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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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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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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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Daniel 1:1-2 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

God is patient and long-suffering. Yet he will do what he says he will do. The people had taken God’s patience for granted until even God’s patience had run out.

God’s covenant with King David and with Solomon was “I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.” (1 Chronicles 28:7 NIV) But even King Solomon had begun the downward spiral of the Jewish nation by marrying foreign wives and making allowances for them to worship their Gods.

There were few kings over the Jewish people who followed God. Josiah was one who repented immediately when he heard for the first time the Book of the Law. If Josiah had not repented, God would have allowed the Israelites to fall captive to Babylon earlier.

But the people had once again become corrupt and God could no longer look away. God brought in the Babylonians to conquer the Israelites, carrying them off along with the items from the temple of God, and placed them in their foreign god’s house.

Lord God, May we never forget who you are. May we never forget your promises to us or your commands, lest we become defeated by our enemies. Keep us steadfast in service to you, oh God.

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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Psalm 132:1-12  (click to view passage)

In this Psalm, King David re-states the oath he had made, the oath that God would not allow him to carry out. The ark of the covenant had been returned to Jerusalem; and David had it in his heart to build a permanent dwelling to house the ark. But to David’s great disappointment, it was not to be.

Yet David continued to praise his God, to “worship at his footstool.” (verse 7)

David continues his Psalm by recounting the oath the LORD swore to David, that he would put one of David’s descendants on the throne; and that if they keep God’s covenant they would reign on the throne forever. (verse 12)

Later scriptures reveal that David’s descendants did not keep the covenant. The Jewish nation suffered division and eventually was conquered and carried off into Babylon. But even though David’s descendants did not remain faithful, God did. Jesus Christ, who was one of David’s descendants, sits not on a human throne, but on the heavenly throne, where he will reign throughout eternity.

Lord God, help us to focus our eyes on you when we face disappointments. May we, like David, continue to put our hope in you as we continue to praise your name.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10:8-12 (NIV)

     The seventy-two followers of Jesus were encouraged to accept what was given them and to proclaim the kingtom by ministering to the needs of the people through healing and preaching about the kingdom of God. These people’s ministry was to prepare the people’s hearts to receive Jesus. 

     Jesus told them not to go where they were not wanted. But they weren’t told to leave without speaking either. He didn’t tell them to argue or debate with people whose hearts are hard, but rather to make a public display of shaking the dust off their feet while explaining the meaning of their actions. They were to continue to tell them with certainty that the kingdom of God was near before they left to go to another town. 

     If we are to take this example for ministering to people in our own day and time, we need also to consider the differences in culture. If we were to shake the dust off our feet when our witness falls on “deaf ears” they probably wouldn’t have a clue what it was supposed to mean. To me the important thing is to caution them that they are losing a battle that is eternal and that they are the ones making their own choices. 

     I am reminded of the scripture where Jesus tells us not to cast our pearls before the swine. (Matthew 7:6 KJV) Offer what you have, but when you are rudely brushed off it is time to back off without apologizing for your message.

     Lord, we want to proclaim your kingdom, but sometimes we find situations that are very tough. Help us to pray this through so that we truly understand the way that is pleasing to you. Please give us right discernment and an extra measure of your Holy Spirit when we find ourselves in these tough situations, so that we may have a right spirit and will say the words you would have us to speak.

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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