I praise God for the hope of eternal life in heaven someday!

Let My Praises Be Heard!


I PRAISE GOD FOR THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN SOMEDAY!

Heaven- described as a glorious city, a place that is likened to pure gold and clear glass- Heaven God’s dwelling place which is prepared for those earthlings who love and who serve the living Christ. Heaven- a place whose environment is filled with God’s holiness, and God’s beauty, and God’s unity, and God’s perfection, and God’s unspeakable joy!

Heaven a place where there are no tears of sorrow or grief, a place where there is no sickness or pain or death. No funerals in heaven! And no aging and no growing old and decrepit! A place where there is no sun and no moon, for Christ Himself is the source of all light! In heaven, there is no night!

There are no arguments between family members ‘up there’ in ‘glory land’! No separations from those we love. No marriage, it is true, but the love relationship enjoyed between spouses on earth will be greatly enhanced in heaven! Heaven – a place where the focus of all will be on Christ alone! Heaven is a place where there is no competition and no comparisons between jealous-ridden persons.

Heaven is a place where all serve each other with holy love and with gladness. Heaven is a place of perfect harmony and unity, where ‘all is for each, and each is for all.’ Serving each other without the physical imitations of a human body.

Heaven a place of joyful singing and happy serving and constant learning. A place where all the saints will learn from one another, and all will learn forever from the ‘Master Teacher’ Himself- the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven – a place where each will become more like God forever – without, of course, ever actually becoming gods.

The excitement of eternal growth in knowledge and in holy wisdom and understanding! No longer seeing reality as if peering through a hazy glass, but, instead, seeing reality with our spiritual eyes as a result of being given a ‘spiritual body’, Heaven- a place where we will no longer walk by faith, but a place where we shall behold Christ, face to face in all His glory!

Death for the believer is like going from the basement of the house to the top story of the house. When a person is ‘saved’, he receives (according to scripture) ‘eternal life’ -the very moment when Christ comes into his heart. Therefore, death does not introduce a believer to any other type of life, than the life which the believer is already enjoying on this ‘earthly plain’!

Death simply introduces a believer to a closer relationship with Christ, to the same type of life that the believer has been enjoying, from the very moment the believer (the repentant sinner) accepted Christ into his life.

Christ within the believer is nothing less than ‘eternal life’ within the heart of a believer! When a believer is ‘ushered into the presence of Christ in heaven’ (when he dies), a believer enjoys a closer and a more intimate relationship with Christ!

When he leaves this ‘earthly temple’, and when he enters the ‘portals of heaven’, the believer continues (on a ‘higher level’) to enjoy the same quality of life that he had been enjoying, all along on earth.

He simply goes from the lower floor of the house (the earthly level, which has a high quality of life) to the top floor of the house (where that earthly life with Christ is continued and is enjoyed to a much greater degree in heaven)!

Death allows the Christian to reach his destination! Death for the Christian is like crossing the ‘finish line’ after a long marathon run. Death signals the end to all of the tests and trials and temptations that accompanied the long and hard ‘race of life’!

Death signals the end of all the stresses and hardships of life, and is the gateway to peace and rest and health! “When I have gone the last mile of the way, I will rest at the end of the day. And I know there are joys that await me, when I have gone the last mile of the way!”

Death is not a loss for the believer; death, instead, is the way into eternal life in heaven. Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” Christians are only pilgrims on this planet. Dying allows the believer to ‘go home’!

Jesus promised to give a beautiful home to His followers, when they die! “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where l am, there ye may be also.”

When you place your faith in the Deathless One- Jesus Christ- you shall never die! Of course, your earthly body will die, your corruptible body will return to dust! But, the ‘real you’ – your spirit – will never die!

Jesus said, “If a man keeps my saying he shall never see death.” (John 8:5) “Whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die.” John 11:16) Notes J.B. Phillips, “It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the meaning that Christ intended to convey was that death was a completely negligible experience to the man who had already begun to live life of the eternal quality.”

When we believe in Jesus – truly believe – our sorrows are soothed, our broken hearts are mended, and our void of loneliness is filled. Throughout our long spiritual pilgrimage on earth, God is preparing us for the last mile of our way, when our journey will finally be completed!

The imperfections (from our earthly pilgrimage) that remain with us, when we go through the ‘Gates of Heaven’, these imperfections will all be eliminated in heaven (perhaps through a ‘purging process’, sometime in heaven, and probably accomplished by the kindly administration of our merciful Heaven Father).

Relationships that were broken on earth will likely (and even necessarily) be mended and be reconciled in that heavenly dwelling place. Perfect peace and genuine understanding and wholehearted love these are the ‘natural ingredients’ of Christ’s heavenly home! Anything that is contrary to these qualities (in the character of a believer) must be rectified (reconciled) some time, if not on earth before the believer’s death, then in heaven!

The Bible says that in heaven, ‘all tears will be wiped away from our eyes’! Truly! But, contrary to the belief that many have, I think that there is reason to believe that the tears in the eyes of some believers will only be wiped away ‘in’ heaven, only after the needed reconciliation with other (discordant) believers takes place!

What can be said about the alienation that some believers have, with their fellow believers (on this earth) an alienation that was not resolved before the time of the believer’s death? Will this same alienation automatically be ‘removed’ (resolved) at the moment of an alienated believer’s physical, death – or, on the other hand, will the unresolved differences between believers need to be resolved (after they die) in the heavenly home?

The process of reconciliation (by the nature of the concept) means that the two persons who are ‘at odds’ with one another, must humbly confess their sins to one another, must humbly ask for forgiveness, and must humbly seek understanding with the opposing party.

If the process of reconciliation is not entered into by the alienated (opposing) persons, on this earth, where else can that process of reconciliation take place, other than in heaven?

God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of all heavenly citizens, but does God do this ‘wiping away’ at the point of the believer’s death, or at the point when alienated believers (alienated because of misunderstandings on earth), are hugging each other in heaven, as a result of their finally reconciling differences which were never resolved on earth!

Whatever the ‘correct’ answer is to the above thought-provoking discussion (regarding the location for the resolution of differences between believers), the scriptures do indicate that heaven will be so wonderful that no human can describe its full splendor! “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man, what God has prepared for those who love Him!”

Heaven is a place where we feel ‘at home’, never alone, and never lonely! When we are in heaven, it will be awesome, most glorious, but, even though we will be ‘awestruck’ with amazement because of the beauty of heaven, we, nevertheless, will not feel like a ‘stranger’ there.

We will never feel ‘out of place’. Rather, though we feel unworthy, we will feel that we are where we are supposed to be, were we truly ‘belong’! We will not ‘feel ill at ease’. We will feel ‘comfortable’; feel like we are in a place where ‘we belong!’

Even though we will sense that we are not ‘worthy’ to be in this indescribably beautiful place, and even though we will be ‘lost in wonder, love, and praise’, we, nevertheless, will feel ‘right at home’.

Even though we will recognize that there are ‘giants of the faith’ (famous saints of the ages) in this dwelling place (and sometimes those saints may walk rather close to us), we, nevertheless, will not be intimidated by these ‘giant Christians’!

In fact, we will desire to meet these unusual servants of Christ, and we will desire to thank these great leaders of the ‘faith’, for their amazing contributions to the cause of Christ, while they ministered so effectively on planet earth. We will likely wish some time to sit at the feet of these ‘giant saints’, to learn spiritual truths from their lips, truths that will help us in our continuing growth in our heavenly dwelling place.

Heaven is a place where there will be growth and more growth. Eternal growth! Progressively and joyously, we will become more and more like the One whom all heaven adores and magnifies- the Lord Jesus Christ!

Perhaps Christ (the Master Teacher) will assign a large number of teachers to us- to teach us, a little at a time, regarding the abundance of ‘truths’! The greatest truths of all will be the truths (mysteries) regarding the Holy Trinity! Truth about the character of our triune God will occupy our thoughts for all eternity!

There are mansions in heaven, especially suited to each of us. There is no lack in heaven. Our every need will be supplied, our every desire will be fulfilled, and our every capacity will be developed. There is no overcrowding in heaven, and there is a special room that God has ready for each of the earth’s inhabitants.

There is neither positioning nor deprivation in heaven! There will be perfect enjoyment of each other, and no one will get on another’s person’s ‘nerves’. We will never get tired of each other! We will spend some of our ‘time’ exploring the mysteries and the wonders of each other’s personality, and each other’s amazing gifts and talents and abilities!

No jealousy as we are absorbed in learning about each other! Total dignity and no shame in the feelings that we have of ourselves and of one another. No class consciousness and no racial discrimination. “All for each and each for all!

Absolutely no self-absorption and no self-centeredness, but total self giving and others-orientation. Humility without humiliation, and dignity without pride! Total fellowship and total communion and total preoccupation with the worship of the King of kings- the Lord Jesus Christ! Singing with the holy angels the chorus of eternal praise to the Lamb of God, whose blood was shed for the redemption of the fallen world!

All heavenly citizens will well know that they are not worthy of the least of God’s favor! That they are in heaven, only because of the ‘finished work of Christ!’ None will feel worthy of Christ’s favor, but all will glory in the wonder of Christ’s favor!

None will ever be able to praise Christ adequately for His willingness to shed His blood for the redemption of mankind! There is strong evidence that the five wounds of Christ (which He received on the cross) will be visible on Christ’s heavenly (resurrected) body!

The eyes of all the saints in heaven will be fixed on those wounds- the wounds that speak of Christ’s sacrificial love for every human being! “Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down!” Love that went to the cross, to die for a race of lost and unworthy sinners!

Holy Scripture (John 14) seems to teach that heaven is a localized place, a place where all persons will be known and recognized, a place of sweet and conscious fellowship, a place where redeemed spirits are embodied with a new and resurrected body, like as to the body of their resurrected Lord!

A place also where there is unspeakable joy, restful relaxation from all of earth’s labors and stresses, total deliverance from all of earth’s illnesses (total health), and (surprising to some) a place where the heavenly saints will enjoy delightful laughter!

We must remember that Jesus (while He was a man on earth) had a joyful ‘sense of humor’ (as recognized in some of His parables)! Since we are created in the divine image, why wouldn’t we (as redeemed persons) express, at times, humor and laughter in heaven? As god-like creatures, we too, like Jesus, will surely hang back our heads and open our mouths and resound with hearty laughter – in heaven!

Laugh because Jesus won the victory (over Satan) when Jesus died and when Jesus arose from the dead! Laugh because you (along with the multitude of saints around you) made the right decision when (on earth) you repented of your sins and when you believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world, and, consequently, you got your name written in the ‘book of life’!

Laugh because you are in a place where you will enjoy both ‘eternal rest’ and ‘eternal labors’ – all ‘in the name of Jesus’ and all for the ‘glory of God’! There are many reasons why you should ‘laugh’ when you find yourself in the most glorious place that can be found in the entire universe!

Even the angels in heaven (the angels who have never known the meaning of redemption) will ‘envy’ your position in God’s vast universe! Why wouldn’t you ‘laugh’ with a ‘holy laugh’ when you arrive (by grace) in a place that cannot be invaded by any type of ‘evil’, in a place from which no one can ‘kidnap’ you, in a place where you will love others and where you will be loved by others for ever, in a place without competition and without comparisons and without jealousies and without boredom and without weariness.

Total worship of the King, total involvement of your creative service to everyone around you, total confidence and wholesome self-esteem with no selfish pride and with no self-absorption, total self– acceptance with no self-consciousness and no self-advancement, total teachableness and progressive growth in learning about the glorious mystery of God’s holy trinity!

In heaven, the redeemed saints will have spiritual, localized, and recognizable (concrete) bodies – bodies that are similar, if not identical, to the body of the resurrected Lord! Heaven has a local habitation. Heaven is an actual place in the great universe of God, not a mere ‘state of the mind’!

The spiritual (resurrected) body in heaven will surely be more ‘real’ than the body that exists on earth! How? Of course, we must wait to ‘find out when we enjoy our new body in that ‘fair and wonderful dwelling place’!

After Jesus arose from the dead (and when He spent 40 days on this earth, before His ascension), Jesus appeared to be like He was, before He died! It is true that Jesus could go from one physical location to another location, without the normal necessity of walking. He could suddenly appear at one location, and then suddenly be at another location! Jesus’ ‘resurrected body’ obviously had a marvelous ‘power’ (capacity) that His mere physical body did not have.

On the other hand, the resurrected Jesus told ‘doubting Thomas’ (when He appeared to Thomas after the resurrection) to touch the wounds in His body. If Jesus was some kind of ethereal (hazy and undetermined) essence, rather than a ‘concrete body’, Thomas would not have been able to ‘touch’ Jesus! It seemed that Jesus’ body, though concrete in essence (touchable and seeable), was, nevertheless, of a spiritual essence (beyond the physical ‘material’ of a lowly, confined earthly body).

Jesus died once (for mankind’s redemption), and, as the resurrected Lord, He shall never die again. Humans, embodied in a corruptible body, will – if they are redeemed by Christ- die only once, and, like their resurrected Lord, they will never die again!

Like the Lord whom they serve, they will live forever! Just as Jesus, in heaven, has a ‘glorified human body’ (with the five wounds from His crucifixion visibly apparent), the redeemed souls of earth will appear in heaven with their glorified (human) bodies. As we were identified by our unique ‘features’ in our human body on earth, so we will (in some way) be readily identified by our unique ‘features’ in heaven!

If God loved ‘uniqueness’ (variety) when He created the earth, don’t you think that God will love (enjoy) great variety in the unique ‘features’ of His heavenly creatures (citizens) in heaven?

Obviously, ho one can clearly define what ‘form’ uniqueness will ‘take’ in heaven, but we can be assured that God’s varied ‘assignments’ in heaven (to every heavenly citizen) will be one manifestation of ‘heaven’s variety'(uniqueness).

How will you and I be quickly ‘identified’ in heaven? Will there be an immediate communication spirit to spirit- between the heavenly citizens? Will the same physical marks (that set us apart from one another on earth) be immediately recognized, when we dwell with each other, in that vast heavenly City?

If I die (as a bald-headed man, as I will), will I continue to be a baldheaded man in heaven? Surely, on one hand, the blemishes and the imperfections of my earthly body will be removed, when I receive my ‘perfect, resurrected body’, but, on the other hand, surely the distinguishing ‘characteristics’ of my human body will ‘remain’ as the ‘characteristics’ of my new and glorified body!

Whatever are the actual circumstances in that heavenly dwelling place, we can be sure of one thing, namely, “we shall know and we shall be known”! We shall spend eternity (in heaven) coming to know all the heavenly citizens, and, in turn, all the heavenly citizens will progressively come to know us!

The joy of knowing others (with all the excitement of what that ‘discovery’ of persons entails), and the joy of knowing ourselves without any shame and without any embarrassment- will be a joy, indeed, that will be unspeakable and full of glory!

The glorious ‘uncovering’ of the true and the mysterious identity of other heavenly citizens, will bring joy and awe and wonderment to both the discovering one (yourself), and to the discovered one (yourself)!

The greatest of all wonderment will be the wonderment of gradually discovering (throughout eternity) the ‘mystery of the holy trinity’! The gradual unfolding of this ‘mystery’ will be the greatest excitement of every heavenly citizen!

Sharing new knowledge with each other- with full openness to the truth and with all the ‘barriers’ to learning destroyed! The joy of discovering new knowledge, which, in turn, leads heavenly citizens to the discovery of more and more new knowledge- and forever learning and learning!

The joy of becoming more and more like God, without, of course, ever becoming ‘little gods’. Of course, we shall forever (in heaven) remain ‘redeemed humans’ (clothed with a new, resurrected body), but, as redeemed humans, we are, nevertheless, in a ‘glorified’ (permanent) ‘state’! Eternal fellowship and eternal happiness!

And the great truth is this: In heaven, all the happy dwellers know that they forever will serve a great God: A God who loves all and who wills to ‘save’ all, the Jesus who died for all, a God whose human creatures (sinners) are savable (capable of being ‘saved’), a God who has sent the Holy Spirit to all persons to call all persons to repentance and to new life, a God who has prepared a place in heaven for every human being, and a God who is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all persons should come to repentance, and, thus, at death, be ‘ushered into heaven’!

God loves the human race, including the ‘least’, the ‘last’, the overlooked, the ‘most unworthy’. God loves the high and the low, the most gifted and the least gifted, the wealthy and the poor, the beautiful and the ugly! God loves the powerful ones and the weak ones, the high profile ones and he obscure ones, the highly educated ones and the most illiterate ones.

God loves the positioned ones and the most overlooked ones, the very beautiful ones and the out rightly repulsive ones! God love the young adults and He also loves the decrepit (aging) ones, the up-and-out moralistic sinners and the down-and-out sinners (the immoral and ‘raw’ sinners)!

If God would have His own wily, there would not be a single person who would die in his/her unrepentant sin! If God had His way (that is, if God’s ‘perfect will’ were carried out) there would be universal, spiritual health, as the result of the forgiveness of every sin of every person!

Christ died so that all persons could be forgiven of his/her sins, and the Spirit calls all persons to repentance, and a place is prepared for every person in heaven – therefore, there is no reason why any human being should be without hope and without salvation!

What more can God do, other than what He has done to make it possible for everyone to enjoy the glories of heaven forever! If God- the loving and merciful and forgiving God- had His way in the affairs of men, and regarding the destiny of men – every soul would be forgiven on earth, and every soul would have his/her name written in the ‘Lamb’s Book of Life’ (assuring him/her a place in the eternal kingdom)!

Hell was prepared for the devil and for his fallen angels (demons) – NOT for human beings! God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! God is doing everything in His power (short of coercion) to keep every soul out of hell, and to take every human being to heaven! But, God cannot (will not) take any human being to heaven, against his/her own ‘will’ and ‘desire’!

One’s eternal destiny depends upon one thing and one thing only- the kind of ‘heart response’ that a person gives to God’s revelation of the Light that God gives to a person (even if that ‘Light’ comes in a diminished form of ‘General Revelation’ and not ‘Special Revelation’).

Those only will be in heaven who have, honestly and positively, responded in their heart to God’s revelation of “light” (whether it is response to the “Concealed Christ” or response to the “Known Christ”)!

It is encouraging for us members of a “fallen Race’ to know that God did not abandon us when, through our Race’s Representative (Adam), the entire human race miserably ‘fell into sin!’ Through a rather long and complex plan (over a period of many centuries), God finally brought His Son into the world to accomplish His plan for ‘world redemption’.

No human can fully understand the ‘mystery of iniquity’ (sin), or the ‘mystery of divinely-accomplished redemption through the cross and resurrection’, or the ‘mystery of the human free will’ – but, great as these mysteries are, God, nevertheless, mightily ‘works his miracles’ of human transformation!

There are millions of persons today, throughout the world in probably every country, who are ‘openly acknowledging and serving Christ’, and, doubtless, (because of the universal ‘work of the Holy Spirit’) there are, doubtless, also many more persons throughout the entire world whose hearts are presently turned toward the Living God! These latter (many) persons are presently seeking the ‘concealed’ Christ, as best as they know, with their very limited knowledge and with their narrow opportunities, spiritually- speaking!

AII persons will be in heaven who on earth ‘walked in the light of truth’ as God gave them ‘light’! Some persons will enter heaven, possessing so much more knowledge of Jesus than other persons other (less fortunate) persons who received so much less light on earth, persons who possessed little knowledge regarding the true identity of Jesus.

What God will judge, in the end of human existence, is not the accuracy of one’s mental knowledge about God, and about Man, and about Sin, and about Jesus Christ, and about the complexities of the plan of salvation (atonement, justification, regeneration, sanctification).

Instead of the mental knowledge of Christian Doctrine, it will be the response of the human heart to the revealed truth of God, given in abundant measure to some persons, and given in very small measure to some other person.

God will judge the ‘condition of one’s heart’, not the fullness of one’s mental comprehension of Christian Doctrines! It will be the condition of the human heart (i.e., the receptivity to the Holy Spirit’s multiple works of enlightenment, conviction, offer of forgiveness and new life, etc.) that will determine the final outcome of one’s eternal destiny!

If a person’s heart is right with God (and only God can fully and accurately determine this), then that person will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom- to enjoy the glories of heaven, along with the saints who early in their life responded to the ‘revealed Christ’ of ‘special revelation’!

Both the ‘privileged ones’, and the ‘much less privileged ones’, will be together in holy fellowship in heaven- those who responded to the lesser ‘light’ of general revelation, and those who responded to the greater ‘light’ of special revelation!

According to the famous passage in Matthew 25, is seems quite apparent that Jesus, as the Judge of all men, at the End of human existence, will applaud each person’s HEART RESPONSE to the needs of one’s fellow men, even if some of the compassionate-oriented persons do not have a so-called ‘evangelical conversion’! Jesus said of the compassionate person (who does all kinds of good deeds) that ‘inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’

All they know is that they desire to help people, to alleviate their terrible sufferings, to befriend the lonely, to give a listening ear to the troubled words of persons, to give a generous portion of their money to help to poor, to visit those who are grief-stricken, to share their presence with those in prison, to give away their talents to bless the troubled ones, and so much more.

You may respond to these compassion-oriented persons that they could not do all these ‘acts of charity’ unless they are ‘born-again Christians. ‘Precisely! These ‘fruits of godliness’ come not from mere ‘sentimental inclinations’.

The one who is humbly compassionate is the same one who is a ‘child of God- truly ‘born again’. Such a person has surrendered his heart and his will to others – to serve, to care, to empathize, and to be an instrument of healing to others.

Such a person (and there are multitudes of these kinds of persons, among all classes and all races and all religious affiliations throughout the world), I say, such a person whose life is largely defined by voluntary works of charity, would be dumbfounded if you asked him if he had been ‘born again’.

Because such persons cannot ‘pinpoint’ a time of personal conversion, and because they cannot intelligently describe the meaning of ‘repentance’, ‘awakening’, ‘confession’, ‘justification’, and ‘regeneration’ and all the other difficult theological (salvation) terms, does NOT mean that these persons are unconverted (or that they are not in God’s family).

Based upon the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25, I think that it is likely that there will be a multitude of persons in heaven who, while they lived on earth, did not profess a deep and a personal relationship with Christ, but who will, nevertheless, be in heaven (apparently to their own surprise, according to the kind of response that these certain people will give to Jesus, in eternity)!

These citizens of heaven (who are surprised at the wonderful outcome of their compassionate life surprised that the Master gave them ‘entrance’ into heaven), I say, these surprised citizens of heaven ‘walked in all the light of truth’ that they received on earth, namely, the ‘LIGHT OF TRUE COMPASSION’ towards their fellow men on earth.

They did not realized, while they carried on their active life of compassion on earth, that the very origin (fountainhead) of their compassion was nothing less than the very compassionate heart of Jesus Himself!

Such persons responded to the ‘saving grace’ of Jesus rather ignorantly, at the very time that they sincerely committed (surrendered) their entire life and energies and talents and skills and training and motivations to the caring for the imprisoned and the starving and the weak and the oppressed and the widow and the poor and the injured persons around them!

They manifested the ‘fruits of Christlikeness’, so, indeed, they surely possessed the very person of Christ! Even though, today, these compassionate persons are unaware of it, while they are gladly and joyously and sacrificially caring out their ‘works of charity’, the motivation for their labors of compassion being the indwelling Holy Spirit!

There is a multitude of medical doctors, throughout the world, who are ‘doing the work of Christ’ and some of them do not even realize that their works are motivated by Christ’s Spirit! Their compassionate works have the ‘smile of God’s approval’ resting upon them!

It would be much better if all (unenlightened) doctors (ignorant of the motivation for their genuine works of medical intervention), would have their ‘eyes opened’ to the reality of the Christ who stands beside them while they perform delicate surgeries, and while they are bringing comfort to their dying patients.

Whether or not these physicians are aware of the divinely-imparted strength within them, to enable them to perform their medical procedures, it is, nevertheless, true that it is the ‘unseen Christ’ who is the ‘Author’ of all healing. No doctor, of course, can heal a human body, but Christ (the Healer) has chosen (in most situations) to ‘use’ human ‘instruments’ (like surgeons and psychiatrists) to ‘achieve’ the healing of the human body.

The point is simple: Some medical doctors are serving the ‘concealed Christ’ (unknown to the doctor, but, nevertheless the Christ who is intervening in any work of compassion, including the work of ‘spiritually-blinded’ physicians)!

Some other medical doctors (committed believer) are serving the ‘openly revealed Christ’ (the Christ, who is openly confessed by the doctor, and the doctor who humbly and constantly depends upon the Spirit for His enablement for every medical procedure and the doctor who unashamedly gives God the glory for all medical ‘success’).

The doctor who is sincerely ‘walking in the lesser light’ of truth is serving the ‘concealed Christ’, and such a doctor is a ‘servant of God’, even though this doctor has not (yet) discovered the ‘fuller light’ of Jesus Christ (revealed in the Gospels).

Many persons in this world (including many ‘non-Christian’ doctors, as in India and other countries), are ‘walking in all the light of truth’ that they know (and such compassionate persons- doctors, for instance have not yet received the ‘fuller light’, centered in the incarnate Christ)!

As long as these doctors are sincerely walking in the light of truth, that has been given to them, even if the ‘light’ is a ‘lesser light’, such compassionate persons- doctors, for instance, with limited knowledge of ‘truth’ -will, nevertheless, be accepted by our Lord!

“Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love thou art! Jesus, those persons who manifest your type of compassion, must they not surely belong to you? Compassion, motivated by unselfish love, is the practical and the ‘visible’ manifestation of ‘God’s love on the earth!’

“Jesus, if compassion is the concrete expression of divine-like love, then surely all persons who have compassion in their heart will gain a glorious entrance into the ‘Heaven of Love’! With or without much ‘knowledge’ of you on earth, will all persons whose heart is moved by compassion, be welcomed someday into your eternal kingdom?

“Jesus, if your heart is the heart of overflowing compassion, won’t those who possess your kind of compassion (on earth) be eventually ‘gathered into your arms of compassion’, after they have lived their earthly life? Won’t the ‘worker of compassion’ be someday gathered into the merciful arms of the ‘Master and Motivator of compassion’?

“Jesus, won’t those who are most compassionate on earth, feel most at ‘home’ in a place that is ‘full of compassionate saints’? Jesus, my head and my heart both accept your ‘answer’ to my important questions! My head and my heart agree that the answer surely must be YES! Jesus thanks you for your heart of compassion!”


Table of contents: Let my praises be heard!


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Upon what ‘Foundation’ is the superstructure of Gratitude built?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


UPON WHAT ‘FOUNDATION’ IS THE SUPERSTRUCTURE OF GRATITUDE BUILT?

Humility is one of the necessary ‘foundation stones’ for the superstructure of gratitude. lt is the proud and the self-sufficient person who is ungrateful to God for the provisions and benefits of life. The proud (arrogant) person looks to himself as the source of all good things. He fails to recognize that God alone is the source of all good and beautiful things in this world! “ln God we live and move and have our very being!”

Those are the biblical assertions of ‘reality’, and they are the words that come from the lips of the truly humble and God-dependent and grateful person. To the proud Corinthian believers, Paul asked: “What have you that you have not received? lf then you received all things from God, why do you boast as if you received these things on your own?”

There is no attitude that more quickly destroys the spirit of gratitude, than the attitude of self– sufficiency and the attitude of carnal pride! God hates pride, not only because pride fails to recognize that God is the author of all good things (the source of all earthly blessings), but because the spirit of pride is the spirit that ultimately destroys the one who practices pride, that is, it is the spirit that ultimately dehumanizes the person who practices pride.

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall!” We humans are not created to pose as our own little ‘god’, but we are made to serve the true God- the God from whom all blessings are derived! God is a good God, and because of His ‘nature of grace’, He wants to pour out His blessings upon His creatures (His creation), but if the ‘lid of our life’ is closed, by pride and self-sufficiency, we humans are unable to receive the ‘full benefit’ of God’s blessings.

Ingratitude is the ‘dam’ that blocks the mighty flow of God’s blessings into our lives. God wants to give us all things richly to enjoy, but the recipient (humans) must be willing to receive God’s rich and abundant gifts of grace.

God is the Giver of all good things, but there must be a willing and humble and grateful recipient, if the gifts are ever to be received and ever to be enjoyed during this earthly existence. God has a rich endowment of gifts (of all kinds), but it is only the willing and the open person (recipient) who can actually receive those abundant gifts from the hand of a loving God!

God, through the ‘saving work’ of Christ, is reconciled (objectively) to the entire (fallen) human race, but what God offers (the gift of salvation and all other lesser gifts) can only be received by those who (through repentance and faith) have accepted- humbly and gratefully- the reconciliation that God (in grace) has already obtained!

The grateful person (sinner) is the only type of person who is able gladly to receive the gift of God’s accomplished ‘work in Christ’- namely, the freely offered reconciliation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The ‘chief gift’, of course, is salvation, but the ‘bundle of salvation’ contains countless other rich and wonderful and life-giving gifts! The quality and the quantity of these divinely-purchased gifts cannot even be described, and these gifts from our loving God are enjoyed both in time and in eternity!


Table of contents: Let my praises be heard!


Introduction Encountering the Living God

Introduction to Encountering The Living God

Before a person can experience a 'spiritual conversion', he first must experience a 'spiritual awakening'. He must encounter (confront) God, and he must recognize his own personal, spiritual need for God. This 'Collision with God' or inner awakening to personal need is the work of the Holy Spirit. "And when he (the Holy Spirit) has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God's goodness, and of deliverance from judgment." (John 16:8, Living Bible)

Coleridge said that he believed the Bible to be inspired because, as he put it, "It finds me". Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand." It was the Holy Spirit who pricked the hearts of Peter's listeners on the Day of Pentecost. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles. Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) It was the Holy Spirit who awakened Felix to his spiritual need: "And as he (Felix) reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled." (Acts 24:25 a) Every person's inner moral condition is 'naked' and exposed before the 'eyes' of Almighty God! The 'all-seeing eyes' of God search the 'thoughts and motives and desires' of all human beings! However, God's exposure of a person's sin is not for the purpose of mere shame and humiliation. God exposes one's spiritual nakedness in order to clothe him with the 'garments of Christ's righteousness'.

After God awakens a person to his true spiritual condition, God calls that 'exposed sinner' to repentance. Repentance does not mean mere self-improvement. Mere 'human reformation' is not sufficient to heal the 'sin-sick soul'! A person may attempt to reform a pig by cleaning the pig up and by dressing the pig in clean clothes. However, until the nature of the pig is changed, the pig will go back into the mud puddle. A person's 'nature' must be changed by Almighty God. Self-improvement is not sufficient. A sinner must be divinely transformed. Also, repentance is not merely regret or remorse. Simply to feel sorrow about events in the past is not to change things in the present or in the future.

What is repentance? Repentance is a 'moral u-turn' . "A change of mind toward sin, from one of embracing to one of separation". (Stanley Walters) Repentance involves open confession of one's sins to Almighty God. A sinner must make a 'moral u-turn'. He must turn from his old life of sinning. C. S. Lewis describes repentance: "Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that yon have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor-is what Christians call repentance." (Mere Christianity; pg. 59) Repentance recognizes that sin is not only a violation of law (of God), but that it is also the breaking of a relationship (with God). Repentance is not only recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of

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sin's consequences, but repentance is also recognizing one's inability to save himself. To have a spirit of true repentance is to acknowledge one's personal helplessness. Before a sinner is ready to receive God's help, he must declare his own personal 'moral bankruptcy'! Repentance involves both a 'change of mind' (from an attitude of embracing sin to an attitude of hating sin) and a 'change in actions' (from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness). Repentance does not mean, however, perfection in moral performance, but rather a new direction in life. To truly repent one must 'disagree' with his former prideful attitudes of self-sufficiency, and he must henceforth agree with God's grace-estimate of his moral condition.

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men and women must repent and turn to God if they are to live. God's absolute requirement for salvation is repentance: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) Remorse is mere sorrow because of the consequences of one's sins. Repentance is a 'godly sorrow' over the sin itself, with a sincere desire to change one's life. True repentance means hating sin, accepting full moral responsibility for one's sinful actions, and turning completely to Christ for forgiveness and new life. The turning away from a life of sinful attitudes and actions is called repentance; a turning towards the Saviour for salvation is called 'saving faith'. The 'turning from' and the 'turning to' should take place almost simultaneously.

Repentance and faith are two sides of one coin or two halves of one whole. Repentance should always be inseparably coupled with faith. Repentance is forsaking sin, and faith is turning to the Saviour. The moment one forsakes sin, he must turn to the Saviour, for sin can only loose its grip on one's life when one surrenders himself to the stronger hold of the Saviour.

One is 'saved' by faith. Faith is a transfer of trust from one's self to one's Saviour. Saving faith is always accompanied by genuine repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin. Faith is a change of -attitude toward the Saviour, from one of rejection to one of acceptance of and surrender to the Saviour. Saving faith is "putting yourself in the care of One who can do something. It is a transfer of trust for salvation from self to Christ." (Stanley Walters) Faith is the total commitment of one's total self to Christ. Faith is throwing yourself upon God, like a drowning man throws himself upon the strength of the lifeguard. Only when one ceases to struggle and instead abandons himself to the Divine Lifeguard, is he 'saved'. The object of the sinner's faith must be Jesus Christ. Christ is perfectly trustworthy. "How did you like the airplane ride?" was asked of a nervous man who went up for the first time. "Very well," he replied, "but I never did put my whole weight down!" Faith means putting your whole weight down on God! Faith is self-abandonment to God and rejection of all attempts at works of self-righteousness. There are some who feel they must improve on their actions before they can come to God or be accepted by God. But the popular Gospel song well states the truth: "Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee

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whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!"

Ask yourself if you have had a spiritual awakening, if you have truly repented, if you have exercised saving faith .. John Wesley, 18th century clergyman of the Church of England who is credited as 'Founder of Methodism', struggled hard and long before he discovered the way of simple faith (accompanied with true repentance) as the means to genuine salvation from sin. There were several 'dead-end-roads' which John Wesley traveled before he found the 'right road' to Christ. Even today, there are far too many who are traveling on those 'dead-end roads'.

There is the 'dead-end road' of Mysticism. Mysticism is an 'individualized' attempt to know God, unaided by any of the 'Means of Grace' (such as Christian Fellowship, the Bible, Prayer, Lord's Supper, Baptism). Mysticism teaches that a person can be 'united with God' without personal repentance and without obedience to any of the written laws of God. Mysticism centers on emotions and 'personal experience' without the need for any rational understanding of the objectively-revealed (propositional) truths of God. Mysticism involves personal withdrawal from any human association, and disdains any need for personal accountability to any group. Mysticism seeks personal Communion with God, and seeks to avoid 'contact' with other persons. Thus, the way of mysticism is the way of self-preoccupation, with little or no concern for ministering to the needs of other 'hurting people'. Mysticism, with its extreme emphasis on one's subjective relationship with God, minimizes the importance of obedience to God's objective commandments, and denies the Biblical teaching that 'good works' are the legitimate expressions of a true faith in God (i.e., mysticism denies that a 'saving faith' is a 'working faith').

After John Wesley was delivered from the snares of mysticism, he declared that, of all the enemies of Christianity, mysticism was the most dangerous.

There is the 'dead-end road' of legalist, which is an attempt to gain God's acceptance through strenuous human effort and law-keeping and human performance and personal moral achievement A legalist is one whose focus on a life of 'good works' is an attempt to make himself acceptable unto Almighty God. A legalist (rightly) acknowledges the importance of 'good works', but a legalist (wrongly) believes that it is 'good works' which justifies a person before God. John Wesley, along with many other earnest seekers (including Martin Luther), believed that one must greatly improve his own life and conduct before God could accept him into His family. One scholar characterized John Wesley's search for God through 'legalism' in this way: "He believed that a changed life was not the fruit of forgiveness, but its cause. Good works" Wesley said, come before forgiveness and constituted the title to it; they (good works) did not come after and represent its effects." (Quoted in "Age To Age, A Living Witness", by Leslie Ray Marston; pg. 27) At this stage in John Wesley's spiritual quest he failed to discern God's 'order of salvation', regarding the proper relationship between God's grace, and

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the Sinner's response to grace through repentance and faith, and the consequence (i.e., the fruit or evidence) of true saving faith which is a life of 'good works'. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear that a sinner is save BY God's grace THROUGH man's faith FOR good works. "Because of God's kindness (grace) you have been saved through trusting Christ (faith). And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others" (i.e., a life full of 'good works'). (Ephesians 2: 8-10, Living Bible) The 'performance of good works' is important as evidence that one has truly believed in Christ as His Savior, but 'good works' are never meritorious (i.e., 'good works' can never make one worthy or deserving of God's favor and forgiveness and acceptance). Because one has been wonderfully 'saved' by Christ alone, the saved person deeply loves Christ and wishes to please Christ as an act of gratitude for salvation from sin. 'Good works' are the natural 'fruits' (manifestations) of love for the 'Lover of sinners'.

Wrote the apostle Paul: "The Scriptures tell us Abraham believed God, and that is why God canceled his sins and declared him 'not guilty'. But didn't he earn his right to heaven by all the good things he did? No, for being saved is a gift; if a person could earn it by being good, then it wouldn't be free- but it is! It is given to those who do not work for it. For God declares sinners to be good in his sight if they have faitb in Christ to save them from God's wrath." (Romans 4:3-5, Living Bible)

Not only were the ways of mysticism and legalism 'dead-ends roads' for John Wesley, but Wesley also learned that the way of ritualism was a 'dead-end road'. There was a time, before John Wesley received personal assurance of sins forgiven, when he sought to be right with God through the careful observance of religious rituals and ceremonies and rites and ordinances. Wesley finally learned (like many religious persons in our modern-day need to learn) that religious ceremonies such as Baptism and the Lord's Supper cannot 'save' a person. Of course, if one takes seriously the meaning of the words found in these ceremonies and turns wholeheartedly to the Living Christ to whom these ceremonies point, then that person would discover a personal relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. However, as is too often the case, these and other religious ceremonies and rituals are often endlessly and mechanically and thoughtlessly entered into without any accompanying personal volitional commitment and emotional response on the part of the person who is engaging in these ceremonies and rituals. There is nothing inherently 'evil' or 'harmful' about religious ceremonies and rituals, but the latter must always be seen as the 'means' by which a person enters into a personal and dynamic and trusting relationship with the Living Christ. It is too easy, as in the case of the Pharisees of Jesus' time, to begin believing that the mere observance of religious ceremonies automatically brings God's favor and establishes a relationship with God and assures one that he has a "passport' to heaven. It is possible for 'religiously-oriented person' to attend Church services weekly, and to be baptized, and to participate

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regularly in the observance of the Lord's Supper, and yet not to be 'born again'. Was not Nicodemus, the Jewish Rabbi, although he was a very religious person (whose observance of ritual and ceremony was exemplary) a man who desperately needed to be 'born anew'? (John 3)

John Wesley, whose observance of religious ritual and whose performance of good works and charitable deeds were most exemplary, learned the hard way that the 'religion of respectability' and the 'religion of formality' and the 'religion of rugged disciplines' could not bring peace to his heart and mind, nor assurance to his soul and spirit. Wesley discovered that mere 'morality' and 'ethics' and 'harmless living' could not give one a 'right standing with God'. When Wesley finally found the 'open-ended road' of faith which led him to a saving knowledge of Christ, he reflectively wrote about the futility of the way of religious 'formality': "Religion is commonly thought to consist of three things – harmlessness, using the means of grace, and doing good … Accordingly, by a religious man is commonly meant one that is honest, just, and fair in his dealings; that is constantly at Church and sacrament; and that gives alms … True religion, the consequence of God's dwelling and reigning in the soul … does not consist in any or all of these three things; but a man might both be harmless, use the means of grace and do much good, and yet have no true religion at all." (Quoted in "Blueprint For A Christian World"; Mary Alice Tenney; pg. 44)

Romans, chapters 1-3, is written primarily to contrast the righteousness of God's character with the sinfulness of man's character. The universality of sin among all humanity is the devastating conclusion of these three chapters.

In chapter one of Romans, "Paul had painted a grim and terrible picture of the heathen world, a world which was under the condemnation of God. With every word of that condemnation the Jew thoroughly agreed. But he never for a moment dreamed that he was under a like condemnation. He thought that he occupied a privileged position. God might be the judge of the heathen, but he was the special protector of the Jews. Here Paul is pointing out forcibly to the Jew that he is just as much a sinner as the Gentile is and that when he is condemning the Gentile he is condemning himself. He will be judged, not on his racial heritage, but by the kind of life that he lives". (Barclay's Romans, Daily Study Bible, p. 41)

Chapter one is a description of , down-and-out' Gentile sinners, morally perverted and grossly immoral. Chapter two is a description of self-righteous, hypocritical Jews who prided themselves in their racial descent, and claimed God's special favor because Abraham was the father of their faith.

The Jews' claim to moral excellence and spiritual eliteness is vividly described in Romans 2:17-20. "You call yourself a Jew; you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are

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instructed by the law; you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth." (NIV)

Chapter one and chapter two of Romans reveal two sides of one coin. The 'coin' is sin. One side of the 'coin' is the life of sensuality. The other side of the 'coin' is the life of self-righteous morality. Both ways of life are condemned by God. Neither the down- and-out sinner nor the up-and-out sinner can gain God's approval. Both the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit bring God's judgment. Irreligious passion and religious hypocrisy both bring God's severe judgment. Sinful actions and sinful attitudes are alike condemned. The sensual sins and the sophisticated sins alike are scrutinized. Neither the life of paganism nor the life of religion can gain God's approval. The repulsive life of sensual perversion and the respectable life of self-righteous morality are equally offensive to the all-holy God, and both ways of life lead to the same eternal destination.

There are two major flaws in attempting to gain God's approval by a life of outward morality.

First, the man of self-righteous morality is shallow in his understanding of the nature of sin. He can easily condemn the immoral behavior of 'out and out'sinners. Adultery, stealing, cheating, murder, and other such actions are easily and rightly condemned. But the man of morality finds it difficult to diagnose the universal disease of all mankind – the disease of self- centeredness. "The thing that is deeply wrong with human nature is not that some people commit adultery, and some steal, but that all of us are self-centered – the decent and the indecent, the nice and the nasty. Manners, polish, refinement, and culture only cover the disease, like rouge on the face of a woman dying of anemia. They can't affect the deadly disease underneath." (Questions People Ask About Religion, William Sangster, p. 58)

The second flaw in the man of self-righteous morality is his hypocrisy. Of the self-righteous Jews, God says, "You are just as bad (as the Gentiles) when you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are talking about yourselves, for you do these very same things. .. God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws, but don't obey them. They know what is right, but don't do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it". (Romans 2:12-15, Living Bible)

After experiencing the 'dead-end roads' of the intellectualism of the rationalist, and the rigid discipline of the legalism, and the subjectivism of the mystic, and the religious performance of the formalist, John Wesley finally discovered the way

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of faith and repentance which led him to a deep and abiding assurance of forgiveness and reconciliation and peace with God. Following a period of great sorrow and distress and "heaviness of heart", on May 24, 1738, John Wesley finally experienced the assurance for which he had long sought through the ways of rationalism, mysticism, legalism, ritualism, and religious formalism. In his 'Journal' he describes his all-important 'encounter with God': "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in A1dersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

As John Wesley finally learned, and as the Bible clearly teaches (especially in the Book of Romans), there is only one 'open-ended road' which brings one into the 'Kingdom of God' – the road of faith in Christ alone.

Included in this 'Introduction to Book One' ('Encountering The Living God') is an illustrated presentation of the 'Plan of Salvation' showing (1) The Fact of Sin; (2) The Seriousness and Consequences of Sin; (3) The Insufficiency of Man's Self-Efforts to Save Himself; (4) The Sufficiency of Christ's Provision of Salvation; (5) The Conditions of Repentance and Faith which sinners must meet in order to receive God's gift of personal salvation; (6) The necessary follow-up Steps which new believers must take in order to become established in the 'Christian Life'.

Carefully 'contemplate' the following illustrated presentation of the 'Plan of Salvation' , and if you have not personally taken those all-important 'steps' of genuine repentance and faith (trust in Christ), be sure to take those 'steps' soon. And, after you have 'made your peace with God', you may find that this illustrated presentation of the Plan of Salvation will help you (as a 'tool') to share the 'Good News' with your friends and neighbors and associates and relatives.

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A Great Man Once Said,

Until He Finds "Rest In God"!

The Big Questions Of Life:

(1) WHO AM I?

(2) WHERE DID I COME FROM?

(3) CAN I FIND PEACE OF MIND?

(4) WHAT Is My PURPOSE FOR LIVING?

(5) WHERE AM I GOING AFTER I DIE?

(6) CAN I KNOW GOD IN A PERSONAL WAY?

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Every Person Has A God-Shaped Vacuum Within Him!

Many Are Trying To Fill That Vacuum With Substitutes For God:

Pleaseure!

Money!

Religion!

Power!

Morality!

Drugs!

Property!

Sex!

Alcohol!

Entertainment!

("Oh God, don't let me be disilusioned into thinking that the earth's treasures and pleasures can satisify me")

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How Serious Is Sin?

"For The Wages Of Sin is Death!" Romans 6:23

Definition:

"Wages: That Which Is Paid for Work or Services."

Sin Brings Misery and Unhappiness!

"Fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:25)

"I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

"When I kept silent about my sin, my body
waste away through my graning all day long."

(Psalms 32:3)

"Our iniquities, like the wind,
take us away"

(Isaiah 64:6)

"There is no peace", says my God, "for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:21)

"There is a way which seems right to a man, but it's
end is the way of death."

(Proverbs 14:12)

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Sinning Leads To Eternal Separation From God!

Revelation 20:11-15

It Is extremely Important
To Know That Your Name Is
Written In The Book Of Life

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Focus On: Actions Attmepting To Solve Human Problem: Resultant State Or Relationship
Outward Circumstances Give up business which has evil companions; abandon evil reading; move into new locality; establish new evnironment. Outward Reformation
Personal Habits No longer Drink or Smoke, or Lie, or Curse. Personal Reformation
Personal Discipline Exercise, Eat well, Develop the arts, perform good deeds, self-improvement Self-Improvement Cultivation
Personal Sins Confession; Repentance, Faith in Christ alone; Restitution, 'Means of Grace' Outward and Partial Transformation (Conversion)
Unsurrendered Self Total Surrender of Self (emotions, intellect, will) in Faith to Sovereign Lord. Inner Purity and Love, and outer Power to witness. (Increasing conformity to Christ-likeness.

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Can My Sins Be Forgiven?

"As far as the  east  is from the  
west , so far has He removed our
transgressions from us!"

(Psalms 103:12)

East West

"I will forgive their iniquity, and their
sins I will remember no more!"

(Jeremiah 31:34)

"The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins!"(Matthew 9:6)

Forgiveness Is The Loveliest Word In The English Language!

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For Whom Did Christ Die?

1 Timothy 2:4-6 1 Timothy 4:10

2 Peter 3:9

John 6:33 John 6:51 Colossians 1:20

EVERYONE!

Romans 5:18 Romans 11:32

2 Corinthians 5:19

Titus 2:11 John 7:37-38 John 3:14-17

Revelation 22:17 Acts 17:30

1 John 2:2

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Agreee Or Dis-Agree? True or False?

T God wants to save all persons. It is not God's will that any person perish. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).
T Christ died for all persons, thus providing a universal atonement which is adequate for the whole human race generally and every man individually. (1 Timothy 4:6) (1 John 2:2)
T Man is corrupted by sin or totally depraved, but God extends to every person a grace which enables him to turn to Christ for forgiveness. (Isaiah 45:22)
T Because every person is a free moral agent, he may, if he chooses, resist the grace of God (Joshua 24:15; John 1:11, John 1:12)
T Every person everywhere is commanded to repent of his sins and bel ieve in Christ (Acts 16:31; Acts 17:30)
T No person is excluded from salvation unless he excludes himself by willful unbelief.
T Because Christ died for all persons, all persons are in a saveable relationship with God, but only those persons who initially exercise personal faith in Christ and continue to exercise personal faith in Christ as Saviour will actually and ultimately be saved.
F Before the human race was created, God unconditionally chose some persons to be saved and some persons to be lost.
F God gives the gift of saving faith only to those persons whom He has chosen to save.
T Ultimate assurance of personal salvation is impossible apart from conscious, deliberate perseverance in faith.

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God Is A God Who Has Given Human Beings Everything Richly To Enjoy! 1 Timothy 6:17 b

A Beautiful World To Live In (Genesis 1:1)

  • Light

  • Firmamant (Heavens)

  • Land and Seas

  • Trees and Plants

  • Sun, Moon, Stars

  • All Creatures Big and Small

  • A Creative Job to Perform (Genesis 2:15)

  • A Loving Companion to Enjoy (Genesis 2:18)

All Things Bright and Beautiful

(Genesis 1:31)

"It was good"

A Trusting Relationship with God (Genesis 1:26-27)

A Big World To Rule Responsibly (Genesis 1:28)

"It is not good for the man
to be alone. I will make a 
helper suitable for him."

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Sin Marred God's Beautiful Creation!

What Is Sin? ? ? ?

Disobeying Holy Laws of God (Genesis 3:1-5) (1 John 3:4)

Gratifying Selfish Desires Apart From God (Genesis 3:6) (Galatians 5:19)

Breaking Loving Relationship With God (Genesis 3:8) (Romans 3:21)

What Is The Essence Of All Sin? ? ? ?

Self-Centered PRIDE

Do Decent People Need Saving?

"The thing that is deeply wrong
with human nature is not that some
people commit adultery, and some
steal, but that all of us are self-
centered - the decent and the
indecent, the nice and the nasty.
Manners, polish, refinement, and 
culture only cover that disease,
like rouge on the face of a woman
dying of anemia. They can't affect
the deadly disease underneath.
To be saved is to be saved from that
disease. We all have it; therefore
we all need to be saved." 
- William Sangster -

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What Is The Extent of Sin? ? ?

All Have 'Missed The Mark'

Definition: Harmartia (Greek word for 'sin')

'Missing the Mark' as when a spear is thrown at a target.

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

Jews And Gentiles Alike Are All under Sin! (Romans 3:9)

All Persons are Sinners by Nature (Psalms 51:5) (Genesis 6:5)

All Persons are Sinners by Choice (Isaiah 64:6)

Sin Is Both

(Matthew 5)

Outward

Murder
Adultery
Stealing

Inward

Anger
Lust
Coveteousness
A Wrong Action
&
A Wrong Attitude
(Cheating, Lying, Stealing,
Adultery)
(Anger, Lust, Hatred, Resentment,
Greed, Jealousy

(Ephesians 5:3-7) (Matthew 15:19)

Sin Is Failing To Do What Is Good!

"Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, Sins." (James 4:17)

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What Are The Results Of Sin? ? ?

Shame! (Genesis 3:7)

Hiding From God! (Genesis 3:8)

Guilt! Blaming Others! (Genesis 3:12-13)

Fear! (Genesis 3:10)

Knowldege Of Evil! (Genesis 3:22)

Knowledge Alienation From God! (Genesis 3:23-24)

Sin Is Separation From God (Isaiah 59:2)

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What Conditions Must I Meet To Experience God's Salvation? ?

Awakening - Right Attitude Towards Your Condition
("I am a sinner and in need of a Savior!")

(John 16:8-11)

Repentance - Right Attitude Toward Your Sin
("I am deeply sorry for my sins and want the direction of 
my life to change!")

(Luke 15:11-32)

Faith - Right Attitude Toward Your Saviour
("I trust Christ alone to forgive my sins and to change my
life!")

(Romans 5:1-5 Living Bible)

Surrender - Right Attitude Toward Your Self
("I turn over the full controls of my life (my will, my
intellect, myemotions) to Christ, and will allow Christ
initiallyand daily to exercise His Lordship in my life!")

(Galatians 2:20 Luke 14:25-33 Living Bible)

Let's Look At These Conditions More Carefully:

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Awakening! John 16:8-11

God's Holiness

Man's Sins (John 1:4-9)

____ A 'Collision' with God!

____ Realizing I Am On The Wrong Road!

____ Admitting I Have A Spiritual Need!

____ No Longer Rationalizing My Sins!

____ Seeing My True Moral Condition!

____ Recognizing That I Need To Be Saved!

"The Word that God speak......... exposes the very thoughts and motives
of a man's heart."

(Hebrews 4:12-13 Phillips)

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Repentance! (Luke 18:9-14)

____ A Moral 'U – Turn'

____ Sincere Sorrow Over My Sins (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

____ Accepting Responsibility For My Sins

____ Turning My Back On My Old Way Of Life

____ Humble Confessing To God That I Have Been Wrong

____ Acknowledging My Personal Moral Bankruptcy

Definition Of Repentance:
A change of mind, from an attitude of embracing sin to an
attitude of forsaking sin, resulting in a change of direction,
from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness.

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Faith

(Romans 4:1-5 Living Bible)

____ Turning From Sin To The Saviour

____ Transfer Of Trust From Myself To The Saviour

____ An Intellectual Assent To Truth Coupled With A Life Commitment To The Saviour

____ Putting My 'Weight' Down On The Saviour

____ Total Commitment Of My Total Self To Christ

Definition Of Faith:
Entrusting yourself totally to God, like a man sinking in quick sand who
ceases to struggle to save himself and instead clasps the saving hand of
the man who is standing on the solid ground near by.

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Surrender

(Luke 14:25-33 Living Bible) (Galatians 2:20)

'The Way'

Following Christ
Matthew 7:13-14Matthew 16:24

____ Forsake My Own Selfish Ways

____ Follow In The Footsteps Of Jesus

____ Turn Over the 'Title Deed' of MyLife To Christ

____ Put Christ on The Throne Of My Life

____ Allow Christ To Use My Talents In His Service

____ Learn To Live A Life Of Obedience & Love

"Were the whole realm of nature mine that were a present far too small! Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my ALL!"

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The Way To Eternal Life

  • Wealth Cannot Buy It!

  • Worldly Pleasures (Emotions) Cannot Bring It!

  • Human Reason (Intellect) Cannot Grasp It!

  • Human Effort (Will) Cannot Achieve It!

But

Faith Alone Can Receive It!

(Ephesians 2:8-9)

(Everyone Places His Faith In Someone Or Something)

The Object of Your Faith Determines

The Value of Your Faith.

Christ Alone Is A Trustworthy Object For Your Faith.

(Titus 1:1-2)

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Review:

  • God Is Good – "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:3)

  • Man Is A Sinner – "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

  • Sinning Has Serious Consequences – "Evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterwards to the death penalty from God." (James 1:5) (L.B.)

  • All Human Attempts At Salvation Are Futile – "There is a way which seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12)

  • Christ Alone Can Forgive Sins And Give Salvation – "Jesus said, 'Iam the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.'" (John 14:6)

Each Individual Must Meet Certain Conditions To Be

Saved!

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6. Each Individual Must Meet Certain Conditions To Be Saved

____ Awakening ("I Need A Saviour!")

____ Repentance ("I Turn From My Sins!")

____ Faith ("I Place My Trust Alone In Christ For Salvation!")

____ Surrender ("I Am Willing Obediently To Follow Christ Forever!")

When You Sincerely Meet These Conditions In Your Heart Christ Will!

A. Forgive you (the sins you remember, and the sins you don't remember!)

B. Make You God's Child (John 1:12)

C. Cone Into Your Life And Establish Fellowship (Revelation 3:20)

Let's Make A Commitment To Jesus Christ Now !

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A Prayer For Salvation:

"Dear God, I acknowledge that you are altogether trustworthy in your
character, and faithful to your promises. Abandoning all hope for salvation
in myslef, I cast myself helplessly and hopefully in your mighty saving arms!
I realize that I am a sinner and in need of a Saviour! I acknowledge that
you alone can forgive my sins. I am genuinely sorry for my sins, and I desire
to change the direction of my life, from a life of embracing sin to a life
of forsaking sin! I now confess all my sins to Jesus Christ, the sins I
remember and the sins I don't remember. I place my trust in Christ alone
for my Salvation. Thank you for forgiving my sins as you promised. Thank
you for coming into my life. I intend to live for you the rest of my life
with You as my Helper! In Jesus Name! Amen."

Is There Anything About This Prayer You Don't Understand?

Does This Prayer Honestly Express The Desire Of Your Heart?

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You Prayed:

"I now confess ALL my sins to Jesus Christ"

1. Was Your Prayer A Sincere Prayer?

2. If So, What Has Happeded To Your Sins?

3. How Do You Know Your Sins Are Forgiven?

(Remember We Are Saved by Faith, Not By Feelings!)

Assurance Of Eternal Life!

1 John 5:12 Says:

"He ("Jim, Sue, John, Mary, etc.) that Has

(present tense reality) the Son Has Life —- Now!"

(Eternal Life is not only a Future State Of Continuing Existence, but Eternal Life Is a Present Quality of New Life in Relationship With Christ!)

___ New Attitudes

(John 10:10) (2 Corinthians 5:17)

___ New Desires

___ New Relatoinships

___ New Direction

___ New Goals

New!

New!

New!

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What Must I Do Now That I Am Saved?

Follow  Christ …. One Step At A Time!

  • Daily Confess All Sins To Christ … To Experience Cleansing (1 John 1:9)

  • Daily Read The Bible …. To Learn Spiritual Truths (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11)

  • Daily Pray To The Father …. To Develop Love Relationship (Matthew 7:7-11)

  • Share Your Faith With Your Friends … To Help Fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)

  • Attend Church Regularly … To Receive Encouragement From Fellow Believers (Hebrews 10:25)

  • Learn To Practice Tithing … To Honor God And To Support His Work (Malachi 3:8-10)

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Consider the Need for Salvation

Consider The Need For Salvation

Chapter One

Consider The Need For Salvation
Is Your Life 'Under Construction'? 32 Boundaries 39
The Price Is Right 34 God In The Garden Of Eden 41
New Beginnings 35 Who's In Charge Of You? 43
A Matter Of Seconds 37 Discussion Questions 45

Psalms 127:1, Isaiah 58:12

Is Your Life 'Under Construction'?

This past summer our small town witnessed some growth. Destroying old buildings as well as construction of new ones. Our newspaper featured several articles on the progress of each project. One caption above a photo of demolition in progress read 'Out With The Old – In With The New!' At times there was excessive noise, detours, etc. This created confusion and distress to some, and great interest and speculation for others. Some did not like the change, while others observed it with excitement! The sound of heavy equipment, the surveying of areas, the reading of blueprints, the pouring of foundations – all these involved several construction crews. Some who observed wondered what the end results would be, what new products and services would become available.

Decaying buildings crumble into heaps of rubble, rusty nails, squeaky hinges, broken glass. I thought of the workers and the onlookers, as well All persons are 'under construction' at different points in their lives. Some with broken lives, broken hearts, broken homes, aching spiritual joints. Physical ailments are the result of the normal aging process. Spiritual ailments are the result from careless living and spiritual neglect. I wonder how many of the people I observed are taking time to build a solid spiritual foundation, using God's Word as a blueprint for their lives. I wondered how many were paying attention to the spiritual detours around the known dangers to their soul, or how many were carefully observing the clutter and the clamor of the evil world about them, or how many were questioning the values of their old (sinful) ways versus the new (godly) ideas and standards. As I look forward in our small town to a new bank, a new car wash, a new 'co-op' building, a new rental building for storage of excess goods, I am thinking of the free gift of salvation to all persons. So many persons need a total (spiritual) reconstruction of their life. I wonder how many of the people in my small town are allowing God to transform their lives and relationships. God confronts every person with an offer – 'Out With The Old – In With The New'. A new life, filled with hope and healing, a new direction for the future. Overcoming the past mistakes, taking excess baggage out of one's life, washing away the soul's dust and clutter, and enjoying a new 'CO-OP' with Jesus! Depositing in the bank of heaven where the 'high interest' continues to grow! What about you? Is your life undergoing spiritual construction? God is the Master Carpenter who can restore broken lives and who can lift sinners from the rubble of the deepest sins. God is the One who can 'restore' your soul (Psalm 23:3)!

"Father, please take my life which has been broken by sinful thoughts and sinful affections and sinful habits. Reconstruct my life through your transforming power, that I might think anew and feel anew and act anew – no longer centered in my old 'self but instead centered in the living Christ who alone can make me completely new!"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I determine to build my life on Christ, who alone is the 'Solid Foundation' for real and abundant living!

– Joyce Calkins –

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Matthew 16:24-28

The Price Is Right

"Come On Down!" is a phase that rings a bell with everyone who has watched the show "The Price is Right." It also produces vivid recall of the shrieks and shouts of joy and excitement at the prospect of winning huge prizes. The object of the game is simply to match the price of an item to its real value. If you're successful at-doing so, you're a winner. If you're not successful in matching the price to the real value, you're not only a loser, but you have also spent your time in an exercise in futility which leaves you in a state of disappointment, despair, and depression.

There are some amazing similarities between this show and our real-life efforts to discover the match between the real values of life and the price that we assign to those values. The end result of those real-life decisions will also determine whether we are "winner" or "losers."

On the other hand, we also choose the price we are willing to pay for success in our work of happiness in our marriage. In these instances, the relationship between "price" and "value" is much more nebulous. Nevertheless, even though it is difficult, we are forced to determine our commitment to assigning a price.

Jesus was very astute in pointing out some of the hard choices which will have ultimate results that are either pleasant or disastrous. For example, He asked: …"What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) Inherent in that question are at least two major considerations:

  • There is a specific value for the soul. That value can never be expressed in monetary terms. However, there is a specific value. Man's problem is discerning what that value may be and what he can do to maintain that value.

  • There is a price to be paid to assure the eternal value of the soul. It is also obvious that if the price is not right, the soul can be lost.

It is incumbent on each of us to be absolutely certain that nothing in this life is so important to us that it could cause us to lose our soul.

"O Lord, forgive me for confusing my priorities and help me to count the real values in my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Trading our convictions for a moment of pleasure could create an eternity of regrets.

– Edward Rickman –

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Psalm 51:1-12

New Beginnings

"How I wish that there was some wonderful place called the Land of Beginning again, where all our mistakes and all our heartaches and all our poor selfish grief could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, and never put on again." (Anonymous)

Could it be that this is the longing of your heart today? It certainly is for scores of people like yourself who live with so many of the mistakes of their lives and think over and over again, "if only I could do it over again!"

Consider all the various mistakes we have made:

  • Our own mistakes and choices have caused financial problems.

  • Many of our own mistakes have created family divisions.

  • Some of our misdeeds have created marital conflicts.

  • Some of our own failures have even created spiritual drought.

Knowing this, we often think: "If only I could do it all over again!" I would surely do it all differently! It must have been some of these same kinds of problems that Jesus had in mind when He said: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Does this not suggest that maybe there is a place for "New Beginnings?"

This is also the picture in the prayer ofthe Psalmist who was continuously affiicted with the reality of his own sins, mistakes, and perverse nature. His colorful language and his vivid awareness of his thoughts and his guilt literally cry out for a solution that will give him a New Beginning.

Note that his prayer was four-fold:

  • He prayed for Release from the burden of guilt – "Create in me a pure heart, O God."

  • He prayed for Relief from a depressed spirit – "Renew a steadfast spirit within me."

  • He prayed for Renewal from his feelings of'lostness – "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me."

  • He prayed for a Restoration of his joy – "Restore to me the joy of your salvation."

What a prayer!

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Are you perhaps struggling with some similar issues in your life? If you are, this great prayer in Psalms 51, is one you can pray for yourself. You too can have a new beginning today.

The blood of Jesus Christ was shed to blot out our transgressions so that we could have new and clean beginnings.

"Lord, help me to pray this prayer of Psalms 51 for release, relief, renewal, and restoration, giving me a truly New Beginning Today!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is a place for New Beginnings. It starts with allowing the blood of Jesus to cleanse every part of my life and being.

– Edward Rickman –

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1 Peter 1:23

A Matter Of Seconds

One second we are here, The next… we are gone! Death is inevitable and surrounds us every day. Some days it hovers much closer than we would like. Driving to work one morning, a pickup truck raced through a red light and smashed into the side of my little car, spinning me 180 degrees. I thank God that I was able to walk away from that accident which "totaled" my car.

After the paramedics finished checking my blood pressure and I declined the offer to visit a hospital for a more thorough check-up, I returned home in my severely damaged car. Although it was driveable, it would be unsafe to continue to do so. The entire driver's side of the back end of my automobile was crushed. When I walked around the car to examine the extent of the damage, I was struck with the awesome reality that life is just a matter of seconds. Had this occurred one second later, the truck would have missed me … just barely! However, had it happened only one second earlier, at best I would have been writing this from the emergency room … more likely, not at all. What a difference one second makes!

One second we are here. The next … we are gone! This is a reality we will all discover once in our lives. I have encountered enough death of loved ones to know that the difference between life and death is a matter of seconds. Fortunately, through experiences such as I had, we can discover another second. That is, a second chance. During the few moments that I examined the damage to my car I realized that God had given me a second chance to live. Now, I did not see my life flash before my eyes, nor did I have the classic Jimmy Stewart It's a Wonderful Life encounter. Still, I do realize that I have narrowly slipped through a life threatening experience. It is my choice to reap positive benefits from this experience. I can either be bitter and angry over the damage, or I can look to the future with renewed hope. I choose to look to the future. I choose to accept the second chance.

I have been given the opportunity to dream even bigger dreams for my life. I now have the freedom (although I have always had it, I am now more aware of it) to achieve far more than I ever planned or hoped before. Every moment, from this second on, is filled with tremendous potential. How will I choose to live my life from this second forward? That's the beauty of experiences such as these … I have a choice! I've been given a second chance!

Yet, what good are my choices if I do not have the right outlook on life? I may choose to live a better life, but to what end? For what ultimate purpose? Do I want to simply live for the here and now, or for the hereafter? In the perspective Qf eternity, this life is a mere second … the amount of time it takes to go from life to death. On the other hand, the eternal perspective is measured by the amount of time it takes to move from

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death to life!

Only on two occasions does the Bible record the phrase "born again." Jesus spoke this to Nicodemus at midnight (John 3) and Peter reiterated the truth in his first letter (1 Peter 1:23). Loosely translated, it means God gives us a second chance. God desires that we have a life changing encounter with His Son, Jesus Christ. Believing God raised Jesus from the dead transforms our destinies … forever! That is the ultimate second chance! Go ahead … reach out to Jesus with faith. He will receive, forgive, and transform you. Go ahead … it only takes a second!

"Lord, by the time I finish this prayer, my entire life and eternal destiny may be changed. It is up to me to make that decision. It is Your desire that I come to You in faith. Thank You for giving me this second chance …"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In Jesus, I always know where I will be one second from now!

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Matthew 13:1-58, Matthew 14:1-36

Boundaries

Harriet W. ReQua, nearly a century ago, wrote a militant testimony, one verse of which makes the Christian stand erect:

"O the cross has wondrous glory! Oft, I've proved it to be true; When I'm in the way so narrow, I can see a pathway through; And how sweetly Jesus whispers: 'Take the cross, thou needst not fear, For I've trod the way before thee, And the glory lingers near.'"

Jesus spoke of the narrowness of the way, which leads to life, with few finding it. In our enlightened day, narrow-mindedness is resented, while broad-mindedness is a sign of knowing what the score is. But have you thought of the narrowness of the world – laws that fence us in?

Football is played on a small field compared to all the land. For a ball handler to step over that boundary means the clock is stopped. No one cries over this! Should a player cross the scrimmage line before the ball is snapped, resulting in penalty, no one fusses at such a law. Meeting another car at 65 mph requires a narrow road of 12 feet each. For each car to move to the center three feet spells disaster. Dozens of laws are written and enforced for every type of sport, insurance, construction, driving, etc. – but few criticize them. 2 plus 2 = 4. That's pretty narrow. An F sharp and B flat do not harmonize. That's pretty narrow.

Certainly the narrow way of Christ's cross means separation, cross-bearing, self- crucifixion (that's what crosses are for), but it leads to life; to the unregrettable life of serving Jesus; to world-wide friendships with God's people of varied nationalities; and, at last, to a large heavenly city called Heaven.

To leave the narrow way of Christ is to travel the broad way of the world with all its so- called "freedoms." But, with the quick passage of time, the broad way of the world eventually leads to a very 'narrow' and constrictive existence – an existence that can only be described as 'slavery'! For example: carefully observe the one who lived without constraints or boundaries. No friends, money, future, hope – a slave to sin. Life has narrowed him in.

Confined in prison, Paul wrote: "Remember my fetters" (Colossians 4:18), again, to King Aggripa, "I would to God that not only you but all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains" (Acts 26:29). Limited yet at liberty!

Madame Guyon in a French prison sang (note the paradox: boundaries and freedom):

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"My cage confines me round, Abroad I cannot fly; 
But though my wing is closely bound, My heart's at liberty. 
My prison walls cannot control the flight, the freedom of the soul." 

"Dear Jesus, I thank you for the boundary of your cross, for when I bow in repentance at the foot of the Cross, I find forgiveness and true freedom!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will walk the way the Lord has marked out for me. The way of faith and commitment to truth. Knowing this way leads to wonderful vistas in my life.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Genesis 27:1-35 (Genesis 27:36-45)

God In The Garden Of Eden

I grew up watching the soap opera "Days of Our Lives." I remember lots of the old characters that are no longer on the show. As I understand it, however, some of those characters have reemerged. That is part of soap opera magic. They get skin grafts and face lifts and brainwashed and de-brainwashed and escape from captivity and recover from amnesia and somehow all find their way back to the little town that kept them busy those many years ago.

Sometimes soap opera life looks so easy. People have jobs, yet they don't seem to work much. All are basically well to do. They always have plenty of time for their sorted social activities. They fall in love and it is always romantic and wonderful. .. but unfortunately usually temporary. That is the hard part of soap opera life. Characters "fall out" of love as quickly as they fall into it. They find out their friends are really not their friends after all. Their abundance of spare time is not spent engaged in the pursuit of truth and the good, but allows them to get into some kind of trouble. One of the great joys of life, children, are for the most part absent only making cameo appearances now and then. Overall, happiness is fleeting.

As bizarre as soap operas are, amazingly some biblical stories could be adapted for the TV and fit right in without skipping a beat. Such is the story of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau (also called Edom) and Jacob. Here is a central story in biblical history which is full of conceit, self-indulgence, jealousy, deception, hatred, favoritism, rivalry, lies, and all sorts of general family dysfunction not too different than what we find in common soap opera story lines. And what is even more striking is that there is little or no condemnation by God of this kind of activity. In fact, the worst perpetrators seem to be rewarded for their immorality. Although later Jacob is deceived by his father-in-law and gets a taste of his own medicine, it still seems that the good guy finishes last; crime pays.

The writer of Ecclesiastes remarks that "There is a vanity that takes place upon the earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people treated according to the conduct of the righteous." (Ecclesiastes 8:14)

Where is God's justice and what can we learn from this kind of story? What does it say about God? It is a story about the grace of God and the willingness of God to get down in the muck and mire of ordinary lives to bring about salvation. Isaac's family had problems from the beginning, before his twin sons were born. And no family member is free from sin; it has affected the family in very negative ways. And yet, God takes the raw material given to him and still cultivates what he sees. He brings salvation to the

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whole earth through this family in spite of their sin.

I used to think people's lives could never be as messed up as they are on a soap opera. Now, I am not so sure. But God is not afriad of a messy life, family, or past. No matter what your life looks like, God can redeem it and even work amid the mess to bring glory to him. How he does it is a mystery, but that he does it is mercy.

"Father, forgive me where I have sinned against you and my neighbor. According to your grace, bring salvation to my life and those around me."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can experience salvation because of God's Grace that is greater than all my sin."

– Martin Adamson –

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John 3:3-8; 1 Timothy 2:3-6

1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:21-24; 1 Peter 1:21-25

Who's In Charge Of You?

For more than thirty years, I lived by the orders and rules of other people – mostly my mother's and those formless folks sometimes called "they." The question 'WHat will they think?' was the screening mechanism for most of my visible activities. Except for brief, impulsive episodes like eating all the frosting off the cake, screaming at a child, or driving ninety miles an hour alone on a country road, I toed the mark – somebody else's mark. Impulsive episodes like these blew off the built-up steam of inner pressure under which I lived. These negative and sometimes dangerous incidents created guilt feelings. The pressure of judgment and the fear of being found "not okay" ruled my life. But I continued playing the game to survive. Why? Because it worked.

Despair and hopelessness churned with the pressures of three babies in quick succession. I wanted out. I began to escape by involving myself in monumental projects outside the home, by being sick enough to land in the hospital regularly, and by eating a lot. My weight skyrocketed, opening another acceptable escape door: diet pills. They were plain amphetamines in those days, and I cheerfully used them for dieting as well as to raise my spirits. The results were nearly disastrous.

What was wrong? I had not realized that at the inner core of my selfhood was a child who was able to throw a monkey wrench into my best intentions. I was still attached to the emotional umbilical cord of my mother or anyone else whose approval mattered.

I had prayed, tried, and again and again fallen into my old patterns. My first glimmer of hope came from a teacher's journal. It contained a description of me – critical, negative..and suspicious; sizing up people, taking advantage of their weaknesses; guilt, impulsiveness, and self-centeredness. It was all there. The description was startling in its correctness and completeness.

I had often read the Bible, studied, prayed, been prayed with, claimed conversion, and claimed forgiveness hundreds of times. But I always seemed to end up back where I had started. I thought I had to be perfect according to "their" standards; but I learned this was impossible. Now, as I read with a different attitude, I began to realize that Jesus is not a "they." He is a compassionate, caring, understanding friend.

During those years when I took the first steps of separation from "them" to Jesus, I was really being reborn. It was slow, like the tide coming in. It still is, but now I realize that growth is always slow. Knowing that God through Christ has already.forgiven me, I can forgive myself. Today I am mostly weaned from "them" and their approval. I am now responsible to God through Christ. It's a different life, and I love it.

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"Thank you, God, that the placenta of dependent nourishment from the approval of others is quietly giving way to an awareness that you love me unconditionally!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I intend to live today not by the 'notions' or 'legalistic standards' of others, but by the loving 'principles' of my all-loving Lord!

– Kay Kline –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Share specific ways in which you believe your life is presently "under construction", as you are responding to God's initiatives to-change you; (Note 2 Corinthians 5:17)

  2. According to Matthew 16:24-28, what "value" does God assign to a "human soul"? Are you personally willing to "pay the price" in order that your soul may be "saved" from eternal loss? What is "your part" and what is "God's part" in accomplishing the salvation of your soul?

  3. As you carefully read Psalm 51:1-12, put a check beside the following statements which indicate what you have personally requested from God:

    • __ Prayed for release from the burden of guilt.

    • __ Prayed for relief from a depressed spirit.

    • __ Prayed for renewal from feelings of lostness.

    • __ Prayed for restoration of inner joy.

  4. Have you seriously considered the "uncertainty of life" and the "surety of death"? Have you personally experienced what it means to be "born again"? (Note John 3:1-17; 1 Peter 1:23) If so, describe the results of your life-changing personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

  5. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statements: "To leave the narrow way of Christ is to travel the broad way of the world with all its so-called 'freedoms'. But, with the quick passage of time, the broad way of the world eventually leads to a very 'narrow' and constrictive existence – an existence which can only be described as 'slavery'!"

  6. Have you ever felt that your own life, or the life of someone whom you have known well, was such a "mess" that it was "hopeless" for any recovery or "healing"? Tell with what degree of "conviction" you agree with the following statement: "No matter what your life looks like, God can redeem it and even work amid the mess to bring glory to himself." Do you honestly believe that God's grace is greater than all your sins, that where sin abounds, grace super abounds?

  7. Is the "approval" of other people more important to you than the "approval" of Almighty God? Are you attempting to be a "perfect person" (in your behavior) according to the standards of some other person (like your mother) or some group (like a church) rather than gladly accepting the unconditional love of the compassionate and understanding Savior?

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Understand the Plan of Salvation

Understand The 'Plan' Of Salvation

Chapter Two

Understand The 'Plan' Of Salvation
God Bends Down 47 You Must Be Born Again 57
Meditate On Who Jesus Really Is 49 The Call To Repentance And Confession 59
Jesus – 'The Focus Of Life' And 'The Water Of Life'! 51 Discussion Questions 61
Every Sinner Is 'Saveable'! 53 Discussion Questions (Continued) 62
Christ At The Heart's Door 55    

Hosea 11:1-4

God Bends Down

Briefly, in Hosea Chapter 11, the prophet portrays actions of God as they relate to people of each generation. In the picturesque view, we see a father's loving actions toward his son, a son that later responded with a deaf ear and a callous heart. The father's reaching out to his son is evident in such phrases as:

"I loved him" "I led them"
"I called my son" "I became to them as one who eases the load"
"I taught Ephraim to walk" "I fed them"
"I took them up in my arms" "I bent down to them"

The reaction of the people to God's condescension was "my people are bent on turning away from me."

"I bent down to them" …. "my people are bent on turning away from me." Historically, through the prophet Hosea, God is word-picturing what He has done for Israel in previous centuries. Their rebellion has eventually brought them to the point of captivity by the Assyrians.

Through the centuries God has been bending down. But who is this God who bends down? What is He like? Then one day an announcement was made to a young girl that she would "conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." He would also carry the title – "Emmanuel- God with us." God bent down – God with us in His own Son, Jesus Christ. There in the village of Bethlehem long ago, God bent down in what is known as the "Incarnation." Now, we know what God is like as we come to personally know Jesus Christ. God bends down to –

Untie the chains of destructive habits that bind; Cleanse away the accumulated increments ofsio's defilement; Remove the masks of hypocrisy which have covered resentments,
bitterness, and pride;
Bring satisfaction and refreshment to the parched lips of the soul;
Encourage repentance
and to offer forgiveness
and to implement the process of restoration from sin's blight.

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God bends down to those burdened with questions and insecurities and aimlessness and the unknown. He is not on vacation, minus an unreachable number – but He is near!

He can pour the oil of gladness into a sorrowful heart. 
He can apply the balm of Gilead to the hurts of life. 
He can put a song of praise where there has been none. 
He can bear the yoke with you in life's duties. 
He can grant strength in the place of weakness. 

Wherever you are in life's journey, look up, God is bending down to you.

"Praise to you, O God our Heavenly Father, that you are with us – Emmanuel! You are not faraway. You are bending down to me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I draw near to God, He will draw near to me. In various moments of this day I will acknowledge that God is near me.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Galatians 5:22

Meditate On Who Jesus Really Is

In the midst of all the turmoil, war, earthquakes, tornadoes, road rage, school shootings, bombings and dishonesty in government, the world today is crying out for peace. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey, the people cried out, "Hosanna, save us now". They were looking for a political leader to release them from Rome and give them peace. Today, we look for a great general, a powerful president, or a mediator to bring peace to the world.

Luke 2 states that an angel appeared to shepherds, saying, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people." When we are told as the shepherds were, "You will find a baby," our natural response is, "You've got to be kidding." A BABY? A helpless, defenseless, dependent infant? How can a baby bring peace to the world? However, the secret lies in knowing whom the baby is. The angel explained, "A SAVIOR has been given to you; He is Christ the Lord." That makes as much sense as trying to explain to an ant couple that their new offspring is really a human being who has become an ant. We cannot comprehend the fact that a holy, righteous God, the Creator of the Universe, would come to earth as a helpless baby. We must accept it by faith. Ponder that!

John 3 tells us that God loved the world so much that He sent his Son to redeem us. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He hungered and thirsted as we do. He rejoiced and sorrowed as we do. But he had power to walk on water and calm the raging sea. When he commanded the storm, "PEACE, be still," the wind and the waves subsided. Meditate on that miracle! Do you know a general, a president or mediator who can do that?

The story is told that $1000 would be given to the artist who could best portray Peace. Serene pastoral scenes, mountains with lakes and sunset pictures were all entered in the competition. However, the painting that won the prize was of a violent storm with dark clouds and flashes of lightning. In the midst of the storm set a tiny bird in a tree, singing his heart out. That bird depicted genuine peace. Oh, we need such peace today!

However, we have missed the last part of the angel's message: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to men of good will: Peace is a gift received from God by one person at a time, a deep abiding peace placed deep within the soul. When a person

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accepts Christ as his Savior, the spirit of God produces His fruit in that beart. The fruit of the Spirit includes LOVE, JOY, and PEACE.

Before returning to heaven, Jesus said PEACE I leave with you; my PEACE I give unto you. Each individual has the opportunity to accept this peace by faith.

Government cannot legislate peace. Armies cannot enforce peace. Money cannot purchase peace. Good works cannot earn peace. PEACE is a free gift from God. It is a peace that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.

"Father, thank you for sending Jesus to the earth to bring Us peace. Help me meditate daily on your Word and accept your free gifts. Show me how to utilize the peace that can only come from you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Peace must be experienced in the heart before it can be demonstrated in the world.

– Laura Drewer –

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Matthew 6:33

John 4:14

Jesus – 'The Focus Of Life' And 'The Water Of Life'!

While traveling in British Columbia through the awesome beauty for the national parks, my husband and I saw what appeared to be a white ribbon running down the side of a high glacial mountain. There was a lake between us and the mountain. The lake was a beautiful color, which was a vivid bluish green. We were told that the color came from the melting glaciers. Focusing our camera, with its high-powered lens, on the white ribbon, we discovered it to be a beautiful tumbling waterfall. The camera lens had magnified it so much that it awakened our senses to the point of making us believe we could hear the thunder of the falls as it cascaded downward over the rocks. The sight was so amazing that we thought we would almost 'feel' the spray of the mist on our face and even smell the freshness of it. As the sun shone on the mist, a beautiful rainbow appeared, leaving us with a magical moment still felt today when we recall it.

So it is when we allow God to work in our lives, when we see life through the powerful lens of his love. Often we miss the obvious, until we let Christ direct our thoughts and our visions. When we allow Christ to have His 'way' in our life, then we see, not only the physical beauty and power of His creation, but we see also the beauty of His re- creation in our life! Where the SON is allowed to shine, there the rainbow of hope and joy will appear! It took the powerful lens of our camera to reveal the waterfall in all its splendor. So it is with those who have never experienced the power and the revelation of Christ in a personal relationship. They remain blind to eternal truths and to the wonder of the Saviour, Jesus Christ! Until they are 'focused' on Christ (spiritually transformed), they cannot see or appreciate the splendor and awe of Almighty God! Neither can they begin to understand His blessed Word (Bible).

The high plains of Ogallala Aquifer are said to be one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world. Water has been accumulating beneath the heartland for a long time. It underlies about 175,000 square miles, but much of it is in trouble due to the fact that many ranchers are irrigating these areas of the plains. Water is pumped out of the Ogallala ten times faster than it is being restored. It is said that the center pivot irrigation systems are pumping 900 gallons of water a minute out of the aquifer. After the Civil War, farmers in Wyoming and Colorado found that they could raise forage for cattle by capturing water from the Platte River. It was determined that, at one time, 3 ½ million acre feet of water flowed past Grand Island, Nebraska, each year, but dwindled to one million acre-feet. I have become acutely aware of the great importance

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of water this year, due to the high temperature taking their toll on gardens and lawns. As I water the flowers in the early morning, I am reminded of David's petition when he was in the wilderness of Judah, as he thirsted for the living God (Psalm 63:1; Psalms 143:6).

"Jesus, be thou the 'Focus' of my life, that I might find meaning and purpose. Be thou the 'Water' of my life, that my deep spiritual thirst might be quenched and that I might find lasting soul satisfaction!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'water' which Christ gives to me becomes a perpetual spring within me, watering me forever with eternal life! (John 4:14, Living Bible)

– Joyce Calkins –

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Romans 5:18-19

Colossians 1:18-23

Every Sinner Is 'Saveable'!

Paul wrote: "It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood." (Colossians 1:20, Living Bible) "For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men's sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he was given us to tell others." (2 Corinthians 5:19, Living Bible) "He (Jesus) is the one who took God's wrath against our sins upon himself, and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the worlds." (John 2:2, Living Bible)

If God loves all persons, and if God is not willing that anyone should perish, and if Jesus' death on the cross provided a perfect atonement for every human being who has lived or who will ever live, and if God through Christ's death on the cross is now (objectively- speaking) reconciled to every person (sinner) in the human race, then we can state with great confidence that the Holy Spirit beings conviction for sin to all persons, and that the Spirit seeks to bring all to a place of repentance. Every person everywhere is commanded to repent of his sins. (Acts 17:30) The offer of eternal life is offered to everyone. None need perish in his sins (John 3:16-17). "Jesus shouted to the crowds, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me." (John 7: 3-38, Living Bible)

All persons are created in the "image of God," and, as such, have within them a free will. Therefore, all persons are capable of choosing to accept Jesus Christ, and all persons are offered eternal life. The HOLY SPIRIT calls all persons to repentance and to new life in Christ; therefore, all persons are saveable. "And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that hearth say, come. And let him that is a thirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17) Because God has given the gift of saving faith to all persons, all persons have the potential of exercising that saving faith to become a committed follower of the true God. As has been said: "As long as there is breath, there is hope." One 78-year-old woman, with whom I shared the 'born again experience' (John 3), repeated after me the 'sinners' prayer'. Just four weeks later she died! This woman (Rosalie Trindle) manifested such glory and joy in her countenance the last moments before she died, that her two 'unsaved' children (who witnessed her death) both testified that they believed the holy angels came and carried away their

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beloved motber! Said ber son: "If I ever doubted that there is an after life, I no longer doubt it now, after seeing the peace and joy on my mother's face as she died!"

"Loving Father, I thank you for the 'Hound of Heaven' – the blessed Holy Spirit – who pursues each sinner with the persistence of divine love, rescuing many from the 'pit of destruction' even in the last moments of earthly existence. Such compassion!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God's saving love is universal and Christ's atonement is unlimited, I know that I am not 'too wicked' to be saved!

– Ron Christian –

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Revelations 3:20

Christ At The Heart's Door

Do you have a copy of Salim an's painting of "Christ at the Heart's Door" in your home? Have you ever studied the objects and the lighting?

Jesus, God's very Son, is robed in white, which represents His purity and His holiness. He stands, gently knocking, not pounding, demanding entrance.

Around his feet, long, ugly sharp thorns have overtaken the pathway. The crown of thorns which was placed on Jesus' head probably came from this bush.

The nest above the door to the left may be a bat's nest, symbolizing darkness. The owner has allowed it to be built and remain at the entrance to his home.

Point to the light curved around the top of the door. Follow it around to the right, then slant down to Jesus' feet. It then angles to the left and up, finally forming a curve near the nest, then reuniting where you started. This light forms the shape of a heart, symbolizing the door to a person's heart.

Examine the solid door which defies entrance. The window is too small to admit any sunlight. The most peculiar thing is that there is no doorknob on the outside ofthe door; it can only be opened from the inside.

Now imagine what it must be like on the other side of that door. Does the owner cower in fear, afraid to answer the door, lest his hoarded life savings be stolen from him? Does he fear death at the hands of one who might enter there? Does he pull his shroud of shame tighter about him, or freeze in his spot for fear of being found? Does he cower in the corner from confusion, or utter a scream of shock?

If he finally musters enough bravery or curiosity to open the door a bit, the brightness of the sun would temporarily blind him. He would be overwhelmed by the radiance of God's Son as he waited there. The warmth and brightness of the sun and fresh air would penetrate his home.

And he would look into the eyes of Jesus, the holy Son of God. Those eyes would not burn with the fire of judgment but with the care of compassion. His attitude would not be that of repulsion at the sight of the owner and his living quarters; it would have joy at the sight of a long lost friend.

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I think at this point, Jesus would smile and call out the owner's name in such acclaim as at the reunion of best friends. Didn't Jesus say to his disciples, "I have called you friends?"

A true friend overlooks a messy house, in fact, he may help you tidy up, or even remodel if you ask him.

Revelations 3:20 says: "If any man open the door, I will come in and will sup with him, and he with me." A little chorus says, "One door, and only one, and yet its sides are two. Inside and outside, on which side are you?" It may be that today you are on the inside in darkness and Jesus is on the outside, patiently knocking. Will you answer the door and join Him in the sunshine? Then will you invite Him into your heart's borne and experience His wondrous love and joy? The decision is yours. He is standing there, gently knocking.

"Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My heart is Christ's home.

– Laura Drewer-

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John 3:1-21

You Must Be Born Again

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, visited Jesus one night. To understand that interview, we need to know who Nicodemus was, and what he wanted to learn. More importantly, what Jesus did want Nicodemus to learn about Him.

The Pharisees defined and interpreted the Mosaic law and personally conformed to it and the traditions of the elders in the strictest manner. What more could be needed?

In greeting, Nicodemus identified Jesus with the religious leaders, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." Evidently Nicodemus longed for God's power for himself.

Jesus informed him that the signs and miracles were simply His calling card. He wanted Nicodemus to know that he had come into the world to communicate God's truth to man, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus was cut to the quick when Jesus insinuated that he didn't understand what the kingdom of God is. He considered himself on the inside, now he found himself on the outside. Jesus informed him there was only one way to get on the inside, to be born again.

Nicodemus' question "How can a man be born when he is old?" does not appear to be a quest for the truth, but a sarcastic put down. Jesus used the illustration of the wind which cannot be seen but is believed because it is experienced, then stated, "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Nicodemus declared that he was confused, "How can this be?" Jesus wants Nicodemus to know the truth. He starts talking about a man, then he talks directly to Nicodemus, finally he includes all mankind in his invitation. "I tell you the truth, unless a MAN is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. I tell you the truth, unless a MAN is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I tell you the truth, YOU must be born again. WHOEVER believes in God's Son shall have eternal life." The word MUST is emphatic. It is not you should be or you can be.

Then Jesus stated that he must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. EVERYONE who believes in Him may have eternal life.

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Nicodemus learned Jesus is more than a religious leader. Jesus is the one who understands heavenly concepts because He came down to earth as the Son of Man to communicate God's love to mankind, to save the world by giving eternal life to WHOEVER believes in him.

Many people today think they are on the inside because they come from a Christian family, or because they attended Church all their lives. Some think that being a good person and loving their neighbor makes them a Christian. Jesus'statement, "You must be born again," and his invitation that "whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life," are just as meaningful today.

What will you say to Jesus as He looks you in the eye and says, "You must be born again"?

"Father, I believe Jesus is the Son of God and He gave his life for me. I accept Him as my Savior. Thank you I know that, because I am born again, I will enter into the kingdom of God."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Being born again may be as mysterious as the wind but is the only way into the Kingdom of God.

– William Drewer –

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2 Chronicles 7:11-22

The Call To Repentance And Confession

Everyone these days seems to have an agenda. We have the Christian agenda, the homosexual agenda, the Republican or the Democrat agenda, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, it all falls under one category: the political agenda. It is especially prevalent during an election year. I have already had too many political Dyers given to me telling me why I need to vote for certain people in the upcoming primary elections. I feel trapped in another agenda: do I vote for the person who strongly agrees with my own personal agenda, even though that person has no real chance of becoming elected, or, do I vote for the most likely candidate to win, knowing that some of my personal agenda is reflected by that candidate, although I disagree on some of that person's platform? What a dilemma!

Perhaps before we start shouting for our political agendas, we need to ask ourselves, "What is God's agenda?" What I have to say today may not be very popular. But what I have to say just may make a difference.

First of all, God has no political agenda. Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat. He did not come to win an election. He came to win souls.

Secondly, God never intended for politicians to be prophets. He did not intend for governments to take His place. God speaks for Himself and He is Sovereign.

Thirdly, God has already expressed Himself regarding nations in turmoil. His words would give our nation great relief if we, the Christian community, would only obey Him. " … if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The time has come to listen to God's agenda. We are responsible for our actions. We, who are His people, must fall to our knees, humble ourselves before the Almighty God, seek His face in prayer, and turn from our wicked ways. It is our sins which must first be acknowledged. When we do this, God has promised to forgive our sins and then heal our land. If we truly want to see positive values portrayed by our nation, the Christian community must do as God is commanding. It is not a matter of voting. It is a matter of obedience.

"Lord Jesus, it is easy to claim You as Lord, but honestly, I have not always lived this affirmation. Forgive me for looking to the world for solutions when I only need to turn

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to you. Forgive our nation as well, Lord, for we have not followed Your ways. May we see Your heart in all we do? Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A changed nation begins with me.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Historically speaking, share ways in which God has "bent down" to communicate to and to "reach" the human race. From your own personal experience, share how God has been "bending down" to communicate to you, to "reach" you, to "save" you, to "change" you. Tell if you agree with the following statement: "If I take one step toward God, He will take a thousand steps toward me!"

  2. If government cannot legislate peace, and armies cannot enforce peace, and money cannot purchase peace, and one's good works cannot earn peace, where does a troubled (guilt-ridden) person find peace? (Note John 16:33; Philippians 4:7; Galatians 5:22; John 14:26-27)

  3. Is Jesus and His Kingdom causes the "focus" of your personal life, or are you "focused" on something less than Jesus – like money, power, position, fame, pleasure? In what ways is the indwelling Christ like a "perpetual spring of water" within the life of a true (surrendered) believer? (Note John 4:14)

  4. Put an 'A' if you agree or a 'D' if you disagree with the following statements (to reflect your personal understanding of God's provision for Salvation):

    1. ____ Through the shedding of Christ's blood, Christ's death on the cross has made it possible to cleanse away the sins of every sinner (past, present, future).

    2. ____ God was in Christ, restoring (reconciling) the world of sinners to Himself, no longer counting men's sins against them, but blotting out all sins.

    3. ____ Christ's atonement is limited, for Christ died on the cross only for those sinners whom God had previously chosen or elected before the creation of human beings to be "saved."

    4. ____ Because Christ died on the cross to save everyone, all persons are _ "automatically" saved.

    5. ____ Although Christ died for all persons (i.e., Christ's atonement was unlimited in its power), and although God is (objectively-speaking) "reconciled" to every sinner because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, it is nevertheless necessary for a person to actually experience reconciliation (peace) with God through personal repentance of sins and personal surrender to God.

    6. ____ Because God loves all persons (sinners), it is not His will (desire) that any sinner should die in his sins and be eternally lost.

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      Discussion Questions (Continued)

    7. ____ The Holy Spirit brings conviction for sin to all persons, and the Spirit seeks to bring all persons to a place of genuine repentance.

    8. ____ God has created every person with a free will, and God has given the ability to all persons (sinners) to repent of sin and to call upon God for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life.

    9. ____ God offers the gift of eternal life to all persons, and only those who refuse to accept this God-given gift are excluded from entering heaven at the time of physical death.

    10. ____ God has chosen (elected) to save some persons and to damn (exclude) other persons from experiencing forgiveness of sins and enjoyment of a heavenly existence. That is to say, some sinners are 'saveable' and some sinners are not 'saveable'.

    11. ____ God has said that "whosoever" may come to Him for salvation, to take the ''water of life" freely.

    12. ____ Because God has given the gift of "saving faith" to all persons, all persons have the potential of exercising that saving faith to become a committed follower of the true God.

    13. ____ Because God's saving love is universal and because Christ's atonement is unlimited, there is no person who is "too wicked" to be redeemed (saved).

    14. ____ It is never "too late" in life to accept Christ as one's Savior, for God's grace includes even "deathbed repentance" (like the thief on the cross).

  5. When Christ "knocks" on your "heart's door", what is your personal responsibility? What "benefits" will you personally enjoy when you properly respond to the "knock" of Christ on your heart's door?

  6. According to your understanding of John 3:1-21, what does it actually mean for a person to be "born again"? Why is it "proper" to compare certain activities (actions) of the Holy Spirit to the actions (movements) of physical Wind?

  7. According to 2 Chronicles 7:14, what does God require of "professing Christians," and what does God promise to do for those persons who accept those requirements?

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Receive the Gift of Salvation

Receive The Gift Of Salvation

Chapter Three

Receive The Gift Of Salvation
Enjoying God's Very Best Gift 64 Adoption – Full Rights Of Sons 72
The Party 66 Living As Adopted Children 74
The Parable Of The Wall Street Investors 68 Pure River 76
That You May Believe 70 Discussion Questions 78

Psalm 73:23-28

Enjoying God's Very Best Gift

There is nothing as juicy, mouth-watering and super-sweet as a fresh, hand-picked orange. While vacationing in Florida, we walked out of our friend's side door and picked oranges right off the limbs. You have to twist the orange before pulling it from the branch; otherwise, you will tear the peal of the orange. The "upside" of tearing the peal is that you get to eat the orange right away. Never have I tasted oranges as sweet. It was so fresh that the citric acid in the orange burned my lips. But it was worth it.

I realized, as I swallowed the luscious fruit, that this is how God intended for oranges to taste. We, however, have settled for frozen concentrate, or worse, a powdered flavored mix! Even the oranges we buy in the store are no longer fresh, but have been stored in warehouses and have traveled in trucks for weeks.

How can we ever settle for anything less than God's best? He intends for us to enjoy His best for our lives. Yet, we too often settle for less. For example, we settle for "religion" when God wants to give us a relationship. God's best is a loving Father/child relationship. Instead, we too often seek a form of religious piety which we substitute for the real thing. Practicing religion may produce solid moral character, but it does not provide the best in life that we could have. Becomingly involved in a relationship with God not only produces the moral fiber we need, but it also gives us a desire to taste the best life has to offer. God opens our eyes to see the millions of spectacular miracles that occur every day. He gives us a new heart to experience a wealth of love all around us. He gives us an exciting hope that lasts for eternity.

I hope that someday you too will have the chance to eat a fresh handpicked orange the way I have. More importantly, I hope you will experience the wonderful relationship God wants to have with you through His Son, Jesus.

As the commercial says, God cared enough to send His very best. Enjoy!

"May I taste Your everlasting love today. May I see Your eternal goodness. May I hear mercy in Your Word. May I inhale the fragrance of Your grace. May I be ever aware of Your presence touching my soul. May all of my senses be filled with You today. Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I choose this day to experience all that God has to give me in Jesus Christ.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Matthew 22:1-10

The Party

I couldn't empathize with the king in this parable until the wedding of my oldest daughter. Hours of preparation proceeded the event. A lot of dollars changed hands. Blood pressures moved up and down as painstaking last minute details were worked out. Crises occurred almost daily by the end of this once-in-a lifetime event, but seeing the culmination of problems resolved, plans completed, and dreams come true was a grand feeling.

Coiffures shone. Gowns rustled. Laughter reigned Beautiful girls were swept into the arms of handsome gentlemen. In a background of romantic music and colorful flowers, we renewed acquaintances with old friends over delectable foods and created lifetime memories. When the evening waltzed to a close, we collected hugs and kisses and congratulations and stored the cherished experience in our hearts.

It was a near perfect day. The only disappointment was in too many provisions and not enough guests. Some had RSVP'ed with the usual excuses: too much distance, too little time, and too many obligations. Others hadn't taken the time to respond.: Following many hours of telephone ear and writer's cramp, I wondered why checking a card and opening a mailbox too great an effort. Even a no would have been better than nothing at all.

Suddenly I understood the parent in this parable. His dilemma was mine. The king (God The Father) had sent invitations galore by the way of prophets and prophecies and finally through the life and words of His own Son. Preparations for the feast were underway. No expense was spared. The invitations were sent. No one in the kingdom was left out. The menu was planned. The wardrobe was tailored. The orchestra was engaged. But some didn't respond. Some even "made light of it". (vs. 5) They walked in their own ways and ignored God's great invitations to all mankind. They could have had it all, but they were left with nothing. They exchanged silk for rags and prime rib for a cold morsel of bread. They sat home alone when they could have kept company with royalty. They missed the banquet and the beauty, and they never met the bridegroom. No wonder God's anger spilled over. Man's actions just didn't make sense. Who would want to miss a party at a king's palace? I know I don't. Hope to see you there.

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's invitation is extended. RSVP to Grace.

– LorettaJenkins –

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Ephesians 2:1-10

The Parable Of The Wall Street Investors

God is by nature holy. You and I by nature are not. Instead, our inclination is to be sinful. We can express our tendency to sin in a multitude of ways, all of which are disgusting to God. That creates a problem for us, because to have an adequately satisfying life we must have friendship with God.

God has a plan that fixes that problem. His solution to this dilemma – that we who are sinful desperately need acceptance from the One who is not sinful – is the most incredible part of God's design of the universe. His Guaranteed Repair Plan is such a fantastic good deal that it makes no sense to our limited human understanding. As a way of illustrating how amazing his offer is, please let me respectfully offer this little parable.

Imagine for a moment that God were to talk to some Smart, Big-Time, Big Money Business Guys. He describes a business plan to them. Here is a problem: people are miserable as a result of their sins, and because they have rebelled against me and left my family. The solution to the problem is salvation through belief in Jesus Christ.

The experts in marketing ask, "Who needs this product?" When God explains that everyone does they are ecstatic. The customer relation's experts ask, "Are you sure it will work?" God assures them that it does, that it is fail-safe perfect. The experts in avoiding lawsuits and evading taxes are thrilled. One by one the questions from each of the potential investors are answered. "We can make a fortune," they scream joyfully, jumping up and down as they use their cell phones to order new cars and yachts, and to arrange for lavish vacations.

Then a cautious accountant asks, "What does it cost to produce this product?" God relies that his son, Jesus, has to die. There is murmuring of concern until God says that both He and Jesus are willing to undergo this horrific agony, and when God explains that Jesus will be resurrected the celebration resumes. Then somebody finally asks, "What do you project as the selling price?" "It's free." Suddenly the group panics. To a person they say, "That makes no sense."

And they are right. Giving the most valuable thing in the universe, free for faith, makes no sense at all to our limited human minds.

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But God has his own ways of doing things and His own reasons. We can't come close to understanding how or why He-does what He does. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)

What shall we do with this situation? The only rational response is to accept There are two parts to this: (1) Accept the benefits of God's offer of eternal life in His perfect kingdom, the guidance and empowerment from the Holy Spirit throughout every minute of this life, and companionship with Jesus Christ. (2) Accept the mystery. Enjoy his sovereignty.

"Thank you, great Heavenly Father. I praise your incredible nature. I cannot understand your ways, but will accept them, and thank you for loving and accepting unworthy me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As Sovereign King, God is wise, holy, and awesome beyond my comprehension, yet He loves me personally.

– Richard Walters-

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John 20:31

That You May Believe

Fade back through the centuries with me to the small island of Pathos located off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. Look with me through a window of exile at an old man whose lips move slowly as he relates what to him has become "the greatest story ever told". A scribe is seated at his feet with quill and scroll in hand. The date is somewhere between 80 and 90 A.D. Almost twenty centuries have come and gone since he lived out his adventure in a different world.

You remember him as St. John the Divine, the beloved apostle, the writer of three Biblical letters and a gospel, the only apostle not martyred for his faith, the apocalyptic apostle, or as a popular gospel song puts it, "John the Revelator". But he was not always so. With his brother James, he was once a "Son of Thunder", a crude fisherman bronzed by the Galilean sun, irreverent and self-sufficient. Then he met Jesus, and his life was eternally altered. This illiterate, ill-tempered fisherman was transformed into the apostle of love whose theological insights are so powerful and far-reaching that the greatest Christian thinkers have never been able to grasp their entire message.

As he describes the mystery of the love of the "God-Child", he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes and the words flow out of his own personal encounters with the Living Christ many years before. His eyes may be dim, but his mind is sharp. He notes the facts, but the set of his jaw is purposeful. The theme of his book is evident in every chapter. Every story he tells supports his purpose from Chapter 1 to Chapter 21. The word believes is mentioned at least 72 times in 21 chapters. In the famous prologue of Chapter 1, we find these words: "As many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name". In the author's last use of the word believe, we find the thesis of his book: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that believing, you might have life through His name." (John 20:31) A sense of urgency is upon our storyteller. Time is melting away from John as he recounts one more time his highway to belief. Soon Jesus will come and take his hand and show him the way to "The Father's House".

A big smile lights up his eyes as he recounts stories of belief from all walks of life. Four fishermen believe at a seaside. Matthew believes at a tax table. Nathaniel believes under a fig tree. Nicodemus believes on a rooftop. A Samaritan woman believes at a well. An adulterous woman believes at a stoning. Guests believe at a wedding. Hungry people believe on a mountain. A blind man believes at a healing, Mary and Martha believe in a kitchen. Mourners believe at a resurrection. Thomas believes in an upper

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room. Lazarus believes at a tomb.

There is a recurring phrase in John's gospel: "Many believed on Him there". Remember back for a few moments. Where were you when you first believed? I can still remember the smell of the wood shavings on the old camp meeting floor and hear Anna Campbell, a retired opera singer, working magic on an out-of-tune piano as she played "Victory in Jesus". A window in my heart takes me back, and I gaze out on a peaceful bay at sunset with my soul meeting God as the ocean met the horizon, peaceful and unified. I was a teenager of fourteen then. It was forty years ago. In the words of a gospel song, "If I could, still I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now".

John knew the power of belief. He knew that the change in his heart did not come from the earth. He told his story to convince others of the transforming truth that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Are you telling your story? Someone you know may be waiting to hear it.

"Dear God, help me to keep John's story alive as I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my soul's Savior!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The belief that John embraced still has power to change lives.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Romans 8:15

Ephesians 1:5

Galatians 4:5

Adoption – Full Rights of Sons

Several years ago, friends of ours adopted a little girl from a distant land. Later they adopted Katie, who also came from across the ocean. Ladies must have mistreated Katie in her own country, because she was afraid of women. At first, she was even afraid of the lady who was to be her new mommy. With great love and care from both her mommy and daddy, she slowly began to loose her fear of women. Recently, we received a family picture of them. Both adopted girls looked wonderful. They both looked so happy and well cared for. The thing that thrilled me most was the beautiful smile on Katie's face. There had been no smile when she arrived in America and brought into her new home. Now, I often pick up the picture and look at my friends and their two beautiful adopted daughters.

Thinking of Emily and Katie and their "adopted parents", inspired me to look up the New Testament Greek word for "adoption". I was thrilled as I was reminded of what it means to be adopted into God's Family. Briefly, this is what adoption meant at that time.

The adopted person's old relationships were severed. 
The adopted person was now under the authority of the father of his or her new family. 
Old debts or obligations were canceled. 
The new father had the right to discipline the adopted child. 
The father was considered to be owner of all that the adoptee possessed. 
The adopter and the adoptee were both committed by the act of adoption to 
support and help maintain the other. 

Hattie E. Buell caught the truth of Biblical adoption as she wrote:

I once was an outcast, stranger on earth 
a sinner by choice, and an alien by birth. 
But I've been adopted; my name's written down 
I'm heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown. 
Praise God, praise God, I'm a child of a King.

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"Thank You, God, for sending your Son to a far country, far from Your Heavenly Home… Thank you, Jesus, for dying, and, through your death and resurrection giving me eternal life with You and Your Heavenly Father."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, I will take time to consider the thoughts above, (considering adoption) and what they mean to the adopted children of God.

– Lowell Weller –

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Romans 8:15

Ephesians 1:5

Galatians 4:5

Living As Adopted Children

Adoption, whether in heaven or on earth, has rights and responsibilities. Emily and Katie soon learned there were rules to be obeyed. They also learned they had rights to enjoy. The born-again person also learns that his Heavenly Father has rules to live by. Let us take a look into truths that accompanied adoption in Bible times. Review the six rules of rights and privileges in yesterday's devotion.

  • Old relationships were severed. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new". (2 Corinthians 5:17)

  • As adoptees into God's family, we are to come under God's authority. Before you are tempted to say "I don't want to come under anyone's authority", let me remind you that the Heavenly Father is a kind and loving God. He rules with LOVE. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

  • Debts paid. In sin lowed a debt I could never pay. I was eternally doomed, but Jesus the Son of God paid the debt and canceled my sins. He forgave and He forgot. God's adopted children are now Debt Free. I'm free of the fear of tomorrow; I'm free of the guilt of the past.

  • Discipline. For many of us discipline congers up unhappy memories until we remember that we needed correction. When parents truly love their children, they discipline them. Hebrews 12:6 says: "The Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves." There are times when we want to cry out, "Dear God, don't love me so much," but Father knows best. God does not discipline in anger, but in love. He always has our best interest in mind.

  • God, the Heavenly Father who has adopted us, owns everything that belongs to His adopted children. It is easy to accept this condition, when we realize our Heavenly Father also supplies all our needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus. We actually get the best of the deal. We need only to assay what little we have and how much God has to offer. We need to realize we do get the best after all.

  • Commitment by both the adopter and the adoptee. God's Word affirms that He is totally committed to His children, both now and forever more. While here on God's footstool we roam, we are to be committed totally to

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  • God and His Kingdom. I am reminded of an old song that asked the question, "I wonder have I done my best for Jesus since Be has done so much for me?"

I want to challenge you to meditate on these 6 Rights and Responsibilities of adoption. I believe, as you do, you will be able to sing: Praise God, Praise God, I'm a child of the King.

"Lord, how can I say thanks? Yon have done so much for me, that eternity will not provide enough time to offer the gratitude I owe You. For now, I simply say, 'I Love You God.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With the help of the Almighty I will endeavor to do my part as an adopted child into God's family. I will do and I will be what is expected of a child of the King of Kings.

– Lowell Weller-

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Revelations 22:1-5

Pure River

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Revelation 22:1-5, which begins this way: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of The Lamb." Maybe I like these verses because they bring back pleasant childhood memories. My dad was a fisherman. Many weekends we packed our tackle and our swimming gear and our provisions and piled it all into the back of our old pick-up truck. With the sting of the wind on our faces and the anticipation of high adventure in our hearts, my brother and I took our seats in the truck bed just behind the cab. The miles couldn't pass fast enough on our way to the Nueces River. There we'd stake out a campsite, unload our provisions, find the perfect swimming hole (about neck high with no swift currents or hidden drop-offs) and play to our hearts content while mother kept vigil under the shade tree on the bank.

The river was purified by its gentle, continuous flow down the hills and over the rocks. It was so clear we could see our feet on the bottom. The cool water felt like heaven on a hot Texas day. Sometimes we'd take friends along and play water games and have races until long after the sun went down and moonbeams illuminated the water. Then with stone-bruised feet and empty stomachs, we'd climb the dusty bank and follow the short trail to the smell of frying catfish and ranch-style beans. After we'd chase fireflies and play hide-and-go-seek and fall asleep by the campfire listening to grown-up voices. Although we didn't always feel comfortable in our flimsy sleeping bags on the hard ground, we always felt safe.

When I was a girl of fourteen, I accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized on the Nueces River. I imagined it was the Jordan. I felt clean all over and inside out. A few weeks ago I traveled back to my hometown to watch another family baptism on the same river. Looking down the bend of the river, my mind went back and my heart leaped forward. We sang "Shall we gather at the river where bright angel feet have trod, With its crystal tide forever flowing by the throne of God."

As I contemplated the "pure river of water of life" John described in his revelation, I was reminded of two other rivers symbolized by baptism: Christ's river of blood that flows down from His cross washing away my sin, and the river of grace poured over me by God washing away the debris of this world.

Revelations 22:5 reads: "There shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light… "Those beautiful words bring

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reflections of the security I felt as a child on the river swimming in moonlight, chasing fire flies, 'and falling asleep by starlight and camp fire glow. "Heaven will always seem closer because of my childhood adventures on the Nueces River; and when I climb the rocky bank of eternity, I look forward to the bounty of Christ's campfire and the security of His love. With Him, "I shall reign forever and ever." If you haven't already begun your faith journey, step into the water.

"Dear Jesus, with the river of blood that flows from your cross, cleanse my heart and purify my soul."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I set my course in the direction of The River of God, I will never sail alone.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you personally "settled" for anything less than God's very "best" for you? How would you describe God's "very best gift for you"?

  2. According to Matthew 22:1-10 what is necessary if a person is going to enjoy "God's Party?"

  3. Why is it so difficult for human beings to accept God's "free gift" of eternal life? (Note Ephesians 2:1-10)

  4. What does it mean to "believe" in Jesus Christ in order for one to experience new and abundant life? (Note John 20:31)

  5. What does it mean for a person to be "adopted" into the "family of God"? What are some of the "responsibilities" and "benefits" of living as adopted children in the "family of God"?

  6. What is meant by "Christ's river of blood", and what benefits can you personally derive from this spiritual reality?

  7. Describe the emotional and spiritual security which you feel when you contemplate the reality of God's "river of grace".

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Enjoy the Grace From Salvation

Enjoy The Grace From Salvation

Chapter Four

Enjoy The Grace From Salvation
The Law And Grace (Part I) 80 Unthrown Stones 90
The Law And Grace (Part II) 82 Spilled Spices 92
Items For The Attic 84 Discussion Questoins 94
A Cane And a Cloak 86 Discussion Questions (Continued) 95
The Unfinished Meal 88    

Ephesians 2:14-15

The Law And Grace (Part I)

The chief difficulty in Christian Biblical interpretation is in reconciling the Old and New Testament. The God of the Old Testament seems to be a harsh God of justice. The God of the New Testament seems to be a God of love, grace, and forgiveness.

Some would throw out the Old Testament completely. Others would accept only those scriptures which agree with their present views. This method of interpretation reasons like this: "If a section of the Bible contradicts my view of the way things are, then that section must be for an ancient culture and does not apply to me." One's own philosophical system becomes the standard by which the Bible is judged.

This method of biblical interpretation lends itself to misuse. The Bible loses authority and power to critique one's world view. The Bible is treated like clip art – cutting and pasting it together as it suits oneself. The God of this "selfish" theology is merely an imaginary friend we have invented. We can make him into whatever we want. He becomes a reflection of our society or our own individual spirituality. This kind of theology can lead to the abandonment of one's faith or the formation of a cult.

If, however, God really did create this universe with its physical and moral laws, then he is the God of history, the God of the Old and the New Testament, and we had better listen to what he has to say.

There are two beliefs that help Christians hear the God of the Bible. The first belief is that Jesus is God in the flesh. The historic event of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection means that God is personally involved with this creation. He showed his love by leaving his position of glory, living among us, and dying on the cross for us.

Jesus has been raised from the dead. God has exalted him above all others and given him all authority in heaven and in earth. Therefore, Jesus is the authority. If he says that an Old Testament law is not morally binding, then we must accept his interpretation as truth.

The second belief is that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. The Old Testament was incomplete, looking forward to completion in Jesus, the Messiah. The animal sacrifices and accompanying ceremonial laws looked forward to the perfect sacrifice, Jesus. Jesus

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fulfilled the sacrifice for sin for all of time when he died on the cross. Once that sacrifice was made, the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were no longer necessary. These are the laws the Apostle Paul talked about in Ephesians 2:14-15 when he said, "For he himself (Jesus) is our peace, … by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations."

"Father, I thank you for the release from guilt and the relief from condemnation which I experience because of Jesus' gift of forgiveness, made possible by the cross and the resurrection".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died "once and for all" for my sins, I can forever be free from the bondage of legalism imposed on those who lived before the "age of Christ's grace"!

– Brock Hoyer –

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Matthew 5:17-18

The Law And Grace (Part II)

The ceremonial law of the Old Testament is no longer valid for Christians; however, the moral laws are still in place. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished." Jesus is speaking here not about ceremonial law, but about the moral law contained in the Old Testament.

The moral law cannot be ignored because it still has a purpose in God's plan for the world It serves the purpose of protection and reflection. For instance, the moral laws for sexual behavior were instituted for our protection. Even with all our modern medicine, it is more dangerous today to violate the Bible's laws against sexual immorality than it was in Jesus' day. Basic morality is carved into the sculpture of created order. It cannot be chipped away without destroying God's creation.

Moral law was given not just for our physical and psychological protection, but also for our spiritual protection. The Old Testament contains severe penalties for sin. The penalties are equal to the spiritual destruction sin causes when left unchecked.

The moral laws were also given for our reflection. The Old Testament law is God's mirror which shows us who we are. The Apostle Paul says in Romans that the law enables us to see our sinfulness and our need for God's grace and forgiveness.

A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought by the experts on Mosaic law to Jesus. The Mosaic law said she should be stoned. Jesus said, "Whichever one of you who has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her." All her accusers left. Then Jesus said to her, "I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again." Her adultery was still sin, still worthy of God's judgment, but Jesus gave his grace. Jesus had the right to throw the first stone, because he was without sin. Instead, he chose to forgive her and tell her to go and sin no more. This is grace. It does not overlook sin, it forgives it.

Our response to this grace is to honestly see our self as God sees us. We freely admit our sin and admit that we need His grace in Jesus Christ. We respond in faith and love to the God of grace and love. We accept by faith, Jesus Christ, and his forgiveness for our

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sin. We go away forgiven and endeavor with God's power to sin no more.

"Father, thank you for your 'grace' which never condones my sins, always forgives my sins, and wonderfully heals my spiritual brokenness. I stand constantly in need of your tender mercies, not your strict justice, as I honestly evaluate my ruined moral condition!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The blood, the blood of Jesus is all my plea! O hallelujah, it cleanses me from all my sins!

– Brock Hoyer-

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Philippians 3:13-14

Items For The Attic

Nearly every house has one – an attic. It is not where the house occupants live. Attics are places for collecting things from the past, to hold though never used or seldom lifted in the hand for review. Attics are places of memories. Attics are places of imagination where little girls lift the trunk lid, and from the interior takes out a hat and shoes previously worn by mothers or someone from the past.

Some items in attics should be discarded; others should never have found their way into that room. So, in the Scripture we view several articles, no longer needed, but just lying on the shelf. An occasional glance brings memories of a past event, or place, or person. The association often brings joy, or again, sadness.

  • There is the water jar left by the Samaritan woman who had met Christ the Messiah, the Living Water. She had gone to town to tell others of this glorious news. (John 4:28)

  • There are the stones left at one time in the temple court yard, meant to hurt and kill, but unthrown. Somehow they had found their way to a shelf in the attic. They are reminders of a past sinful life brought to judgment, but redeemed by Jesus. (John 8:1-7)

  • There is the gnarled cane and dirty cloak of a previous blind beggar (once used for guidance and comfort), now tossed aside, for Bartimaeus had experienced eye-healing by the Master of every disease. (Mark 10:46-52)

  • There are the spices, scattered upon the ground, spilled in haste as the women hurriedly left the tomb after being told that the one they came to further prepare for burial was alive. (Mark 16:1-8)

  • There is an unfinished meal on the table in a humble home in Emmaus, no diners present, for they had quickly returned to Jerusalem with the good news that Christ is alive. (Luke 24:13-25)

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  • There are, of course, heaven's absences – no more personal tragedies in the Christian life: no tears, no death, no mourning and grieving, no crying, no pain; no more evil outside influences; no more things such as a temple, the sun, the night, and lamps.

All of these things are in the attic, reminders of a place, an event, a Person. Are there things in attic's memory which bring a sense of joy? Are there items clutched in your fingers which should be discarded, released, and forever removed? Grudges? Unforgivenesses? Hurts? Paul said:" …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what" lies ahead." (Philippians 3:13-14)

"Dear God, I give you the key to the attic in my life. You know what should be tossed, what should be retained. I trust you. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will, by God's grace, put into my attic only those items which will enable me to be a better person. The rest I commit to God.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Mark 10:46-52

A Cane And a Cloak

His name was Bartimaeus, blind Bartimaeus. Jesus had come to Jericho where he lived. Now the crowd tried to quiet their fellow townsman as he persistently cried out to Jesus. Their efforts failed. Then Jesus spoke healing words to the blind man: healed, he followed Jesus.

This personal healing story presents lessons for today.

BARTIMAEUS WAS NOT A MERE STATISTIC AMONG JERICHO'S MULTITUDE. Bartimaeus was his name; Bartimaeus was blind; Bartimaeus begged; Bartimaeus' father was Timaeus. Ask people in Jericho who that man is sitting by the roadside begging. Some may not have liked him but they knew who he was. You are one in a million but you are one – an individual, created in the image of God, unique.

SUCH UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS HAVE NEEDS – LIKE OTHERS AND YET PERSONAL. Bartimaeus was blind and in order to exist he begged upon the streets of Jericho. Often the dust swirled around him from people walking and carts passing. He had become adept at existing, for his methods of begging were diverse. Though each of us is akin to our fellow men, though the skin color may vary, though cultures are different, yet each person has specific needs, and yet all have similar needs.

AMIDST THE DISPARITIES OF LIFE, HOPE STEPS FORTH. The months and years seemed so long and hopeless for Bartimaeus. The "not seeing" caused the severity of his present state to play upon the imagination of his mind. Bartimaeus had possibly heard of Jesus and His healing ministry. But since Jericho was an out-of-the-way-place, and since Jericho didn't have a good reputation, it was very unlikely that Jesus would ever come here. Then he heard that Jesus was actually in Jericho, on the very road where he was sitting. "Son of David, have mercy on me!" The crowd tried to quiet him. Then Jesus stopped, and they called the blind man, saying, "Take heart, arise, He is calling you." Hope?

BY FAITH, HOPE SOON CAME TO FRUITION. Jesus said to the crowd: "Call him." Did Bartimaeus hear those words? No doubt. He threw aside his

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cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. In so doing, hope is enlivened in the soul. Asked by Jesus what he wanted, Bartimaeus replied: "Master, let me receive my sight." That's all – my sight. Without a touch, without words to conjure emotion, Jesus simply spoke: "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Faith, hope, and now healing. He followed Jesus, leaving the gnarled cane and the ragged, dirty cloak at the roadside.

"Dear Jesus, our hearts rejoice at the healing of Bartimaeus. Come to us, and touch us in our needs today. Thank you. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As I face unsolveable questions today, I will have hope in Jesus Christ, knowing He has an answer.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Luke 24:13-25

The Unfinished Meal

Seven miles is not a long distance, but again it may be. That is the distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus. About three hours of walking for Cleopas and his friend. No hurry, for they were thoughtfully and carefully discussing the events of recent days. They were sad.

A stranger drew near, walked, and talked with them, sat at their table. When they recognized that their guest was Jesus Christ, now risen, "they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem" – seven miles.

There on the table in that humble home in Emmaus sat the unfinished meal. The cover from the cheese had been removed and lay beside the untouched dish; the glasses of water had not been to the lips; dried berries and fruits remained in the dishes ready for eating. And yes, there was the bread, the small loaf of coarse bread laying in the oblong wooden platter. The meal was simple but neatly arranged on the wooden table covered with an earth color cloth. The candle had burnt very little, but had been extinguished by the householders before leaving.

As we view the scene we sense that something very important had taken place for the home's occupants and guest to just leave the meal sitting there – unfinished.

  • THE UNFINISHED MEAL IS INDICATIVE THAT A GUEST HAD BEEN PRESENT: THERE HAD BEEN A TIME OF FELLOWSHIP. Little is known of Cleopas. But he had been to Jerusalem, had seen and heard all that had taken place. In the course of their trek home, Jesus revealed Himself amidst their frustration, and at the table, after the blessing, had vanished. Fellowship in a home with friends .is always memorable. And where Christ enters what a difference He makes.

  • THE UNFINISHED MEAL IS INDICATIVE THAT THERE IS GOOD NEWS TO TELL. On the road the stranger had asked: "What is this conversation you are holding…?" Their lengthy answer included, "But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel: Yes, and beside all this, today is the third day since this happened." Then the stranger chided and taught them. After recognition and disappearance "they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven – "The Lord has risen

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  • indeed." That is our story today.

  • THE UNFINISHED MEAL IS INDICATIVE OF A NEW LIFT IN THE LIVES OF CLEOP AS AND IDS COMPANION. There was new hope. " …our hearts burned within us as he talked to us on the road … " Cleopas and companion often sat around the table in the evenings, after work, recounting that moment. Joy filled their hearts.

  • THE UNFINISHED MEAL IS INDICATIVE THAT WHEN WE ARE HOSPITABLE, WE MAY BE SERVING CHRIST HIMSELF. Cleopas called Jesus a "visitor, " not knowing at that point who he was. Later the visitor was a guest, then the risen Christ! Oh, what they would have missed had they allowed their grief to override their sense of hospitality.

"Dear Jesus, our hearts, too, are warmed by your living presence in our lives. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, I will look for opportunities to practice hospitality to someone who may come to me.

– Floyd Cooper –

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John 8:7

Unthrown Stones

Amidst the dust of the temple courtyard there lay the unthrown stones – stones meant for the destruction of a human being when held in uncaring, legalistic hands. The stones were unthrown because of the intervention of the compassionate Christ.

The time is early morning. The place: an outer courtyard of the temple. Jesus sits surrounded by perhaps a score of people. They are the curious, the confused, the hopeful. He looks deep into their eyes as He tells them of the Truth that will make them free.

Suddenly there is a commotion. A woman is rudely shoved before Him. She holds back, shielding her face with an arm. Her hair and clothes are in sad disarray, she is trembling, frightened. "Teacher," speaks the Pharisees and scribes who had brought her, "This woman has been caught in adultery. The law says that she be stoned. What do you say?" He stoops and writes in the dust: they ask more questions; Jesus speaks. One by one the men leave; Jesus is alone with the woman.

What does this moving story say to us?

  • HYPOCRISY OFTEN WEARS HOLY ROBES. These "holiest" of people who knew the law and its regulations, paraded their tithes and giving; tithed cumin and spice; wore the holy robes – brought a sinful woman to Jesus, not for redemption but primarily to set a trap for Jesus. Holiness is not akin to hypocrisy.

  • EVERYONE HAS SINNED AND COME SHORT OF GOD'S GLORY. The fearful woman lying in the dust of the courtyard was certainly a sinner. Jesus wrote on the ground and spoke: "Let the one among you which has never sinned throw the first stone at her" (JBP). There is an embarrassed silence. Then one by one there is the plunk of the stones as they drop from the accusers' hands. Their own secret sins come to mind. Then they leave.

  • CONSCIENCES ARE CONVICTED IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST. Refusing to yield to religious hypocrites, Jesus writes in the dust. We wonder what He wrote. The wind would soon erase the words.

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  • Whatever it was, these self-righteous men's consciences are pricked, exposing their sins to each one. The stones drop.

  • THE HEART OF JESUS IS COMPASSIONATE FOR THE SINNER. Augustine wrote: "Two persons were left, the unhappy woman and the compassionate Incarnate." Jesus did not condemn, nor did He condone her act. Jesus tells her that she can become the kind of person she should be. He shows her mercy, He forgives her, and now she has a new beginning.

The stones. There they lay in the dust of the temple courtyard. They are silent witnesses to unconfessed sin, and a compassionate, caring Christ.

"Dear Jesus, thank You for your great mercy. You came not to condemn but to save people from their sins. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, I will try to see people, whoever they may be, through the eyes of Jesus.

– Floyd Cooper –

NOTES:

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Mark 16:1-8

Spilled Spices

Three days earlier – it was Friday – these women, Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome, were looking at the terrible event at Calvary. The disciples had fled, all except John. The minutes and hours of that Friday afternoon and evening seemed to be so long. The images of the crucifixion held the mind in their grip, and in the replay mode.

The Sabbath was filled with preparation for the final part in Jesus' burial. Spices and white cloths were gathered. Early Sunday morning the women, with heavy spirits, started to the tomb. Then there was the question of who would remove the stone from the tomb. They looked – the tomb was opened! They entered. They listened to a young man sitting in the tomb. They fled with trembling and astonishment.

The spices! Were they carelessly dropped to the ground in the women's haste to leave the tomb? Did they think of saving them? Nevertheless, there lay the spilled-out spices, allowing the aroma of their presence to permeate the garden.

Is there something they would say to us?

  • THERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS ALREADY ANSWERED BEFORE THEY ARE ASKED. Who will roll away the stone? It is so heavy. Looking up, the women saw that it had been rolled back from the tomb's door. They discovered the answer amidst their questioning. Are there questions? Perhaps the answers are near.

  • IN ALL THE FEARFUL PLACES OF LIFE, GOD HAS HIS AGENTS TO ASSIST US. In the tomb the young man in a white robe spoke such wonderful news: "He has risen, he is not here." Have you experienced fear, doubt, trouble, frustration? Perhaps someone, unknowingly, spoke a word or shared a bit of scriptures in passing. Then the burden lifted; guidance was found. They were God's agents.

  • THE LIVING CHRIST IS WITH US AS WE WALK THE DUSTY LANES OF LIFE. The young man told the women to tell the disciples and Peter "that he is going before you. .. " "He precedes you …. " (Moffatt). What about your life? Does Christ twiddle along in your life? Late? No! "Lo, I am with you." He is not behind us but with us as we make our way

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  • from earth to heaven.

  • THERE IS A WONDROUS STORY TO PROCLAIM. Fear and questioning filled the disciples after Jesus' death, followed by the burial. They forgot what Jesus had told them earlier: "… and after three days rise again." (Mark 8:39). Now the women in the empty tomb heard that Jesus is now alive. He lived, He died, He lives again. But "they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." We may assume that fear later vanished and they did testify of the risen Christ.

The spilled spices, too, are silent witnesses. They are no longer needed for their intended purpose of anointing the dead. He is now alive!

"Our wonderful Friend and Savior, how precious it is to sing about a risen Savior, who is with us, and goes before us in our lives. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As I add a few more "miles" in my spiritual journey today, I have the assurance of the living Christ who will walk with me.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Discussion Questions

  1. From the fact that God became a man (Incarnation) what can you conclude about the attitude of God regarding the physical world and regarding the value of humans?

  2. The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead (resurrection) reveals what important realities regarding the character and the authority of Jesus Christ?

  3. Why is it no longer necessary for Christians to obey the ceremonial and legalistic requirements of the Old Testament Law? (Note Ephesians 2:14-15)

  4. Explain what is meant by the following statement: "The ceremonial law of the Old Testament is no longer valid for Christians; however, the moral laws are still in place." (Matthew 5:17-18)

  5. Explain and illustrate the meaning of the following statement: "Basic morality is carved into the sculpture of created order."

  6. When you honestly evaluate your personal spiritual life and your moral 'condition', why are you in need of God's mercy rather than in need of God's justice?

  7. From a study of Mark 10:46-52, can you conclude that, amidst your times of despair, God cares for you personally and desires to heal your spiritual brokenness and to give birth to hope in your life?

  8. During a difficult time in your life when you were desperately seeking answers to life's mysteries and satisfaction of life's "spiritual hungers", have you ever felt the "unseen presence of the Divine" during your earthly pilgrimage? (See Luke 24: 13-25)

  9. What attitude should you manifest toward a person whose sin has been outwardly exposed? (See John 8 and Galatians 6:1-3)

  10. From your own personal experience, share a time in your life which demonstrates the truth of the following statement: "In all the fearful places of life, God has His agents to assist us."

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    Discussion Questions (Continued)

  11. Tell to what extent you "identify" with the following statement: "Christ is not behind us but with us as we make our way from earth to heaven."

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