Impossible Faith – 83

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There’s a lot of nasty stuff happening in the world today. Might even be happening around you. You might be in an impossible situation. Fatal health condition. Might seem like the devil is out to get you, personally. Ouch! 

Well, live like Paul did with faith in God. Gal 2:20. Consider what Jesus said in Mk 11 when the disciples noticed the fig tree Jesus cursed previously now totally dead. Jesus told them God is listening to you! He’s paying attention – to you. You matter to God. What’s important to you – is important to Him. Others may say it’s impossible, but with God involved, all things are possible!

There IS NO HOPELESS SITUATION in God. Jesus in Mk 11:22-24 says, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you (NOW LISTEN), all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you HAVE received them, and they WILL be granted you.

Yes, I know some preachers put the burden on you, to have enough faith, to confess, to stand and so on until you are utterly exhausted and under the weight of condemnation. Don’t believe it! Faith the size of a mustard seed, very tiny, can move a mountain – Mt 17:20, or cast a mulberry tree into the ocean – Lu 17:6. Friend, it’s not about OUR GREAT FAITH, something we can boast in; it’s all about WHO we are TRUSTING: Almighty God!

Dial back from the crushing urgency of the issues engulfing you. Use those eyes of faith. See Jesus at Calvary – for you. See Jesus now seated in the heavenlies upon the throne of all authority. Then pray! Ask for impossible things in your life.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely  give  us  all  things?” Ro 8:32. 

Pray! Believe you’ve been heard – the answer is on its way. It will be as you have believed. You have COME ALIVE to the LIVING GOD!

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Children of GOD #82

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Gen 1 – is awesome. In a simple sentence, it confirms our origins: In the BEGINNING, GOD created the heavens and earth.

The apostle John confirms it, beginning his gospel saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. God has created everything, except for Himself.

The author of Hebrews also agrees, opening by saying in verses 2 & 3: “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And upholds all things by the word of His power.

The universe was created by God. FOR GOD. Jesus owns the universe. And He keeps it held together – the atoms, protons, electrons – everything. With all this, does  He care for us humans?

Listen to John 1:12&13 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

We are not little nothings, of no account. He LOVES man! He LOVES YOU and me! We just heard that He offers ALL men the opportunity to receive Him and in doing so they become CHILDREN of GOD. A child has a like nature and character as their parents. WHOA! Did you catch that?

It took the unbelievable / incredible DEATH of Jesus to accomplish all this. Jesus died for US, to elevate us to sit with Him on His throne – eternally. That’s Eph 2:6

Scared of falling from that high elevation HE has put you in? Don’t be! Heb 4:14 Jesus our great high priest is always making intercession for us – eternally!

And remember all of chapter 10 of Hebrews: Jesus came to earth to do away with SIN, to do away with the need for a further sin offering. He was the last and perfect offering for sin, forever. Why, He has also done away with even the REMEMBRANCE of SIN!

Today friend, give GLORY to GOD. Praise Him for adopting us, REJOICE — keep on RECEIVING all He has to give you – and COME ALIVE and ALIVER and ALIVER! Forever!

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Superbowl Parable # 81

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Let me share a parable with you. There once was man who had grown up in a small town, moved away, and became rich. Very  rich. Unimaginably rich. He loved his home town, and he wanted to do something memorable for it. 

Well, there was the Super Bowl of sports coming. The whole world wanted to go. Ticket prices were stratospheric and hard to get. But his man also had connections. He went and bought tickets for everyone in town. Everyone! Food and beverage was covered. And parking. And hotel rooms. If anyone has been to a big sporting event you know those ‘extra’ prices can be HUGE. Everything was taken care of – all a person need do was say the rich man’s name and it was free.

Special arrangements were made for people in prison and in the hospitals. No one was left out. The rich man sent messengers to the town to tell everyone personally of the Good News. But you know what happened? Many people did not believe it! Too good to true, they said. Free? Then it can’t be any good said others. Some prisoners said it couldn’t be for them, they were too bad a person. Unworthy of such favor. They didn’t understand they would receive white garments to wear with the rich man’s logo on it – no one would ever know what kind of person they had been outside of the event.

Some even beat up the messengers. When the rich man found out, he told his messengers to go out and tell everyone the Good News, not just the town, so all the seats would be filled. He was generous and kind! 

Well they did! For those who believed and went, it was pure Joy and Gladness. Feasting and Celebrating. A time such as they had never experienced before. They praised and thanked the rich man for his love and generosity! Those who refused the invitation—well, they lost out. By their own decision.

My friend, it’s likely you know the REAL Good News about JESUS! I urge to share this Good News with others. That they may believe and receive — and Come Alive! Check out Matt 22 the wedding feast, Luke 14 the great banquet, and John 1:11-12 about believing and receiving for the details!

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The Gospel part k #80

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The Gospel of God’s Grace declares that His love is greater than your sin, and there is nothing you can do to earn it! 

The only thing you can do is — RECEIVE IT. Don’t hold back. Stop believing untruths that imply God will love you only if you measure up to certain standards. Or get yourself cleaned up. And live right. Go to church. Whatever. You know the drill.

God is NOT standing with crossed arms and a frown when He looks down on you. He has His arms wide open – remember Calvary – the Cross – Jesus’ arms open wide there, in LOVE for each of us. Religion says God is angry and maybe hates you. But grace says God is always in a good mood for the perfect sacrifice has been made and now His favor rests upon you. Religion says you have to get yourself sorted out and cleaned up before you can come home. Grace shouts, “Come as you are!”

You know what you need my friend? You need to let God love you the way HE wants to love you.

Stop putting your own restrictions on His love! God’s love changes us. Just look at that murderer Saul. Literally killing Christians. Then he encountered Divine Love. In a very short period of time his old buddies – wanted to kill HIM, because He was preaching Jesus and His resurrection. It’s time you settle yourself into the Father’s loving arms of love.

While the love of God is transformational, you will not know that unless you go beyond mental assent into actual experience. So how do you receive the love of God? Well, reject those thoughts or mistaken beliefs that God is unhappy with you, or that your sin is a block between you and God. When a person turns to the Lord, He takes away sin. Demons may try to keep you from receiving the love of God, through unbelief. Use Jesus’ name and bind them!
Then, and this is only one possibility, simply get quiet and talk to your heavenly Father – tell Him you receive His love and ask Him to pour it out over you.
Yes, receive His love, and COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part j #79

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No one sets out to waste their lives, but this is what happens when we live disconnected from the Author of Life. When we try to write our own story, without input from him, we write inferior stories. Even if our lives have the appearance of success, they leave us empty and unfulfilled because we were not made to live alone. 

We were made to live in communion with God! Whoa! That’s BIG and it’s true! So, I ask you, “How is your relationship with God? How’s it working?”

Some people define their relationship as one of:
Obedience. “We must obey God and all of His rules and commandments. God sees and rewards.”
– For some, it’s attitude. “We must always make a good effort. God sees and rewards.”
– For some, it’s about sacrifice. “We must give all we can to the work of God. God sees and rewards.”
– For others, it’s about fruit. “We must prove ourselves as His disciples and bear much fruit. God sees and rewards.”

Do you see a common denominator in all these, friends? It is the person. Their performance. And people who say such things are admitting they do not know God very well at all. Their communion at best is that of a mere servant. A rule keeping servant.

Rule keeping IS clean cut in comparison to the confusing freedom of relationship. But to prefer or demand rules is a sure sign one does not know the love of God. Jesus gave His life for so much MORE!

True, when asked Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God totally. But think: commandments are rules, and God’s rules applied – BEFORE THE CROSS – to reveal our need for a Savior. Read Galatians. Hebrews. Romans 3-8.

Now, we have been freed from rule-keeping. Instead of rules, our focus is JESUS. We sit at His feet like Mary did, and receive. Yes, sit at Jesus’ feet. Receive His love. Then arise and give that love away, the love that never fails, to this hurting and needy world.

And you know what? Others will say that the love coming from you is nothing less than divine and causing them – to COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part i #78

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The Gospel IS – the GOOD NEWS! First and foremost is the fact that God Loves YOU! John 3:16 begins, “for God so loved the world….” Are you a part of the world? Then you are loved by God! Will He love you MORE if you try harder to keep the 10 Commandments? Most people think so but they are wrong. We live under the New Covenant, not the Old Mosaic one. Our performance FOR God does not determine the measure of God’s love for US.

Is 54:10 tells us even if the mountains are removed, His unfailing love will never be removed – it’s the real thing.
Ro 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Before we made ANY attempt at doing right, at repenting and turning TO GOD, God was loving us and busy opening up heaven’s gates through Christ’s blood. Now THAT’S GOOD NEWS!

What about the wrath of God you may ask? GOOD QUESTION! Search the scriptures and you will find the wrath of God being visited upon the ungodly. Jesus drank willingly of the cup of the wrath of God so it would not come upon anyone who believes in Him as their Savior. Yes, He saves today still!

Furthermore, Jesus is our High Priest, always making intercession for us. That Great White Throne of Judgment in Revelation? Thanks to Jesus has become a Throne of Grace for us to approach confidently, with the expectation of finding mercy and grace – Hebrews 4:16. The love of God has covered all the bases, my friend.

How about Jer 31:3b in The Message? “Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them! God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!””

Many people think of God’s love in terms of their own love: weak, conditional, seasonal, whatever. God’s love however, is unfailing and unconditional. 

Today, wondering where is God? Are you wondering if He cares for you? Look at the CROSS. It is a mighty declaration of God’s grace and favor. It’s the Good News. 

Yup, look at the Cross, my friend, and COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part h #77

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The Gospel is called the GOOD NEWS! It is all GOOD News—there is NO bad news in it! You DO know that, right? The Gospel is an announcement – a Savior, who does not play favorites, has come and completed His mission: to save all of humanity. He succeeded, and forever we shall be singing and shouting His praises!

Many Christian’s perceptions of God are of Him looking down from heaven with a frown on His face. They believe He is displeased with them. That their Christian performance is not good enough. That is NOT True. Jesus’ blood covered every sin and failure and He has given us a new heart so we don’t want to do iniquity. Thanks to Jesus, God is eternally pleased with us – IF – and there is only 1 “IF” – you believe this GOOD NEWS! Believe it! Call out to Jesus today.

Don’t you see Jesus’ love for you revealed at Calvary? It’s true. Jesus took care of our sin issue there, and that’s the truth. When we believe in Him, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He makes us a holy vessel, His sanctuary, His dwelling place. We are not some kind of vacation cottage that Jesus visits from time to time. NO! We are His dwelling place. He lives in us now and He will never leave us!

Learn what it means to have Jesus living IN you. It’s better than that 100 million dollars I mentioned last message. Paul calls this learning “working out our salvation.” Phil 2:12. Don’t ignore Jesus within you, but learn what it means to walk through life WITH THE LIVING GOD! As you do so with humility, you will find this outworking of your salvation being accompanied by that fear and trembling Paul mentions.

How do you, discover the Mighty God of creation within you? Begin responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Soon you’ll be overcome with joy and gladness of heart as you realize God cares for you. About every thing in your life. YES! Don’t you see? This working out of your salvation is helping you – to  COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part g #76

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I’ve been sharing about the Gospel. You know, it’s THE GOOD NEWS! Just how good? How about this. Suppose you have a huge mortgage and are not making the payments. And you have 2 car loans and you are behind in both. Plus medical bills, college loans, and your credit cards are max’d out. And you have been laid off work. You are in bad shape!

So you go to the bank in hopes of gaining a little time on your payments. The bank manager sits you down – this doesn’t look good. But he says, “The most amazing thing happened. Earlier today a stranger came into the bank, and he paid your mortgage in full, plus the penalties. And paid off your car loans. And your college loans. And your credit cards.” Glad you were sitting down because you would have fallen over!

“And that’s not all,” the bank manager says. “That same fellow put 100 million dollars into your bank account and said he’d be back from time to time so you would never run low.” Run low on 100 million dollars? Friend, that’s a Great Salvation in the financial realm!

In the spiritual realm our situation was much much worse; we each had a debt would could not begin to pay! A sin debt, and it was killing us. But Jesus came and paid it all in full! Now get this, Ro 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

What could be better than 100 million spiritual dollars? How about God’s promise to give us all things—starting with Himself. Yes, that’s right! You heard me. First He had to change us into new creations where the old has passed away—old, like sin and failure and defeat. And made us into new creations that could relate to Him.

Then, as Col 1:27 says, Jesus Christ came to live IN us, each of us, to walk through life, to enjoy life with us – eternally! That’s a Great Salvation! And it’s ours!
Dear friend – this – is the true Gospel – believe it – receive it – and COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part f #75

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I’ve been sharing about the Gospel, the True Gospel, you know, the one with great joy just like the angel said. The one with a Great Salvation because a Great Savior, God Himself, Jesus Christ, who is at the center of things. Everything!

The True Gospel is the one that leads us to the all sufficiency of Christ Jesus. It is the one that reveals the beauty of Jesus and our dependency upon Him. Is that the gospel you have learned my friend? Or does yours leave you to your own willpower and resources to measure up to God’s requirements? Well, that’s Old Covenant friend – it’s time to move on!

Remember: the True Gospel is all about Jesus and what He has done – for us. Other messages that spin the focus on you and YOUR performance are not genuine. Grace, and Gospel is the Good News of God’s grace toward us, will point us to the CROSS where our sins were dealt with – once and for all. We are no longer sinners held captive to sin. We are new creations, free in Christ, and learning to walk.

Again, the True Gospel will point us to Jesus and the Cross. We do not work for forgiveness. It was paid for and freely offered at Calvary. Are you a believer in Jesus and what He did there? Then you already have forgiveness – remember, Jesus paid for EVERY sin at Calvary. Not most, but ALL. You ARE forgiven. There is no longer any memory of sin. Heb 8:12

Ro 5:17 says we have been given the GIFT of His righteousness – we have been placed in full right standing before God. Forever. How good is that righteousness? 2 Cor 5:21 says it is “the righteousness of GOD in Him” that we’ve been given. That’s total and forever approval, my friend!

Think about that – you will soon be jumping in joy and hugging your heavenly Father without fear as the revelation sinks in. So, stop trying to pay for what God has freely given. Open up your Bible – read about the true Gospel – and COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part e #74

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I love in Heb 2:3 how the author refers to “so great a salvation.” The author is shouting, “Don’t miss this salvation, folks!” The LORD was the first to fully declare it, he says, and then God Himself testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit.” God does NOT want us to overlook this Great Salvation, either. It’s Good News!

Can you imagine those scenes in Bible times? The GOOD NEWS being declared: God loves you; He has sent us a Savior: Jesus, who has taken our sins to Calvary; turn from idols to Jesus today. And BOOM, there are these miracles and signs and wonders everywhere, so people would not miss this GREAT SALVATION.

So how’s your gospel? Counterfeits of the True Gospel may sound appealing, but they don’t actually work; they do not set us free. Instead of lasting peace they bring burdens of DOUBT, DEBT, DUTY, DEPRESSION. There is no Great Salvation in them!

Gal 3:3 says when we got saved, it was by the Spirit. Then Paul goes on to ask, having started that way, are we now trying to make ourselves complete by our own efforts? Are you working at staying saved by your strength or are you learning what it means TO BE SAVED? It’s a Great Salvation, folks!

Does your gospel cause you to focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith? Or does it make you self-conscious? “I have to pray, I have to fast, I have give.” Are you worn out over good works, missions sacrifices, and sowing into the Kingdom?

Don’t misunderstand me; it is not that these things are bad – but – if your thinking is that God’s favor depends on your performances in those areas, you have been believing a lie! You are trying to pay for what God has freely given!

And that’s a counterfeit gospel. You cannot pay for God’s Great Salvation – but you CAN receive it! This Great Salvation— eternal life, intimacy with God Himself, came at unimaginable expense, an expense that Jesus has paid in full – so that we – could COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part d #73

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The true Gospel? It’s REALLY REALLY Good News!

Before I became a Christian, I thought God was displeased with me. Maybe even angry. I’d heard about Jonathan Edward’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an ANGRY God.” Hmmm, that message, while it brought results in 1741 as part of the Great Awakening, gave me a picture of God as someone I certainly did not want to meet, for I already knew by the time I was a teenager that I was a sinner. The future was scary to me. Maybe I could ignore God and God would ignore me? You can see that I did not know the Good News. 

Maybe you are in need of some GOOD NEWS today—well here’s some: 1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the appeasement)  for our sins.” Before you and I were born, my friend, God took care of all our sins before we could commit them. That’s GOOD NEWS! 

Here’s another one, that explodes my mind when I try to comprehend it: 1 John 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” Imagine, not slaves, servants, robots, but His own children – able to call God our FATHER, to call upon Him at any time for help, for encouragement, for, for, ANYTHING! That’s GOOD NEWS!

And 1 Cor 13, known as the LOVE chapter. It reveals God’s nature, for God IS love. Consider these words: “God is patient, God is kind; …God does not act unbecomingly (in other words, He does not put you down); God is not provoked, God does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Have you trespassed against God? He does not take into account that wrong suffered; for Jesus has already accounted for it, dear friend. That’s who God is, and it’s mighty GOOD NEWS. 

Believe upon Jesus, Acts 16:31, call out to Him, Ro 10:8-10, you will be saved—and become His child. That’s all that it takes from us: believe, call out, be saved, become HIS OWN! And you know what? You will – COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part c #72

Welcome to Hank’s Place – 72 the Gospel (part c) 

Recently I’ve been asking the question: do you know the true Gospel? It’s not a trick question, it’s just that so many people don’t really know what the Good News is.

So far we have learned that God loved the world, loved us while we were still sinners, and that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, taking our sins and the punishment they deserved. Then, in proof that the plan was successful, Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and took His place at the right hand of the Father; His work of accomplishing our salvation—was FINISHED.

Do you believe this Gospel? God willing to die for us rather than live without us–whoa! God, who loves us unconditionally–double down amazing! This is the true nature of God – that’s why I’m calling it the true Gospel.

There’s more to the Gospel, much much more. Jeremiah says, and it is repeated in Heb 8:10, that He has written His laws upon our hearts: we no longer have a heart of rebellion toward God, we WANT to do His will from our hearts! He has changed our hearts, and that’s Good News! And He has written His laws upon our minds: we can know, thanks to the Holy Spirit, what the will of God is.

We have DIED with Him to the Law and to sin and its power. Ro 6:2, 11. We have been placed into UNION with God Jn 14:20; Col 2:6. No wonder Jesus could say He would be with us always. Mt 28:20.

We have been forgiven for all time. Acts 5:31 We are His eternally, friends! Not conditionally accepted based on our behavior, but forever accepted. We are never in the dog house, my friend!

Got a storm in life? That’s not the time to doubt your relationship with God. Don’t think that God is punishing you. Storms do come in life. To everyone. But be secure. JESUS is ALWAYS THE ANSWER and He’s our Good News! And He intercedes for us eternally. Heb 7:25. So stop worrying, my friend, and COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part b #71

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As I have said, it’s a fact that most people do not know the true Gospel. Including many theologians! Last time we found that JOY is a key sign of someone knowing the Gospel, for the angel at Jesus’ birth declared the Gospel was great JOY for ALL people: their Savior was born. Lu 2:9-11.

Then we read: Ro 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” THAT’S GOOD NEWS! It’s the GOSPEL. 

And consider John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He GAVE. The Gospel is LOVE backed up with a gift: JESUS.

Are you stuck in performance based religion? You know, doing all you’ve been told to do – but God’s promised blessings of forgiveness, acceptance, provision, peace, joy, always seem out of reach? Well, get off that hamster wheel of performance, and believe the true Gospel!

Paul gives us another element of the true Gospel. It’s found in 1 Cor 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance [this is the CORE of the GOSPEL Paul is saying] what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Without the resurrection you do not have the GOSPEL! 

Paul repeats in Ro 1:4 “Jesus was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Without the resurrection, some may doubt Jesus succeeded in taking our sins.
Without the resurrection, some may doubt Jesus succeeded in taking the punishment for our sins.

Out of LOVE, Jesus Christ DID take our sins, and the punishment due us, and gave us right standing before God the Father (we are righteous my friend). The resurrection is the proof that He succeeded and heaven’s gates are open wide to welcome us. It is DONE, my friend.

So, today, in faith, believe and receive the Gospel. Say, “Lord, look at all that YOU have done for us!” and— COME ALIVE!

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Gospel part a #70

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Did you know that most people are unsure of who God is and what He thinks of them? In other words, they do not know the Gospel is.

YOU can know the Bible from cover to cover and still not know the Gospel! Imagine: theologians knowing ancient Hebrew and Greek and bible history, but missing the Gospel. It is positively possible!

Do YOU know what the Gospel is? Remember that angel at the time of Jesus’ birth? He said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY which will be for ALL the people; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a SAVIOR, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.

Good News, or ‘the GOSPEL,’ for EVERYONE: a Savior, born FOR US. News of GREAT JOY.

JOY then, is the KEY EVIDENCE that you know the true Gospel. Got JOY? Do you feel like a fraud on Sundays with a plastic smile in church? Smiling on the outside, but inside a pit of depression, anxiety, fear, condemnation? If so, I submit to you that you have not really heard the GOSPEL.

Are the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John “the Gospel?” NO. They are eye witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Totally awesome. The Gospel can be found in each of them but they include much more than ‘the Gospel.’ And people can get confused at just what is the Gospel within them.

The words of Jesus — are they the Gospel? Not necessarily. He lived before the Cross. He lived under the LAW and preached LAW to those who lived under it. Grace abounded around Him, but His words may or may not have been ‘the Gospel’ depending. Think of His words to the hypocritical Pharisees and lawyers.

“You must turn from sin” is not the Gospel. It is what Moses and John the Baptist preached.

Nor is just believing real hard about something the Gospel – ‘Just have faith, man,’ is not the Gospel. These both focus on you and your capability. Not the Gospel! The Gospel is about a Savior—the angel just told us!

How about: Ro 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The CROSS shows us He loved us while we were yet sinners. THAT’s GOOD NEWS! That’s a GOSPEL message.

There’s more to the Gospel, but that’s for next time. Today, I urge you, BELIEVE this much of the GOOD NEWS: God loves us – enough to die FOR us. Yes, it’s true. Believe it, let JOY explode in your heart, and — COME ALIVE!

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Resurrection Sunday #69

It’s Resurrection Sunday — Easter, and welcome to Hank’s Place

Does Jesus REALLY care for me? Does He have feelings toward you? Lot’s of people wonder – “Do I really matter to Jesus?”

Lets go back to that first Resurrection morning – earlier, those women from Galilee had witnessed Jesus’ death on the Cross. His own mother, Mary Mag, Mary mother of James and Joseph, mother of the sons of Zebedee, Salome, Joanna.

They came to the tomb – early! With spices. No one expected Jesus to be alive. But there were those angels: “Why do you seek the living among the dead – He’s not here. He has risen like He said. Go tell His disciples that He is going ahead of them to Galilee.”

Mary Magdalene remains in the garden while the other women head off. Overcome with grief. And Jesus appears to her. Get the picture. The Lord of all Creation. Likely leading captivity captive. And Jesus still has to complete the Plan of Salvation: bring His blood to THE mercy seat in Heaven, the real one.

But He STOPS. He hits the ‘pause’ button on The Plan of Salvation. Why? To stop and comfort a women. Women were not highly regarded in those days, and this one had a past. But she was a woman grieving over His death. BECAUSE HE CARED FOR HER, HER FEELINGS, HER LIFE, my friend, and HE STOPPED. It’s THE SAME FOR YOU AND ME!

Maybe the angels in heaven were wondering about the delay, what’s holding up KING JESUS? Matthew says Jesus appeared to the women, but John clarifies it was Mary Magdalene. And Jesus tells her to go and tell My BROTHERS to go to Galilee. He will meet with them there. Where it all began. Where He called them 1 by 1. Tying the beginning and the end of Jesus earthly ministry together! Replacing sorrow with JOY.

There’s more! Two disciples were on the Emmaus Road headed out of town – Jesus has some fun with them and they come scooting back to Jerusalem.
Did Jesus get up to the True Mercy Seat of heaven and come back – or what? I don’t know. BUT I do know once those two got with the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem, JESUS DIDN’T WAIT for them all to get to Galilee. He has got to share His JOY with His BROTHERS – right away! Can you see it? BECAUSE HE CARES for them. THEIR FEELINGS MATTER! And He wants to turn their sorrow into JOY. And He does!

So there is Jesus, appearing to the women, the women who were with Him at ‘the END’ got notified of the NEW BEGINNING – ahead of anyone else!
There’s Jesus, appearing to the men who were with Him at the beginning – and He pauses THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS of heaven if you will, of RESURRECTION SUNDAY, to comfort those in grief and to CELEBRATE with His family! BECAUSE HE CARES!

So friend, YOU MATTER! How you feel – matters! What concerns you – matters to Jesus. We have just heard it. So, rejoice this Resurrection Day – knowing Jesus cares for YOU. And that you have — COME ALIVE!

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Preach Jesus NOW #68

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The other day I was speaking with a computer chip designer, a brilliant man of Indian ethnicity. He had come to my door, and noticed a banner my wife had placed there: on the banner was a lamb with the words, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” The fellow asked if we had dogs – he had confused the lamb image with that of a dog.

“No,” I responded, and told how the lamb and the words concerned Jesus our Savior, the Son of God who saves us from our sins. He said that was very interesting; he had not heard that before. He listened attentively as I briefly gave him the Gospel. 

Can you believe this? In America? A middle aged well educated person who had never heard the Gospel? It’s all around us, folks. People not having ears to hear, and with the god of this world having blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, well, there you go: another life without eternal life! 2 Cor 4:4

He was familiar with reincarnation and trying to get better in this life or the next until you finally attain, you finally make it. But the idea of GRACE, the free gift of GOD of eternal life with Him, in Him, and He in us – with no sin, no unrighteousness, no darkness — was a completely foreign concept to him.

I can understand the ignorance, when there are so many today calling good “evil,” and calling evil “good,” but don’t worry about that, my friend. I urge you to be ready, in season and out, to give testimony, to give witness of the Lord Jesus, to share the Gospel as God gives you opportunity. 2 Cor 3:6 reminds us we are adequate in the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with others.

And, you are not responsible for the other person’s salvation. What a relief! Share those words of life, for you can be confident that the Holy Spirit is working with those words, and with YOU! Relax.

Preach the Gospel, which is the GRACE of God given to all who call upon Him. It is a STUMBLING BLOCK for some, for there is no place for our own efforts or achievements in God’s plan of salvation: it is all JESUS from start to finish!
You didn’t earn your salvation. You can’t lose your salvation. But you can give the Good News of salvation in Jesus away — it will prevail
.

Yes, my friend, let us be bold, let others hear, so they can — COME ALIVE!

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Counterfeit Gospel? #67

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The Gospel means Good News. Crafted by God. God is GOOD, and His news is ALL Good News — not mostly Good News with some Bad News thrown in. There is no price tag found in God’s free gift of salvation — unless you are hearing a counterfeit gospel.

Does the God of the gospel you hear remember a wrong suffered? Does your forgiveness come at a price you pay? That’s not God’s true love found in 1 Cor 13. It is not the genuine Gospel.

Some preachers thunder from the pulpit: “Beware of greasy grace and those who preach it! We have got to have rules to obey. Guard rails on the roadway of life to keep us on course.” “Greasy grace is nothing more than a license to sin,” they bellow.

Going back to the rules is – wrong. Don’t you remember, friend?
• the Law is not of faith – Gal 3:12. No faith in it. Following the rules is not of faith.
• the Law inflames sin. Rather than HELP you be godly, it promotes ungodliness!
• the Law was designed to lead us to Christ – Gal 3:24. A tutor. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor – Gal 3:25.

Don’t go back to rule keeping. ”Follow all the rules, all our rules, and you’ll be blessed of God” is a counterfeit gospel! It’s rubbish! “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal 5:1.

Adding rules to the Gospel means you have fallen from GRACE — you attempt to be justified by the law. It’s a counterfeit gospel, and you have become estranged from Christ.

The Counterfeit Gospel is the one with the RULES IN IT. Jesus gave us the Gospel of Grace! Walk by faith. Walk in the Spirit – don’t worry, just do it!

Adding rules to the Gospel means you are saying Jesus Christ did NOT DO ENOUGH at Calvary, and there remains “your part” to perform. Rather than experiencing the joy of the Lord, you live in a shadowland where you have never done enough.

Friend, if this has been you, has been your life, it’s time to stand in the liberty, in the GRACE given you in Christ Jesus – firmly, and  — COME ALIVE!

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Accepted! #66

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The need for acceptance is an incredibly powerful driving force in us humans. In Greek fraternities pledges endure all sorts of hazing in order to be accepted into the fraternity. In street gangs the rituals are much worse; some even require you to kill a person in order to gain their acceptance.

What about God? What do we as believers have to DO to gain His acceptance? Eph 1:5-6 in the KJV provides the awesome answer. It reads: “(God) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He MADE US accepted in the Beloved.”

So what do we have to do? We believe in Jesus, and incredibly that same sonship comes to us: now we are even seated WITH HIM in heavenly places, Eph 2:6. That’s GOD for you, my friend. It is something HE DID FOR US. “IN THE BELOVED!” As believers are IN Christ Jesus, and IN HIM acceptable to GOD! Hallelujah!

Acceptance in the world is so different! There we have to perform. Shine. Play by someone else’s rules. Conform to their standards or face rejection. And man-made religion is no different. It’s the same kind of performance based acceptance. It is based on the same evil concept that says you have to work to make yourself acceptable and pleasing to God. Nonsense.

Man-made religion burns you out. It perpetuates human sacrifice. Think about it: your life, or your spouse, your children…sacrificed on the altar of acceptance.

Understand me, the love of God is not for sale. You cannot buy it or perform for it. His acceptance and approval is a free gift that comes through Christ alone, by grace alone! Remember, Eph 1:6 says HE MADE US ACCEPTED!

Jesus refused to play the acceptance game. He shocked everyone – there were rules that disqualified people from approaching God. Rules about ethnicity, behavior, gender, and health. If you happened to be a sinful foreign woman with leprosy in Jesus’ day you had 4 strikes against you, my friend! But Jesus accepted sinful people. And foreigners. And women. And lepers.

We talk about the need to accept Jesus, but understand, Jesus accepts all who come to Him. That’s even more important. Law based religion will disqualify you, and you’ll have to perform for those who call the shots. But truly, it is Jesus who has qualified you my friend, it is a gift by God’s grace, not your performance. Today, share this good news of acceptance in the belovedimage, and help others —— COME ALIVE!

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Union 3 of 3 #65

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As I have said before, Jesus IS the Vine, we ARE the branches. Happened when we said YES to Jesus. He abides in us – eternally. We abide in Him – eternally. This astonishing fact is hard to grasp, for our minds are so conditioned by the world to think like the world, not heaven.

So instead of abiding from the get-go, we struggle to be accepted – but we already ARE accepted in the beloved, for as believers we ALREADY ARE in UNION with Him! We struggle for approval, we wonder if we have done ‘enough’ for God. But friend, that’s like running backward from the finish line! Stop your struggle. You ARE IN CHRIST, and as righteous as God Himself – 2 Cor 5:21 – for you ARE in UNION with Him. You didn’t do this; He did, for by His GRACE we have been saved, and that through the gift of faith He has given us. Eph 2:8.

Finding this rest can take time, like the rest of your life! Paul tells the Colossians in Col 2:10 “…in Him you have been made complete.” But a few verses earlier in 1:28 he said he labors, hard, to present every man complete in Christ. Those Colossian believers were complete in Christ, but like most of us, they DID NOT KNOW IT, and were engaged in fruitless struggle for approval!

Or take those carnal Corinthians, struggling with envy and jealously, even gluttony and drunkenness at communion. Yet here is how Paul begins his letter to them, 1 Cor 1: parts of 4-9 MSG: “Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. [GNB expresses that as “For in UNION with Christ you have become rich in all things”] The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! And God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, will never give up on you. Never forget that!”

So, dear believer, understand: you ARE in union with the Living God. You may be living like those Corinthians, or Colossians. But wait! You are approved, you are in UNION with God. So grow up! Study Jesus – that’s YOUR character now!  Don’t you realize it – you are in Him – He is in you – and in Him – you have COME ALIVE!

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Union 2 of 3 #64

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Jesus IS the Vine, we ARE the branches. Happened when we said YES to Jesus. Now Father, Son and Holy Spirit abide in us: they make their HOME in us. And they are not going anywhere.

Ro 6:3 says when we believed we were baptized into His death – we have died to sin and are alive to God. Ro 6:11. In this baptism, we went into those spiritual waters looking like Adam and came out looking like Jesus. Close your eyes and see that, my friend!

There is no longer any separation between God and a believer. We are JOINED to the Lord and ONE SPIRIT with HIM. 1 Cor 6:17. Consider Ro 7:4 where Paul says we have died to the Law, all those do’s and don’ts, and have been JOINED to another: JESUS. Now we serve in newness of the Spirit.

Sadly, so many Christians have trouble understanding this JOINING, this UNION that has been accomplished. If we used marriage as an example, they would be acting like they were single despite the fact that they were married. Someone who lives this way will miss out on most all of the benefits that marriage brings.

In the Old Covenant, unholy things would make whatever they touched unholy. Lepers. Keep away from me! Bleeding people. Keep away! Gentiles! Etc. But Jesus cleansed the lepers, the bleeders, the Gentiles, Samaritans and tax-gatherers. Jesus cleanses you. He has made you holy, sanctified. Forever. So now live that way. Stop thinking and acting as though God is far away and you have to sacrifice to get closer.

We are already joined to Him, one Spirit with Him. How about marveling at the wonders of the CROSS and what our loving God did for us there? What we could never do, He did, and took the punishment for all our wrongdoing. And offers us UNITY with Him for all ETERNITY. Pretty good, eh?

Stop with doom and gloom thinking; just STOP IT. Stir up your faith in God. He IS with you and wants to make your life a wonderful testimony. A good one.
He is the LIVING GOD and He is here to help us: COME ALIVE!

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Union 1 of 3 #63

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The old and new covenants are fundamentally different. The old was based on our promises to God, while the new is based on God’s promises to us. The old fails because we break our promises, while the new endures because God’s word lasts forever. The new covenant is filled with God’s promises that are based upon who God is: AWESOME in His mercies and grace and lovingkindness.

When we said YES to Jesus, we were put into union with Him. Eternally. He IS the Vine forever, we ARE the branches forever. Jn 15:5. And how about Jn 14:20 “In that day (that’s NOW, after Calvary) you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Think about that – it is mind blowing!

And in Jn 14:16-17 Jesus said the Holy Spirit abides with us and makes His home with us. HOME. Understand, you are not a motel room for the Holy Spirit. He came and went under the old covenant; but under the new He has made a home in YOU, the believer. In fact Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ALL at home in us believers!

What if we sin? His love is greater than any sin. NOTHING can break the union between a believer and God. NOTHING. Not sin. Not addictions. Not even stupid behavior.

This UNION is a big reason we have it better than those did under the old covenant. There they wrote songs of longing for the Lord, pining in His absence. Take for example Ps 27:4a “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Friend, that was a true longing THEN but it is reality for us, thanks to Calvary. Mt 28:20 “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Heb 13:4, “He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,””

Are you feeling good? Talk to Jesus, He is right there. Feeling sad? Talk to Jesus, He is right there. Feeling bad because you have just sinned? Talk to Jesus, He’s there and not going anywhere – and He purifies sin, remember?  As you remember this UNION you have with God, unbreakable, unshakable, your confidence in life will explode: you will COME ALIVE!

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Keep The Faith? #62

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My father-in-law would enjoy kidding me. He would ask, “Does the Bible say to keep the faith?” As I sought to give a serious answer, he would press on, “but I thought you were supposed to give it away.” And he would chuckle in laughter – again and again. He had been a lawyer and a judge, so words and phrases meant a great deal to him, especially if you could make fun by twisting their true meaning.

Here of course was the intentional confusing of a personal faith in Jesus with the Great Commission. Oh, did his eyes twinkle when he asked me those questions!

People may unintentionally become confused over this verse, “fight the good fight of faith, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” That’s 1 Tim 6:12. If you are struggling for acceptance or mired in performance based religion or mixing Old and New Covenants, it will be easy to get confused, worn out, frustrated, and depressed.

Here Paul is encouraging a young evangelist with a personal letter. He understands life can be a struggle, so he encourages Timothy by reminding him that he HAS made the good confession of Jesus Christ, so hold fast to his new identity in Christ as a son of God, adopted by God the Father. This is a reminder to firmly enter the REST of GOD.  Every believer can do that, by believing in God and all He has promised.

The fight is from a place of REST in Jesus’ finished work. The fight is to remain focused upon Jesus, to retain our identity in Him. At Calvary Jesus took care of the sin issue, took care of those accusations against us. We are forever accepted in the beloved, in Jesus. God is pleased with us, my friend!

Ah, but you say your faith is a little shaky? Well, where does faith come from? “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word concerning Christ.” That’s Ro 10:17. So LISTEN, pay attention, to true words about JESUS CHRIST and what He has done. FAITH WILL COME freely, because it is a GIFT OF GOD, Eph 2:8.

Yes, it’s all right to READ those words. Paul meant we should pay close attention to them. Like in the Gospels when Jesus would say, “Truly truly I say to you…!

Today, how about we fight that good fight of faith, resting, not struggling to perform, but resting in His finished work, all right? Let’s receive those promises of God – and COME ALIVE!

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Suffering? Are You Sinning? #61

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Today we find Jesus in Jerusalem where the Pharisees have been picking fights with Him, and losing. As usual. We find in John 9:1-3 where it says, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

His disciples, you see, were only repeating the common thinking of the day, and certainly reenforced by the Pharisees: that suffering comes as a result of sin. It could be your sin, those of your parents or ancestors, or God punishing you in advance for some horrible sin you have yet to commit. Welcome to religion my friends!

Religion sees someone in need, someone suffering, and stigmatizes them, rejects them, makes up all sorts of excuses for isolating them. Religion elevates those whose lives appear prosperous and free of troubles, declaring THEY must be living RIGHT, right? And God has no choice but to bless them, RIGHT?

How WRONG the world thinks, my friend! In this passage Jesus says it is NOT about sin at all. Suffering and sin at the GOD level are not related. God doesn’t make sinners suffer. They are very good at doing that to themselves, and to others, without His help.

The penalty for sin is… death, not suffering. Ro 6:23. “in the day that you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will surely die.” Gen 2:17. “The person who sins will die.” Eze 18:20. Understand?

So – what IS Jesus saying? In the Message bible it reads, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” 

Here is suffering – and Jesus says “We must work the works of Him who sent Me….” The works of God, the will of God then, IS TO RELIEVE SUFFERING IN THIS WORLD, NOT CAUSE IT!

Jesus gave sight to this man born blind. A huge miracle. God desires to relieve suffering! He is certainly glorified in bringing relief to the suffering, not adding to their woes! And this blind man became a worshipper of Jesus. He ‘saw the Light’ both physically and spiritually!

Note Jesus said, “WE must work the works of God.” You, and me, and JESUS! Do you see someone suffering? Well, it’s not from God! Get clear thinking about this! Call on Jesus! Pray! Lay on those anointed hands of yours, for it’s His will that they be restored — and Come Alive!

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Consider Jesus More #60

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Hebrews 3:1 reads, “you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.”  Consider Jesus! He’s the one who brings life to the dead; who causes us to come alive!

He is the awesome Apostle, the messenger of this Good News of the New Covenant. He is our high priest, the one who enters God’s Presence for us. He enters with our confession: this Good News that is the Gospel. He is the One who has made the perfect sacrifice and has sat down – making perfect purification of our sins.

Atonement for our sins has fully, totally, perfectly, completely, been accomplished, for all eternity, friends! That’s why Jesus could sit down! Therefore, HOLD FAST your confidence in Jesus Christ – it’s OK to boast in the Lord and to keep on boasting; no matter what the world may say.

Israel in their wanderings, Heb 3 & 4 tells us, carcassed in the desert (that’s Heb 3:17). They rebelled, they refused to believe in God’s provision and insisted upon their own way. And carcassed. Well, don’t you carcass, my friend. Hold onto Jesus. Find rest in Him. Rest from your own efforts at improving yourself, of trying to be a better person, of trying harder, of climbing up to God. Efforts at self-improvement are not the answer. Believe, and find rest in His salvation.

More on Jesus, our Great High Priest! High Priests mediate, and Jesus is mediator of a better covenant, founded upon better promises! Check out Heb 8! The Old Covenant, instituted through Moses on Mt Sinai, had tons of requirements for us to fulfill. The New Covenant, instituted through the blood of Jesus, has one condition for us: believe upon Jesus and keep on believing. Even then, if we are faithless, 2 Tim 2:13 tells us He remains faithful, for that is who He is.

Some might say, “But it’s up to you, to prove to God that you believe through good works and sacrifice, Bible reading, prayer, and such” No, God sent His son to save us. Believe it. Enter His rest. You don’t have to ‘prove’ anything to anyone.

Jesus does tell us to love one another, and we can love one another, for that is the nature of God within us. Yes, love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. 1 Jn 4:7.

As one who has been born of God, 1 Jn 5:4, you are an overcomer in THIS world; rejoice, knowing you are someone who has Come Alive!

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Consider Jesus #59

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Dear friend, where’s God in YOUR life? Is He close to you? Do you feel close to Him? Or does it feel that God is aloof, distant, and somewhat displeased with you?

Well, feelings can be very deceptive. But God’s Word is the truth—and it is eternal. How about I remind you about JESUS, OK?

I like the way Hebrews begins, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.…” WHOA! Prophets could speak for God, but Jesus is different. Jesus is God’s final and definitive revelation (surpassing anything in the OT), for he is the Son of God. Heb goes on to say, “…And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.”

Can you see His glory revealed in the Gospels as He forgives sins, heals the sick, raises the dead, delivers those oppressed by devils? This is God’s nature folks, being revealed! He is on OUR SIDE! Then Jesus went on to Calvary to make purification for our sins. Then sat down because the task was done for all ETERNITY!

Do you believe in Jesus? You have called upon Him to save you? Then your sins have been purified, eternally! You have done the one thing necessary to please God: believe upon His Son! You – have been accepted in the beloved! You – have been adopted into the family of God! You – have been made an heir of God with an awesome inheritance!

No wonder Hebrews 2 warns us not to neglect, not to forget- such a Great Salvation! And no wonder chapter 3 begins with the reminder: Consider Jesus! God is not far away from us—He is right there: IN us! He has made a home: IN US. He is not displeased with His children, my friend.

Are you downcast, dejected, disappointed? Have you been struggling to have hope? Hey, it is time to take your eyes off of yourself and consider Jesus. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” as the old song says – and you will Come Alive!

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