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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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Isaiah 53:1-9 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What was behind it all? Why did Jesus allow people to abuse him the way He did? I remember a time when a friend of mine suggested that Jesus had just given up on the world and let His enemies put an end to His life. According to my friend there was an article in Playboy magazine about it.

Read what God had to say about Him before Jesus ever came to earth. Here is Jesus’ destiny spelled out in words only those who choose to be ignorant can deny. Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself in Isaiah 53:1-9.

Jesus didn’t attract crowds because he was handsome or winsome in his manner. He attracted crowds by doing miracles of healing and feeding people.

The people loved him for the things he could do for them, not for his messages of faith. His true followers were few. He knew the people’s hearts and thoughts. He knew they would abandon him when there was conflict.

Jesus experienced the sorrow of this knowledge long before he experienced the sorrow in its highest hour: his crucifixion, separation from God Himself, and death. He experienced the torture of the Roman soldiers. First their ridicule, then the crown of thorns, then the beating with the whip containing fragments of bone to tear His flesh. Then he had to carry his own cross up the hill (until he stumbled and fell under its weight and a bystander was ordered to carry it the rest of the way). He was then nailed to the cross, the cross was lifted up and dropped into the post-hole that had been dug in the ground. There he was left to die a grueling death of suffocation that resulted from the way crucifixion was designed to torture its victims.

Why did Jesus do this? Why did he allow this to happen to Him without opening His mouth to defend Himself? Because He knew that He was the only person in all eternity who would be in a position to be the sacrifice to pay for our sins. The only sacrifices God would accept had to be perfect in every way. No other human would ever be able to come close to this, yet Jesus had fulfilled the requirement completely.

All of Jesus’ sufferings were endured for one reason alone: to show us his unconditional love and to pay the price God requires to cover our sins. Put your name in the scripture verse every place you see a pronoun such as “we” or “our” or “us.” It is that personal.

If you accept this wonderful news along with this most gracious gift, then you are accepted by God as His own. You will be welcomed into His Kingdom when this fleeting life is over. If you reject this news as foolishness, then you declare yourself to be a fool who says in his heart there is no God. (See Psalm 14:1) There is no hope for you outside of what you get in this life.

If you have accepted His gift of salvation, you will be blessed. Consider how you have thanked Him? Do you simply say “Thank you, sir” and then go your own way forgetting the price he paid for your sins? I can not imagine a more ungrateful heart.

A gift is free, true, it is getting something for nothing. But I can’t help but wonder if many think they have accepted this gift when in fact they only accepted a fake ticket, like the thousands who ate the bread on the hillside when Jesus fed the multitudes. They ate the physical bread but rejected the spiritual bread Jesus had to offer. They ate to fill their stomachs, not their hearts.

Consider fresh and new if you have indeed accepted God’s gift of salvation. Reread Isaiah 53:1-9. If you heart is not filled with the kind of gratitude that makes you want to serve Him, you may never have accepted his true gift of salvation in the first place. Don’t settle for temporary bread to fill your stomach, accept the true Bread of Life. Accept Jesus for who He is, not who you want to make Him out to be, and your heart will be filled with gratitude and joy.

Father God, you know my heart. Break it if you must, but don’t allow me to settle for temporary bread that makes me think everything is OK with You when there may be real problems I need to deal with. Open my eyes and my heart to the awesomeness of your sacrifice for me so that I can respond with nothing less than full gratitude and a life dedicated in service to you.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

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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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2 Peter 3:8-10 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

When my daughter was very young I began reading Bible stories and children’s devotions to her at bedtime. I told her about heaven and that Jesus was going to come one day. I told her that there would be no pain and no tears in heaven. Due to the tension between her father and me, our home was not a happy one, and she often asked when Jesus was going to come. She was so eager for him to come.

In a similar way, many scoffers point out how many years Christians have been waiting for Jesus to come as an excuse to justify their disbelief. This passage speaks directly to this situation. God tells us He is not being slow. Rather, He is being patient. He wants to give us maximum opportunity to accept Him so we may enter His Kingdom according to His time. If a day is like a thousand years to God, we are about to enter the third day since his promise was given.

Likewise, it was approximately about 2,000 years from the time God promised that a Messiah would come until Jesus’ birth. God keeps his promises, but He does so in his own time frame. We have one instruction from him in light of this promise: He tells us to be ready.

Father God, keep fresh in our hearts the reality of Your promises. Help us to appreciate your faithfulness and generosity instead of becoming impatient or losing faith. Thank you for giving us the gift of your Son and for all the promises that He brought to us.

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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Mark 1:29-34 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The first instance of Jesus’ healing as recorded in the Gospel of Mark was when Jesus healed Simon’s (later called Peter) mother-in-law. It didn’t take long for word to spread about this miracle, and soon people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus to be healed.

It bothers me to hear people re-interpret the term demon-possessed as just another form of sickness, as if the people in Bible times lumped all the people with diseases they didn’t understand into one group and labeled them demon-possessed. A closer examination of this passage does not reveal that the demon-possessed were treated the same as the sick. I believe it is worth mentioning as well, that when Jesus drove the demons out he would not let them speak because they knew who he was. That statement wouldn’t have made any sense at all if a demon weren’t some form of being that had a will of its own. That is totally different from a disease.

It is unfortunate that the highly educated people of our time are so bent on minimizing the existence of the supernatural realm. It is even more unfortunate that now many of these same intellectual elete are opening their minds to the possibility of a spirit world through New Age thinking (which is nothing new at all – it is the ancient gods of the Middle East wearing new faces). Yet they have firmly closed their minds to the possibility that the spirit worlds that are taught in the Bible have any legitimacy at all. How foolhardy, to put it mildly.

The Bible has much to say about demonic activity, but the best passage for us to remember about it is this: “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Read the whole passage in 1 John 4:1-6. Even though demons are powerful and can cause a lot of havoc, God is greater than all of them put together. Put your trust in God alone.

Father God, we thank you for your Son Jesus who showed us that you are a God who has the power to heal and the power to keep Satan and his demons in check. And we thank you that you have given us your Spirit to strengthen us so that we too may stand against the powers of this world. Keep us close to you so that we will always be mindful of where our strength comes from.

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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     17  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 

     18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

      Isn’t it thrilling to experience being used by God and seeing positive results? There is nothing like it in the world. But oh, how easy it is to let a little success go to our heads and make us proud.

     That must have been how it was with the disciples when they returned to Jesus and gave him their report on their first mission assignment. “Even the demons submit to us…” they must have said over and over in astonishment. The danger comes when we take our eyes off of Jesus to look at what “we” did as if we deserved some of the credit. I dare say none of those disciples could have caused one demon to budge one inch without Jesus’ intervention.

     Jesus shared with them an even greater experience–Jesus had seen Satan when he fell like lightning out of heaven. He reminds the followers that he was the one who gave them the authority to do all the miracles they had done; and he was the one who protected them in it. Therefore, they should not rejoice that they bring the spirits into submission. The most important thing that they should keep their eyes on is that their names are written in the book of life,

     Lord, help us to discipline our spiritual eyes to always focus on you and what you have done, instead of looking for our own credit for our insignificant input. Make our joy complete as we remember what you did for us on the cross.

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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    32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 32-34 (NIV)

 

 

     Referring to us as sheep, Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to be afraid. He understands our fears and our limitations, yet he reassures us that it pleases God to give us his kingdom. He wants to bless us.

 

     Then Jesus encourages us to sell our possessions and give to the poor. Wow! That can feel like a punch in the stomach if our eyes are focused on the things we have worked so hard to get or the things we are still striving to obtain. But while struggling to regain our composure, Jesus gently assures us by encouraging us to provide for ourselves purses that will not wear out. The things we give away in this world are the treasures we are storing up for ourselves in heaven. 

 

     When we store up treasures for ourselves on earth, we are always at risk of having them stolen or otherwise taken from us. When we give them to others who need them, we are placing our treasures in heaven where they will never be destroyed.

 

     We so much need the courage to step out in faith on this teaching. Here in America where we have so much, especially in comparison to what people have in the impoverished nations of the world, yet we cringe to consider giving up what we have and settling for less. Lord, help us to focus our eyes on you so much that we will be willing to let you replace these earthly treasures that keep us down with heavenly treasures that will lift us up.

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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