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The Difficult work of Ministry

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The Difficult work of Ministry

As director of a non-profit ministry sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to know when to tell people about needs and to ask for their financial help. I personally get tired of hearing people asking over and over again for financial help, so I certainly don't like being the one who becomes that burden to other people! Yet needs...

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Deceptively close to heaven.

Did you know a person can believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and still not be saved? Many people have been belief and had preached into them these Biblical truths: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved" as quoted fromActs 16:31, or from Christ's own words in John 3:16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life", as well as other Scriptures that say salvation comes by "faith (belief) alone" and it's not as a result of works as clearly explained in Ephesians 2:8-9. These statements are absolutely true! It is only by faith we are saved, and only by belief that God redeems us and adopts us into his eternal family as heirs with Christ! We cannot earn any of it.

So what am I saying? I am here to tell you that some of the most hideous heresies come from taking Bible passages out of context of the whole counsel of God as given by the Holy Spirit inspired Word. While is it true Jesus and Paul and all the new testament writers spoke much about the fact that God saves those who "believe", we must absolutely know, teach and preach how God defines belief! Jesus and the Apostles all wrote much about what this faith is. It's not enough to bark out one line Bible quotes like these 3 verses above if we do not very clearly define Biblical Faith as Scriptures define it.

All sorts of well meaning people have "Faith", but are lost and still in their sins.  We love to make pretty signs and symbols that say "Believe" or "Have Faith" or talk about the 1st Corinthians 13 concluding statement of the greatest attributes to possess as Faith, Hope and Love!

But we must be very diligent and very careful to not let these words stand alone and be defined by every person's whims! They are useless and meaningless left on their own. We cannot and MUST not assume other people know what the heck we are talking about when we say, "Just have Faith"!

There are two types of Faith according to Christ. One type that deceives and one type that saves. Jesus made it clear many times what saving faith really is, and what kind of love is good, and what type of hope is ultimately beneficial and of lasting value.

You see you can have faith in God for the wrong things. You may hope in the wrong things and you may have love for the wrong things. It's not enough to say Faith- Hope- Love and sing Kumbaya and let's all get along.

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Jesus came to bear a CROSS, and so too must YOU, if he is to be YOUR master.  Many people are just "fans", but few are the "followers". Here is the difference in people who believe and are not saved and those who believe and are saved. True Biblical faith is repentant faith. True faith is humble faith. True faith is obedient faith. It's not perfect faith, we all stumble, and God is gracious, but real saving faith costs us greatly.  Matter of fact, it costs you your entire life. Jesus said, If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

Here again Jesus is telling us clearly that you can believe and do all sorts of great things, but be as lost as any sinner in hell! Listen closely to his words. 

“Not all those who say ‘You are our Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On the last day many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, we spoke for you, and through you we forced out demons and did many miracles'. Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you'. “Everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house, and it fell with a big crash.”   -Matthew 7:21-27 NCV. Hearing is a form of belief here, but effective belief is that which compels us to obey.

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." Jhn 14:21. ('Has' is the belief and 'keeps' is the obey)

Conclusion is this: Jesus is telling us that by faith we alone are saved; yes this is true, but faith has feet; it follows and obeys him.

A quick nutshell Gospel message and way to more accurately quote John 3:16 in Biblical context is like this: define belief biblically by adding obediently for clarification. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes (has obedient faith) in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

When you first have faith, real faith, it comes by Holy Spirit new birth, then this same Spirit God leads you into dying to self and living for Jesus.  If this is not your life experience; If your love for Jesus is not a compelling drive to sacrifice your life for him and seek out ways to better serve him, you too may be an idol lover, and your love may well be in vain. Many lost Hindus love Jesus and have shrines dedicated to him in their homes and pray to him also.

Examine your hearts and your lives. Don't be fooled by 'out of context' Bible passages that get you close to heaven, but never really knowing the this living God that demands you bear your cross, just as he bore his.

You don't have to be among those who hear, "Depart from me, I never knew you!"

Repentance and obedience is in order for us today and tomorrow. Just as you received Christ Jesus as LORD, so walk in him... Those who 'know' him, who received him in repentant humble obedient faith must go daily in this attitude.  Teach others likewise and preach a complete Gospel message, lest you lead others deceptively close to heaven, but never helping them enter in.

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Learning to lean

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Learning to lean

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Jesus said "...And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." I never worry anymore about clothing or food or basic needs for myself. I could stand here and say that is because I have fully learned to trust in God as my caretaker and provider, but that would be a lie. I don't worry about these things for myself because I am abundantly blessed with too much in this life. Sadly I have not learned this art of trust as well as some like those who About-Face Missions is called to support. I rarely get opportunities like the people and pastors that AFM help monthly with buying food, clothing, medicine and other basic needs so that they can live productive lives for the Lord. This is part of our calling. Yes;  we also help send them funds for Bibles, evangelistic outreaches, and discipleship needs. We feel both are critical to really love like Jesus loves. But I fail at times to trust in God like some more faithful ones do. So many we have chosen to partner with live on the edge and have learned to lean on Jesus like I never have. Men like Samson Walala, Kennedy Simiyu and John Tino in Kenya,  sister Norah Nakabugo or Buyinza Daniel in Uganda, pastor Daryl or Christopher Samonte in the Philippines, faithful humble men like Manikumar Gude and Nagavath Ganesh in India, or Ram Bahadur BK in Nepal or Munir in Pakistan. These people, their wives and co-workers are those who I see as men and women in God's hall of fame!  Men and women of faith and perseverance and trust in Christ. Kennedy Simiyu, for instance, hopes in God much better than I.  I wished I could say I was a spiritual giant for Jesus, but sometimes I feel I am so far away. God allowed one of our larger monthly donors for AFM Mercy School to have significant business slowdown, so we lost that $500 a month support for who knows how long. My heart was aching for weeks over how we can make up for this huge loss, and what to do. Were we to lay off a couple teachers and send some kids or workers home and cut way back? That loss is about 1/3 of our monthly school budget! I was praying for God to come to the rescue and send in some extra donors and funds to help make up for this, but frankly I was worried and getting heartsick over it all. I mentioned to Kennedy that we probably would not be able to continue our medical care preventative treatments for the kids, lay off the doctor and likely some other workers, and ration food by giving the kids less to eat. I was sad having to tell him all this as we came up on the last day of the month this past weekend. After all, for the past two months every couple days Kennedy has been telling me that they desperately need funds for buying cloth so the ladies can start sewing new uniforms for the kids.  It will take about $900 to buy enough material to create uniforms for all the kids just to have one new outfit for the entire year. He asked about us raising just $300 so we can get started with the most needy ones who are without a uniform or the most tattered... But I have had to say we cannot, because we don't have enough even for the basic food and medicine budgets.

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....But Kennedy kept telling me not to worry, trust in God and he will provide! It's easier said than done by one as so used to being self-sufficient and spoiled as I. My energy and hope was fading and I was growing less and less willing to even tell people of the needs anymore, because of the little to no responses. My own personal debts have been rising too fast lately due to last year's weddings and expenses and I felt too financially squeezed to give any more personally without digging myself deeper into a financial hole... I was sinking in my hope, thinking maybe God wants us to change course and abandon what we are doing in Kenya. Also on my mind was how do I pay for another trip to Kenya this April to encourage our brothers and sisters as planned to help build them up, when I am feeling so low myself and under too much worry and stress. Then on top of this,  my Ugandan adopted son Ronald Mutebi sent me a message that the group of College students he leads on Evangelism missions are heading off to western Uganda on a Church planting mission where his friend Joseph wants to pastor a mission Church to an unreached group. He said they are short about $400, but really need $250 to buy local language Bibles for this mission next week! Oh this is so much where my heart is and I wanted so badly to say yes we will send you all that money, but my heart sank knowing all the other shortages we have in personal and AFM financial means. We didn't even make up for our overdrawn funds from last year and started in a deficit because December giving was down a bit.... **Sigh**   So I told Ronald I would pray about and and seek the Lord's will. I lifted it to God, somewhat halfhearted not thinking He was really going to provide. See? See what little faith I have sometimes....SMH.

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I don't tell my wife about every need and thing that comes along in AFM business because I have to "regulate" how much time I devote to AFM so she won't feel deprived of my love and affections for her. I do tend to get consumed in my projects and passions. But I decided to tell her last night that our finances were tight and that Ronald was really needing at least $250 for Bibles to help reach these tribal people in Western Uganda on  his Makerere University BCOM mission trip he was helping lead. I told her I wanted us to seek the Lord if there was any way we could cut back on something else and help this immediate need. I told her this while we were sitting around watching TV Sunday night. During some commercial break she disappeared upstairs and came back down and handed me 2 one hundred dollar bills with this goofy look on her face and said, "Here! I tucked this away for a rainy day when I had extra knowing that one of our kids would come asking for help with something. So our kid in Uganda needs it, send it to him!" HA HA! Wow, I was thinking we could squeak out another $150 or so by me emptying out my change jar of coins I had saved up, but now we could more than meet Ronald's minimum need! Hallelujah!! Then Monday morning Kennedy sent me some photos of the teachers working and the kids at our school to encourage us (above is one of them taken this Monday), and yet I was still cautioning him that the food and medicine money would likely be very short this month... But he kept faith and said God will provide! Amen. Yes I love my brothers faith, it too encourages me when I am weak. So I had to say, "We will trust in God to provide!" What else could I do. Then today I came home from work. I opened the mailbox and found an unusually large donation from one of God's children of guess how much! $500! The exact amount we were short from the other person who had to suspend their giving! Whoohoo! Praise God! All I can say is THANK YOU JESUS! Our God is good!

I sit here typing with tears hearing Jesus say to me "O ye of little faith, trust in God, Don't you know how I dress the lilies of the field, how they grow? They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if I so clothe the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will I not much more clothe you and those you love?"

Yes Lord. I am listening. I believe. Help me with my unbelief!

AFM friends and family. We still have many needs. We don't have all the days ahead of us all figured out. We still must trust in God daily, monthly and yearly; but there is no better place to be, than fully standing in his grace, leaning on Jesus! God is working and will continue to work with or without us, but the cool thing is He will bless others through us, if we just hold on to faith and keep doing our parts... blessings untold will be ours! We have the privilege to enter into God's glorious works...and rejoice full of hope and life!

God bless each one of you! Let us rejoice and press on for His glory and love!

PS... Thank you to all who have been involved in helping us love all 130 or so little ones at our AFM Mercy Foundation Schoolkids in class2016 and helping make Jesus Christ real to so many impoverished little ones and families in Western Kenya. We are saving lives both physically and eternally! If you want to help us meet our future needs through monthly or one time gifts please visit our website for ways to give.  http://www.aboutfacemissions.com/donate  to to learn more about our school ministry visit this link http://www.aboutfacemissions.com/ourministries/mercy-school    There is a lot of need in the world, endless really...but we together can make a real difference in some lives and see the smile of God in our own hearts and lives.

 

 

 

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Yielded to Holy Spirit

There is a real interpersonal mystery in the Holy Spirit. He relates to each of God's elect on an intimate basis. Even so while maintaining his eternal relation to the Father and the Son in the triune mystery. As we read in 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all"; herein we see there is fellowship and intimacy with God through the Spirit. (Notice also the triune persons of God represented again) There has been much talk about the Holy Spirit and his power being revealed among us as much in the charismatic movement has been a forced exercise of trying to use God the Spirit for our own human desires or feelings.   But God; He is not one who we can use. He uses us. Intimacy with God begins by surrendering daily to the Spirit and allowing him to lead you. We don't conjure Him up in some emotionalized worship service like some form of pagan spiritist or medium. Worship and power of the Spirit is much more than outward manifestations seen among worshippers in a gathering of Believers, which many times emotionalism and forced jibberish is confused with the Spirit's power and presence. But rather a life of obedience to God is evidence of the Spirit in you. Romans 8:5b says "...those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." The Spirit is sent in power to encourage us yes, but even more so to empower us to boldly do the works of the Gospel.

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Do you live according to the Spirit? How does this reveal itself in you?  Since the Spirit inspired all of the Bible, wouldn't you likewise assume to see a deeper hunger for those who are true children of God for his Word, and to walk in the ways of Jesus to whom the Spirit leads us to be like? Yet the vast majority of those who call themselves Christian rarely spend time with God listening to him through reading and meditation and obedient application of their Bibles to their lives. Scripture exhorts us to be doers and not hearers only. (James 1:22)

If a regular hunger and making time with God through prayer and reading his Word and seeking his voice to lead is not part of your life, then something is seriously wrong.

Make the change you must to reorder your life. Today is the day of repentance  from known sins that hold you back, and getting your life right with God. Don't delay, because every day missed from this glorious relationship with Christ and the Father through the Spirit is a day others cannot be made new through you.    God does have plans for you, to give you a future and a glorious hope. Yet you must seek him in love and listen to the Spirit and yield to him. The promise is; you will find.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.- Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV

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New Beginning

Incomprehensible, Great and Glorious God,I adore you and lower myself. I approach you mindful that I am less than nothing, a creature worse than nothing.

My thoughts are not screened from your gaze. My secret sins blaze in the light of your countenance.

Enable me to remember the blood of Christ that cleanses all sin,     To believe in the grace that subdues all iniquities,      To resign myself to that agency which can deliver me from the bondage of corruption       into the glorious liberty of the sons of God!

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You O God have begun a good work in me,     And can alone continue and complete it. Give me an increasing conviction of my tendency to err, and of my exposure to sin.

Help me feel more of the purifying, softening influence of pure religion,    Its compassion, love, pity, courtesy,        And employ me as your instrument in blessing others. This I know is my purpose here on earth.

Give me to distinguish    Between the mere form of godliness and its power,     Between living and the source of life in Jesus,      Between deception and truth,      Between hypocrisy and pure religion that pleases your eye.

If I am not right, set me right; And may I always come into your presence in peace and the joy of knowing you,      my Lord.

Amen.

Adapted from Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers. 'New Beginning'

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Tale of two men

Man-1 said he believed in Jesus Christ. Attended church regularly, and took his family there, gave money to offerings, raised his family teaching them the Bible is God's Word and to be known and followed. Yet this man rarely read his Bible, nor engaged his family directly in biblical teaching nor really spent time praying  much for them or with them other than simple meal prayers. Man-1 really didn't like other people too much, especially who would not be of some benefit to himself and only befriended those who were like him or could make his life fun.Man-1 encountered a needy looking man at Church who seemed to like  him and want to hang around with Man-1. But Needy-man was a mess and needed lots of time consuming mentoring to get his life in some order and this was obvious to Man-1 and so Man-1 avoided Needy-man every time  he was at Church, so he didn't have to feel obligated to help Needy-man. And whenever Needy-man found Man-1, Man-1 would politely shake his hand and give quick polite greetings and try to quickly find some reason to depart Needy-man's company, before he asked something of Man-1. Man-1 who said he loved Jesus and followed him never made any benefit in the life of Needy-man although he had time and means to do so even seeing no one else was helping Needy-man.

Few years later Man-2 shows up.  He too claimed to believe in Jesus and follow him also. He too raises his family in the Church and does his best to lead them in Biblical truth of following God. But Man-2 is different. He doesn't avoid convicting Bible reading at home, but does so regularly and works on making life changes to really follow what he hears God saying through scripture. He tries to encourage his family to do likewise and he can be seen reading and studying his Bible and other books challenging his spiritual walk. He even goes out of his way to meet with other men to do Bible study and application to be held more accountable. Man-2 denies himself some worldly pleasures and lusts that Man-1 took much great pleasure in secretly and he fights against temptations and surrounds himself with wise protections to help guard his heart. Man-2 attends a new local church and meets Needy-man who moved from attending his old Church where little love was shown him. Man-2 talks with Needy-man and listens to his situation and difficulty he is having in life, including lack of transportation to make it to Church on any regular basis relying on occasional rides from inconsistent friends. Rather than walk away and saying God bless and hope all goes well, Man-2 considers deeply the cost of helping Needy-man, because he too can see he is going to be a major effort if he starts helping him out. Man-2 is truly grateful to God for all the abundant blessings He has been undeservedly given by God; knowing he too was rescued from his own mess and insufficiencies.  Man-2 realizes he has means to help to some degree Needy-man, and so offers to pick him up and take him to Church each Sunday, realizing that was going to be potentially a life long needy man project that would require many more hours of his life and resources. Needy-man gladly accepted the offer. Starting the next week, Man-2 began driving Needy-man to Church which led to later helping in many ways, like caring for physical needs, meeting many financial needs, helping provide a car, helping job hunt, taking him into his home for many months and giving much social and spiritual guidance to Needy-man. Man-2 now has a life long friend in Needy-man, who loves him... even though, Needy-man could never begin to repay Man-2. Man-2 invested much in Needy-man over 8 years and stood by him encouraging Needy-man even though he frustrated Man-2  at times with his slowness to grow in maturity as he had hoped over the years; yet Man-2 won't ever give up on Needy-man because he knows God won't give up on him and he has come to treasure the deepening brotherhood in Needy-man.

Of these two men. Which one has faith? Both said they believed in Christ?  Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 ,“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock" .  Also in Luke 6:43-44 Jesus said, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush." And James 2:14-16 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

Real Godly faith is marked by actions that live it. If there is no fruit, your words; your "faith" is meaningless.  Faith has feet. May you have fearless faith also just like God supernaturally gave to Man-2 because he really trusted in his God and knew all would be well in him.

I know this story well about Man-1 and Man-2 because it is a true story.  I was Man-1, and now I am Man-2. To God be the glory, great things he has done !

- DC Shelton

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How will your mercy triumph?

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.(James 2:13 ESV)

God has gifted me as an evangelist. There is no greater joy I have in life than telling someone of my great Redeemer Jesus Christ and seeing them come to trust in him. About-Face Missions ministry is the Holy Spirit's result of my and Jim Balls passion to see the world come to Christ and fulfill our purposes in this life. While our primary goal is, and always will be, to get the good news of Jesus told to as many as possible before we die, as ones who have received so much mercy and grace from God in our lives, we are driven by Christ's love to help also in physical ways where we are able.  In our travels around the world, we have encountered some of the poorest of the poor, and the mercy of God in us compels us to show them mercy likewise. This two pronged approach of preaching the Gospel and helping the needy, especially those of the house of God, will always be a balance we will struggle with. We need to spend  time and money to get out the message of the Gospel, but we also need to spend time and money to help the poor and demonstrate the love and mercy of God in us and for them. This passage reminds me to not give up, turn back, or slow down. God's rewards are much more than what the wealth of this life can ever give. It reminds me also that we cannot preach the Gospel without meeting needs when we have the means. How hypocritical that would be!

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The context of this Scripture from God in James above is in showing honor and loving kindness and help to the poor among us and not showing favoritism to the wealthy, the better off, those who may be more pleasing to us for some fleshly reason. We read these scriptures and think at times how evil of a person to give higher honor to the rich man who comes into our presence and likewise looking down our noses and treating the lowly, less attractive, and poor ones as somewhat less... but this carnal nature is alive and well in most everyone of us today. And as a follower of Christ, this fleshly desire must be put to death daily!  We all have been guilty of this to some degree and it must stop. God's word is telling us to be merciful to the poor among us, for the Kingdom of Heaven, the Bride of Christ is primarily composed of these poor people in this life. Do you think God will be merciful to you it you treat his own Children with contempt? Think about how you live your life. Do you primarily show honor,  mercy and kindness and to those who can "benefit" you in some way? Don't be so quick to say no. Most 'Christians' live like this unaware, even when they say they don't, and only give their crumbs to the poor. If God exposed your monthly budget and spending, would we all see a life of self sacrifice of giving to those who cannot give to you any return in some way? Even the American churches fall under the indictment of God's judgment in many ways like this. So much spent on self 'needs' and so little on the poor kingdom workers around the world. God sees it all my friends. Don't be deceived.

We must examine our lives, wake up to our selfishness, repent and start changing the way we live. Don't let your culture be your god. That is idolatry. You follow Jesus, even if few around you do. Love the 'naturally' unlovable, and those you don't even 'know'. Reach out of your comfort zones and find them. Don't you see how unlovable you were before God rescued you? He reached out and found you. Love is intentional, never lazy and complacent.

  God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners... unclean, ugly, dirty, defiled, rebels fighting against God... Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Now, if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, let's get more radical in how we live for Jesus. "Fear not", God says, "For I am with you"!  (Isa 41:10)

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5 important truths

Here is the message we have heard from Christ and now announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. So if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars and do not follow the truth. But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done. If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and we do not accept God’s teaching.-1 John 1:5-10 NCV

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Truth #1 God is perfect in every way. High and holy. He is compared here to pure light, with no speck of darkness. He is the standard of good; of righteousness; of justice; of perfection in every way.

Truth # 2 To know God and share in his glory, we must be willing to allow his light to penetrate every corner of our life. Only then can the blood of Jesus wash away all our dirt.

Truth # 3 To enjoy the joy of living in brotherly love with others who walk with God, we must walk with God in his exposing light. Those who live in sin; in darkness, not confessing them remain disconnected from God and his Body. Life is a dark evil deceptive lie for them, resulting in ultimate decay and death.

Truth # 4 The blood of Christ will continue to wash us clean as we confess our wrongs; every time... not because we are pure ourselves, but because God is faithful and keeps his word.

Truth #  5 Jesus makes us pure, even though we sin at times, but humbly fight to walk in the Light and believe God, that he always speaks absolute trustworthy truth.

application: Keep walking in the light. Every time you fail God, humbly confess, repent and accept his provision (you not accepting and allowing his forgiveness to wash over you is not of faith, but continued sin). Then  carry on and serve God and others in love. No dirt you have is too filthy for the everlasting blood payment of Christ to clean. It was the blood of God spilled for you!

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A Pure Prayer

Today I make this Puritan prayer my prayer. As many of our devoted Christ followers of years gone by have written, mused and meditated on God and his Word and sought to walk by faith in the founding years of our nation, so too we can learn from them and return to pur spiritual heritage that so many have blindly forgot. This prayer is one from the book called "The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers", entitled True Religion. LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, I ask not to be enrolled amongst the earthly great and rich, but to be numbered with the spiritually blessed.

Make it my present, supreme, persevering concern to obtain those blessings which are spiritual in their nature, eternal in their continuance, satisfying in their possession.

Preserve me from a false estimate of the whole or a part of my character; May I pay regard to my principles as well as my conduct, my motives as well as my actions.

Help me never to mistake the excitement of my passions for the renewing of the Holy Spirit, never to judge my religion by occasional impressions and impulses, but by my constant and prevailing disposition.

May my heart be right with thee, and my life as becometh the gospel. May I maintain a supreme regard to another and better world, and feel and confess myself a stranger and a pilgrim here.

Afford me all the direction, defence, support, and consolation my journey hence requires, and grant me a mind stayed upon thee.

Give me large abundance of the supply of the Spirit of Jesus, that I may be prepared for every duty, love thee in all my mercies, submit to thee in every trial, trust thee when walking in darkness, have peace in thee amidst life's changes.

Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief and uncertainties.

Amen.  May it be so in my life this day. May all who read this also come before the throne of God in likewise heart and passion.

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baptism that saves you?

In my current Bible study time through 1Peter I have come across this section of scripture that has often been misunderstood and even among many good Bible scholars and students will still stir up some disagreement as to it's proper meaning. Yet it is still something we should seek to understand it's proper meaning. Context within all of scripture is very helpful to keep us away from spurious interpretations that lead to bad theology and living. Here is the text. 1 Peter 3:18-22 ESV "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him."

While I think Peter could have worded this passage a little differently to make our understanding more clear, herein are some great truths that align with other Scripture to help us see the beauty of what God wants us to hear and apply. This too is Spirit inspired Holy Word of God, so God had a reason to cause us struggle a bit with the passage. So let us think about it.

Two big questions that arise are how did the spirit of Christ preach to the lost in the days of Noah? And is Peter now saying we are saved by baptism? Clues are given within immediate context and greater Biblical context, so this is where it benefits us to know our Bibles and its revealed history. Does not the Bible teach us that prophets of God preached as they were moved by the Spirit of God? (ref 2 Peter 1:21). Is not the Holy Spirit also referred to as the Spirit of Christ? (ref ROM 8:9 where the titles are used interchangeably) God is triune, one in essence and yet three in person.  So when the Father speaks you are hearing the spirit of Christ speak, and when Christ speaks you are hearing from the Holy Spirit. They are One. Some people have wrongly viewed this passage as meaning Jesus went into hell or Sheol and preached to the lost trapped there due to their disobedience. This is not at all what is being taught here. First of all that would be pointless. They have died and clearly Scripture teaches it is appointed to everyone once to die, then judgment (ref Heb 9:27). There no benefit to then be preaching to the dead, and this would not be in alignment with the justice of God that speaks to all men's consciences prior to their finality of death, from which our choices in life are sealed.  They have their just reward. But based in the context of scripture clearly understanding the other facts I have just mentioned, Jesus Christ was preaching to the disobedient and lost in Noah's days through Noah, his prophet and servant. The context here is said "God's patience waited in the days of Noah", thus giving us the time of when Christ's spirit was preaching to them. They received their due warnings and through Noah. This passage Peter is paralleling to is the one in which Jesus began his earthly preaching ministry also. Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18.  Notice in it the same phrase of "preaching to the spirits in prison" and how this is exactly what he said was being fulfilled in his ministry on earth when reading Isaiah 61 " to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound". He was speaking of us...of those living and yet to live who were captives to Satan spiritually because of our sin nature and how his mission is to set us free from sin and death, to unlock our or prison cells spiritually and bring us into the kingdom of light and freedom! This preaching of the the salvation of God has been his message even before Abraham. The Spirit of Christ formed the cosmos and even today holds everything together by his divine power! So all Peter is saying is that Christ preached to the lost through Noah.

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Why is he referring to Noah? This leads to the second complicated concept here.  Peter is about to relate to us how this same spirit by which Christ was raised is  proclaimed in our baptisms. Some say it is the baptism of the Spirit he is telling us that is now saving us (which is in essence is true,  but not specifically spoken about here), but the illustration is one of being saved by water.  Like the 8 saved in Noah's day by water, so too we are saved today by Baptism.   He is talking about water baptism (not just spirit baptism). Remember context is king.  Now does he mean we are saved by water Baptism directly?  Well obviously not, because he says clearly "not by the washing of dirt from our bodies", but he brings it back to the simple truth by saying as "an appeal to God for a good conscience through Christ's resurrection" .  You see, as is true throughout scripture., Faith...obedient faith through the power of Christ is what saves us. Its always been about hearing God and obeying. Water Baptism does not save us, but real faith that follows Christ does. Baptism by water is a command for the faithful.  Even Jesus our Master was baptized as an example that we too should follow him.  When is a person saved? When they truly believe. Then they cross over from death to life. So some will never make it to the waters of baptism before death and still will enter into paradise, but this is not the norm. How do we know if a person is a Believer? They obey Christ. But for one who has ability to be an obedient follower of Christ and never has proclaimed their allegiance and death to self and new resurrected life in Christ through water baptism.  About all I can say to you is what Christ has said.

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven - Matthew 10:32 ESV

How does a person acknowledge Jesus before men? With your lips only? No, with what you say and how you obey. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. So a clear conscience before God is made by taking this step of faith and being baptized into Christ in water showing others you now seek to kill the sin nature daily and live in the resurrection of life following Jesus.  Just as hearing and obeying was considered faith that saved Noah and the other 7 by water, so likewise baptism by the Spirit of Christ is shown in your life by hearing and obeying his commands, including the mark of all Christ's disciples, water baptism.  Being baptized is essential to the obedient Christian life.  Jesus taught his disciples to teach every thing he "commanded". Why? Because his followers want to obey ...and his true ones will. Are you his follower? Have you been baptized? Why not?

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Consistent in faith and obedience - a prayer

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Lord God Almighty, I ask not to be enrolled among the earthly great and rich,    but to be numbered with the spiritually blessed. Make it my present, supreme, preserving concern    to obtain those blessing which are    spiritual in nature,    eternal in their continuance,    satisfying in their possession.  Preserve me from a false estimate of the whole or part of my character; May I pay attention to my principles as well as my conduct,    my motives as well as my actions. Help me never to mistake the excitement of my passions    for the renewing of your Holy Spirit,    never to judge my faith by occasional impressions and impulses,    But by my constant and prevailing disposition.

May my heart be right with you,    and my life be about the Gospel. May I maintain a supreme regard heavenward, our better world,    and feel and confess myself a stranger and a pilgrim here. Afford me all the direction, defense, support, and consolation my journey now requires,    and grant me a mind focused upon you. Give me a large abundance and supply of the Spirit of Jesus,    That I might be prepared for every duty,    Love you in all my mercies,    Submit to you in every trial,    Trust you when walking in darkness,    Have peace in you amidst life's changes. Lord, I believe. Help me through my weaknesses of my unbelief and uncertainties.

My life is yours dear Jesus, to you O God, I give my heart's trust. May I live for you this day. Amen.

( My personal adaptation of 'True Religion' from 'The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.')

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Why the massive suffering?

Are people who suffer catastrophes worse sinners than you or I who have it easy? Jesus answered this saying..  "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” -Luke 13:5 ESV

You see but by the grace of God, there go we. No one is good. There is no one who continually does good and never sins as holy God had revealed to us. He has numbered our days and has sworn his Spirit will not strive with corrupted flesh forever. (Gen 6:3)

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Would you have answered this Question like Jesus did? He sees life from an entirely different perspective than most humans do; from the eternality of our souls, not from a narrow few earthly  years view.

Pastor John Piper put it this way. "Now ponder for a moment what you would have answered at this point. What does your theology of suffering and sin call for in the face of this kind of tragedy? What Jesus said was this. He said, "No, their sin was not extraordinarily horrible. It was ordinarily horrible, just like yours. And if you don't repent, you too will experience a horrible end, all of you." In other words instead of saying that they are no more sinful than we are and being amazed at their death, he says that we are just as sinful as they are and should get ready to die like they did. What Jesus teaches, then, is that all of us are extremely sinful. We are so sinful that calamities and disasters should not shock us as though something unwarranted were coming upon innocent human beings. There are no innocent human beings. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "There is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10). And what should amaze us in our sin is "not" that some are taken in calamity, but that we are spared and given another day to repent. The really amazing thing in this universe is not that guilty sinners perish, but that God is so slow to anger that you and I can sit here this morning and have one more chance to repent."

I agree what is amazing is not that people die in disasters, but that we all do not. We we see such horrific things let us have compassion on our fellow man and do what we can to help and demonstrate love, because but by the graceful patience of God for us, we too should face calamity, and someday will. You will die in this body.  But more importantly, let this put a sense of urgency in our hearts to reach more people with the Gospel message of peace with God through repentance and faith in Christ. Because all human souls are immortal and will either have true life in Christ and resurrection, or perish in hell forever once our time here comes to an end.     Do you really believe this? Then do something about it. Change everything and make this your passion. Follow Jesus Christ and lead others to faith in him. He was dead serious.

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Something stored in heaven for you and me

Today I am reading, meditating on this passage of scripture, 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

This Scripture is so full of hope and passion and joy! It goes on revealing that it is being written to suffering Christians everywhere, yet when we look at our immense blessings from God, even among our suffering for doing good in following Jesus, everything in this life seems silly, insignificant and petty by comparison!

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Oh the joy that floods my soul as I am reminded by God's Spirit whose I am ! Amazing grace, and such security I have knowing that it is God himself storing for me an imperishable life; an imperishable body. It's really being saved for up for each one of us who by faith believe and follow Jesus as Lord! The day we truly repent from sin and choose to give our hearts to Christ, we spiritually cross over from death to life (John 5:24), but this sin struggling and decaying body we still keep, and have to learn to make submit to God's will. Oh the struggle of that daily task at times. Some of us even are experiencing much unwanted physical pain and suffering because of messed up bodies, some are suffering because of your identity in Christ and choices to follow him, thus facing world given hardships. Let us have no doubts about it following Jesus will cost you dearly in the this world ruled by Satan and the flesh of mankind. But the joy of knowing who I am, who I belong to, and the joy of walking in the light of God, by faith in Christ, is so much better, so much worth it all!    I just wish all my dead walking dead zombie human friends around me could taste and see you that the Lord is good ...then take sure that step of faith and turn to Jesus. It literally takes a miracle.  It takes you and me walking in the light so they can see The Light even exists. It takes our steadfast love for their souls, showing them there is only one way to Life, and that is in Jesus. It takes worn out knees, praying for God to the turn their dead zombie like hearts of stone, into hearts of flesh. God must make the dead alive, we cant do you that part; so let's do our part and live Christ around them and love them enough to tell them the truth, even if you that disturbs them or causes them to not like you. How evil of us on our part to live in fear and say nothing. God forgive us for the times we have sinned by that act of  ommission. Let us see the joy of our reward stored up by our Father in Heaven and invite many to come join us. Yes, many will decline, but many will accept when they see the love of Jesus in our eyes and hearts. I head to Africa in a week to work with my many east African pastors and fellow Christ servants in Uganda and Kenya, and God will save many, because if only we are willing to go and share Jesus, God acts and responds with salvation. The problem is God gave this responsibility to us. So we must go, or any they perish, and their blood is on our hands. Think about this. It's serious. So for all who read this, pray for Holy Spirit intervention in the lives of those who will hear the Gospel so the halls of heaven will be filled with ones like me, undeserving , but SAVED by grace! You go today, and this week also to your Africa's next door and in your towns and share Jesus. The zombie like lost are waiting on you. How will be they hear unless someone "preach"...each on us are called to be the proclaimers of the the Lords Gospel.

Come soon Lord Jesus, and find us faithful to the end, no matter what. 

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Purity only found in Christ

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.- Heb 9:14

 

water of life

 

Without trusting in Christ for your cleansing and purification, you would be too unworthy to even say a praise of Adoration to God, much less expect a prayer to be heard and acted upon by the Holy Creator God. Seek Jesus Christ as the very Son of God, and his salvation offered by his pure holy blood shed in love for you. Know Christ and you will know God. Jesus said, "I and the Father are One" - John 10:30 God is Father, Son and Spirit.  One God in essence, 3 in person-hood.

 

 

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Questions to ponder and comments from James 4:1-10

Do I ask God for my needs, or do I just fight it out of life myself?Do my prayers go unanswered? Do I ask God with correct motives, for his glory, or for my own pleasures? Am I really loyal to God? Do I realize the world is against God and is his enemy? Do I remember that being a friend and lover of the world is being an enemy of God? Do I dare ask God for things while still loving the world, and really expect him to bless my prayers; really? Do I think God's Word wasn't serious when it said, "The Spirit that God made to live in us wants us for himself alone?"

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It's time we examine our lives and come near to God in Christ Jesus. Change our laughing into crying, our happiness into sadness, humble ourselves in repentance in the Lord's presence. Then He will lift us up and give us life and honor. This is how we begin to see the power of God in our lives and our prayers get answered.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. - Ps 37:4 In delighting in him, our desires become God's desires.

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Dilemmas of loving my neighbors

But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. -James 2:8

This sums up the commands of God for us toward our fellow man. This is easy to do to those who love us, or when it doesn't demand any real sacrifice on our part. But real life doesn't always go that way. Sometimes your life is busy or demanding, or financially stressed with more needs than resources. Then someone you love dearly has a crisis, and you have immediate ability to meet that need, but it will put your wisely planned out resources and budget to get blown up and leave you in need, or unable to stay in a secure place. What do you do? Worse yet, someone you are not emotionally or lovingly close to has a need and you see it and can meet all or part of the immediate need, what do you do? Do we pass them by, because it may put us in debt and force us to work harder and longer to recover than we desire or planned? Do we pass over the need because it may impact our ability to fund our immediate or long term plans or retirement "properly"? Do we walk on by like the Jews of the good Samaritan story not helping the person in need because we don't want to be inconvenienced; or  we want a nicer car and can't afford a new car payment and sending an extra 10, 50, 100 or 300 dollars a month to help fund an orphanage or feed hungry and hurting Pastors,  or feed the poor people who need to see the love of Jesus in action before they can see his offer of Salvation? What do we do?   Needs abound, so do we just pass them by, or do we dig deeper, cut back more on self, and invest more in others and less in personal pursuits? What does loving you neighbor as yourself look like for you? Is it a life of giving mercy to others that takes from your own resource pool of mercy and provision?

We can choose to avoid seeing or acknowledging needs, turn a blind eye like those who passed the beaten and robbed man on the road way to Jerusalem, or we can stop and render what aid we can. We can all do something. It's better to do all you can to save a few, than nothing, and keep on walking. God has blessed you. What will you do?

God has blessed me more than I deserve. I really believe this, so I choose to prove it by giving more and more back to those in need, even when it hurts to do so. Not just talking about it, but doing it. This is why I invest much of my time and money in the poor and for the Gospel message of Christ, and have partnered with Jim Ball to make it easier for others to join us in doing exactly this. Loving our neighbors who are in the greatest of need around the world. Join me at http://www.aboutfacemissions.com or on our Facebook page and help us help more and reach more for Jesus.   https://www.facebook.com/AboutFaceMissions . Even as hard as the road may be at times dealing with the troubles and problems of others as well as your own, the resulting rewards and new life friendships and bonds of love that form from your efforts will last forever. Joy unspeakable will come though Christ to you, and have you saying, "why did I ever even hesitate?".   I know this, I struggle daily with these questions and find stepping out in faith for Jesus always has immense rewards beyond my human reason.

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Vain worship of God?

Greek transliteration "thrēskos"- fear or Worship of God, "religious" If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. - James 1:26

Oftentimes we see James 1:27 quoted, since it tells us what pure religion or rather the worship of God looks like. Naming the loving and caring for the needy and helpless, as in the widows and orphans who tend to be the most overlooked among us. But rarely do we pause to listen to what God is telling us in verse 26 that leads up to the truths of verse 27.  Today in western society we have a distaste for the word "religion" or "religious" because we have seen many hypocritical abuses in religious traditions. In reality religion and religious are not bad words, they just seem to come with a lot of baggage and so many wrong ideas come to mind when using them. This word for religious used here by James is the only instance of this Greek word thrēskos in the Bible, which is typically translated as religious in most translations.  But a quick look up of the word in Strong's Greek  concordance (G2357) says it means literally the fear of or worship of God. So a better way to translate this passage that would not carry the mental blockage it does to many people would be like this: If someone thinks he fears and worships God yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his heart and his worship is in vain. (And on to vs 27) Pure and undefiled worship before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unpolluted by the world. (James 1:26-27)

So if you call yourself a Christian and do not control your tongue, (Which could mean; using crass or course speech, vulgar or foul words or joking; saying things intentionally hurtfull or mean without a loving or constructive purpose; saying things to tear people down rather than leading them to life; gossip; saying things out of place; speaking too much and listening too little, etc..)the Bible says here that your worship of God is useless, in vain, pointless.

God has always been one who doesn't just look to your uncommitted emotional and trivial appeals from your heart, but who weighs your heart by how you act on it. Faith is not a momentary feeling, but action on truths trusted as from God. By faith we are saved, but by actions we prove our faith. How do you live out what you say you believe? Is it a selfish faith or a surrendering, dying to self to serve God and others faith?   1Sam 15:22 says this; "Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams." God never changes. He still requires obedience of us. He saves us so that we can obey.

Today many of us fool ourselves into thinking we are following Christ and worshiping him, because we have emotional moments in Church when we sing praise and worship. I tell you pagens do likewise in their idolic worship of their loved music stars. They are more moved in their emotional adorations to their favorite music artists and the entertainment minded worshipers of football, baseball, basketball or soccer are more passionate about their team playing a game than most Christians in worship of their God. What makes a true religious person, a true worshiper of God, as in this context of Biblical truth?

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Someone who doesn't just say they follow Jesus,  but puts feet to their faith and gives sacrificially to others.  That is love, the kind of love the true Spirit of God puts in a child of God. If in introspection you think maybe your worship of God may be a bit vain and meaningless, which I think all of us fall into at some level (we all are works in progress ), then do as God leads us in the Psalms. Seek cleaning from God, and ask him to help show you the right paths to make more worshipful steps in your life, repenting where needed, and giving more to Christ and others. Don't trust your own heart but trust it to God and live for him. Search me O God, and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Ps 139:23-24) Make this your daily heart cry to Christ. Then watch God make your way pure. Worship is what you do with your life, not just a song you sing on Sunday.

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Tell the Nations of his Glory!

Tell the nations of his glory; tell all peoples the miracles he does,

because the LORD is great -Ps 96:3,4

It should only make sense that because of the great things God has done for us...for me, that I should go and bring this great love of Christ to everyone who will listen, no matter where in the earth they may be. Some have asked me why go to Africa when there are so many lost people here in America.  I simply tell them that God has moved me to go to places like Peru, Ecuador and Africa, and.... because they will listen and respond unlike most Americans, where hearts are hard.

Where the hearts are ripe and tender we should go to harvest for the Lord.

Matt 9:37-38 Jesus said, "Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Someone's gotta go, why not me...why not you?  I like pastor John Pipers recent messages on this.  There are 3 types of Christians, the "Senders", the "Go-ers" or the "Disobedient". The mission field begins at home and our city and state and country, but it must not stop there. It must be global according to the command of Christ. I want to be like the prophet Isaiah who said in Isa 6:8 "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." Lastly, for anyone who truly loves Christ and wants to see God face to face, knowing that they have done well in serving him shouldn't we be working on making his return expedited by reaching the last unreached people of the World?  When will Jesus Christ return in glory?  He told us. Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Nations here in the Greek means people groups. So let's be about our Fathers work, going or sending, and making this our priority!

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