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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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Today’s passage is taken out of the account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.

John 4:21-26 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.  The entire passage of the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well is found in John 4:1-42

Jesus had been talking with the Samaritan woman long enough for her to realize that he was more than a mere man. She had called him a prophet and had begun asking questions. Jesus called her “woman.” In our culture this is not generally a respectful way to address a woman; however, this was not a derogatory remark in the Jewish culture. Perhaps our expression “M’am” is a similar expression in our culture today.

The woman had raised questions about where God should be worshiped. Jesus’ response made it clear that it wasn’t important where people worshiped God. The important thing was that the worship be genuine, that true worshipers would worship “in spirit and truth.”

This tells me that God doesn’t care about denominations as much as hearts. There was a time when my faith first began to deepen and become real to me. During that time I thought the women in my Bible study group were possibly the only Christians in my town. But as time passed and as my faith continued to grow, I began to discover that there were many committed Christians in several churches and denominations. Sadly, many Christians continue to cling to the notion that they are the only ones who are among the saved, and miss out on the fellowship with other devoted Christians.

Do we worship in spirit and truth? Only God can understand the motives of our hearts. Are we truly worshiping God when we attend worship services, or do we attend church because we want to be seen as a good or upstanding person? What are we thinking about when we are in a worship service? Are we truly worshiping the awesome God who created the universe, who then gave his only Son to suffer and die on a cross to take the punishment for our sins? Or do we take all this for granted?

The Samaritan woman shared with Jesus what she understood about the Messiah, saying that when the Messiah came he would explain all of these things. Jesus then answered that he was the Messiah. She then ran to tell the people in her community about Jesus and to bring them to hear him.

Father God, penetrate our hearts when we make the effort to worship you. Enable our spirits to draw near to you in spirit and truth. Help us to focus on you alone when we worship you, whether we are worshiping you in our private worship of you, or in our churches and other Christian worship gatherings.

 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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2 Chronicles 6:18-31  (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

The impact of Solomon’s words in verse 18 is a reflection of the wisdom God gave to Solomon. In spite of all the great craftsmanship and the elaborate construction that went into the building of the temple, Solomon knew that the completed house of worship could never contain the totality of God himself. God’s spirit could indwell the temple and it would certainly be a holy place. But it could only limit God to expect him to allow himself to be contained in the temple.

Solomon continued to pour out his heart in prayer for the people who would come to the temple. He prayed for justice among his peoples and forgiveness for the repentant. He prayed that the people’s hearts would be teachable when God’s discipline brought famine or other afflictions upon them, bringing them to repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness and healing. Solomon prayed that as a result of their afflictions, repentance, and forgiveness, the people would learn to fear God and walk in his ways.

There are many truths we can take away from these verses.

  • We cannot put God into a box. We can search the scriptures to learn about him, and sometimes it may stretch our minds beyond where they want to stretch. But we must never assume that the almighty God we worship must fit into a shape or form that we can understand fully. If he could, he couldn’t be God – we would be greater because we could contain him.
  • We should regularly pray for God’s spirit to indwell our churches, that God’s presence would be so strong that it would bring conviction on those who would do wrong.
  • We should pray for teachable spirits among our church members so that they would recognize situations when personal hardships or disaster is brought on by the hand of God to bring them to repentance for some grievous sin. (I am not saying that every such disaster is caused by our own great sins, though more often than not God will use our hardships to teach us something we need to learn.)
  • We should pray for members to come to God with a repentant heart that they may know the cleansing freedom of his forgiveness.
  • We should pray that Christians will have a healthy fear of God, that they may always walk in his ways and enjoy a growing relationship with him forever.

Father God, may we never tire of praying for our churches that they may truly glorify you. May your spirit indwell every worship service, that those who are in your house will feel your presence. May those who worship you with a right heart be filled with your refreshing joy. May they leave your sanctuary as salt and light that will draw others to you. And Lord, may those who come into your heart with wrong motives, or with sins they are trying to hide, may they feel the conviction of your presence. May they feel their hearts laid bare before you that they will repent in shame, receive your forgiveness, and then discover the true peace that comes from having a clean heart before you, the same peace that had been waiting for them from the beginning.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Chronicles 6:12-17  (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

In front of the entire assembly, King Solomon knelt down and with lifted hands prayed to God Almighty praising him for keeping his promise to his father, David. He also petitioned God to continue to keep his promise to keep one of David’s sons on the throne if they would walk according to God’s law.

King Solomon had made an awesome statement before he ever opened his mouth on that day. The kings’ subjects were supposed to bow down to the king; kings were not known to bow down to anyone. But King Solomon acknowledged to all the people on that day that Almighty God was the highest authority, and that he as king must be in submission to him.

What a different world it would be if all leaders would acknowledge God as their highest authority. One day this will happen. On that day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that righteousness and strength are found in God alone. (see Isaiah 45:23-24)

Father God, we acknowledge you as the one true God Almighty. May our daily lives also serve as a witness to our faithful submission to you. We pray for our leaders at every level, that they will recognize you as the only “Higher Power” worth serving, and that they will in turn serve their peoples accordingly.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Praise the LORD.

      Praise the name of the LORD;
     
praise him, you servants of the LORD,
2 you who minister in the house of the LORD,
     
in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
     
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own,
     
Israel to be his treasured possession.

5 I know that the LORD is great,
     
that our Lord is greater than all gods.

Psalm 135:1-5 (NIV)


God is so good. Rejoice that you know his name and he knows yours. God is so worthy of our praise. Those who serve in our houses of worship need to lead the way in the worship of our God, but don’t wait for them if they don’t. Praise the Lord, your God.

Just how good is our God? He has chosen us to be his own. He first chose the house of Jacob, Israel, to call his own. Later through Jesus Christ, he called the rest of us who will receive him and grafted us into his wonderful family. In spite of our unworthiness, he has called us to be his own.

The fifth verse reminds us that our God isn’t just another god, he is THE GOD, the one and only true God. All others are impostors. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that all religions lead to the same place, or that they are all basically the same. If you believe that lie, you cannot believe the Bible at the same time.

  • Read the first Commandment: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3-4 NIV)
  • Read Jesus’ words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

This is one basic ingredient of the Christian faith that cannot be compromised. You believe God and Jesus Christ his Son, or you don’t.

To know God (Jesus) is to love him. Show him your love through praise.

Almighty and most glorious God, your name is to be praised above all others. May our worship and praise flow from the depths of our hearts, minds, and souls whenever we think of you.

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 Chronicles 28:11-19 (click to view passage)

David had written out very elaborate plans that the Spirit had placed in his mind for the temple, its rooms, courts, everything including numerous named articles and the weight of refined gold or silver for each article to be used in the service of the temple. There were also instructions for the priests and Levites who would do the work in the temple.  Verse 18 even refers to the cherubim of gold that sheltered the ark of the covenant with their wings, so it appears the plans included an upgrade in the ark.

“All this,” David said, “I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.”

(Verse 19, NIV)

In a recent post (1 Chronicles 17:1-6 No house for God?) I discussed the importance of honoring God by the way we care for our churches and places of worship. This is yet one more example of God prescribing excellence in creating places to worship him.

Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see where we fall short in honoring you by the way we care for things that belong to you.

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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     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 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Click on this link to read the passage. It is too long for me to copy into this post without breaking the Copyright law that governs its use.)

This passage is a psalm of David’s even though it is not in the book of Psalms. It is a song of thanksgiving and praise to God for all he has done for his people. The cause of this celebration of praise was the restoration of the arc of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

In this psalm David is thanking God for all of the wonder acts he performed on behalf of the Israelites. He is calling for the Israelites to rejoice and to glory in the name of God. He calls on them to remember the wonders and miracles God has performed as well as his righteous judgments against those who rebelled against him.

David remembers God’s faithfulness to his covenant even when the people were not faithful. He remembers God’s faithfulness to give the Promised Land to his people as an inheritance.

David recalls how God protected the Israelite nation as they wondered in the desert with no place to call home – yet. He then calls on the Israelites to sing God’s praises and to declare his glory to all nations.

David declares God’s sovereignty over all other gods. He challenges the Israelites to give God the glory and honor he is due. He calls on the earth to tremble before the Almighty God.

My feeble re-telling of this great psalm leaves much to be desired. One needs to read this Psalm over and over. Try to imagine King David’s uncontainable excitement as he sings his heart out to the Israelites through these words.

As I have written these words today I have wondered how we could bring this psalm closer home. Those of us who live in the United States have a history that, at least at the beginning of our nation, had very close ties with God. His name is embedded in our national documents, and his people were at work making our nation great. It is grievous to see how far away from God we have moved in the past 100 years.

I would like to see this psalm re-written to fit our nation’s history and to challenge our own citizens to “Cry out, ‘Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise.’ Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.” (1 Chronicles 16:35-36 NIV) 

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 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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