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Read John 14 (Click on the link to read it in NIV or select your prefered version when the window opens.)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

You hear it a lot today… “I’m a good person. I don’t need the church or all that Bible stuff. I’ve tried to live a good life like Jesus said we should. I’m not worried about the afterlife because I believe God will be okay with how I’ve lived my life.”

Others will ask, “How can God punish these ‘good’ people?”

I don’t believe God wants to punish people as much as people want to imply. That isn’t the problem at all. The problem is that God didn’t create a perfect and glorious place like heaven for people who don’t want him.

At the beginning of time God created the heavens and the earth. He brought mankind onto this earth, and he gave them the choice to accept or reject his commandments. Just as Adam and Eve rejected his first and only commandment in the Garden of Eden, man has continued to reject his commandments unto this day.

God gives us the opportunity to accept his forgiveness for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. It was no small sacrifice for Jesus to endure the crucifixion and death on a cross to pay for our sins. The choice is ours. Do we want God or don’t we? If we choose Jesus we choose God. If we don’t choose Jesus we are saying we don’t want his Father, the God of all creation.

Those who don’t want God, have no right to expect him to open heaven’s doors to them when their time comes. By choosing not to follow God’s commandments people have messed up the earth already. The problems of humankind’s sins are escalating before our very eyes. Why should we expect God to allow this to happen to his glorious heaven as well?

So what about the punishment of hell? Do people who have tried to be good in their own strength but didn’t choose to accept Jesus have to be punished the same way as terrible criminals do? I won’t attempt to give an absolute answer here, only food for thought. If all the people who accepted Jesus go to heaven to be with God, Jesus, and all the heavenly angels; and only those who chose not to accept Jesus are left outside to fend for themselves with Satan and all his demons who are eager to offer their brand of spiritual help, what is it going to be like? 

The final word will be one of two: You wanted him and accepted him. {Or} You didn’t want him – you rejected him.

Father God, I pray for those who don’t understand, for those who are so willing to let themselves be fooled into believing their only measuring stick for entering heaven is how they measure up to the persons around them. Wake us all from our slumber and give us eyes to see who you really are. Show us your compassion.

Read the entire passage of John 14. It is so powerful.

© 2009 by Janice D. 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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Revelation 19:7  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Are you ready to be married to Christ? If you have given your life to Jesus and have become a Christian, then you as part of the church of Christ are betrothed (engaged) to be married to Jesus at the time you enter heaven. For the skeptical, here are a few additional passages that refer to this relationship: Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34; John 3:29-30; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 22:17.

I have been reading Beyond Me by Kathi Macias,  a book that challenges me to step outside my comfort zone to minister to others. Yesterday I read Chapter 9 (Sealed for the Day) and realized it was only two days until Valentines Day. I couldn’t resist sharing some of these new insights about the ancient Jewish weddings and how it relates to us today.

Marriages were arranged in Jewish weddings. The groom had to pay the bride-price to the father of the bride.

Betrothals were the beginning of the engagement period usually lasting one year. The time was used to prepare for marriage. The groom was to build a house and get it ready for his bride. The bride was to learn everything she needed to know to become a homemaker such as sewing, cooking, gardening, and so much more. She would also sew her own bride dress.

The bride did not know the exact day and time of the wedding. Yet she and her bridesmaids must be ready for the bridegroom to come at any time and take them to the marriage ceremony. The groom would take his bride to her new home following the ceremony.

We could learn a lot about marriage and life from these ancient Jewish traditions. First, engagement and marriage weren’t taken lightly. One would have to get a divorce to break an engagement. Second, preparation for marriage was a serious priority.  Both marriage partners went through a time of preparation to assure they would be able to offer more to their intended. They spent a year developing the skills and assets they could offer, not just thinking about what they were going to get out of this new relationship.

When I consider that I am to be the bride of Christ when I enter eternity (yes, even Christian men will be the “bride” of Christ), the thought of it overwhelms me. Jesus, our Bridegroom has already paid the bride-price when He was crucified for my sins. He is now preparing my mansion in heaven. Am I preparing myself to be His bride? Or am I simply taking for granted His total sacrifice and expecting to give as little as possible in return?

Anyone who is or has ever been married knows that marriage relationships take time to develop. We have been given a lifetime to prepare for our marriage to Christ. It takes quality time to know your intended better. How are you preparing yourself to spend eternity with Jesus? Are you using your life to get all you can for yourself, or are you investing your life for eternity?

We do not know when our Bridegroom will come for us. But everyone will meet Jesus on some unannounced day. Are you ready?

Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with a growing and ongoing desire to know you better and to serve you more. May the anticipation of our marriage to you fill our lives with joy.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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Luke 3:1-20 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens. Better yet, read it in more than one translation.

Read this passage over and over to keep from missing the details. God speaks to our hearts through His Word if we will dwell there. I can only touch on a few highlights here.

As had been recorded in Isaiah hundreds of years earlier, John’s place in history was to prepare people’s hearts to accept Jesus. His message was repentance.

This message was not sugar coated. Speaking to the crowds who came to him in verse 7 he called them a “brood of vipers.” People weren’t attracted to him because of his smooth talk. They must have felt under conviction when they were in the presence of this holy man of God.

John challenged the people’s claim that Abraham was their father telling them that God could cut them down and bring up new children for Abraham out of the very stones that lay on the ground.

When the people asked, John gave them examples of what they should do. Give your extra coat to someone who doesn’t have a coat. Share your food with the poor. Tax collectors were to refrain from charging more taxes than were due. Soldiers were not to take advantage of their authority to get money from their subjects. The general people were told to be content with their pay.

These challenges are still appropriate for us today. We want more clothes and bigger closets to store them in, yet there are people around us who would be thrilled with only one of our dresses or coats. We stuff our cabinets with food and worry about some day in the future when we might not have enough. Yet there are people around us already with not enough to eat. Loan sharks greedily charge as much as they can get to make a profit off of those who have so little. What is legal isn’t always in agreement with what is ethical; yet we will use the law to justify our actions. And being content with our pay? Is anyone content? It appears that those at the bottom of the pay scale are the most likely to be content with their pay – they are the most likely to tithe.

As the people began to wonder if John was the Messiah that had been promised, he told them that he was not, and that he was not worthy to untie His sandals.

John had a following with many disciples, but because he would not compromise the truth, even to King Herod, he ended up in prison and was eventually beheaded at the King’s command.

Father God, help us to take your call to repentance seriously. Prepare our hearts so that we will have more room for you to dwell within us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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John 5:39-40 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens. Better yet, read it in more than one translation.

In this passage Jesus is talking to the Jews who were critical of Him and who would not believe his message. He was talking to people who knew the Scriptures, people who were diligent in studying them. Yet He was still critical of them because they would not accept His testimony about who He was, the Son of God.

This passage applies equally well to us today. There are those who diligently read their Bibles and there are those who never read them. It is easy for the “readers” to get puffed up in their minds thinking they are superior to the non-readers or the every-now-and-then-readers. I know that I have often caught myself feeling a bit smug when the pastor reads the scripture for his sermon and I discover that is was a passage I had at some point in time highlighted it in my Bible. I have been guilty of taking pride in how fast I can locate a particular scripture passage during a worship service. And then a sense of conviction comes over me and I feel about one inch high.

The test of salvation has nothing to do with how many Bible verses I have read or can locate at the drop of a hat or can quote from memory. And even though the study of scripture is good and necessary for a healthy relationship with Jesus, it isn’t the first thing. The first thing is to accept Jesus into your heart, and the second is to apply His truths to your life.

Have you welcomed Jesus into your heart? Have you allowed Him to sit in the driver’s seat of your life? If not, He is waiting for you to invite Him in. Don’t worry about using the right words, it is your heart He is interested in, not words. He will pick up where you leave off and show you the way.

Jesus we love you and want to know you better. Help us to love you more. Grow us up in our faith and enable us to seek you with our whole hearts.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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The following blog inspired me to write this post: http://windowstomysoul.blogspot.com/2008/10/searching-for-deeper-life.html

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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