Christian Greatest Mark – 141

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We have been looking for identifying marks of a real Christian – not just externals like “Do they go to church?” The Antiochian believers were the first to be called Christians: little anointed ones. We can surmise their conversation and behavior focused upon THE Anointed One – Jesus!

And in Jerusalem those early Christians were hungry to learn all they could about Jesus, were in fellowship, prayer, shared communion, gathered in homes, and had awesomely generous spirits. Acts 2.

What else? 1 Cor 12. Those baby Christians at Corinth manifested the GRACE gifts of God – The Charismata – they were Charismatic! We’ll go there another time, for Paul, in the next chapter, reveals that the greatest – is love.

Which brings us to 1st John. It’s about God and love. They cannot be separated, because God IS love. Anyone claiming to live in God’s light yet hating a brother or sister is still in the dark, writes John. He adds, loving the world, wanting your own way, has nothing to do with the Father. But wanting God’s way is indicative of the Anointed One at home within you. You desire – to ‘do’ – His desires!

No one living deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin, John says, for God’s seed is within them. But the one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor the one who won’t love the brethren. A simple test. 1 Jn 3:10.

He adds that even as Christ gave His life for us, we no longer live just for ourselves but for our brothers and sisters. John explains that first we were loved, and now WE LOVE. Loving God includes loving people. 1 Jn 4:21.

MOST Christians don’t understand the GRACE of God. Don’t know they are fully accepted in the beloved, in Jesus, by the Father. Rather than freely receive the love of God, and from that, loving others; they are worn out, feeling like failures, trying to measure up to some performance standard. And trying to love others without having first received the amazing love of God. 

If that’s YOU my friend, STOP. SIT. Throw off that garment of performance. RECEIVE the love of God. Soon you’ll be loving others and people will remark — you are different! What’s happened? You have COME ALIVE!

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Christian Identifying Marks_2 – 140

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Last message we learned that when Barnabas checked out those believers at Antioch (where they were first called Christians) – that he came and SAW the GRACE of God. And he was glad – and encouraged them to keep on believing in Jesus, moving forward in Jesus, not back to Judiasm.

Those Antiochians were filled with joy concerning Jesus the ANOINTED ONE in them. Everything about them radiated JESUS – and the heathens around them, being revolted by the light, by the anointing, sneeringly called them Christians. 

What else distinguished those early Christians? Glad you asked. Was it church service, missionary work, boldly confronting Jews and heathen in the marketplace? We can find an answer in Acts 2:42-47. 

The passage says they devoted themselves – to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. What would the apostles have taught? Likely everything they knew about Jesus from living with him and everything He taught and told them. Those believers wanted MORE and MORE of Jesus! And fellowship! Sharing with each other the joy of their salvation, and sharing Jesus. And communion and prayers – remembering the body of the Lord broken for us, and His blood shed, all for us. And praying. Lots. In the temple. In their homes. Having glad and generous hearts. Selling off their goods to share with others in need. Praising God continually.

Yep they sound just like you today, right? What? That’s not your life? Overwhelmed by the love and the grace of God? Hungering for more of JESUS everyday? Every moment? Gathering with like minded brothers and sisters, to share in communion and meet the needs of the needy?

Yes, sadly the cares of this world can made the gift of eternal life and the Living God who gives it, rather dim. And the pressures of church life with its DO DO DO demands is wearying even to think about.

But there is an easy solution, dear saint – turn to Jesus. Get quiet at His feet. Talk to Jesus. Ask of Him. Listen. Listen some more. Ask to know the love of God. Though you may be weary and worn out, the Holy Spirit, in a matter of moments, can cause you, cause all of us – by His touch – to COME ALIVE!

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Christian Identifying Marks – 139

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After the stoning of Steven, the early church experienced persecution. Acts 8. Christians were driven out of Jerusalem. A number of them passed through Antioch, a large city of about a half million people in southern Turkey. They shared the Good News only with Jews. But then the Hellenist believers came through, preaching the Lord Jesus to the Hellenists in Antioch. Hellenists were Greek speaking Jews who lived somewhat according to Greek ways. The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to check things out.

Do you know what he found? Acts 11:23 says ‘…he came and saw the grace of God.’ He was glad, and exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. He was telling them to KEEP ON BELIEVING. Don’t go back.

Believers were first called Christians at Antioch. Meaning, “Little Anointed One.” For the first time, believers in Jesus had an identity of their own apart from Judaism.

So what characteristics do you suppose marked an early Christians? Well, let’s start with the name Christian. That was a derogatory name given believers by the Greeks and Romans! Why?

Perhaps they were telling everyone that Jesus, THE Anointed One, saved them and cleaned them up and was living IN THEM. That they were joined together with Jesus, THE Anointed One. They were living lives centered upon – the Christ – THE Anointed One.

Jesus was on their lips. Something like followers of sports teams today. True example. I asked my lovely wife Mary about the Green Bay Packers (point to Hat). I got a 12 minute dissertation concerning their performance this year! Followed by another 10 minutes of comparison with the Pittsburgh Penguins of hockey. A 4 word question with a 22 minute reply!

So let’s say the joy of Jesus had filled these Antiochians and everyone was hearing about THE Anointed One, JESUS! Oh, and if you ask Mary about Jesus, be prepared to stay awhile!

I’ll be sharing other passages with you in the next Hank’s Place. In the meantime, dear believer, don’t be ashamed of your faith in Jesus. Let the anointing of the Anointed One flow through you unhindered. Let him flow – to help you – help others – COME ALIVE!

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Continue – 138

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Have you got what it takes to continue in the faith? And if not, will you lose your salvation, that mansion in heaven or other heavenly rewards? Dangerously lifting Col 1:22-23 out of their context, it can sure seem that way as:

“he (Jesus) has now reconciled (you) in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,  if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.…” Boy that started off great but became terrifying!

Not only that, but in Acts 13:43 Paul and Barnabas spoke with the people of Pisidian Antioch, urging them to continue in the grace of God.

They also traveled through Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to continue in the faith. Acts 14:22.

In the Old Covenant, ‘continuing’ was the difference between life and death! It was ‘continue or be cursed!’ Fear can be quite a motivator, but even fear wasn’t enough to keep Israel on the straight and narrow, was it?

Is Paul applying threats to us? Not at all! Remember, Jesus became curse FOR US that we would become totally righteous before God, forever. 2 Cor 5:21. Paul is urging us to keep on trusting Jesus with our lives in the same way we did as when we began.

He says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught….” Col 2:7.

The Colossians were in danger of walking after the flesh. Not in terms of drunkenness, lusts, murders and envies, but in moving away from their true identity as heirs of God, sons, gained through unmerited favor alone, and trying to earn it, trying to keep it – through the things they did. Trying to do things to get God to bless them, when in Jesus they were already totally blessed. 

Just reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to God – that’s how you continue in the faith. Jesus at Calvary made us righteous and holy and pure, totally so, and forever so. And that’s how we are in God’s eyes my friend. But you will not see it unless you believe it! And you can not walk in this truth – except by faith!

You are already complete in Him. Believe this truth today — walk in it — and COME ALIVE!

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Overcomer? Yes you are! #137

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Here at Hank’s Place we have received of His generous bounty – grace upon grace. Jn 1:16.

For example, let’s look at Jn 16:33: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Tribulation? Are you alive? Then you will experience difficulties, ordeals, trials, adversity, hardships, sorrows, trauma, afflictions, setbacks, sadnesses, woes, griefs, pains, agonizing times! 

Not due to our mistakes but because we are citizens of this world. Ouch! But — Jesus has overcome the world. And because we are IN Him and He is IN us, it means our new nature is that of an Overcomer. That’s Good News indeed!

John tells us, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 Jn 4:4.

Overcoming is not about us and our strength and our endurance but depending and leaning upon Jesus. Jesus is the ONLY way we overcome.

How do we depend and lean upon Jesus? 1 Jn 5:4-5 tells us: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith!” Our faith is in Jesus THE Overcomer – in us. ACT LIKE IT IS TRUE – because it is!

To get through the trials of life exercise that faith. Don’t fear, for faith is a gift from God, Eph 2:8. You have enough faith to overcome. That’s awesome!

As Ro 8:37 declares, “But in all these things, these tribulations, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” You ARE more than a conquerer, through Jesus. Circumstances may say you are not. But circumstances – LIE.

Don’t try to make it on your own. Expressions like “try harder” and “never give up” will not give you overwhelming conquering victory if they lead you to trust in your own strength, and not His. “Try harder?” How about “Trust harder!”

Again, circumstances LIE. God says you ARE more than a conquerer. And someone who is more than a conqueror has — COME ALIVE!

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Lovin’ 1st John #136

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We are still in 1 John. I have been assuring you that chapter 1 with its conditional forgiveness verses 8-9, “IF we confess our sins, THEN He is faithful to forgive us…” was directed toward the agnostics in their midst. Saying the physical world was bad, corrupt, but the spirit was pure, sinless, and could not be corrupted by bodily actions, they encouraged sinning!

John declares they are deceived. They had better admit their sin and repent. He goes on to stress that those who really know God genuinely walk like He walked. They confess Jesus. They believe upon Jesus. They love one another. 1 Jn 2:3-6.

1 Jn 4:8 declares God is love. He continually gives Himself to others and seeks their benefit. We love because of His great love toward us. And we continually give ourselves to Him and seek His benefit, that is, seek to do the things that please Him. Because we love Him!

John makes the point that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. No one truly born of God makes a practice of sinning. 1 Jn 3:9.  It’s being in love, deeply in love, with someone. You want to know them—more. Not just about them, like maybe in a book. But BE with them. WALK with them. TALK with them. DO what they are doing. BE FULLY INVOLVED with their lives. All day long. Every moment. And never getting tired of it. Sweet sweet Jesus. Lily of the Valley, our bright morning star. Our Rose of Sharon. Never tiring of wonderful Jesus!

So, 1 John is not about obedience and commandments as something God says we must do to get forgiven or blessings or favor from Him. John says as we come to know Him we shall LOVE Him. We’ll find ourselves delighting in Him and keeping His commandments. This is the grace of God and it is totally marvelous!

So walk in love dear believer, like Jesus did and does in you. And COME ALIVE!

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Children #135

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And welcome back to 1 John. Last time we found chapter 1 was directed to agnostics, NOT Christians. Agnostics denied Jesus had come in the flesh. So John declares he’s touched Him! Agnostics said material things like the body were bad, but the spirit was pure, and because the bodily actions could not affect the spirit, folks could sin away the day without concern. John gets to the point: such people needed to admit they have sin, confess it and have Jesus forgive and cleanse them.

1 John can be confusing. John has written in circular style. He speaks a thought, doesn’t develop it, goes on to other thoughts, then comes back with more nuggets of awesomeness concerning the first thought! So take your time in reading this marvelous letter!

Beginning with chapter 2 John uses the word ‘children’ 13 times. NOW he is writing to you and me! What’s he got to say? Well, for one, we have an Advocate with God! We need one because we are not yet fully mature; we may miss it here or there. IF we should sin, our Advocate is right there, before the Father, with His precious blood: that sin is already covered; all our sins are covered. For-ever! Thank JESUS!

Another thing: true children keep His commandments. What are Jesus’ commandments? We believe in Jesus’ name. We love one another. That’s it. That’s 1 John 3:22-23. These are not burdensome John tells us, because in our hearts we want to believe, we want to love one another, for we have God’s nature within us.

There are 3 basic themes in 1 John. True doctrine (not agnosticism), obedient living, and fervent devotion. A Christian, according to John, knows and loves God. Being made alive by the Spirit, and receiving the Spirit, a Christian comes to know God – and knowing God “naturally” results in transformed behavior, which John describes in terms of loving God, obeying God, and loving one another.

Obeying God is following the Spirit – “the anointing” as John calls it.
Today, live in LOVE for God is LOVE – and COME ALIVE!

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No Terror #134

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When I say “1st John” what verses come to mind? Probably 1 John 1:8-9 “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Taken out of context as I’ve just done, the “we” sounds like it means “you and me” doesn’t it? Well, hold on now! John did not write this to convince us of our unworthiness. Or accuse us of denying we have sinned. Or make forgiveness conditional on our confession.

Read the 1st 4 verses of this letter. John opens by declaring that Jesus is real, tangible, has existed in the flesh, and he is telling them so that they too may have fellowship with him. Wait! Why aren’t they already in fellowship with him? Because the group he is writing to has a number of unbelievers. Maybe all of them. They believed the popular notions of the day which rejected Jesus as God coming in the flesh, early gnosticism, and they rejected the fact of sin and committing sin.

In context vs 8-9 make perfect sense! To those who reject the concept of sin – John says, you are wrong! You deceive yourself. Confess your sins to God – and as has He promised, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins. He’ll make you totally righteous, approved, acceptable, to Him.

Don’t be distressed dear Christian. John is not accusing you of going around deceiving yourself; you are not a bundle of failure and denial committing sins left and right and then denying it. 

You have the Holy Spirit to guide you, God has given you a new nature, His own, and you want to please Him and reject sin. Old things, like your old sin nature, have passed away. 2 Cor 5:17. You can’t keep sinning anymore – 1 John 3:9.

And, you have an Advocate with God, but that’s for next time! We’ll also hear about the Commandments Jesus want us to keep.

So remember, you are IN Him; He is IN you – and that means you have overcome in this life for the GREATER ONE is in you. Don’t you see? John is simply saying that you have COME ALIVE!

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God’s Idea #133

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I don’t mean to frighten you, but listen to these verses, which I have taken out of their context:
“… through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22.
if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” 2 Tim 2:12.
“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Heb 3:14.
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. …Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Rev 2:10.

Tribulations, endure, don’t deny, hold fast our confidence, being faithful unto death! Whoa! This Christian life sounds — impossible. If salvation depends upon us, then we are not saved by Grace but by performance.

These terrifying out of context verses I just are not frightful as you remember Jesus has overcome, Jesus has endured, Jesus has held fast. Jesus has won it, and we are in Him. In UNION with Him. We overcome because He has overcome. 1 Jn 4:4. Just depend on the OVERCOMER who lives in us. 1 Jn 5:4-5.

My friend, take encouragement from Eph 2, 1st 9 verses. First Paul says we were sinners; it was what we did, it was who we were. And picking up in the Message Bible, Paul goes on to say, “(But God) in mercy and with an incredible love, …embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, AND ALL HIS WORK. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! …we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.”

TODAY, you ARE an Overcomer. Jesus IS your salvation, even if you don’t feel it. Get on board with this GOOD NEWS—and COME ALIVE!

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NEW becomes YOU #132

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The Old Covenant had at its center God. A Holy God and you are not! Keep away! Stand at a distance. If even a beast came near Mt Sinai they were to be stoned. Exodus 19:12-13.

But the New Covenant says: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb 4:16. And Heb 10:22 adds, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean….” Who did the sprinkling? Jesus, my friend. Jesus!

Heb 8:7-10 states God was NOT pleased with the OC. Why? It depended upon man to fulfill things, the Commandments for instance. And man was weak. So He created a New Covenant. It is full of “I wills” and ends, “they shall be my people.” It is inevitable, unbreakable, and does not rely upon us. It speaks of unbroken relationship and total security. NOTHING can interrupt this blood bought tie. HE WILL—and because HE WILL—we SHALL be His people. We are His: FOREVER! 

Lev 26 gives many promises that are found under the Old Covenant. Things like peace, victory over enemies, safety, abundance, fruitfulness. But all conditioned on OUR obedience, for as vs 3 says, “IF you walk in My statues and KEEP my Commandments and DO THEM.” Walk in. Keep. Do. Our performance meant life or death.

In contrast, in the New Covenant God GIVES US a new heart and a new life. The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant; for the “WE WILLS’ have been replaced by God’s “I WILL.” Again and again. Everywhere. In everything. 

The Old Covenant was a covenant of WORKS—our works. Conditional upon our obedience to perform them. BUT– the New Covenant  is a covenant of PROMISES TO BE BELIEVED. All the works required in it have been fulfilled through the COMPLETED WORK of Jesus Christ at Calvary. It’s time to believe it! 

Stop your fretting, rejoice in Jesus the GOD Who IS your salvation. Get on board with the GOOD NEWS—and COME ALIVE!

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Always Saved? #131

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Once saved—always saved! Eternally speaking, are you feeling uncomfortable – or feeling – secure? I gave my life to Jesus in a Baptist church that leaned toward Arminianism: believing I freely came to Jesus, I walked with a certain uncertainty about my salvation: maybe I could walk OUT of my salvation just as freely, or I could lose it if I started walking in – devilish ways.

You could say my faith in HIS ability to keep me, was not very strong. Instead, I struggled to get things right. Perhaps you do, too. Worries about salvation usually come down to 3 main points:
1 – Seeing God as your Father – sonship. Adopted. Believe it.
2 – Not understanding or appreciating the Cross – where Jesus bore it ALL and ended the system of rule-keeping as the means of pleasing God.
3 – Not seeing Salvation as a PERSON – Jesus Christ. Christ living in YOU, Christ who is your life. Col 3:4. Salvation is NOT a checkbox, but Jesus.

Ever break a promise? Many promises? We all have! Our lives reveal an inability to deliver on our promises. Good days. Bad days. Very bad days. Making promises and apologizing for breaking them. Solution? Instead of standing on OUR feeble promises to God, why not stand on His UNBREAKABLE Promises to us?

Here’s a good one: 1 Cor 1:8-9  “who (that’s Jesus) will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Your salvation is not about YOUR faithfulness; but HIS – and “God IS Faithful.”

Here’s another promise: 2 Cor 1:21-22, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” It’s the “Seal of Ownership” my friend. He’s GOT YOU NOW and will never let go – so stop fretting, rejoice in Jesus the GOD of your salvation, and – COME ALIVE!

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Reformation Day #130

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Today is All Saint’s Day. And you thought it was Halloween. Not at Hank’s Place! On this day in 1517 Martin Luther posted his “Disputation on the Power of Indulgences” or “95 Theses,” to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. The Reformation was underway! 

Indulgences (Latin for ‘debt repayment’), pertained to a person’s separation from God after death in a place called Purgatory where a person ‘atoned’ for their sins. They paid their sin debt. Sins, said the church then, had been forgiven by God, but sin DEBT had to be personally atoned for by suffering for your evil deeds, or, by indulgences.

Indulgences, you see, could be PURCHASED! A person could pay it forward and reduce their future torment. So, people bought indulgences. The larger the sum the more repayment of debt. Clever, right? For yourself, a loved one – even for those dead. Your payment, made to the church, would spring them out of Purgatory’s pain.

Then Martin Luther, a pious monk, found Ro 1:17, “the just shall live by faith,” not money given to the church. At the time people were taught that money talks, it makes blessings flow and BOOM – sin debts were paid! Luther took issue, declaring, “Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful.” JESUS has taken our sin away; AND – JESUS has born the punishment for them – JESUS death at Calvary IS the Atonement, the sacrificial and substitutional death Jesus for all people. He has risen, my friend and that tells us IT IS TOTALLY FINISHED – PAYMENT IN FULL has been made!

Can money buy blessings today? Will money gain God’s Favor? Well, some churches stress the tithe. Command it. People are pressured and shamed, extorted into “giving” 10%. Blessings upon blessings are promised — but only as you tithe.

Friend, you couldn’t buy blessings in Luther’s day; you cannot buy blessings now. Jesus didn’t die so you could tithe. He in fact rebuked the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites for nullifying the TRUE word of God through their traditions. Mk 7:7-13. Search the New Testament – you will find that generous giving is encouraged. You have Christ Jesus, within, so generous giving is a part of you. GIVE — because that’s who you are. The Holy Spirit has replaced the tithe – listen to Him, not a calculator! Blessings? You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing already, because of Jesus’ Atonement.

It’s Reformation Day! So come out from under the cloud of obligation and condemnation. Money cannot buy you blessings, you’ve already got them in Jesus, so – COME ALIVE!

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Love has Obedience Covered #129

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In Jn 13 Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet, commanded they love one another, and told Peter he will deny Him 3 times. Jesus sensed their anxiety rising for the next chapter begins: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” That’s an imperative BELIEVE in Me! I’m going away, preparing a place for you with My Father, and I WILL come back for you. 

Jn 14 is all comfort and assurance. But vs 15 can be really anxiety producing when read out of context by a LAWman w/o the grace of God. What’s it say, you ask? 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The LAWman, who say God loves you but He kind of hates you too, thinks it reads, “You must prove your love for Me by keeping my commandments.”  Don’t YOU read it that way, my friend! Chill!

Jesus is speaking comforting words, assuring words this entire chapter. Jesus is simply saying, when you love Him, it is going to show to others. They will see you walking in His words, instructions, commands. 

Think of a child, perhaps your own, who loves their parents. They don’t go around worrying, “I have to prove my love for my parents. I have to obey every word they say. It’s all about obedience.” NO WAY! Because they love you, they ‘naturally’ follow what you tell them. Simple? SIMPLE! So, RELAX. 

See the Love of God at Calvary. Receive the love of God. Experience True Love. Let it fill the voids in your life, heal all the hurts and disappointments and rejection. As you allow His love to embrace you, you will find your capacity to love in return increasing – to the point of loving others as He has loved you. 

Keep His word (that’s Jn 14:23)? Now don’t get anxious! For in vs 26 Jesus tell us, “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, …will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Yes, love God, you’ll know by the Spirit what He is saying –and by His grace you’ll be doing it. Do your realize — you have — COME ALIVE!

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God Does – or Do You? #128

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God never intended us to present our best performances to Him for approval. His intention was and is that we believe in Jesus, then grow in grace and godliness.

A little baby at birth is 100% human. It cannot get any more human. When we were born again, we became something NEW: Christians. With God on the inside, complete in Him, lacking nothing, blessed with every spiritual blessing. GLORY to JESUS. 

Now like the baby, we are growing into who we truly are – Leaving behind what we once were, because we ARE NEW creations. It’s no longer rule keeping, it’s God believing! 

Listen to these excerpts from Paul in Galatians 2 & 3 – the Message Bible. 

“We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it…. Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah.”

Then Paul says, “I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man.”

He adds, “If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. (But) …You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? … Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.” 

“How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? … only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?”

“…Doing things FOR God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.”

Rule-keeping will only beget more rule-keeping. Dispense with your anxious self-effort my friend. Trust the Lord to complete what He has begun in you. Walk by the Spirit — and COME ALIVE!

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Hold Fast #127

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This is a place – of Grace. Real grace instructs us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly desires. Titus 2:12. Genuine grace is never greasy.

Let me ask you: are you constantly ‘trying’ to be a better Christian? ‘Trying’ to pray more? ‘Trying’ to give more? ‘Trying’ to serve more? ‘Trying’ to read the Bible more? I’m getting tired just asking! Know what, friend? By trying and trying you are living under self-imposed Law. Try try try – you won’t get to that place of rest.

We enter His rest by ceasing from our efforts. Believe Jesus HAS done ALL the work for us. Rest in this truth – receive His grace. And more grace. Isn’t that better?

That’s Heb 4:9-10 paraphrased. And verse 11 says: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest;” another version says says ‘be diligent to enter His rest.”
How do we strive to enter that rest?

We accomplish this by holding fast to our confession! Most people barely have a confession even in the best of times. Hold fast your confession, especially in the worst times! When life is so hard we don’t want to get out of bed. When loneliness has imprisoned you in solitary. In times of temptation, especially if we have fallen into that temptation. Yes, we hold fast our confession ALL THE TIME!

Friend, what IS your confession? That you are weak and sinful? Powerless? Fearful?An eternal failure? NONSENSE! Let your confession be the TRUTH – that’s what GOD says about you. Such as, “I am the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21. “I am a new creation – the old sinful me has died.” 2 Cor 5:17. “I am one spirit with the Lord.” 1 Cor 6:17 “I am a holy vessel for the Lord.” Col 1:22.

Jesus is our Great High Priest who has sympathy for our weaknesses, not scorn! Heb 4:14-15. Draw near to His throne. It is a throne of grace, not judgment. Hold FAST your confession my friend. Head for the Throne for the mercy and grace to help that you need!

Jesus WILL help! Yes – hold fast — and COME ALIVE!

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Embrace Grace #126

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Religion has preached against sin for centuries – and the result: more sin. That’s because religion tells us WE have to try harder. And harder. Again. We’re being taught to have confidence in your own ability to resist sin, rather than have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.

Religion tells us, if we sin, to repent, to restore, to renounce and more; but the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and His supernatural grace. Which would you rather have when you sin? Hmmm?

Remember, God so loved THE WORLD that He sent His son – and while we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ died for us. NOTHING can separate us from this love of God, not even our sin. Ro 8:35. Our righteous deeds could not qualify us in the eyes of God; neither can our unrighteous deeds disqualify us. The Holy Spirit is the eternal guarantee of your approval. 2 Cor 1:22.

Religion tells us God loves us. And that God hates us. That we will see and experience His grace only as we get things right. That’s wrong! Grace is for those who NEED it, not for those who EARN it. Grace is for you and me my friend.

Many people think grace and greasy go together, a license to sin. True, God’s grace means FREEDOM – even freedom to make POOR choices. But using that freedom to be enslaved to sin again is really really DUMB. As Paul cautions in Ro 6:1, it’s crazy to think that we can sin so grace can abound all the more – because sin enslaves a person and can destroy them!

Once a person begins to understand Calvary, and what Jesus has done for us there, it’s no longer easy to sin – for we realize we are dead to sin, so how can we live in it any longer? Ro 6:2. Those who willfully sin under the covering of God’s grace don’t understand their salvation, if indeed they are saved at all!

In conclusion, Titus 2:12 says grace, far from being a license to sin, teaches us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly desires. So, don’t fear Grace. Rather,

embrace God’s grace — and COME ALIVE!

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No Terror #125

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Today we want to take the terror out of 1 Cor 11:27-30. Paraphrasing, “Whoever, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself. Partaking unworthily brings judgment on you. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” This passage has been used to scare and condemn the body of Christ for too long!

Consider 1 Cor 11:23-25. There Paul reminds us of that first Communion night, when Jesus instructed us to break bread and to drink of the cup “in remembrance of Me.” That’s right – we partake of the Eucharist (which means ‘giving thanks’) with Thanksgiving – duh – remembering what Jesus has done for us: His life given so that we would be saved, healed, delivered, restored, our sins wiped away, the punishment due us paid in full, adopted as sons of God, a holy habitation for the Spirit of God – and more! 

His blood has cleansed us from sin, from ALL unrighteousness. FOREVER. So how can we partake unworthily of communion? As a believer, you CANNOT.

“Examine yourself?” For sin? Will sin disqualify you from taking communion? From the body and blood of Jesus? Jesus GAVE His body and blood and died for sinners! In the Old Covenant when a sinner came to the priest, he brought an offering. The priest examined the offering, NOT the sinner. If the offering was accepted, the sin of the person bringing it was covered! Your offering – is JESUS. Think about that.

“Examine yourself?” Is Jesus your sin offering? As a believer He surely IS! You have already passed out of judgment and into eternal life with God. BUT if you do not believe in Jesus, yet take communion, you are saying Jesus died for nothing, that His death is irrelevant. Indeed, unbelievers bring judgment upon themselves!

So an unbeliever can’t take communion then? Not so fast – in doing so we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 1 Cor 11:26. So, if the unbeliever knows this, and wants to proclaim the Lord’s death applying to him, they are in fact declaring themselves BELIEVERS, and they will have — COME ALIVE!

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Luke Warm #124

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Have you wondered why Jesus preferred the Laodiceans of Revelation 3 to be hot or cold but not lukewarm? Hot: you are passionate about Jesus and the grace of God. Cold: you are passionate about the Law, about rule keeping. Genuine dedicated rule keeping will lead you to Christ. Gal 3:24. But adding grace to law results in ‘just doing the best you can’ and ‘God will understand’ theology. That does not impress God. If you think God gives you grace so that you can keep the rules today with the help of the Holy Spirit – you are terribly mistaken!

Here is another example of mixture – grace and law. It’s been said, “Favor, God’s favor, and blessing, will be found in serving. Your job, dear Christian, is to obey everything we leaders tell you, for we are God’s appointed overseers. Meanwhile, it is God’s job to bless you as a result! A result of your obedience. This is not true! Where is Jesus in this?

Have you been told you are not experiencing favor because you are not serving – or not serving enough, and are only lukewarm? That the more you serve, or the more you give, the more the blessings will flow? Not true! And you are exhausted.

Grace is given to those who believe and enter His rest, Heb 3; NOT to those who serve. Making yourself someone’s servant OR the quest for self-improvement – will keep you from the grace of GOD. “You have fallen from grace” said Paul to the Galatians 5:4.

Remember: Law keeping is faithless for the law is not of faith. Gal 3:12. And without faith you cannot please God. Heb 11:6. So focusing upon your serving, your obedience, is actually pushing you further away from God’s grace! Yet this is what people have been told time and again.

Why are so many in the church lukewarm, or apathetic today? They have been given a mixture of grace and law, the theology of the lukewarm. They are the product of what they have heard.

How do you get hot? Start appreciating all that JESUS has done for us, namely, everything pertaining to life and godliness. 2 Pe 1:3. Soon your enthusiasm will know no bounds. Without even trying you will have — COME ALIVE!

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Oil and Water #123

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Are we as Christians under Law? we live in the world, and the world has its laws: obey stoplights, speed limits, refrain from stealing, and millions more. But what about Bible laws? Are they universal and for all time? Or just sometime? Are they limited, like a restaurant that says, “No shoes, no shirt, no service?” You can walk down the street without shoes, but don’t expect to be served in a restaurant barefooted. 

The answer is – in the Bible! Ro 6:14 says, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are NOT under law but under grace.” The apostle Paul repeats, in the next verse saying, “…Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Never!”

Christians should not live trying to be good, to keep Biblical laws, for we are under GRACE, not Law. But how could all that system prescribed by God, built upon the Pentateuch and Old Testament, be set aside? 

Nevertheless it HAS BE SET ASIDE, for something GREATER has come: Jesus. Heb 7:18 declares, “… there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness.”

We are not saved by Laws, kept by Laws, or supervised by Laws. It is God’s GRACE – from start to finish. “What is LAW in the Bible?” you ask. The 10C’s? Jesus’ words? The words of Paul? Your church’s precepts? You know, it really doesn’t matter – if you believe you will be rewarded for doing “good” and punished for doing “bad,” you are living under LAW. Most of the church lives this way. And the Law is NOT of faith! Gal 3:12. 

Friend, this is why so many believers are having so much trouble in life and God seems so far away. They are trying to keep the law – and since it is NOT of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God, they are keeping God away by their very efforts, and are struggling in their own limited human abilities! THAT is a mouthful!

We are blessed because of who HE is, not what we DO. Grace and Law are mutually exclusive. Like oil and water, they do not mix together!

Today, choose to walk by Grace. Walk in the Spirit, and — to COME ALIVE!

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Taken, not Stirred #122

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In the movie “Taken,” Liam Neelson’s character’s daughter is taken by sex traffickers. He tracks them down and says, “If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” A father’s anger at someone who dared to accost his child. 

Now, consider God, our FATHER. Satan, the deceiver, lifted his hand against the Father’s children. In the Garden, the Father promised an offspring would come who would “crush your head” Gen 3:15. At the Cross, through the willing sacrifice of His own Son, God delivered on His promise.

Listen to the truth:
– Religion says we were born criminals. But the Bible says we were born prisoners – to sin. Ro 3:9. Captives, not criminals.
– Religion says we need to be good. To try harder. Jesus says you need to be free. Jn 8:32. Free, not ‘doing better.’
– The natural man thinks he is free, but he is enslaved to all kinds of passions and pleasures and is bound by the fear of death. Jude, Heb 2:15. The natural man is not free; he is a slave. If you subscribe to the notion, “if it feels good, do it,” you are not free but in fact bound by your own appetites. And those who feed them – control you.
– If God be for us who can be against us! Not even our own sin. In fact, He has removed that sin from us. God has qualified us; sin cannot disqualify us! Col 1:12.

So dear friend, you can choose to live according to the old law of sin and death – or life in the Spirit, under the new law, the law of LOVE. Why not, reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to God? Then get going with the joyful business of living the Father’s dream – for you. Because of the BLOOD, your sin cannot condemn you; only your unbelief.

Believe in Jesus your Savior, in the Father who LOVES you just as you are. They are FOR you, not against you. Believe — receive —and COME ALIVE!

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Our Father #121

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In the Old Testament, God appeared distant, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A cloud by day, pillar of fire by night in Moses’ day. Many churches, pastors, preachers present God this way still. Suggesting you have to have a prophet to hear from God, a pastor to shepherd you, apostles to lead you to new ground and so forth.

It’s as though you were deaf or God was talking to His best people and all the rest of us, well, get things second hand if at all!

BUT, when they asked Jesus how to pray, He said, “Pray this way,” and He began a prayer with these astonishing words, “Our Father….” Sixteen times He used the expression our father or your father.

Such a breakthrough! The Old Testament had many names for God, Healer, Provider, our Righteousness, but Jesus gave us a new name, precious, intimate, passionate: “Abba! Father!” Father loves you. He delights in FAVORING Y O U. Because He loves you!

Many know God as well, “God.” Many know Him also as “Lord;” but few know Him as FATHER. If you see Him as distant – or worse, as dead, you are likely to act like a little god – of your own little world, trying to control things and make things work our ‘your’ way. But God is NOT DEAD! Nor far away!

Remember Jesus has revealed Him: Heb 1:3 “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature;” John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” And He went about doing GOOD, healing all those bound by the devil, Acts 10:38. A friend of sinners and outcasts, tax collectors.

Love is unconditional, at least God’s love is. We do not need to do stuff, to get it right, to check off all the boxes before God will love us. He so loved the world that He gave His son. He loved us before we were born. If you are listening to preaching that says God’s love comes with conditions; I suggest you — stop listening!

What does God —YOUR FATHER expect from you, want from you, desire from you, my friend? Simply to receive His love. To flourish in His grace. To spend your time exploring His extravagant, limitless love. And — COME ALIVE!

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One of those days: Storms #120

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This world has STORMS! Got one going on in your life right now? Well, check this out.

Luke 8:22 begins, “Now on one of those days….” That could be one of OUR days, my friend. The disciples are crossing the lake, Jesus is with them, asleep in the back. Then BOOM! A MEGA-squall descends upon them. The boat is being swamped! And Jesus? He’s asleep on the job! No, wait — He’s not — He knows you can handle it, by faith. Oh, wait, apparently you can’t for I hear you screaming for help. (Laugh)

The disciples are screaming: ’Don’t you care that we are perishing?’ Hmmm. I’m not comfortable in boats; I would probably hear me screaming right along with those disciples!

Jesus ACTED — because He was ASKED! After hushing the wind and waves He asks them, “Why were you afraid? How is it that you still have no faith?” Apparently, NOTHING is impossible to those who believe (in God). Mk 9:23

Then in Matt 14 there is another stormy lake incident. They were busy crossing over. It was God’s will, they knew it, and were busy doing it. But the wind was contrary. Circumstances were tough! It says Jesus came to them a bit before dawn. Have you been struggling to accomplish in the dark dark night what you know God has told you?

GREAT NEWS: Jesus sees you and will come to you. Oh wait! He’s walking on by! What to do, what to do! Keep struggling to do God’s will in our own strength? Struggle harder, to keep up with Him? How about, maybe, invite Him into the boat?

Hmmmm? Well, it says in John 6 that after Peter got to walk on water, both Peter and Jesus got into the boat and “…and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” I like that, don’t you?

Friend, have faith in God. When life is stormy, Jesus has not forsaken you; He is there. He might be walking by right now! INVITE HIM INTO YOUR BOAT! If you ask Him for help; He WILL help. Friend, He will help you — COME ALIVE!

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So Many Jesus’ #119

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I have a question for you – in which Jesus are you believing? The reason I ask is that people may say they believe in Jesus, but have quite a different understanding of who Jesus is from you and I. To make today’s point, let’s boil all the Jesus’ down to two categories.

There is Jesus ‘the man,’ who walked the earth 2,000 years ago. He was a great teacher. He pointed out the way we should live. He died upon a cross at Calvary. 

Then there is Jesus much more than that. Jesus the ‘son of God,’ actually, God Himself, who became a man (Emmanuel, God with us). Who died on a cross at Calvary for our sins, was raised from the dead; who now sits upon the highest throne of heaven where everything has been placed under His feet. 1 Cor 15:27

In both views, Jesus died upon the Cross. In the latter, the Son of God died there for our sins. But now think about this: Jesus on the Cross cannot save anyone. (Pause) Thankfully our second view continues, hallelujah!

OUR Jesus, after being place IN the tomb, left that tomb, being RISEN from the dead. ALIVE forever! Seated at the right hand of the Father, with ALL authority. THIS JESUS SAVES FOREVER, and will save –> whoever dares to believe in Him!

Friend, don’t settle at the Cross. Don’t camp out at Calvary, marvelous as this is. Continue to the RESURRECTION! See yourself united with Him in His death. Crucified with Christ as Paul says in Gal 2:20. And see yourself united with Him in His resurrection, Ro 6:5. See yourself alive from the dead — with Jesus — seated with Him in the heavens, NOW. Today. Eph 2:1-7.

Friend, this is the TRUE reality. Catch hold of it and you will COME ALIVE as never before! The fullness of the blessings of God’s grace come to those who believe in the RISEN JESUS!

Proclaim Jesus as LORD over your life, TODAY. As Lord over any and every issue, any and every sickness, distress, disappointment, depression, failure. EVERYTHING bows to Jesus. Proclaim it. Rejoice in this truth — and COME ALIVE!

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Abraham BELIEVED #118

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Throughout Scripture there are blockbuster statements! They can become giant bedrocks in our faith. Try this one on. Gal 3:6. It declares, “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and it was counted to Him as RIGHTEOUSNESS.” That’s having God’s approval – in everything – without having to do anything. Whoa!

In context, Paul is reminding the Galatians that they received the Spirit of God by FAITH – NOT by anything they did, not by praying, fasting, memorizing bible verses, sacrifices, observing feasts. He explains they started that way and God is providing them with His Spirit and performing miracles in their midst by hearing with faith, period.

Sadly, many people – many pastors and preachers even – believe a person gets saved by faith in Christ Jesus, and having been saved, then things change. Now it is up to us to walk the straight and narrow. Up to us to do good works, to sacrifice, pray, fast, maintain perfect church attendance and participation in order for the blessings, the favor, the miracles and presence of God to be rich, real, and full upon us. Sound familiar?

Paul points us back to Abraham, Father of the faith, as someone who had to believe, and only believe – just like us. It is in believing in God that Abraham, and us, are counted as righteous, FULLY approved. Having God’s approval is beyond awesome – and if you are a believer in Jesus, YOU HAVE IT! Shrug off those doubts and condemning thoughts, my friend, that would get you looking at yourself instead of Jesus!

As Gal 3:11-14 tells us: a person can only be justified in God’s eyes by having faith in Him, and not by keeping any kind of laws, even those laws spoken by God. That is mind-blowing! God sent His son. He kept the laws, than become a curse for us, that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham, adoption, the promise of the SPIRIT, would come to…us!

By grace, through faith, you have received the Holy Spirit! Learn to walk in Him, demonstrating that YOU – have COME ALIVE!

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Jesus our JUBILEE #117

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In the book of Leviticus, that’s the book with all the jots and tittles of the Law, we read something amazing! In Lev 25:10-12 it reads, ‘You shall thus consecrate the 50th year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a JUBILEE for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.

Then it repeats, in the 50th year, DON’T WORK! No sowing, reaping, harvesting. Rest, rejoice, eat what’s there and receive all your property back.
At the sounding of the trumpet, LIBERTY was proclaimed. Property restored. Debts forgiven. Working ceased. Those who had to become slaves to live were made FREE! Yep, PERSONAL LIBERTY restored. PERSONAL POSSESSIONS restored. And a SIMPLE life with faith in GOD to provide the food a person needed was decreed.

But you know what? Tradition, historical records, and the Old and New Testaments make no mention that it was ever observed! Think about that. It was just TOO MUCH for people to believe God would have them release their slaves, restore properties, and to live abundantly and simply, with food He provided, that they did not work for!

Thankfully, this JUBILEE YEAR was a foreshadowing of JESUS. He began His ministry reading from Is 61 – it’s found in Luke 4:18-19. Vs 19 speaks of the Favorable Year of the Lord: that’s the Jubilee year. Jesus said, “That’s Me! I’m your Jubilee.” Not every 50 years, but all day, every day! And the people tried to kill Him! Can you believe?

Just to be clear, in Jesus our debts to God’s justice are paid! Those who had become slaves to sin and Satan were set free to be sons of God, joint heirs with Jesus. Heaven, the Kingdom of God, our forfeited inheritance, is restored. Without money, without price, without our working for it. That’s Jesus our Jubilee, dear friend!

Celebrate Jesus your Savior today. And tell others the Good News, that they may COME ALIVE!

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