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

The book of James was written not by the James in Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, but by James, the brother of Jesus. James was writing to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I interpret this to mean the Christian Jews (the twelve tribes) who had scattered among other nations because they were being persecuted for their Christian faith. That understanding makes this book especially valuable to Christians today who are suffering persecution. Unfortunately, most Christians (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the persecution that is being targeted at Christians today, especially in foreign countries. This persecution of Christians is also picking up momentum in the United States. The skeptical need only type the words “Christian persecution” into a Google search to locate a wealth of convincing information on the topic.

In the first chapter, James is writing to the persecuted Christians who have scattered to the surrounding nations, and he is encouraging them to persevere in their trials. He is also encouraging them to be “doers” of the Word and not just hearers only. We all need to take this instruction to heart.

Father God, stir in our hearts a greater compassion for the suffering Christians around the world. Let their perseverance motivate us to pray for them and to reach out to them as you lead us to do. Enable us to recognize the shallow areas of our own faith and to commit ourselves to seeking to know you better by studying your Word that our faith may be strengthened.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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13 For the LORD has chosen Zion,
     
he has desired it for his dwelling:
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
     
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it–
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
     
her poor will I satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
     
and her saints will ever sing for joy.

17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David
     
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
     
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”

Psalm 132:13-18 (NIV)  

OK, now. This selection starts off with the LORD having chosen “Zion” as his dwelling place. I’ll have to admit that I’ve sung songs like “We’re Marching to Zion” and I’ve always had this warm fuzzy feeling when I heard the name, but today I had to look it up. Zion is often used as another name for Jerusalem which has also been called the City of David. More specifically it refers to a hill in Jerusalem, the highest point, which is considered to be the most holy place in Jerusalem. Zion is also referred to as heaven by many.

God has pronounced his blessings on Zion, declaring her (he uses feminine pronouns for Zion) to be his resting place forever. He has promised to bless and provide for her and her priests and saints forever.

God promises a “horn” which will grow for David. Fortunately for me, I read the footnotes on the word horn long ago and learned that whenever it is used it is referring to strength. These verses are referring not only to David’s son, Solomon, but they refer to Jesus Christ as well, the Most Holy descendent of David.

We mustn’t read these verses without recognizing the validity of the hand of God. Jerusalem has been the center of the Jewish faith from the time of King David. It was the center of the Jewish religion when Jesus walked this earth. It was the location where Jesus’ crucifiction, death, burial, and resurrection took place. Even though the Jewish nation hasn’t always held possession of Jerusalem, they have succeeded in regaining control of it. The whole world is focused on Jerusalem and the Middle East today causing many to read or re-read the book of Revelation.

Father God, may these verses increase our faith as we recognize your hands at work in the time of David, the time of Christ, and in our present and future. Give us the confidence and courage to continually put our faith and trust in you alone.

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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     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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     20 “There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel–the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22  You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God. 1 Chronicles 17:20-22 (NIV)

After giving God all the honor and praise for taking him from a lowly shepherd to a king, and for the blessings God promised to his descendants in the years to come, David continues to exalt the name of God. He continues his discussion with God with his thoughts concerning the Israelite people. He acknowledges that it was God who redeemed them as his own people, and it was God’s mighty deeds that made them great. It was God who made them his people, and they made him their God.

Here in the United States we have a history that is closely tied in with God. The first successful settlement was by the Pilgrims who left their homes so they could worship God as they pleased. Other Europeans had tried to establish colonies and failed. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights include references to God. The Christian influence in the early development of our country was strong in many areas.

Today a new breed of historians is trying to erase all evidence of God and Christianity from our history books. We also get bombarded daily with biased news on television and in our newspapers and other media. Movies and TV sitcoms systematically make Christians out to be bumbling idiots. I tremble for the day when God may remove his hand of protection from our country. If we could only, like David, openly acknowledge the hand of God in making our nation great, we might find answers to the issues that are tearing away at the foundations of our nation today.

Father God, help us to continually acknowledge your hand at work in everything we do, and to openly give you the praise. We praise you for your hand in making our country great, and beg you to work in mighty ways to restore the honor and dignity to our government that once made it strong. Work in the hearts and minds of our citizens to recognize the candidates that are able to serve our country best because they look to you for guidance.

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 O God, you are my God,
     
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    
  my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
     
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
     
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
     
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
     
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6  On my bed I remember you;
     
I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:1-6 (NIV)

This is a beautiful love song to God, written by David when he was going through very tough times.  Even though he found himself in a dry and weary land with no water, he comforted himself with memories of God’s beauty, his glory, and his love; and David made the choice to praise God in spite of his circumstances. We can be certain that some of his comrades at the time would have him curse God because of all the turmoil he was having to deal with during these times of exile from his kingdom. 

Yet David had a storehouse of memories from which to draw encouragement, and he used them to full advantage. David had learned about the strength that always came to him when he sang praises to God. He had also learned to store away memories of times when he had been richly blessed by God so he could remember them as he lay upon his bed when life became difficult.

Have you been saving up memories of what God has done for you?  Are you able to sing praise to God, even when you are down?  One of the best remedies I have ever found for spells of depression is to sing along with Christian praise tapes.  Do you have Christian music at your fingertips to lift your spirits?  If not, buy some.  In the mean time, read from the Psalms–those were the songs David sang.  He wrote most of them.

Lord, bring to my memory those special times when I felt close to you on those days when discouragement wants to creep in on me.  Help me to draw closer to you moment by moment.

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 O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old–
3 what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psalms 78:1-4 (NIV)
    

     These four verses are the beginning of a Psalm written by Asaph in which he teaches the history of the Jewish people beginning with Jacob and his sons in Egypt, through the time of King David. He urges the people to listen as he tells the wondrous story of how God has performed many wonders for the Israelites and impresses upon the people the importance of teaching this to the next generation so they too will learn of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 

     This is why I am blogging. It is my heart’s desire to pass on the truths of the Bible to the next generation. They are not getting Bible teaching on TV, radio, or in the movies. Instead they are being bombarded with one form of blasphemy after another on every front. So few are regular church attendees like their grandparents were. In the majority of schools they are being taught from a humanistic point of view–to look for the answers to their problems from within themselves, to depend on human strength and wisdom. It has become passé to believe in the Bible or to expect God to be anything more than a crutch. 

     It breaks my heart, too, to see Sunday school classes and youth activities that seem to have the philosophy that getting them in church through fun and games is paramount to teaching the children directly from the Bible. Too many leaders and teachers seem to make the assumption that the Bible is too boring to be interesting to their students, so they sugar coat it so much that the students can easily make the assumption that the characters and tales are little more than fairy tales. 

     My hope for this blog is that my readers will discover that there is sound wisdom and direction in the Bible. I pray that they will hunger and thirst to read the Bible for themselves, and that they will find the power, strength, comfort, and direction for life that can be found within its pages. 

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 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26 (NIV) 

     Do not worry – this is so easy to say, but it can be harder to follow through on this command. I suppose every age has it’s own set of things we can allow ourselves to worry about. I’ve been through most of them by now, but still don’t seem to get it at times. I draw closer to retirement and wish and worry all in the same breath.

     But when we fall into the worry trap we waste precious energy that could be channelled into more productive activity. But even more grievous is the fact that when we worry we are subconsciously expressing our lack of faith in God’s ability to take care of us. 

     When I read verse 24 I wonder where we draw the line between worry and personal responsibility. I don’t believe God means for us to throw all caution to the wind and live irresponsibly, expecting God and/or other people to pick up the slack. From the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden until now man has been under the curse of a fallen world. Each must labor and deal with the thorns in his/her field. Even the birds have to gather their own food.

     But it is one thing to have to work and quite another to render ourselves unable to work because of undue fretting and worry. We can trust God to be faithful and to bless our efforts, so that we may eat the fruit of our hands.

     Lord help us always to trust in your ability to provide and your eagerness to do so.

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 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.
   Psalms 31:1-5 (NIV)

     Have you ever been wrongfully accused or treated unfairly?  David experienced this over and over in his life beginning with the persecution from King Saul and later by his own son Absalom.  Yet David continually put his trust in the Lord and found him to be his strong fortress and salvation. 

     Notice in verse 3 how David boldly prayed that God would lead and guide him for the sake of God’s name.   If we dare to live faithfully for Christ, we too can pray with this boldness for the sake of His name. 

     This is a great scripture to use as a prayer when you are feeling oppressed or persecuted by others, and know that if God was there to see David through, he will be there for you as well. 

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 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
3 When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted
. Psalms 138:1-3(NIV)

     On one occasion in my life when I struggled from oppression coupled with depression, I found myself unable to bring myself to attend Sunday morning worship service, because I knew how prone I would have been to sit and cry through the service.  But my grief didn’t prevent me from worshiping my God, who I knew loved me.  I armed myself with my Scripture song tapes, songbooks, and my Bible, and went to a quiet spot beside the lake in the state park near my home.  I cried through one Scripture song after another, and looked up the Bible verses many of them represented.  As I sang these songs, most of which sang God’s praises, God began to speak to my spirit, lifting me above my circumstances.  I left the park with tear streaked cheeks, but with eyes that shone with the joy of the Lord. 

     As I read the third verse in the above passage, I was reminded of that morning so long ago, and of other similar times, when I called and He answered me.  He made me bold and stouthearted. 

     Praise the Lord!  It will do your heart good.

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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     13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”   (Luke 11:13   NIV) 

     This verse follows Jesus teachings on how much God wants to give to us generously what is best for us.  It seems apparent to me that he is telling us that the Holy Spirit is the very best gift of all.  When we are truly led by the Holy Spirit, we are fully within the will of God and fully blessed. 

       1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.   (Acts 2:1-4  NIV) 

      God’s Holy Spirit came down the most dramatically on the day of Pentecost.  This was the day the Disciples were told to wait for when Jesus last spoke to them before descending into heaven.  This was the Spirit of encouragement and empowerment that changed a group of frightened men into men of courage, strength, and power—men who went out to the world and faced their opposition head on. 

       The first gift the Spirit gave to the Disciples was the spirit of tongues.  They were quickly surrounded by people from all walks of life and from all parts of the known world, people who would not have understood the Hebrew language.  God put his Spirit into the Disciples to enable to speak to every person in the crowd that had gathered around them so that they could boldly speak and be understood by all.   

      When we pray we should ask for the best gift God has to offer—his Holy Spirit.  This is the Spirit that will lead us to do the will of our Father in heaven.  This Spirit will give us courage when we are afraid, Boldness when we need to take a stand, and discernment to know when to take action and when to let God take the lead in our behalf. 

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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