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1 Timothy 6:10 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Timothy warns us against the love of money which causes us to turn our eyes away from God. This principal comes to mind when I watch the flocks of Pine Siskins that have covered our bird feeders this winter. Most of these birds are content to gather together and enjoy the free food. But there are a few in each flock that are determined to claim the whole dish for themselves and agressively chase all others away. We onlookers laugh at the absurdity of it all, as the tiny bird could not eat the pile of seeds in the dish. Furthermore, while the bird so relentlessly defends his claim he doesn’t have time to eat.

God owns everything. He promises to care for us, his flock. If we trusted Him to keep his promises, we wouldn’t have to expend so much energy guarding our posessions. Is God watching out His window in heaven and laughing at our pettiness? Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and allow the Heavenly Father to bless us out of his unlimited supply.

Father God, help us to keep our eyes focused on You. Restore our trust when our anxious thoughts take our eyes off of You, and restoreYour peace. Enable us to be satisfied with Your provisions and to hold them with open generous hands.

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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James 5:1-6 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James describes the woes for the wealthy. God doesn’t offer any redeeming words to rich people who obtain their money by taking advantage of the poor. Neither does he condone persons who use all their wealth for self-indulgence. I have occasionally heard wealthy Christians wrestle with what the Bible says about wealth. As I understand the scriptures, both here and elsewhere in the Bible, the bottom line is whether the wealthy hoard for themselves, or hold their riches with open hands asking God to lead them to be good stewards of their wealth in service to his kingdom.

This question may put money in its proper perspective: Does your money own you or do you own your money? If you are consumed in worrying about your money (even your lack of it) that you can’t joyfully serve the Lord with it, then your money owns you.

I find it interesting that this passage isn’t one of the familiar passages we hear frequently in the pulpit or even in our Sunday school literature. James 5 was the passage for last Sunday’s lesson, but the writer of our literature ignored it completely and began with verse 7 to build his lesson. Read the passage again. James doesn’t mince words to avoid offending the wealthy.

Father God, Help us to hold our finances and possessions with open hands that we may serve you with our whole hearts. Give us the courage to make the changes in our hearts and lives that would be pleasing to you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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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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Matthew 6:19-21  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What do you value most in life? What is it in your life that compels you into action? What would you go to great lengths to protect or preserve? Do you invest time in something or someone to see it develop and grow? What occupies your mind and/or keeps you awake at night?

If we ask ourselves questions like these we should discover where our treasure is. How does your treasure measure up to the passage in Matthew 6:19-21? Does your treasure have eternal value, or is it simply something that will make life easier for yourself? Are you working for your families needs or are you spoiling them by trying to satisfy all their wants? 

I’m so near retirement age that it scares me. Then I remember this passage. It makes me stop and think about where my treasure is. If I am overly wrapped up in meeting my own unforeseen needs I may be overlooking opportunities that are right in my path for laying up treasures in heaven. And those are the only treasures that are truly ours to keep.

Father, help me to value the things that you value. Help me to keep a check on the desires of my heart that they may be alligned with your purpose and will. Help me to focus my eyes on your treasures and not on self-centered treasures that have no eternal value.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21b, Matthew 5:4  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

How can we be blessed when we cry? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that those who cry now will laugh in the future. Matthew’s account in 5:4 says that mourners will be comforted.

Jesus promises over and over that there will come a day when everything will be turned upside down. We will all pass through a form of judgement when God separates the sheep from the goats. People who have lost a faithful loved one who walked with Jesus in this life can more nearly know morning and joy at the same time. The contrast between sorrow and joy is perhaps never so real as when they realize that their departed loved one has left his or her broken down crippled body behind and has entered into the presence of Jesus with a glorious new body. 

But God doesn’t expect us to have to wait until we die to enjoy his blessings. Read Psalm 30 and find your spirits lifted. The Psalmist shared that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. He also declared that God had turned his wailing into dancing.

I have often heard the difference between happiness and joy explained. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We are happy when people praise us and do nice things for us. But joy is based on our contentment with our lot in life and our relationship with God. As long as our trusting eyes are focused on God, we can be content knowing we are in loving and competent hands. But when our eyes stray as we compare our circumstances to those around us who have more wealth, status, or _______ (fill in the blank), we risk losing our joy as we covet what others have.

Whoa! I’m preaching to myself today!

Father God, help me to keep my eyes focused on you alone. Help me to accept my lot in life with true joy and thanksgiving in my heart, and help me to accept disappointments without grumbling and complaining.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:20Matthew 5:3  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read the first of the Beatitudes in Luke I kept saying to myself that this wasn’t the way I remembered it. I searched several translations, but still couldn’t find one that started “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Instead I kept finding “Blessed are the poor.” I finally realized that I learned the Beatitudes from Matthew and not Luke.

So which is it? I could get all uptight over this and say that both should report this exactly the same way, but I have resolved in my heart to not let such minor differences unsettle my faith. In fact, quite the opposite. The fact that two different people reported the same instances with so many details that are the same bears witness to the fact that they didn’t need to consult with each other to tell the story. Both were capable writers and independent witnesses to the historical facts of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So which is it? I believe that God was present in the Spirit when both accounts were written and both accurately express what he wants us to know. There are blessings that only the poor can know. Life can be simpler when you don’t have to worry about losing your fortune if the stock market crashes. The poor are less likely to have a child kidnapped for ransom. But even more importantly, the poor have learned to trust God to meet their needs.

Comparisons have been made on who is more generous, the rich or the poor, and it is the poor who will give the greater percent of their income to help others. This is perhaps one example of the freedom that the poor experience but that is elusive to the rich. Perhaps this is in part how theirs (the poor) is the kingdom of heaven.

The insertion of the words “in spirit” as seen in Matthew’s account changes the meaning a little, but it is still within the framework of the rest of Biblical teaching. Therefore I believe this is equally valid in the Beatitudes. When I think of being poor in spirit, I think of brokenness. We are a stiff-necked people, we make our plans and expect God to bless them (not the other way around). We tend to think we are in control of our lives, and when things seem to start spinning out of control we panic and fall to our knees making demands on God. Somewhere down in the bottom of all this turmoil is where we come to our wit’s end. This is where our spirit is finally broken, and where we look up to God and ask him to fix the mess we have made of our lives. The blessing God gives for a broken spirit is eternal life as we turn our lives over to him. This is the kingdom of heaven.

I have been worrying over my financial future as I face an earlier than advisable retirement in January. So now that I have wrestled through these scriptures, I need to re-read my own post. It is re-assuring that God has so much to say about trusting him with our tomorrows. Then to consider that I might be more fully blessed if I am poor than if I were rich… that boggles my mind in a comforting way.

I have been weighing out in my mind whether I should spend next week in a Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. It will be a last minute decision, but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for thirteen years, ever since the time I first learned about the program. I think this passage of scripture will take on even more meaning as I work through the week.

Father God, you know the blessings that are the best. Help us to see life through your eyes and not the eyes of the world. Help us to be satisfied, even generous, with what you have given us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

    19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ “ 

    21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 

    22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  

    23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:18-25 (NIV)

Verse 19 tends to baffle many. Is Jesus saying he is not good? If you look closely, he did not say that–he only said that no one was good but God alone. It is as if he were revealing to the man that he was God, but of course the man didn’t pick up on it.

After responding to the man’s comment, Jesus moves on to the man’s question, and directs his attention to the Ten Commandments. Through Jesus’ eyes this man’s reply probably sounds quite self-righteous – he had kept the commandments since he was a boy. And he may have tried to do so in a very consciencious way – which takes us back to Jesus earlier comment that only God can be called good. No one can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly.

Then Jesus went to the heart of the man’s problem by telling him to sell all he had and give to the poor. It appears the man was unwilling to do this as Jesus answer made him very sad.

This account in the Bible is one that most Christians are quite familiar with.  Many read it with fear–those who are the most wealthy. Others, perhaps, should quake as well when we consider what we own in comparison to those in the impoverished third world nations. How much are we willing to share with the less fortunate? Where would we draw the line?

I believe God wants us to hold our posessions in an open hand remembering that everything we own belongs to God. We should tithe to our churches and give to Christian causes. We should be generous with everything else, yet at the same time be good stewards of what God has given to us. We need to give to those in need, but we must pray for discernment that we may be able to give that which will help others to rise above their circumstances, without enabling them to continue embracing the very habits that may be keeping them down.

Lord, help us to have a generous spirit.  Help us to remember that all we have comes from you when we are tempted to keep it all to ourselves.  Thank you for the reassurance that “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (verse 27)

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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     7  John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

    10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 

    11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

     12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

     13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

     14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

Luke 3:7-14 (NIV) 

    John the Baptist had begun his ministry of baptizing and teaching a message of repentance at the beginning of this passage. He saw among the crowds many who were only outwardly repentant without any desire to change their ways. In Matthew the men so accused were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Since Luke did not identify them as such, we may consider that there were others as well who received this harsh criticism.

     The same is true today, our repentance must be genuine or it is meaningless. His words are for us — he commands us to bear fruit that can only come with repentance. Outward appearances do not turn us into children of God.

     When asked, Jesus told the people to be generous with their possessions and share with those who were needy. He charged the greedy (tax collectors and soldiers) to be honest with people and to be content with honest earnings. 

     Those commands were not only for those people, they apply to us today as well. Not everything that is legal is right. Slumlords and loan sharks get rich by taking advantage of the poor. The rich isolate themselves from the poor and may offer little or nothing to help them, while a person who has only a little excess will be much quicker to help meet the needs of others.

     If we are truly repentant of our sins and wish to follow Jesus’ example, we will hold our possessions with open hands, willing to share with those less fortunate.

     Lord, you know our hearts. Help us to be more like you in every way and to hold nothing back to satisfy our own greed.

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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15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”      16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’      18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘      20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’      21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”  Luke 12:15-21 (NIV)   What do we do with our abundance? The man in this parable was so thrilled with his good crop. He knew he had more than enough to last for a long time so he made up his mind to build bigger barns to store the excess so he could take life easy from that time on. Little did he know that God had other plans and he would not live to see the next morning. But what do we do with our excess possessions? Build bigger barns in the form of bigger closets, bigger storage buildings, bigger homes, second homes? Before I appear to be anti-rich people, let me turn on myself. My house is small in typical American standards (though fantastic in the eyes of the third world standards). We are always running out of space for the things we want at our fingertips. So what do we do? Enclose the carport and add another storage area behind our home. Are we not guilty of the same thing that Jesus faulted the rich farmer of doing? We waste money on hoarding things that might benefit others, but they are things we can’t bear to part with. They are things that weigh us down rather than lift our eyes to Jesus. I pity our children and grandchildren who may have to sort it all out one day if we don’t get around to it. Dear Heavenly Father, bless this mess by helping us to rise above it. Help us to trim it down to a size that blesses and honors you.

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.

Note: His Whisperings is now in a new location. If you are interested in following this blog you need to follow it at www.hiswhisperings.com.

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