The Lesson – 153

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The other day my lovely wife commented: “Before you are able know who you are in Christ, you need to know who Jesus is.”

Jesus Christ is our focal point. Our identity comes – through Jesus. As we come to know, truly know – Him, and then who we are IN Him – we can more readily recognize what in this life comes from God, know what to resist, how to walk uprightly, and so much more. As believers we are sons of the Most High, the All Mighty God, who is Father. Who is love. But do we know that? 

People often read Mat 25:21, “…well done good and faithful servant….” And focus on service in their church, on the mission field and so forth. Please don’t stumble. Jesus spoke those words when the Old Covenant was still in effect.

Believers in Jesus have been adopted. We are sons. A son and a servant are very different persons! Servants are paid wages, punished if they do not perform. Sons serve without payment: the entire kingdom is theirs already! They serve – out of love. Doing God Stuff is their delight.

Jesus is our Redeemer. Purchaser. Savior. The tender mercies of God – the Dayspring from on high in the flesh. God revealer. Righteousness imparter. Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. Who has removed the separation between God and man. Judgment has been superseded – by Grace.

Until a person knows Jesus, and begins receiving the grace of God – they will see God as demanding. Expecting. Impersonal. With requirements. There will be that fear that they are ‘not good enough’ and fear that God will be disciplining – and by that they mean punishing them – for their failures. Many failures. 

True, Heb 12:5-11 speaks of God disciplining His children. But read it in the Message Bible for some insight. He instructs – Educates – not punish. He trains. Listen: God will not break your arm to teach you a lesson! Do you want a lesson from God? Ro 5:8 “…while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Now THAT’S A LESSON!

Today, consider God’s lessons through His Son – and COME ALIVE!

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Jesus Forgives – 154

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As you come to know Jesus – and your new identity in Him – everything changes. It takes some time to grow into our new identity as Sons of God. The Gospels show again and again knowing who Jesus is comes by revelation knowledge, not book learning.

For example – in Lu 7:36-50 we find a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. It’s found only in Luke’s Gospel.

Jesus is dining in the house of Simon the Pharisee. None of the customary greetings were given Him. No welcome kiss. No washing of His feet. No anointing of His head with oil. Simon certainly had no idea who Jesus REALLY was.

Dining typically took place in the inner courtyard, which usually had a pathway to the street. And along the pathway comes an immoral woman! Everyone tenses. Except for Jesus. She stands behind Jesus, and the Greek says she unleashed a flood of tears. Then undid her hair to wipe His feet – At the time, undoing one’s hair in public was a sinful act.

Kissed His feet, anointed His hair with the perfumed oil. Shocking everyone – but Jesus. Jesus receives her. Says she loved much. But that is not why she was forgiven.

You see, by faith it was revealed to her – JESUS – as one who would not reject her. She SAW JESUS as one who could and would forgive her. He could, and He did. It was her faith that had saved her, said Jesus. Luke 7:50.

Her faith, my friend. Her faith. As she approached Jesus, step by step – Love overwhelmed her – forgiveness enveloped her. She was loved – forgiven – she knew it by revelation knowledge. Just as Peter suddenly knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

It happened to me, Jan 18, 1976 when I stepped out of a church pew to respond to an altar call to declare Jesus my Savior and Lord. I took one step into the aisle, and – love overwhelmed me. I knew God was real, He loved me, He forgave me, He received me just as I was; BEFORE I could verbalize it, I knew it, and like that woman in Jesus’ day, a flood of tears poured down from my eyes. A flood my friend. A Holy Spirit flood.

Ask Jesus for revelation knowledge of Himself. Col 1:9-10. He WILL answer – and you’ll be well along to knowing who YOU ARE. You’ll COME ALIVE!

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Price Paid – 152

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At Hank’s Place we believe THE GRACE OF GOD is-  always – totally – completely – sufficient – for you, for me, for everyone – for all time!

I saw a FB post the other day that said, “Many want the anointing—but how many are willing to endure the crushing (picture of an olive) to produce the oil?” Really? Really? So pious, such a challenge. Are YOU WILLING to pay the price?

STOP right there my dear friend! This is bad thinking and defiled religion! When God looked around and saw there was no one – Is 59:16, HE bared His mighty right arm. HE sent forth a Savior. That Savior paid the price for everyone. To bring many sons to glory. New Creations – sons of God – in righteousness. YOU pay the price? Rubbish!

Consider Elijah – did he pay the price? Read 1 Ki 16-17. You’ll find repeatedly: “and the word of the Lord came to him.” To various prophets. Then Elijah suddenly appears, with the word of the Lord, and continues in the word of the Lord. Friend, Elijah heard, believed, acted. Where was the price?

Consider Elisha – did he pay the price? In 1 Kings 19:16 the Lord tells Elijah to anoint Elisha in his place. 3 verses later he tosses his mantle upon Elisha and Elisha responds, in faith, sacrificing his father’s oxen as an offering and followed Elijah. Where was the price?

How about when Elisha asks for a double portion of the anointing – 2 Ki 2:9-12. Elijah says, ‘now that’s a hard thing, but if you see me carried into heaven it will be so.’ To see? He saw! Faith! Elisha asked, and believed – and received!!! What price my friend, what price?

Consider Moses – did he pay the price? Exodus 3. Moses saw – the burning bush. He heard the voice of God. He removed his sandals. He believed. He received. 

Do you see? Even under the Old Covenant the anointing came ONE way: by faith. 

Oh, and John the Baptist – did he pay the price? Luke 3:2, “…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” John heard, John believed, John received and acted.

OLD or NEW Covenant, the anointing comes but ONE way: by faith.

Today – do you desire a greater anointing? Then ask! Then hear – the word of the Lord. BELIEVE IT – and RESPOND! You’ll help many – COME ALIVE!

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God Protected – 151

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Listen to 1 Jn 5:18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” The Message Bible expresses it this way, “The God-begotten are also the God-protected. The Evil One can’t lay a hand on them. We know that we are held firm by God.…”

And don’t forget Luke 10:19, “Behold, I have given you (this is Jesus speaking to His disciples – disciples like you and me) authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

But you say you gave a testimony in church and have been sick for a week? Spoke in a Christian meeting and the devil’s been kicking your uh, back-side ever since?

Well, consider these 2 passages—and don’t let him! These verses declare we have God’s protection, and God’s authority over the evil one. BELIEVE the TRUTH my friend, and in your believing, act! Speak out. Remember how Peter got out of the boat and walked on water? Mt 14:29. Until he saw the wind. He believed, and acted upon Jesus’ words. Then his seeing – the wind – became his new believing and he began sinking. 

Back to 1 Jn 5:18. The concept John is presenting is that of a wedge. The devil seeks to drive a wedge between us, and God. Didn’t he try the same thing with Adam and Eve in the Garden? But “He who was born of God” – this is a reference to Jesus, protects us; we cannot be separated from God. Any separation you are experiencing is an illusion, a lie.

So keep the faith my friend. Jesus is watching over you. You are in the palm of the father’s hand. John 10:29. We no longer have a ‘sin condition’ that allows the devil to assault us when he pleases. We have been joined to God. 1 Cor 6:17

What about Job you ask? Why would you live by events that happened before God’s covenant with Abraham, and before the New Covenant in the blood of the Son of God? Don’t run your life by what you think it says in Job, ok? 

Today – thanks to the grace of God, you can resist the devil. And he will flee from you. Ja 4:7. And you know what? You will experience a new dimension – in COMING ALIVE!

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Supplied by God – 150

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At Hank’s Place we are CONTINUING IN THE GRACE OF GOD – join us, please!

Please look at Phil 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The Amplified bible says it this way, “And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

The Greek word for supply is pleroo (pardon my Greek), related to a word used to describe the fullness of God. The Amplified is spot on when it says God will liberally fill us to the full, fill up all hollow spots, cause us to abound, load us up with everything we have need of, making us so filled up that we are totally complete. In all things. In every aspect of our lives.

Again, thanks to Jesus and His unique work of salvation at the cost of His life – for us – now God shall liberally, fully, gloriously, abundantly, supply all our needs by imparting richly and furnishing abundantly, in a lavish and magnificent way – measured not by our standards or any worldly standard, but according to His riches in glory – all disclosed and discovered and realized in Jesus Christ! That’s POWERFUL dear friend! Think about it!

The immensity of God’s provision toward us is beyond our imagination. What’s that you say? “If His provision is so huge, then why do I have such debts and pains and lack?”

The answer may be found in the preceding verses: Phil 4:15-18 where we find Paul thanking them for their participation in the gospel, in giving and receiving, in gifts for others and for himself. Friend this is NOT “Give so we can get!” The Philippians were people of faith, and love, who saw God’s provision, saw themselves in His hand, who saw His commitment to them; and in response they were generous in giving away from themselves, in helping others in need. 

So today, dear friend. Let us look to Jesus! Let us look to our Father! Consider His love, His faithfulness, our adoption as sons of God. His covenant with us through Jesus’ blood is unbreakable. 

Consider, and soon you’ll be freely giving, receiving – receiving and giving. Life will become such a sweet adventure, for you will have COME ALIVE!

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Lavish Grace -149

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At Hank’s Place we are CONTINUING IN THE GRACE OF GOD!

Check out for instance, Gal 3:5 “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” I love how the Message Bible says this: “Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?”

God lavishly provides us—with Himself! Whoa! That means in a VERY GENEROUS and EXTRAVAGANT manner. The original Greek word is choregeo (chor-ah-yeg-eh-o), and came to refer to the wealthy patron or patrons of the arts who would underwrite all the expenses of the chorus, the dancers, the show. It was a place of honor and importance because of the great personal expense involved.

So we can say that God, out of His grace, lavishly, extravagantly, provides us with His Spirit, thanks to Jesus and Calvary! Check the wording. If you’ll check the Greek wording carefully, you will find that Paul is not referring to a single instance, a miracle here and a miracle there, a healing here or there. He is referring to a continuous floodtide of answered prayers. Of healings – of deliverances – of miracles. Oh how marvelous is the grace of God my friend!
Unbelievers may question the existence of God or His provision, but believers can soon discover, with simple faith, a LAVISH SUPPLY of all manner of blessings from His incredible, generous nature.

Paul is saying our Father is the patron, the sponsor, the backer, the choregeo—who has underwritten lavishly the total cost of our lifetime walk with Him. Jesus paid the TOTAL PRICE of our redemption at Calvary.

And Jesus urges all to come unto Him, weary, heavy laden, racked with guilt and failure. “COME!” He says! And as we do, He starts us on a journey that is fully and lavishly provided for, a journey in which we have COME ALIVE – at last!

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Opportune Time – 148

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The theme here at Hank’s Place in the New Year is CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

This message was free flowing from a frigid location in Northern New Jersey. Read Romans 1 and John 4 for background.

In short, it doesn’t matter how people are typecast or profiled. It doesn’t matter what you think about them or they about you. What matters is that TODAY is the Day of Salvation – always – and the fields are white to harvest.

This means there are those ‘out there’ in the group you may think are rejects, God deniers, who have ears to hear, who are ready to receive, who are ready to believe, and you know what?

In believing, they will COME ALIVE!

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Lies Evolve – 147

 

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The theme here at Hank’s Place in the New Year is CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

We have been sharing about sharing the Gospel with all cultures, with the wise and the foolish.

Ro 1 is so fascinating. The self professing wise men, who deny God, become fools. And  they suppress the truth in all unrighteousness. Ro 1:22, also vs 18. A clear example of this is the theory of evolution and the billions of years old earth – taught in most places as factual and true. Taught by these God-deniers! Exchanging the truth about God for a lie, they now serve the creature rather than the creator. Ro 1:25.

I don’t know about you, but someone with Phd’s after his name boasting about how his papa is a monkey just seems so incongruous, don’t you think? Or the argument that the Big Bang and evolution MUST have occurred because, well, here we are – is pretty flimsy, don’t you agree? 

But without God in the equation, man can be as gods, like satan offered Eve in the garden. Don’t fear evolutionists, friend. You don’t have to believe their religion, and that’s what it is because it comes down to faith. Science and the Bible are in amazing harmony. But the wisdom of this world is busy suppressing the truth, telling outright lies, and bullying those who would speak out truthfully.

Did you know in the past decade there have been findings of T-Rex bones in Montanna with soft tissue and blood cells in them? Search the Internet and see for yourself. This means that those bones are only a few thousand years old, in agreement with young earth theories. And there are literally hundreds of other scientific findings that the God haters try to suppress. 

Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel or your origins, my friend. You have been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the LIVING GOD, by God! Walk in the truth, fear NOT.

They lie to avoid accountability before GOD. Yet anyone, any evolutionist, could say, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And just like the tax gatherer in Jesus’ day, that person would be forgiven and justified – in fact – believing upon Jesus causes that person to COME ALIVE!

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Truth Suppressors – 146

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The theme here at Hank’s Place in the New Year is CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

Not only is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) the ONLY way we can be saved, grace is the only way by which we can have the strength to STAND in these wild days.

Around us it seems the world is falling apart at the seams. In the apostle Paul’s day – similar issues. But Paul was not shaken. Ha! In Romans 1, and the Romans were a very sophisticated society, and Rome was a turbulent place back then – he speaks of sharing the Gospel with the wise AND the foolish – of sharing with ALL cultures!

But there’s Paul! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he writes, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” adding, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” Ro 1:16-17.

Dear friend, I don’t know the culture or society where you work and live, but by the grace of God be strengthened, and never be ashamed of the Gospel! It’s the power of God – to save ANYONE who believes the Message concerning His son – eternally. 

And how is that Righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel?
1st that God is Righteous – and that Righteousness demands Sin be punished.
2nd that God is Love – and that love caused His Son to suffer and die at Calvary as OUR substitute.
3rd that Christ’s Righteousness is imputed to US believers. This is REALLY GOOD NEWS!

Still, men foolishly deny this Good News. They reject God’s LORDSHIP over them. They deny God’s existence, they refuse to honor Him – and miss the entire purpose of life. How foolish indeed!

Are you afraid to share the Gospel? FEAR NOT, but continue in the grace of God – listen to the Holy Spirit. Those ‘experts,’ the ‘qualified,’ those professing to be wise – have become fools. Ro 1:22. It’s their own doing. They are lonely, empty and lifeless on the inside. Don’t fear them. 

Perhaps you will even have opportunity to share the Good News with them. Wise man or fool, your culture or a strange one, if they believe and receive the Good News you share, they will –– Come Alive! Now how grand is that?!

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Continue in GRACE – 145

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It’s the new year and here’s a New Year’s admonition. I didn’t say resolution. Some people call New Years resolutions simply a ‘to-do’ list for the 1st week of the new year, lol.

Here’s the admonition – it’s from Acts 13:43. Paul and Barnabas, after speaking in the synagogue at Pisidai Antioch, urged the people who believed their message to CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD. What a great word – GRACE. The Grace of God – He gives us favor unconditionally – we can’t earn it – we can only receive it. Many try to earn it and go empty handed. Don’t that be you my friend!

Are you working so hard that you are on the verge of burnout? CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.
Worried that you are not doing enough for Jesus? CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.
Are you distracted by generational curses, demons, end times anxiety, idle talk? CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.
Are you facing financial difficulties, sickness or demonic oppression? CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

Want to make something of your life in 2019? Simply CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

When it comes to God and our relationship with Him, it is GRACE from start to finish. There is nothing else we need. And nothing else that will help.

GRACE comes to us by faith alone. Eph 2:8. So to continue in GRACE really is the same as what I said at the end of last year: continue in the faith. GRACE – it’s really another word for JESUS – John 1:16 says “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Think about it. And how about this year we resolve to keep our eyes upon JESUS. He is the faithful One. He will see us through. He will help us; He will do the impossible for us.
Yes, this year, let’s receive from Him grace upon grace.

Speak with Him – often. He always has time for His children. He created time; He created us. Whatever our problems may be, Jesus is our total, complete, all in one solution!

And you know what? As we continue in the GRACE of God – we COME ALIVE!

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CONTINUE in Faith – 144

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Let’s close out 2018 with an admonition from Colossians: beware of teaching that devalues Christ and Calvary, and fails to appreciate the new identity every believer has IN HIM.

Christ is supreme. We believers are IN UNITY with Him – which means sharing in HIS power and authority. Believe it, for it is true. Now press on to maturity, resist sin, pursue holiness in Christ.

Col 1:22 says Jesus has made us holy, blameless, beyond reproach, but vs 23 adds: IF you continue in the faith. Peace. This is not conditional salvation or favor; the actual Greek is clear that no doubt is expressed, no conditions. We are joined to the Lord. We are already holy and perfect as He is. Paul is simply saying you will not see it unless you believe it! It is true – but you will not walk in it except by faith.

The unholy mess of our lives – has been hidden in Christ. The HOLY ONE. We have been made holy and perfect forever. Think about it – and give a shout out to JESUS!

It’s also repeated in Heb 10:10, 14. By the will of GOD we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ – once for all; and by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. That last phrase simply means we are learning to live as Christians, as who we really are.

Col 2:9-10 says we have been brought to fullness in Him. Don’t buy into messages that put an emphasis upon your lack and what you have to do in order for God to bless you. You are already a New Creation In Him and He is in You – and all by His doing. So stop struggling to get what you already have been given!

How do you continue in the faith? By realizing the truth: IN Christ we lack for nothing. IN Christ we have received every spiritual blessing. IN Christ we are full, complete, including being holy and righteous.

I hear someone saying, “But Hank, you don’t know what I’ve done!” Dear friend, I say, “You don’t know what Jesus has already done for you!” 

So as 2019 begins, continue in the faith – you’ll COME ALIVE!

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Merry Christmas – 143

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Are you troubled by the merchandizing, the manipulation, the greed and excess of the Christmas season? Don’t be! Here is a little history.

Pope Julius I in 320 designated Dec 25th as a holy day – to counteract the excesses of the Saturnalia celebrations in Europe dating from pre-Jesus times.  The edict – didn’t work. People enjoyed their revelry and celebrations, choosing to repent afterwards. 

Now fast forward to Puritan England in the 1600’s with Oliver Cromwell. He came into power by promising to eliminate Christmas celebrations, and he did! Afterward, King Charles II’s party came into power by promising to make Christmas as wicked as before. And they did!

Get this: most genuine Christians of the time loathed Christmas, considering it an instrument of the devil for sin. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they outlawed Christmas. There were no church celebrations, businesses were ordered open and anyone caught celebrating was subject to arrest and fines. And that’s the way it was in America – for over 200 years. In fact Congress continued to meet on Christmas Day up to 1856. 

However, over time outrageous Christmas revelry began to re-emerged in America. 

THEN – in 1822 “T’was the Night Before Christmas” was written by Clement Clark Moore and for the first time Christmas was seen in America as a joyous holiday for children. Christmas as a joyous family affair appeared on the scene – with gusto.

THEN – in 1834 Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” and Christmas in England was never the same. The crushing dehumanizing industrial revolution had to give place and time to consider the wonder of the birth and life of a Savior. Jesus was making an appearance of sorts back into Christmas in England, then America!

There’s more, but gradually over the rest of the century, joy, family, giving, and worship replaced pagan debauchery, lewdness, revelry and drunkenness in both countries.

What about gifts, you ask? Glad you asked! The tradition of gift giving, at first a simple and modest gesture, exploded in America following “The Night Before Christmas.” Merchants, sensing great opportunity, placed Santa everywhere and people quickly adjusted their celebrations to include him. And spending. A lot of spending.

“Put Christ back into Christmas?” Historically – in America – that’s not very accurate. He was not officially in those Christmas’s of early America, and A Christmas Carol was quickly overstepped by ol’ Santa Claus and extravagant gifting.

But don’t YOU to be depressed my friend! YOU make the difference – why not make your own celebration of Christmas as true believers have done for ages? Put Jesus into YOUR Christmas. Hey! Don’t you see Him in the wreath, the evergreens, the candles, the tree?

BEST OF ALL share JESUS with others – JESUS – the Greatest Gift of all! 
You can – and as you do, many will hear – and they will COME ALIVE!

 

                          M e r r y   C h r i s t m a s  from Hank’s Place !

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Advent HOPE – 142

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A friend of mine once worked in a ward for Alzheimer’s patients. They said the doors were locked to keep the patients from wandering out of the facility. The button code to open the doors was printed in big letters over the doors so visitors could easily get out. But the Alzheimer’s patients stayed in because they never looked up!

There’s a medical reason for that, having to do with visual and cognitive portions of the brain that are affected by the disease, and the patients felt more secure and stable looking down to see where their feet were going.

Check the news, world, national or local. Politics. Government. Immigration. Increasing attacks against Christians, Christianity, Christmas. Get immersed in it – and hope flees. Soon our head hangs down, low, lower, even lower as we contemplate the entire world going down the drain and us with it!

Wait! We have Almighty God above as our Father! Stability? Security? You betcha! Christian, LOOK UP!

Especially in this Advent season—LOOK UP for our God is the God of all hope! Remember, the eye of the Lord is on those who … hope in his steadfast love. Ps 33:18.

Rejoice in hope of the glory of God… for it’s a hope that does not put us to shame – because of God’s love poured into our hearts. Ro 5:2&5. Let’s be as the Psalmist in Ps 42 & 43 and speak, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” LOOK UP!

Hope in God and forget not His works. Ps 78:7. Remember Abraham, for in hope against hope he believed he would become the father of many nations, because of God’s promise to him. Ro 4:18.

Let’s LOOK UP and hold fast to the hope set before US, for it is impossible for God to lie. Heb 6:18.

And now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope, and COME ALIVE!

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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

Welcome to Hank’s Place Wed 11/7

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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