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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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Philippians 2:5-11 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

Do you need an attitude adjustment? Before you answer that question, read Philippians 2:5-11. It is a rare person indeed whose attitude could pass this test.

Does that give us permission to sluff off this verse and excuse yourself because you aren’t as bad as ___________ (fill in the blank)? I doubt that Jesus looks at it this way. These verses are in the Bible to guide our Christian walk and we need to use them, not public opinion, as our guide.

So, how do we get from here (the place where my present attitude is sitting) to there (the place where it needs to be)? I don’t know any quick, simple fix. It needs to be a life goal that we must cultivate in our hearts. We must start by agreeing with God that we need to make the adjustment. We must write these verses on our hearts so that we will be mindful of them as we proceed through life on a day to day basis.

Jesus was humble to the point of death on a cross. He did not try to lord his divineness over people and boss them around. He let them know where they stood without taking their free will from them, and he let them decide for themselves how they would respond. He accepted their insults and even death on a cross for a cause that was higher than his earthly body. His cause was the salvation of those who were insulting him and taking his life, for you and for me.

Did Jesus ever stick up for anything? Of course he did. If he hadn’t, no one would have been upset enough to crucify him in the first place. He challenged those things that insulted God. He challenged everything that was satanic.

But he didn’t retaliate to defend himself. That was the dividing line, and we can use it as our dividing line as well. We don’t have to be doormats to anything and everything that comes along in the name of humility. It is reasonable to stand up against evils that hurt people around us. The problems come when we are quick to attack those who offend us personally. Whose honor are you ready to fight for? Is the offence based on the big “I” or is it based on an offense against God? If it is based on the big “I” then we need to be looking for the soft answer. If it is an offense against God, then we need to find Biblical guidelines for dealing with the problem.

Lord, help us to see our own attitudes through your eyes. Show us where we need to make changes so that our lives may reflect your light and your love to the world.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Daniel 1:11-14 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

When the king’s guard was concerned for his own safety as well as Daniel’s life because of Daniel’s refusal to eat the kings food, Daniel exercised great wisdom. Rather than taking a defiant stand against eating the king’s food, he negotiated a proposal that turned the situation into a temporary test case.

We would benefit from following Daniel’s example of resistance through respectful negotiation. Unfortunately, we Christians often take the offensive approach to following God’s commands. I am referring to in-your-face self-righteous behavior that causes unbelievers to feel embarrassed or singled out for not meeting our expectations. Perhaps we need to examine our own behavior. Do we reach out to the unsaved in love and compassion, or do we view them with contempt because of their behaviors.

Father, lead us to follow you in humility. Help us to learn from Daniel’s example of diplomacy as he negotiated with the king’s guards. Give us his kind of wisdom as we live and work among the unsaved around us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:      “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O LORD God.     18 “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, 19 O LORD. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

1 Chronicles 17:16-19 (NIV)

What kind of impact did Nathan’s words (prophesy from God) have on David? Did he exalt himself and rejoice in his good fortune like we might be tempted to do if we were to win some great sweepstakes? These verses make it clear that David’s response was just the opposite. He began his prayer with “Who am I, O LORD God…” He was overwhelmed with his own smallness, and asked God why he was chosen to be so exalted. Nothing in David’s words reflect even a hint of his seeking recognition or power; he can only express words of wonder that God should bless him.

How unlike David I am. I want to serve God, yet I crave seeing his blessings on my work. I enjoy recognition to the point that sometimes it seems to become an idol. But even God described David as a man after God’s heart. It was his ability to humble himself that made it possible for God to use him in such a mighty way.

Lord, help us to see ourselves for who we really are. May we, like David, recognize your hand at work in every good thing we do; and may we be willing to give you all the praise, honor and glory when we are able to accomplish good works in your strength. Be with our leaders and help them to aspire to be like David, seeking to please you and serve those you have placed under their influence.

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 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 

    5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud
     
but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1-5 (NIV)

     Peter is addressing the duties of the church elder – watching over the members of the congregation in a spirit of humility and servanthood. They should do this, not as a duty or requirement, but because they have a willing spirit to help others. They should not expect financial gain for their service nor should they lord their authority over the congregation in a heavy handed way.

      Peter then addresses the younger generation challenging them to be submissive to the older men. Peter stresses the concept that we have been considering all week – humility. Peter tells young men (and I don’t believe he deliberately omitted the women, this was one characteristic of the Jewish culture in his day) to clothe themselves with humility. Then he quotes Proverbs 3:34 saying “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV)

      We may not be elders or have great leadership roles in our churches, but all who are called as Christians are also called to minister one to another.  For this reason, we can all learn from the advice Peter directed to the elders in this letter to “God’s elect” (from chapter 1:1)

     Lord, thank you for your Word that you use to speak to our hearts. Give us ears to hear and teachable spirits that we may be willing and able to humble ourselves and serve those around us.

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 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:1-11 (NIV)

This passage starts out with the words “For this reason…” This tells me we need to look at the previous verses to learn what reason and to get the whole picture of what Paul, the writer, is trying to say. The previous verses had expounded on how the crucifiction and resurrection of Christ welcomed the Gentiles into the family of God giving them new hope. The walls of separation between the Jews and Gentiles had been broken down. At the time of this writing, Paul was in house arrest awaiting trial in Rome.

Today’s passage is quite long, so I will focus on Paul’s humility. As those who have followed this week’s writings may have noticed, humility has been the underlying theme this week.

Paul refers to his conversion with a sense of awe. It is clear that he is continually overwhelmed that God should choose him, one who had previously persecuted Christians unto death, to preach the Gospel, and not only to preach the Gospel, but to present it to the Gentiles – people who had previously been considered forever outside of God’s grace. Paul declares that he is “less than the least of all God’s people.” These are not words of pride. He refers to himself as a servant, not some high priest. He speaks of his ministry as God’s grace given to him for the Gentiles, and he speaks of his strength to do so as God’s power. He speaks of the message he brings as the “unsearchable riches of Christ” and the mystery that God made plain through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul has taken credit for nothing, yet Paul was an Apostle known throughout the known world, a preacher who brought hundreds to Christ everywhere he went. Paul wasn’t keeping count. He wasn’t counting feathers in his cap or hits on his web page. He was simply and faithfully spreading the message God had entrusted him to preach to the Gentiles.

Lord, help us to follow Paul’s example, to humbly reach out to others with your message of hope, and when we have seen success, may we give all the praise to 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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     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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10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11 (NIV)

 How special it is when someone unexpectedly honors us in some way in appreciation for something we have done. It is a much more pleasant experience than when we anticipate recognition that doesn’t come. Jesus is telling us in these verses that a spirit of humility is of great value, while those with a spirit of pride and self-seeking can only anticipate an embarrassing fall.

It seems appropriate to consider some forms of false humility. For instance, if someone does something very well–perhaps they sing beautiful solos or prepare fantastic meals–yet they habitually belittle his/her own performance; the appearance of humility may only be an attempt to fish for praise. 

So what should we do when we are praised for a job well done? We should acknowledge our honest appreciation to God for giving us the ability to do the task.

I must also share a confession from out of my past that still occasionally spills over into my present. I went through a long period in my life where I was starved for appreciation by the most important person in my life, one who willfully chose to withhold it. As a result of this void, when I received praise at church I was so grateful for it that I found it difficult to pass it on to God. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the role God played in enabling me to perform, I was simply desperate to be affirmed as a person. It was as if I was saying “Yes! I did it!”

I don’t claim to have been justified in accepting and treasuring that praise. I only share it here for the sake of some unknown person who, too, may be starved for recognition and appreciation. Be gentle with him or her – the time will come when he/she will joyfully pass the praise on to God.

Lord, help us to always recognize our dependence on you. Enable us to sincerely humble ourselves as we walk through this life. Help us to seek your glory and not our own. And help us to honor those around us who serve you and others well.

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 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9  If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.  Luke 14:7-9 NIV

     While watching people position themselves at the prominent pharisees house to make themselves look important, Jesus cautioned them about their foolish ways. It would be much better to be asked to move to a better seat than to be asked to give up your seat for someone more important than you.

     How do we apply these scriptures to our lives today? Do we like to sit at the “head table” at special occasions? Do we seek public audience for every good deed we do? Are we bent out of shape if a plaque with our name on it for a contribution we made thirty years ago gets moved from the vestibule to a less significant place? Do we blog every day on Bible scriptures, but spend so much time studying the “stats” (counts of how many read which posts) that it is hard to start writing the next post? (ouch!)

     Humility and pride don’t survive each other well. For humility to come in, pride must leave. If we give pride a little room in our hearts it isn’t satisfied until it takes over everything. Pride and confidence are not the same thing, however. We can have confidence in God, and in what he can do through us. But confidence quickly turns to pride if we seek to take credit for what we do, without honoring God for giving us the vision, ability, and skill to accomplish the task. Many would-be great spiritual leaders stumble over their own pride and thereby limit what God can do through them.

    Heavenly father, use your paternal attributes to keep our pride under control. Prevent us from fooling ourselves into a sense of false humility that comes from meaningless flowery confessions. Make it painfully obvious to us when we are filled with pride, and lead us down a path of true humility, a walk that pleases 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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1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
     
2 in you I trust, O my God.
     
Do not let me be put to shame,
     
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one whose hope is in you
     
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
     
who are treacherous without excuse.

4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
     
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
     
for you are God my Savior,
     
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
     
for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth
     
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
     
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
     
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
     
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
     
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
Psalm 25:1-10 (NIV)

This is one of many of the Psalms that causes me to want to burst into song when I read it. That is because I first learned this Psalm as a song. And isn’t that so appropriate, since the book of Psalms has been a book of songs from the very beginning.

Singing this Psalm is a beautiful way to remind oneself of God’s faithfulness. I can lift up my soul to him and put my trust in him. I cannot be put to shame if I am living wholeheartedly for him– because by doing so I would not allow myself to do something to be ashamed of. As I sing this Psalm to God I am asking him to guide my steps because he is my Savior in whom I have hope.

I can only smile to myself as I read verse 7 (the song ended before this verse.) What a blessing that the “sins of my youth and my rebellious ways” can be put behind us because of Jesus’ great sacrifice made in my behalf.

Verse 9 tells us “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Lord give me a humble heart. Strip away the pride that wants to get in the way, that I may have a teachable spirit and may walk more faithfully in your way. Thank you that I can trust you to humble me because all your ways are loving and faithful for those who walk in your ways.

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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