Believing and Receiving

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“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:10-13, NIV)

Over the years, I’ve been learning there’s a huge difference between believing in God and living like I believe God.

This truth has reached a too-close-for-comfort personal level during my healing journey. There have been days when dealing with the physical or emotional pain and battling frustration, discouragement, fears, and doubt felt unbearable. There have been days when my attitude and my response to life’s circumstances have been less than desirable, and far from godly.

I’m choosing to surrender to Jesus because I’ve been given a glimpse of His glory, His goodness and His grace. I’m choosing to submit to Him because I know I can’t save myself, change myself, or carry myself through times of suffering or affliction.

But I can’t depend on Christ, I can’t know Him or love Him or obey Him, if I haven’t received Him as my personal Lord and Savior first.

The Bible tells us simply believing that Jesus is God isn’t enough. During Jesus’s earthly ministry, the demons recognized Jesus and knew the magnitude of His power. Though they did not honor Him as their personal Lord, they couldn’t deny or escape His might or authority.

Believing in God the Father is an important step. Believing in God the Son is a vital step that can’t be skipped. But God requires and offers so much more when He invites believers into a personal relationship through the Person of Christ, not the concept of a Savior, by the power of the Spirit.

When we simply stop at believing, we can unintentionally settle for lives stunted by the habit of walking by half-faith.

This is not a new obstacle faced by God’s people.

The Old Testament Jews believed in the promise of the Messiah and fully expected God’s prophecies to be fulfilled. The religious leaders boasted about their pious lives. Strict in tradition and ceremony, they diligently memorized and espoused the Law. One would think their knowledge of God would have increased their ability to recognize and submit to the promised Messiah.

God enabled some of the Pharisees to acknowledge how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But believing Jesus was the Messiah wasn’t enough then and it’s not enough now.

Many self-proclaimed Christians, who truly believe in God and acknowledge Jesus is God in the flesh and Savior of the world, haven’t received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and aren’t living as people who’ve been given the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we miss the crucial step from believing to receiving, we can become modern day Pharisees.

It’s dangerously possible to believe in God and not know Him, to serve in ministries faithfully while remaining self-reliant, self-centered, and self-serving.

When Jesus is our personal Lord, He is the only One allowed to rule, which means we ask Him to empower us to obey Him not our fleshly desires.

When Jesus is our personal Savior, we acknowledge He is the only One capable of saving us, which means we depend on God’s power, not will power or self-help.

Total dependence on and surrender to God does not mean we won’t struggle or suffer on this side of eternity.

The Lord knows our flesh is prone to wandering onto the path of pride, disobedience, and self-indulgence. He knows we’ll be tempted to insist on relief from pain or hardship. He knows we’re vulnerable to physical and mental sicknesses. He knows we’re susceptible to returning to the shackles of sin.

Our many weaknesses only confirm our desperate need for our perfect Savior.

When we believe in Jesus, we’re given the gift of the Holy Spirit. But we have to personally receive the Holy Spirit in order for us to be empowered by Him.

We access God’s power by asking to receive His power and believing we’ll receive His power to obey His Word.

My healing journey has helped me grasp this concept on a more personal level.

I can believe the medicine my doctor gives me works. But if I refuse to take that medicine into my body and follow the instructions the physician orders, the medicine can’t do what it was designed to do.

I can believe God exists and even believe His plan is perfect and His power is limitless. But I don’t have the ability to live like I believe His words, His love, His grace, and His promises are meant for me personally if I don’t receive His Spirit. I must submit and surrender to the Holy Spirit if I’m going to allow Him to help me follow His instructions.

Here’s the catch. I can’t submit or surrender to Him in my own strength. So, I ask Him to help me do this on a daily basis, sometimes on an hourly basis.

Believing begins with the knowledge of the facts transformed to faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Receiving is a commitment to an ongoing love dance with the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead as He enables us to live for God no matter how costly the personal stakes.

God remains true to His faithfulness, even when our humanity proves us faulty.

All we have to do is ask and He’ll help us believe and receive Him. But we can’t skip the step of receiving God’s power through the Holy Spirit, if we want to live in accordance to His will and trust Him to keep His Word, because He enables us to understand and believe that His Word is infallible.

Father God, thank You for making Yourself known through Jesus and the power of Your Holy Spirit. Please reveal when we’re stuck at believing in Your power instead of receiving Your power. Please help us stop trying to control our circumstances and our spiritual growth, instead of asking You to help us believe You, submit to You, and live for You as You change us and make us more like You. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Reflection: In what ways have you been blessed when you allowed the Holy Spirit to transform you, empower you, and deepen your faith in God during difficult times?

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Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “The Law in Jesus’ Hands,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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A Witness to the Light

meme-john-1-v-8-photo-by-cynthia-ruchti

“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9, NIV)

I’d done it again. I’d failed to be a good witness testifying about “the Light” who had given me a new life, a life that proved no one was out of God’s loving reach.

Why should God keep welcoming me into His grace when I couldn’t always tame my ornery tongue? Why should the Lord give me more opportunities to serve Him when I struggled with controlling my temper, holding onto bitterness or unforgiveness, or slipping into old sinful attitudes?

Why? Because receiving God’s love and grace don’t depend on my earning ability.

I’m not the one people are supposed to be focused on. I’m not the one who began God’s good work in me. I certainly can’t be trusted with the ongoing process of changing my life so that I will reflect Christ.

I can’t change myself, or anyone else.

This truth becomes more evident and freeing the more I learn about God’s incredible love and grace, the more I surrender to His Spirit, and the more my Life Changer corrects my thinking and surprises me by helping me obey Him, a little bit more each day, even when my first response is to be stubborn, selfish, or self-reliant.

Determined to give God glory for what He’s done and is doing in and through my life, I long to point to Him without trying to run away from the testimony He’s given me, without trying to hide my failings or deny my weaknesses.

I have a new life in Christ and I want the world to know His hope is accessible to all who believe, all who repent and turn away from sin, all who confess Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

As I ask God to help me be a bold witness for Christ, I look to the apostle John who shares the story about John the Baptist, a man chosen and devoted to pointing people to Christ, the Messiah.

When I think of witnesses, I picture people who see something and share the details of what they saw with others. But the Greek word used in this verse is the same word from which martyr is derived. Martyria is a noun that means testimony and evidence.

In this New Testament context, to be a witness to the Light seems to require a personal encounter and sacrifice, not a second-hand description of an event that doesn’t impact the storyteller on an intimate level.

It’s clear John the Baptist had a defined purpose, too, a purpose shared by all followers of Christ. He testified “concerning the light, so that through him all might believe” (John 1:7, emphasis mine).

The Greek word used in John 1:7 incites a deep commitment.

Pisteuō means “to put one’s faith in, to trust with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow” (Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, emphasis mine).

Christ followers are called to action, to live like we believe what God says in His Holy Word.

But first, we must personally submit to the authority of the “true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:8).

The moment we profess Jesus as Lord, repent and turn away from our sins, and receive Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, every believer is given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, we will be able to live by the power of the Spirit and attest to the Light, who is and always will be Jesus.

Unfortunately, we often choose not to tap into God’s power in us.

It feels less risky, less weird, and certainly more acceptable and comfortable to rely on our own strength instead of God’s supernatural strength.

It seems more reasonable to muster up our will power and try to make changes in our thinking patterns, or to make better choices.

But eliciting our own life-transformation sabotages our relationship with God by sucking us into an insane cycle of self-destruction, aka self-help.

That crazy-train-to-nowhere-good thinking deceives us into believing we have the power to change ourselves by ourselves, if only we just try harder or work smarter, if only we muster up more than one mustard seed of faith, if only we use the “right words” in prayer or surround ourselves with the right people.

But when we admit the depth of our need for Christ, not just for the promise of eternal life but to live as His ambassadors and join His work each and every day on this side of eternity, we can invite Him to change us forever.

The Holy Spirit will help us trust God’s unchanging character, so that we can believe every God-breathed Word of Scripture taken within the context of His whole story.

Faith sprouts from our testimony, as we boldly share evidence of God’s grace in our lives, proof that we can be confident in God’s abilities, motives, faithfulness, and boundless love for us.

When we bow down in reverence to our Lord, admitting our weaknesses and accepting our total dependence on Him, He is the One who raises us up.

He cinches us to hope in this world until we meet Him face-to-face in eternity.

Through the Holy Spirit’s life-transforming power, we can submit to Him with loving obedience and live as His witnesses, His representatives, His worshippers, His servants, and His beloved children.

We can keep right on pointing to Jesus, grateful that our salvation and our success as His witnesses are not dependent on our strengths or weaknesses, but on His power, His goodness, and His endless love and grace.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for assuring us that we can’t possibly do Your job. Please help us allow You to be our Savior, instead of trying to save ourselves or others. Help us share the ways You’re working in and through the ordinary and extraordinary moments that make up our testimony, so that You can magnify the power of Your Holy Name. Thank You for the peace and hope that come from knowing we can do nothing apart from You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Why is it is sometimes difficult to admit our total need for Christ?

How has God used someone else’s testimony to help you believe in Him and His life-changing power?

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Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Believing and Receiving.” Together, we can continue to ask God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.

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MEME created by Xochitl E. Dixon with photo taken by and used with permission by author and speaker Cynthia Ruchti.

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Giving the Gift of God’s Word to Students in Chile: You Can Help!

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Have you been blessed by reading your Bible? Could you imagine not having access to a Bible?

As I celebrate my birthday in September, I’m thankful for the ways the Lord has changed my life through the power of His unchanging and infallible God-breathed words in Scripture.

I’m also thankful for the opportunities He’s giving me to share His truth and His love to the ends of the earth through the written word.

I’m especially excited about the privilege of serving as a contracted writer through the ministry of Our Daily Bread.

Wanting to thank God for His abundant blessings, I decided to give instead of receive gifts for my birthday this year.

So, how can one writer give in a way that impacts lives for years to come? By remembering God’s Word is the greatest gift we can give someone, and God’s children work best when they work together.

There are students in Chilé who need and want Bibles, but who cannot purchase them.

My writing and prayer partner Colleen Shine Phillips and her husband Steve have been serving as missionaries in Chilé for over 40 years through Christian World Mission.

They’ve helped establish Christian schools that the Lord is using to change the lives of students and their families.

This year, CWM would like help in distributing 100 Bibles each day for 100 days.

We need your help in praying for these students and in raising the funds to purchase Bibles that will be personally delivered to the students God has placed on the hearts of the CWM team.

Colleen will be sending me updates and photos of the kids as they receive our gifts. I’ll share them on my blog as we continue to pray for these students in South America.

A box of 28 Bibles costs $70.00, shipping and handling included.

CWM is praying they can distribute 360 boxes of Bibles to their students in Chilé.

That’s 10,080 Spanish New International Version Bibles placed into the hands of children, giving them the opportunity to seek to know God personally.

Hallelujah!

Would you consider praying with us and donating at least $2.50 to provide one Bible for a child?

Would you give $5.00 to bless two children, or $10.00 to place God’s Word in the hands of four children in Chilé?

There is no donation too small or too large.

Together, we can share the gift of God’s Holy Word with children in South America.

I will collect donations and mail them in one package to Colleen on September 15, 2016.

Please make checks or money orders payable to Christian World Mission, with “Bibles” noted in the memo section. You can send your donations with notes of encouragement and prayers to:

Xochitl E. Dixon

P.O. Box 1168

Suisun City, CA 94585

Include your name and address, so that you can receive a receipt for your tax deductible donation.

Thank you for your prayers and for blessing these students with Bibles they would not be able to afford without our help.

In His service,

Xochitl E. Dixon

Please take a moment to pray for Christian World Mission and visit their website to find out more about what God is doing in and through this ministry.

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Life in the Word

 

MEME - John 1 v. 4

Tears streaked my cheeks as my husband drove me home. I tuned out his words of encouragement, struggling to swallow the discussion we’d just had with my doctor. Slipping deeper into a pit of discouragement, I offered my spouse a chance to opt out. He hadn’t signed up for a lifetime of caregiving. And that’s exactly what I could be facing.

Four years after my doctor diagnosed an injury in my upper thoracic back that originally occurred in 1992, years of over compensation resulted in damage to both shoulders and my neck. After multiple procedures and multiple “second opinions,” the doctors suggested a string of procedures to help manage pain. Nothing more, at this time.

Though my mobility has improved over the last four years, and I’m able to serve God through writing (Hallelujah!), during that drive home my hope lost its foundation.

I focused on dashed hopes for a cure, the risks in surgery outweighing the possibility of relief, facing the fact that this could be my life.

I didn’t like it. At all.

My husband comforted me until he had to leave for work, leaving me alone to process the stages of grief.

I processed like a psalmist.

I cried, pouted, pleaded for mercy. I asked God why, how long, and even begged Him to take me home.

I continued to throw a hissy fit, snuggling up with self-pity and drowning in despair. But by His wonderful grace, the Lord waited patiently.

The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart, gently turning my focus from the god of comfort to my God and Creator.

When I finally opened my Bible, prayerfully seeking to meet my Lord face-to-face in the Gospel of John as a string of praise and worship songs played in the background, God wrapped me in His truth.

Jesus is the Word (John 1:1).

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5).

In Jesus was zōē, both physical and spiritual life.

In him . . .” Not apart from Him, beside Him, or around Him.

Jesus is the life, the source of life, the maker and sustainer of life, not just an example of the way Christians should live.

There is no life apart from Him.

Yet, I pouted.

I allowed the possibility of living with chronic pain to determine the value of my life.

I failed to acknowledge that the quality of my life is not, and never will be, determined by my circumstances or my feelings.

I forgot that, as a follower of Christ, the life I should desire is rooted in Christ, devoted to Christ, purposed for Christ, and abundant through Christ.

“. . . and that life was the light of men.”

My life in Christ, by His power and mercy, could be a light for others, a shining example of hope for others.

Why? How?

Because my hope remains secure in the Light of the World, even as I process my emotions and endure the sufferings and afflictions that can affect life on this side of eternity.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’” (1 John 1:5-7, NIV)

My sin had me walking in darkness. My sins?

Pride and idolatry.

Pride, thinking God owed me comfort and relief.

Idolatry, placing my wants over God’s purpose.

Pride, believing I deserved a life without suffering.

Idolatry, believing a good God would never allow me, his precious daughter, to endure pain.

Pride, actually believing my measure of faith is based on my power, or that my ability or inability to trust Him could ever determine God’s limitless power and abilities.

When I allow pride and idolatry to lead me, I live as if God’s goodness is determined through how many times I get my way, or how often He saves me from pain, grief, struggle, and even the consequences of my own sins.

I had been treating God like a vending machine, a tool to make me happy or satisfy my flesh, a servant I called Father, only if I could manipulate Him to get my way.

I’m so sorry, Lord!

Our loving God weeps with us when we grieve (John 11:35). He empowers us to live with an eternal perspective (John 16:33). He wants us to know Him, intimately, so we can trust Him implicitly (John 17:26). He is able to do above and beyond all we can ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

But His purposes do not revolve around our desire for instant gratification or pain-free existence on this side of eternity.

He loves all of His children. His plan includes all of His children. We are interdependent and totally dependent on Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I can hardly wait to explore more about His purpose, and how we all play special parts in His perfect plan, as we continue to seek Jesus face-to-face through eyes of John−the disciple He loved.

When I started this series a couple of weeks ago, I never imagined the Lord would be using it to carry me through another tough season of transition. I know God can heal me in an instant. I also know He’s good and faithful and worthy of all my praise, even if He chooses not to heal me on this side of eternity.

I just needed the reminder that there is no way our suffering could ever compare to what Christ suffered on the cross for those He loved, for those He called to become children of God.

Yet, in the midst of suffering and affliction, it’s so easy to take our eyes off the Light and give darkness too much attention, too much credit, too much power.

All things were made through Jesus and by Jesus and for Jesus (John 1:3), so we can trust all things have been purposed for God’s glory, including our times of obscurity.

When we’re tempted to fall apart or give up, the Light of Christ seeps into our circumstances and destroys the darkness that threatens to overtake us, if we allow Him to do His work His way and for His glory.

When we see through the light of His perfect love, even in our most painful seasons, we can look beyond ourselves, beyond our current circumstances, beyond our fickle feelings, and beyond our sinful tendencies to place self on the throne of our lives instead of allowing God to reign.

As we share His love and His truth, Jesus shines in us and through us. We can support and encourage one another, experiencing the beautiful ways His Light becomes the light of men.

Yes, even when life hurts, even as we process like I’m still doing, Jesus−the Light of the World−illuminates our minds and secures our way, because He is and always will be The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for loving us, guiding our steps, and fueling our faith with the light of Your truth. Please help us live in You, with You, and for You, in and through all circumstances, fully dependent on You and devoted to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen

REFLECTION:

Why is it often hard to accept personal suffering as a part of God’s loving plan, even though Jesus Himself chose to suffer so that He could give us Life in Him?

 

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If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “A Witness to the Light,” asking God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.

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If you’re new to the series and would like to see what God has been doing, please join me for “The Invitation.” I look forward to growing with you.

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Who is the Word?

MEME - John 1 v. 1

I sat in a metal folding chair close to the exit door, crossed arms and a frown shielding my breaking heart. My simple plan had proven successful for the first few weeks

  1. Avoid eye contact with strangers. That didn’t take much effort.
  1. Ignore the annoyingly kind people greeting me, as I entered the school auditorium that had been transformed into a church sanctuary. That took much more effort, especially when it came to one lady. Joy.

For some ridiculous reason, I wanted that pint-sized Jesus-Freak to corner me, to make me hug her, to break through my fake apathy and terrified defensiveness.

Joy. Her name made me want to know her, to believe her smile meant she really cared.

But the wall created by past hurts, and originally intended to protect my tender spots, wouldn’t allow me the luxury of risking the pain of rejection.

Barely dealing with the crumbling remnants of my marriage, I couldn’t afford exposing myself to more hurt.

Still, a few questions kept me coming back to the church, to that exasperatingly contagious Joy.

What if she wasn’t fake? What if she meant it when she said she was glad to see me? What if the Jesus she sang about really did the things her husband, the pastor, preached about?

Determined to find out, I exposed myself to the potential pain. I wanted to, no, I needed to get to know this lady whose name and smiling face represented the emotion I thought I’d never experience again. Joy.

That’s where my journey began. The simple commitment to try, to stop hiding from Joy and to open the Bible I’d stolen, so I could meet Jesus face-to-face, Jesus−the One she called Lord.

My first attempt to read the Gospel of John on my own revealed more questions than answers.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV)

I surrendered my life to Jesus, by faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the midst of my desperate attempt to find relief from my pain.

But it was when I first read John 1:1 that I truly began the lifelong adventure toward intimacy with Christ.

My deeper study over the years revealed who John referred to when he said “the Word.”

Jesus.

Replacing “the Word” with “Jesus,” helped me better understand what the apostle proclaimed in this power-packed verse.

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

Jesus is fully Man, and fully God in the flesh−Emmanuel God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is unchanging and divinely eternal (Hebrews 13:8).

Because Jesus can’t be bound or manipulated by time constraints, we can follow Him with confidence when our circumstances feel out of control or purposeless.

Because the maker of time can’t be bound or manipulated by time constraints, He can be trusted during waiting seasons, during heart-wrenching pain, and during the days when we feel like giving up or questioning His all-knowing power and unchanging goodness.

But the apostle John doesn’t stop there. He clearly states that not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, Jesus was God, the Second Person in the Godhead.

We can’t know the Father apart from the Son. We can’t know the Son apart from the Holy Spirit. And we can’t know God if we think He is three separate Persons who are not equally divine, or if we reject the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit as united and divine.

Jesus wasn’t just a good man, simply a smart teacher, or only a wise prophet.

According to Scripture, God reveals Himself through His Holy Word, by the power of His Holy Spirit, as we look into the face of His Son, Jesus−the Word−the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20).

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge−that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Lord, thanks for knowing us, loving us, inviting us into relationship with You. Thanks for helping us trust You while accepting that we can’t possibly know or understand everything about You.

Please give us the passion and diligence we need to commune with You through prayer and the study of Your Word.

Help us recognize Your voice and live like we believe You as we accept the authority of Scripture and submit to the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us through Your truth.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

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If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Life in the Word,” asking God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO JOY, for loving me and praying for me until I was ready to open my heart to the love of Jesus.

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A Deeper Look: Scripture affirms the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are each fully God, equally divine, equally eternal and equally powerful and working within and through the unity of the Godhead. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not separate, in opposition, or independent of one another. This demonstrates the amazing and mysterious complexity of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is foundational to the Christian faith and can’t possibly be taught in the content of one blog post or series. (To read more about the Doctrine of the Trinity click here – https://bible.org/article/trinity-triunity-god )

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using photo taken by and used with permission by Begona Maier.

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