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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 Corinthians 1:3-9 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

Whenever I read this passage I think of those Christians who have led me to a relationship with Jesus Christ. This list includes a variety of people, but among the most influential of these was a small group of Christian women who began a Bible study group in which I participated for many years. These women knew Jesus in such a personal way and were able to relate to him in any and all circumstances. They ministered to me through a very painful marriage and gave me the courage to go on.

As I re-read these scriptures I recognized the reason they were able to minister to me so well. It was because the grace of Jesus was so visible in their daily lives. They put their full trust in Him. They spent time with Him daily in prayer and Bible study. And they lifted one another up in prayer on a daily basis. God blessed us all with a fullness of His Spirit that we never could have manufactured on our own.

Re-read the entire passage and you will find that it isn’t about how wonderful the Corinthians were. It is about how wonderfully faithful God was to enrich them in every way. In my Bible study group, it wasn’t how wonderful the women were (although they truly were wonderful to me). But the full picture is about how wonderfully God worked in and through their lives and enriched and blessed us all.

Father God, help us to seek You with all our hearts. And keep us from getting big heads over our own spirituality. May we always remember that is is not about us, but all about You.

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 2:1-4 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

What a list of “ifs”! If we claim to know Christ as our Savior and Lord we should score on at least one of them. Are you encouraged from being united with Christ? Are you comforted? Do you have fellowship with the Spirit? Do you feel his tenderness and compassion?

Before I assume that everyone answered yes to at least one of these questions, let me digress to consider that some may feel a serious barrenness as you read the questions. If so, you have a serious heart problem that needs to be taken to Jesus in prayer. You can’t follow through with the rest of this passage without a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Trying to do so will only cause burnout in your faith. Don’t allow this void in your life be a stumbling block. Become proactive about growing in your relationship with Christ. Read your Bible, pray, and find one or more Bible believing Christians who can encourage you in your quest.

If you answered yes to any of the “ifs” in verse 1, then verse 2 challenges you to be like-minded with Christ sharing that kind of love with others. At this point I feel the need to review the list again. How can I show encouragement to others? Is there someone I should be comforting? Who do I know who is in need of Christian fellowship? Do I know someone who needs to be shown tenderness and compassion? If we are honest with ourselves, we should have had several individuals come into mind as we considered these questions.

In verse 3 we are encouraged to check our motives. I have to swallow hard on this verse. How much easier it is to offer service to others when people know we are doing it. Do we read our Bibles more seriously if we are being called upon to share it with a groups of peers, than if we are whisking through a daily passage or morning devotion out of a sense of duty? We are reminded in this verse not do operate out of ambition or conceit, but through a sense of humility as we place others above ourselves.

Verse 4 reminds us to bring the needs of others into our daily “do list.” In this day and time most of us feel so overwhelmed with the tasks that are already on our plate that we feel we have no time to give. I doubt if Jesus accepts this excuse, and I am as guilty as anyone with being fully absorbed in my own agenda.

Jesus, you tell us your yoke is easy. Help us not to encumber our lives with “do lists” we can’t handle, with “do lists” that prevent us from being like-minded with you, so we can show you to others in need around us. Make us willing to have a burden for the hurting around us, and inspire us to be like-minded in showing our love and compassion to them.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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     20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.” 1 Chronicles 28:20-21 (NIV)

Solomon was young when he became King of Israel. Not only was he a new king, but he had laid out before him an enormous task – to build the temple of the Lord. He had a set of plans that would have been mind-boggling to any building contractor. It would be easy to imagine Solomon feeling overwhelmed with it all.

But David spoke words of encouragement to his son, reminding him that God was with him and would see him through the building of the temple. David had also prepared the priests, Levites, and skilled craftsmen who would help him with the task.

How did David encourage Solomon? Did he say things like “Hold your head up high,” or “Keep a stiff upper lip,” or “Look for the strength you need within yourself?” Not according to this record. David first pointed Solomon to God assuring his son of God’s strength and help. He also supplied people to help support him through the task.

I remember a very difficult day at work when I felt so defeated that I shared through my tears with my co-worker that I thought I would go home early. She immediately built me up by sharing bits of wisdom from her Christian faith. I can’t specifically remember the difficulty that brought on my despair, but I’ll never forget the warmth of her encouragement. She also took care of some of my responsibilities while I regained my composure to face the afternoon.

Almighty God, help us to remember just how mighty and powerful you are on those days when we feel the need for encouragement. And open our eyes to see the opportunities that are always around us to offer Christian encouragement and assistance to others who are overwhelmed or discouraged.

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 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
     
2 Sing the glory of his name;
     
make his praise glorious!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
     
So great is your power
     
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
     
they sing praise to you,
     
they sing praise to your name.”
Selah
5 Come and see what God has done,
     
how awesome his works in man’s behalf!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
     
they passed through the waters on foot–
     
come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
     
his eyes watch the nations–
     
let not the rebellious rise up against him.
Selah Psalm 66:1-7 (NIV)

Have you ever felt so thrilled with what the Lord has done that you wanted to shout and sing? This scripture encourages you to do just that–wherever you are, let it be known what the Lord has done for you. Give him the praise by telling him how you feel; and give him the praise by sharing your joy with others.

The writer of this psalm is doing just that. He is rejoicing over the many ways God has blessed the Israelite nation, how their enemies had to bow down to God’s strength in defending the Israelites. He continues to elaborate the many ways God displayed his power on behalf of his children.

And God continues to do so today. When is the last time you whooped loudly because a crisis had suddenly ended when God intervened. Or perhaps it was something more subtle–God gave you something you had wished for but hadn’t even stopped to ask him. Sometimes it is these little blessings that warm my heart the most–to know he cares about the little things in my life, to know he knows my heart and wants to tell me he loves me.

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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     17  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 

     18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

      Isn’t it thrilling to experience being used by God and seeing positive results? There is nothing like it in the world. But oh, how easy it is to let a little success go to our heads and make us proud.

     That must have been how it was with the disciples when they returned to Jesus and gave him their report on their first mission assignment. “Even the demons submit to us…” they must have said over and over in astonishment. The danger comes when we take our eyes off of Jesus to look at what “we” did as if we deserved some of the credit. I dare say none of those disciples could have caused one demon to budge one inch without Jesus’ intervention.

     Jesus shared with them an even greater experience–Jesus had seen Satan when he fell like lightning out of heaven. He reminds the followers that he was the one who gave them the authority to do all the miracles they had done; and he was the one who protected them in it. Therefore, they should not rejoice that they bring the spirits into submission. The most important thing that they should keep their eyes on is that their names are written in the book of life,

     Lord, help us to discipline our spiritual eyes to always focus on you and what you have done, instead of looking for our own credit for our insignificant input. Make our joy complete as we remember what you did for us on the cross.

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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     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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     4  Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 

     5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7  Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. Luke 10:4-7 (NIV)

     Jesus’ instructions to these followers were nearly the same as those given to the Twelve in Luke 9:3-5. Jesus did not want personal possessions to become a burden to them, they were to leave all behind. Nor did he wish for them to become sidetracked by other travelers on the road. 

    These followers were to speak a message of peace to each house they entered. It appears Jesus was encouraging them to look for men of peace in the same Spirit that they were to pray for workers for God’s kingdom. They were to stay as long as the family who took them in were willing to care for his needs. When it was time to leave they were to go to a new town, not to another house in the same town.

      I am reminded of one of the Beatitudes “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). When we try to win souls for Christ we will be more effective by sharing the love and peace Jesus has to give than by arguing over our differences in how we interpret the Bible. There are times when it may be appropriate to confront a brother or sister in Christ, but not when trying to witness to the unsaved.

     Lord help us to be mindful of the many times you have overlooked our shortcomings when we witness to non-believers, and help us to show them the same love you show to us every day.

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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