"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

EMERGENT is REGURGITANT – Part Two:

By James Fire

SECTION ONE -

SAME OL’ SAME OL’


The title of this series reveals my view of the Emergent Church Movement (ECM) as being the same old, tired doubt and denigration of God’s Word that has been occurring in our world ever since the garden of Eden when the Serpent first said, “Yea, hath God said . . .?” but has returned in our day with new vigor and ambition.

The Gnostics proposed the same question.
Various esoteric societies revealed in the world for these many centuries have asked the same question.
Religious Institutions that have sought to usurp the authority of God’s Word with their own dogma and traditions have aggressively asked this same question (Like the Roman Catholic religion which we touched on in part One).
The liberal so-called Higher Critics and Bible scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries (we took a brief look at these in part One) have raised this same question.
And now we have the same question regurgitated by these Emergent Church advocates and leaders.
Read more!

Monday, April 16, 2012

EMERGENT is REGURGITANT – Part One

By James Fire

PRELIMINARY INTRODUCTION and EXAMINATION –

A few months ago I was perusing the site, Christian Book Distributors (CBD) and discovered an Emergent book (sadly, lots of these on CBD these days) by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones entitled An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Baker Books, 2007. It comprises a series of articles (25 in number) written by various Emergent advocates and leaders.

Realizing that most of all our articles for TTUF and its associate sites that focus on the Emergent Church Movement are based on critiques, evaluations and information provided by other Christian discernment ministries, I decided to ‘go to the horses’ mouth’ as it were and examine one of these books for myself.

I purchased this book (retail price was $16.99, but I got it for a mere $3.99 – so I felt good about spending so little on it) and once it arrived, began to digest it (talk about some serious indigestion!).

Once I started, jotting notes and Scripture references in the margins (a rather easy task as this was a trade paperback with wide margins), I quickly understood that I would have to address a couple of issues before diving into my own critique of these Emergent folk.
~*First of all, we all recognize the fact that this movement didn’t spring up spontaneously, though it seems to have since the mid 90’s, with very little mention of it prior; there were formative influences and factors that led up to it, stretching back to the 19th century. This movement makes the claim that because we live in a ‘post-modern’ world, the church must therefore adapt its methods and means of relating to the world with an equally post-modern approach to the Gospel and Christianity in general. Obviously what preceded the post-modern paradigm was the Modernist movement.

Read more!

Monday, April 9, 2012

OUR ALPHA is NOT LIKE THEIR ALPHA

~ ~ By James Fire
The LORD Jesus Christ declared in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 1:8
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty
.

This confirms the fact that Jesus is indeed God, Who declared much the same in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 44:6
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God
.

Recently I heard about this ‘Alpha course’ and saw a sign in a church that announced that the course would be conducted there; I was rather curious. Is this about THE Alpha and Omega, the LORD Jesus Himself? I supposed it was, but I wanted to check it out for myself. A cursory search on the Internet brought forth some disturbing results.

If one visits the web site for this ministry, the explanation for the vision and purpose of this course seems somewhat biblical, if simplistic; however a deeper look reveals some fundamental flaws in its tenets, even to the point of unbiblical teaching and practices that only adds to the pervasive apostasy that is rapidly overtaking nearly everything that claims to be Christian or biblical.

What does Alpha course have to say for itself?
~*“Alpha gives everyone the opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly setting. The Alpha course usually meets once a week for 10 weeks, including a one-day or weekend getaway. Sessions begin with a meal, followed by a short talk and time to discuss what's been taught.

“During the discussion, everyone is welcome to contribute their opinions and no question is considered hostile or too simple. Questions might include—Is there a God? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?”

It asks the basic questions of “Is there a God and if so, does He really care? Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us? Why and how do I pray? Why and how should I read the Bible?” among other questions. Here is a video that says pretty much the same thing: Alpha Course Promo Video

Where did this all begin?
“The Alpha course has been running for more than 30 years. It began at Holy Trinity Brompton in central London, England in the late 1970s, as a means of presenting the basic principles of the Christian faith to new Christians in a relaxed and informal setting. By 1990, when former lawyer Nicky Gumbel took over the course, Alpha was a central feature of the church's life. While leading his second Alpha course, Nicky realized this course could also appeal to non-churchgoers and he adapted it, making it welcoming and suitable for such individuals.”

Apparently this started out in the late ‘70’s in England as a means of getting new believers familiar to biblical principles and Christian faith, but then it was adapted to get the Gospel out to the ‘non-churchgoer’ but is this course really a proper venue to disciple new believers, or present the genuine and true Gospel to those outside of the body of Christ?

This course is both highly ecumenical: 44 different denominations were asked to examine the course and raise any objections to any of its teachings; none of them raised any such objections, including the Roman Catholic church.

Here is an interview conducted with a Roman Catholic priest that endorses this program: Note his use of the term “post-modern” –8 mins. 10. The Roman Catholic position is that certain supplements be added that would suit their particular denominational views.

The Alpha Course is also highly charismatic (Its leadership and its practices are very much akin with the likes of John Wimber and the Toronto Blessing and Brownsville fellowship experiences*).

* “. . . on January 20, 1994, at a concrete church next to Toronto airport, 80% of the congregation . . . suddenly fell to the floor and began writhing around, apparently singing in tongues and convulsing violently. Rumours about this milestone - which became known as the Toronto Blessing - quickly spread to Britain. Nicky [Gumbel] flew to Toronto to see it for himself. Was it mass hysteria or a miracle, a real experience of the Holy Spirit?

‘I don't talk about it now,’ says Nicky. ‘It divides people. It splits churches. It is very controversial. But I'll tell you - I think the Toronto Blessing was a wonderful, wonderful thing.’ Nicky returned from Canada, spoke passionately at HTB about the Toronto Blessing and, lo and behold, his congregation, too, began rolling on the floor, etc. The services soon became so popular, with queues around the block, that they were compelled to introduce two Sunday-evening sittings - and still not everyone could get in.”

In the ‘90’s this Alpha course spread across England and around the world.

“During the 1990s, the Alpha course spread – first throughout the UK and then internationally - as more churches and groups found it a helpful way to answer people’s questions about the Christian faith. Now, there are more than 60,000 courses run in 169 countries and an estimated 18 million people have now attended a course globally. The Alpha course is supported by all major denominations.”

(Quotes taken directly from the official web site:
http://www.alphausa.org/

How Did Alpha Start?

Who leads this movement known as the Alpha Course? That would be Nicky Gumbel:

“Nicky Gumbel is vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, a Church of England church in central London. He studied law at Trinity College, Cambridge, from1973-1975 (M.A. Cantab) and practised as a barrister from 1977-1983.
“In 1983, he went to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, to read theology (M.A. Oxon) and to train for ordination in the Church of England. He was awarded an honorary doctorate (Hon D. Phil) from the University of Gloucestershire in 2007 for his contribution to church life. He joined Holy Trinity Brompton as curate to Sandy Millar in 1986. He took over the running of Holy Trinity Brompton's Alpha course - a practical introduction to the Christian faith - in October 1990. The course grew rapidly and attracted wide interest. The first Alpha conference was held at Holy Trinity Brompton in May 1993 and in 1996 the Bishop of London appointed Nicky as an Alpha Chaplain. In 2005 he was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton as successor to Sandy Millar. He became Vice President of Tear Fund in 2008.”

According to Gumbel’s bio more than 210,000 leaders have been trained in the Alpha Course and 55,000 courses have run across the globe, with 16 million people having completed the course by the late ‘90’s.

“Nicky Gumbel has written several books. Questions of Life - the Alpha course in book form - was published in 1993 and is the Alpha course syllabus in book format. It was declared 'Christian Book of the Year 1994' at the Christian Booksellers Convention and has sold more than a million copies world-wide. The evangelistic booklet Why Jesus? and its sister publication Why Christmas? have sold more than four million copies.
Nicky speaks regularly at national and international Alpha conferences.”

Nicky Gumbels Bio

What can be said about The Alpha Course? Much, as shall be shown here now:

From Webtruth.com we have the following statements in an article written by Michael J. Penfold: The Gospel According to Gumbel (Read the entire article here:

“Alpha is fully ecumenical1 and thoroughly charismatic in content. Three of the fifteen talks centre on the Holy Spirit – including a primer on ‘tongues’ – with another entirely dedicated to ‘healing’. Only two talks focus on Jesus Christ, with none at all on God the Father. Literally millions of people have completed the course, which is currently running in thousands of churches worldwide, Protestant and Catholic.2 The format, with its social meals, ‘weekend away’ and opportunity for small-group discussion after each session, have helped ensure its continuing popularity as a major medium for modern church evangelism.”

Ecumenism has long been a format for compromise of biblical truth, and a media used by those who disregard biblical authority in favor of church tradition and authority, as well as philosophy and mystical, spiritual experiences.

Of course the Charismatic movement is a haven for such mystical, spiritual experiences that lead people into deception and spiritual bondage with all sorts of unbiblical beliefs and practices. Such organizations as the United Council of Churches are prime examples of ecumenism which invariably results in biblical compromise and even rejection of foundational biblical truths.

“Alpha’s actual ‘gospel’ content is minimal . . . talk three, entitled ‘Why Did Jesus Die?’ as the only direct gospel section in the whole course. From this chapter, the ‘gospel according to Gumbel’ can be summarized as follows:

• The root cause of sin is a broken relationship with God.
• Everyone has done bad things and consequently our lives are in a mess.
• Sin has polluted us and will ultimately lead to eternal isolation from God [Yet Gumbel never expresses the biblical truth of damnation or an eternal hell].
• God loves us and longs to restore our lost relationship with Him.
• In Christ, God self-substituted Himself, paying sin’s penalty on the cross.
• To become Christians and receive all the benefits of the cross, we must pray to God, saying sorry for our wrong-doing, thanking Jesus for dying for us and asking Him to come into our lives and fill us with His Spirit.3”

The issue of our sin nature and our need of salvation by repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice is unclear at times and in regards to the doctrinal issues of sin nature and repentance, these are almost ignored:

“Although Gumbel mentions sin over thirty times in talk three, he presents it almost entirely as something people do, omitting an explanation of what people are by nature. People do what they do because they are what they are. They sin because they are sinners. Yet, apart from writing Gen 3 in brackets at one point, Gumbel skips any exposition of the doctrine of original sin.”

“Gumbel invites his millions of viewers to pray a prayer saying ‘sorry for sin’ and asking Jesus to come into their lives. Yet, in reality, the dire need of his audience has never really been exposed. They may willingly say a very earnest and sincere ‘sorry’ to God for all their wrong doings, without ever having understood by the convicting power of the Spirit through God’s word, that they are by nature incurably bad, unfit for heaven and undeserving of . . . mercy, while the just wrath of a holy and righteous God hangs over their head . . . Gumbel neglects to emphasize that every single sin is against God and constitutes an act of rebellion (Psalm 51:4). Many sincere people are deeply upset about their sins, who have never once realised that their sin is against God . . .”

“Gumbel never expounds the foundational truth of salvation ‘by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone’. Catholic Bishop Ambrose Griffiths commends Alpha for being a “powerful evangelistic tool...it doesn’t contain anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine” [emphasis mine]. Thousands of Roman Catholics have completed Alpha, said the sinner’s prayer, received the ‘spirit’ and spoken in tongues, without ever realising that the rosary, prayers to Mary, confession to a priest and the seven Romish sacraments are all unscriptural ‘good works’, that not only play no part in salvation, but are an abomination to God.”

And on conviction of sin and repentance:

“Despite majoring on the Holy Spirit, Gumbel never mentions His work of convicting of sin (John 16:8). But what is conviction of sin? . . . Conviction of sin is not:

• the ordinary smiting of a guilty conscience
• a mere head knowledge of what the Bible says about sin
• a shallow acknowledgement that ‘‘I’ve made a lot of mistakes.’’
• a mere fear of going to hell
• even an admission of sin (Pharoah, Saul, Balaam and Judas all said “I have sinned.” and went to hell).


“True Holy Spirit conviction is a proper sense of the dreadfulness of one’s [sinfulness] and sin against God (Psa 51:4, Lu 15:18). It is when a person inwardly feels and owns the wickedness and rebellion of their depraved heart. A stranger to conviction is a stranger to repentance; and a stranger to repentance must be a stranger to salvation for, “Unless you repent you will all perish” (Lu 13:5).
"Which raises another term that is little understood throughout evangelicalism, namely repentance. Gumbel gives it one brief mention, also using the synonym ‘turn’ a couple of times – but he neither develops nor emphasizes this vital theme. Repentance was John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus’ first spoken word in public ministry (Matt 3:1, Mk 1:15). Paul defined the very gospel itself as ‘repentance and faith’, and summarized the message he had preached throughout his entire life as simply, “repent and turn to God ” (Acts 20:21, 26:20). But theological terms need to be defined carefully.”

Biblical repentance is acknowledgement that we have sinned against God, and that we recognize our own unworthiness of God because of our sin nature, and despises the sins that are an offense to the Holy LORD and desires to change, that is, to turn away from our sins and our sin nature and turn completely to the LORD in unconditional surrender, seeking salvation by placing faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross and receiving Him as LORD and SAVIOR. Repentance, contrary to Alpha Course is not merely feeling ‘sorry for our sin’ and being ‘sorry for hurting God’s feelings’ or a self-determination to not commit a particular sin.

Or as Michael J. Penfold expresses it:

Repentance is not –

• Penance or restitution
• Mere tears and trembling (Acts 24:25)
• Fear of judgment. Multitudes desire to be saved from hell (the natural instinct of self-preservation) who are quite unwilling to be saved from sin. Yea, there are tens of thousands who have been deluded into thinking that they have ‘accepted Christ as their Saviour’ whose lives plainly show that they have rejected Him as their Lord. For a sinner to obtain the pardon of God, he must forsake his way.8
• Remorse ...we must all learn to distinguish between the sorrow that comes from being caught & the sorrow that comes from a deep, inward hatred of sin and longing for the glory of God that is the distinguishing feature of the regenerate person."9
• Confession or admission of sin. Salvation is never promised to those who confess their sin (1 John 1:9 is a promise to Christians).
• Reformation or turning over a new leaf.

From another ministry, Deception in the Church with Sandy Simpson we have the following article about the Alpha Course:

The Dangers of the Alpha Course (Read the entire article at the link provided) –

Mr. Simpson states:

“The Alpha Course is a course that has been used by many as a way to attempt to introduce the false doctrines and practices of the Third Wave into mainstream denominations.
I was dumbfounded when I found out some of the people who endorse this course. Among them were the Salvation Army and, most notably, Luis Palau. Here is his endorsement that is featured on the Alpha Course web page:

"Alpha seems especially blessed in that the Lord is using it to reach all sorts of people in all sorts of spiritual condition." http://www.alphana.org/alendo01.htm

The Alpha Course, though teaching some truth, also lays truth alongside error . . . introducing error secretly (pareisaxousinin in Greek) the result of which will ruin the faith of the believer in the end. The wooing of people using the gospel message, only to later enslave them in ritualism, works salvation, and occult manifestations is one of the great deceptions of our time. . .”
In the article by Mr. Simpson, he posted two emails from people who have made some key observations about The Alpha Course; here is the first:

“Blessings!

“The foundations of the Alpha course were originally laid in 1979 through the work of Charles Marnham. During his time at Holy Trinity Brompton in west London (one of the main proponants of the Toronto "Blessing" and where Steve Hill of Brownsville picked up his ability to "slay people in the spirit"), he sought to devise a course to look at the basics of the Christian faith in a way that would be helpful to new Christians.

“After Marnham's initial input, Alpha gradually evolved. One of the key figures in this and the main architect of the Alpha course as it now exists is Nicky Gumbel, currently curate at Holy Trinity Brompton. It was through Gumbel's vision and work that Alpha grew to have the impact it has today.

“Alpha has some well-known champions and supporters...

George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury
David Hope, the Archbishop of York
Alistair McGrath of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and Regent College, Vancouver
Luis Palau, international evangelist
J.I. Packer of Regent College, Vancouver
The late John Wimber of the Vineyard churches
R.T. Kendall of Westminster Chapel
Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance
Interesting to say the least...beloved let us discern the times!”

And here is the second email sent to Mr. Sandy Simpson:


“Dear Friends,
“The plot thickens and yet becomes at the same time more clear. This note concerns what we already know about Alpha courses, and two recent reports in the Daily Telegraph. The first DT item was on 30th Sept. p10, about the World Council of Churches. The second on 1st. Oct., about the Church of Rome and the Eucharist.

“We all (I hope) know that Alpha has become a front for both Ecumenism and Toronto [Blessing]. It is therefore not surprising that its Theological content is lacking in many respects. Any course that can appeal to the range of traditions and denominations that Alpha does; must of necessity sacrifice many essential truths. It is to be expected, and yet sad to observe, so many "evangelicals" going happily and willingly down this "broad" road. This fact alone, of course, begs the question; just exactly what is an evangelical today? It is suggested by this aspect of Alpha alone, that every evangelical participating in Alpha, is betraying the very Gospel they claim to uphold. When people ask me how can I be so critical of something of which I have no personal experience; my usual reply is that I do not need to put my hand into a fire to prove if it will burn.

“The second aspect of my note is about the Roman Catholic position in ecumenical matters. Here again most evangelicals must be either blind or ignorant of Rome's way of doing things. Rome has never changed one iota of the articles of the Council of Trent. Her attitude has always been one of waiting and persuading all to return to the "One True Church". While everyone else it seems is only too willing to compromise in the ecumenical cause, Rome has steadfastly given nothing away. It never ceases to amaze me, that so many think Rome is somehow different since Vatican II. This is the cleverness of the Roman system. She lulls everyone into a sense of false security before swallowing them up. Just look at how many of our institutional churches and others are making overtures to Rome, and you begin to see how successful Rome has been . . . This is why Alpha is a ready tool for Rome to exploit. While everyone is enjoying a meal and warm company, totally unaware of what is really going on under their very noses.”

LOOKING At The ALPHA Course – by Tricia Tillin

(These are excerpts; to read the full article “Dangers of the Alpha Course” please visit the web site article from DECEPTION in the CHURCH (link above):

“A WOMAN has walked out of her church and is holding services in her living room, because she says she cannot bring herself to "snort like a pig and bark like a dog" on a Church of England course. Angie Golding, 50, claims she was denied confirmation unless she signed up for the Alpha course, which she says is a "brainwashing" exercise where participants speak in tongues, make
animal noises and then fall over.”

“One difficulty in pinning down the problems with the Alpha Course is that each church running the course will use the materials in a different way. Thus it is feasible, in theory at least, that a church might avoid all controversy and simply use the course to preach the gospel to unbelievers. This does leave unanswered the question - why does any church need to buy a course to be able to preach the gospel?”

“. . . as the course progresses, some of the talks tend to wander
off into lengthy accounts of HTB's experiences of the Toronto Blessing and associated ministries, novel exegeses of various Biblical passages common amongst pro-Toronto preachers, calls for unity despite truth and an over-emphasis on the Holy Spirit, all of which are less than helpful, to say the least, to potential Christians.

“Clearly the aim is to bring as many into God's Kingdom as possible but by the end of the course I cannot help feeling that the Toronto Blessing may have been the greater beneficiary.”

Nicky Gumbel relates the following:

"Ellie Mumford told us a little bit of what she had seen in Toronto . . . it was obvious that Ellie was just dying to pray for all of us.. then she said 'Now we'll invite the Holy Spirit to come.' and the moment she said that one of the people there was thrown, literally, across the room and was lying on the floor, just howling and laughing...making the most incredible noise...I experienced the power of the Spirit in a way I hadn't experienced for years, like massive electricity going through my body... One of the guys was prophesying. He was just lying there prophesying. . ."

"I believe it is no coincidence that the present movement of the Holy Spirit [TB] has come at the same time as the explosion of the Alpha Courses. I think the two go together." [Nicky Gumbel, 'The Spirit and Evangelism', Renewal, May 1995, p15].

“Alpha also promotes, as does the leadership of the TB, 'unity' between Protestants and Roman Catholics, with no consideration, or perhaps realisation, of the unreconcileable doctrines of the two Churches, and so another concern is its trend towards ecumenism.”

“Nicky Gumbel is aware of this paradigm shift from reason to experience:






"In the Enlightenment reason ruled supreme and explanation led to experience. In the present transitional culture, with its 'pick-and-mix' worldview in which the New Age movement is a potent strand, experiences lead to explanation".
[Nicky Gumbel, Telling Others, p19].”

“Post-Christian neo-mysticism is already so pervasive that virtually every non-christian participant of Alpha - or any other evangelistic initiative – will reflect to some degree New Age thinking. In New Age philosophy "experiences leading to explanation" yet, like the Toronto Experience, the thrust of Alpha is towards the experiential, not the written Word. One pastor who has made use of The Alpha course writes:

"One of the problems of proclaiming the gospel in a post-modern world is that culture itself warms much more readily to lifestyle than to the doctrine. But the Christian lifestyle is not Christian faith...I am sure that many people are being converted through the Alpha course, but I have a suspicion that some of those people are being converted to a Christian lifestyle rather than to Christ.” [emphasis mine]

Ian Lewis, 'The Alpha Course', Evangelicals Now, Dec. 1995”


Suffice it to say that the Alpha Course is very superficial on the Gospel, negligent in presenting the clear message of repentance, quite careful not to disrupt denominational and ecumenical sensibilities; it includes unity with the Roman Catholic church and is completely open to spiritual experiences that are both deceptive and leads to further deception. Another brick in the Tower of Babel that stands for the coming one world religion!

The thematic question asked in The Alpha Course is, "What am I doing here?" A question that could validly be asked, and should be asked concerning this movement itself into the church - "What are you doing here in the church?"

In its desire to ‘bring people to Christ’ what it seems to actually be doing is bringing the world and unbiblical spiritual practices into the church with very little evidence of genuine repentance, conversion and spiritual life in Jesus Christ in accord with His Most Holy Word, our Guide and Light and spiritual nourishment for all things concerning a godliness.

2 Peter 1: 2 – 5

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

2 Timothy 3: 14 - 17

14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works
.
Read more!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

GETTING REAL ABOUT THE RESURRECTION

~ ~ by James Fire

Looking at a chart known mostly as “the harmony of the Gospels” we see that in the four Gospel accounts, there are different events recorded; they don’t all record the same things for the most part. There are however, a few incidences that all four Gospel accounts do record. Such as the early Galilean ministry, the feeding of the five thousands, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the declaration of Judas as the betrayer, the agony at Gethsemane, and the other major events that take place immediately thereafter in what’s known as ‘the passion week’.

Then of course there are the accounts of the crucifixion, the burial and the RESURRECTION! Here are all four accounts specifically of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
MATTHEW 28:1 – 14; MARK 16:1 – 14; LUKE 24:1 – 32; and JOHN 20:1 – 31.
~*Are these four different versions of the Resurrection account, or four different aspects of the same account? As in any event when there are multiple witnesses, each witness may bring out different details, but if their testimony is real and accurate, the details will never contradict the overview of the entire event, and no two accounts are precisely the same (that would intimate collusion).

So likewise with the four Gospel accounts recorded in these four books; each presents certain details that the others either expand upon, or simply verify, minimize or even leave out altogether. Yet here are four voices, four different accounts that lend credence to this Blessed Event, along with a tomb that is quite vacated, all of which proclaims that, “HE IS RISEN!”

UPDATE: 4/14/12 The Proof and Power of the Resurrection - Part One and Part Two by Eric Barger in his TAKE A STAND ministries Radio program, presented here in archived information.
~ ~ end of UPDATE
Dr. C.I. Scofield has developed a kind of ‘harmony of the resurrection’ in a time line which utilizes all four Gospel accounts in the notes recorded in the study Bible that bears his name:

1) MARK 16:2-3 – Early morning, three women come to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body, but they wondered who would roll the stone away for them.
NOTE: In your desire to serve Jesus, the Risen LORD, as these lady saints sought to serve Jesus, the sleeping LORD, resting in His grave any obstacle that stands in your way will surely be moved by the hand of God.

2) MARK 16:1; LUKE 24:10 – These three women are named: Mary Magdalene (who was delivered from demons by Jesus), Mary the mother of James and John (the apostles), and Salome. These three were followed by other women who came to the garden tomb later (LUKE 23:55-24:1).
3) MATTHEW 28:2 – These women discover that the stone is ALREADY rolled away – not to let Jesus out, but to let these women in, and witness the truth that He is RISEN and already left the empty tomb!

4) JOHN 20:2-4 – Mary Magdalene runs off to go tell Peter and John.

5) MATTHEW 28:1-8 – The other women at the tomb enter the area, see the angel who rolled back the stone (a very huge and heavy object!) and then sat on top of it! The Roman guards sent by the Sanhedrin to keep the body of Jesus from being stolen by His disciples in some sort of ‘resurrection hoax’ are paralyzed with fear – but Jesus is already gone! The angel declares that Jesus is alive, presents the empty tomb to them, and in fear and great joy they also race off to go tell the disciples!

6) JOHN 20:4-10 – A bit later, Peter and John show up at the tomb and inspect inside. NOTE: The linen clothes are still all there, but the ‘head wrap’ is folded neatly and apart from the other linens. This shows that the body of Jesus was not stolen, or stolen in haste. No robber would waste time folding linen with Roman guards posted outside with order to protect the dead body of Jesus with their lives! Peter and Jon then leave, but John leaves there with the belief that JESUS IS RISEN (JOHN 20:8)!

7) JOHN 20:11-18 – Now Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb, and is weeping; yet Jesus is revealed to her! NOTE: Before Jesus reveals His presence, Mary looks into the tomb and sees two other angels sitting at the head and at the foot of the stone slab where the body of Jesus had previously been laid down – is this a ‘type’ of the ark of the covenant or is the ark of the covenant a type in foreshadowing this Blessed Event! I believe the latter is true!
Mary supposes Jesus to be the gardener and doesn’t recognize Him, that is, until He speaks her name; JOHN 10:2–4.

8) MATTHEW 28:9–10 – These other women who ran from the tomb are on their way to tell the disciples the good news when Jesus appears to them! NOTE: in verse 10, the LORD Jesus tells the women “Go tell my brothers I’ll meet them in Galilee.” He doesn’t call them servants at this point, or even friends (JOHN 15:15) but brothers!

Since sin is now paid for by the blood of Jesus, since sin and death are defeated by the RESURRECTION of JESUS CHRIST, the Way is now open for souls to become part of God’s eternal family! JOHN 1:12–13.

The LORD Jesus Christ appears on TEN DIFFERENT OCCASIONS during His last forty days after His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven. See ACTS 1:1–3 and take note of the phrase “many infallible proofs” in regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1) To Mary Magdalene;
2) The other women . . . as previously mentioned above.
3) LUKE 24:34 – Jesus appears privately to Simon (Simeon) Peter.
4) MARK 16:12; LUKE 24:13–32 – Two disciples on the road to Emmaeus encounter the living Christ.
5) MARK 16:14; LUKE 24:36–43; JOHN 20:19–25 – Jesus appears to His eleven disciples, but minus Thomas (so really ten).
6) JOHN 20:26-31; 1 COR 15:5 – Jesus appears to His eleven, but this time Thomas is with them, and note what Thomas declares on vs. 28: “My Lord and my God”! A plain declaration to the deity of Jesus Christ!
7) The Risen LORD and Savior also appears to seven of His eleven disciples by the sea of Galilee in JOHN 21.
8) MATTHEW 28:16-20; MARK 16:15-18; 1 COR 15:6 – Jesus again appears to His apostles as well as to five hundred people all at once!
9) 1 COR 15:7 – He appears to the son of Joseph and Mary (the mother of Jesus): James, the half brother of Jesus our LORD.
10) MARK 16:19-20; LUKE 24:44-53 and ACTS 1:4-11.

DOES GOD POSSESS TWO DIFFERENT KINGDOMS?

Jesus is the Christ; and ‘Christ’ in the Hebrew language is what? “Messiah”, right? Now, the Messiah according to all the Old Testament prophecies and revelation from the Old Testament prophets and books is the King and ruler of Israel (More of the kingdom of Israel, covenants God made with Abraham and David and why Israel is important to biblical Christians may be found here in another article: Part One and Part Two; the sermon delivered here online)).

The apostles had great hopes of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel and the reign of the MESSIAH, the Son of David who is JESUS of Nazareth, but One who was born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, according to a prophecy in Micah.

Yet when Jesus died on the cross, these hopes were destroyed in the minds of the apostles and turned to ashes and dust. However, HE ROSE from the dead!

In ACTS 1:3, Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of God” and in verse 6 the apostles asked if the Messiah Jesus would now “restore the kingdom to Israel” now that He has RISEN from the dead. Are they the same thing, or something different? And if different, are they both legitimate or has one of these kingdoms become obsolete?
Jesus did NOT say, “That’s all over with now; now we have the church instead.”

We must remember that the nation and kingdom of Israel and the church are two entirely different things. Both are important and part of God’s plan – just different parts of His overall plan for the ages.
Jesus said, “That’s for the Father to know, not you” in verse 7.
So when will the kingdom be restored to Israel?

ACTS 1:10–11.

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

When Jesus returns and touches down on the Mount of Olives, right where He left and ascended into heaven, and His physical return to planet Earth occurs, this will precede the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.

Yet this event of Jesus touching down on the Mount of Olives takes place only AFTER the battle of Armageddon where Satan, the Beast and the armies of the world attack Jesus who arrives from the clouds (2 THESS 1:7-9; PSALM 2) and He takes them all out (Satan is bound and cast into the abyss; the Beast and the False Prophet go immediately into the Lake of Fire or Gehenna).

Armageddon takes place AT THE END of the Seven Year period known as Daniel’s 70th week, the time of Jacob’s Trouble, or more commonly (though somewhat inaccurately) as the Great Tribulation period. During these seven years the Beast rules the world as absolute ruler.

The 70th week of Daniel (the Great Tribulation) BEGINS only after the church is raptured, taken out of this world – those members of the true church that are among the living as well as the dead (1 THESS 4:16-18; 1 COR 15:51-56) – and we finally meet our precious LORD and SAVIOR face to Face!

But once all this is done with, that’s when the Messiah Jesus will rebuild the Kingdom of Israel (This is covered in the previously mentioned article/sermon) . . . and this chain of events commences like falling domino’s once the rapture takes place – and when does the rapture happen? We don’t know the day, only that it takes place sometime prior to Daniel’s 70th week.

Since the Resurrection and Ascension of the LORD Jesus Christ, the church has been busy about seeking first the kingdom of God (MATT 6:33; 7:7), and by the Gospel, preaching salvation through Jesus Christ, seeing people “added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

The REALITY of the RESURRECTION
Skeptics have certain objections about the resurrections, objections that are unfounded when confronted by the facts (Here are three of the most popular objections):

They say:

1) Jesus didn’t really die – on the cross; He just fainted, and was taken down off the cross, laid in the tomb, revived in the cool temperatures and fought passed trained Roman soldiers after budging a two-ton stone! This was after Jesus was severely dehydrated, beaten, whipped with a cat-o’-nine tails that was known to so shred a person’s tissues that they would be disemboweled, and then nailed to the cross where His wrists and ankles would be rendered useless due to the thick nails that they were pierced with.
Skeptics rightly state that dead bodies don’t bleed, and they claim Jesus did not die because of the following observation made by John the apostle:

JOHN 19:33-35
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe
.

People who died by crucifixion ended up dying either by suffocation or some form of cardiac arrest. The fact that clear fluid or “water” (plasma) and “blood” (blood cells called placates) flowed from the spear wound shows that the plasma filled the cardial cavity in the chest, which happens when the body is under severe distress and extreme constriction. This is a certain sign that the person has in fact died.

See the following article on this subject:
A Physician Analyzes The Crucifixion

2) Jesus’ body was stolen by His disciples. It’s claimed that the resurrection was a hoax perpetrated by His followers, and that they disposed of the body somehow, which would make them accomplices in a deceitful plot and bold face liars.

MATTHEW 27:62–66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch
.

This “watch” which Pilate provided for the Sanhedrin comprised of a unit of Roman soldiers, numbering somewhere between four and sixteen men; being Roman soldiers they were professionally trained, well skilled in weapons and some of the most formidable warriors of all time that defeated the mighty Greek Empire!

It’s been said that a single Roman soldier, with competent skill of a machira (a short sword, roughly two feet in length, with a double edged blade) could defend himself against four opponents and more often than not defeat them!

From the web site “Life of Jesus.org” we have the following "The Jesus Tomb Page" (this site is no longer online):
1. The Roman soldiers were under strict orders and their being asleep would mean their death, so it was impossible for them to take that liberty to fall asleep.
2. There were at least 4 Roman soldiers, and if it was a regular Roman watch, like in ACTS 12:4they were changed every 3 hours, so the possibility of all 4 getting asleep at one time is below zero.
3. A cord was stretched across the stone and an official seal with clay was fastened at each end, so it could be detected if the grave was opened.
4. The disciples themselves, who were grieving and were afraid of what would happen next, when they saw the empty tomb of Jesus and Him resurrected after that, they became so bold, that they did not anymore fear about their lives [though they were tortured and threatened with death, and even martyred – they never recanted their proclamation that Jesus has risen indeed from the dead!]. Had they stolen the body, their "faith" would not stand the test of being able and more than ready to give their life for a cause they knew was a fraud. It had to be for real!

3) Jesus didn’t really physically rise from the dead – He was a hallucination, His followers suffered delusions or at best He was raised up but only as a spirit without a body.

No two people share the same hallucination, yet multiple witnesses from two to five hundred people saw Him at once. Mass hysteria? He was also seen by single witnesses such as Mary Magdalene, Peter and James.

Any suffering from a psychological disorder of delusions end up deteriorating until a complete mental breakdown occurs if such delusions persist. Yet Jesus appeared to His followers for 40 days and these witnesses proceeded boldly with joy to proclaim fearlessly of the risen LORD!


Lee Strobel in this in this brief 2 minute plus video gives Four Proofs of the Resurrection - from his book, The Case for Christ.


FOUR PROOFS of the RESURRECTION



LUKE 24:36–43
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them
.

1 JOHN 1:1–3
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ
.

Here is an article FROM The MIND of FIRE that I think would be appropriate right now, entitled The Shortest, Longest Line

Excellent books (Lee Strobel's is an e-book) that address the issue of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

The Resurrection Factor – by Josh McDowell
The Case for the Resurrection – Lee Strobel
Who Moved the Stone – Frank Morrison
The Resurrection Debate – Gary Habermas/ Antony Flew

Because our precious LORD and SAVIOR has RISEN FROM THE DEAD, ALIVE FOREVER MORE, we have the steadfast hope and assurance that our sins are forgiven, and paid for; and also that eternal life is ours through the LAMB of GOD Who was slain. And such eternal life that we will share with our Abba Father and our LORD Jesus Christ “world without end”! HALLELUJAH!

ROMANS 6:8-10
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God
.

HEBREWS 9:24-28
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation
.

1 PETER 3:18
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-21
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead
.
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Study in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – “On the Road of Righteousness” Chapter Nine – The Future Hope of Israel

~  By James Fire

Attitude is Everything –

A very dangerous attitude to hold is esteeming our own seemingly immediate and urgent priorities to usurp those priorities esteemed by God.

During the days of Jesus, Israel wanted their Messiah to come as the Lion of Judah and deliver them from the oppressive enslavement to Rome.

Yet God’s priority was far more important – to deliver them from the oppressive enslavement to sin and death and their inevitable consequence: eternal damnation.

And so the Messiah came not as the Lion of Judah but as the Lamb of God to die for the sin of the world (JOHN 1:29); He did not arrive as the Avenger of Blood, the kinsman Goel and the warrior Messiah as was prophesied and desired by the Jews, but as a lowly carpenter rabbi who spoke of love, even loving one’s enemies, and admonishing his followers to turn the other cheek, bless them that curse them and to pick up their crosses (instruments of capital punishment in those days, right?) and follow Him.

Scripture prophesies both aspects of the Messiah – He is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, but are only revealed in accord to God’s priorities, not man’s. The LORD Jesus was all about the kingdom of God, not subjecting earthly kingdoms to His rule – not yet (DAN 2:34-35, 44-45)! Likewise we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (MATT 6:33) and conduct ourselves properly as its citizens.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

The FINISHED Work of CHRIST!


HAPPY RESURRECTION WEEK!


Today, is Good Friday, the day we remember the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, and the finished work of redemption for mankind.


 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16


As we reflect on all that He has done for us, "let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15


Dear Father, Thank YOU! Thank You for sending Jesus! Thank YOU, that He is the propitiation for my sin! Thank YOU for opening the veil that I am no longer shut away from YOU! Thank YOU that the work is finished! Thank YOU for giving me an eternal hope and home with YOU!


As we celebrate our redemption, let us think about what Jesus has done for us!

Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He willingly left the bosom of the Father, took a body of flesh, and in that body He died and rose again. He finished the work that the Father gave to Him to do.


As the risen Lord and Saviour, He is seated at the right hand of the Father on high, and His work at the moment is in heaven.


"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:1-3


The Holy Spirit is here on earth today, abiding in every true born again believer;


"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." John 14:16-18

...but Christ our High Priest is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God, and as the scripture declares:

"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25

"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" Hebrews 1:3

"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man...For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" Hebrews 8:1-4


Jesus, our Great High Priest, had by Himself purged our sins through the sacrificial offering of Himself. The foundation of Christ's priesthood is the one sacrifice which He offered; He (Jesus) "by Himself" purged our sins! The priests of the Old Testament offered up sacrifices daily, first for their own sins, then for the sins of the people. Unlike them, Christ did not need to offer up a sacrifice for His OWN sins, for He HAD NO sin. He was sinless.


"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:21


Neither does He need to offer up sacrifices daily for the sins of the people, for He did this ONCE, when He offer Himself.

"Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself." Hebrews 7:27

"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hebrews 9:12

Jesus Christ the Son of God, the living Savior and Lord of all satisfied the sin question, ONCE, FOR ALL, FOREVER. For believers it is no longer the Sin-question; it is the SON-question:   What think ye of Christ?


Jesus saves sinners through His shed blood. Now He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the highest seat in heaven as our High Priest.

"Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Hebrews 2:17

Christ through His shed blood obtained eternal redemption from sin for all who will believe. He bore the sins of many, He paid the sin-debt forever and "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord," receiving His finished work, "shall be saved" redeemed and born into the Kingdom of God!

This is the most important of the fundamental truths of Christianity. It is not what we have done, but what God has done for us. His name is Jesus!   Do you know Him?


There is no place in the New Testament, there is no place in Christianity, for man-made, man-ordained, man-appointed priests. Jesus is our High Priest, and He is the only one who can take our place before Almighty God the Father.

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of GOD FOR US" Hebrews 9:24

Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:20 that the veil which hung before the most holy place in the tabernacle in the Old Testament era was a type of the flesh - that is, the humanity of Christ. He was very God, yet He took upon Himself the form of Humanity. The veil was known as "the beautiful veil." It hung as a covering before the typical presence of God, the most holy place, separating the most holy place from the out tabernacle or temple area.
The veil in the temple pointed to the humanity of Christ- God veiled in flesh. The veil in the temple shut men out from God.

"Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" Matthew 17:50, 51

He cried, "It is finished," and bowed His head and gave up the ghost, and as soon as the veil was rent in two from top to bottom, the barrier between men and God changed forever. Jesus said,

"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." John 10:9

Jesus has opened wide the gateway, making it possible for men to enter into the very presence of God.

He who would enter into the holiest must enter by the blood of the Lamb! The blood of the cross is the only plea God will hear. But through the blood of the cross of Jesus we have an accepted sacrifice. God has accepted that sacrifice, and through His blood Jesus opened the veil that believers may enter in with perfect assurance.


Those who are believers have access into the presence of Almighty God only by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ alone. Because of His finished work, we have access into the very presence of God's holiness, and for the believer our place is inside the rent veil, not on the outside.

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" Hebrews 10:19-24

If you are NOT a believer, hear the words of the Lord Jesus:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Won't you come to Jesus Today?

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts 16:31

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;" Acts 3:19

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hat raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Romans 10:9, 10


HALLELUJAH! HE IS RISEN INDEED!! 


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