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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

When I saw this meme, I instantly thought about the church I attend and what it does in the community. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • Serves more than 1,500 free meals each month to people in need
  • Established a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association so it can better help people with mental issues
  • Created the Career Connection Network to help people find jobs
  • In partnership with the Calgary Food Bank, distributed almost 2,500 food hampers to hurting families during a one-year period.
  • Supports 250 families with special needs

I attend one of the largest churches in Canada; most are much, much smaller and don’t have the donor base to do this kind of work. But almost all of them are doing something – and doing it with less red tape and more efficiency than any government or business. The same applies to charities like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion Canada.

Why is this happening? Because Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, tells everyone who follows Him that “anything you did for any of my people here [and Jesus came for ALL people], you also did for me.” He also said this:The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”

I can’t speak for religion, since that has very little to do with faith in Jesus. (In fact, religion is often a scourge on society and I explain it here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-q1.)

But I can write about Jesus followers. So, to the creator of this meme, I ask: imagine what kind of world we’d be living in if Jesus followers weren’t obeying His directive and making life better for millions and millions of hurting people?

Sure, they may not be making gigantic financial contributions to science and medical research (that’s being covered quite nicely by taxpayers, foundations and wealthy philanthropists), but through their actions and donations, they are on the frontlines of the battle against misery and hopelessness.

That’s where Jesus – God’s perfect gift to everyone willing to accept Him – calls His followers to be. And if you’re willing to accept the gift of Jesus, two extraordinary things will happen:

  1. He will come into your life and start making you more of the person God designed you to be. That includes becoming more aware of the suffering around us and more willing to do something about it.
  2. God will no longer see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection. And when this life ends, He’ll welcome you to spend all eternity with Him in Heaven.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Oh man, talk about arriving late to the party. The American fantasy comedy TV series The Good Place finished its fourth and final season and I’d only seen part of the debut episode.

But then a friend turned me on to season 3, episode 9. That episode highlights Doug Forcett, a man doing absolutely everything he possibly can to live a “perfect” life. The idea is to earn enough points to gain him entry to The Good Place after his life is finished.

Doug (played by Michael McKean) lives off the grid, grows his own food, drinks recycled water (don’t imagine what that fully means), has adopted every stray dog he’s ever encountered and lets people take advantage of him.

Initially, this all seems great to Michael (Ted Danson). A reformed demon from the “bad place”, he’s now trying to get some of his human friends into The Good Place. In this episode, he’s masquerading as a reporter interviewing Doug because, as he tells Janet, his second-in-command, Doug “is the blueprint; he figured it all out.”

Leaving aside the silly comedic extremes, maybe that concept makes some sense to you. It’s definitely part of many faith systems—live right and you’ll get to The Good Place.

But read about how crazy this kind of thinking can become: Doug accidentally steps on a snail. His desperate attempts to resuscitate the creature fail, so after holding a funeral, he decides to walk three days (cars are bad for the environment and so he’d lose points if he used one) to make a donation to a mollusk association.

Even Michael starts to realize this is nuts, so he tells Doug “live your life. Travel. Drink regular water.”

“No, I can’t risk it,” Doug says. “There’s an accountant out there, measuring the value of everything I do. What if I do something and lose just enough points to keep me out of The Good Place?”

Thankfully, there is a way of living and thinking that’s absolutely opposite to Doug’s soul-crushing obligations. It’s called Christianity. Please stay with me while I explain this.

God’s standard is perfection. The evidence? Jesus of Nazareth (whom many people believe is God’s Son) says to anyone willing to listen that, “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

But God knows that no one can meet that standard and gain entry to “The Good Place”. So He came to earth as Jesus, taught us how to live, then died on a Roman cross to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

Now, anyone who believes in Jesus and decides to follow Him is seen by God as perfect. And that means they gain entry to The Good Place. Even better, it means that as soon as you accept the gift of Jesus, God enters your life and starts making you the person He created you to be.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Well, this seems confusing.

Canada’s National Post newspaper has published a new survey that might leave you scratching your head. Or maybe not.

The survey suggests millennials (people born between 1982 and 2002) are:

  • Vastly more likely to believe in an afterlife than older generations. Seventy percent of millennials have this belief, compared to 66 percent of generation Xers and less than 60 percent of people 70 and older.
  • Less likely than older folks to belief in God or a higher power. The percentage stands at 66 for millennials, compared to 80 for pre-baby boomers.

Perhaps this makes sense to you. If that’s the case, let me ask two questions: On what do you base your afterlife belief – the prevailing culture or a favourite TV show or Oprah Winfrey’s philosophies? And If you believe there is no creator, then how is it possible for an afterlife to exist?

This challenge is worth tackling because as the years go by, you’re probably going to place more and more of your trust in your afterlife beliefs. It make sense to base that trust on something solid and unchanging.

I believe there’s far more to our existence than 70 or 80 years of eating, sleeping, working, vacationing and going to the bathroom. I base this on something many people think is radical and even ridiculous: a living, breathing, eternal relationship with God, established through faith in Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son.)

I didn’t get this belief from being raised by spiritual parents or by trusting in a bestselling author or a pop culture star. This belief came from an open-minded investigation of Jesus’s claims. I debated people from a variety of perspectives, read many books and thought deeply about all the viewpoints out there.

After that, I decided at age 42 to trust Jesus with this life and the life to come. I did that because, after my investigations, I believe that:

  1. God is perfect and that’s His standard for judging humanity.
  2. Through the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do, every person on this planet has fallen far short of God’s standard.
  3. Human history – and our own life stories – indicates we can’t achieve God’s standard on our own.
  4. Rather than condemn us all, God sent Jesus Christ to this earth to teach us how to live, then to pay the penalty for our “sins” through his sacrificial death and astounding resurrection three days later.

How do I know all this? An ancient biography of Jesus says “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

Could there be any better news than this? And for those who trust in Jesus, when this life is over, God won’t see any of your flaws. He’ll just see His Son’s perfection.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Hi and Lois HeavenSometimes, just reading the comics in newspapers — yes, I still read REAL newspapers — can provide great opportunities to tell folks the truth about the most important things in life.

In this case, that most important thing is Heaven.

If you believe there is something beyond this life, would you call it Heaven? And if you would, who do you think goes there?

In this Hi and Lois comic strip involving a conversation between twins Dot and Ditto Flagston, Ditto make a very strong point. Do you believe what he says to his sister?

As it’s understood by serious Christians, Heaven is where people can actually spend eternity in the presence of the creator of the universe and His Son, Jesus Christ. No one has to be a ‘goody-goody’ (which I assume means a smug or obtrusively virtuous person) to qualify.

In fact, Heaven is populated mostly by people who are anything BUT ‘goody-goody’. It’s occupied by those who often:

  • struggled to get their lives in any kind of order;
  • battled with drug, gambling or alcohol addictions;
  • missed the mark when it came to treating others well;
  • wrestled with temptations such as pornography, infidelity and crime.

Maybe this leaves you unimpressed. Maybe you feel like the late, great Groucho Marx, who once said “I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member”.

If that’s the case, you’ll miss out on something so extraordinary that even the writers of the Bible struggled to describe the glories of Heaven with simple words.

So if you and I don’t need to be a ‘goody-goody’, then what DO we need to spend eternity with God and Jesus? It’s simple:

  1. accept that Jesus Christ died on a cross as a sacrifice for all the wrongs things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do;
  2. confess all those sins to God and express sincere regret and remorse for them (also called repenting);
  3. believe that Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the tomb, to crush the power of death for everyone who follows Him;
  4. ask Jesus to become your Lord and Saviour.

Looking for evidence that I’m not just blowing smoke? A section of the Bible, called ‘Romans’, puts it like this: “If you openly say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from death, you will be saved.”

When you do these four things with humble honesty, then Jesus comes into your heart and begins to transform your life.

He gives you wisdom to truly discern what is good and what is bad in the eyes of God (it’s often very different from what our culture suggests) and strength to obey God.

He gives you the ability to see that everyone on this planet has the same intrinsic value in God’s eyes. That means, in the words of author Philip Yancey, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

He gives you the understanding that no one can earn their way into Heaven; it’s a gift from God to everybody who freely decides to make His Son their Lord and Saviour.

So, you (hopefully) have a better understanding of Heaven. Interested in learning more? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Bizarro GodThe first thing I did when I saw this cartoon in the newspaper was whip out my iPhone and make a photo. I knew it would be the inspiration to reveal the truth about God. And it is.

No doubt about it, our culture portrays God as “damning” souls to Hell. It’s the easiest and fastest way to figure out “religion” (especially Christianity) and requires the least amount of thought.
But is it the truth?

Consider these facts about the God that Jesus of Nazareth believed in and followed:

1. God is perfect. Many, many people will disagree with this, but that doesn’t change the truth. And that perfection is exemplified through Jesus, who many people believe is God’s Son.

One ancient document states it this simply & clearly: “God’s way is perfect”. In one of the original source documents of Jesus’ physical life on earth, He tells his followers, “What I am saying is that you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jesus’ exemplifies that perfection. Here are quotes, from two of His earliest followers, that serve as illustrations: “He [Jesus] never sinned, and he never told a lie” and “There is no sin in Christ”.

2. God’s standard for all humanity is perfection. One of the men that Jesus personally trained to follower after Him that backs up that statement: “Be holy in everything you do, just as God is holy. He is the one who chose you. In the Scriptures God says, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”.

3. We cannot achieve God’s standard and get into Heaven on our own. I don’t think a single quote from Jesus is needed to prove that point.

4. In the end, we don’t have to be perfect. When we become followers of Jesus — His teachings, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do) and glorious resurrection, God no longer sees our sins. He sees only His Son’s perfection.

This is a gift, offered to every person on this planet. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done (or not done). Their gender and age don’t matter. Their skin colour doesn’t matter. Their status in society doesn’t matter.

The gift is offered to EVERYONE, with no strings attached. And in my mind, this shows how much God loves me, YOU and every other human being.

So, who does the damning? Maybe it’s everybody who rejects that gift. They declare there is no God, there is no Jesus and there is no gift. By doing this, they can continue living the way they please with no thought to any consequences.

The result is pretty obvious. When this life is done, you come before God — with every single wrong thing you’ve done and every single right thing you’ve failed to do — utterly exposed. And as a result, you fall far, far short of God’s qualification for spending eternity in His presence.

Is this you? Are you choosing to damn yourself by declaring there’s no God and no gift? Maybe that’s how all your friends and loved ones think. But look beyond them; is this really what you want to do?

Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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DawkinsForegivness 2.16I’ll bet there are folks out there who see this graphic (helpfully supplied by an Internet atheist community) and think “ya, why not just our forgive sins?” Maybe you’re one of those people.

First of all, I can confidently write that God is NOT trying to impress anyone. When you’re the creator of time, space and the universe, trying to impress anyone (even Himself) is just silly.

Second, this quote (by one of the world’s best-known atheists) displays a blatant ignorance — or outright rejection — of who God is.

Is God merciful? Yes. Does God want to forgive us for all the wrong things we’ve done and right things we’ve failed to do? Absolutely.

But God is also something else: perfect. And that’s His baseline standard for everything, whether we like it or not.

So why doesn’t He just forgive us? Well, why do we have courts? Why can’t we just ignore the dude who killed that guy in a bar fight? Why don’t we just overlook how she faked having cancer in order to bilk people out of thousands of dollars?

If these examples offend your sense of justice, then imagine how our creator feels about  our greed, our self-centredness, our violence, our willful ignorance and our cultural belief that we “deserve” the good life.

Is God judge and jury? You bet He is. Execution victim? Yes, that too.

If that last point seems strange, then understand that this is how it goes with Christianity: Knowing that we could never do enough or be enough to earn our way into Heaven, God paved the way for us. That way is through believing in and following Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son (and also God in the flesh, but that’s a blog for another day).

A section of the Bible, called ‘1 Peter’, describes Jesus this way: “He never sinned, and he never told a lie”. This is important and you’ll soon read why.

Jesus spent three years traveling around the Middle East with a band of followers, telling people the Kingdom of God (represented by Him) was near. He proved it by healing diseases, raising people from the dead and preaching revolutionary ideas like loving your enemies, refusing to retaliate when a wrong has been done to you and praying for those who hate you.

Then Jesus allowed conniving religious authorities to arrest him on trumped-up charges and convince political leaders to hand Him the ultimate punishment: death on a cross.

What they didn’t realize is that this death would pave the way to Heaven for anyone who believes in and follows Jesus. He paid the price that we should be paying.

Now, when God sees any Jesus follower, He doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. He only sees perfection. It’s like Jesus transferred His perfection onto anyone who believes in Him and follows Him.

There. I’ve done my best to explain why God doesn’t just forgive our sins. As you can see, He goes even further than that — sacrificing His son for everyone who believes in Jesus.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Judgement:anger 1.16So, are there “religious” people out there who cast their anger and judgement on those who don’t believe in their “religion”? Absolutely.

The easiest example I can think of are radical Islamic terrorists. These religious people appear to be overflowing with judgement and anger.

But what about people of faith, like me, who deeply dislike “religion” (read here to find out why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-i9), but want you to fully understand what we believe in and why?

I’m a Christian, which means I follow Jesus Christ. Serious Christians believe Jesus is God’s divine and perfect Son, and an extraordinary gift to every human being. The only thing needed is to accept that gift.

In examining myself, I can’t find any judgement or anger at people who reject that gift. And that includes every member of my biological family.

Instead, what I experience is immense sadness. Why? Because basic Christianity says every person who ever was, is and will be is hugely imperfect. We’ve missed the mark on being the kind of people God designed us to be. Indeed, we miss that mark daily and  in ways we can’t even see.

God doesn’t miss the mark. Never has, never will. And that’s the standard He sets for us. And before you angrily declare that’s an impossible standard to meet, let me wholeheartedly agree with you. Absolutely impossible.

Still, when this life is over, we’ll be called to stand before our maker and try to explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. And we will fail. Spectacularly.

That’s where Jesus comes in. The most important part of the Christian faith is a belief that Jesus took on all the sins of those who believe in him and paid the price for those sins by dying on a Roman cross.

Jesus, who never did a single wrong thing, accepted the judgement and the penalty that every person who believes in Him (like me) deserved. In doing so, those of us who follow Jesus have nothing to account for. In God’s eyes we’re snow-white perfect.

See? The judgment doesn’t come from me or any other Christian. It comes from the God of the universe.

So why do I experience immense sadness? Because most people (including my brothers and their families, plus our parents) walk away from that gift. They’ve swallowed our culture’s propaganda, that we’re all pretty much OK and if there’s a God, He’ll let us into Heaven just ‘cause, you know, we’re all pretty much OK.

Everyone who believes what our culture says WON’T be snow-white perfect when they stand before their maker. And instead of spending eternity in Heaven, they will be judged as not worthy. And they’ll spend forever separated from God. And sadly, that includes my biological family.

There’s nothing oppressive in this. Our creator is a just God, not an inflatable Homer Simpson lawn decoration. And yet a section of the Bible called ‘2 Peter’ notes “God is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End [of the world] because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

The best way to change is to follow Jesus and the best time is NOW. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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BuyingIntoHeaven 7.15No doubt about it; Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and uber-billionaire Bill Gates has done a lot of amazing things in his years on this planet.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he’s given away $28 billion (almost half of his total wealth) since 2007.  That money has gone to improving education, providing medical aid for millions of children, upgrading water/sanitation in the developing world and much more.

Along the way, Gates has persuaded other billionaires, such as Warren Buffett, to similarly dedicate massive amounts of their personal wealth to charity.

In short, this guy ROCKS.

So what about the graphic (found in an Internet atheism community) that inspired me to write this essay?

I did some research; after reading several interviews, it seems Gates can best be described as agnostic. That means he declares that he simply doesn’t know if there’s a God.

So, is Bill Gates going to hell, as this graphic suggests? The simple answer for me is: I don’t know.

As a follower of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s Son), I DO know that giving $28 billion or $280 billion to charity is not the ticket to Heaven. No one can buy eternal life with God. It’s not for sale.

Indeed, a section of the Bible called ‘Ephesians’ says “Your salvation doesn’t come from anything you do. It is God’s gift. It is not based on anything you have done. No one can brag about earning it.

On the other hand, having faith in Jesus and doing nothing about it isn’t going to go over well, either.

A section of the Bible called ‘James’ put it this way: “Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I don’t know where that leaves someone like Bill Gates. After all, despite his “God-acts” he is not (and never will be) anywhere close to perfect.

For example, under his leadership the United States government took Microsoft to court over anti-competitive business practices. Despite Gates’ testimony, the company lost. In addition, while Gates was chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft lost another major anti-competition court case, this time to the European Union.

But never mind Bill. What about YOU? You can’t buy your way into Heaven, so how does your behaviour stack up? Examine it with cold, hard realism. Can you defend and account for every wrong thing you’ve done and every right thing you’ve failed to do?

If you’re like me, you can’t. But by believing in Jesus Christ and following Him, you don’t have to. He’s the gift that gives you eternal life. How about giving Him serious consideration?

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Jennifer Fulwiler atheism ChristianityFor life-long atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, the pivotal moment came when she held her first child for the first time.

“I looked down and thought ‘what is this baby’?” she recalled in a YouTube video. “From a pure atheist, materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions.

“I realized if that’s true, then all the love I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. I looked down at him and I realized, ‘that’s not true’. It’s not the truth.”

Jennifer went on to research the world’s major faiths, but considered Christianity not worth the bother. Then her husband suggested she investigate Christianity because one of its most significant claims — that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh — would be easy to disprove if it wasn’t true.

So she did. Jennifer discovered a world of deeply intellectual thinkers (like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo) who were also serious Jesus followers.

Men like them made such a compelling, reason-based case for the life, death and resurrection of Christ that, in Jennifer’s words, “I started to think something world-changing happened in first-century Palestine.”

Jennifer realized that atheists “don’t have the lock on reason that I thought. Christians had all the knowledge of science, but they have the total picture of the human experience — love and triumph and hope. Christians could articulate that in a way that atheists couldn’t.”

The result of all this is Jennifer went from denying there is a creator, to becoming a serious follower of the man that most Christians know is the Son of God.

Why do all this? Let me make it clear that following Jesus can be hard, especially when most of the world (sometimes including your family and friends) doesn’t follow Him and you can be mocked or even disowned for your beliefs.

As far as I’m concerned, the upside more than compensates. When I decided to follow Jesus, little things immediately changed (I stopped cursing and swearing) and bigger things followed (my wife and I have a firm commitment to donate regularly to charities and to our church).

In other words, like me, you’ll get a new perspective on life. The holy grails of our culture — gaining power and prestige, buying a bigger house, going on expensive cruises, having the latest iPhone — will start to look shallow and pointless.

You’ll start living for the approval of your creator, who the Bible says “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in his Son would not be lost, but have eternal life.”

And as you start living for God and start attending a church regularly, you’ll be surrounded by others who are also in the midst of being transformed by following Jesus.

Finally, when this life is over, you’ll have real and solid hope that you won’t become nothing more than rancid worm food. You’ll become a citizen of Heaven.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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13+-+1-5I love this challenging quote. At the same time, I’m mystified as to why atheists consider it so credible, given that it was spoken by a man (definitely a brilliant man) who died in 1931. It’s hardly a stretch to write that there’s been a whole lot of research done since then.

Without getting into boring details of studies and terminologies (anyone who needs that stuff can certainly find it online), I’ll toss out a few interesting tidbits.

On life after death: In 1991, Pam Reynolds had a near-death experience while undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm.

Reynolds was kept literally brain-dead by the surgical team for 45 minutes. Despite being clinically dead, when Reynolds was resuscitated, she described some amazing things — like interacting with deceased relatives.

According to Time magazine, as many as 18 percent of people brought back from death after a heart attack said they’d had a near-death experience.

On the existence of Heaven: In 2008, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III suffered an E coli meningitis infection which attacked his brain and plunged him deep into a week-long coma. Brain scans showed that his entire cortex was not functioning.

Against all odds, Mr. Alexander woke up a week later. And he claimed to have experienced something extraordinary: a journey to Heaven.

In his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, he asserts that there is an eternity of perfect splendor awaiting us beyond the grave, complete with angels, clouds, and departed relatives.

On a personal God: The Internet is overflowing with blogs and articles from people who have experienced God in an intimate, personal way. So I’ll contribute two quotes:

  • “God even knows how many hairs you have on your head” (from one of the original source documents on the life of Jesus of Nazareth – even my wife, who knows me better than anyone, can’t make that claim).
  • “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I knew you” (passed along by an ancient prophet).

Granted, none of this is the scientific proof that many people demand. But let’s be honest: the creator and master of time, space and universe, who’s responsible for the air you are breathing right now, will ALWAYS be beyond proving or disproving.

God will ALWAYS be past our ability to fully comprehend. Looking for a metaphor? It would be like asking a porcupine to understand the theory of relativity.

So let’s look beyond this to what we CAN understand:

1. God created YOU.

2. God wants to have a personal, eternal relationship with YOU, but there’s a barrier in the way: the wrong things you’ve done (including living your life as if He doesn’t exist) and the right things you haven’t done.

3. You can never do enough to make up for the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you haven’t done.

4. You don’t have to. Jesus, who many people believe is God’s son, did the heavy lifting for you when he died to make up for the moral crimes of everyone who accepts Him and believes in Him.

5. All you need to do is accept the gift of Jesus; make Him your lord and saviour, so you can see your life transformed NOW and have eternal life with Him.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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