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Read Jonah 1:1-3:9. Click on this link to read the passage. You may select the translation you prefer on the Bible Gateway website.

Jonah 1:1-2  This was no small order. Jonah and most of the Jews hated the people of Ninevah. But God told him to go and tell them that He was going to destroy their city because they were so wicked.

Where is there a Ninevah in or near your community? Are you willing to go to them and share the Gospel with them?

Jonah 1:3  What did Jonah do? He bolted and ran in the opposite direction. He spent his own money to purchase a ticket to run away from God.

What do we do in response to God’s directive to teach the Gospel to the world? Are you reaching out to the Ninevah in your community? If not, what is holding you back?

Jonah 1:4-17  Jonah paid a high price for his disobedience. Not only the price of his ticket to board the ship, but the price of being thrown into the sea and being swallowed by the fish (whale).

What price(s) have you paid at times when you rebelled against God?

Jonah 2  Then Jonah came to his senses. He hadn’t run far enough to get away from God, and God came to his rescue. Jonah’s prayer from inside the whale is powerful. It tells of his desperation as his life was ebbing away, of his vow to keep his promises to God. Then God commanded the fish (whale) to vomit him on dry land.

When have you been in the pits of despair and prayed for God to rescue you? Can you relate to Jonah’s prayer? Sometimes this is the manner that God must use to get our attention. Have you thanked Him for bringing you to your wit’s end so you would again reach out to Him? If not, thank him now.

Jonah 3:1-2 Again God called Jonah to go to preach to the Ninevites.

Has God given you a second chance to respond to his call?

Jonah 3:3-4  Jonah went immediately this time. It took him three days to cover the city and give the message to all the people.

Have you taken advantage of second chances to obey God’s call on your life?

Jonah 3:5  The people heard Jonah’s message and repented at once. I’m certain that Jonah’s appearance helped him to get their attention, and his explanation of why he looked like he did caused them to take God’s message seriously. If God could cause a fish (whale) to swallow Jonah and then spit him out again after three days, what might He do to the city of Ninevah?

Have your hardships ever opened doors for witness that you might not have experienced otherwise?

Jonah 3:6-9  Even the king repented and commanded all people and all animals to fast in sackcloth and ashes.

If it happened in Ninevah, perhaps it can happen in the USA. Where is your Ninevah? Are you willing to go to them?

Father God, give us listening ears and willing hands, feet, and hearts to hear your call when you speak to us. Enable us to be willing to see the Ninevahs in our community and to reach out to them. It wasn’t comfortable for Jonah to reach out to the Ninevites, but you didn’t accept that as an excuse from Him. Neither should we expect you to accept that excuse from us. Grant us courage of heart and willing spirits to reach out to others with your Gospel and your love.

© 2009 by Janice D. Green

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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Luke 3:1-20 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens. Better yet, read it in more than one translation.

Read this passage over and over to keep from missing the details. God speaks to our hearts through His Word if we will dwell there. I can only touch on a few highlights here.

As had been recorded in Isaiah hundreds of years earlier, John’s place in history was to prepare people’s hearts to accept Jesus. His message was repentance.

This message was not sugar coated. Speaking to the crowds who came to him in verse 7 he called them a “brood of vipers.” People weren’t attracted to him because of his smooth talk. They must have felt under conviction when they were in the presence of this holy man of God.

John challenged the people’s claim that Abraham was their father telling them that God could cut them down and bring up new children for Abraham out of the very stones that lay on the ground.

When the people asked, John gave them examples of what they should do. Give your extra coat to someone who doesn’t have a coat. Share your food with the poor. Tax collectors were to refrain from charging more taxes than were due. Soldiers were not to take advantage of their authority to get money from their subjects. The general people were told to be content with their pay.

These challenges are still appropriate for us today. We want more clothes and bigger closets to store them in, yet there are people around us who would be thrilled with only one of our dresses or coats. We stuff our cabinets with food and worry about some day in the future when we might not have enough. Yet there are people around us already with not enough to eat. Loan sharks greedily charge as much as they can get to make a profit off of those who have so little. What is legal isn’t always in agreement with what is ethical; yet we will use the law to justify our actions. And being content with our pay? Is anyone content? It appears that those at the bottom of the pay scale are the most likely to be content with their pay – they are the most likely to tithe.

As the people began to wonder if John was the Messiah that had been promised, he told them that he was not, and that he was not worthy to untie His sandals.

John had a following with many disciples, but because he would not compromise the truth, even to King Herod, he ended up in prison and was eventually beheaded at the King’s command.

Father God, help us to take your call to repentance seriously. Prepare our hearts so that we will have more room for you to dwell within us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Hebrews 10:1-10 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens. 

    The book of Hebrews continues to remind us that we only see a shadow of the good things in store for us. These reminders are intriguing to those who stop and consider them.

    The sacrifices of the Old Testament brought temporary forgiveness but not a change of heart. What God really wants is the kind of repentance that brings a change of heart. With Jesus’ sacrifice and the Holy Spirit coming to live in our hearts, this kind of change is possible.

    Jesus had to die to become our sacrifice to make this happen, but he only had to die one time.

    Lord give me a willing heart to be yielded to serve you.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Chronicles 34:22-28 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

God honors those who honor him. Josiah had chosen to honor God by removing the high places, and Asherah poles. He honored God by restoring the temple. And he honored God by reading the recently found Book of the Law. As he read the book he became keenly aware of the guilt of the Israelites and the many ways they had sinned against God. Josiah repented by tearing his robes and by seeking the Lord’s counsel.

Because of Josiah’s repentant heart, God chose to honor him in his lifetime and to postpone his wrath on the Israelite nation.

If there was ever a time when repentance was needed it is today. It is needed at every level from leadership to those in the upper, middle, and lower status positions in government and society in general – even in our churches and denominations.

As individuals, we must begin with ourselves. We must prayerfully reflect on our own lives and repent (agree with God about the sins in our lives and make the necessary changes) of any sins we see. Only then can we effectively pray for our churches, our society in general, and for its leaders.

Father God, you see our sins much more clearly than our clouded eyes are able to see. Help us to see through your eyes the things we need to repent of in our own lives. Give us willing hearts to address these problems and to deal with them in a Godly way ridding our lives of them completely. Then bring to mind the leaders that we need to be praying for on a regular basis. Lead us Lord, in the way you would have us to go.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Chronicles 34:19-21 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

Josiah was receptive to the words of the Law as it was read to him. He was also grievously aware of how far the Israelite nation had strayed from God’s commands. He tore his robe in response to the anguish that was in his heart.

Josiah then sent a select group of men including Hilkiah his high priest to inquire of the LORD about what he had heard. He had suddenly come to fear God’s wrath because of the sins of his people.

Josiah was not a cowardly sort of person. He had struck down the priests of the high places as well as their idols and altars. He had embraced the challenge to restore the temple, and was eager to hear the word of God. But what a difference the hearing of the word had made in his life. He was suddenly aware of what God had demanded of his people and was immediately under conviction for them. Josiah had a receptive heart, and was both willing and able to hear what the Lord God wanted him to hear.

God was able to bless Josiah because he listened to God and was prepared to adjust his path accordingly.

Are we prepared to listen to God and to adjust our paths accordingly? It is the application of God’s Word to our hearts and lives that makes it possible for God to bless us. Consider James 22-25 which begins, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (NIV) The true benefit we receive from reading God’s word comes from applying it to our daily lives.

Father God, give us willing hearts to hear your word and to faithfully apply it to our lives. Teach us to see ourselves as you see us as we faithfully study your word.

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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2 Chronicles 6:36-39  (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

Solomon appealed to God on behalf of the people in his prayer of dedication for the temple. In his prayer he didn’t say “If they sin against you…” He said “When they sin…” Solomon knew the people would sin against God. He also appears to have had a premonition of the time in the Israelites future when the Babylonians did conquer the Israelites.

Solomon understood the importance of repentance. There is no hint that Solomon expected God to forgive those who were not repentant. Rather, Solomon describes a sequence of events in his prayer that he prescribes for forgiveness.

  • Experience the suffering brought about as a result of their sin;
  • Have a change of heart;
  • Recognizing their sin for what it is, repent and plead with God confessing their sins;
  • Turn back to God with all their heart and soul;
  • Pray to God;
  • God will hear and forgive.

This is a pattern that is consistent from the book of Genesis through Revelation. God has continuously asked man to repent of sins and to return to him. Fortunately for us, we are born after the resurrection of Jesus, and can receive total forgiveness through him.

Lord, quicken our consciences that we may see our sins for what they are, and lead us to come to you in total repentance. Then fill us with your joy as you cleanse us and enable us to break the chains of sin that would keep us from living fulfilled lives.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Chronicles 6:18-31  (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

The impact of Solomon’s words in verse 18 is a reflection of the wisdom God gave to Solomon. In spite of all the great craftsmanship and the elaborate construction that went into the building of the temple, Solomon knew that the completed house of worship could never contain the totality of God himself. God’s spirit could indwell the temple and it would certainly be a holy place. But it could only limit God to expect him to allow himself to be contained in the temple.

Solomon continued to pour out his heart in prayer for the people who would come to the temple. He prayed for justice among his peoples and forgiveness for the repentant. He prayed that the people’s hearts would be teachable when God’s discipline brought famine or other afflictions upon them, bringing them to repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness and healing. Solomon prayed that as a result of their afflictions, repentance, and forgiveness, the people would learn to fear God and walk in his ways.

There are many truths we can take away from these verses.

  • We cannot put God into a box. We can search the scriptures to learn about him, and sometimes it may stretch our minds beyond where they want to stretch. But we must never assume that the almighty God we worship must fit into a shape or form that we can understand fully. If he could, he couldn’t be God – we would be greater because we could contain him.
  • We should regularly pray for God’s spirit to indwell our churches, that God’s presence would be so strong that it would bring conviction on those who would do wrong.
  • We should pray for teachable spirits among our church members so that they would recognize situations when personal hardships or disaster is brought on by the hand of God to bring them to repentance for some grievous sin. (I am not saying that every such disaster is caused by our own great sins, though more often than not God will use our hardships to teach us something we need to learn.)
  • We should pray for members to come to God with a repentant heart that they may know the cleansing freedom of his forgiveness.
  • We should pray that Christians will have a healthy fear of God, that they may always walk in his ways and enjoy a growing relationship with him forever.

Father God, may we never tire of praying for our churches that they may truly glorify you. May your spirit indwell every worship service, that those who are in your house will feel your presence. May those who worship you with a right heart be filled with your refreshing joy. May they leave your sanctuary as salt and light that will draw others to you. And Lord, may those who come into your heart with wrong motives, or with sins they are trying to hide, may they feel the conviction of your presence. May they feel their hearts laid bare before you that they will repent in shame, receive your forgiveness, and then discover the true peace that comes from having a clean heart before you, the same peace that had been waiting for them from the beginning.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”  Acts 26:19-23 (NIV)

     Prior to these verses, the Apostle Paul had held been in prison under trumped up charges. He was now pleading his case with King Herod Agrippa and had just finished telling about his experience on the road to Damascus where he was converted to Christianity and was called by God to take the Christian message to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). 

     Paul declared to King Agrippa that his first message was to preach to all people that they should repent and turn to God. Paul didn’t choose to gloss over this key message of the Christian faith. All people needed to repent of all their sins, and in addition, all those who did repent should prove the sincerity of their repentance by how they lived their lives. It was this message that enraged the Jews who had put Paul in prison.

     Paul further defended his confidence in his message by declaring that everything that had happened to Jesus was prophesied many years earlier by Moses and the prophets, as he re-stated the facts “that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” (verse 23)

     Each of the scripture passages this week have echoed the same theme, the need for all people to repent. Let us pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a pure heat, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 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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     1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)

     When the people shared with Jesus the news of the tragic and insulting death of the Galileans, Jesus asked them the question which was probably already in the backs of their minds. Did these men suffer in this way because they were worse sinners than other men? 

     No, came Jesus’ answer. But he challenged them to repent or they too would perish. Was Jesus talking about an earthly calamity that would end in death? Not hardly. He was warning them of the eternal consequences of rebellion against God, of failing to repent.

     Does God punish people through calamities today? People argue this point on both sides. This passage makes it appear that he does not. But there were many examples throughout scripture when God did use calamities to punish people for blatant sins. Noah’s flood was one of the earliest such instances. And in the New Testament Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives because they lied to the Holy Spirit. Acts 5

     I don’t pretend to know the answer to whether or not any particular disaster of our day and time was the result of the sins of the people who died. I know we live in a fallen world in which sin abounds. People suffer for their own sins as well as for the sins of others.  God sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. 

     Having said that, I must add that it doesn’t really matter what you or I think about the answer to this question. The decision isn’t ours to make–God is the only one who gets the last word. If God chooses to punish a single person or a group of people for their sins, he is powerful enough to do it with or without our acknowledgement.

     Whether or not God is still using disasters to punish in this life, we must still take seriously Jesus’ warning to repent or perish. We will each come face to face with God at the end of our lives on earth, and if we have never repented and believed in Christ we will perish apart from God and his blessings.

     Lord, help us to repent of our sins and walk in newness of life with you.  Give us a compassion for those who still live in rebellion against God that we may extend a life line to them through Jesus Christ.

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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