Category Archives: Bible Study

Can You Start Anywhere? 

How well do you know your Bible?

I know it sounds like a loaded or trick question, but it’s not.

I’m not asking if you can name all 66 books, the 12 disciples, or all of the 10 commandments. It’s certainly not as complicated as asking you to define Biblical inerrancy, the offices of Christ, or the perseverance of the Saints.

My question is simply this: Do you know your Bible well enough to lead someone to Jesus – starting at any place in the Bible?

As I was teaching through the book of Acts the other day, one particular verse jumped out at me, practically taking me out behind the woodshed for an old-fashioned tail whipping.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. – Acts 8:35 

You see, there was this Ethiopian official, a eunuch from the court of the queen, who was sitting in a chariot while reading from the book of Isaiah. God sent Philip into the desert to meet up with him, and when he did he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

Unlike the average atheist who’s read the Old Testament so many times he’s come to the conclusion there’s no God, much less the God of Christianity, the Ethiopian eunuch replied to Philip, “How can I, except someone guide me?” Then he invited Philip to come sit with him in the chariot for an impromptu desert Bible study.

But the thing that stood out this time as I read through the verse was that when given the opportunity, Philip didn’t ask the eunuch to flip over to another passage; he began right there in Isaiah 53 and began to share Jesus.

So, what’s my point? How well do you know your Bible? Could you, if someone was just sitting on the tail gate of his Ford truck reading from the Old Testament, begin at whatever passage he was reading and take him to Jesus?

Isaiah 53 is an easy one, frankly. What about Psalm 23 or 22? What about Genesis 1 or John 1? Better yet, could you lead someone to Jesus if you had to begin at Nehemiah 6 or 1 Chronicles 3?

Is it that we only think the New Testament speaks of Jesus? Are you so stuck on the “Roman’s Road” that you can’t take a detour through Ruth? Jesus said ALL the scriptures testify of him (John 5:39), not just the gospels.

As a matter of fact, the standard was set by Jesus himself when he met two men on the road to a place called Emmaus. It was while talking to them, Jesus, “…beginning at Moses and all the prophets…expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

In other words, Jesus went from Genesis to Malachi showing how all of Scripture taught that the Christ must suffer, so it shouldn’t have been a shock or surprise to anyone. He said:

O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? – Luke 24:25-26

So, I will ask again, how well do you know your Bible?

I’d bet we all need to do a little more study.

 

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“My Jesus I Love Thee:” Sermon In Song

Song Sermons

One thing I love doing is taking old hymns and turning them into sermon outlines. Frankly, many of the old songs of the church were nothing more than condensed sermons put to music. They were not only meant to give us a means to sing praise to God, but to learn of His character, of his goodness and grace.

Last week I explained to the congregation at the church where I pastor that the songs we sing should be known and understood. I mean, how profitable is it if we stand as a group and sing something that makes no sense? What kind of corporate praise can we offer to our God if we cannot relate to the lyrics? It is so much better when we can all stand and sing from the bottom of our hearts the words of a hymn that means something vital to our soul!

An Outline

The following is an outline which I will be using soon, maybe even this Sunday. The outline is based on the song “My Jesus I Love Thee” by William Featherston (1864).

Please note, Featherston wrote this poem when he was between the ages 11 and 16 (he died age 27, long before the song became well-known). Adoniram Judson Gordon (founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) added the melody. How many teens do you know these days who could write something like this?

On a different note, how many teens could God use if they would only let Him?

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

  1. My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; (Jn 21:15-17)
    For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; (2 Tim. 2:19)
    My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; (Ruth 2:10)
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Regeneration)
  2. I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, (1 John 4:19)
    And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; (1 Peter 1:18-19)
    I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; (Mt 27, Mk 15, Jn 19:2)
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Realization)
  3. I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, (Job 13:15)
    And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; (Job 33:4)
    And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, (Ps. 116:15)
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Resignation)
  4. In mansions of glory and endless delight, (Jn 14:2)
    I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; (Rev 21:23)
    I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, (2 Tim 4:8)
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Revelation)

I would love to know what you think of this, especially after you read the biblical references.

What do you think of topical sermons like this? Expository preaching is something I regularly do, but I also think we need to mix up the delivery styles every so often. Doing it this way – a song sermon – is not only a good way to explain a song, but doing so with Scripture helps reinforce the truth the next time the song is sung.

Head’s up, South Soddy Baptist! You might be hearing this sermon tomorrow morning 🙂

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Filed under Bible Study, God, Jesus, Love of God, music, poetry, Preaching, worship

You Can Do What Through Christ?

Warming Up & Weather

It is a wonderfully blustery Wednesday afternoon as I write this on my own computer. However, because I do not have Wi-Fi or a wireless card on this computer, and the nearest place to plug in is too far away for the Ethernet cable to reach, I’m sitting here enjoying my own keyboard and creating a Word document to save on a flash drive, and then take to my wife’s computer which is connected to the world.

I know you didn’t need to know all of that, but I needed to warm up my fingers – I’ve been too long at the iPhone and iPad.

Storms are about to sweep through our area again, much worse than the lightening that came through yesterday. As of the moment of this writing, we are under a tornado watch and expecting straight-line winds of up to 60 mph, along with hail. That’s not good, but I guess it could be worse – Hillary Clinton could be coming to dinner.

So, before the power ends up going out, or at least before I end up having to shut everything down again, I am now going to share with you some thoughts I had yesterday, before my flash of brilliance (that’s call humor)was interrupted by a flash of lightening.

“I can do it!”

tim-tebow-si-coverHow often have you heard it proclaimed, especially by athletes and motivational speakers, “I can do all things through Christ”?  I’m sure you’ve probably seen Philippians 4:13 written on the sleeves and foreheads of runners; tacked on the end of messages to struggling college students; or heard from friends before you accepted that challenging new position.  For the most part, Philippians 4:13 has been used as a tool to soothe our fears of failure and encourage us to greatness, because, after all, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

The only problem with using Philippians 4:13 is that the context has nothing to do with what most people want to accomplish. It has nothing to do with running races, lifting weights, saving relationships, getting promotions, or making money; it does, however, have everything to do with enduring hardship, pain, and unfair loss with growing faith.

In verses 11 and 12 the Apostle Paul stated that he had learned how to be content in all circumstances, whether poor or rich, hungry or well-fed, comfortable or uncomfortable. The “things” to which he was referring in verse 13 are anything but contests, races, jobs, relationships, etc.

So often we forget the struggles and trials our forefathers in the faith have endured. In chapter 4 in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul was attempting to encourage a poor congregation, not a rich one. He was thanking God for their renewed financial support (v.10), while at the same time encouraging them not to feel guilty for their previous lack of support, because they had “lacked opportunity.” He was saying to them, “Hey, it’s OK! Really! God has taken care of me and met my needs. And even when I was in need, or pain, or suffering, the miraculous power of Jesus Christ has proved real in giving me the ability to be content, whatever the situation.”

But I need Jesus

I don’t know where you are in life, but I am trying to learn, as Paul did (v.11), how to be content, even when I don’t know where I’m going to be living in a month, how I’m going to see the little church I now pastor survive and grow, or whether or not we will be able to pay our basic bills, much less keep the cell phones going. The temptation is to fall prey to fear and doubt, to envy and lust, and to struggle against the current of His will, like a butterfly against a hurricane.

However, if I could just rest in Jesus, admit my frailties, and lean on Him, His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). It shouldn’t matter to my faith if the money isn’t there like it used to be, for “according to His riches” (Eph. 3:16) I will be “strengthened…unto all patience and longsuffering” (Col. 1:11).

Just remember, context…context…context!! Don’t use Scripture where it was never meant to apply. However, no matter what you do, remember the words of Jesus in John 15:5: “…for without me you can do nothing.”

Christ will strengthen the believer that puts his/her trust in Him, but only for the things He has called you to accomplish for His glory. If winning a gold medal, making your first million, or getting that promotion is part of the plan, then so be it; but don’t count on it.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials, Theology

For Thy Stomach’s Sake

An add I’m about to place:

“Desperate Baptist school bus driver is actively seeking a Greek scholar who can verify στόμαχος (stomachos) also refers to one’s nerves.”

It’s been that kind of day. 

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Filed under Alcohol, baptist, Bible Study, Do not judge, Humor, legalism, Struggles and Trials, Theology, translations

YHWH vs BAAL: Should God Be an “Option”?

Last week I mentioned in a sermon how that I believed the different baals were actually one god, not multiple deities. Because my statement sounded controversial, I thought it might be good to repost something from a while back.

The following was part of a paper I wrote for a class atcTemple Baptist Seminary back in 2012.

Introduction

The question that needs to be asked is: did the people of Israel ever offer Yahweh as an alternative to Baal? Much of modern Christianity has resorted to offering Christ as an alternative to the gods of this world. They say, “Choose Christ,” or “Give Jesus a try.” But did the ancient followers of Yahweh do this? Did they ever consider their God one of many choices? Did they try to convince the Baal worshippers of the day that God was a “better” God to worship? Or, did the children of Israel present God as the only God to which there was no alternative?

On the third of December, 2008, Pastor Rick Warren appeared on the Fox News program “Hannity and Colmes.” During an interview promoting his new book, The Purpose of Christmas, co-host Allan Colmes questioned Warren about his [Warren’s] belief in Jesus. Colmes asked, “All right. Let me ask you: you talk about, OK, so you think everybody needs a savior.” Warren responded with an “I do.” “Well, what about those people who don’t — you know, I happen to be Jewish? … What about — what does it say for all those people who do not accept Christ as their personal savior?”

Pastor Rick Warren: Wikipedia

Pastor Rick Warren: Wikipedia

The response that Rick Warren gave to Allan Colmes’ question on national television stunned many evangelicals. He said, “I’m saying that this is the perfect time to open their life, to give it a chance. I’d say give him [Jesus] a 60-day trial.” “Like the Book of the Month Club,” said Colmes. “Give him a trial,” replied Warren. “See if he’ll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 60 days. Or your money guaranteed back.”[1]

Where does the Christian church of today find biblical support for such statements? Was that the kind of offers being made to the inhabitants of the Promised Land? Did Joshua ever tell the 12 tribes of Israel to go out into the land which the LORD had given them and offer a 60-day trial membership? Well, if they offered Yahweh as a “choice” among other gods, then they might have served well at Saddleback, Pastor Rick Warren’s church.

Let us therefore examine some of the differences and similarities between Yahweh and Baal; compare how each was worshipped; and then consider whether or not followers of Yahweh might have given the followers of Baal a “60-day challenge.”

Baal – The Canaanite god

By Unknown - Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=723538

By Unknown – Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=723538

Baal was the proper name of the primary competition to the God of Israel, Yahweh. However, it might be a little confusing to see both Baals (Heb. be˓ālîm, e.g., Judg. 2:11; 3:7; 8:33; KJV “Baalim”) and Baal (e.g., 6:25, 28; 1 Kgs. 16:32; 18:21) as worshipped by the surrounding peoples in the Old Testament.[2] Both were the names for the same deity, but one (Baalim) was the plural form, similar, but not exactly like Elohim. We also read in the Bible of Baal-hazor (2 Sam. 13:23) and Baal-hermon (Judges 3:3), and what has been assumed is that Baal was a generic term used for local gods, the last part of the name (such as Hermon and Hazor) being the city in which that local god was associated. However, recent scholarship has come to favor the idea that “only one deity specifically named Baal was worshipped in each region,” and the different names were only a reflection of that fact.[3] Baal, then, was probably not many different gods, but one male deity, with the additional suffixes attached to describe associations with regions where he was worshipped.

The idea that Baal was simply the name given to local idols and false gods does not give credit to the meaning of the name. The Hebrew word ba’al  carries with it the idea of a god that is multi-regional and overarching, not just one of many lesser gods. The name Baal means “master,” “possessor,” and “husband.”[4] Some have suggested that Baal was one of the classical gods of mythology, such as Zeus, Jupiter, or Hercules,[5] but the evidence to support that theory is lacking. More than just a local deity, or a small god, Baal was evidently thought of more as a god over all things, the supreme god, even amidst a polytheistic culture.

What made Baal worship so attractive to the Canaanites, and also the Israelites? Baal worship attracted the Canaanite, as well as the Hebrew, because the benefits promised appealed to natural needs and base senses. Essentially, it was a fertility cult. The “promise of agricultural, animal, and human fertility…sacred prostitutes, sexual activity, and imitative magic to insure fertility in every area of life”[6] made Baal worship not only hard to resist, but seem more exciting than Judaism. The three basic elements of the theology of Baal worship (Relation to cycles of nature; Immortality; and Polytheism) further enhanced its appeal.[7] But nowhere is it suggested in scripture that Baal worship was to be exclusive. Even though Baal may have been the chief god in the Canaanite pantheon, [8] other gods were also worshipped. It was not uncommon, even, for later Hebrew kings to attempt to serve both Baal and Yahweh.

YHWH – The Hebrew God

The God of the Hebrews, and consequently the God of the Old Testament, was and is Yahweh. The name, spelled Yahweh today, was not the way it was originally spelled, because the original Hebrew did not include vowels. Known as the Tetragrammaton (meaning “four letters”), Yahweh was spelled YHWH.[9] The only thing is that because of such commands as not to take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7), Jews started using the word Adonai (Lord) in the place of YHWH, which was spelled with all capital letters in most English translations as LORD. No one really knows, though, how YHWH is to be pronounced. However, “most scholars today believe that YHWH was probably pronounced Yahweh (Yahʹ weh).”[10] Jehovah (Jĕ hōʹ vah) is the English transliteration of Hebrew text’s current reading of the divine name Yahweh. [11]

Like with Baal, there are multiple names found in the Hebrew Scriptures for God. However, YHWH, or Yahweh (also spelled Jehovah) is the supreme name given by God to describe Himself to Moses.

“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” – Exodus 3:13-14 KJV

“The name was given by God to Moses at the burning bush, and was linked to the Hebrew verb hāyāh (‘to be’). God defines himself as ‘I am’ and the word YHWH therefore means ‘he who is’.”[12] This name is then linked to other names, therefore describing the eternal characteristics of His nature, such as Jehovah-Heleyon, the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15), and  Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the LORD who sanctifies (Leviticus 20:8).[13] The difference between Yahweh and Baal, however, is that each of these names is linked to one of His attributes and the way he deals with men and women, not simply the name of a location in which He is served.

An even greater distinction between Baal and Yahweh is that God desired to be personal in His relationship to His people, Israel (and by extension, all those who follow after the faith of Abraham). God told Moses, “And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God [YHWH], which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:7). In Numbers 15:41 Yahweh said, “I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD [YHWH] your God.” And instead allowing for the idea of polytheism as with Baal, YHWH demanded total allegiance when He said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Why did God bring Israel out of Egypt? It was so that Israel “might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him” (Deut. 4:35 ESV). God chose Israel that all the people “may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.” (Isa. 45:6 ESV).

YHWH an Option?

So, now the question should be asked, “Would the children of Israel, the Hebrew people called out of slavery by YHWH, the One who said, ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other,’ ever offered Him as a ‘choice’ among many gods, including Baal? Is it conceivable that the Hebrew people would have gone into the Land of Promise and said, “Try YHWH for sixty days, and if you don’t like Him, if He doesn’t meet your self-defined needs, then ask for your money back?” It seems highly unlikely, that is for sure. In Deuteronomy (6:13-14) we read where the LORD said, “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God [YHWH], and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you…” The God of Israel went on to say in verse fifteen that “the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you,” so the option to serve other gods would have been out of the question, “lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” If YHWH was so particular about the fact that He was the only God, then what purpose would it have served to offer the option of anything other than total worship? It is the author’s opinion that Yahweh was never offered as an alternative or option to the gods being served by the Canaanites, rather He was introduced to the Canaanites as the ONLY God. There was “no other.”

The modern idea of offering God as an “alternative” or “option” among many other choices (gods), in the author’s opinion, would have been out of the question in Joshua’s day. The children of Israel were chosen by God to take the glory of His name unto all the nations, to declare Him as the only God, and to declare all other gods dead, dumb idols made by men. The Hebrew mind would have thought completely heretical the idea of offering a trial relationship with the great “I AM.” Why then should the modern believer in Jesus (who said, “Before Abraham was, I AM”) offer Him with a “money-back” guarantee? Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Nothing about being nailed to a cross implies a temporary trial relationship. Following Christ, as was following Yahweh, is a total commitment. And part of that commitment is the understanding that there is “no other gods” from which to choose.

Presenting Jesus Christ should never be done in such a way that implies that other gods could, in theory, be a better alternative. To offer Jesus as an “option” who could be “tried” for a period of time implies that the one offering may concede that other options may be “better,” hence the offer of a “money-back” guarantee. Worshipers of Yahweh knew better. So should we.

 

[1] The transcript for this conversation can be found at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,461685,00.html.

[2] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 113-14.

[3] Myers, Eardmans, 113-14.

[4] D. F. Payne, “Baal” In , in New Bible Dictionary, ed. D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard et al., 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 108.

[5] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 167-68.

[6] Lamar Eugene Cooper, vol. 17, Ezekiel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 26.

[7] Cooper, The New American Commentary, 26.

[8] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1172.

[9] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1695-96.

[10] Ibid., 1696.

[11] Ibid., 878.

[12] New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).

[13] Stelman Smith and Judson Cornwall, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos, 1998), 86.

 

Bibliography

Cooper, Lamar Eugene. Vol. 17, Ezekiel. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.

Freeman, James M. and Harold J. Chadwick. Manners & Customs of the Bible. North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Alexander, T. Desmond and Brian S. Rosner. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Smith, Stelman and Judson Cornwall. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names. North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos, 1998.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

Wood, D. R. W. and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

 

 

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Let’s End the Election vs Free Will Debate

The years and years of debate between the seemingly polar-opposite doctrines of election and free will can now come to an end. Free coffee and donuts for all. 

I submit to you two words:

Divine Ireconcilibility

You’re welcome. 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, Christianity, God, Theology, Uncategorized

How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God

A Christmas Sermon Outline

Have you ever been given a gift, or seen one under the Christmas tree, that needed no card or tag informing you who sent it? Maybe the meticulous wrapping was a clue to who the wrapper was.

I know Christmas is still 24 days or so away, but some of you might need something to preach or teach between now and then. Therefore, please accept as my gift of an outline I prepared, “How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God.”

Please, feel free to use it 🙂

“How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God”

I.  Because of When THIS Gift Was Given

·   Galatians 4:4 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…”

II.  Because of How THIS Gift Was Wrapped

·   Luke 2:12 “And this shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

·   Philippians 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

·   Hebrews 4:15 KJV – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.”

III.  Because THIS Gift Was Truly Free

·   John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…”

·   Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace…it is a GIFT of God, NOT of works…”

·   Romans 3:24 “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IV.  Because THIS Gift Was Exactly What We Needed

A.  To Bring Us Life – Luke 2:11 “Unto you is born, in the city of David, a SAVIOR…”

B.  To Bring Us Joy – Lamentations 3:22-23 “His mercies are new every morning”

V.  Because of the Love that Went Into It.

·   1 John 4:9 “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”

VI.  Conclusion:

A.  Accept the Gift of Jesus

B.  Give Thanks! – 2 Cor. 9:15 “Thanks be to God for this unspeakable Gift!”

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