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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 4:23-30 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Jesus had been healing people in Capernaum and the word was out. But in his home country no one was willing to believe and none were healed. The people didn’t want HIM to heal them.

Jesus reminded the people of other situations where God had led prophets away from their own people to perform miracles: Elijah was sent to a widow outside of Israel during the famine and Naaman the Syrian was the only man Elisha had healed of leprosy.

People have a way of putting stumbling blocks in front of those who are closest to them. The people who grew up with Jesus weren’t willing to believe that he could perform miracles. I can’t help but wonder how often brilliant people are held back from doing all they could because the people who surround them find reasons to discourage them.

Even more, how many times are we reluctant to ask God for a miracle because we are limited by our own faith? I must confess that I have at times refrained from publicly praying for a particular need because I didn’t want to “put God on the spot.” Perhaps I was being as callous as the people in Jesus’ home town.

I have known people who refuse to believe in miracles. Because their minds are made up and their hearts are hard, they have denied themselves the opportunity to be fully blessed by God. They remind me of the woman with the headache in the old commercial, “Mother, please! I’d rather do it myself!”

Father God, help us to have trusting hearts. Help us to be willing to believe You are who You say You are. Enable us to shed our own pride and to reach out in faith to You expecting to receive the blessings that can only be granted by a God of love, power, and might.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:22-23, Matthew 5:10-12  Click on these links to read the passages. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

 Are we willing to stand in the face of persecution and proclaim Jesus? Or would you prefer to fall in with the crowd to avoid being singled out and identified as one who has a higher calling on your life? The true saints throughout history have been willing to stand on their faith, even to the point of death. Jesus tells us we will be blessed if we suffer persecution for his sake.

Worldwide, more Christians are being persecuted for their faith than in any other time in history. Anyone who doesn’t believe this is encouraged to type the words “Christian Persecution” into a Google search and be prepared to be shocked.

Few in our country (USA) have suffered persecution for the sake of their Christian faith today, though it does happen on a lesser scale. People have lost favor with employers for standing up for what was right. Men and women may face abuse from their spouses or other family members over their decisions to worship Christ and to follow his teachings. We may experience rejection from our friends.

But times are changing, and there are more and more examples of religious persecusuion in the news every day. Just this past week two major publishers of the Bible have been sued by a homosexual man for their translations of the Bible which specifically call homosexuality a sin. Click here for more on the story. Bit by bit the ACLU, athiest groups, and other ultra liberal organizations are at work trying to chip away the evangelical Christian’s rights to openly share their faith.

Does this strike a sense of terror in the bottom of your stomach? Jesus wants to set the record straight for you by encouraging your heart. He tells his followers that those who are persecuted for his sake will be greatly blessed in heaven. The Apostle Peter also shares some encouraging words for those who suffer for the sake of Christ in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter encourages us to rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ.

We can’t help but admire Cassie Bernall, the high school student who allowed herself to be shot and killed in the Columbine High School incident because she confessed faith in Christ at gunpoint. It is wise to resolve in your heart in advance what you would do in various situations in which you could be persecuted. Having done so will make it easier to hold fast to your convictions in any given situation.

Father God, what we know personally about persecution for our faith pales in comparison to what Jesus went through when he suffered persecution even to death on the cross so that we might find forgiveness and eternal life with him in heaven. Give us the will and the courage to accept the persecution that may come to us in our lifetime, and enable us to endure in the faith giving praise and thanks to you, that we might share in your sufferings.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21b, Matthew 5:4  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

How can we be blessed when we cry? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that those who cry now will laugh in the future. Matthew’s account in 5:4 says that mourners will be comforted.

Jesus promises over and over that there will come a day when everything will be turned upside down. We will all pass through a form of judgement when God separates the sheep from the goats. People who have lost a faithful loved one who walked with Jesus in this life can more nearly know morning and joy at the same time. The contrast between sorrow and joy is perhaps never so real as when they realize that their departed loved one has left his or her broken down crippled body behind and has entered into the presence of Jesus with a glorious new body. 

But God doesn’t expect us to have to wait until we die to enjoy his blessings. Read Psalm 30 and find your spirits lifted. The Psalmist shared that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. He also declared that God had turned his wailing into dancing.

I have often heard the difference between happiness and joy explained. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We are happy when people praise us and do nice things for us. But joy is based on our contentment with our lot in life and our relationship with God. As long as our trusting eyes are focused on God, we can be content knowing we are in loving and competent hands. But when our eyes stray as we compare our circumstances to those around us who have more wealth, status, or _______ (fill in the blank), we risk losing our joy as we covet what others have.

Whoa! I’m preaching to myself today!

Father God, help me to keep my eyes focused on you alone. Help me to accept my lot in life with true joy and thanksgiving in my heart, and help me to accept disappointments without grumbling and complaining.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21, Matthew 5:6 Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

Have you ever been truly hungry? Did you consider it a blessing? Would the world consider it a blessing? These questions come to mind as I read Luke 6:21.  Jesus’ response according to Luke was that the hungry will be satisfied. It seems that Jesus was speaking in terms of eternity. This is in keeping with other statements Jesus made such as “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

It can be tempting to let this passage ease our consciences and allow us to become complacent about the multitudes of hungry people in the world. If Christians were truly allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them in their study of Scriptures, they would not be tempted to slip into this kind of thinking. Consider Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5:31-46 where he speaks of separating the sheep from the goats. Jesus told his listeners that whatever they did for the hungry and thirsty they did for him, and if they did not feed or give them water they were also denying it to him.

But God is also mindful about the here and now.  Jesus had compassion on the hungry when he multiplied bread and fish to feed the multitudes. God had compassion on the Israelites wandering in the desert and gave them manna from heaven. He also gave them water out of a rock. Perhaps our greatest hindrance from receiving his supernatural blessings is our own lack of faith that he can or will supply our needs.

Matthew expresses this Beatitude in spiritual terms as he refers to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus’ promise that they shall be filled, fortunately, more readily offers hope for at least partial fulfillment in this life. Similar verses such as “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7) quickly come to mind. Jeremiah presents the same concept emphasizing the importance of seeking God with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

I can not leave this Beatitude without bringing up fasting. This is a voluntary condition of physical hunger that holds promise of spiritual blessings for us. I confess that I have never undergone a total fast, so I am very limited in my personal experience; though a personal friend (who is much younger than I) went on a fast for several days. I was amazed at her testimony of how God worked through her in a supernatural way during her fasting experience. This is surely a means of drawing close to God that is underestimated by many Christians today.

Heavenly Father, enlighten us with your Holy Spirit to understand the teachings you have for us in your Holy Word, the Bible. Help us not to fall away by denying the truths you have given to us. Help us to be aware of your blessings when the world tells us we are losing. Help us to give thanks in all circumstances, even if we are hungry and thirsty; and if we are well fed and satisfied, help us to have compassion for others who are not.

Disclaimer: Since I began this study of the Beatitudes in the book of Luke, I have continued with 6:21 recognizing that doing so has caused me to skip Matthew 5:4-5 which I will pick up later. I’m glad I’m only commited to a blog and not a book or magazine article as I write this, in which case I would start over and use Matthew to guide the study with cross references to Luke.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:20Matthew 5:3  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read the first of the Beatitudes in Luke I kept saying to myself that this wasn’t the way I remembered it. I searched several translations, but still couldn’t find one that started “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Instead I kept finding “Blessed are the poor.” I finally realized that I learned the Beatitudes from Matthew and not Luke.

So which is it? I could get all uptight over this and say that both should report this exactly the same way, but I have resolved in my heart to not let such minor differences unsettle my faith. In fact, quite the opposite. The fact that two different people reported the same instances with so many details that are the same bears witness to the fact that they didn’t need to consult with each other to tell the story. Both were capable writers and independent witnesses to the historical facts of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

So which is it? I believe that God was present in the Spirit when both accounts were written and both accurately express what he wants us to know. There are blessings that only the poor can know. Life can be simpler when you don’t have to worry about losing your fortune if the stock market crashes. The poor are less likely to have a child kidnapped for ransom. But even more importantly, the poor have learned to trust God to meet their needs.

Comparisons have been made on who is more generous, the rich or the poor, and it is the poor who will give the greater percent of their income to help others. This is perhaps one example of the freedom that the poor experience but that is elusive to the rich. Perhaps this is in part how theirs (the poor) is the kingdom of heaven.

The insertion of the words “in spirit” as seen in Matthew’s account changes the meaning a little, but it is still within the framework of the rest of Biblical teaching. Therefore I believe this is equally valid in the Beatitudes. When I think of being poor in spirit, I think of brokenness. We are a stiff-necked people, we make our plans and expect God to bless them (not the other way around). We tend to think we are in control of our lives, and when things seem to start spinning out of control we panic and fall to our knees making demands on God. Somewhere down in the bottom of all this turmoil is where we come to our wit’s end. This is where our spirit is finally broken, and where we look up to God and ask him to fix the mess we have made of our lives. The blessing God gives for a broken spirit is eternal life as we turn our lives over to him. This is the kingdom of heaven.

I have been worrying over my financial future as I face an earlier than advisable retirement in January. So now that I have wrestled through these scriptures, I need to re-read my own post. It is re-assuring that God has so much to say about trusting him with our tomorrows. Then to consider that I might be more fully blessed if I am poor than if I were rich… that boggles my mind in a comforting way.

I have been weighing out in my mind whether I should spend next week in a Salkehatchie Summer Service camp. It will be a last minute decision, but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for thirteen years, ever since the time I first learned about the program. I think this passage of scripture will take on even more meaning as I work through the week.

Father God, you know the blessings that are the best. Help us to see life through your eyes and not the eyes of the world. Help us to be satisfied, even generous, with what you have given us.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:17-23 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

When most people think of blessings, they think of the last time they received unexpected money, honor, man’s applause, being healed of a disease or injury, gifts, things going right making life easier for ourselves… the list could go on and on. But Jesus gave us a new twist on how we should view blessings in the spiritual realm.

The word had gotten out about Jesus’ power to heal the sick and the multitudes began to seek him out wherever he went. Jesus saw that the people were seeking him only for the physical healing he could give them. He then spoke to his disciples explaining the source of true spiritual blessings. His words suprised the people then, and still surprise us today. They are like a foreign language to those who are unable to see the wisdom contained in them. It is clear that Jesus expects his followers to rise above the “me first” way of thinking and to be willing to sacrifice our own needs and wants for the sake of others.

I plan to deal with each statement in the Beatitudes with separate posts.

Lord give us wisdom to understand everything you have to say to us. When your words seem difficult let us seek you out with hearts that are willing to listen. Help us to step outside earthly wisdom to seek the higher wisdom that you have to give to those who are willing to seek it.

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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Luke 4:16-30 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

After Jesus began his public ministry in the region called Galilee he went to his hometown of Nazareth where the people had already heard rumors of the wonderful things he had been doing in the other towns.

Jesus first went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, the same as he had done in the other towns. When he stood up to read he was given the scroll that contained the book of Isaiah. He unrolled it to the prophecy that was written about himself and read it to the people. Then he put the scroll down and told the people that today the scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing.

Because the people had already known Jesus they could not believe this message. His purity up to this point had been taken for granted, and they were unwilling to give him credibility as the Messiah or as a miracle worker or healer. Instead they ran him out of town and attempted to throw him over a cliff. Because of the disbelief of the people of Nazareth, Jesus was unable to bless them with his miracles.

How often do we deny God the opportunity to do miracles in our lives because we take him for granted or because we think the miracle we hope for is too big for God to handle? Are we sometimes afraid to risk our own credibility by publicly asking for prayer because we are afraid God won’t answer our prayer and we will be seen as foolish? I have known people whose liberal “Christian” theology and sceptical faith in miracles have prevented them from asking for blessings they could have received.

Let us not be guilty of having the hometown mentality that the people of Nazareth had on that Sabbath day. We need to be careful that we don’t let our familiarity with rituals and the Christian language become a form of vaccination that prevents us from understanding the Christian message in its fullness, and keeps us from digging deeper for a closer and more genuine walk with Jesus.

Father God, walk with us daily. Help us to see the good news of Jesus as fresh and new every morning so that we don’t lose its meaning in its familiarity. Help us to keep our faith alive and well so we never lose the blessings that are ours through faith in you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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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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