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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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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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Today’s passage is taken out of the account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.

John 4:21-26 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.  The entire passage of the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well is found in John 4:1-42

Jesus had been talking with the Samaritan woman long enough for her to realize that he was more than a mere man. She had called him a prophet and had begun asking questions. Jesus called her “woman.” In our culture this is not generally a respectful way to address a woman; however, this was not a derogatory remark in the Jewish culture. Perhaps our expression “M’am” is a similar expression in our culture today.

The woman had raised questions about where God should be worshiped. Jesus’ response made it clear that it wasn’t important where people worshiped God. The important thing was that the worship be genuine, that true worshipers would worship “in spirit and truth.”

This tells me that God doesn’t care about denominations as much as hearts. There was a time when my faith first began to deepen and become real to me. During that time I thought the women in my Bible study group were possibly the only Christians in my town. But as time passed and as my faith continued to grow, I began to discover that there were many committed Christians in several churches and denominations. Sadly, many Christians continue to cling to the notion that they are the only ones who are among the saved, and miss out on the fellowship with other devoted Christians.

Do we worship in spirit and truth? Only God can understand the motives of our hearts. Are we truly worshiping God when we attend worship services, or do we attend church because we want to be seen as a good or upstanding person? What are we thinking about when we are in a worship service? Are we truly worshiping the awesome God who created the universe, who then gave his only Son to suffer and die on a cross to take the punishment for our sins? Or do we take all this for granted?

The Samaritan woman shared with Jesus what she understood about the Messiah, saying that when the Messiah came he would explain all of these things. Jesus then answered that he was the Messiah. She then ran to tell the people in her community about Jesus and to bring them to hear him.

Father God, penetrate our hearts when we make the effort to worship you. Enable our spirits to draw near to you in spirit and truth. Help us to focus on you alone when we worship you, whether we are worshiping you in our private worship of you, or in our churches and other Christian worship gatherings.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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A week and a half ago I had cataract and corrective surgery on one eye. As the eye heals my vision in that eye continues to improve so that my once extremely near-sighted left eye is becoming closer and closer to 20/20. Meanwhile my right eye continues to be extremely near-sighted without correction and 20/20 with correction which includes a bi-focal lens.  My glasses have become glasses as the left lens was removed following surgery.

My new “bionic” left eye should be a source of joy to me except that it wants to argue with my right eye. I have been continually evaluating each situation and deciding which eye(s) to use… Driving calls for my glasses and bionic eye, while indoor activities are more pleasant without the glasses.  Reading and using the computer are a draw considering my bi-focals are less effective than they used to be and I have been able to pull my glasses off to read anyway. I now feel cross-eyed when wearing the glasses.

Sunday morning I had a pity party as tears rolled down my cheeks during the worship service. I will not be able to have surgery on my right eye for several months for various reasons, and this could turn into a year or more, maybe never. So I have begun to feel very betrayed by my doctor who didn’t prepare me for this battle between my eyes which has become so distracting.

We have campmeetings this week at Hemingway Campground, so I have been wrestling with my anger toward my doctor as well as wrestling with depression and despair over the possibility that this disorientation may go on for some time. Meanwhile I recognize that I have been continuing to draw more and more into myself.

I feel myself coming under conviction – my attitude has not been bringing glory to God. We sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” and I see my hypocrisy in my complaining spirit. I am allowing my eyes to rob me of my joy in the Lord. Doesn’t God’s word tell us to give thanks in everything? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I am resolving to praise God for my eyes, and to wear my glasses with greater resolve that my eyes will make the necessary adjustments with God’s help. I also desire to walk more closely with Jesus so that I may sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” without reservations, with his joy bubbling in my heart. As he promises in his word may I draw near to him so that he will draw near to me. (James 4:8)

     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  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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