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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True Love – Marriage #58

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Dear friend, I want you to understand that Jesus loves us, and wants us to receive His love, which will enable us to keep His commandment – found in Jn 15:12, that we love one another as He has loved us.

Consider this illustration, found in The Gospel in 20 Questions by Paul Ellis. Suppose it’s your wedding day, and right after the ceremony the minister gives you a book “The Marriage Rule Book” and says, “Read this, for inside is the secret to a happy marriage.”

Well, you want a happy marriage. You open the book and inside you discover all sorts of rules for a happy marriage. Be honest. Be kind. Always tell the truth. Keep your promises. Listen well. Be on time. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Freely forgive. Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife. It sounds like GOLD! It’s got all the answers to a happy marriage.

You determine to do them all. But there are more rules. Rules for special days, for church activity, for celebrations, for seasons; what to wear, rules on property rights, on intimacy, on family planning, and hundreds more! “Wow!” you may think, “I had no idea marriage was going to be so hard; I’m not sure I can do all this.”

You skip hundreds more rules and come to the last page of the book. There you find these words, “If you love your spouse, disregard this book: YOU DON’T NEED IT. You will keep all the rules effortlessly.”

But there are so many Christians who will NOT do this. They keep looking to the book ‘just in case.’ They get weary. They get condemned. Their legalism kills their marriage. There is no ‘just in case.’ There is NO situation where rules can replace TRUE LOVE!

So friend, DO NOT treat the Bible like a book of rules for how to be married to Jesus. DO NOT be fooled into thinking you will have a happy marriage to Jesus if you DO everything the Bible says. It is NOT a rule book; it is NOT an instruction book to followed. (Excepting of course those rules GOD gave to man in order to lead us to Christ – the rules’ true purpose being to show us we cannot keep the rules and need a Savior! Galatians points out once we have the Savior there is no longer the need for that which brought us to Him)

TRUE LOVE does not work that way. If you love Jesus, you do not need a rule book. If you don’t love Jesus, a rule book is not going to help, because love comes from the heart, not out of a book.

L O V E— and you will Come Alive!

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Love and (you will) Obey #57

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The “Princess Bride” is a classic motion picture about TRUE LOVE. There is nothing a person will not do when motivated by TRUE LOVE. The Father gave up His Son Jesus because of True Love. Jesus gave up His life for True Love. Love is key, love is crucial, to having a genuine, full, rich, satisfying life.

Yet so many Christians think just like the world thinks; their minds are in need or renewal. They think, “If I just obey, I’ll be rewarded—with love, riches, blessings, everything. With that mindset they read Jn 14:15 backwards. They read, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” They think Jesus is declaring that the proof of your love for Him is keeping His commandments. And they likely go on to include the 10 Commandments and a whole bunch more. It becomes a mess of criticism, condemnation, and judgment. But it is NOT what Jesus is saying!

But what about Jn 14:23, you might say? “If anyone loves me He will keep My word.” It might sound like obedience is the proof of your love for Jesus. But obedience was NEVER the key to entrance into the Kingdom of God; FAITH IS. Believing in Jesus is the KEY. Always and forever: FAITH.

Jesus gives us only 1 commandment, did you know that? Jn 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” It is repeated in verse 17 in case we missed it: “This I command you, that you love one another.”

Life is summed up in loving one another, for love is from God; God IS love. And we can only love because He first loved us. 1 Jn 4:19. He love us. We receive His love. We become vessels of His love—to share with the world.

Looking at Jn 14:15, NOW we can see what Jesus is saying, “If you love Him, His love will flow into you. And through you. And His love will result in you loving others, even experiencing Jesus loving others through you. You’ll be keeping His commandment effortlessly if you love Him, because His commandment is LOVE.

L O V E — and you will Come Alive!

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Faith or Not – It’s Still Jesus #56

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Luke 7 is quite interesting, for it begins with a fascinating comparison. First is the story of the Centurion who had a beloved slave. The slave was at the point of death. The Centurion heard about Jesus and sent some Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and help. Jesus started off with them, but soon the Centurion sent friends to ask him not to come, for he did not consider himself worthy to come in person, or have Jesus come to him, but to just say the word and his servant would be healed. He explained  he was a man under authority, like Jesus, and he knew how authority worked.

Jesus marveled, saying not in all of Israel had He found such great faith. And of course the young slave was totally healed. Certainly we are encouraged in this to have faith in God! God our Healer! Faith in Jesus who bore our sins and diseases to Calvary.

But there is more, for Jesus went on to the city of Nain, with His disciples and accompanied by a large crowd. And as they approached the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, a widow; and a large crowd from the city accompanied her. Visualize the scene, friend. On the one hand, LIFE, in the form of the Living God, with a large crowd. On the other hand, DEATH, sorrow, pain, separation, tragedy—with a large crowd.

Custom required, much like with a funeral procession today, that Jesus and company STOP in respect as DEATH which always has the final word, passed by.

But wait! It says, “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”” Then He touched the coffin, and said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

There is no mention of faith here. No with the widow, not with the crowd, not with Jesus’ disciples. And certainly the dead man had no faith. He did not even have a heartbeat! Our point is this: you may have faith and see your sin, your sickness on the Calvary’s Cross. Believe, and receive. It only takes a word, a touch, from Jesus and it is DONE.

Worried you don’t have enough faith? No worries! Have a little faith that Jesus is the God of Compassion. And He yearns to show compassion toward you. It’s true. Be at peace, don’t try to measure your faith level. His compassion is there—to help you— COME ALIVE!

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Do You Wish To Get Well? #55

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Acts 10:38 tells us Jesus, anointed of the Holy Spirit went about doing good, healing all those bound by the devil. Awesome! He healed multitudes of those who came to Him. But listen to this instance of one person being healed.

In John 5, we find Jesus in Jerusalem for a feast. At the pool of Bethesda there’s a lame man, lying there, along with multitudes of sick people, waiting for an angel to stir the waters that they could jump in and be healed.

Now, the man had been in that condition 38 years. And Jesus saw, out of all the multitudes, THAT MAN. And knew he’d been in that condition a long time. Jesus asked him, “Do you wish to get well?”

Friend? Perhaps you are in a hospital surrounded by multitudes of sick people. Or ill in bed at home, alone. Jesus sees you. Jesus sees YOU. Do you wish to get well?

Back to the lame man. 38 agonizing years to curse God. 38 years to resent those who got into the pool first. 38 years to give up all hope, to make peace with his condition, to live with his affliction. 38 years to curse his loneliness, lack of friends to help him, to get depressed. Really depressed.

“Do YOU wish to get well?” The words stirred the hope in that lame man. And perhaps in YOU my friend. The lame man’s response indicated he was trying still to get well.

“Get up, pick up your pallet, and walk.” Miracle words from Jesus. Immediately the man became well. A commotion then erupted for it was a Sabbath day, but Jesus had melted away into the crowd.

There’s more to this, but listen: the lame man DID NOT LET HIS CIRCUMSTANCES OR SITUATION DEFINE him. He, out of the multitudes there, had a living HOPE in the LIVING GOD, and GOD redefined him as one who was made whole!

Friend, don’t let your situation define you. Whatever it is. You don’t have to accept it; make friends with it. Hope in God, the LIVING GOD. Let HIM define you as one who has COME ALIVE!

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Got Authority? #54

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So many times I’ve heard Christians warn other believers to expect bad things to happen if they do something for Jesus, because doing something for Jesus makes the devil mad and he will go after them. What a load of —— fear and doubt from the dark side!

Consider Acts 10:38, “You all know of Jesus of Nazareth, and how God anointed Him, with the Holy Spirit and with POWER. He went about performing good, healing all those bound by the devil because God was with Him.”

This verse can be applied to you to, my Christian friend, for your name tells me you are a “little anointed one;” and, you’ve been given spiritual authority through the right to use the name of Jesus. The truth is, the devil is no match for you, nor all of his demons.

The name of Jesus is the name of all authority. Phil 2:9-10 say God has exalted Jesus and given Him “… the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

Concerning your spiritual authority, consider Lu 10:17-19 which says, “The seventy (hey! I see you in that group) returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” AND, Heb 2:14 tells us Jesus has rendered the devil powerless at Calvary.

Sure, the devil may try fear tactics and doubt challenges on you, just like he did with Jesus—but YOU are the one with God’s anointing and with God’s authority.

My friend, don’t limit your Christian experience to Sunday church, a life group and some bible reading. Go about performing good, healing all those bound by the devil. God IS with you. Fear not the fears! Doubt those doubts! Nothing will injure you. Be bold in these challenging days: 
COME ALIVE!

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Handy Holy Spirit! #53

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We’ve been answering the question, “How do I get this baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

We’ve seen the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. For Jewish believers. Then, in Acts 10 the Spirit fell, in the same way, reports Peter, upon Gentiles: Cornelius, his family and close friends. The people with an inside track to God, ie, the Jews, and the heathens, the pagans. Eternal life in the power of the Holy Spirit is for everyone, my dear friend.

Luke 11 tells us to ASK for the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises us that our heavenly Father will NOT DISAPPOINT us – hallelujah! There’s another way you may receive this Holy Spirit, this power from on high as Jesus called Him.
We find it in Acts 8. In Samaria people were believing in Jesus! The early church leaders knew the importance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and sent Peter and John to them, to these mixed race, mixed religion, halfbreed people! Verse 17 says they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Through the laying on of hands. Did you get that? Laying on of hands.

We find the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit again in Acts 19 when Paul encounters a dozen disciples in Ephesus. Verse 2 says, “And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” First Paul brings them up to date about the Lord Jesus Christ, and verse 5 says when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

That is true today, friends. While many may know something about the Holy Spirit, kind of, sort of, not many have experienced Him! This baptism, this promise of the Father is for you!

Receive and grow in the gifts of the Spirit, the charisma, the grace of our Lord. Yes, receive ALL God has to give you my friend! You won’t just barely make it through this life; you will thrive. I dare say, you will— COME ALIVE!

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Need Some Holy Spirit? #52

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Is the baptism in the Holy Spirit for you? Of course! “So, how do I get this baptism?” you may ask. Well, listen to this–

Lu 11:9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” What promises! From the one in whom ALL of God’s promise are YES and AMEN—so be it! Jesus goes on to give the example of earthly fathers giving good things to their children when asked and says in vs 13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Have faith in God; God, your Heavenly Father, who does NOT disappoint. ASK HIM!

A pastor friend told me his testimony. He was a student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, center for Reformed Presbyterian theology. He loved Jesus and wanted more of Him. He kept asking for more, and as he worshiped at his bedside, songs of praise rose effortlessly from his lips – in other languages. He spoke and sang in tongues without realizing what had happened. In fact, he went with great expectation with his classmates when a professor led them on a field trip to a Charismatic meeting, to experience first hand these theologically ignorant, emotion led, dumb bunnies of Christians as they supposedly experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst.

Yes, they were more than ready to mock, laugh, and destroy their silly arguments for the Holy Spirit. In the meeting, can you imagine the devastating shock when my friend realized that he was one of them! He added the rest of his time in the seminary was a battleground of attacks against him and the Holy Spirit.

Dear friend, the Holy Spirit has been poured out since Pentecost. Take advantage of the PROMISE of the Father. Desire, as my pastor friend did. Desire more of God. Take some time to worship and receive all He has to give you.

Why bother? My friend! My friend! When the Holy Spirit is moving through you, you will speak and act with the boldness of the early disciples, the world will be turned upside-down, and multitudes will— COME ALIVE!

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Holy Spirit Around? #51

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Is the baptism in the Holy Spirit for you? Of course! Trying to make it as a Christian in this life without the supernatural help of God, is well, not only a struggle, but unnecessary.

What might that supernatural help look like? Let me share with you a little recollection from the 1970’s. The Charismatic Movement was ongoing. My wife and I were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit in a little Baptist church in Oakmont PA near Pittsburgh. You heard me, a Baptist church!

Inside were Baptists – baptized in the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics who wanted more of the Spirit. Protestants who wanted life in the Spirit. All sorts of folk!

A Scripture come to mind about that time: Ro 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” God’s kingdom is not rule keeping; it’s being right with God through His gift of righteousness, it’s peace with God and one another through the blood of Jesus. It’s joy in rejoicing in the love of God toward us.

People in that little church were joyous! They were looking to Jesus! Smiles everywhere! Hugs! Love! Acceptance! Forgiveness. Each one encouraging another. Sharing the love of God. Folks testifying of God’s working in their lives—each week. A person, or several, might give a prophecy. There was singing in the spirit with perhaps angelic choruses were joining in. Who cared about the time? There was such a sense of the presence of the Living God in our midst that it was difficult to leave!

Salvations? Baptisms? All-the-time! Healings and miraculous healings everywhere. And demons were being cast out as the oppressed were delivered. There was freedom in Christ!

You had no doubt God was alive and well when He spoke to you personally. When He gave you spiritual gifts to help others, like a word of knowledge or wisdom or prophecy. Or gifts of healing, or miracles. Those who resisted and ridiculed the Spirit’s working publicly one week might be found worshiping God next to you the following Sunday. Incredible! Such a sense of the Holy Spirit about to do something GOOD.

And I share this with you because I truly believe we are entering such a time once again; a time when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, multitudes will— COME ALIVE!

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