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Luke 4:14-15  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 These two verses immediately follow the account of Jesus and his time of temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This was the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Jesus went in the power of the Holy Spirit and began his ministry in the region around the Sea of Galilee. From these two verses, he must have been an instant success as the word spread quickly about him. He was permitted to teach in the synagogues and all the people praised him.

The emphasis for this verse, especially as we apply it to our own lives, is on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it exciting when we know we are doing the right thing – serving in the will of God – when we feel the blessings of the Holy Spirit on our efforts, and our efforts are recognized and appreciated by others?

But have you ever striven in your own strength and felt as if you were beating your head against the wall because you were going nowhere? This is not a pleasant feeling. We must be careful to always seek God’s direction before we try to do a great work for him to keep from spinning our wheels and wasting our strength on a lesser task he did not ask us to do.

But we must also consider that he may want us to persist in a task for a long time before we may expect to see the rewards from our labor. There are many testimonies of persons who prayed for the salvation of a loved one and witnessed to them for years before that person accepted Christ. There are testimonies of Missionaries who struggled for years before they saw a spark of interest in the hearts of the people, yet that first spark eventually did come as hostile communities finally opened their doors to Jesus.

Lord, help us to always seek your will through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Give us your discernment that we may know the difference between our own ideas and the leading that comes from you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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I went for a prayer walk this morning around the Hemingway Campground. This is a location that is rich in its spiritual history. Hemingway Campground was begun in 1961 when campmeetings were more plentiful and many came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord in these holy places. Hemingway Campground still holds an annual campmeeting, though the attendance is slow in comparison to what it was in the earlier years. Times are so different today than it was then.

We are encouraging community members to use the Campground as a place for walking, and more specifically prayer walking – spending your time walking in prayer for the Campground, the community, the churches, etc. (I say “we” as I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Campground.)

As I was walking, this morning I listened for his whisperings, and felt the desire to share a few things I felt he brought to my mind.

As is typical, I began getting bogged down in little things when I looked up at that great big sky and the clouds and treetops and realized This is God’s world and he is a Mighty God. So I continued to walk and dwell on the greatness of God and of the things he is able to do. It isn’t about us or about our programs. It is about God.

Then I began to pray for the many people who have made commitments in the past. I prayed that God would keep those commitments alive, or that he would cause a stir that might awaken commitments that may have been tucked out of mind in some. If all those persons who confessed Jesus as their Savior were actively serving him, our world wouldn’t be in the mess it is in today. Too many commitments are based on pleasing people instead of God.

As I continued to walk I seemed to be drawn to a question: Who are we serving? Are we serving memories of the Campground or are we serving God, a God who is alive and well today? What is the role of a place like Hemingway Campground in the world of today…? …where people are spoiled with air conditioning and stay indoors to keep out of the heat and mosquitoes. …where youth are too busy with the damands of ball practice and band practice so it isn’t possible for them to participate in a week-long summer camp. …where we have to compete with technology at every turn to get the attention of the youth. …where many churches are so competative with one another that they are unwilling to bond with them to win the lost for Jesus.

Christianity isn’t about denominations. It is about living for Jesus. It is about studying the Bible to learn what it says, and believing it whether or not it fits into the belief system of everyone in your church or not. It isn’t about finding someone who will agree with you 100% on how to interpret the Bible or how to worship our God. It is about agreeing that God is God, that Jesus is his one and only Son and the one and only way to be one with God. If we attach too many legalities to this belief, we lose touch with the Spirit of Christ and return to the Old Testament Spirit of the Law.

So my prayer continues to be that we as Christians will grow in Jesus, not in denominations and strictness of beliefs. …that we will grow in holiness as we seek to learn how God wants us to live and as we listen to the Holy Spirit and allow him to apply the scriptures to our hearts.

I almost stopped walking on this round as I neared my car once again, but I felt the need to go around once more, this time seeking God’s direction in my personal life. I determined not to rattle on, but to listen. I hadn’t walked far when I saw a bird of prey (probably a kite) circling not all that high over the open space in front of me. I felt it was watching me as closely as I was watching it as several times it hovered directly overhead. It circled the field several more times studying the ground and the tree branches on my side of the field. Then it suddenly changed its position by pulling in its wings and diving toward the ground. As it opened its wings and flew upward again I noticed its intended prey, a butterfly, fluttering on its way. As I walked the rest of the way around the circle that last time, I pondered what kind of message I should take away from this. I pondered whether my part was in the bird who put all its energy into attacking that butterfly, or whether my part was the butterfly who is continuing to keep going in spite of the attacks that come from various circumstances in my life. Surely the butterfly was blessed to have escaped the beak of the kite, a very real threat. I prefer to see myself as the butterfly.

 

     37 David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. 38 He also left Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight associates to minister with them. Obed-Edom son of Jeduthun, and also Hosah, were gatekeepers. 

    39 David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon 40 to present burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the LORD, which he had given Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD, “for his love endures forever.” 42 Heman and Jeduthun were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were stationed at the gate.

     43 Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family.

1 Chronicles 16:37-43  (NIV)

The ark of the covenant is finally back in Jerusalem. The great ceremony has taken place and it was magnificent. God’s name was exalted and his praises filled the air.

Before it was time to go home, David took care of some important details. To make sure that God’s name would continue to be lifted up, he Asaph and his associates to minister regularly at the ark of the covenant. Another group was assigned the responsibility of gatekeepers. A third group was in charge of the burnt offerings every morning and evening. A fourth group of musicians were responsible to continually offer thanks to the Lord. They were to sound the trumpets and cymbals and play other instruments to praise the Lord at the gate.

Only after all of these arrangements had been made, was it time for all the people, including David, to return to their homes.

David still was not finished, however, for when he went home, he blessed his family. Perhaps a reminder is in order. The last mention of David’s family was of his wife’s bitter scolding of him for his exuberant dancing in front of all the people. No doubt, he was expecting to face more criticism when he stepped in the door. But we are told in this passage that he “returned home to bless his family.”

But David had spent the day in worship and praise of his God. He had also put things in order with his public ministry. Surely God’s presence followed him home and helped him to sooth the ruffled feathers from earlier in the day.

Lord help us to seek you through heartfelt praise so that we may be prepared to deal with the struggles we have in our everyday lives.

Have you ever experienced a time when God’s presence, in a time of worship, empowered you to deal with hurtful situations in your life. You are invited and encouraged to share them with our readers in the comments section below.

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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     1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 

    5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud
     
but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1-5 (NIV)

     Peter is addressing the duties of the church elder – watching over the members of the congregation in a spirit of humility and servanthood. They should do this, not as a duty or requirement, but because they have a willing spirit to help others. They should not expect financial gain for their service nor should they lord their authority over the congregation in a heavy handed way.

      Peter then addresses the younger generation challenging them to be submissive to the older men. Peter stresses the concept that we have been considering all week – humility. Peter tells young men (and I don’t believe he deliberately omitted the women, this was one characteristic of the Jewish culture in his day) to clothe themselves with humility. Then he quotes Proverbs 3:34 saying “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV)

      We may not be elders or have great leadership roles in our churches, but all who are called as Christians are also called to minister one to another.  For this reason, we can all learn from the advice Peter directed to the elders in this letter to “God’s elect” (from chapter 1:1)

     Lord, thank you for your Word that you use to speak to our hearts. Give us ears to hear and teachable spirits that we may be willing and able to humble ourselves and serve those around us.

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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 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)

     The Twelve were not Jesus’ only disciples, there were others as well. After the Twelve returned Jesus appointed seventy-two more followers to minister. He didn’t send them out alone, he sent them in pairs. Nor did he expect them to work in their own strength. Their first instruction was to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. As Jesus described their ministry to them, they were being sent as lambs into a pack of wolves.

     How many times do we tackle some situation “for the Lord” without ever giving a thought to prayer. We think we already have all the answers–we are so sure of ourselves and our perfect little plan–and we strike out only to fall flat on our faces. When we try to fight the Lord’s battles for him without seeking him first we should expect no more. We can be so sure we are right and still be so wrong.

     I believe Jesus was not only describing the toughness of the situation when he described it as lambs going among wolves, I detect he was also giving them the spiritual posture he wanted them to assume. They were not to go with a plan of attack, but in a spirit of love and peace.

     My occupation has me sharing with students about the African-American giants like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks during the months of January and February. These people were masters at going out as lambs among the wolves. Their peaceful resistance to the unjust “Jim Crow” laws of segregation serve as examples to all of us. These leaders were master students of the Bible, and their activities sprang from their faith in God.

     Are you willing to be a sheep for Jesus? Do you dare to confront the wolves in our society who are trying their best to eradicate the Christian faith from public view and public consciousness? Is Jesus calling you to step out in prayer and in faith?

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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Luke 9:1-10 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

     The Twelve Disciples had been with Jesus for some time watching as he ministered to the people. They heard his message and watched him drive out demons and heal people of their diseases.

     Now it was time for them to follow his example, so he gave them some final instructions and sent them out to do as he had done. Their mission was to preach about the kingdom of God, to drive out demons and to cure people of their diseases. He did not send them out powerless. He gave them both the power and the authority to drive out demons and to heal the sick. But their instructions were to take nothing with them. Their power did not come from expensive flowing robes or expensive travel paraphernalia or bank account. They were instructed to stay in only one house in a town and stay as long as they were welcome. If they were not welcomed, they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left as a testimony against the town.

     And who was it that took notice of these ragamuffins as they went from town to town? None other than Herod the tetrarch who had ordered that John the Baptist be beheaded. If you recall, Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist because he didn’t like being challenged for marrying his daughter-in-law.

     What are we to take away from this passage of scripture? What were Jesus’ priorities when he sent the Twelve out to minister?

     First, he empowered them to be able to do what he sent them to do. It was up to the Twelve to use these powers or they would not have been welcomed into the towns they visited. They would not have been able to endear themselves to the people by expecting them to take care of them if they could give nothing in return.

     Does God give everyone the same marching orders? I think not. Many years ago I was camping with my husband, and a neighbor family, when we were approached by two college aged girls who said they were sent out by their church in the same manner as Jesus had sent the Twelve Disciples. I was very skeptical and my feelings have not changed to this day. For one thing, I didn’t see them perform any miracles. In Bible times, it was customary for strangers to go to the city gate where someone might take them in for the night. No such custom exists in America.

     Yet there are people such as Mother Teresa who have become paupers for the sake of serving others. We hear occasional accounts of Christians who choose to live on the streets in order to witness to those who have no other choice, and often these self-sacrificing Christians are the only ones who were able to reach the homeless. The Apostle Paul earned his own keep as he ministered to the people.

     The only answer I can come up with for the question of whether God expects us to use these same instructions is that it all depends on your call. Is God calling you to minister to your next door neighbor? Don’t go with the idea he is to take care of you. Is God calling you to write for publications? You won’t get far without a computer.

     But more important than the physical tools, clothing, and other provisions, you must go with God’s Spirit and his empowerment. Whatever you do in the flesh will turn to dust without it.

     At the end of this period of training for the Disciples, they returned to Jesus and shared their experiences with him.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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