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Hebrews 11:5-7 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Verse 6 tells us that we cannot please God without faith. We must believe that God exists. If this verse were a stand-alone verse many pseudo Christians could claim they have faith because they believe there is some kind of god out there who does good things for people. But this is not the measure of faith this verse is talking about. This verse is refering to the kind of faith that changes our lives. Let us consider the verses that come before and after this verse.

Verse 7 tells of Noah’s faith. Noah believed God when He told him He was going to flood the entire earth. It would be hard enough for us today to believe and trust God enough to start building an ark. But we must consider that the people in Noah’s day had never seen rain. Up to this time, God had used streams of water coming out of the earth to water the land. (Genesis 2:4-6) The first rain recorded in the Bible is the onset of the great flood, a rain that lasted 40 days. Noah’s ark-building project was no simple task either. It consumed his life for possibly 100 years while the corrupt people of his day taunted him.

Verse 5 refers to the faith of Enoch. This man is not as well known as Noah, but he was definitely well known to God. There are four verses that cover Enoch’s life in Genesis 5:21-24 that tell us he was the father of Methuselah, and that he walked with God for 300 years and then was no more. Hebrews 11:5 enlightens us on exactly what that meant – Enoch did not die, but went with God directly to heaven. I imagine it would be like going for a walk with God and deciding not to go home but to stay with him.

Returning to verse 6, I would like to revisit the last part of the verse. God desires to bless those who earnestly seek after him. How richly blessed was Enoch who walked with him until he was no more.

Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 to learn of more giants of faith from the Bible, and consider how you might allow God to stretch your own faith.

Father God, help us to grow daily in our faith. Give us courage to accept the situations when our faith will be tested and help us to grow through them. Help us to sincerely and earnestly seek after you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 5:7-11 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James teaches us to be patient when we go through suffering. How easy it is to turn to fretting instead of faith. We are reminded to think like the farmer who has to trust God to send the rain at the right time and trust God with the timing in our lives.

It is also important for us to remember how God uses suffering to build character in his beloved children. We may feel we are being punished, but punishment and discipline are not necessarily the same. Punishment is often the direct response to outright sin and is intended to cause pain or bring justice. God is always working toward the future. He disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 2:6) to prepare them for service in his kingdom. Discipline may not be in response to a great sin, it may be more like sandpaper working on some rough edges. But the end purpose of discipline is to prepare us for service in the future.

James reminds us not to grumble against one another. It is so easy to give in to grumbling when we struggle with the events around us. Our grumbling stands in the face of developing patience and works against us. God is not pleased when we grumble.

Job was a patient man who held to his faith in God against all odds. By looking to Job and others in the Bible such as Joseph in Egypt, we may find the courage and strength to help us persevere in our times of suffering.

Father God, strengthen our hearts when we are hurting. Help us to trust in you for courage and strength.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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

The book of James was written not by the James in Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, but by James, the brother of Jesus. James was writing to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I interpret this to mean the Christian Jews (the twelve tribes) who had scattered among other nations because they were being persecuted for their Christian faith. That understanding makes this book especially valuable to Christians today who are suffering persecution. Unfortunately, most Christians (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the persecution that is being targeted at Christians today, especially in foreign countries. This persecution of Christians is also picking up momentum in the United States. The skeptical need only type the words “Christian persecution” into a Google search to locate a wealth of convincing information on the topic.

In the first chapter, James is writing to the persecuted Christians who have scattered to the surrounding nations, and he is encouraging them to persevere in their trials. He is also encouraging them to be “doers” of the Word and not just hearers only. We all need to take this instruction to heart.

Father God, stir in our hearts a greater compassion for the suffering Christians around the world. Let their perseverance motivate us to pray for them and to reach out to them as you lead us to do. Enable us to recognize the shallow areas of our own faith and to commit ourselves to seeking to know you better by studying your Word that our faith may be strengthened.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:22-23, Matthew 5:10-12  Click on these links to read the passages. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Are we willing to stand in the face of persecution and proclaim Jesus? Or would you prefer to fall in with the crowd to avoid being singled out and identified as one who has a higher calling on your life? The true saints throughout history have been willing to stand on their faith, even to the point of death. Jesus tells us we will be blessed if we suffer persecution for his sake.

Worldwide, more Christians are being persecuted for their faith than in any other time in history. Anyone who doesn’t believe this is encouraged to type the words “Christian Persecution” into a Google search and be prepared to be shocked.

Few in our country (USA) have suffered persecution for the sake of their Christian faith today, though it does happen on a lesser scale. People have lost favor with employers for standing up for what was right. Men and women may face abuse from their spouses or other family members over their decisions to worship Christ and to follow his teachings. We may experience rejection from our friends.

But times are changing, and there are more and more examples of religious persecusuion in the news every day. Just this past week two major publishers of the Bible have been sued by a homosexual man for their translations of the Bible which specifically call homosexuality a sin. Click here for more on the story. Bit by bit the ACLU, athiest groups, and other ultra liberal organizations are at work trying to chip away the evangelical Christian’s rights to openly share their faith.

Does this strike a sense of terror in the bottom of your stomach? Jesus wants to set the record straight for you by encouraging your heart. He tells his followers that those who are persecuted for his sake will be greatly blessed in heaven. The Apostle Peter also shares some encouraging words for those who suffer for the sake of Christ in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter encourages us to rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ.

We can’t help but admire Cassie Bernall, the high school student who allowed herself to be shot and killed in the Columbine High School incident because she confessed faith in Christ at gunpoint. It is wise to resolve in your heart in advance what you would do in various situations in which you could be persecuted. Having done so will make it easier to hold fast to your convictions in any given situation.

Father God, what we know personally about persecution for our faith pales in comparison to what Jesus went through when he suffered persecution even to death on the cross so that we might find forgiveness and eternal life with him in heaven. Give us the will and the courage to accept the persecution that may come to us in our lifetime, and enable us to endure in the faith giving praise and thanks to you, that we might share in your sufferings.

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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Hebrews 12:1-3  Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

This passage is such a wonderful challenge. How many of us truly recognize the baggage we carry around with us? What are the things that pull us away from a relationship with Christ? What is it that keeps us from extending Christ’s love to the sick, lonely and/or hurting people around us? Busy-ness? Business profits? Poorly utilized idle time? Self-centeredness? Pride? Worry?

Hebrews 12:1 commands us to cast off those things that hinder us. I have a lot of cluter in my life – both physical and personal demands I allow to be made on my time. How freeing it would be to cast it all off and to run the race with total abandon. May God help me through this process.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by our circumstances and to allow them to pull us down. Verse two tells us how to rise above them – to fix our eyes on Jesus keeping in mind how he endured even death on the cross to obtain his goal. Whatever our burdens are, they can’t begin to compare with what Christ endured, yet he not only endured it, he did it for the “joy set before him.” He set the example for us by looking above and beyond the current circumstances to the joy of heaven that awaited him. We can have that same joy. Let us not lose heart.

Father God, help us to recognize and cast off those idols and distractions that keep us from fellowshiping with you and from serving you. Help us to run the race with joy and abandon.

 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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I went for a prayer walk this morning around the Hemingway Campground. This is a location that is rich in its spiritual history. Hemingway Campground was begun in 1961 when campmeetings were more plentiful and many came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord in these holy places. Hemingway Campground still holds an annual campmeeting, though the attendance is slow in comparison to what it was in the earlier years. Times are so different today than it was then.

We are encouraging community members to use the Campground as a place for walking, and more specifically prayer walking – spending your time walking in prayer for the Campground, the community, the churches, etc. (I say “we” as I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Campground.)

As I was walking, this morning I listened for his whisperings, and felt the desire to share a few things I felt he brought to my mind.

As is typical, I began getting bogged down in little things when I looked up at that great big sky and the clouds and treetops and realized This is God’s world and he is a Mighty God. So I continued to walk and dwell on the greatness of God and of the things he is able to do. It isn’t about us or about our programs. It is about God.

Then I began to pray for the many people who have made commitments in the past. I prayed that God would keep those commitments alive, or that he would cause a stir that might awaken commitments that may have been tucked out of mind in some. If all those persons who confessed Jesus as their Savior were actively serving him, our world wouldn’t be in the mess it is in today. Too many commitments are based on pleasing people instead of God.

As I continued to walk I seemed to be drawn to a question: Who are we serving? Are we serving memories of the Campground or are we serving God, a God who is alive and well today? What is the role of a place like Hemingway Campground in the world of today…? …where people are spoiled with air conditioning and stay indoors to keep out of the heat and mosquitoes. …where youth are too busy with the damands of ball practice and band practice so it isn’t possible for them to participate in a week-long summer camp. …where we have to compete with technology at every turn to get the attention of the youth. …where many churches are so competative with one another that they are unwilling to bond with them to win the lost for Jesus.

Christianity isn’t about denominations. It is about living for Jesus. It is about studying the Bible to learn what it says, and believing it whether or not it fits into the belief system of everyone in your church or not. It isn’t about finding someone who will agree with you 100% on how to interpret the Bible or how to worship our God. It is about agreeing that God is God, that Jesus is his one and only Son and the one and only way to be one with God. If we attach too many legalities to this belief, we lose touch with the Spirit of Christ and return to the Old Testament Spirit of the Law.

So my prayer continues to be that we as Christians will grow in Jesus, not in denominations and strictness of beliefs. …that we will grow in holiness as we seek to learn how God wants us to live and as we listen to the Holy Spirit and allow him to apply the scriptures to our hearts.

I almost stopped walking on this round as I neared my car once again, but I felt the need to go around once more, this time seeking God’s direction in my personal life. I determined not to rattle on, but to listen. I hadn’t walked far when I saw a bird of prey (probably a kite) circling not all that high over the open space in front of me. I felt it was watching me as closely as I was watching it as several times it hovered directly overhead. It circled the field several more times studying the ground and the tree branches on my side of the field. Then it suddenly changed its position by pulling in its wings and diving toward the ground. As it opened its wings and flew upward again I noticed its intended prey, a butterfly, fluttering on its way. As I walked the rest of the way around the circle that last time, I pondered what kind of message I should take away from this. I pondered whether my part was in the bird who put all its energy into attacking that butterfly, or whether my part was the butterfly who is continuing to keep going in spite of the attacks that come from various circumstances in my life. Surely the butterfly was blessed to have escaped the beak of the kite, a very real threat. I prefer to see myself as the butterfly.

 

     1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

     5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

     “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

…………………

     10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” 

      “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

      11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

     13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

     15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:1-6, 10-16 (NIV)

Saul (his Hebrew name) was zealous for God. He had kept the Jewish laws as well as any of the Pharisees and was determined to do everything in his power to keep the Christians from spreading their “heresies.” He had obtained permission from the high priest to capture Christians and put them in prison. Earlier (see chapter 7) he had been present when Steven was stoned to death and gave his approval.

Jesus, with a sudden flash of light and the sound of his voice, brought Saul to the ground and caused temporary blindness to get his attention and to turn him around. Saul’s first instructions were to go ahead to Damascus where he would be told what to do next. Suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of going to Damascus to persecute the Christians, he would now have to put himself at their mercy. Saul’s conversion experience wasn’t a piece of cake with promises of a good easy life ahead.

Ananias was facing a similar dilemma. God had told him to go to Saul, the same Saul who was feared by Christians everywhere, and restore his sight. But the Lord told him again to go, and reassured him that God had chosen Saul (Paul as is his name in Greek) to preach salvation to the Gentiles and the people of Israel.

Has God spoken to your heart to go somewhere or do something that makes you uncomfortable? There is nothing in the message of salvation that promises that Christians will serve him in comfort and luxury. Every Christian has been given a task to fulfill on earth. Your calling may be to serve overseas as a missionary, or it may be to be salt and light for him as you try to minister to difficult family members, co-workers, or neighbors.

Whatever your calling, it will bring about difficult choices. If you aren’t facing any such choices, the reason may be that you aren’t listening for his voice. “No, Lord” can not be an acceptable answer. Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. Jesus promised that our yoke would be easy, but the nature of any yoke is that it will work only if we are willing to stay in step with the one we are yoked with. Living for Jesus isn’t about pleasing ourselves, it is about serving him.

Lord, open my ears that I may clearly hear your voice. Help me to stay so close to you that I will never have to wonder if your voice is truly coming from you. Help me to feel your joy even if the circumstances become difficult.

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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