When Jesus Spoke of Baptism What Did He Mean? (Part 2)

Where does John the Baptist’s type of baptism come from? And why was Jesus baptized by John?

If we go back to the Old Testament, we don’t see baptism exactly, but what we do see is a cleansing with water.

Exodus 30:18 “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing…”

Leviticus 16:4 “He [the priest] shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.” (Jesus is our High Priest and is therefore washed. Hebrews 9:11-12)

Numbers 19:19 talks about purifying the unclean with the washing of clothing and the bathing in water.

Numbers 31:22-24 talks about purifying with fire, “But all that cannot endure fire you shall put through water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day and be clean, and afterward you may come into the camp.”

Ezekiel 16:4 talks about the washing in water at birth to cleanse the baby.

Ezekiel 36:24-25 God is talking about gathering His people and says, “…I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols…”

David’s Psalm 51:2 “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

2 Kings 5 there is the story of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, who was a leper who hears of a prophet in Israel who can heal him. Elisha’s response when Naaman arrives: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 2Ki 5:14 “So [Naaman] went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

Sounds a lot like baptism doesn’t it? But was it the water that cleansed Naaman? What about John’s baptisms? Was it the water that gave remission of sin?

Because, if it was just about the water, then why would Naaman say in 2Ki 5:15 “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel,” or why would John the Baptist say to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “…bear fruits worthy of repentance…” (Matthew 3:7)

Or why is it said of John that he was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Luke 3:3 If water was all that was needed why speak of God or repentance?

Why did John baptize with water?

John 1:31 John answers to those who were sent from the Pharisees, “…that [Jesus] should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”

Matthew17:11-13 “Jesus answered and said to [His disciples], ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”

John the Baptist is the voice of the Old Testament (Mat 3:3) proclaiming a need for cleansing (repentance) and pointing to the remission of sin: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

In the Old Testament cleansing came from water, but the only way to find atonement for sin was through the blood of goats and lambs. Hebrews 9:22 “…according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Remission: the canceling of a debt, charge, or penalty. The forgiveness of a debt.)

Genesis 22:8 “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’…”

Hebrews 9:11-12 “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Isaiah 53:5-7 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

Challenge: Are we, like Naaman, seeing beyond the water to the God who truly gives the cleansing, or are we, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, coming to the water without repenting or receiving the remission (The blood of the Lamb paying for our debt)?

(All Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, is taken from the NKJV. Emphasis added.)

Check back next week for Part 3 to this series on baptism! Or subscribe to receive an email of next week’s post.

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When Jesus Spoke of Baptism What Did He Mean? (Part 1)

Are There Different Types of Baptism?

Depending on your denominational background, you might think of baptism as sprinkling a baby with water, as a submerging of a believer in water (once or possibly three times), or as a receiving of the Holy Spirit. 

Where do we get all these different ideas of baptism? Are there different types of baptism in the Bible or not? Well, let’s see what the Bible has to say.

Water Baptism: 

We know from Scripture that there’s a type of baptism involving water. We know this because John the Baptist baptized people in the Jordan and Philip baptized an Ethiopian man in water.

Mat 3:5-8 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out… and were baptized by [John the Baptist] in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…”

Act 8:27-38 “…a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority… had come to Jerusalem to worship,…Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’…both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”

In water baptism the confession of sin (if there is any, which of course in Jesus’s case there wouldn’t have been) and a belief in God both play a role in this process.

Note: There is no mention of infant baptism in the Bible (There is however mention of child dedications, atonement made for them along with everyone else, and redemptive sacrifices made for firstborns.)

In Jesus’s life we see the child dedication and the sacrifice for the firstborn by His parents along with His water baptism by John.

Mat 3:13-15 “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him…Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”

Holy Spirit Baptism:

What John the Baptist says about Jesus and the baptism that He brings: Mat 3:11-12 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Jhn 1:32 “And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Act 1:4-5  And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Jhn 14:26 The Promise of the Holy Spirit)

In Jesus’s life we see His Holy Spirit baptism by God the Father.

Mat 3:16-17 “When He had been baptized Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

Challenge: When we speak of baptism are we perhaps being too limited in our definition?

(All Scripture is taken from the NKJV. Emphasis added.)

Check back next week for Part 2 to this series on baptism! Or subscribe to receive an email of next week’s post.

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Helping God’s Way

Have you ever been helping someone and really wished you could make them make the right decisions? Helping people is a messy business, because unlike working with items or technology, where you can count on them staying in place or doing the task asked of them, working with people means they have the right and the means to do what they please.

We can tell them a good way to manage their finances, to deal with their dishonest friends, to handle their unruly children, etc., but ultimately what they choose to do has to be their decision, otherwise it doesn’t actually accomplish the main goal of loving them and helping them.

What is that main goal? The goal is real change. Real change only comes when they want what is best better for themselves and choose it for themselves.

I’ve recently been reading in WORLD Magazine about the Hope Awards, which are given to “Christian groups that offer challenging, personal, and spiritual help” to others. It’s a really neat award, and it’s encouraging to me to see all the creative ways these different groups are helping others.

It is interesting hearing what many of these groups have to say in the process of being interviewed. They openly talk about watching the people they have helped slide back into old habits or even walk away after several months in a program to returning to an old lifestyle. Many people are helped, but others make different choices. This is just part of helping others, particularly those who have been through really hard things.

Offering help to others isn’t easy, because truly loving and helping God’s way its not about controlling the results. As much as any ministry would love to say they have a 100% success rate, this is never going to be the case. There is an element involved that we don’t have the right to control, and that is the other person.

Even God, who is perfect, didn’t and doesn’t have a 100% success rate with helping people. How can this be? Well, it’s because God gave people free will. He lets them choose. God allowed and continues to allow humanity the freedom to accept or reject His love, advice, help, even His truth. Because God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that when a person is forced into something compliance may be achieved but relationship and real change isn’t. 

It’s the amazing freedom of this unconditional love and help that God gives that draws hearts to choose for themselves to enter into a real relationship with Christ and follow God’s way. 

Challenge: Be willing to help others, but do so knowing and accepting the reality that the person has the free will to do as they wish and that you truly loving and helping them isn’t  about forcing them but rather is about giving them the freedom to choose for themselves to reject or accept God’s way, just as God has done in His relationship with them. 

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For the Love of God, Respond.

Have you ever sent someone an invitation, request, or question and gotten no response but instead simply been left hanging? In the age of easy social media, instant e-mail, and phone messaging, one might think responding would be more likely to happen and far less inconvenient to both sides. But is it?

It’s easy to forget to respond when we’ve got dozens of things to respond to and far too much to plan. But when we leave people hanging, are we really showing them the love of God?

Or are we instead accidentally communicating to the person that our time and our life are more important than they are?

Because, here’s the thing, when we don’t respond, we are communicating!

We need to recognize that in saying nothing, we are saying something. We are saying that we didn’t care enough to care for the other person.

As Christians we should be being intentional about all our communication and bringing the love of God into every interaction. Delaying or forgetting to respond is not loving.

But, in this, we also need to give grace if we are on the end of an unreceived response. Because life does happen and sometimes the explanation is something like, “My mother died this last week, and I just haven’t had the time to get to my emails.”

Wow, okay. Suddenly their lack of response makes so much more sense, and we hopefully will continue to offer grace until a point when they are capable again of responding.

Sometimes the problem is on our end. We forgot to respond, or our email address isn’t working properly. It happens, so own up to it and ask for forgiveness. And if you promised something that you realize you can’t deliver, then again, own up to it and ask for forgiveness. Don’t leave the person hanging and hoping that someday you’ll get to it.

If you’re struggling with gaining a response that you haven’t yet received, remember to be gracious in reminding the person you are still waiting, because you don’t know what’s happening in their life. 

If you yourself are struggle with responding, get creative in finding ways to remind yourself to respond. I struggle with remembering to respond too, so I write myself sticky note reminders or even put reminders into my phone so I don’t forget that I’ve promised something to someone at a specific time. I also try hard to not say, “I will respond…” or “I will do… and get it back to you” unless I truly intend to carry through, because it’s not loving to the other person to promise them I’ll respond knowing I may or may not do so. Because our response or lack thereof does in fact communicate. We should intentionally be communicating the love of God by responding in a timely and gracious way.

Challenge: As Christians, our integrity is very important and a reflection of Christ. Responding to people is part of that integrity, so be intentional and communicate God’s love by responding with love regardless of which end of the communication you are on.

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When the Church Thinks They’re All That

I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked away from encounters with church goers or even more specifically church leaders and thought to myself, “If they were the only representative of God I had, I would ditch God and the church right here and now.”

I’m a strong Christian who knows who God truly is (so I’m not at risk of walking away from my faith in God), but I cringe thinking of new believers being introduced to the church. Because, more often than not, instead of being the family we should be able to proud of, the church reveals itself to be secretively manipulative, selfish, petty, and power hungry.

Of course there is no perfect church, but imperfection is a far cry from a subtle or even blatant disregard for others.

When the church thinks they’re all that and yet falls so incredibly short of actually being all that, what happens to those counting on them?

A while back I wrote a post entitled “Don’t Trust the Church,” and even more so today I would shout this reality, because trust in the church will only lead you to walk away from God. 

We have to take our trust, separate it from the church, and run instead to God, because God and the church are not one and the same. It’s a sad statement to make, but is a statement that is becoming more and more true.

Our trust must be in God not the church.

But we, as the greater church, need to step up. Because if we don’t live as we should, if we don’t stand against evil and do what is good, if we don’t stop staying silent in face of  “Christian” leaders misrepresent Christ, then we are indeed taking God’s name in vain. Exo 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Challenge: If you’re part of a church that isn’t living out who God is and isn’t trustworthy, then don’t stay complacently seated within their pews, which endorses their claim of Christ-likeness. Get up and cry out against them. And if they do not hear, then depart.  (Rom 16:17)(2Th 3:14)

Mar 12:38 “Then He said to them in His teaching, ‘Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.’”

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Take a Day Off

It’s okay to take a day off from trying to be meaningful or productive and to instead just rest in the fact that God cares about our relationship with Him not our performance for Him.

Challenge: Take a day off and just enjoy who God is.


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Do We Want Justice?

Who is God?

There are situations in life where we can find ourselves crying out against our God and asking why, if He is a justice God, has He not brought about justice? It’s good to pause and  remember to also ask ourselves “Who is God?” and “What would His justice really look like?”.

Below is a re-post of an original post entitled: P A of Worldview: Justice We Cry
Posted on August 22, 2016

Ever wonder why we seem to have this natural desire for justice?
I can’t count the number of times I have said and/or heard others say (mostly disgruntled small children who have never been in a courtroom), “That’s not fair.”

When our governments system of justice fails to bring justice, we cry out against it. We want justice, particularly if we are the one who has been wronged.

We like our stories where justice is always served—whether it be the perfect detectives, who always get their guy, or the street-loving mask-wearing vigilantes, who deliver “justice” upon those to whom the law hasn’t been able to serve justice.

“Let justice be done” we cry.

It is a natural desire within us. It is also a natural part of God.

“For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.” Psalm 37:28

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of [His] throne; mercy and truth go before [His] face.” Psa 89:14

“The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure.” Psa 111:7

God cares about justice.

Then why, you might ask does it appear as if the world is so lacking in justice?

Ah, but you see,  justice is only one of the many attributes of God.

Thank goodness, because the reality is, we all like fair and just when it comes to other people, but what about when it comes to ourselves?

Just is not that you get the biggest piece of the cake, are forgiven for your bad attitude, get to live a good life, don’t get into that car accident, marry a wonderful spouse, get promoted, etc.

Just—is that the moment we sin God wipes us off the face of this planet: that would be just.
Because, our sin is what mars the holiness of what He created. Our sin is what messed up and is messing up everything. Not just the neighbor’s sin, or that criminal’s sin, our sin! Yes, we’re all supporters of justice, until it comes to ourselves, then suddenly justice is the weight of condemnation, breaking us.

If God were only a just God, we would all be dead.

Oh how good it is that justice is only one of His attributes. Thank God, He is also a God of mercy.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of [His] throne; mercy and truth go before [His] face.” Psa 89:14

Psa 145:8 “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.”

Challenge: Mic 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

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Why do we care about others?

This is a post from several year ago that bears repeating, particularly in light of last weeks post.

Why do we care? Its a simple question, and yet nothing about caring is simple.

We care for reasons we cannot even explain at times. And yet our care can be so deep it drives us to do things we never would have thought possible for us to do.

Instinctively (if that instinct has not been broken or mangled) we all care, and we all want to be cared about.
Why? Because we were designed to care. Caring about people is the foundation of having a relationship with them. Relationship’s only happen when someone cares (not always both people, but at least one person).
The same is true with us and God. 1Jo 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

God cares about us.

Caring is wonderful, but it can also be very painful.
I’ve heard more than one person say, “I wish I didn’t care so much.” Not because they truly didn’t want to care, but simply because they’d felt the cost of carrying. It hurts to care, because to care means to be vulnerable, to be open to letting someone hurt you. And more often than not that is exactly what happens. When you care about someone, they hurt you. Over and over.

The question then is: Is it worth it?

Because what would life be if we didn’t care? And if we weren’t cared about?

What would life be if God didn’t care?

Caring is a universal language and a Biblical command.
John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Yes, caring can often bring pain, but it also brings life.

It cost God to care about us, yet He willingly paid that price because to Him it was worth it.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Challenge: Live the command. Care!

Post Originally Published on September 5, 2016
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Take the Time to Ask

In our interactions and our relationships, there are assumptions we use as a filter through which we judge and respond to others actions and reactions. We often called these assumptions “what’s normal.” Problem is, normal has a fluid meaning defined by each individual’s own experiences.

Your normal might not be someone else’s normal. So what happens when you get in a situation or discussion and perhaps how they are responding seems a little abnormal to you. What do you do? Do you impose your normal on them? Or do you take the time to understand what their normal looks like so that you can respond in an understanding way?

See we like our assumption. They make our lives easier, but do they actually help the other person?

Because basically an assumption is us inserting what we think is the truth into a situation and then responding according to our version of the events. But this often means we are not addressing their situation at all, we are simply preaching a message that may or may not speak to them at all. In fact, it might do exactly the opposite. It might do harm rather than good, because we haven’t taken the time to understand the actual situation or them.

Thing is, not making an assumption requires us to invest the time and do the work of asking questions before responding and therefore risking getting answers that might challenge us, frighten us, or make us uncomfortable. 

What is more important?

Your time, connivence, and comfort, or the other person’s soul?

Let’s just take a moment and see how this might play out.

A child says in a panic, “Please don’t turn out the lights. I don’t want to sleep in the dark.”

Do you say, “Well, normally people sleep in the dark so that’s what you are going to do.”? Or do you ask “What has happened that you do not want to sleep in the dark?”

See because for you normal might be that you sleep in the dark all the time and it’s safe and saves on the electric bill. 

That child’s normal might be, when the lights were turned off was when their mom’s druggy boyfriend would come in and do what he wanted.

A Christian who’s been at a church for a year says, “I’m just not sure I am ready to get involved in a ministry.”

Do you say to them, “Surely you could manage to be involved. It’s not that big of a commitment.” Or do you ask, “What makes you feel like you aren’t ready to get involved?”

See because for you normal might be that a ministry is just a great way to help out other people and make friends in the church. 

To the other person normal might be, that ministry leads to being used for their resources, controlled by leadership, and ultimately kicked to the curb when they voice concerns over how others are being treated. 

When a Christian says, “I’m struggling in my marriage, I sometimes think about leaving my spouse.”

Do you say to them, “Well, you shouldn’t think that way. You just need to love them and pray for them.” Or do you ask, “What’s happening that you are thinking about leaving your spouse?”

See because for you normal might be that your spouse sometimes get’s angry enough to yell at you and is a messy and doesn’t always do a great job with finances. 

To the other person normal might be that their spouse sometimes get’s angry enough to go from leaving bruises to actually breaking bones, always controls all the finances, and keeps the keys to both cars so that it’s impossible to leave without their permission.

Asking questions can mean the difference between radically misjudging a person and their situation or else seeing them through the perspective of their normal and being able to respond with compassion and understanding.

When we fail to spend the time to ask questions and understand someone else’s normal, we fail in being Christians. We fail in caring about them and caring for them as the body of Christ.

Job in the Bible is a man who is deeply misunderstood by his friends due to their assumptions about what is normal. Here is a piece of one of their conversations where Job finally get’s fed up with their responses where they are telling him what is happening to him is all his fault.

Job 12:1 “Then Job answered and said: ‘…But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these?’”

Job’s interactions with his friends, among other things, is a reminder to us that we should not just make assumptions about what is happening. For in the end even God reprimands Job’s friends for their words. Job 42:7 “And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

Challenge: Next time you’re tempted to respond out of your own preconceived ideas of what someone else means or is going through, pause and remind yourself that your normal might not be their normal. Ask them what is really happening and take the time to understand their normal before responding.

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Love Others Well

When we think of love, we don’t always think about what motivates love. In fact most of the time our assumption about love is that it is the motivator, but this is not always true. 

Love can be motivated by other emotions or desires. I have had more than one conversations with people about someone else in their life where I have said of that someone else, “They are loving you, the only way they know how. But that doesn’t mean they are loving you well.”

When loves comes from sources/motivations like control, selfishness, disbelief, manipulation, pride, and/or personal need, these motivations can alter how love is manifested.

This is perhaps why when Paul writes to Timothy he makes a rather interesting comment about love. He puts clarification around love that might seem rather strange until you realize love is not always as clearly defined as we might think and hope it to be. 

Here is Paul’s clarifications: 

1Ti 1:5-7 “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

Godly love, that loves others well, comes from

  1. A pure heart
  2. A good conscience
  3. A sincere faith

Note: these sources must be sought by the person giving the love, not by the one receiving it.

The solution to an impure heart can only be obtained by the possessor of that heart when they go to God and ask for His cleansing. Psa 51:2

Solving a wrong conscience can only be addressed by the owner of that conscience when they seek God’s wisdom and Word to be their guide. 2Co 1:12

An insincere faith can only become sincere when the holder of that faith chooses to believe fully in who God is. Heb 11:1, Heb 11:6

James 3:17 “ . . . the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Pro 2:6-8 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.”

Pro 11:2-4 “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

How do we love other’s well? Have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Love in a righteous, upright, and wise manner. Evaluate yourself and seek and accept God’s grace and wisdom that you might truly love others well.

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