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1 Chronicles 16:1-6 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

I see no evidence that the celebrations were over and done with once the ark of the covenant was put into the tent that had been prepared for it.

The celebration and praise continued. More sacrifices were made to God. Some were burnt offerings and some were fellowship offerings. The fellowship offerings were eaten by the people in an act of honor of God. Gifts of bread, date and raisin cakes were also given to each man and woman.

The musical instruments were played regularly before the ark of the Lord. Again, David assigned the responsibilities to play the various instruments before the ark of the covenant.

We should be vigilant in our worship of God. Our Bibles shouldn’t have to be dusted off each time we read them. Our voices should always be ready to sing God’s praise. Our hearts should find reasons to praise God throughout the day.

Lord, lift our eyes to you and fill our hearts with joyful praise as we consider all your blessings and your mighty deeds.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Chronicles 15:25-29 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

The passage in my previous post emphasized the planning that went into preparing for the acts of worship as the ark of God was brought back to Palestine. Today’s passage tells how the praise was carried out.

There was much ceremony with the singing and the musical instruments. All the singers, musicians, and persons involved in the procession, including King David, were dressed in fine linen. Seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed as an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Because of the differences in the ancient culture of these Israelites in comparison to the ways we celebrate and worship today, it is hard for us to wrap our minds around the events of that day. But I think it is time well spent to stop and close my eyes and try to imagine all of these things happening at one time. The people were celebrating with their whole heart, body, and soul.

David was so caught up in the celebration and worship of God that he danced for joy. His wife, Michal, who was the daughter of the former King Saul, was embarrassed by David’s dancing and despised him in her heart. According to the account as it appears in 2 Samuel 6:20-23, Michal’s harsh words to David cost her dearly. God closed her womb, and she never bore any children.

God is worthy of our worship and praise. If we are uncomfortable in expressing sincere adoration and praise to him, we need to evaluate our relationship with him. Seek him with all your heart and soul and you will find him.

Father God, please accept our offerings of worship and praise. Help us to know and love you more that we may praise you more.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Chronicles 15:16-24 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

At first glance this seems an insignificant passage in the scriptures with its long list of names. Granted, we don’t know much about the majority of these individuals apart from their brief descriptions here. But God doesn’t waste space in his Bible.  So let us glean what we can in an overview.

David went to the Levites, God’s appointed priesthood to the Israelites, to work out the details of the music to be sung and played when the ark was to be brought back to Jerusalem. The leaders of the Levites were to select from among their brothers the singers and the musicians to play musical instruments. The players of the bronze cymbals were named in verse 19.  Verse 20 and 21 name the persons who are to play the harps and lyres in each of what appears to be two different styles of music. Because Kenaniah was such a skillful singer, he was placed in charge of the singing. Doorkeepers and trumpet players were also named.

Nothing was left to chance because David knew the important role music had and still has in worshiping God. Restoring the arc of God to Jerusalem was not to be taken lightly.  We must offer our best to God when we worship him and sing his praises.

Most holy God, please accept our offerings of praise as we attempt to make our joyful noise as we worship you. May we offer you only our best.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 11-15  Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 

The ark of God, contained the tablets on which God had carved out the Ten Commandments in Mount Sinai. It had been kept in the section of the tabernacle reserved for it. It had been captured by the Philistines and David had attempted to bring it back to the Israelites. His first attempt had ended in disaster because he had disregarded God’s longstanding instructions on the proper way to move the ark from one location to another. (See Chapter 13) This time, David did his homework and followed God’s instructions precisely.

No one knows where the ark of God is today, so specifically caring for it is not an issue to us. But we should not miss out on the lesson that David and the Israelites learned from this experience. God has given us his instructions on how to live our lives in a way that pleases and honors him. These instructions are found in his Word, the Bible. Do we study and cherish it as we should, or have we taken his instructions for granted and tried to do things our own way? The stakes are high both in our lives on this earth and in where we will spend eternity.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalms 150:1-6 (NIV)

How many ways can we praise the Lord? This stirring passage offers many great opportunities for praising him. Let us reflect on them.

Praise God in his sanctuary. In our regular worship services we offer him praise. We can also praise him anywhere we feel his presence – or where we wish to feel his presence.

Praise him in his mighty heavens. We must think outside the box here. Since we aren’t there yet, we are challenged to imagine him in his mighty heavens. Consider the immense greatness of the heavens he has created.

Praise him for his acts of power. The thunder and lightening, the ocean tides, even the massive hurricanes are but a breath compared to God’s power, as they are all under his control. God demonstrated his power when he parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk to the other side on dry land.

Praise him for his surpassing greatness. One can only stand in awe… gazing into a sunset… searching a starlit night sky or the recent eclipse… walking in a creek or admiring a waterfalls… visiting an aquarium… watching an ant hard at work…

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet… Do you play an instrument? Do so for his glory. If not, sing and make a joyful noise. Or if that is still not an option, play a radio (on a Christian station please) or a CD of Christian music.

Praise him with dancing. Does Jesus put a spring in your step? Then don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to praise him with dance, however flamboyant or humble.

Praise him with the clash of cymbals. If you don’t have cymbals, clap your hands. Make a noise that springs from the joy in your heart.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Are you breathing? Thank him with joyful praise!

We have so many reasons to praise our God. Find your own way(s) to express it to him, both in public and private worship.

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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You are encouraged to share your own comments on ways you have found to praise the God of the universe.

     1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

     5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

     “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

…………………

     10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” 

      “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

      11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

     13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

     15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:1-6, 10-16 (NIV)

Saul (his Hebrew name) was zealous for God. He had kept the Jewish laws as well as any of the Pharisees and was determined to do everything in his power to keep the Christians from spreading their “heresies.” He had obtained permission from the high priest to capture Christians and put them in prison. Earlier (see chapter 7) he had been present when Steven was stoned to death and gave his approval.

Jesus, with a sudden flash of light and the sound of his voice, brought Saul to the ground and caused temporary blindness to get his attention and to turn him around. Saul’s first instructions were to go ahead to Damascus where he would be told what to do next. Suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of going to Damascus to persecute the Christians, he would now have to put himself at their mercy. Saul’s conversion experience wasn’t a piece of cake with promises of a good easy life ahead.

Ananias was facing a similar dilemma. God had told him to go to Saul, the same Saul who was feared by Christians everywhere, and restore his sight. But the Lord told him again to go, and reassured him that God had chosen Saul (Paul as is his name in Greek) to preach salvation to the Gentiles and the people of Israel.

Has God spoken to your heart to go somewhere or do something that makes you uncomfortable? There is nothing in the message of salvation that promises that Christians will serve him in comfort and luxury. Every Christian has been given a task to fulfill on earth. Your calling may be to serve overseas as a missionary, or it may be to be salt and light for him as you try to minister to difficult family members, co-workers, or neighbors.

Whatever your calling, it will bring about difficult choices. If you aren’t facing any such choices, the reason may be that you aren’t listening for his voice. “No, Lord” can not be an acceptable answer. Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. Jesus promised that our yoke would be easy, but the nature of any yoke is that it will work only if we are willing to stay in step with the one we are yoked with. Living for Jesus isn’t about pleasing ourselves, it is about serving him.

Lord, open my ears that I may clearly hear your voice. Help me to stay so close to you that I will never have to wonder if your voice is truly coming from you. Help me to feel your joy even if the circumstances become difficult.

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 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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     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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     28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 

     31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:28-33 (NIV)

There is something about watching a house being built that thrills me. The design of the house, the way the walls are constructed with the stud skeletons inside… everything about it excites me as I anticipate the finished home.

I once observed someone building an addition to an old house they were fixing up as I rode to and from work each day. It was exciting to see the addition take shape and I was feeling so proud for the owners, whoever they were. But then the work stopped and weeks passed, months passed, and the plywood that had been nailed to the outside began to curl outward and the house turned into a great disaster. It was apparent that someone had failed to consider the cost, either in manpower or materials, and now what had started out to be so grand had turned into a major embarrassment to the builders.

Jesus doesn’t want his followers to begin something we won’t finish, especially when it comes to our walk with him. He tells us his “yoke is easy” (Matthew 11:30) but that is when we are walking in step with him. Are we willing to walk in step with him when the road gets rough? Or are we only fair-weather friends? As long as everything is comfortable and rosy for us we will follow, but when misfortune comes our way we hold God responsible for it and resist the yoke instead of trusting it. If we are going to be true disciples of Jesus, we must count the cost and rise above our circumstances by staying in step with Him.

Lord, help us to be totally surrendered to you. Let us count the cost and count it all Joy as we trust you to help us to weather the storms that may come our way. Let us rise to the challenge and share your word with others, regardless of the cost.

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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     25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 27  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 (NIV)

     Wow! These are strong words coming from Jesus. But before we throw them out, we need to consider the verses that come before this section. These tell about the parable of the great banquet in which the first guests who were invited gave so many excuses for not coming to the banquet.

     I believe Jesus is saying that when we allow our families to come between us and our relationship with him we are loving them at Jesus expense. His use of the word “hate” seems to be a form of comparison to the love we have for Jesus. Otherwise, this passage flies in the face of “Honor your father and mother” in the Ten Commandments. When so many of Jesus’ teachings focus on love, we have no choice but to see this as a figure of speech.

     What comes to mind when I think of these passages are new converts from Islam, Jewish, and other faiths who follow Jesus in spite of becoming disowned by their own families. I believe they understand best what Jesus is saying. They had to be willing to turn their backs on their families and walk away to be able to follow Jesus. That doesn’t mean they truly hate them. In reality, their hearts grieve and break for their families and they continue to pray that they will come to know and love Jesus.

     Jesus isn’t looking for fair weather disciples. He wants followers who are willing to live in new and different ways as they follow his leading. He wants people who will put their very lives in danger if necessary to follow him.

     What have you given up to follow Jesus? Has your relationship with Christ cost you any friends? Or have you allowed peer pressure or pressure from family members to keep you from developing an intimate relationship with Jesus?

     Lord Jesus, I love you. Help me to recognize the things that I have allowed to come between you and me and help me to turn my back on them and walk away.

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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