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But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. (2 Peter 3:10-11 NIV)

Have you heard the latest predictions? The world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012 – so some people think. Search Google and find out for yourself about some of these wild predictions. Does this put fear in your heart?

Our Bible passage was written almost 2000 years ago with a message that is quite similar, but the world seems to have dismissed this warning. Only a few have taken it seriously in recent years. But now with this new prophecy more people are tieing it together.

These doomsday predictors are missing one significant point. The day of destruction will come like a thief in the night. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus tells his disciples, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

According to this passage contemporary prophecies like December 21, 2012 are wrong. How can any mortal man have more knowledge about the end of time than Jesus and all the angels in heaven?

The Bible tells us there will be rumors of this kind in the end times. So for that reason I believe the end times may be very near. We may see it in our own lifetimes. But we have no guarantee of three more years, it could come today or tomorrow or next week. Like Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

The other side of this issue is that the end of the world may not happen for another thousand years. Many have predicted a specific day for Christ’s return and the day came and went without incident. These people were prepared to go to eternity, but they weren’t prepared for tomorrow and the day after that. Our nation and world have become very unstable in many ways. We need to be paying attention and preparing ourselves to survive within our communities by working together and living in harmony with one another.

What would Jesus find in your heart and life if he came today? Are you focused on yourself or on the needs of others? 2 Peter 3:11-18 offers a plan of action for preparing for the last days. Become pure and blameless. Live at peace with God.

Make certain of your salvation. Your life in eternity is at stake. Seek the LORD while he may be found;  call on him while he is near.. (Isaiah 55:6)

Are you ready? Jesus is eagerly waiting for you to seek his face.

Dear Father God, guard over our hearts and lives. Help us to seek you with all our hearts so we will be ready for you when you come. Guide our steps in the way you would have us to go so that we may spend eternity with you in heaven.

For more on the end of time, read both of these chapters in their entirety by following these links: 2 Peter 3, and Matthew 24.

© 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.

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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manupmen left the following question under the contact section of my blog: If God loved the cardinal, why did He let it hit the car?

Reference my earlier post: God Cares About my Troubles

Your question is so valid.

We people want God to keep everything rosy and perfect for us. You are concerned about the cardinal as I was. But God is seeing the world through a different set of eyes. His eyes are able to see beyond the tragedies and into eternity. Eternity is our final home, the home that is for keeps, our truest security.

The cardinal is a bird, not like human life. Cardinals and people die every day. God loves the cardinals and the people, He made them. God notices when a bird dies and cares that it died for no aparent reason as happened when this one was struck by my car. But in the world He created, there is a food chain that makes use of everything, even if the bird didn’t die a natural death.

As the scripture says, we are worth so much more than the sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31) God does intervene on our behalf, though not always in the same way we ask. God looks at a much bigger picture than we are able to see though our eyes in the here and now. Sometimes God is using our troubles to re-shape our lives, to teach us new things, or simply to help us to re-focus our attention on Him.

And God sees past our world into Eternity. Once we are on the other side, our troubles will seem much smaller in comparison to how we see them now. There is a song called Until Then that has a line in it that says our troubles “remembered there will only bring a smile.” Follow the link to listen to it on UTube. Our lives are but a breath compared to the time we have in eternity. Look to Jesus during the troubles in your life and trust God with the big picture.

Several years ago when I was struggling in a marriage that eventually failed, I was going through a time of depression and low morale. As I drove down the street that turned beside the Post Office in our town I was suddenly aware of two cardinals fluttering up and down immediately in front of me. One of the birds hit the hood of my car and dropped into the street.

I immediately parked my car and got out to lift the bird from the street and laid it on the grass. I was remembering a time when a bird flew into a window and only knocked itself out, later to recover and fly away. I hoped that the cardinal might revive in a similar way since I had been driving fairly slowly. But the bird showed no signs of life. The other bird watched from a near-by tree.

I circled the block several times in the next two or three hours but my cardinal did not revive. I was reminded of the scripture about how God notices when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Read Matthew 10:28-31.

If I cared enough to circle the block so many times for this little red cardinal that I night not have even noticed had it not flown into my car, how much more God cares about me and the things that were weighing me down. I returned home comforted by God’s love.

I’ve always loved the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Perhaps you will find comfort in it as well. This is a link to Sandi Patti singing it on UTube.

Father, Thank you for watching over me through your infinite love and compassion. Thank you for helping me through many troubles. Help me to remember the times you showed me your love when I become burdened with the cares of today. Help me keep my eye on you like you keep your eye on the sparrow and on me so I can be filled with your eternal joy.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Matthew 6 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

As I read this chapter the same message seemed to come to me over and over…  It isn’t about me – it is all about Jesus Christ.  We must not fast and pray to be seen by men because it isn’t about us, and we will never steal Jesus’ glory.  Our possessions shouldn’t be hoarded for our own benefit here on earth – they are meant to be used to glorify Christ and to draw others to him.  If our hearts are in our earthly treasures we will waste away with nothing to show for our life on earth.  If we hold our treasures with open hands and allow God to work through us, then he will supply our every need, clothing us like the flowers in the fields and providing for us like the birds of the air.

Now if I can just remember this until tomorrow.  How easy it is to get our eyes off Christ and onto ourselves and our own circumstances.

Father, help us to embed these verses firmly into our hearts and our thoughts. Help us hold your blessings with open hands and a spirit of sharing.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Matthew 6:19-21  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What do you value most in life? What is it in your life that compels you into action? What would you go to great lengths to protect or preserve? Do you invest time in something or someone to see it develop and grow? What occupies your mind and/or keeps you awake at night?

If we ask ourselves questions like these we should discover where our treasure is. How does your treasure measure up to the passage in Matthew 6:19-21? Does your treasure have eternal value, or is it simply something that will make life easier for yourself? Are you working for your families needs or are you spoiling them by trying to satisfy all their wants? 

I’m so near retirement age that it scares me. Then I remember this passage. It makes me stop and think about where my treasure is. If I am overly wrapped up in meeting my own unforeseen needs I may be overlooking opportunities that are right in my path for laying up treasures in heaven. And those are the only treasures that are truly ours to keep.

Father, help me to value the things that you value. Help me to keep a check on the desires of my heart that they may be alligned with your purpose and will. Help me to focus my eyes on your treasures and not on self-centered treasures that have no eternal value.

Copyright © 2008 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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