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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 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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Proverbs 3:5-12 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens. 

Proverbs 3:5-6
     This proverb is one of the best. It challenges us to put God’s directions above our own judgement. Yet how many times have we responded to a scripture with a “yes, but…” and failed to do what was clearly set forth in the passage. Sometimes we can legitimately affirm that a particular passage was intended for a specific time and place in history, but we must be careful not to dismiss eternal principles such as love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you. If we want God to make our paths straight, we must be pliable in our spirits, and apply the teachings from his Word to our lives.

Proverbs 3:7-8
     This passage is similar to the previous two verses in that we are to consider God’s wisdom above our own and shun evil. God offers us health and nourishment through following him.

Proverbs 3:9-10
     Is this the passage that causes us to begin to fade away or drop out? Do we give to God from our firstfruits, or do we wait to see what is left over before we decide how much to give to him through our tithes and offerings? Is this one of your “yes, but…” verses? What priorities are you placing ahead of God in your giving.

Proverbs 3:11-12
     When the going gets tough do you find yourself warming up to God, or do you begin to nurture feelings of resentment toward him as if he weren’t giving you a fair shake for all you have done for him? I try to remember to pray that God will not allow a particular time of troubles and hardships go to waste, but that he will help me to learn the lessons he is trying to teach me through them. 
     With a poor father the kid is actually in charge; the father simply reacts. His discipline comes only when the kid irritates him. A good father is intentional; he has a plan for what he wants his child to become. God is a good father. God is in charge.
     We need to develop an appreciation for our troubles as even these are a form of God’s blessing. God has a plan for growing us up to make us the best we can be. Embrace his plan knowing that he is putting his trust in us with the amount of troubles we are called upon to endure. 

Father God, how blessed we are to have your Word to guide us. Open our eyes and our hearts to see your guidance and enable us to follow your directives. Satisfy our hearts as we seek and follow your will.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Daniel 1:18-21 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

The three years of grooming in Babylonian culture and training for service to King Nebuchadnezzar had finally come to an end. Daniel and his three friends had continued to remain faithful to God throughout this time, and they had chosen not to indulge in the rich foods the king had offered to them and the other young Israelite men the king had singled out for this special treatment.

 

Daniel and his three friends were superior in every way to the other young Israelite men. They had also exceeded the wisdom of all the king’s magicians and enchanters. So they were chosen to enter the king’s service.

 

When we serve God appropriately, we are prepared to serve others, even those who do not revere God. By serving God with our whole heart, we give him the opportunity to empower us to be salt and light to the world. Serving God demands that we serve others to our best ability without compromising our faith.

 

Our Father, help us to keep our focus on you as we try to live out our lives in the secular world that surrounds us. May our willingness to be different serve as a positive witness to those who are inclined to seek you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Daniel 1:15-17 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

 

God honored Daniel’s courage and diplomacy. Daniel and his three friends were visibly healthier than the other young men who ate the king’s rich food and wine. They were allowed to continue eating their healthy diet and to honor God.

 

Not only did God bless their physical health for honoring him, he also blessed them with knowledge and understanding. Daniel was also given the gift of understanding visions and dreams.

 

Even though Daniel and his friends were plunged thoroughly into the Babylonian culture, they were able to distance themselves from it by holding fast to the commands of God.

 

Our culture today could be compared to the Babylonian culture as we are surrounded by such an indulgent and permissive society. Like David, we must hold fast to the commands of God and the teachings of Jesus as we face the daily temptations that are thrown at us.

 

Father God, give us the will and the faithful determination to hold fast to your teachings in the face of worldly opposition.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

     4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

     5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

     6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

     8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

     Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.  Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)

Wow! What an invitation! Before Jesus began choosing his twelve disciples he was at work healing people and speaking to the crowds that had already begun to follow him. One of the persons healed was Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. (Luke 4:38-39). When the crowds become so large, he borrows Simon’s boat so he could back away from the people on the sea of Gennesarett (also known as the Sea of Galilee) to speak to them. Then there followed the miraculous catch of fish after Simon had fished all night unable to catch anything – so many fish that Peter had to call his friends James and John to help him bring them in. The catch nearly sank both boats

Peter bacame instantly aware of his sinfulness and asked Jesus to leave, but Jesus invited them to follow him by assuring them that they would become fishers of men. They immediately left everything to follow Jesus.

I’ve often wondered about Zebedee, the father of James and John, having to continue fishing without their help. But here we see how Jesus provided an enormous catch of fish for him at the time James and John left him behind.

What is the message from this account that we can apply to our own lives today? One thing that comes to my mind first is the freedom we have to follow Jesus. He will take care of us and our families if we are obedient to follow him.

Once when I was in graduate school I agreed to help a young freshman with a paper she needed to have typed and printed. When I read her paper I saw how desperately she needed more help than just typing to get it ready. I coached her with questions and suggestions to help her make the decisions necessary to turn it into a good paper. The reason I mention this situation is that the timing couldn’t have been worse for me to help her, since it was time I needed to be preparing for my own exams. One in particular was for a class with a very picky teacher who was known for his impossible exams. But God is amazing! The day before this dreaded exam, one of our classmates persuaded the teacher to accept the hard work that everyone had put into their projects and cancel the exam. He did, and I received an A for the course. I also learned a few days later that the girl I had helped was very active in a campus Bible study group. God surely had brought us together for that brief moment in time.

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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     12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)

Why do we invite guests into our homes for a meal, or take them out to a restaurant? Are we trying to impress them, hoping to win their favor, so they will do good things for us? Business people do this regularly, and our income tax laws (USA) allow them to call these meals business expenses.

Jesus says not to invite those friends, neighbors and relatives who might be inclined to return the favor. Instead we are told to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind because they will be unable to return the favor. This is true hospitality.

As I read these verses I believe it is our motives that are at the heart of the matter. As in all other forms of relating with people, we are to have a servant’s heart. If we invite someone to our home, we should look for someone with a need – someone we can help in some way.

If we are faithful to serve others through our hospitality, God will be the one who will bless us, though it may not be in this lifetime.  Verse 14 says you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Lord, give me a servant’s heart. Help me find ways to show hospitality to those in need, not to win their favor, but to reflect your love to them that they will seek to know you better.

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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