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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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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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