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9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

I can’t help but have a mixture of feelings as I read this passage. God’s love is so true, so faithful, so deep…  But my love is so faltering, and so conditional, so dependent on my fickle moods.

But one thing I can count on – if I immerse myself in His word and bathe myself in prayer, my feelings of relationship with Christ become like a full cup. And as I drink my fill, I find myself wanting more.

The problem is that even though I know this in my head, and it penetrates into my heart when I take the time; I all too often get too busy with stuff, and days pass with only spurts, bits and pieces of relationship.

This verse is Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Philippi. This should be a reminder for us – to pray for each other that we will continually seek, find, and grow in the love of Christ, that we will grow in knowledge of Christ, and that our insights will be deep. Then we will have Godly wisdom to guide us in all our lives and we will be able to joyfully serve Him and bring peace to our hearts and glory to His name.

Father God, lead us in your righteousness. Draw us unto you. Give us willing spirits to continually seek and love you with all our hearts. Help us to bear the fruit of righteousness that only Jesus Christ can give to us. In Jesus name we ask. Amen.

© 2009 by Janice D. 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.

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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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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Philippians 2:1-4 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

What a list of “ifs”! If we claim to know Christ as our Savior and Lord we should score on at least one of them. Are you encouraged from being united with Christ? Are you comforted? Do you have fellowship with the Spirit? Do you feel his tenderness and compassion?

Before I assume that everyone answered yes to at least one of these questions, let me digress to consider that some may feel a serious barrenness as you read the questions. If so, you have a serious heart problem that needs to be taken to Jesus in prayer. You can’t follow through with the rest of this passage without a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Trying to do so will only cause burnout in your faith. Don’t allow this void in your life be a stumbling block. Become proactive about growing in your relationship with Christ. Read your Bible, pray, and find one or more Bible believing Christians who can encourage you in your quest.

If you answered yes to any of the “ifs” in verse 1, then verse 2 challenges you to be like-minded with Christ sharing that kind of love with others. At this point I feel the need to review the list again. How can I show encouragement to others? Is there someone I should be comforting? Who do I know who is in need of Christian fellowship? Do I know someone who needs to be shown tenderness and compassion? If we are honest with ourselves, we should have had several individuals come into mind as we considered these questions.

In verse 3 we are encouraged to check our motives. I have to swallow hard on this verse. How much easier it is to offer service to others when people know we are doing it. Do we read our Bibles more seriously if we are being called upon to share it with a groups of peers, than if we are whisking through a daily passage or morning devotion out of a sense of duty? We are reminded in this verse not do operate out of ambition or conceit, but through a sense of humility as we place others above ourselves.

Verse 4 reminds us to bring the needs of others into our daily “do list.” In this day and time most of us feel so overwhelmed with the tasks that are already on our plate that we feel we have no time to give. I doubt if Jesus accepts this excuse, and I am as guilty as anyone with being fully absorbed in my own agenda.

Jesus, you tell us your yoke is easy. Help us not to encumber our lives with “do lists” we can’t handle, with “do lists” that prevent us from being like-minded with you, so we can show you to others in need around us. Make us willing to have a burden for the hurting around us, and inspire us to be like-minded in showing our love and compassion to them.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Peter 1:5-8 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens. 

This passage doesn’t ask much does it? (I ask with my tongue in my cheek.) This list of virtues can be a bit overwhelming at first glance.

This is such a huge passage to get my mind around, but as I look at it, I recognize a growing kind of pattern to the list: 

We start with proclaiming our faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior. Then we set out to do the good things that we know Jesus wants us to do. We soon realize that there is much we need to learn if we are going to follow his teachings. The more we learn, we begin to discover areas of our lives that we need to change requiring a measure of self-control. Some of these changes may be difficult for us, and we may struggle to persevere in them. As we make these changes we will show more godliness in our manner. This godliness should express itself in brotherly kindness to others, and ultimately a measure of love that only Christ can help us to attain.

Verse 8 tells why these qualities are so very important. If our Christian walk is to be effective we must continually reach higher in our relationship with Christ. What Christian in his/her right mind would be satisfied to be ineffective and unproductive?

I believe it would be helpful to print out this list of virtues as a challenge to ever grow in our faith. Here is the list if you would like to print it out. Or you may click on the link at the bottom for an MS Word file you can print out. I think it best to begin at the bottom as growing in our faith makes us taller in our faith.

Love

Brotherly Kindness

Godliness

Perseverance

Self-Control

Knowledge

Goodness

Faith

God’s Growth Chart (2)  (Click on link for 8.5 x 11 poster with clip art.)

Lord Jesus, enable us to see ourselves honestly in light of these virtues. Give us such a great hunger to know you better and to serve you more that we will grow closer to the top of this list day by day. Don’t let us settle to be second class Christians who are satisfied to blend in with the world and look and act like everyone else.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 27  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 (NIV)

     Wow! These are strong words coming from Jesus. But before we throw them out, we need to consider the verses that come before this section. These tell about the parable of the great banquet in which the first guests who were invited gave so many excuses for not coming to the banquet.

     I believe Jesus is saying that when we allow our families to come between us and our relationship with him we are loving them at Jesus expense. His use of the word “hate” seems to be a form of comparison to the love we have for Jesus. Otherwise, this passage flies in the face of “Honor your father and mother” in the Ten Commandments. When so many of Jesus’ teachings focus on love, we have no choice but to see this as a figure of speech.

     What comes to mind when I think of these passages are new converts from Islam, Jewish, and other faiths who follow Jesus in spite of becoming disowned by their own families. I believe they understand best what Jesus is saying. They had to be willing to turn their backs on their families and walk away to be able to follow Jesus. That doesn’t mean they truly hate them. In reality, their hearts grieve and break for their families and they continue to pray that they will come to know and love Jesus.

     Jesus isn’t looking for fair weather disciples. He wants followers who are willing to live in new and different ways as they follow his leading. He wants people who will put their very lives in danger if necessary to follow him.

     What have you given up to follow Jesus? Has your relationship with Christ cost you any friends? Or have you allowed peer pressure or pressure from family members to keep you from developing an intimate relationship with Jesus?

     Lord Jesus, I love you. Help me to recognize the things that I have allowed to come between you and me and help me to turn my back on them and walk away.

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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1 O God, you are my God,
     
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    
  my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
     
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
     
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
     
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
     
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6  On my bed I remember you;
     
I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:1-6 (NIV)

This is a beautiful love song to God, written by David when he was going through very tough times.  Even though he found himself in a dry and weary land with no water, he comforted himself with memories of God’s beauty, his glory, and his love; and David made the choice to praise God in spite of his circumstances. We can be certain that some of his comrades at the time would have him curse God because of all the turmoil he was having to deal with during these times of exile from his kingdom. 

Yet David had a storehouse of memories from which to draw encouragement, and he used them to full advantage. David had learned about the strength that always came to him when he sang praises to God. He had also learned to store away memories of times when he had been richly blessed by God so he could remember them as he lay upon his bed when life became difficult.

Have you been saving up memories of what God has done for you?  Are you able to sing praise to God, even when you are down?  One of the best remedies I have ever found for spells of depression is to sing along with Christian praise tapes.  Do you have Christian music at your fingertips to lift your spirits?  If not, buy some.  In the mean time, read from the Psalms–those were the songs David sang.  He wrote most of them.

Lord, bring to my memory those special times when I felt close to you on those days when discouragement wants to creep in on me.  Help me to draw closer to you moment by moment.

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 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
     
2 Sing the glory of his name;
     
make his praise glorious!

Psalm 66:1 (NIV)

Shout with joy to God.  I have seen this used to God’s glory and I have seen it abused to God’s dishonor.  I am involved with an interdenominational Christian organization that includes Christians from shouting congregations as well as Christians from more reserved congregations coming together to worship.  Both sides find themselves wishing to have it their way expecting the other to agree with them. I have no problem with true joy spilling out into the worship service, and if that joy leads to a shout, then SHOUT!  There are two situations that give me  problems.  I don’t believe the shouting should precede the feelings.  I have seen those of the shouting persuasion try to muster up the feelings by trying to get everyone to just start shouting–even when the majority of the worshipers were not from shouting churches.  I don’t believe God needs our help in this way.  If there is a stirring message, God is honored with our shouts.  It the music stirs our hearts, God is honored with our shouts.  If we come to worship following a spiritual blessing that overwhlems us, share it and shout. But sometimes God wishes to whisper to our spirits in more subtle ways.  He may give us an inner peace that brings tears to our eyes, that puts us in a spirit of quiet rest. We must respect one another’s forms of worship.  The second situation that gives me problems is the hard-hearted bench warmer who is missing the blessings because he feels the need to criticize or laugh at those who would raise their hands or shout praises. The non-Christian community is watching.  Even they seem to understand the words Jesus spoke to the Disciples at the Last Supper:  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:35)

Lord help us to shout to you in ways that bring you glory.  May we never dishonor your name.

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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     4  Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 

     5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7  Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. Luke 10:4-7 (NIV)

     Jesus’ instructions to these followers were nearly the same as those given to the Twelve in Luke 9:3-5. Jesus did not want personal possessions to become a burden to them, they were to leave all behind. Nor did he wish for them to become sidetracked by other travelers on the road. 

    These followers were to speak a message of peace to each house they entered. It appears Jesus was encouraging them to look for men of peace in the same Spirit that they were to pray for workers for God’s kingdom. They were to stay as long as the family who took them in were willing to care for his needs. When it was time to leave they were to go to a new town, not to another house in the same town.

      I am reminded of one of the Beatitudes “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). When we try to win souls for Christ we will be more effective by sharing the love and peace Jesus has to give than by arguing over our differences in how we interpret the Bible. There are times when it may be appropriate to confront a brother or sister in Christ, but not when trying to witness to the unsaved.

     Lord help us to be mindful of the many times you have overlooked our shortcomings when we witness to non-believers, and help us to show them the same love you show to us every day.

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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