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1 John 2:1-6 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Sin. Repentance. Forgiveness. Freedom from sin or freedom to sin again?

Jesus’ redemption on the cross is the greatest gift ever given. We ask for forgiveness and Jesus forgives us. It’s free. It’s a gift.

Read the passage above from 1 John 2:1-6.  According to verse one, the apostle John wrote this so that we wouldn’t sin. His goal was to help us to rise above sin. Then John added that IF we sinned, that Jesus would come to our defense speaking to God on our behalf.

We live in a time when sin is flaunted in public everywhere we turn. I quit watching TV years ago because it sickened me to see virtuous living ridiculed and sin exalted on a regular basis. Sadly, Americans have allowed the media to deaden our senses to sin so that tolerance of sin is now virtuous while standing up for morality is portrayed as bigoted and an affront to the world. Of course virtuous living is an affront to Satan, but now we have allowed Satan to cloud our vision.

We have been given a standard to live by. God has given us his word in both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. Most homes have at least one copy of the Bible somewhere. People who identify themselves as Christian are likely to have several Bibles in various translations. But the percent of people, even Christians, who spend time daily, or even weekly or monthly reading God’s Word, is very low. We make great claims about how we believe in the Bible, but we don’t take time to read it for ourselves. We have allowed the self-serving elite of Hollywood redefine our values while we make our own assumptions about what the Bible probably says, or what it would say if God decided to re-write it today (as if even God had changed his mind).

Verses 5-6 in the above passage say “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” How can we obey his word if we don’t read it? How can we walk as Jesus did if we don’t take the time to learn how he walked?

All the spiritual praise in the world cannot cover up our blatant willful sin. God is merciful, but he is also just. He knows our hearts. We may have praise on our lips even while our hearts are far from him.

Yes, God forgives our sins, and he keeps forgiving. But repentance is agreeing with God that our sins are sinful. If we are not trying to overcome sin, we are making a farce of our repentance. God is not mocked. He knows our hearts.

Father God, thank you for your gift of salvation. Thank you that you were willing to make the sacrifice for us while we were yet sinners. In you mercy, enable us to come to You with our whole hearts. May our praise be sincere. Help us to trust You, the one who created us, to know what is best for our lives. Help us to accept Your commands and to walk in them. Help us to live by Your Spirit and to be empowered by it. And never let us accept any counterfit spirit or way of life as Your will. Give us Your discernment that we will always know Your voice. May our love for You be pure. Help us to order our steps in Your Word that we may please You in everything we do.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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Isaiah 53:1-9 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What was behind it all? Why did Jesus allow people to abuse him the way He did? I remember a time when a friend of mine suggested that Jesus had just given up on the world and let His enemies put an end to His life. According to my friend there was an article in Playboy magazine about it.

Read what God had to say about Him before Jesus ever came to earth. Here is Jesus’ destiny spelled out in words only those who choose to be ignorant can deny. Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself in Isaiah 53:1-9.

Jesus didn’t attract crowds because he was handsome or winsome in his manner. He attracted crowds by doing miracles of healing and feeding people.

The people loved him for the things he could do for them, not for his messages of faith. His true followers were few. He knew the people’s hearts and thoughts. He knew they would abandon him when there was conflict.

Jesus experienced the sorrow of this knowledge long before he experienced the sorrow in its highest hour: his crucifixion, separation from God Himself, and death. He experienced the torture of the Roman soldiers. First their ridicule, then the crown of thorns, then the beating with the whip containing fragments of bone to tear His flesh. Then he had to carry his own cross up the hill (until he stumbled and fell under its weight and a bystander was ordered to carry it the rest of the way). He was then nailed to the cross, the cross was lifted up and dropped into the post-hole that had been dug in the ground. There he was left to die a grueling death of suffocation that resulted from the way crucifixion was designed to torture its victims.

Why did Jesus do this? Why did he allow this to happen to Him without opening His mouth to defend Himself? Because He knew that He was the only person in all eternity who would be in a position to be the sacrifice to pay for our sins. The only sacrifices God would accept had to be perfect in every way. No other human would ever be able to come close to this, yet Jesus had fulfilled the requirement completely.

All of Jesus’ sufferings were endured for one reason alone: to show us his unconditional love and to pay the price God requires to cover our sins. Put your name in the scripture verse every place you see a pronoun such as “we” or “our” or “us.” It is that personal.

If you accept this wonderful news along with this most gracious gift, then you are accepted by God as His own. You will be welcomed into His Kingdom when this fleeting life is over. If you reject this news as foolishness, then you declare yourself to be a fool who says in his heart there is no God. (See Psalm 14:1) There is no hope for you outside of what you get in this life.

If you have accepted His gift of salvation, you will be blessed. Consider how you have thanked Him? Do you simply say “Thank you, sir” and then go your own way forgetting the price he paid for your sins? I can not imagine a more ungrateful heart.

A gift is free, true, it is getting something for nothing. But I can’t help but wonder if many think they have accepted this gift when in fact they only accepted a fake ticket, like the thousands who ate the bread on the hillside when Jesus fed the multitudes. They ate the physical bread but rejected the spiritual bread Jesus had to offer. They ate to fill their stomachs, not their hearts.

Consider fresh and new if you have indeed accepted God’s gift of salvation. Reread Isaiah 53:1-9. If you heart is not filled with the kind of gratitude that makes you want to serve Him, you may never have accepted his true gift of salvation in the first place. Don’t settle for temporary bread to fill your stomach, accept the true Bread of Life. Accept Jesus for who He is, not who you want to make Him out to be, and your heart will be filled with gratitude and joy.

Father God, you know my heart. Break it if you must, but don’t allow me to settle for temporary bread that makes me think everything is OK with You when there may be real problems I need to deal with. Open my eyes and my heart to the awesomeness of your sacrifice for me so that I can respond with nothing less than full gratitude and a life dedicated in service to you.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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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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Several years ago when I was struggling in a marriage that eventually failed, I was going through a time of depression and low morale. As I drove down the street that turned beside the Post Office in our town I was suddenly aware of two cardinals fluttering up and down immediately in front of me. One of the birds hit the hood of my car and dropped into the street.

I immediately parked my car and got out to lift the bird from the street and laid it on the grass. I was remembering a time when a bird flew into a window and only knocked itself out, later to recover and fly away. I hoped that the cardinal might revive in a similar way since I had been driving fairly slowly. But the bird showed no signs of life. The other bird watched from a near-by tree.

I circled the block several times in the next two or three hours but my cardinal did not revive. I was reminded of the scripture about how God notices when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Read Matthew 10:28-31.

If I cared enough to circle the block so many times for this little red cardinal that I night not have even noticed had it not flown into my car, how much more God cares about me and the things that were weighing me down. I returned home comforted by God’s love.

I’ve always loved the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Perhaps you will find comfort in it as well. This is a link to Sandi Patti singing it on UTube.

Father, Thank you for watching over me through your infinite love and compassion. Thank you for helping me through many troubles. Help me to remember the times you showed me your love when I become burdened with the cares of today. Help me keep my eye on you like you keep your eye on the sparrow and on me so I can be filled with your eternal joy.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Romans 1:17 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Where do you find your confidence? your security? your trust? your faith? Are these not one and the same? In this fast changing world we live in it is easy to become fretful when we find the cost of living rising so fast. We watch grocery and gasoline prices rise while our savings diminish and we feel a loss of security.

I am facing what I call a “premature retirement.” My position as librarian in a small school is coming to an end in December. My school has been consolidated with a larger school and we have a new building. I was offered another position at a small school an hour away from where I live, and at today’s escalating gas prices, I refused. But I was able to convince them they needed me through December to help consolidate the two libraries into one. I am now facing an early retirement with less than the number of years required for full retirement and with a sizeable deduction for the fact I’m not quite 65. I live in a very small town with a high unemployment rate. All this is to say I know what it is like to be anxious and nervous about tomorrow.

But all my anxious thoughts and worries are an affront to God who has promised never to leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) So I must come back to my first question and apply it to myself: Where do I find my confidence? my security? my trust? my faith? My heart tells me I should put my confidence, my security, my trust, my faith in God. In my heart I know this is true, but I need God’s help to take my eyes off my bank account and to keep them on Him. Like Peter who could walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves, (Matthew 14:30) I must learn to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of dwelling on the things that worry me.

Our verse for today reminds us to look to the message of the Gospel to find our righteousness. This is where we are to put our faith. We can’t live by faith until we find it in Jesus and in his teachings.

It helps me to look at the ways God has intervened for me in the past. I can recall several critical times in my life when He pulled me out of a crisis at the last minute in a most unexpected way. If He did it then, He can do it again.

So here I am looking to Jesus to pull me out. Something is still amiss. Shouldn’t I be looking to Jesus for the sake of being close to Him? If I’m looking to Jesus only for a rescue of my finances, I’m not really looking to Jesus, I’m looking through Him at myself. It is time to lose myself in Him, time to spend quality time with Him, time to seek Him with all my heart for the pure joy of knowing Him better each day.

Heavenly Father, help me to truly focus my eyes on You and seek to do Your will in everything. Help me to look above the cares of this world to see Your hand at work in everything, and to rest in Your peace.

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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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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Luke 4:16-30 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

After Jesus began his public ministry in the region called Galilee he went to his hometown of Nazareth where the people had already heard rumors of the wonderful things he had been doing in the other towns.

Jesus first went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, the same as he had done in the other towns. When he stood up to read he was given the scroll that contained the book of Isaiah. He unrolled it to the prophecy that was written about himself and read it to the people. Then he put the scroll down and told the people that today the scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing.

Because the people had already known Jesus they could not believe this message. His purity up to this point had been taken for granted, and they were unwilling to give him credibility as the Messiah or as a miracle worker or healer. Instead they ran him out of town and attempted to throw him over a cliff. Because of the disbelief of the people of Nazareth, Jesus was unable to bless them with his miracles.

How often do we deny God the opportunity to do miracles in our lives because we take him for granted or because we think the miracle we hope for is too big for God to handle? Are we sometimes afraid to risk our own credibility by publicly asking for prayer because we are afraid God won’t answer our prayer and we will be seen as foolish? I have known people whose liberal “Christian” theology and sceptical faith in miracles have prevented them from asking for blessings they could have received.

Let us not be guilty of having the hometown mentality that the people of Nazareth had on that Sabbath day. We need to be careful that we don’t let our familiarity with rituals and the Christian language become a form of vaccination that prevents us from understanding the Christian message in its fullness, and keeps us from digging deeper for a closer and more genuine walk with Jesus.

Father God, walk with us daily. Help us to see the good news of Jesus as fresh and new every morning so that we don’t lose its meaning in its familiarity. Help us to keep our faith alive and well so we never lose the blessings that are ours through faith in you.

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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Isaiah 11:1-3  Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

Jesus is the branch that was to come up from the stump of Jessie. This is one of the prophesies of the Old Testament that predicted the coming of the Messiah. Jessie was the father of David, and the Messiah was foretold to be descended from King David.

The rest of this passage elaborates on the attributes of Jesus as they were foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Jesus came with the Spirit of the Lord resting in him including the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and of power, as well as the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Verse 3 tells foretold that Jesus would not judge by mere appearances and here-say, but he would be able to judge correctly by seeing deeper.

Father God, thank you for the Scriptures of the Old Testament which foretold of Jesus’ coming long before he appeared on this earth, for by them we are given yet one more piece of assurance that you are who you say you are and that Jesus is truly your Son. Help us to worship him with our whole hearts.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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