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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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James 5:13-18 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Verses 13-18 are about praying in faith. Books have been written on this subject, so I acknowledge that I am only able to touch a highlight or two today.

James is reminding us to pray in every circumstance, not just when we feel desperate. We are called to offer prayers of rejoicing and praise as well as our petitions for help.

We are especially encouraged to pray for healing. James encourages the sick to call for the elders of the church to annoint them with oil and pray in faith for them. In Bible times, oil was used as a healing remedy for many ailments. I have seen Christians take that little piece of information and run with it saying this means to go to the doctor. Other Christians will rebuke them and say to put all your confidence in the oil and the prayer. I don’t intend to straddle the fence here, I intend to take both sides seriously and say that God intends for us to do what makes sense. Yes, do what you know to do for healing – if it is to take an asprin for a headache or if it is to go to the doctor for open heart surgery. We have no excuse to throw away hundreds of years of medical advancements and take the lazy way out by expecting God to just do it. But, we don’t need to put all our confidence in our doctors either. After all, it is God who gets the last word.

So when we are sick, we are called on to use the healing expertise we have available to us, and we are to call upon God. I have often seen church elders (or deacons or other officials depending on the titles used by various denominations) anoint the sick with oil and pray for their healing. God is honored by this and desires to bless their efforts.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Mark 1:29-34 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The first instance of Jesus’ healing as recorded in the Gospel of Mark was when Jesus healed Simon’s (later called Peter) mother-in-law. It didn’t take long for word to spread about this miracle, and soon people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus to be healed.

It bothers me to hear people re-interpret the term demon-possessed as just another form of sickness, as if the people in Bible times lumped all the people with diseases they didn’t understand into one group and labeled them demon-possessed. A closer examination of this passage does not reveal that the demon-possessed were treated the same as the sick. I believe it is worth mentioning as well, that when Jesus drove the demons out he would not let them speak because they knew who he was. That statement wouldn’t have made any sense at all if a demon weren’t some form of being that had a will of its own. That is totally different from a disease.

It is unfortunate that the highly educated people of our time are so bent on minimizing the existence of the supernatural realm. It is even more unfortunate that now many of these same intellectual elete are opening their minds to the possibility of a spirit world through New Age thinking (which is nothing new at all – it is the ancient gods of the Middle East wearing new faces). Yet they have firmly closed their minds to the possibility that the spirit worlds that are taught in the Bible have any legitimacy at all. How foolhardy, to put it mildly.

The Bible has much to say about demonic activity, but the best passage for us to remember about it is this: “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Read the whole passage in 1 John 4:1-6. Even though demons are powerful and can cause a lot of havoc, God is greater than all of them put together. Put your trust in God alone.

Father God, we thank you for your Son Jesus who showed us that you are a God who has the power to heal and the power to keep Satan and his demons in check. And we thank you that you have given us your Spirit to strengthen us so that we too may stand against the powers of this world. Keep us close to you so that we will always be mindful of where our strength comes from.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 4:31-37 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

After leaving Nazareth, Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and went to the city of Capernium. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue and taught the people who were amazed at the authority with which he spoke.

A man in the crowd was possessed by a demon who knew who Jesus was. The demon began mocking Jesus and identified him as the Holy One of  God. Jesus told the demon to be quiet, and then commanded him to go out of the man who had been possessed. The demon left throwing the man down, but did not injure the man.

The people were all the more amazed at Jesus, at his authority in his teaching, and at his power to command the spirits. And the people spread the word about him to the surrounding communities.

Jesus wasn’t just another teacher, he had demonstrated his authority in many ways to the people. It was in his teaching, in his miracles, and in his ability to cast out demons.

Today we have many spiritual teachers who use various techniques to get their messages across to their listeners. Some have earned our respect through their command of the Scriptures, and are able to bring many people to their knees under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many great teachers also effectively use their spiritual gifts for healing and for casting out demons even today. Praise God for his faithful messengers who are able to use their God-given spiritual gifts to reach the lost for Jesus.

Unfortunately, we also have spiritual teachers who have resorted to less than honorable methods to reach the lost. They use manipulation to create an appearance of a “movement of the Spirit.” While there are many examples, a few of the more common ones include noise for the sake of noise, people falling back with a push on the forehead rather than an authentic experience of being “slain in the Spirit,” and tongues that can be self-generated instead of Spirit-generated. Often spiritual leaders who use deceitful methods can also be spotted by an over-indulgence of self-promotion as well.

I am aware that I will have probably offended many of my readers at this point. I am not saying that all instances of noisy worship, people being slain in the Spirit, or people speaking in tongues, are less than acts of God and his Holy Spirit. We serve an awesome God who manifests his glory and his love in more ways than we can count. He has used each of these and more to meet the needs of his people.

Heavenly Father, grant us discernment as we seek out genuine Christian teachers who will handle your Word faithfully as they help us to draw closer to you. Give us wisdom that we might recognize the wolves in sheep’s clothing who might deceive us into blindly following their leadership which may lead us farther away instead of closer to you. Help us to fix our eyes on you alone as revealed in your Son, Jesus the Christ.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Hebrews 12:12-13   Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens. 

This chapter in Hebrews is definitely a model for growth in our Christian walk. If you are going to stay with this writer, you have to move on and up.

These verses challenge us to get our act together, to strengthen our arms and knees, straighten our paths, so that we can be of service to others in Jesus’ name. We can’t serve God if we are determined to sit around in self pity. Wow! This has been a week of preaching to myself!

Father God, clear my foggy mind and lift me up. I know you are there for me, waiting for me to look up into your eyes so I can draw strength from them. But let me not draw strength for myself only, let me draw strength to serve you in whatever way you lead.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

     4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

     5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

     6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

     8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

     Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.  Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

Wow! What an invitation! Before Jesus began choosing his twelve disciples he was at work healing people and speaking to the crowds that had already begun to follow him. One of the persons healed was Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. (Luke 4:38-39). When the crowds become so large, he borrows Simon’s boat so he could back away from the people on the sea of Gennesarett (also known as the Sea of Galilee) to speak to them. Then there followed the miraculous catch of fish after Simon had fished all night unable to catch anything – so many fish that Peter had to call his friends James and John to help him bring them in. The catch nearly sank both boats

Peter bacame instantly aware of his sinfulness and asked Jesus to leave, but Jesus invited them to follow him by assuring them that they would become fishers of men. They immediately left everything to follow Jesus.

I’ve often wondered about Zebedee, the father of James and John, having to continue fishing without their help. But here we see how Jesus provided an enormous catch of fish for him at the time James and John left him behind.

What is the message from this account that we can apply to our own lives today? One thing that comes to my mind first is the freedom we have to follow Jesus. He will take care of us and our families if we are obedient to follow him.

Once when I was in graduate school I agreed to help a young freshman with a paper she needed to have typed and printed. When I read her paper I saw how desperately she needed more help than just typing to get it ready. I coached her with questions and suggestions to help her make the decisions necessary to turn it into a good paper. The reason I mention this situation is that the timing couldn’t have been worse for me to help her, since it was time I needed to be preparing for my own exams. One in particular was for a class with a very picky teacher who was known for his impossible exams. But God is amazing! The day before this dreaded exam, one of our classmates persuaded the teacher to accept the hard work that everyone had put into their projects and cancel the exam. He did, and I received an A for the course. I also learned a few days later that the girl I had helped was very active in a campus Bible study group. God surely had brought us together for that brief moment in time.

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 Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

     5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.  Luke 14:1-6 (NIV)

This was not a cordial invitation to a banquet. Jesus’ invitation was a setup in which the Pharisees hoped to catch Jesus breaking the law. Jesus knew their motives, and silenced them by asking questions they could not (or would not) answer. Jesus first asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. This was the “test,” the reason Jesus had been invited to the banquet in the first place, and Jesus simply challenged them with the question of the day. He then offered an appropriate example of “work” that every one of them would do on a Sabbath. Would they help an ox out of a ditch if it had gotten stuck in it on a Sabbath? Of course they would, but none dared admit to it. Therefore they could say nothing when Jesus healed the man with dropsy.

Has Jesus given blanket permission to disregard the observance of the Sabbath (now observed on Sunday in most Christian churches)? Not hardly. Most of our excuses for not honoring Sunday as a day of rest have to do with convenience, not emergencies. Jesus was confronting the Pharisees in their hypocrisy.

Do we have a hypocritical spirit when it comes to honoring the Sabbath or Sunday as a day of rest? Are we quick to criticize those who work on Sunday (or Saturday), yet by our own choices of what we do on Sunday (or Saturday) do we require others to work? Do we expect stores and restaurants to be open for us on the day we say we honor as a day of rest? Do we choose to clean house inside where no one can see, but criticize our neighbor who is mowing his grass?

Lord, help us to see our own motives clearly as we choose how we will honor you. Help us to not have a critical spirit when we look at others. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (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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Luke 9:1-10 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

     The Twelve Disciples had been with Jesus for some time watching as he ministered to the people. They heard his message and watched him drive out demons and heal people of their diseases.

     Now it was time for them to follow his example, so he gave them some final instructions and sent them out to do as he had done. Their mission was to preach about the kingdom of God, to drive out demons and to cure people of their diseases. He did not send them out powerless. He gave them both the power and the authority to drive out demons and to heal the sick. But their instructions were to take nothing with them. Their power did not come from expensive flowing robes or expensive travel paraphernalia or bank account. They were instructed to stay in only one house in a town and stay as long as they were welcome. If they were not welcomed, they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left as a testimony against the town.

     And who was it that took notice of these ragamuffins as they went from town to town? None other than Herod the tetrarch who had ordered that John the Baptist be beheaded. If you recall, Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist because he didn’t like being challenged for marrying his daughter-in-law.

     What are we to take away from this passage of scripture? What were Jesus’ priorities when he sent the Twelve out to minister?

     First, he empowered them to be able to do what he sent them to do. It was up to the Twelve to use these powers or they would not have been welcomed into the towns they visited. They would not have been able to endear themselves to the people by expecting them to take care of them if they could give nothing in return.

     Does God give everyone the same marching orders? I think not. Many years ago I was camping with my husband, and a neighbor family, when we were approached by two college aged girls who said they were sent out by their church in the same manner as Jesus had sent the Twelve Disciples. I was very skeptical and my feelings have not changed to this day. For one thing, I didn’t see them perform any miracles. In Bible times, it was customary for strangers to go to the city gate where someone might take them in for the night. No such custom exists in America.

     Yet there are people such as Mother Teresa who have become paupers for the sake of serving others. We hear occasional accounts of Christians who choose to live on the streets in order to witness to those who have no other choice, and often these self-sacrificing Christians are the only ones who were able to reach the homeless. The Apostle Paul earned his own keep as he ministered to the people.

     The only answer I can come up with for the question of whether God expects us to use these same instructions is that it all depends on your call. Is God calling you to minister to your next door neighbor? Don’t go with the idea he is to take care of you. Is God calling you to write for publications? You won’t get far without a computer.

     But more important than the physical tools, clothing, and other provisions, you must go with God’s Spirit and his empowerment. Whatever you do in the flesh will turn to dust without it.

     At the end of this period of training for the Disciples, they returned to Jesus and shared their experiences with him.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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