Category Archives: Religion

Is there life after death?

Is there life after death?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2018

I recently watched a TV show called Destination Truth where the show’s host tries to uncover the truth if there is an afterlife or not. He interviewed dozens of folks who had near death experiences. One was a neurosurgeon who had meningitis so bad they gave him less than a 1% survival rate. He was in a near death comma for weeks during which he experienced being in the presence of God, seeing his step sister who had died earlier that he had never met, and other interesting things. Needless to say they also went into the realm of fantasy and spoke with a guy who claims he can speak with the dead and while some of his antics seemed valid most of it could have been just good insights into how people more often than not respond, facial expressions, how individuals carry themselves and some preprogram research on his part. One thing he related over and over again from the dead was that they were “proud of” the person he was speaking with concerning their dead loved one. Kind of a “pat” comment don’t you think because everyone wants to hear their dead loved one is “proud” of them. Needless to say it wasn’t impressive at all. All of this to simply say, “Well, DUH!”

Not only does the Old Testament teach us about an afterlife but Jesus spoke more about this subject than almost anything else. And the program never spoke with individuals who experienced horror, torment, or dread when they had a near death experience, and there are many who have.

One of my favorite verses is when Jesus related, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3 NIV)” The idea here is not one of property but of making room for those he loves. I believe it to be absolutely to be true because of what Jesus did: he died, was buried, and then was resurrected and returned to heaven publicly. While other faiths speak about reincarnation, heaven, hell, and other mystical or spiritual things concerning death only Jesus spoke of it matter-of-factly and absolutely being true. Those who would not believe in him as the messiah, God’s answer for mankind’s sin condition, there was another eternal abode not as nice. In fact those who trust him have nothing to fear in death but those who have not certainly do: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)” Jesus spoke about a final judgment of all people: “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV)” and that “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NIV)”

Contrary to what the world would have you believe “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV).” There are not many ways to heaven or the presence of God, only one. But doesn’t this fly in the face of Jesus’ universal love of everyone? Nope. He expressly taught: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (John 11:25 NIV)” and that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” In other words my dear bucko there is only one way to the presence of the God of all creation and that is by believing in Jesus as the Messiah!

Jesus is not some “ya’all come” kind of guy who winks at our ungodly behavior and then lets us into his presence. He vehemently taught that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-24 NIV)” Being nice, religious or spiritual does not matter. Knowing Jesus does.

Interestingly when the TV host interviewed a scientist who is conducting experiments into whether or not our consciousness exists after our death has come up with some startling results. Namely that there is good evidence now that what we know of as a person’s soul, our mind, will, and emotions, certainly do continue after our death! What Jesus taught and what most Christians know to be true has been finally recognized by science. Well, again, DUH!

Now what do these little nuggets of truth have to do with life after death? Well the fact that it is absolutely true but much more than being true one had better be prepared for what happens next after their death. Are you dear reader?
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30

Living for the Lord! – Philippians 1:18-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2018

We live in a day whereby some people actually think that “if you disagree with me then you must hate me” therefore you are a “hater”. Discourse or critical thinking is gone. It has boiled over into religion as well. There are those who say that if you disagree with another faith then you must dislike the people who are involved in it. And if you dislike them then you are not very compassionate or kind like Jesus. This is all so much tripe. (If you do not know what tripe is — it is “the first or second stomach of a cow or other ruminant used as food” and is often thrown away as trash.)

Paul did not care why some believers did what they did only that the outcome was glorifying to the Lord. Paul’s desire was that people of all ages “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)” This is why he taught Christians should “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)” For Paul his faith in Jesus was his life; it was what life was all about. Let’s discover what Paul meant when he taught that the greatest thing in life is living for the Lord…

READ: Philippians 1:18-30

Some folks share Jesus for their own personal gratification in order to gain status or wealth. The same was sadly true for Paul’s day as well. However we learn from Paul that…

I. Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! (Vv. 18-21)

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

1. Paul was not concerned with why folks were preaching Jesus so long as they were preaching Jesus and so he rhetorically asks, “What does it matter?” Because it did not, “The important thing” Paul related “is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” And it was “because of this” Paul rejoiced! Unlike many believers have done in our day Paul did not forget what his life was about. Whether Paul faced persecution or not he could “continue to rejoice, for” he knew “that through” the “prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” that whatever happened to him would “turn out for [his complete] deliverance.” Paul had become focused in life because of what he had been saved from and what he knew he had been saved for. Whether Paul survived his imprisonment or not he knew he would be delivered because he knew he already had been delivered by his faith! This is why he would write the Roman church that he had been set free from sin and death because of Jesus. He would cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 NIV)” And his straight forward answer was, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything in life because Jesus had given him life! This is why he could declare with complete certainty: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” How many of us who declare our faith in the Son of God can boldly declare like he did: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”? This is absolutely why Paul knew that living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

EXAMPLE: When one fully understands the fact that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” then they can do all things Jesus has asked of them. No matter the time, the place, or the finances because they will fully realize that death is not all there is to life! Life is all there is to life! Eternal, wonderful, glorious life in him who gave it to those of us who has placed our faith and trust in him as Savior and Lord. After all is was Jesus the Messiah who related, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40 NIV)” Nothing else in life matters as much as that fact; therefore living for the Lord means preaching Jesus!

Dear child of the King did you forget the promise of God? Has earthly concerns gotten a hold of your heart and infected your life? Are you living for the moment instead of eternity? Perhaps it is time you to become like Paul and realized that…

II. Living for the Lord is living! (Vv. 22-26)

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

1. Did you forget that the rest of the world is dead? They are truly the walking dead but they do not know it. They are not only dead in their sin but they are dead eternally until they come to the knowledge of Jesus. Paul knew this truth. He understood that his life was in God’s hands and that he had died with Christ so he writes, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” In other words he could continue to do what he was commanded to do by Jesus: witnessing to the lost and dying of the world! However Paul longed to be in the immediate and eternal presence of God as well. He was in a quandary, “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Living he could go on sharing the gospel and dying he could be in the very presence of the Lord! Paul was neither a fatalist nor unrealistic. He fully understood the circumstance and consequences of his choice. He had disciples he needed to mentor still and others to witness to. Few of us fully know what we are supposed to be doing in life but Paul did. And in reality so should we. Either we need to lay aside our fear and distrust of Jesus’ plan for us or fully embrace it like Paul. “Convinced of this,” Paul would write, “I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” You see Paul had come to fully realize that his life was not his own. Have you? Perhaps it is time for you to become like Paul and realize that living for the Lord is living!

EXAMPLE: Some people think that by doing dangerous things with their lives that they are really living. Whether it is bungee jumping, hang gliding, or scaling sheer rock cliffs without a rope or tether, all they are doing is trying to cheat death and gain a momentary high. There are those who find comfort and security in being a part of something bigger than themselves and join protests, march or lose themselves in the cause of others. While none of these things are wrong or bad in of themselves; what is the final outcome? The thrill soon fades and the cause soon disappears with the next protest. Then it is on to the next thrill or exciting thing. Only losing oneself to the greatest adventure of all is worthwhile because of what it truly means for yourself and others. Paul understood the eternal truth that living for the Lord is living!

Paul knew that he may not have much time left but whatever time he had left in his life he was more than willing to give it to the Lord. And his greatest desire was that because of the life he had lived for Jesus that it would bear future fruit for the kingdom of God! Paul knew that…

III. Living for the Lord is not just about you! (Vv. 27-30)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

1. Paul realized that there were those who were genuinely concerned for his life. After all he was a prisoner of Rome! And so Paul wants to comfort and encourage them with his letter. So he tells them that “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Isn’t that just like Paul? He is more concerned for them than himself! How do I know this? Because like all good teachers or parents Paul wanted his “kids” his disciples to grow and mature in their faith and therefore to be able to face any trial or hardship that might come their way! “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” How many of us would willingly place our lives, our families, or our futures to something that would bring us in sharp opposition to the world around us? Man, have I got news for you! You already have if you have Jesus! Yet take courage! Paul tells us why: “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.” The world’s opposition, their anger, their oppression is a sign that they are losing but for those of us who believe it is a win-win situation! We often forget that if we are truly following Jesus with our lives we will suffer the consequences, both good and bad! So Paul reminds his readers “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Interestingly the Greek word echaristhē, translated “granted,” is derived from a word which means “grace” or “favor.” Our faith and our struggle are both a grace and favor of God! Paul wanted his readers to “hear that [he] still” had God’s favor because of his momentary struggle for his faith! Paul understood that living for the Lord is not just about you!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV)” The “lost” means all of the lost not just little old you. Recently the actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) accepted MTV’s Generation Award; he thanked his family and then offered some words of Christian wisdom to the younger generation. He told the audience, “God is real. God loves you; God wants the best for you. Believe that, I do.” And he went on to say, “Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.” The gospel, the good news of Jesus is for all people and so Paul reminds us that living for the Lord is not just about you!

Conclusion:

Living for the Lord means preaching Jesus! Living for the Lord is living! Living for the Lord is not just about you!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Father’s Day – Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12

Father’s Day – Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 17, 2018

Did you have a good father? I had a pretty good dad. He took us fishing, camping, and spent as much time with us as he could. He taught us to be moral, believe in God, and what marital devotion was all about. I still can remember him showing us boys how to cast a salmon egg just right in order to catch the bigger trout in the river. I also remember he was firm on his word and discipline.

Sometimes children can think their parents are unfair or that they do not understand but what I have learned is that parents, especially fathers, do understand and that is why they often have to take the firm stand they do. Too many fathers in our day are AOL (absent without leave) either physically or emotionally or both. Proverbs reminds us that “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:17-18 NIV)” Let’s discover what it means to be a father…

READ: Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12

In our world trying to raise children to be independent critical thinkers, moral, and to follow the Lord has become increasingly hard. It is good to know however that the Scripture is not only filled with examples of how not to be a father but it also gives us good advice on how to be great fathers. We discover that…

I. Great fathers consistently discipline their children! (Ephesians 6:4 & Hebrews 12:7-9 NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord… Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

1. Paul writes, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”. The wording here refers to a dad who constantly and deliberately tries to enrage or provoke their children into an ungodly reaction. This is not a reference to teasing a child but rather a dad who deliberately and consistently tries to incite their children to react in anger. This could be done through improper parenting where the father constantly degrades their spouse in front of the kids, uses foul language, or involves their children in ungodly activities such as lying, stealing, drug use, or violent behavior. A father can “exasperate” their children when they are not the consistent godly loving example their children need! However, this can also cover inappropriate discipline that is either too harsh or nonexistent. The writer of Hebrews writes that believers should “Endure hardship as discipline”. This teaches us that as children we can think it is a hardship to be disciplined, but in reality it is a blessing if it is done consistently and correctly! Our discipline in life is “God treating us as sons”! It also reflects the biblical concept that discipline is godly! “For what son is not disciplined by his father?” A lack of consistent discipline by fathers can frustrate a child emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually! Children need parameters in life. They need to know their boundaries. And if they do not have them from their fathers they can feel unloved and unwanted or illegitimate! “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” Children need to feel and know they are loved and one of the ways they do is when they know their boundaries in life because when they do they grow up loving and respecting their fathers! “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” Yet more than this, children who are consistently and compassionately disciplined learn self-discipline! “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children!

EXAMPLE: My father was a consistent disciplinarian. We knew his “yes” was yes and his “no” was no. We also quickly learned that simply going to our mother to get a different answer did not work. I did not understand my father when he once told me that his discipline of me at the time would hurt him more than it would hurt me. My spanking sure hurt! Yet his words came flooding back when I had to spank my daughter for the first time. It actually did hurt me more than her momentary pain. However it did not stop me from trying to be the best father I could be. I did not stop disciplining my daughter simply because it momentarily made feel bad. Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children!

I’ve learned that life is not always fun. It is not painless or never filled with hurt. An old pastor was quipped, “Life is hard by the yard but a cinch by the inch!” He was correct. Great fathers learn that directing the lives of their children is not a momentary thing. It is a process. We learn from Paul that…

II. Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father! (Hebrews 12:10-12 NIV)

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

1. Certain things in life only last a short while. This is why as fathers we should cherish every day we have with our families. Sure you may have suffered from making the wrong choices in life but God is a loving father and through his example teaches us guys how to be the fathers we need to be! Paul writes, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best”. Training and nurturing your children only lasts a few years. In fact most psychologists will tell you that how a child responds to you at 5 years old will be how they respond to you as a teenager! This is why fathers should spend time with their kids. Reading, playing, talking with and listening to them are extremely important if you want your child to be respectful with you later in life. Remember “God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness.” God is a great example to follow as a father. He always looks at the long haul as fathers should and he loves us in spite of ourselves! Fathers should want the best for their children realizing that the investment they make now in the lives of their children will one day reap a great reward! “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” A good life harvest means that fathers must be willing, ready, and able to do the hard day-by-day and moment-by-moment investment in the lives of their children! It is a matter of consistency again. Just as children are not potty trained, know how to walk or immediately feed themselves it is fathers that help them to become the adults they should be! “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Godly dads do not complain about having to spend time with their kids. Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!

EXAMPLE: I remember the frustration of my father when he sat me down and asked, “How many times am I going to have to ask you to do something before you do it?” I responded, “I guess until it sticks.” To my surprise he reached out and tousled my hair and gently replied, “For your sake I hope not.” Got up and walked away. Some of the greatest moments of my life were spent with my ailing father the last year of his life. We spent the entire summer together. His insights, love, and quiet spirit had a huge impact on me. I learned from him that great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!

Conclusion:

Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children! Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Pollution – Jude 1:1-16

Pollution – Jude 1:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2018

I always laugh when the media does a story on pollution and they show pictures of steam coming from “smoke” stacks. Few realize that there are very few real “smoke” stacks within the US and Canada and this is why the media has to use billows of steam in order to make you think it is smoke. It’s like when they would write dire warnings about radiation from nuclear power plants and they would show us pictures of the water cooling towers and the huge plumes of steam coming from them.

Is there pollution? Does it occur today? Absolutely! And there is also a spiritual pollution that is just as harmful that many do not realize has affected the way they think about the Bible, salvation, and even Jesus. Most of the New Testament writers had experienced spiritual pollution firsthand. Jude, Jesus’ brother, meets this contamination head on and dramatically reveals it for what it truly is. Let’s discover for ourselves what he wrote concerning pollution…
READ: Jude 1:1-16

Many in our day and age let others do their thinking for them. They are not good at discernment and rely on others to tell them truth when in fact these folks may not have their best interests in mind. As believers we must be willing to find the truth, especially when it concerns Jesus. Jude writes that…

I. Pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! (Vv. 1-4)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1. Jude introduces himself right away as “a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James”. He is not someone who speculates about Jesus because he declares he is a “servant” a “doulos” or bond slave. Someone who willing bound himself to the one he served and in this case for Jude it was Jesus. Jesus was his Master but also notice that he writes that he is the “brother of James”. There are three differing arguments as to who Jude was: 1) Jude the Apostle but he never mentions being one, 2) Jude an early leader in the Jerusalem church and one of two nominees to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus, but early church history and evidence does not support this, and finally 3) he was Jesus’ half brother which most historians support. He calls himself a “servant” because he had not always believed in Jesus. He now was writing “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to know the “mercy, peace, and love” of Jesus as he now did “in abundance”. He wanted to write them about their shared faith but instead he “felt” that he “had to write and urge [them] to contend for the faith that was once for entrusted to the saints”! Jude was worried because “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [had] secretly slipped in among” the believers! Like wolves in sheep’s clothing these ungodly men camouflaged themselves in the flock of Christ. They were “godless men” meaning they did not care about the Lord at all. Instead they wanted to “change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord”! Wow, things have not changed much have they? These guys wanted to add to or subtract from what Jesus taught and who he was! Sound familiar? In fact they wanted to do so, so they could excuse their immoral behavior! Jude knew that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

EXAMPLE: The word “contend” is an old-fashioned word that isn’t often used anymore. It means to fight for, stand up for, or stand firm for. The idea is someone who is willing to stand their ground for what they know to be true! Here is a good example: 71% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian” but 51% of those who identify themselves as “churchgoers” have never heard of the Great Commission! Many in our day consider themselves “spiritual” but not religious. The Barna Group writes that “The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within.” It is a faith based solely on feelings rather than actual facts. It can excuse the immorality of murdering babies in the womb, living together before marriage, and same sex marriage. Why has this occurred? Jude writes that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

Can there be consequences for not “contending” for our faith? Jude writes that there certainly can be and in fact the consequences can be dire. James in fact goes on to write that…

II. Pollution carries its own consequences! (Vv. 5-9)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

1. What James was writing them wasn’t anything new but he wanted to remind them what their inaction could cost them if they were not willing to clean up their spiritual act so-to-speak. So, he writes, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” Say what!? Remember the little incident with the bronze snake on a pole? And how those who made and worshipped Golden Calves died in the wilderness without ever seeing the land promised to them? “And the angels” Jude writes, “who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” You mean God holds even angelic being accountable? Yep! And “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” All of these “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”! Jude knew that “in the very same way” those who slithered into the church and corrupted the gospel that “these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings” just as the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah did! Curiously Jude then cites a pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses, in showing that these false teachers had no respect for even heavenly beings: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” These folks had deliberately brought the gospel, Jesus, and who he was down to their level on purpose. They wanted to excuse their polluted spirituality but Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

EXAMPLE: Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, is the first truly “post-Christian” generation and what they don’t believe is alarming. They do not assert any religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is more than double that of the US adult population. It appears that today’s youth struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God. More than one-third (37%) believes it’s not possible to know for sure if God is real. More than half of all Americans, both teens (58%) and adults (62%), agree with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no ‘one true religion.’” This is the result of believers not contending for their faith at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the market place. Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

Spiritual ignorance is at an all time high. People often place more credibility on what they feel than what is real. Believers spend too much time arguing over the gnat and the world has swallowed the camel. It’s time to stop arguing over biblical minutia and focus on what matters. Jude writes that…

III. The result of spiritual pollution stinks! (Vv. 10-16)

Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

1. Interestingly when people no longer have a spiritual core they distrust and even hate anything spiritual. Jude writes that “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Cain killed his brother in jealousy, Balaam tried to get rich by selling his gift to the highest bidder, and Korah said that they could worship God anyway and anywhere they wanted! Jude writes very descriptively about these deceptive individuals: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Interestingly Jude quotes another pseudepigraphical book of Enoch where “the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” While Jude used books his audience would be familiar with he wasn’t endorsing them as holy or spiritual. He wanted his audience to realize that “These men [were] grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude knew that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

EXAMPLE: In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism have influenced Christians’ beliefs. They found strong agreement with ideas to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. For instance 28% strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than 27%. The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Almost 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” And it was noted that younger believers were willing to embrace Marxism alongside their faith! These things are ungodly, unbiblical, and heretical. Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

Conclusion:

Jude reminds us that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence! Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Baptists and baptism – Matthew 28:16-20

Baptists and baptism – Matthew 28:16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 29, 2018

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus. Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to him. It also expresses unity with all the saints because we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ where there “is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are “saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because Jesus commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Total immersion was practiced for the first 800 years of church history.

Water baptism is for believers. Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation. We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was resurrected to assure our place in heaven. When we turn to Jesus, asking him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ. At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized. Infant baptism was not practiced for the first 300 years of church history and some texts by early church fathers regarding the issue deal with heresies. It is not found anywhere in Scripture and the closest we find are three references to “households” being baptized but a household only considered those over a certain age of maturity meaning adults.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into his death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin. When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ forever. Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, we are cleansed when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Why Baptists?

Baptists derive their name from their view of baptism and from the word “baptizō” (bap-tid’-zo) which is a Greek word for dipping cloth.

Sadly, most people today do not have a proper understanding of who Baptists are and where we came from. Baptists are not “Protestants”. We never protested or were part of the Reformation where Luther broke free from the Catholic Church. We came from a group known as the Puritans. Puritans tend to be thought of as old stogies who just wanted to spoil everybody’s fun. However, the modern-day view of the Puritans is far from the truth. They did not wear black with white collars and frown a lot. In fact they wore very colorful clothing and were happy joyous folks. They broke away from the likes of Lutherans and Anglicans.

The Puritans wanted to see real biblical reform come to the Church of England. The Anglican Church was founded by Henry VIII so he could marry whom he wanted. It was basically a “Catholic Light” organization. These early Puritans were led by Bishop Hooker and Thomas Cartwright and they began to call for a “pure” Church. However, the Queen and the Church of England were not willing to put up with these Puritans and thus began to enforce religious conformity by law.

Catholics and Anglicans both believe that only they can impart the grace of God. It is faith in Christ and then the ministering of God’s grace through specific acts within the “church” that saves a person: infant baptism, confirmation, confession, acts of contrition, prayers, marriage and in some cases how you die. Grace is seen as a big bucket you dip into.

This demand of conformity from the political and religious persecution in England produced a group known as the “Separatists”. The principles behind this movement were the freedom of the Church from State rule, pure doctrine rather than a watered-down or compromising doctrine, and overall reform of the Church. The Separatists took the Bible seriously and they were determined to order their lives by its teachings. They separated themselves from the Anglican Church. They believed in believer’s baptism after one placed their faith in Jesus and no longer in infant baptism.

From this group of Separatists came a small group know as General Baptists because they believed in a “general” atonement. General Baptists also had a distinct belief that Christians could face the possibility of “falling from grace”. The two primary founders of the General Baptist movement were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.

The earliest General Baptist Church was thought to be founded about 1608 by John Smyth (1570-1612) and it was located in Holland. Smyth’s history begins in England where he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594. Soon after his ordination, his zeal landed him in prison for refusal to conform to the teachings and practices of the Church of England. Smyth continually battled the Church of England until it became obvious that he could no longer stay in fellowship with this church. Thus, he finally broke totally from them and became a “Separatist”.

From the General Baptists a second group formed known as the Particular Baptists. They came out of the Separatist movement as well. This group emerged in the 1630’s. It was influenced by the great reformer John Calvin and held strongly to a “particular” atonement. The first church was thought to be founded around 1633 or 1638. This small group in 1644 acted together to issue a confession of faith called the First London Confession of Faith. This confession preceded the widely known Westminster Confession of Faith by two years. Present-day Baptist churches can be traced back to these early Baptists. Many of these folks fled to the New World and America for religious freedom. Many of the pilgrims were Separatist and Baptist in theology.

The first Baptist church in America is thought to be the church at Providence founded by Roger Williams in 1639. This church was founded on Particular Baptist doctrine, but in mid-1650 fell away to a more General Baptist position. Even though there was growth for Baptists in the 1600’s in America, it was during the 1700’s that the Baptist churches in America began to gain a widespread voice. In 1700, there were only 24 Baptist churches with 839 members, but in 1790 there were 979 churches with 67,490 members. The Baptist John Leland was influential in having the First Amendment placed within the Constitution that guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Heart Wants What is Contrary to What God Desires

The Heart Wants What is Contrary to What God Desires
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 17, 2018

We have all heard the phrase “The heart wants what the heart wants” and then stand back and go “ah”, but this is truly kind of a stupid phrase that excuses really dumb behavior and poor decision making. We are supposed to make life-changing decisions based on what we know, you know – knowledge. This is why the Scripture remind us that “Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known (Proverbs 14:33 NIV).” Notice the caveat “of the discerning” meaning those who think things through and use logic and not feelings. It also reminds us that “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers (Proverbs 15:28 NIV)” and that “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out (Proverbs 18:15 NIV).” What this all means is that the “heart” needs to exercise caution and not rely on feelings or emotions over discernment. It is through the toughest times when we think we know what is right because our feelings or emotions are leading us to do something we know we should not and others have told us not to do that we need to remember these passages. Be mindful that “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2 NIV).”

Jeremiah wanted to do what he thought felt right but God reminded him, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV).” Therefore we need to step back and rely on the wisdom of others who know life better than we do. Hasty decisions can lead to disastrous results, hurt, and embarrassment. Sure there are always those who like to think life is some kind of romantic novel, but it is not.

As followers of Jesus we are to emulate him who took three and a half years to mentor his hasty disciples; especially Peter. He took his entire life to kneel before his Father in heaven in a garden and declare that his decision was based not on his will, his feelings, but on the will of God and his plan. This is why Jesus reminded his followers that “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:18-19 NIV).” Our hearts are deceptive because this is where our emotions and feelings dwell and when we allow these to rule our lives the outcome can be foolish. This is why we are reminded that “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good (Psalms 14:1 NIV).”

Be warned when you follow your heart and not the wisdom of the Lord.

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God’s everlasting love! – Romans 8:31-39

God’s everlasting love! – Romans 8:31-39
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 11, 2018

Nothing lasts forever; the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes sure of that. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is commonly known as the Law of Increased Entropy. While the quantity, the mass, of everything remains the same (First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time which is “Entropy” and is defined as a measure of unusable energy within a closed or isolated system. I know, boring physics lesson, but absolutely not relevant in the spiritual laws of God because we learn that there indeed is something that lasts forever – our relationship to the Creator of all things!

All other religions teach us that mankind has to try hard to be better, do better, or that we have to do something grand in order for God to love us. Yet here in the beautiful gospel message of Jesus we find something totally confounding and wonderful for mankind. There is nothing we can do except trust what God did for us in Jesus. The message of Jesus teaches us about God’s everlasting love for us and Paul was amazed by it. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about God’s everlasting love…

READ: Romans 8:31-39

We are a bunch of consumers. We consume everything including relationships and what matters most to the world is how one can profit from any and everything they consume in life. However, the most important fact the every believer needs to learn is the fact that in Jesus we have everything we need in life. Paul understood that nothing matters in this life but the absolute fact that…

I. God’s everlasting love has given us everything! (Vv. 31-32)

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

1. Paul had just gotten through telling the Roman church that God foreknew whom he would call to be saved. However even though God knows who will be saved we do not know. God is infinite and all knowing and we are not. I always wondered why folks have such a problem with predestination when the Scripture is very specific concerning the teaching. It is totally amazing that God’s plan for salvation has been all figured out from eternity on! Paul would write “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)” This is the amazing tremendous truth of the gospel message and we discover that Paul was totally blown away in the knowledge that God loved us that much and so he asks, “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” We forget that it was our choice, meaning the first human beings created by God chose to sin when they did not have to and yet even though God knew they would he already had a plan in place to redeem mankind! This is why he would teach, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 NIV)” God became a man to redeem sinful mankind therefore “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And the answer is that “no one” because “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” God’s everlasting love has given us everything!

EXAMPLE: In the Charles Dickens book Oliver Twist which is about an orphan who is eventually put to work picking and weaving oakum, a loose fiber obtained by untwisting and picking apart old ropes used for caulking the seams of sailing ships, at a workhouse. Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains there for six months. One day, the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly comes up forward, bowl in hand, and begs Mr. Bumble for gruel with his famous request: “Please, sir, I want some more”. Far too many Christians have the Oliver Twist misconception about their walk with God. They think they have to come begging to God and plead with him like starving orphans to give them “more”. Paul reminds us that God’s everlasting love has given us everything!

We are not orphans left at the table of God begging for spiritual scraps and in fact quite the opposite! Scripture proclaims that believers are “children of God (John 1:12-13)”! And Paul reminds us that…

II. It was for us that God’s everlasting love was proclaimed! (Vv. 33-36)

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

1. When Paul stopped to ponder what God did for all mankind he could not help but wonder why in the world would he do such a thing? But even more was the fact there would be those who tried to either pull people back into trying to earn their salvation or those who would say that we could never be loved by God. This was simply not true so Paul asks “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Who could possibly do such a thing? The answer of course is “No one!” The reason was obvious for Paul because “It is God who justifies.” God is the only one who can justify us because he created all things and it is he who has the plan to redeem us! So, “Who is he that condemns?” There is only one who could and it is “Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”! Jesus doesn’t condemn us because he willingly saved us! God’s everlasting love was established by Jesus because of what he willingly did and by what he continues to do: intercede for us! Therefore the fact is “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” And for Paul the answer again was obvious: No one and nothing! These things in life Paul stated in increasing intensity do not separate Christians from Christ and nothing and no one can! For Paul who himself was facing imprisonment for his faith and possible death he knew with certainty the love of God because he understood that just “As it is written” in all of Scripture concerning those who held out the truth of God’s love, it was “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” It was for us that God’s everlasting love was proclaimed!

EXAMPLE: There is a wonderful little book by Robert Munsch called Love You Forever. It is both sad and silly but it relates the love a mother has for her baby boy. From infancy until he grows to be a man she sings her song to him: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Even as toddler when he drives her crazy, as a young boy when she wanted to sell him to a zoo, or as a teenager when she felt like she was in a zoo she still sung him her song: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Finally when she is old and sick her son then holds her close and sings her song to her and after she passes away he creeps into his baby daughter’s room and sings: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” As wonderful as our love is for our children we discover that it was for us that God’s everlasting love was proclaimed!

God loves us forever and nothing in all creation can change that. Because of this Paul wanted his readers to fully understand just what that loves means for us, that namely…

III. Nothing can separate us from God’s everlasting love! (Vv. 37-39)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1. Was Paul being delusional or just hoping against hope that what he believed was true? Neither because Paul had firsthand knowledge of what he was writing about. Over and over he would relate how Jesus had changed his life. He would testify that “the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. (Galatians 1:11-13 NIV)” Paul had been changed by his faith in Jesus so it was with complete confidence he could say “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It did not matter to Paul if he faced hardship, trouble, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword! He was absolutely “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing in this life, whether it was manmade, spiritual, self-inflicted, occurring now or in the future Paul had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” In fact he would declare, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)” Paul wanted all believers to understand that nothing can separate us from God’s everlasting love!

EXAMPLE: One thing I have learned in life is that people grieve differently from one another. There is not one single way to do so. There has never been a week that goes by that I have not remembered something about my father even though he died when I was a teenager. This is one reason why the words of Jesus made such a huge impact on me when he told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)” Jesus is with me always. Ponder that for a moment. Not simply as a memory, wishful thinking, or a future hope but he is actually with me always. How fantastic to know that nothing can separate us from God’s everlasting love!

Conclusion:

God’s everlasting love has given us everything! It was for us that God’s everlasting love was proclaimed! Nothing can separate us from God’s everlasting love!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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