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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Aspirations

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 9-12)

Have you, I wonder, ever heard before of debt? It’s this really cool thing where you are “given” money! but then have to pay it back plus a certain percentage. And if you happen to default on your payment that percentage is raised. Here’s a hint for all those who don’t have debt: It would be best for you if it was kept that way.

This is the definition of debt:

The state of owing money: “the firm is heavily in debt.”. (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/debt)

Paul says explicitly here not to be dependent on anyone. “Anyone” includes debt companies, credit companies (pretty much the same thing), or banks in general. Look at one of the causes of the great depression: the banks went out, millions lost their money, thus the depression. With that little economic lesson finished… He says something else here:

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

There are three things there we are told to aspire to do: living quietly, minding our own affairs, and working with our hands. Or in modern terms: You don’t have to be president. Don’t be snoopy (the action or the dog). And be willing to work. If we’re those three things, we can walk properly before outsiders and won’t have to be dependent on anyone; emotionally or financially.

The point being: it’s a good testimony for a Christian to be debt-free and a hard worker. The sub-point being: It’s better not to ever get into debt. The sub-sub-point being: If you can’t get a job as a technician, get one as a farmer. Maybe not literally, but you get the (sub-sub) point; don’t be afraid to work with your hands.

Breaking free from debt is not something you (or I) want to do. May Jesus keep us from having to. Because the only way to break out, is by having the bars broken for us by… Jesus. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to create a budget (we would always end up spending more than we promised our self). And it wouldn’t be possible to do whatever else it is that you do when you try to get out of debt, pornography, swearing, or anything else that you’re trying to get out of. – By the way, that’s the sub-sub-sub point.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Debt, Delivered Through Love

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today’s sermon was on Galatians 2:11-21. For the most part, I remember the first part of the sermon, wherein the Pastor talked on verses 11-13. For the most part (in that section) he talked about, go figure, Paul rebuking Peter for retreating from the Gentiles when the Circumcision group walked in. Unless I’m mistaken, he used Paul’s rebuking Peter as an example: meaning, if someone is in the wrong, we should rebuke them in love.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Todays Sermon

 

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Say A Prayer: Get Rich

Hello again!

Today we start 1 Thessalonians. – This is what God gave me today in his word:

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved–so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)

Join Christianity → Say a Prayer → Let The Money ($$$) Start Rolling In! – Or maybe, depending on who you are, you’ll think: Become a Believer → Say a Prayer → Become Rich and Famous! – Things don’t work like that. Plain and simple.

But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. —C.S. Lewis

Becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly entitle you to a house-deed, money, fame, furniture, or whatever else comes to mind which you pray for. The Jew’s crucified Jesus, and can you guess who lives in you as a Christian? Jesus Christ, by whom we are saved and for whom we are put in pain. In China or Iraq that pain may/probably would be physical, but it doesn’t have to be. The good news though, is that God will deal with them… Eventually. While we’re talking about God, why is it He allows us to suffer? Why is it He doesn’t give us everything we want, when we want it?

Which would be better for a son/daughter do you think? To be pampered and grow up getting everything s/he ever wanted. Or growing up poor, and learning to love and care for those around him/her? The answer, by the way, is number two. – God wants the best for us, that doesn’t mean he gives us what we think is best for us. He lets trails come, he lets us feel pain, so that he can (as Lewis put it) shout his will for us into our ears.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. —Charles Dickens

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us. (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18)

Paul provides a perfect example: he was torn away from the Thessalonians, thus he tried all the harder to get to them. It’s slightly different with us, but the same concept applies; the harder Satan pushes, the more we must rely on Christ’s power. This is the point: That God let’s us feel pain in order to draw us nearer to him. This may seem selfish, and it is! God is an incredibly selfish God, that’s why he sent his son to die for us! So that we can be his and his alone.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Wordily Wisdom: The Newest Epidemic

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 John 1:9-11)

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. – That’s an interesting way of phrasing that: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide…” John seems to be talking about those who ‘go ahead of Jesus’. But how could that be possible? After all, isn’t Jesus our ‘all in all’ and all that stuff? i.e. How can someone step in front of someone who is everything?

“I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet….I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.” –Brian McLaren – Well, at least he isn’t trying to leave the Gospel behind. Rather, it seems he simply doesn’t have it. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/november/12.36.html?start=4)

Whenever someone tries to introduce some deep truth, such as the one I quoted yesterday (that’s a joke!), they’re trying to put them self in front of Jesus. Whenever someone doesn’t make the Gospel of Christ – which is that he died and rose again to save us – their main subject, they’re trying to leave Jesus behind. When someone, “forgets” what their very salvation was procured by. When someone isn’t abiding in Jesus, by abiding in his word rather than his own wisdom. When someone rationalizes their sin. They all are attempting to step in front and obscure Jesus from view. A perfect example:

“So we must stop looking for some objective Truth that is available when we delve into the text of the Bible.” –Tony Jones – Can you perhaps tell I’m not a huge fan of the emerging church? (Postmodern Youth Ministry, p. 201)

What happens when we step in front of Jesus? As I’ve already mentioned, we put ourselves up front; obscuring Jesus from view. The only reason we would ever do that is out of pride! In fact, John says that even the person who simply greets such a person takes part in his wickedness; you really shouldn’t attempt to go ahead of Jesus. It never works out for anyone, much less you.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19)

When you try to use your own wisdom, God catches you. Take Bernard Madoff, he thought, using his own wisdom, that he could make his fraud work. Yet now, he’s in prison. – Trying in our own power to do anything, much less preach or teach others, is foolish. We can’t work our own way out of sin. However, we’re very capable of working our way into sin by trying to save our self through our own wisdom (which is what the emerging church leaders are trying to do). What we; what everyone, should do, is get down on our knees and thank God for sending his son to die for us and save us!

People Try To Save Them-self → They Realize That Doesn’t Work → They Decide to  justify themselves by telling others about what they must do. → People end up hurt.

The devil always makes sure of that last bit. Whether because they continue to try to work their way to Heaven all their lives, and thus go to Hell. Or because they realize their mistake, and it takes time to change; Here’s a much kept secret: Much better would be to simply realize we can’t do anything to save our self and accept Jesus’ sacrifice. In fact, better, and much safer.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Idolatry

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:19-21)

I find it interesting, how John is going along, talking about how Satan can’t touch the Christian; how the world lies in the power of the Devil. All these incredibly ‘deep’ truths, then as if an after thought, he adds, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” This is how John chooses to end his first letter. With a warning to children to keep themselves from idols. Not with some deep truth, like, for example, this person gives us (I’m kidding here):

“Meditative prayer like that we experienced in the labyrinth resonates with hearts of emerging generations.”—Dan Kimball, Vintage Faith

But instead, with a little warning to little children to stay away from idols. Why end that way? Isn’t it better to go out with a bang? Better to make your letters memorable beyond belief, via giving some deep ethical truth that no one can understand?

Wouldn’t it have been for John to end memorably?

The reality is that John did end with a “deep truth”. – He had formerly told us of the three stages of a Christian; a little child; a young man; a father. Now he’s talking to those who are Spiritually children (for all we know, this could be a 80 year old man). – Keep yourselves from idols; This statement is incredibly important. Not just for (Spiritually) little children, but for everyone: An idol doesn’t necessarily have to be a golden calf (→). It can be anything: a bicycle, food, money, cars, even family. And if while you’re ‘young’ you fall to the temptation of making an idol out of something/someone… I’ll put it this way: it’s much harder to remove something that has grown deep roots into your heart, than it is to remove something that you hate. As Solomon says:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

That can be good or bad. If you grow up with an idol, you’re practically training yourself to love that idol. As I’ve already said, anything can be an idol. That’s why we need Christ’s-all-inclusive-mind-protection-package (free for the next: eternity); including, but by no means limited to: a temptation proof mind-filter, salvation, eternal life. – The point is this: When either of us is tempted with idolatry, and we will be, we must go to God. If don’t, we will be over-whelmed and overcome.

Do you have any idols in your life that you haven’t gotten rid of (by praying for strength to resist/get rid of the idol. If it’s your family or friends, you don’t actually get rid of them. You just make sure your relationship with God is better than with them, along with praying etc)? Family, friends, money?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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For The Love Of Money!

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

If you have money and someone else doesn’t, it’s important to give. If you have two coats while your neighbor has none, and all that. – Basically, John’s telling us not to be stingy. Because if we are (stingy, that is), God’s love cannot abide in us. Which is never a good thing.

3You ask and do not receive, because you ask(B) wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4(C) You adulterous people![c] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?(D) Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)

In fact, not only does being ‘stingy’ separate us from God, it brings us closer to money. Specifically, to the love of money; or the love of whatever else it is that we’re being stingy about.

 Stinginess → Not Giving → God’s Love Leaves → Thus We Become More Stingy → We Grow Closer To The World

The Devil never tries to do anything if doesn’t think he has a chance of succeeding; he always plans his attack, always maps out places he must take in order to make head way (pardon the pun about the head). Remember what was said in Genesis: The serpent was the craftiest of all animals. He is the same way with ‘earthly possessions’. – I’m not saying you need to go bankrupt in order to help someone else; if you have the means, give. For example, if you have 5 million dollars in debt, it may not be the best time to try to help someone else get out of debt. Instead, it would be better to concentrate on getting out of your own debt first, followed by helping others. Help Yourself → Help Others → We’re All Happy.

5Keep your life(A) free from love of money, and(B) be content with what you have, for he has said,(C) “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

But how is it exactly we can keep our lives free from the love of money? As the picture (to the right) states, money is part of life. So is income, debt, spending and the rest. We’re surrounded by the stuff! How can anyone keep from loving it?

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Godliness with contentment is great gain. Rather than love money, we should be content (like Paul was) with what we have. The only way to be content though, is by having “Godliness”. Which basically means having Jesus live in us. How does Jesus come to live in us? Does he just waltz in one day and say, “Oh hey there, I was wondering if you could rent me a room in your heart?” Does he try to (pardon this pun to please) buy us off? No and no. Rather: He died for us, followed by us being saved (by the latter) and his coming to live in the temple of our hearts.

The Gospel of Jesus, is that he came, died, and rose again. This is what magically makes me not love money? That is what makes me not always hope to see, “Amount of Funds: 73,505,274” when I look at my bank account (not that I have one)?

If you remember my post about “Characteristics of the Effective and Fruitful Christian” You’ll remember that Godliness, by extension, resulted from faith in Jesus. So no, there is no magic involved; there is faith, though. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, that he died and rose again for us, God makes us more and more into the image of his son; more and more Godly. Which leads to being content in every situation, no matter how hard it may be. – When we’re like Paul in that we learn how to be content in every situation, we no longer love money. In fact, we can even give some of it to others.

The point is this: Through the power of Jesus and his death for us, we can manage to survive without the love of money (shocker, right?).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Victory Through Jesus

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us–eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25)

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. – What did we hear from the beginning of our Christian life? The Gospel. What gives us eternal life? The Gospel. What are we supposed to remember (i.e. let abide in us)? As you might have guessed, the Gospel. This is because The Gospel, which is that Jesus came, died and rose again for us, is important. – But why? How could what we learned at the beginning, help us now? How can the death of one man save me?

Why is the Gospel so important?

Because is saves it, makes us new, and destroys our old self. – One man dying is nothing new. It happens all the time. However, this man was also completely God, and he took all ours sins onto himself and killed them. – The point John is trying to get across is that what we learned at the beginning of our faith, that Jesus died and rose again, is still important and valid today (thus, we should “abide in it”). – Now though, we have another question, “What does it mean to let the Gospel abide in us?”

Have you ever thought of something before, and simply not been able to get it out of your head? Maybe you were so excited about your vacation that was coming up quickly. Or maybe it was a super-bowl Sunday and you couldn’t get the thought of it out of your head. Whatever it was, it stuck in your head and wouldn’t leave you alone. That thought was abiding in your brain; taking control of your ability to concentrate. When the Gospel abides in us, we see it everywhere. We think about it constantly. – I’m not saying that in order to be a Christian you have dream about Jesus’ death for us, I’m just saying it’s what has to rule your mind. Because when you’re mind is ruled by the thought of the Gospel, temptation can’t get it.

Imagine the Gospel as a bullet proof shield around your mind, and you have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Jesus is your barrier, your protector; the way, the truth and the life. Nothing can break him down. In fact, this verse pretty much sums it up:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

He gives us the victory. There’s a big fat period after that statement; because it’s complete. God gives us the victory through his son.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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A Divided Mind

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

So the (please forgive me if you are one) “Eco-freaks” had it wrong? We shouldn’t love the world, because if we do God doesn’t love us?

What does John mean, “don’t love the world”?

He means exactly what he said. He isn’t referring to the world, as in, Planet Earth. He’s referring to everyone (and thing) that is, “of the world and not of God”. I’ll put it this way: we are of Heaven, everyone else is of the World up and until the point where they change their citizenship. But that isn’t really the point of the passage: John is warning them here of the world. He doesn’t say they can’t go to the movies/watch TV/shop at Wal-Mart, he just says they shouldn’t love the world.

While we’re on the subject, how is it even possible to simply, “not love the world.” Isn’t it a little like just telling yourself, “don’t sin.”? What does not loving the world even mean? How is possible not to love the world?

By ourselves, it isn’t; By Jesus’ power though, all things are possible. – As the pastor said yesterday: we are babies, unable to do anything for our-self. We need God to pick us up in order to go anywhere (Spiritually). – Not loving the world, does not mean not doing something, or not going somewhere. That’s legalism. Not loving the world however, does mean this: loving God. Loving the world takes a different shape for every one: someone may get drunk, someone may be ‘addicted to smoking’, etc.

John is warning us to not love the world, because if we do Jesus doesn’t live in us. This is because we cannot serve two masters, both Jesus and the world. Thus, loving the world becomes the equivalent of trying to kick Jesus out. Which, as you might have guessed, isn’t a good idea. In fact, it could even be considered a very bad idea.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. (Matthew 12:25)

If what we want is divided against itself, we will very quickly come crumbling down from whatever height we’ve set our-self up to: If we try to serve both the world and God. Well, they invented the phrase ‘dead-meat’ for a reason.

The point is this: there is a reason behind John telling us not to love the world or anything in it, that reason is his trying to keep us from giving up the race; trying to keep us from having our mind divided.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Galatians 2:1-6. Pretty much, he made a summary of the passage. The majority of what I remember is this (the part after the verse):

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:3)

He used his three and a half-month old son as an example here: he said that after his sons diaper had been changed, he would always hold his hands up to his dad; wanting to be carried. His son wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without help. Likewise, we can’t go anywhere (Spiritually) without the help of Jesus. It’s not that we need to be circumcised, it’s that we need to be carried by Jesus.

He also mentioned us; standing in front of the Hoover Dam. And having the dam break. Obviously, we would be crushed. He then related that to what Jesus went through, having all of our sins dumped onto him… To be honest, my memory doesn’t extend to the verse he used that in context with though.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland 

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2011 in Todays Sermon

 

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Always Forgiven?

Hello again!

Today we start 1 John. – This is what God gave me today in his word:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

We can either have fellowship with God, or we can lie to ourselves and live in darkness. Let’s assume everyone figured it would be good idea to think that the first option was better than the second, and ask a question: what does, “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” mean? – Does that verse mean we can do whatever we want to now? Does it give us permission to sin? If Jesus cleanses us from all sin; with a big fat all-inclusive, all, does that mean we now can do whatever we want to?

Jesus has forgiven us: therefore we can whatever we want?

Yes and no. Let me explain, as this is a very important point:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Yes, all our sins: past, present, and future, are forgiven. No, as Christians it isn’t that we never fall to temptation. Yes, all our sins being forgiven does mean we can do whatever we want. No (!) that doesn’t mean we should go and sin. You see, as Christians we are forgiven, but along with that forgiveness comes a changing in what we want. As Paul put it, we are those who have died to the sinful nature. – Therefore, we don’t sin? After all, if what we want is changed (i.e. If our passion switches from the world to God, so to speak) we should no longer want to sin. If we do want to sin, could that mean we’re not Christian?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

Being born again (the only way to become an actual Christian) requires dying to our old self and becoming a new person. Every Christian will, until death, have their flesh. Every Christian, too, will at some point fall. However, the difference between someone who has been born again and the world, is that through Jesus’ forgiveness, we are able to stand up again. – I’ll put things like this: if a baby cries loudly, that doesn’t so much mean something is wrong with the baby, as it means the baby has strong lungs and his healthy. If our passions are at war within us, it means there is a fight going on (it doesn’t mean we’re not Christian!). However, unlike with a baby, this isn’t so much a good thing in our case. As James just said, that’s the very reason arguments and fighting broke out.

Let’s go back to the beginning and clarify: We have died to the sinful nature and are now born again into Christ: we often mess up; babies often spill. But God will always forgive us, because Jesus was nailed on a cross for us. This does not mean we should purposefully go on a little toddler rampage. Instead, it means we should accept God’s forgiveness, accept his discipline (being forgiven doesn’t mean he wont discipline us), and change!

Our passions shouldn’t be at war within us, they should be focused on Christ on the cross. However if your passions are divided within you, refocus yourself on Jesus. In the race of life, the only way to keep from falling is stare up at Jesus, rather than looking at our feet: which would result in a stumble.

The point is this: We’re born again through Jesus’ death and Resurrection. That doesn’t mean we can sin without repercussion now. Rather, it means our passion should be to serve God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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