Tag Archives: jesus

What Does Abundant Life Look Like?

In John 9, Jesus heals a beggar blind from birth, enabling him to live a full life, not just live on the edge of life. The religious leaders of the day opposed this healing for silly and irrelevant reasons. In John 10, Jesus responded to the religious leaders with the parable of the Good Shepherd (Himself), contrasting Himself with the false shepherds of that day.

Unlike the false shepherds, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What would Jesus say about today’s prominent religious leaders and Christians? Do we live the abundant life, reflecting our Master? Truth is, to the world, the church often appears weak and irrelevant. Too many churches do not preach the Word. They dilute the gospel and its mission. Its people are rampant in unbelief. Its young people look elsewhere for answers the church does not provide.

Christian marriages fail as often or more than those in the world. Where are the signs and wonders? How many churches go for years without a single conversion or baptism?

Recently, I heard of a church that was closed down and sold to Buddhists. Weak preaching and teaching and lack of faith in God’s power gave the people no motivation to keep coming. The few who were left sold the building to the highest bidder. False shepherds.

We have more Bible reference books than ever, better-trained pastors—but more ignorance. Most people still cannot give a reason for the hope in them. They don’t know how to pray with power. Again, false shepherds.

As a church, we have allowed the world’s agenda to govern our lives and attitudes. Few Christians develop a Christian worldview, applying Bible standards to situations in the natural world. Is it any wonder the humanists and secularists have taken over? It is because of our weakness, not their strength. False shepherds, just as in Jesus’ day.

What does the abundant life look like? Think of Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery, a man of limited schooling, born in poverty, suffering from wounds of war and imprisonment, awkward and rough in appearance. He had none of the things most of us count as needful for life. Yet he exhibited a profound wisdom found in few men. He found such joy in practicing the presence of God, he became the envy of all who met and knew him.

The collection of his letters and conversation, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” has become a classic portrait of the abundant life Jesus intended for all of us.

What does this mean for us today? To really believe and practice God’s presence means His presence will be strong in our meetings. We will no longer need gimmicks to attract people. People will hunger for God’s Word and ways. Preachers will preach with Holy Spirit anointing. The church will manifest the presence of God in signs and wonders.

Salvations will come by the millions from every class and age group. The love of God in our midst will overcome oppression, racism, immorality, hatred, anger, fear. Social transformation will take place. The gospel will burst out of the churches into the surrounding communities and into other nations of the world. Laws will change, becoming more righteous and just.

Amen! Let that day come, Lord Jesus!

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Which Camp Are You In?

The Gospel of John’s account in chapter 9 of Jesus’ healing of the blind man at the temple gate that we examined last month brings us to another side of the matter.

John shows us that the blind man’s healing did not suddenly end all his problems. When Jesus healed him, not everyone rejoiced and praised God for this good thing.

The religious Pharisees became very upset. Although the man had sat at the temple gate for years, they apparently paid no attention to him. They did not take compassion on him. They did nothing to help the man to better his condition. They just left him at the gate to beg and barely survive. They just assumed the man was a sinner who deserved his fate. Jesus’ compassionate act put them in an embarrassing position.

These religious Pharisees were those to whom others traditionally looked for religious advice and counsel. But Jesus demonstrated godly authority, power and compassion they did not possess. He demonstrated that they were really charlatans. With this healing, they must humble themselves and submit to Jesus or resort to reckless means to discredit Jesus. They unwisely chose the latter course.

Jesus’ healing violated their protocols about how and when these things should happen. Also, since they were unable to heal the blind man themselves, they feared that people would look to Jesus rather than to themselves as their authority. None of this met the man’s real needs.

They regarded themselves as a religious elite. To them, Jesus threatened the social order, namely, their own power. Behind their anger lay fear and jealousy because this man, Jesus, from a small town demonstrated God’s power and authority they lacked.

These religious phonies also reacted by attacking the healed man’s character and throwing him out of the temple as an example to others who dared to challenge them. They wanted to intimidate others who might question them. They refused to consider the possibility that Jesus’ power to heal demonstrated His authentic authority from God. Their power over the people meant more to them than a diligent search for truth.

The work of Jesus always winds up dividing people into two camps—those who accept His transforming power and those who rely only upon themselves, even when they use religious terms.

Does not this story of the blind man reflect what has happened to many of you who read this? Like the blind man, you have submitted yourselves to Him, but there are people in your lives who do not rejoice with you in your new-found freedom. They see you as a threat.

Jesus did not leave the man alone in his predicament with the religious leaders. He came to him and encouraged him. The man submitted to Jesus, and Jesus met the man’s need in the face of fierce opposition. He will do the same with each of us who puts our ultimate trust in Him.

We believers in Jesus Christ must ask ourselves: Are we more like Jesus or the Pharisees in our attitudes toward those who suffer for no fault of their own?

Let us who know the power and authority of Jesus Christ in our lives help to make His saving power manifest in all of India and throughout the world.

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What does a good God do with evil?

John 9 is a passage that probably applies to most if not all of us. The story really begins at the end of the 8th chapter when Jesus leaves the temple in Jerusalem. On His way out, He and His disciples meet a blind beggar who sits at the temple gate.

The man has suffered blindness since birth. The context suggests he was a fixture at the gate for years, seen by everyone as they entered and left the temple. He was a familiar sight to the disciples who asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

It was the wrong question, and Jesus corrected them. His response is usually mis-translated in our English versions. Without going into all the technicalities of Greek grammar, His response should be translated something like this: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but let the works of God be made manifest in him.”

Jesus’ response should become a comfort to all of us. Not all of life’s misfortunes result from personal or family sin. This includes events such as the loss of friends or loved ones, congenital illness, accidents, death of a child, or a host of events that prevent us from developing gifts or fulfilling good and reasonable dreams.

The disciples reacted to the blind man like Job’s “friends” reacted to his calamities. Jesus reminds His disciples (and us) that God does not cause evil. He does not bring sorrows, calamities and limitations in our lives, even for His glory. These misfortunes come from the devil, whose work He has come to destroy. In other words, the only one at fault is Satan.

This should be good news to all of us who suffer for seemingly irrational purposes. We may even wonder what sin we have committed for God to punish us like this.

Jesus demonstrates to the disciples (and to all of us) that God desires to bring good out of the evil in our lives. Having secured the blind man’s permission, He heals the blind man, enabling him to see for the first time in his life. No longer does he have to sit and beg at the temple gate. Now, he has the opportunity to live a fulfilling life rather than live on the edge of life.

What a lesson to us! Jesus wants to make the works of God manifest in us. He especially wants to heal those areas of misfortune in our lives that come to us through no fault of our own. When we give Him permission to heal, no longer are we bound to our past or to family or environmental circumstances we cannot control.

God does not cause evil, but He can use evil to humble and prepare us for His greater works in us. When we give Him permission, He will change our circumstances in ways possible only with Him. He will make a way where there is no way.

Someone has said, “The Crucified God is not in control of evil, sickness and suffering because He is too busy destroying them and bringing good out of them.”

All of this is part of the Good News that we should make part of our own lives and share with those who have yet to hear of Him.

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The Source of Light

Lloyd Ogilvie, pastor and one-time Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, originally came from Scotland. One evening, he was walking outside without a flashlight. It grew dark. He tripped on a rock and fell down. He put his hand forward to push himself up and felt—nothing.

Sensing danger, he stayed where he was until the dawn revealed himself at the edge of a ravine. One more step, and he would have fallen to his death. Light can make the difference between life and death.

“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” wrote the Psalmist. Maybe he had an experience like Lloyd Ogilvie’s, and it taught him deeper truths. Jesus Christ is the Word, we read in John 1. In John 8, Jesus also says, “I am the Light of the World.”

In what ways is Jesus the Light? He tells us in chapter 8:
• He comes from the Father (God).
• He speaks with the authority of the Father (God).
• He is going to the Father (God).
• He does nothing on His own, but everything comes from the Father (God).

Everything Jesus is and does He owes to God the Father, the One who knows us before creation, who knows each hair on our heads, who makes a way where there is no way, who keeps all His promises, who overcomes evil in our lives with good.

To me, this sounds like light in a dark world. What other person can rightfully dare to make such claims? What other person can claim a healing ministry like that of Jesus? What other person has overcome death like Jesus? What other person has transformed lives like Jesus? What other person answers prayers like Jesus?

Who else has promised to destroy the works of the devil? So many people in India can claim deliverance from the satanic possession and oppression, from addictions and strongholds when they put their trust in Jesus Christ. He intends to deliver the whole world from this darkness.

As the Light of the World, Jesus is not just a local deity. He is not a western god, or an eastern god, but God of the world. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is for every time and place.

But Jesus does not just want us to know Him as the Light of the World, but to experience Him as the Light in our own lives. That means we must follow Him, not as an idea or teaching, but as a Person. He wants us to relate to Him as His original disciples related to Him—as friends.

Jesus revealed to His disciples things about themselves they did not especially want to hear. He did this, not to tear them down but to help them fulfill their human natures. He enabled them to become more human, not less. He enabled them to do great and mighty things that resonate in our own day. He wants to do the same in and through you and me.

Jesus came not as a light but as the Light—the Light comes from the very one who made us and for whom we were made.

As we remember His sacrificial death and resurrection this month, let us bear His Light into a darkened world waiting for the Light.

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How to Perceive Jesus

Many people say they believe in Jesus, but they are not true believers. What we believe about Jesus makes all the difference.

In John 7, Jesus’ own brothers “believed” in Jesus, but they believed He was a magician and a secular Messiah. They saw Him as a celebrity who needed to put Himself out before the world.

This chapter takes places near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, just before He goes to Jerusalem. These brothers, His own flesh and blood, grew up with Him from infancy. For nearly three years, they saw his miracles and heard Him teach. They regarded themselves as on His side.

But something did not penetrate their thinking. They still did not understand that He came to seek and save the lost, to destroy the works of the devil, to reconcile fallen men, women and children to God.

If Jesus’ own flesh and blood did not really know Him, what does that say about us in our own day? Many in our own generation have gross misconceptions of Jesus. To some, He is a moral wisdom philosopher and example. Others see Him as a revolutionary. Still others view Him as a fulfiller of wishes, a mystic, a political figure. Very popular today is the misconception of Him as the name-it-and-claim-it proponent of the prosperity gospel.

Most people see Jesus as a real person, but disagree strongly about who He was or is. Some say He was a sinner like everyone else. Even many so-called “evangelicals” in our age of tolerance find it hard to accept Jesus as the only Way.

It is clear that John, the writer of this gospel, identifies Jesus Christ with His passion. Two-thirds of John’s gospel is taken up with the final week of His life, with His death and resurrection. He came into this world to give His life—to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Any other identity we give to Jesus is wrong.

Correct belief in Jesus’ identity is critical to our salvation. Jesus Himself said, “Except you believe that I am He [that is, God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). By God, Jesus clearly meant He is One with the all-righteous Father, maker of heaven and earth. This is a far cry from the ideas of many people, including many who go to church every Sunday.

We cannot pervert the truth of His nature and discount His exclusive and stated mission without paying an eternal price.

Do we believe in Jesus as He really is, or do we impose our own assumptions and presuppositions on Him? It is easier than we think to let the relativistic standards of the world influence our perception of the One we call Savior and Lord. Satan works overtime to distort the understanding of God’s children.

How we perceive Jesus influences the way we pray, or mis-pray or don’t pray at all. How we perceive Jesus influences the degree we share His passion for the lost and the importance of His Great Commission.

Let us resolve to better know Him so we may better share Him with millions who hunger and thirst for the righteousness only He can give.

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Peace

Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, came into the world to restore peace with God and peace among human beings. Throughout India and the world, billions of people search for peace. Most people look for peace in the wrong places.

Christians say the only true way to peace is through Jesus Christ. Why do they say this? Such claims to exclusivity are considered politically incorrect both in India and the western world. In India, there are many paths to salvation. Why claim Jesus Christ as the only way?

In John 5, Jesus claims to be the only way to God because God is His Father, and He works His Father’s works. His work is seen especially in bringing new life to those who are spiritually dead. This regenerate life in the average person is the biggest proof of Jesus’ uniqueness and authority over all others.

The new life of Christ is the creative work of God in a human being, making something new where there was nothing before. This is not just a theological idea but living reality. What does this “new life” mean?

I think of a man in my past, known to us in India as Pastor Yesudas. He began life as a poor, sickly, almost-illiterate Dalit, an insecure child with a serious stuttering problem. He lay at death’s door with tuberculosis and other ailments. Then he heard the gospel. He committed his life to Jesus Christ and received prayer for healing.

Immediately, he was healed. He hungered for more of the life of Christ. He thirsted for the Word of God. Because of near-illiteracy, he lacked the educational requirements to enter the Bible school. He was allowed to sit in class, but because of educational deficiencies, he could not understand.

After much prayer and fasting over this obstacle, the Lord gave him a photographic mind to receive the scriptures read to him. Now, he not only understood what instructors told him, but he could also give Bible insights of great wisdom that astounded even people with advanced degrees. God took away his stuttering problem, giving him dynamic gifts of preaching, healing and a prophetic ministry like few others.

Many people followed Christ because Pastor Yesudas exhibited the life of Christ. He pioneered a number of churches in new and unreached places. In all his fruitful ministry, he remained a near-illiterate man.

When I was an infant, Pastor Yesudas already sensed God was calling me for ministry. Before I can remember, he prayed daily prayers over me, preparing me for the ministry I have today. I owe my calling and ministry to the prayers of this man with the new life of God.

The life of God is more than religion or morality. It is the power and peace of God. We cannot force it or fake it. It is the final proof of our faith. It is the reason we say Jesus Christ is the only Way. Who else can duplicate these things?

The new life of Christ has been replicated in men, women and children of every background for two thousand years. One day, this Good News will reach all peoples everywhere.

Let us make sure that we do our part in making sure all have heard of this Prince of Peace who comes with new life. This is the real meaning of Christmas.

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Humbled by Grace

One day, we will stand before God to account for our lives. On that day, we will see Him in all His glory, majesty, holiness, power, righteousness, and truth. On that day, we will see with our own eyes why He is King of kings and Lord of lords. On that day, we will worship Him.

How we worship Him now should really become a warm-up for that day. Worship is learning to know God for Who He is and knowing ourselves for who we are. One good thing to keep in mind: He doesn’t need our worship, but we need to worship Him because our very humanity depends upon Him alone.

What does this mean in real life? John 4 gives us a good model of true worship…

A Samaritan woman approaches a well alone, to collect water. A woman of low repute from a despised minority, she comes in the heat of the day to avoid the stares and whispers of those who look down on her. She is a woman who thinks little of herself.

She meets Jesus at the well. Because of who He is, we can be sure He was waiting for her.

John records the conversation. Jesus’ insightful line of questions and comments reveals the woman as one who prioritizes material things over spiritual, and who at best probably follows only perfunctory religious practices.

By the conclusion of the conversation, the woman has become a new person. She discovers that in Jesus, she was talking to God. She discovers that God delighted in her. In spite of her disgraceful failures in life, He saw something in her worth redeeming, something precious nobody else saw, including herself. All at once, she has new hope, new joy, a new future she never thought possible.

That day, the Samaritan woman saw God as she never saw Him before. That truth about Him touched her spirit in deep, personal ways and transformed her life. She responded by telling everyone she met what happened. She wanted everyone to meet this One who was like no other.

That day, the Samaritan woman experienced what Jesus meant when He told her, “He who worships the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” She learned that worship means meeting God, bowing in submission to Him, delighting in Him, loving Him and enjoying Him because it became obvious He delighted in her.

Jesus was not put off by the things that caused others to shun her because He knew what He could do in her life. Change came, not through religious practice and habit but in relationship. That message to the Samaritan woman is just as true for you and me as it was for her two thousand years ago.

Like that woman, each of us has things in our lives of which we are ashamed. We fear judgment by others. Do we experience the King of kings like the Samaritan woman did, in His kindness, love, wisdom, patience, joy, strength, tenderness, peace, humility and generosity? Such a relationship evokes the true worship of humble repentance that brings transformation and joy.

Let us truly and humbly bow our hearts before Him. Then we, too, will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Like the Samaritan woman, we will want others to meet and worship Him who is like no other.

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Made for More

silhouette-of-person-walking-1046896God made us for more than we imagine!

We glimpse this in Psalm 8 where David writes, “…you [God] crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” This repeats God’s mandate in Genesis 1.

This dominion mandate has never been fulfilled because sin and death entered into the world—death to our physical bodies and also death to our spirits. Our spirits are the part of us designed for fellowship with God and to fulfill His grand design.

Sin destroyed our ability to fellowship with God. We became indifferent to God. We became hostile to God. We underestimated God. We ignored and disbelieved God. We suppressed the truth about God. We did not take God into account. We did not fulfill our mandate, and the whole universe has suffered. We are no longer in harmony with God, our purpose for being, the world around us, our own bodies, or other people.

Sin has taken a terrible toll on our minds. No longer in tune with God and our purpose for being, we are limited only to those things we perceive with our five senses, to our own limited reasoning capacities. A thing may seem right to us, but it leads to death. We may have high ideals and moral standards, and enjoy the arts, but we still fall pitifully short because we no longer have God’s perspective or power.

The Good News is that God has never revoked His dominion mandate. Through Jesus Christ, He entered the world in Bethlehem to set things right through His life, death and resurrection. Through Christ, He regenerates our dead spirits and sends His Holy Spirit. We become part of His heavenly family, for we are told He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. One day, His dominion mandate will be 100% fulfilled through us who trust Him.

In the meantime, we must renew our minds with these things. Once crippled by the limitations of sin, our minds, through the Holy Spirit, are now capable of perceiving something of what God has designed for us.

George Muller, the great man of prayer and faith, wrote in his autobiography, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished… Now what is the food for the inner man…but the Word of God.”

The Word of God leads us to the promises of God. As we regularly partake of His promises in trust, our minds are renewed. To the regenerate person, renewed by the Holy Spirit, the promises of God provide the impetus to pray more effectively and glorify Him. We begin to walk in the Spirit, live in power and bear fruit.

Every day, more of India’s unreached peoples are learning these vital truths. Let us join together to insure all of India hears this great news!

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The Foolishness of the Cross

Almost 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul could well have written those words today.

After the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004, movie critics pounced on the film, condemning it for its violence, telling parents they should never take their children to see it. One critic said, “No level-headed parent should ever allow children to see it.”

Another critic, an avowed atheist, labeled the film a “mainstream snuff film.” Still another critic said that the film “arises less from love than from wrath, and succeeds more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it.” Yet another critic said the film should have been named the “Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.” And still another critic castigated Gibson for focusing upon the brutality of Jesus’ death rather than upon his teachings.

Clearly, these people have no understanding of the cross, its power to save or the plan of God before time began. Indeed, they have contempt for the cross. They are those of whom Paul writes, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Corinthians 1:19). In this, Paul echoes the word of God through the prophet Isaiah (29:14) hundreds of years earlier.

As a young boy, one of our students at India Bible College & Seminary was allowed (and probably encouraged) by his parents to see The Passion of the Christ. Instead of being traumatized, his life was permanently and positively transformed by the cross of Jesus Christ. To him, even as Paul wrote, the cross is not gratuitous violence, but it is “the power of God.”

Even as a 12-year-old, this young man wanted to tell others of the saving power of the cross. Even as a child, he saw the horror and violence to Jesus as the result of God’s love for him and his unsaved Hindu friends. To the sophisticates of our day, his decision to follow Christ is just a poor boy’s traumatic response to seeing a horror movie. We should not be surprised.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson contrasts the offense and beauty of the cross:

“Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on?” (2 Corinthians 2:15:16)

The cross of Jesus Christ will always be an offense and a thing of infinite beauty. Jonathan Edwards wrote of the smug men and women who find the cross an absurdity:

“The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.”

As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us thank God for His wonderful gift, and help to spread its fragrance to those He is preparing to receive it.

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Ants in His Garden

Colorful-garden-flowers-hd-wallpaperAnts are highly organized, hard-working creatures who know nothing about the larger world around them. They work oblivious to planes, barking dogs, passing people. They care only about their little world. But that world can change in a second with the introduction of earth-moving equipment, or gardeners or builders. What means nothing to their world can change their world forever.

Many times, we humans think like ants. For the most part, we humans pay no attention to God. Yet God’s larger world can overrule our lives in a second, causing great terror for those who never think of Him.

Most of us never see God, but some people get glimpses of Him. Moses saw His back parts. Isaiah saw God’s holiness and said “Woe is me!” John saw Jesus’ divine nature, and he fell down as a dead man. Three disciples glimpsed Jesus divinity on a mountain, and the sight overwhelmed them.

Every person who glimpses God’s holiness is overcome by a sense of sin and shame. Even the smallest sin becomes a mountain next to God’s holiness. When God intervenes, nothing remains the same.

What is the holiness of God? Someone has described holiness as a distinct class by itself with no rivals or competition. It means to possess transcendent purity, surpassing all others. God’s holiness relates to every other part of His character and nature.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that he is merely holy or even holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Too easily, we say that “God accepts us as we are.” His holiness should make us re-think that casual idea. God never compromises His holiness. When Moses disobeyed God before the people of Israel (Numbers 20), he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because He insulted God’s holiness. Irreverence toward God’s holiness can exact a heavy price upon those who take it lightly. God’s holiness is why we are told to fear Him.

None of us measures up to God’s holiness. Yet in His holiness, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and clothed us with His righteousness. In Christ, we have no need to stand in terror before a holy God, apart from stubborn irreverence.

The holiness of God transforms even people like Karla Faye Tucker, a hatchet murderess, who heard the gospel and repented before a holy God. Her life changed so radically, she led many of her fellow prisoners to Christ, and a Christian man became so impressed by her Christ-like character, he married her. She paid an earthly price of execution for her crime, but she died praising the Lord for His holy and eternal deliverance.

A holy God has made a way for all who would take it. There are still many people oblivious to His great salvation, like ants in our gardens. Let us pray that the Spirit of God will awaken them to hear the Good News of what He has already done for them in Jesus Christ.

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