have “proven themselves” in the world. Out the window goes faith and even honor in too many instances.

But the true student of the Bible will come up with a different take on the source of true knowledge and wisdom. Read Proverbs 3:13-18. There is a wisdom that will bring riches, but not the kind that can be purchased with gold and silver. The riches include things money can’t buy: peace, joy, good will, a free conscience, respect and honor.

God is the giver of this kind of wisdom. It isn’t given to the greedy or to those hungry for power. It is given to those who are willing to seek it by spending time with him in prayer and by spending time searching through the scriptures for the lessons that only the Holy Spirit can teach us. And the riches gained from true wisdom include a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last through the end of our days on this earth and on into eternity. I’ll take riches of this kind over gold and silver any day!

Heavenly Father, incline my heart to seek thee more faithfully and deliberately. Help me to discern between Godly wisdom and the wisdom of this world, and help me to make seeking and applying godly wisdom a daily act of obedience to you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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

As I read this chapter the same message seemed to come to me over and over…  It isn’t about me – it is all about Jesus Christ.  We must not fast and pray to be seen by men because it isn’t about us, and we will never steal Jesus’ glory.  Our possessions shouldn’t be hoarded for our own benefit here on earth – they are meant to be used to glorify Christ and to draw others to him.  If our hearts are in our earthly treasures we will waste away with nothing to show for our life on earth.  If we hold our treasures with open hands and allow God to work through us, then he will supply our every need, clothing us like the flowers in the fields and providing for us like the birds of the air.

Now if I can just remember this until tomorrow.  How easy it is to get our eyes off Christ and onto ourselves and our own circumstances.

Father, help us to embed these verses firmly into our hearts and our thoughts. Help us hold your blessings with open hands and a spirit of sharing.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Matthew 6:19-21  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What do you value most in life? What is it in your life that compels you into action? What would you go to great lengths to protect or preserve? Do you invest time in something or someone to see it develop and grow? What occupies your mind and/or keeps you awake at night?

If we ask ourselves questions like these we should discover where our treasure is. How does your treasure measure up to the passage in Matthew 6:19-21? Does your treasure have eternal value, or is it simply something that will make life easier for yourself? Are you working for your families needs or are you spoiling them by trying to satisfy all their wants? 

I’m so near retirement age that it scares me. Then I remember this passage. It makes me stop and think about where my treasure is. If I am overly wrapped up in meeting my own unforeseen needs I may be overlooking opportunities that are right in my path for laying up treasures in heaven. And those are the only treasures that are truly ours to keep.

Father, help me to value the things that you value. Help me to keep a check on the desires of my heart that they may be alligned with your purpose and will. Help me to focus my eyes on your treasures and not on self-centered treasures that have no eternal value.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:20Matthew 5:3  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read the first of the Beatitudes in Luke I kept saying to myself that this wasn’t the way I remembered it. I searched several translations, but still couldn’t find one that started “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Instead I kept finding “Blessed are the poor.” I finally realized that I learned the Beatitudes from Matthew and not Luke.

So which is it? I could get all uptight over this and say that both should report this exactly the same way, but I have resolved in my heart to not let such minor differences unsettle my faith. In fact, quite the opposite. The fact that two different people reported the same instances with so many details that are the same bears witness to the fact that they didn’t need to consult with each other to tell the story. Both were capable writers and independent witnesses to the historical facts of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So which is it? I believe that God was present in the Spirit when both accounts were written and both accurately express what he wants us to know. There are blessings that only the poor can know. Life can be simpler when you don’t have to worry about losing your fortune if the stock market crashes. The poor are less likely to have a child kidnapped for ransom. But even more importantly, the poor have learned to trust God to meet their needs.

Comparisons have been made on who is more generous, the rich or the poor, and it is the poor who will give the greater percent of their income to help others. This is perhaps one example of the freedom that the poor experience but that is elusive to the rich. Perhaps this is in part how theirs (the poor) is the kingdom of heaven.

The insertion of the words “in spirit” as seen in Matthew’s account changes the meaning a little, but it is still within the framework of the rest of Biblical teaching. Therefore I believe this is equally valid in the Beatitudes. When I think of being poor in spirit, I think of brokenness. We are a stiff-necked people, we make our plans and expect God to bless them (not the other way around). We tend to think we are in control of our lives, and when things seem to start spinning out of control we panic and fall to our knees making demands on God. Somewhere down in the bottom of all this turmoil is where we come to our wit’s end. This is where our spirit is finally broken, and where we look up to God and ask him to fix the mess we have made of our lives. The blessing God gives for a broken spirit is eternal life as we turn our lives over to him. This is the kingdom of heaven.

I have been worrying over my financial future as I face an earlier than advisable retirement in January. So now that I have wrestled through these scriptures, I need to re-read my own post. It is re-assuring that God has so much to say about trusting him with our tomorrows. Then to consider that I might be more fully blessed if I am poor than if I were rich… that boggles my mind in a comforting way.

I have been weighing out in my mind whether I should spend next week in a Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. It will be a last minute decision, but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for thirteen years, ever since the time I first learned about the program. I think this passage of scripture will take on even more meaning as I work through the week.

Father God, you know the blessings that are the best. Help us to see life through your eyes and not the eyes of the world. Help us to be satisfied, even generous, with what you have given us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)

Why do we invite guests into our homes for a meal, or take them out to a restaurant? Are we trying to impress them, hoping to win their favor, so they will do good things for us? Business people do this regularly, and our income tax laws (USA) allow them to call these meals business expenses.

Jesus says not to invite those friends, neighbors and relatives who might be inclined to return the favor. Instead we are told to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind because they will be unable to return the favor. This is true hospitality.

As I read these verses I believe it is our motives that are at the heart of the matter. As in all other forms of relating with people, we are to have a servant’s heart. If we invite someone to our home, we should look for someone with a need – someone we can help in some way.

If we are faithful to serve others through our hospitality, God will be the one who will bless us, though it may not be in this lifetime.  Verse 14 says you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Lord, give me a servant’s heart. Help me find ways to show hospitality to those in need, not to win their favor, but to reflect your love to them that they will seek to know you better.

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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     19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”  Acts 26:19-23 (NIV)

     Prior to these verses, the Apostle Paul had held been in prison under trumped up charges. He was now pleading his case with King Herod Agrippa and had just finished telling about his experience on the road to Damascus where he was converted to Christianity and was called by God to take the Christian message to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). 

     Paul declared to King Agrippa that his first message was to preach to all people that they should repent and turn to God. Paul didn’t choose to gloss over this key message of the Christian faith. All people needed to repent of all their sins, and in addition, all those who did repent should prove the sincerity of their repentance by how they lived their lives. It was this message that enraged the Jews who had put Paul in prison.

     Paul further defended his confidence in his message by declaring that everything that had happened to Jesus was prophesied many years earlier by Moses and the prophets, as he re-stated the facts “that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” (verse 23)

     Each of the scripture passages this week have echoed the same theme, the need for all people to repent. Let us pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a pure heat, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

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  John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

    10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 

    11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

     12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

     13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

     14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

Luke 3:7-14 (NIV) 

    John the Baptist had begun his ministry of baptizing and teaching a message of repentance at the beginning of this passage. He saw among the crowds many who were only outwardly repentant without any desire to change their ways. In Matthew the men so accused were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Since Luke did not identify them as such, we may consider that there were others as well who received this harsh criticism.

     The same is true today, our repentance must be genuine or it is meaningless. His words are for us — he commands us to bear fruit that can only come with repentance. Outward appearances do not turn us into children of God.

     When asked, Jesus told the people to be generous with their possessions and share with those who were needy. He charged the greedy (tax collectors and soldiers) to be honest with people and to be content with honest earnings. 

     Those commands were not only for those people, they apply to us today as well. Not everything that is legal is right. Slumlords and loan sharks get rich by taking advantage of the poor. The rich isolate themselves from the poor and may offer little or nothing to help them, while a person who has only a little excess will be much quicker to help meet the needs of others.

     If we are truly repentant of our sins and wish to follow Jesus’ example, we will hold our possessions with open hands, willing to share with those less fortunate.

     Lord, you know our hearts. Help us to be more like you in every way and to hold nothing back to satisfy our own greed.

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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