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James 3:1-4 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James warns of the risk of becoming a teacher. The teacher who doesn’t measure up to what he or she professes to believe can do more harm than the blatant sinner who makes no bones about sinning. Furthermore, teachers who teach false doctrine are dangerous. James tells us that teachers in general will be judged more strictly than the rest of the population.

“That’s not fair!” I’ve heard it said by teachers and pastors alike. They argue that they are fallible the same as anyone else. And there is some truth in that, but they had better be dilligent in their study and genuine in their faith or people will see right through them. Most importantly lives will be damaged by a slack teacher.

James then addresses the most difficult part of the body to keep under control, and that is the tongue. Perhaps that is why he begins this passage by referring to teachers – for it is chiefly through what they say that teachers do their teaching.

The rest of these introductory verses compare the size and significance of the tongue to the body, and contrast this comparison with that of a rudder to a ship and a bit and bridle to a horse. If a ship is going to reach it’s destination, the rudder must be kept under control. The same is true of a horse, bit and bridle. James is making a powerful statement about the importance of keeping the tongue in check. He continues this discussion in the next several verses.

Father God, impress upon our hearts the importance of our witness to those around us, whether we are intentional teachers or not. Help us to be aware of the possibility that people are watching to see if we say what we mean and mean what we say. Help us not to disappoint those who might look up to us, and help us to especially guard our mouths and what we say.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 4:31-37 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

After leaving Nazareth, Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and went to the city of Capernium. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue and taught the people who were amazed at the authority with which he spoke.

A man in the crowd was possessed by a demon who knew who Jesus was. The demon began mocking Jesus and identified him as the Holy One of  God. Jesus told the demon to be quiet, and then commanded him to go out of the man who had been possessed. The demon left throwing the man down, but did not injure the man.

The people were all the more amazed at Jesus, at his authority in his teaching, and at his power to command the spirits. And the people spread the word about him to the surrounding communities.

Jesus wasn’t just another teacher, he had demonstrated his authority in many ways to the people. It was in his teaching, in his miracles, and in his ability to cast out demons.

Today we have many spiritual teachers who use various techniques to get their messages across to their listeners. Some have earned our respect through their command of the Scriptures, and are able to bring many people to their knees under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many great teachers also effectively use their spiritual gifts for healing and for casting out demons even today. Praise God for his faithful messengers who are able to use their God-given spiritual gifts to reach the lost for Jesus.

Unfortunately, we also have spiritual teachers who have resorted to less than honorable methods to reach the lost. They use manipulation to create an appearance of a “movement of the Spirit.” While there are many examples, a few of the more common ones include noise for the sake of noise, people falling back with a push on the forehead rather than an authentic experience of being “slain in the Spirit,” and tongues that can be self-generated instead of Spirit-generated. Often spiritual leaders who use deceitful methods can also be spotted by an over-indulgence of self-promotion as well.

I am aware that I will have probably offended many of my readers at this point. I am not saying that all instances of noisy worship, people being slain in the Spirit, or people speaking in tongues, are less than acts of God and his Holy Spirit. We serve an awesome God who manifests his glory and his love in more ways than we can count. He has used each of these and more to meet the needs of his people.

Heavenly Father, grant us discernment as we seek out genuine Christian teachers who will handle your Word faithfully as they help us to draw closer to you. Give us wisdom that we might recognize the wolves in sheep’s clothing who might deceive us into blindly following their leadership which may lead us farther away instead of closer to you. Help us to fix our eyes on you alone as revealed in your Son, Jesus the Christ.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Psalm 141:1-4 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

This Psalm is written by David. It is a good prayer to use to start any day. Verses 1 & 2 express the intimacy that David felt when he talked with the LORD in prayer. I love how David anticipates that God sees his prayers like incense rising up to him.

David is not hesitant to lift up his hands to the God in prayer. I remember how self-conscious I felt when I first tried this. But then I did a little reflecting on other times when I reach toward other things I like with no sense of embarrassment at all. I would not hesitate to reach toward a beautiful flower, vase, or butterfly. It would not embarrass me to reach out to a baby or child to express love to them. We reach out our hands to our pets. Our hands seem to be designed for expressing love. I can feel my heart lifting to God as I reach up to him.

Verse 3 needs to be planted in my heart and mind 24/7. It is so easy to speak first and think later with regret. What a powerful prayer for every day of the week. Verse 4 follows 3 very appropriately. It is as if once the careless words are spoken we are all the more susceptible to go along with the crowd in other ways as well.

Re-read this scripture and offer it up to God in prayer. Lift your hands to him and speak the prayer out loud.

Lord, give us the courage…

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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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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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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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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