To “Belong”

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/2co.5.17.NLT

There’s a part of this verse that I believe is a crucial hinge upon which the door swings.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ…”

And what a question that can cause us to ponder, right? Someone “belonging” to Christ —

We might ask ourselves,

What does that look like?

How does one become one that belongs to Christ?

Is is belong like a possession — once bought and possessed, can we be thrown away when no longer of use to Him (like a used paper towel), or when we’ve been all used up (like the remains of an apple that had been eaten down to its core)?

Do you (like me sometimes) ask such questions when you read the Word of God? Or are you too afraid (like me sometimes) that you might get the answer wrong or get chastised for not knowing something already? I can encourage you by assuring you that it isn’t about mental assent or stacking up knowledge “about” God, but is about drawing closer to Him and He closer to you.

Examining the Word of God closely brings up many questions when it isn’t just academic or religious practice –but is a hunger and thirst for truth and seeking revelation of Alimighty God to His people. I hope that is how you come to the Word of God — with expectation for it to either reveal Him even more clearly as the faithful and true Living God who abides in His people, or to clearly show itself as foolish, false, and worthless for application or understanding. Because there is truly no middle ground to be found between those two. It is either the Living Word of God given to us to believe, trust, follow and obey — or it is a divisive and destructive book filled with the worst kind of judgemental hypocrisy pitting one man against another and promising a fate worse than death to those who don’t “join the club”.

And there is no lie in saying that people throughout history have used it both ways. There is no denying that when men want to further their own political or personal agendas, that they can quickly cut out a portion from this book and twist it to fit their purposes and lead many down the broad path to destruction. But there is also no denying that once evil and wicked and vile and selfish men have seemingly encountered something in this Good News of Jesus Christ and surrendered their old ways to live in a new way that has a sweet new smell of things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness faithfulness, and self control.

And there may be two men sharing the same church pew, hearing the same sermon week after week, sounding the same well timed Amen during the sermon, and serving on the same elder or deacon board, and one might just be seeking to manipulate his membership for his own benefit in this life — while the other is truly bought, possessed, used by God, sharing in the sufferings of Christ today and longing for the blessings yet to come.

So we cannot judge by the flesh, by the visible efforts or outward displays of religion. There are many men considered great, knowledgeable teachers of the Word of God that I fear are nothing more than Professors — and I do not mean that word simply in its academic form as a scholarly teacher — but as in the comparison that “the prince of preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, makes between “professors” and “possessors”.

Merely Professor, Not Possessor. If, O my reader! thou art merely a professor, and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true sketch of thine end.

You are a respectable attendant at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to go on as you do now, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter.

Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of such a one as yourself. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, “O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my minister?” “Yes, he is coming.” The minister comes. “Sir, I fear that I am dying!” “Have you any hope?” “I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God; oh! pray for me.”

The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink. I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again.

But where is the man, and where are the man’s true eyes? It is written, “In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.” Ah! why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hear the gospel that his soul slept under it. Alas! if you should lift up your eyes there, how bitter will be your wailings.

Let the Saviour’s own words reveal the woe: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of Jehovah’s wrath!

Merely Professor, Not Possessor, by Charles H Spurgeon (1834-1892).

Yes, shouldn’t we at some point ask of the only one who knows the truth about our deceitful hearts, “Am I yours, Lord? Have you truly bought me and paid for me with the blood of your own son? Did you truly know me even before I was in my mother’s womb, and choose me before the dragons of the heavens and the earth, and love me even in the midst of my sinful rebellion, and pluck me out of the fire to be your s, to send me out with a calling and a purpose that will echo in the halls of eternity? Is that really true of this broken and humble man that cries out to you in surrender and hope, Lord?”

And won’t the answer be made clear if we will be still and know that He is God?

If you are truly surrendered, if you are truly bought by the Blood, if you are truly a new creation filled by the Holy Spirit of God, then come boldly into the throne room of grace wearing your white robes and do not go back into your old ways of sin and death, confess your sins and receive forgiveness and walk in newness of life.

For my TLDR; and KJV folks:

Be ye holy as your father in heaven is holy, ye who indeed belong to Him, ye who have tested yourselves to find that ye are indeed “in the faith”. And is is not of your own doing, but is by the power of this free gift of God’s grace, so that none may boast, or compare, or look down upon another, but only wonder in awe at the mercies of God.

Consider ourselves Dead, New Life

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
Colossians 3:5 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/col.3.5.NLT

We should consider ourselves dead and unresponsive to sexual immorality,
impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed.
Just like diseased limbs of a tree, these
practices must be cut off before they
destroy us. We must make a conscious,
daily decision to remove anything that
supports or feeds these desires and to
rely on the Holy Spirit’s power. ” – Life Application Study Notes

Unwanted advances in our lives do not have to be acknowledged or allowed or tolerated — and it is the same with temptations and desires that we know are not Godly.

It is encouraging that we have a promise in the Word of God about resisting evil:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
James 4:7‭-‬10 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/jas.4.7-10.NLT

And with this death to the old desires we see new life:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17‭-‬21 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/2co.5.17-21.NLT

A rapper that I like (Bizzle) has a recurring theme in his songs that is “God over money”.  For example, one of his lyrics is “Will you serve a living God or a dead president?” And then from my favorite song:

First im a hater cuz I’m broke and my money low

Find out I made a couple hundred on the low

They be like so I thought it was God Over Money though
Hated when I’m paid hated when I’m broke
They hating on my faith hating on my folks
See em drown in the middle of the ocean
When you pull up they be hating on yo boat”
My point, you ask? 


Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty. – Proverbs 22:16 ESV

Are we interested in what the Word of God has to say about money, the poor, etc? Can we hear what that call, that conviction is meant to tear us away from and draw us closer to? Is that surrender a difficult struggle for us or a joyful participation? 

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:6‭-‬7 ESV

Oh, how the world gets this backwards. We can more easily justify helping those who can offer us some help in return, as opposed to trusting the LORD to repay us for serving those who in this life  may likely never be in a position to appreciate or honor us. We are even given the wise advice to give our alms in secret so that we wouldn’t be seeking honor or glory for ourselves – because we are to be seeking glory to God in all things. 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;  to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;  to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord , that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;  but you shall be called the priests of the Lord ; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.  Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.  For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.  I will greatly rejoice in the Lord ; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. – Isaiah 61:1‭-‬11 ESV

Judgement is WAY above our pay grade, but IT IS COMING

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I have to tell you that I hate the shirts, etc that have “Only God can judge me” – because the mentality of 99% who sport it have no genuine belief that they are going to face judgement. Many have bought into the lies of a twisted perversion of the truth telling them “say this prayer and do X and you’re saved from hell forever no matter what”. But that is NOT the gospel. You will NOT find that in the truth of the Bible. I don’t care what lies some false teacher told on TV or behind a podium to get your money. I don’t care what lies your friend told you to make you comfortable justifying things that you know in your heart are wrong. I care about you hearing and believing the truth.

Someone who believes, someone who loves God, someone seeking to walk that narrow path that leads to salvation and avoid that broad way that goes to destruction – Someone who is A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST should be examining and equipping and preparing themselves for their final destination, right? So wouldn’t someone headed to a holy, perfect, righteous place overcome in victory want encoragement to turn away from the flesh and walk in the Spirit?

But no, most use this saying “Only God can judge me” to really say –

“I’m my own God and I set my own rules. You can’t teach me because I don’t want to learn or grow or change. I have no fear of God at all.”

That sounds more similar to the Satanic mantra of “The whole of the law is, do as you wish” than anything Christ would have said. I encourage you to know which master you are serving, which voice you are listening to.

That perspective of self as master is a scary, dark, confused place to live. I know, because I’ve walked that valley in the shadow of death myself. And by the grace of God, I stand delivered from that self serving mentality into a life loving, serving, growing, and learning.

Correction is not comfortable, but at least I can begin to appreciate it for its value in molding me and changing me. And I don’t resist it like I used to. People think that being “strong”, “hard”, and “real” is being immovable, unchangeable, like a rock. But you are not the rock, friend. Jesus Christ is the rock upon which a strong foundation can be built.  You might know about the rock. You might even know the rock. You might even love the rock. But we should make sure that He is sitting in that throne as the Lord of our lives instead of ourselves. Otherwise, you are right, I can’t judge you, but I can warn you, that if you don’t change and get yourself off of that throne and humble yourself before God, you will know His judgement.

If you say that you know and love Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, walk in light – or at least quit deceiving yourself if you are walking in darkness. Know today by the fruit of your life who it is you have been serving and who it is you will choose to serve from today forward. But never forget that you have chosen your master – not with your words or your religion, but with the testimony of your life.

I beg and plead for sinners to come to repentance, because the kingdom of God is not far away, death is right here at the door, and your time draws near – to either meet the Lord in salvation or in judgement.

I share this in love because so many have deceived themselves or been deceived by self serving false teachers. Those wolves have grown efficient at fleecing the flock and feeding off of them, getting fat and rich, when they were supposed to be the ones feeding and sacrificing and laying down their lives for the flock instead. Be careful, little child, this is a dark time, but the light can be found when you seek it, set your eyes firmly on it,  and see this race through to the end. Judgement -or- salvation.

Do we have ears to hear what is being aid in the questions from 1 Peter 4:

“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Judgement is real. If you still doubt, I’ve provided for your reading pleasure:

John 8:12, 15-16, 21, 23-24, 31-32, 34-36, 42-47 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.  So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”  He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Romans 14:10-12 ESV
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”  So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Revelation 20:11-15 ESV
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Psalm 9:7-20 ESV
But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,  and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.  The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord , have not forsaken those who seek you.  Sing praises to the Lord , who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.  Be gracious to me, O Lord ! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death,  that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation.  The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.  The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah  The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.  For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.  Arise, O Lord ! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you!  Put them in fear, O Lord ! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

John 3:16-21 ESV
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

1 Peter 4:17-19 ESV
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Matthew 12:33-37 ESV
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad,  for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jude 1:3-25 ESV
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.  Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.  Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Romans 1:18-32 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 2:1-16 ESV
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.  For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

John 3:16-18 ESV
“For  God so loved  the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Romans 4:3-8 ESV
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Ezekiel 36:22-38 ESV
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God : It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord , declares the Lord God , when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God ; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.  “Thus says the Lord God : On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord ; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord ; I have spoken, and I will do it.  “Thus says the Lord God : This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord .”

Silence

Silence.

Jesus’ friends and family awoke this morning to silence. Their friend, their teacher was not there with them.

The last words they had heard him say were, “It is finished.”

Can we imagine the feeling of loss,  the desperation, the sadness, the disappointment, the confusion that they went through a they mourned His horrible death?

Can we imagine them wanting answers now more than ever – after seeing Him mocked and beaten – after even His closest disciples had hidden and denied Him – and realizing there was only silence?

To everything there  is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what  is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/ecc.3.1-4.NKJV

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.12.15.ESV

Sometimes in our lives, we can face times of darkness where we find ourselves not hearing or knowing the clear direction and guidance that we want to hear from the Lord.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/pro.3.5.ESV

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV
http://bible.com/59/2co.5.6-8.ESV

Love is walking according to His commandments

And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
II John 1:5-9 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/2jn.1.5-9.NKJV

Do we realize that every commandment is meant to keep both ourselves and those around us from harm? There are no harsh commandments that God has laid down upon us as a task master,  but all of His instruction is for good – in fact, it is for the best life for us. All of the commandments and all of the law have their source in loving God wholeheartedly and loving and serving others.

God’s instruction is not a set of rules that we begrudgingly try to obey in order to not suffer consequences. No, that perspective is empty and dead religious practice. When we believe, or perspective shifts to understanding that the Word of God is not a list of facts and rules and laws as much as it is divine instruction and assistance. B.I.B.L.E. “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth” That is a pretty good perspective to maintain.

So if we believe, we will obey – not out of begrudgingly complying to a set of rules – but out of loving trust that our heavenly Father knows best. If we aren’t obeying,  it is because we aren’t believing, we aren’t trusting. We cannot claim Him as Savior and dismiss Him as Lord,  because it is about our belief, or faith,  our heart,  or desires. So I don’t ask “have you accepted Jesus” or “have you asked Him into your heart”. No, I ask “Do you love Him, obey Him, and seek His will in your life” – and I explain that these are not separable, but are one and the same – just as God the Father,  Jesus the Son,  and the Holy Spirit are one and the same – just different point of views necessary to comprehend the whole truth.

Many are eager to claim Him as Savior,  to grasp intellectually onto the concept of mercy and grace – but are loathe to offer the living sacrifice of making Him Lord and to truly exercise and apply repentance, holiness, and righteousness. And being a Christian isn’t about intellectual ascent – even if that is what contemporary American religion has seemed to grasped onto en masse. He calls us to “Follow me” not just to know about Him. He calls us to “Love God with our whole” not just in part.  He calls for application of His teaching in our lives,  a turn away from the ways of this world, to seek a life more and more,  closer and closer, to His life example.

If He is just your spare tire and not the steering wheel of your vehicle,  I have to ask,  “Have you ever truly come to Christ on His terms?” I have to ask,  “Are you surrendered today, trusting His guidance for your life as best?” I have to ask, “Do you truly know Christ,  our do you just know about Him?”

He is here to be found. He has not left us,  we have just turned away so often to chase after the world. Today, let’s seek His will – not begrudgingly as if following rules and regulations – but believing that Father truly does know best. Or if you do not believe that, if you still believe proudly that you are wiser and know better – then you are better off to admit that you are no Christian at all than to go into eternal damnation calling upon the name of a Jesus you neither know, nor love, nor are seeking.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/mat.7.21-23.NKJV

We are called to be followers, disciples, children of God,  Christ’s body serving others in this earth doing His will. We are not called to learn about the narrow gate and then remain outside on the broad way -,we are called to not only enter the narrow gate but walk the narrow path, following His example as the one way,  the one truth,  the one life.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/mat.7.13-14.NKJV

We are to walk in the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us. If you do not know that Christ lives in you, lost seeker,  pray to your Heavenly Father that you receive this gift of His mercy,  His grace,  His redemption,  His guidance, and His correction that keeps you on the path so that you might stand before Him one day,  having run your race to the finish, to find salvation instead of judgement. 

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Luke 11:9-13 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/luk.11.9-13.NKJV

And if you claim with your mouth that you have received this free but costly gift that was paid for by the sacrifice of our loving Lord and Savior – testify to your renewed heart and His presence as Lord of your life by trusting and following Him today. Open up all of the doors and compartments of your life and accept His redemption – as you gratefully follow His guidance and instructions,  as you obey in both your heart and your actions,  as you walk like Christ, whom you are being reconciled to be like, of whom we are His earthly ambassadors.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him  thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to  be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
II Corinthians 5:14-21 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/2co.5.14-21.NKJV

Reflecting on our life. Today? Tomorrow?

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.3.18.NLT

Usually when people talk about “reflecting on their lives” it is about the past. But God tells us about a type of reflecting on our lives that is for today and for our future. It is the reflecting of His glory in our lives.

It is the outpouring of His very Spirit and nature into our lives, as we become more and more like Him. And it is a process – not that we are yet perfected, but that is our aim and our goal – to become more and more like Christ each day.

May you be unveiled to the Truth and the Hope that is found in Christ Jesus, God comein the flesh, to die on the cross, as a sacrifice to bring you back into communion with the Lord, God Almighty, the Holy Spirit. May your life today reflect even more of His glory than it did yesterday. And may you continue to grow and be changed into His glorious image. Amen.

Are you certain? Why?

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.1.6.NLT

We can be confident that if God has started a work in us, that it will be completed. We can be confident,  when we look and see lives that are being filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit,  with the change that comes from seed that has been planted and watered and has been budding and growing over time into a new and changed character in a person that there is something spiritual at work inside them. And when God starts a work in someone,  He intends to complete it,  so we can find confidence in His being faithful and true.

I look to the story of Balaam and his donkey. That very same donkey that he had ridden all of his life suddenly began acting quite different than usual. It resisted the way that Balaam wanted to go because it knew that if he went that way Balaam would be killed. But Balaam was concerned about how foolish he was looking to those around him by his not being able to follow in the same path where those men with him were going. He wasn’t concerned with the why, and he didn’t think about whether or not this path might be contrary to God’s will,  he intended to follow it. So he began beating his donkey.

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord , “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.
Numbers 22:30-35 NLT
http://bible.com/116/num.22.30-35.NLT

If we know someone, especially if we have known them long enough to know their character,  the baseline of their normal behavior, we can also recognize when there is difference in their behavior that is “out of character” for them. We can have reasonable expectations for how both their emotional feelings and rational mind are going to work together to respond to a situation our circumstance, because we’ve seen the evidence and know their patterns. But there are also spiritual influences that can alter this normal/baseline behavior.

We can recognize the spiritual influence of growth and change in ourselves if we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and we are indeed born again Children of God, because our lives will be altered and we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is how those who are spiritual can make right judgements about whether or not someone is “in the faith”. In fact, this is how we can encourage others to have confidence that God will complete the work that He has begun.

And it is not because someone pretends that they are perfect and without sin, because those are blind, lying to themselves, without any real understanding of the ways of c Good,  but blinded by their own prose and religious attitudes. It is also not because of a strong but short lived interest in God because someone has come to the knowledge of their sin and have felt shame and guilt and reacted in emotion towards the Word of God for a short time and then turned back to the ways of the world.

Paul in this letter to the Philippians can have confidence in what the Lord is going to accomplish in their lives because he has seen the change to their character,  the change to their baseline attitudes,  the change to their desires and motivations that comes from a new heart and the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul can confidently trust in the Lord and encourage them that the Lord will complete His work in them, not just because He saw them say a prayer,  not just because he saw them dunked under water, but because he saw the evidence of true change in their lives. If we know the change of repentance, if we examine our lives and see true change and interest in following the will of God,  we can find confidence in that.

But if we are more interested in following in the ways of the world, and we are frustrated that we can’t go the way of the world, afraid that we are going to look foolish in the eyes of the world if we don’t walk that same path that they are walking – if we are more interested in our own way, we might need to examine ourselves for fruit and determine whose way and life is truth and which leads to destruction.

Just because you’ve ignored that other voice in your head because it sounds foolish and limiting and restrictive doesn’t mean that you are wise or right.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
Proverbs 12:15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/pro.12.15.NLT

I wonder how often we beat and resist the very donkey in our lives that has c a message from God for us,  because we are more interested in listening to the world than God?

This is why it is important that we examine ourselves – not so that we can think that, we’ve arrived – no,  that is pride! But so that we can have confidence in the Lord that He is, at work in us and that our deceitful heart is not deceiving us.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord , search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jer.17.9-10.NLT

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you ; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.13.5.NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:16-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-26.NLT

Can I trust in the Lord and have confidence that He will complete the work that He has started in you,  friend? The answer depends not on God,  but on you,  whether or not you have believed,  received and repented so that His work has yet begun in you. Because His promises are faithful and true.

I hope the answer is yes. Our I hope if the answer has been no up to this moment,  that it will be yes today and forevermore and eternity as you surrender your life to Him,  choosing to now walk in the one way,  the one truth,  the one life,  Jesus Christ.

Choose the narrow gate of our only Hope in Jesus Christ, and walk the narrow path of Faithfulness, and the Holy Spirit of Christ will come upon you and anoint you with the Love of God that pours out upon His Children.

There is no greater peon,  there is no greater prize, than to serve at the feet of the Lord and never leave His presence – and I’m not talking about one day after you are dead. I’m talking about today, now, while your service is of use in waking others to the truth.

Awake,
Arise,
Go.

Cheerfully?

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.9.7.NLT

Many will take this verse out of context as an excuse for their not giving at all or not tithing faithfully to the church. But if you read the context of this passage,  it isn’t about tithing,  but it is about a gift from their group to help another group in need. This is about a gift they had promised, and the time was drawing near for them to gather the gift for those in need.

This verse does not mean that “we don’t have to give if we don’t feel like it”. Just like the many passages about freedom do not mean “we don’t have to obey if we don’t feel convicted against it”. And there is nothing false in these statements alone,  because God does give you the opportunity to choose, but the answer (your choice) does speak to your heart, and there are different consequences depending on whether or not your heart is self centered or God centered.

You’re right. We don’t “have to” obey God. But do we also understand that there are consequences?

Do we understand yet that complying out of obligation doesn’t even meet the mark of living a life surrendered as a willing,  cheerful,  humble servant of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Do we understand that our answers to these questions, about the state of our hearts, and the reasons behind our actions – can give us insight into the deceitfulness and trickery of our own thoughts and desires? It can help us examine ourselves to find out whether or not we are standing firm upon the foundation of Christ.

And who are we to measure ourselves by? Not one another. No,  that will only lead us into judgement, condemnation,  and pride. We are to measure ourselves against the way,  the truth,  the life of Jesus Christ – and finding ourselves insufficient,  we are to lean upon His grace and His righteousness.

At this point, let me interrupt for an important distinction. If you are relying upon grace to excuse your remaining a slave to sin – you must examine your heart closely,  because grace is no license to sin – cheap grace with no repentance is no grace at all and you do not yet know Christ. You may know “about” Christ,  but how can you claim that you know Him and He walks with you when you are still controlled by your true master? And if you have reached that state where you believe yourself righteous and walking in right standing with the Lord by the law – you must examine your heart closely,  because spiritual pride and good works is no stairway to heaven – sacrificial living with no love and mercy is empty religious practice from those who do not know God, those who do not desire to know Him closely and love Him personally.

So having said all of this, can we agree that at times in the past we have dolled ourselves about what being a Christ follower and believer means?  Can we now see why being a cheerful giver is the goal?

Can we speak spiritually for a moment about this subject as well?

If I am led to give because of obligation,  do you see how that can be flowing from a wrong spirit (shame, guilt, condemnation, etc)? If  I am led give so that others will think highly of me,  do you see how that can be flowing from a wrong spirit (pride, seeking honor from men,  etc)? If I am being led to give because I’m expecting payment in return, do you see how that can be flowing from a wrong spirit (manipulation, chasing worldly prosperity, etc)?

But isn’t it clear that if my reasons are loving God and loving others – and if I’m led to give out of grattitude for what, He has given me, isn’t it clear that I am being led by that Holy Spirit that bears the fruit that fulfills the law?

Yes, we have quickly let ourselves step into high minded words and thoughts about His ways,  about spiritual things, about those things so far above our own understanding – even while our actions humble us and keep us safely at the foot of the cross. Let’s not let such high thinking leave us anywhere but as a humble servant and follower of Jesus Christ, the Word of God come in the flesh to dwell among us, He who is from the beginning and who shall be evermore.

And knowing this,  believing this,  how could we not want to give generously and cheerfully? How could we cling to what is worthless and temporary – instead of clinging solely to Christ who is our portion and our prize eternal?

We must examine our hearts,  friends. And when we k know our heart is not quite right,  when we realize that we fall short of the mark,  we should continue to pray for growth and healing in that area of our lives – we should talk with Him and walk with Him, under His guidance both in heartfelt prayer and in earnest seeking through the written Word of God. He is here,  He is available to us,  friend. Our life choices are opportunities to be drawn closer to Him by leaning to Him – or to choose separation.

I hope we will lean to Him today, friends. I hope we will know the love of His annointing of the Holy Spirit and that we will pour out His love into the world through our cheerful giving,  through generosity,  through charity, through seeing the needs of the world and not turning away.

May we be cheerfully generous, friends.

Giving the best gifts

Today is my daughter’s birthday party. Christmas is just around the corner. So giving is on a lot of our minds right now. 

Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.8.7-8.NLT

Paul in his second letter to the believers in Corinth offers them constructive criticism. It reminds me immediately of a recurring theme,  whether in his letters to Timothy, or the warnings for the 7 churches in Revelation, or in the way that he patterns most of his letters. And isn’t this the way of the Holy Spirit, the way of God towards those that He loves and that love Him in return? He doesn’t sit on the mountaintop waiting for an opportunity to destroy us,  but He draws close to us and gives to us graciously.

And the best gifts that He gives to us are not the things of this world, but they are gifts and treasures eternal. The best gifts that He brings to us are things like grace,  mercy,  peace,  patience, joy,  love, hope, faith – because these things are not common,  nor are they cheap. All of them come at a heavy price,  and, He is gracious and teaches us through His costly love for us how we are meant to love one another.

So today,  there will be presents that we give our daughter that we have bought,  and that are things of this world – and we are happy and gracious and thankful to be able to provide for her. But the greatest gifts that we will give her today is in introducing her to those gifts eternal. We will teach her that the loving people sharing in the celebration with her are far more valuable than the presents and the cake. We will demonstrate to her that helping those we know are in need today is more important than piles of presents under the Christmas tree.

And we won’t do this because it is an obligation,  or that we feel commanded by some religious commitment to do these things. We will do it because we want her to have the best gifts. We want her to receive and know and recognize those gifts that come from God that are so much more valuable than stuff and things that the world tries to sell us in a commercial.

Generosity is the inevitable result of grattitude. And gratitude is the inevitable response of someone who receives something that they do not expect or “deserve” or “feel entitled to”. And do you see how if we got our hope,  our attitudes in line with seeking God’s nature of generosity and gratitude in our own lives that these two will feed each other? Can you imagine how quickly these two traits could set fire to the nations with the loving example of true Christian living? With one’s generosity feeding another’s grattitude,  and their grattitude fueling their flame to pass it on in generosity towards another?

But if we don’t see past the presents,  we will never see the flame. If we don’t see past the obligation of buying a gift for each person and instead see an opportunity to be generous and loving towards each other – won’t we miss an opportunity?

And don’t think that I’m encouraging you to go into debt spending money outside of what a responsible budget allows – I’m talking about the most excellent gifts that you can give. Isn’t it better for us to give our love, and to encourage hope, and to offer our time and attention to the needs in each others lives than to add to the piles of things cluttering our homes? Yes, this perspective and attitude takes more time, more focus, more effort,  more actual caring for others – but isn’t that the very point?

Do we want to give the best gifts today? Or are we weary and just ready to get it all over with? Let’s be honest with ourselves and understand the opportunity we are missing out on by not feeding that self propelling engine of grattitude and generosity working side by side with one another.

Look for opportunities today to be generous,  friend. Help someone who cannot repay you. Show love even to someone who may not “deserve it”. Offer forgiveness to that person that hurt you even though they aren’t sorry about it. And not because it’s a commandment and a requirement, but because you know that is exactly what Christ has done for you.

May God bless your life today with the best gifts, those blessings eternal,  friend.