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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nicodemus – Part 3

     Nicodemus had witnessed Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. He saw Jesus heal the sick and comfort and feed the poor. Nicodemus knew that what Jesus was doing were some of what the prophets of old had prophesied. Only One with authority from heaven could cleanse the House of God and perform such miracles. Nicodemus also knew that throughout scripture, God’s people were taken captive by other nations when they went against God. God’s people were now under the rule of the Romans. All these things stirred Nicodemus’ heart to hear more from Jesus.
            Knowing Nicodemus’ dedicated life in service to God and his study of the scriptures, Jesus didn’t directly answer Nicodemus’ question about being born anew. Nicodemus is looking through “natural” eyes, but Jesus is teaching a “spiritual” truth. The “natural” person cannot understand the “spiritual” unless they are born of the Spirit. Instead of responding directly to Nicodemus’ question about being born anew, Jesus went right to the heart. The Jewish religious leaders believed that strict adherence to the Law would entitle them to a place in heaven. Jesus is upending this premise with His words. In the minds of humanity, Nicodemus who was an honored and renowned servant of God and His Law would certainly be welcomed into God’s spiritual kingdom, but Jesus is spiritual and is teaching spiritual truth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Jesus really isn’t saying anything new. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had prophesied that God said His people needed a new heart and a new Spirit and He would give both to them. (see Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 36:26-27)  
No human can earn a place in heaven. Like Nicodemus, next to Jesus all of humanity is unclean and unholy. Only a Holy One could atone for the sin of humanity by His grace. And only the Holy One can give the Holy Spirit of God. It is the pure blood of Jesus shed on the cross that atones for all sin. It is the resurrection power of Jesus that gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Him. Jesus is teaching this to Nicodemus. He wants Nicodemus to understand Jesus’ heart and mission. Jesus’ anointed Truth is beginning to penetrate Nicodemus’ mind. The seed of truth has been planted. God will help it grow. Unlike the other religious leaders, Nicodemus continued to watch and listen to Jesus’ words, actions and deeds. No doubt Nicodemus remembered the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel which kept him listening to Jesus.
Jesus gives Nicodemus another example in the Older Testament that Nicodemus would be familiar with – Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus will compare this event to Himself.

Moses and the Serpent on the Pole – John 3:14
Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” John 3:14
            The whole Truth could not be known until Jesus because He is the whole of Truth. God revealed his plan of salvation and deliverance through His Son Jesus in types and shadows in the Older Testament. Moses and the serpent on the pole are a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do in the spiritual.

Numbers 21:4-9
       God’s people have been traveling through the desert. They became discouraged and impatient because it was taking so long to reach their destination – the Promised Land. The people began to murmur and complain against God’s provision of the manna and water and His chosen and anointed servant Moses. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this horrible food!” Numbers 21:5 Their ingratitude toward God and their attack upon God’s anointed one opened the door for the work of the devil. In the New Testament a similar thing happened. The Pharisees, Sadducees and members of the Sanhedrin Council also loathed Jesus, the Anointed Bread and the water sent from heaven to feed the spiritual hunger and thirst of God’s people. Jesus is the Manna of heaven and the Rock that sent the water of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees like the Jews in the wilderness spoke against God’s Anointed One – Jesus. There is a consequence in touching God’s anointed ones. God says in scripture, “Touch not My anointed ones and do My prophets no harm.” (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 104:15)
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes (a brood of vipers) among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. V6 God sent Divine judgment through the brood of vipers. When God’s people reject God’s provision and speak against His anointed ones, God acts. There was no way God’s wrath could be reversed except through confession, repentance, intercession, faith and obedience to God’s Word.  Jesus did all of this for us. His blood reversed the curse for sin. When we confess our sin and repent, Jesus forgives our sin. He is our Mediator and Intercessor before the Father.
The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. V6-7 The people confessed their sin against God and Moses. Then they asked Moses to be their mediator and intercessor before God. He did so because they had confessed and repented of their sin. (Moses is a type and shadow of Christ as the Servant-Ruler, Lawgiver, Mediator and Intercessor between God and His people)
God honored the intercession of His chosen, anointed servant Moses and told Moses what to do to deliver and heal His people. “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” Numbers 21:8-9 The Hebrew word for pole is nec meaning banner, standard or a sign. God is telling Moses to make an image of what is killing His people and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Moses had faith in God and obeyed His instruction. Why a bronze serpent? Bronze is the metal of sin and judgment. The serpent represents sin and the devil. This was a fiery serpent! The devil is going to end up in a lake of fire in the end. God was telling the Israelites to look at the source of their pain and sin, turn from it and they will be healed and live. In other words, “look, turn and live!” The poison of sin fueled by the serpent (devil) brings spiritual death, not spiritual life.  All of humanity are born with the serpentine nature (sin) because of the original sin in the Holy Garden of God in Genesis. We are all descended from Adam, so we all must look at the fact that we are all sinners. God wants us to look at our sin and its source, not ignore it.  Then turn from our sin and be spiritually alive.
            Those bitten by the snakes on the ground must “look up” for their deliverance and healing. This was a physical healing. The healing power wasn’t in the serpent; it was God working and showing His people the cause of their pain. Recognizing this, they were healed and turned their thoughts and lives back to God.

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up
        Jesus is using the lifting up of the serpent on a pole to teach Nicodemus about His eternal salvation and deliverance which gives eternal spiritual life and healing. The Israelites were saved and received physical healing, restoration and life by looking up to the bronze serpent on a pole. In the New Testament Jesus was lifted up on the cross to save us from eternal spiritual death. Moses’ faith and obedience to God’s Word brought physical healing and deliverance to those who looked at the serpent on the pole. Jesus’ faith and obedience to God even unto death on the cross brought eternal spiritual deliverance, eternal spiritual healing and eternal spiritual life to all who believe in His finished work on the cross. Jesus also suffered and died to give us victory over the serpent and his poisonous bites (sin). The serpent had his head crushed by Jesus on the cross in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Unfortunately, the serpent is still active in the hearts and minds of humans through our fleshly nature until Jesus destroys the devil and his demonic host forever in the lake of fire in the belly of the earth. (see Revelation 20:10-15) Until then, Jesus has given us the power of the Holy Spirit and Truth to ward off the attacks of the enemy of the souls of humanity.
As you may recall, John the Baptist and Jesus called the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed them a “brood of vipers.” (see Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33) Instead of accepting Jesus, they were always nipping at His heels (Genesis 3:15) to prove Him wrong. As the teachers of Israel, these religious leaders were keeping God’s people from the Truth and the Messiah. The venom (untruth and hatred) of this “brood of vipers” was preventing people from receiving eternal life.  Many Israelites would remain dead in sin because these religious leaders talked and fought against Jesus instead of leading the Jews to Him for eternal life. The Romans (gentiles) also nipped at Jesus’ heels keeping people from coming to Jesus for eternal life. Keep in mind that Nicodemus is a Pharisee! Jesus using this event in the Older Testament must have troubled Nicodemus. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the devil will continually nip at your heels to keep you from receiving all that God has provided through His chosen and precious Son Jesus. Rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit and Word to defeat the wiles of the devil, just as Jesus did. The ways of Jesus are the antidote to the ways of the devil. Jesus provided the Way, the Truth and the Life. The power of His blood and resurrection will breathe new life in the Spirit and in Truth into us.
            Jesus became a curse for us. (see Galatians 3:13) He was made sin on our behalf. (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) He bore our sins in His body. (see 1 Peter 2:4) Jesus came in the likeness of flesh but He had no sin. No other human can make this claim. Therefore, God had to send His Holy Son to save, deliver, heal and give us the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat sin and the devil. The work of the bronze serpent was temporary, but Jesus’ work on the cross is permanent and eternal. Jesus became the bronze serpent for us. Just as the vipers poisoned the disobedient Israelites, all of humanity is poisoned by sin. The cross of Jesus Christ is God’s emblem of freedom from sin and Divine judgment for sin. Jesus bore the wrath of God for sin for us. Because of Jesus, God is for us, not against us.
            Jesus is our banner/standard. God wants His people to allow the Word and the Holy Spirit to put our sinful flesh to death so we will walk in the abundant spiritual life and glory that Jesus’ death on the cross provides. Every sinner’s destiny is based upon his or her response to God and His Word. Those who respond to Jesus who is the Word of God and obey it will be healed and receive eternal life. God illustrated what happens when His people reject God’s provision. Jesus is the Bread and Water of Life. Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty…..it was not Moses who has given you the bread of heaven, but it is My Heavenly Father who give you the true bread of heaven, for the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” The Jews pretty much idolized Moses. Jesus is saying that it wasn’t Moses but God who sent the bread of heaven. Jesus is the Living Bread of God sent from God. The manna in the wilderness in the Older Testament maintained physical life, but Jesus, the spiritual Bread of heaven, maintains eternal spiritual life.
            Moses lifted up the serpent of judgment and condemnation, but Jesus was lifted up not to condemn and judge, but to save and show us the unfailing, undying love of the Father through Him. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” V18 Jesus wanted Nicodemus and us to understand this. Jesus is God’s gift to mankind, but a gift is not a gift until it is received and opened.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Nicodemus -- Part 2

Flesh and Spirit
            Jesus goes on to say to Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” V6 Human life comes from our human parents, but spiritual life comes from God, Jesus (Word) and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s compare a “natural” birth to the “supernatural” birth.

Natural Birth
In the “natural,” the father’s seed unites with the mother’s egg. The egg must be fertilized by the father’s seed (sperm cell) first. The two unite and are sealed off in the protective place of the mother’s womb so no other sperm can fertilize it. In the protected womb of the mother, it grows and matures until birth when it breaks forth as a new creation – new life -- into a new world.

Spiritual Birth
Spiritual birth is similar to natural birth. Spiritual life begins at the joining of the Seed of God/Jesus with a human. Jesus, the Word-- seed of God -- took on flesh in the womb of a virgin Jewish woman. Christ is the only One begotten by the Father in heaven and united directly to a human womb. No other in heaven or on earth has been born of a virgin with God as Father.  
After the uniting of Jesus, the Seed of God with us, we are “set apart” in the protective place of the Father in the womb of His Bride – His Church. There we are fed, nurtured and hopefully protected from false doctrine. Just as “natural” birth is a process over time, "spiritual" birth is a process over time. We are born again as spiritual infants. We are in the process of becoming sons and daughters of God who reflect His character and love. We grow and mature spiritually into “new” spiritual creations as we are fed and led.
The Seed of God – the Word/Jesus – still takes on our flesh and its ways so we will walk in His ways to the glory of God.
·     We are “raised up” by the power of the Holy Spirit and Word into new, resurrection life glory by glory.
·       We develop into a “higher” spiritual being in Christ.
·    At death, we break forth into a new heavenly world in our resurrected bodies and are a complete, holy, spiritual being under a Divine spiritual government – the Kingdom of God.
·      Flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God. (see 1 Corinthians 15:50) Our flesh will be changed in the blink of an eye into spirit.
 Our new life in Christ comes from a change in our heart, not through keeping rules and regulations. This change of heart is not an improvement on our fleshly life; it comes from a continual and complete change of heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and Word. Our changed lives will reflect the beauty, glory and holiness of God.
At creation in the beginning of Genesis, God said that all were to reproduce according to its kind. The same is true between the flesh and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh.
·    When we operate through our carnal nature, we are giving birth to the flesh and its desires and giving victory to the devil.
·   When we operate according to the Holy Spirit of God and His Word, we are giving birth to our spirit man and giving victory to the Godhead over the devil.
The carnal nature cannot defeat a spiritual devil, nor can it give us new spiritual life. The devil is a spiritual being, therefore, only a spiritual being can defeat Him. Jesus gave us the victory on the cross, but the devil is still warring against us until all evil is removed in the new earth and the new heaven. Until then, we war against the devil who works through our flesh and its ways that are contrary to God’s ways. Both Jesus and the devil who are both spiritual need a body to work through. Those who love and follow Jesus and walk in His ways will defeat the devil and his ways. Those who don’t will continue to be used by the evil one to accomplish his purposes of death and destruction. Jesus wants to raise us up into the highest place in the spiritual realm with Him. The devil wants to take us down into the lowest part of the earth which is his end.
God wants those who love Him to reflect His character, beauty, glory and heart as Jesus did.

The First Adam and Woman
When Adam and the Woman disobeyed God, they died spiritually not physically until hundreds of years later. Adam, when he was created by the Godhead, was Divine. He was without sin and clothed in God’s glory until sin entered. Then Adam and the woman out of shame hid from God among the trees in the Garden and were ultimately removed from God's holy presence..
All humans are also dead in sin because we are descendants of the first man and woman. The only One who was not born in sin was Jesus because He is the holy Seed of God not man. No man had anything to do with Jesus’ conception and birth. God had to fix the sin and death problem, so the Holy Spirit planted the Word of God (Jesus) into a Jewish virgin. Why a Jewish woman? Because God began the establishment of His earthly kingdom through the nation of Israel and gave them the Law that made a provision to atone for their sins yearly until the pure, perfect One came to atone for sin once for all and eternally.
         God shaped and formed a perfect, holy man in Adam. Therefore, only a perfect, holy Man could atone for the first Adam’s original sin. And only a Perfect Man born through the Jews could fulfill the Law perfectly for all and its penalty of death for disobedience.  Even though the Second Adam Jesus took on flesh through the Jewish virgin, He never lost His holiness and glory because He was without sin and was in a womb that no flesh or seed of man had touched. Her womb was pure. It is also interesting to note that Jesus also was laid in a tomb at His death that no dead flesh had touched. This had to be because Jesus is holy even in His flesh body.

Jesus Compares the Holy Spirit with the Wind
            Jesus sees that Nicodemus is still confused so He gives him another example: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Vv8-9 Only the water and blood of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, can bring our spirit to life. Like the Holy Spirit, you can see the effects of the wind but you cannot see it. We know that the Holy Spirit works on a human’s heart, but we don’t know the exact time or place a change occurs because the Spirit is continually working on the hearts of those who love and follow Jesus. When a person surrenders to the Godhead, a “new” person is being created in His image – a new creation!  What we begin here on earth is just the beginning of salvation and being newly creation. The final result will be in the spiritual kingdom for all eternity.

Jesus Corrects Nicodemus
            Nicodemus is still stymied by Jesus’ words. Jesus says to him, “You are Israel’s teacher and do not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven – the Son of Man. John 3:10 – 15  In other words, Nicodemus is a renowned teacher and scholar of the Word, but He isn’t understanding the spiritual truths Jesus is speaking. It is my belief that Jesus using the word “we” was referring to the Father, Him and the Holy Spirit because although they are three parts of the same Godhead, they work in perfect harmony and agreement as One. They will never contradict one another because they are holy and truth.

The Law and the Spirit
Paul says in Galatians 5:16-18, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law.” Paul also says in Romans 8:2 that Christ Jesus through the law of the Spirit of life set us free from the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit fully operates in us when we commit to obey the Holy Spirit and the Word. What the Law was powerless to do, God did through His Son Jesus “that the Law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
The Law of the Older Testament was fully met in Jesus. He obeyed it perfectly and completely once-for-all. He met it for us. Then He gave us the power of the Holy Spirit within us to deliver us from sin’s power and lead us onward glory by glory to final glorification in Christ. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.” Romans 8:5-6  The sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:8) It brings sin and spiritual death.
In Genesis at creation, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters almost in a birthing position to bring about a “new” creation with the Father and the Word (Jesus). The Holy Spirit is not only within us when we accept the Incorruptible Seed of God Jesus, He is also hovering over us to birth new spiritual life into us making us “new creations.” God’s ways don’t change!
The Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God still take on our flesh as they dwell within us. God wants us to be born a spiritual being through His Son and His righteousness with the power of the Holy Spirit. “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10 1 Peter 1:23 shows us that we are born again by the Incorruptible Seed of the Word of God (Jesus). Evidence of our “new” birth will be seen in our changed lives. Jesus and the Holy Spirit came to give us resurrected life now. The Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead wants to also raise us from the deadness of our fleshly nature so we will live by being led by the Holy Spirit. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.” Romans 8:5-6 I Why does God want us to be changed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit? “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:14 In other words, we are God’s children. We are like Him. We are born into a spiritual family.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nicodemus - John 3

         Jesus will use Older Testament scripture to teach Nicodemus, the Jewish teacher, Pharisee and member of the ruling Sanhedrin Council. He was rich, educated and an honored teacher of the Older Testament. As a teacher of the Older Testament Word, Nicodemus would be familiar with this event in Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus will compare this event to Himself.

       The whole Truth could not be known until Jesus because He is the whole of Truth. God revealed his plan of salvation and deliverance through His Son Jesus in types and shadows in the Older Testament. Moses and the serpent on the pole are a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do.

         The Pharisees took pride in their “good deeds” and “good life.” This isn’t enough! Only the blood of Jesus can save us from our sin. The pride of these religious leaders hindered their search for the truth.
         For a renowned teacher like Nicodemus to approach Jesus, an unknown teacher, would make him subject to ridicule and criticism by the other rabbis and religious rulers. Because of this, Nicodemus went to Jesus in darkness. We all come to Jesus in the darkness of sin.
       When the Sanhedrin Council discussed Jesus, Nicodemus suggested caution. Most Jewish priests and rulers hated Jesus but Nicodemus had studied the Older Testament prophecies regarding Messiah and thought that Jesus just might be the One the prophesies spoke of.  If Jesus was a prophet sent by God, Nicodemus warned that it would be disastrous to reject God’s messenger.
         Nicodemus went to the Mount of Olives to find Jesus. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus many times went to commune with the Lord and His disciples. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you must have been sent by God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.” Note that Nicodemus didn’t refer to Jesus as Messiah, but teacher. Jesus didn’t respond to Nicodemus’ statement. Instead, Jesus, who is all-knowing looked at Nicodemus’ heart and saw that he was sincerely looking for truth, so Jesus spoke truth to him.

Born Again

          Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom.” V3  In essence, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he needs a new heart and a new life from above. The New Birth is a spiritual one. Nicodemus needs to be born spiritually from above through Jesus and the Holy Spirit before he can fully understand the spiritual realm. Jeremiah had prophesied that God would give His people a new heart, and Ezekiel said that God would give His people Israel a new heart, and a new Spirit. (see Jeremiah 29:13; 32:39-41; Exekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) Our human hearts are naturally evil, and there is no human cure for this. Only a spiritual cure can change our condition.

           Notice that Jesus started His responses to Nicodemus with “I tell you the truth.”  Jesus is the Truth, so He speaks pure Truth. He came from the spiritual realm so He can speak of what He knows and has seen in the spiritual realm.
           Jesus and the Holy Spirit are working on Nicodemus’ heart, but he doesn’t know it yet. It is the Holy Spirit that gives spiritual birth to our spirit. God is Spirit, so in order to enter the Kingdom of God, our spirit must be united to God’s Holy Spirit and Son. And, because God is Spirit, we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Without new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, one cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is spiritual. Jesus and the Holy Spirit paved a way to come into the presence of God for a prepared people. 
         Nicodemus, who is looking with natural eyes, asks Jesus a question. “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.” V4 Again, Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter God’s kingdom.” V5 We are born naturally through the water and blood of our mother’s womb. We are born spiritually through the water of the Word/Jesus and His blood that flowed out of the wound in His side on the cross. Our mother labors for our natural birth, but Jesus labored on the cross for our spiritual, eternal birth.
        Every Jew and Gentile must be washed by water cleansing of all their past sins and be born again through the blood of Jesus and the water of the Word and Holy Spirit. The life of our physical body is in the blood and water. The life of our spiritual body is in the blood of Jesus and the water of the Anointed Word – Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and Word will transition us from our life of sin to a new life of loving obedience to the Godhead and His Word.
         It is impossible for one who is not born of the Spirit to understand the fullness of Truth (Jesus).  Nicodemus didn’t understand Jesus’ words of truth but he is seeking the truth. Jesus will continue to teach him. By one Spirit, we are baptized into one Body—whether Jew or Gentile. (see 1 Corinthians 12:13) The power of the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit will bring us to the knowledge of the Truth and will help us grow spiritually. Our desire will be to love and please God and avoid and defeat evil within and without. The Kingdom of God is where God’s will is done completely and perfectly. Citizens of God’s Kingdom will be willingly submitted to Him and be willingly obedient to God and His will.
          Jesus and the Holy Spirit must take possession of our hearts and minds. Because the written Word was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit helps us know and understand the Word. Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of Truth – Holy Spirit – would:

·         Dwell with us and within us – John 14:17
                              ·         Will testify of Christ – John 15:26
                              ·         Guide us into all Truth – John 16:13
(to be continued)