Archives For Faith and Life

Over the years I have heard many people tell of their great calling to be an apostle, prophet or to save gazillions through their ministry. Most of these never pan out. Those who are called to such things don’t speak about them or have them emblazoned on their business cards.

Having said that, I saw something recently in 1 Samuel that blew me away. There is the calling and then, there is the commissioning. David was called when he was a boy, but he didn’t become king until much later. Same with King Saul.

Young Saul

How old do you think Saul was when he went looking for his father’s donkeys? This is important. If you read the story in 1 Samuel 9, the impression you get is that he was a young man, not married ­– maybe 20 years old or even less. But when he is crowned king, he is 30.

After unsuccessfully searching for his donkeys, his servant told him of Samuel the prophet. Saul doesn’t even know who Samuel is and he is the leader of Israel. When Saul approaches him, he doesn’t realize that he is talking to Samuel.

Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

“I am the seer,” Samuel replied. (1 Samuel 9:18-19)

He tells him he is going to be king and Saul is stunned. When Samuel calls all Israel to proclaim Saul as king, what does he do? He hides!

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” (1 Sam. 10:22)

This is not a man, but a boy. He is proclaimed king, but he doesn’t go and build a palace. What does he do? He goes home. He has no idea what to do as the new teen king. And many did not receive him as king:

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent. (1 Kings 10: 26-27)

Saul Receives a Warrior’s Anointing

In the next chapter, we find Saul working in his fields. Most people think this was the next day. I think it was years later, because now he is 30 (1 Sam 13:1). Some Israelites were about to be conquered by Nahash, the Ammonite. The Israelites from Jabesh Gilead sent word to the rest of Israel, hoping that someone would help them.

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. (1 Sam. 11:4-6)

Saul received the calling to be king some years ago, but now the anointing to be Israel’s leader comes upon him. He takes charge and leads the rescue, routing the enemy completely. Now, suddenly, everyone in Israel is willing to follow Saul as king.

So it appears that after he was declared king, he just continued to live as a farmer. But suddenly the Spirit of God comes on him and he leads, as a leader should. When the people saw the “fruit of his ministry” they, with one voice, received him as King.

Too many in ministry are concerned with titles. Yeshua is concerned with fruit. Yeshua taught us not to focus on titles.

“[Religious leaders] love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. (Matt. 23:7-10)

Yeshua often spoke hyperbolically—like when he said to hate your family or gouge out your eye. He exaggerated to make a point. Here, I don’t think He is saying titles are evil, but if you get an ego or pride boost out of your title, then you are not in a healthy place.

“Are You A Prophet?”

Many years ago in Bible college, I asked the great teacher David Pawson, after he preached a message that left me undone, “Are you a prophet?” He responded, “That is not for me to say, but for you.” In other words, let your fruit speak for itself. I submit to Asher Intrater as my apostolic leader. He doesn’t run around proclaiming to everyone that he is an apostle. It is clear from the fruit—he has birthed several successful ministries, raised up leaders to take over those ministries, leads family of ministries and congregations in Tikkun Global, has an amazing prophetic teaching gift—that is an apostle. But no one calls him Apostle Asher and he would correct him or her if they did.

Your fruit will prove your calling—not your business card, website or Facebook page. The gift of God will open every door. It is not the calling that makes the man, but rather walking it out and bearing fruit.

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Why do we go through trials? Why does God allow difficulty to get in the way of blessing and promotion? The answer is simple. Trials purify our motives and keep us humble. That humility enables us to handle blessing and promotion without becoming proud. It causes us to use His abundance for the kingdom and not for ourselves.

In 1 Samuel 1, we find several characters, representative of different people. There is a man named Elkanah. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah was blessed with children, while Hannah’s womb remained closed. Hannah was a good wife and Elkanah loved her (v. 5). Peninnah was petty and proud and mocked Hannah for being barren.

Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. (1 Sam. 1:6-7)

In this story, you are Hannah. You love the Lord, but there is a trial in your life. You don’t know why. It confounds you that God would allow this. You long for this trial to be over, but yet it persists.

Elkanah represents the Father and His unconditional love. In the Middle East, at that time (and today in many places), the inability to produce children, particularly a male heir, would be a reason for rejection. Yet, Elkanah expresses his love for Hannah.

Peninnah represents every mocking voice, from the Devil to your neighbor to maybe even your best friend. These are the ones who tell you, “You are barren because of your sin—God must not like you—there is a curse on you.” Sometimes, we find these people even in our own congregation—sometimes they are leaders. They lack empathy and glory in the fact that they are more blessed than you.

Now, stay with me, because your breakthrough is connected to how this story ends. There is a very powerful principle coming.

The family goes to the tabernacle in Shiloh. Since it says that Peninnah had sons and daughters, it is clear that Hannah had endured this ridicule for many years. Finally, we are at the climax. Hannah comes to her Tipping Point.

A tipping point is the point at which an issue, idea, product, etc., crosses a certain threshold and gains significant momentum, triggered by some minor factor or change.

In the life of Hannah, her tipping point was when the pressure and humiliation pushed her too far. At the tabernacle, she cries out to the Lord.

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Sam. 1:10-11)

You see, when Hannah finally reached this point of full surrender to God and His will was when the blessing was released. The only thing holding back the blessing, to that point, was not being fully surrendered. I cannot tell you what her motivations were for having children:

  • So people would respect her.
  • So people wouldn’t gossip about her.
  • To please her husband.
  • To stop the ridicule.
  • To be a mother.

But God was seeking to raise up a prophet. He simply needed Hannah to be willing to give Samuel to Him. And this is what holds back the blessing in our lives many times—that our character is not sufficiently developed to handle blessing or promotion.

I am 53-years-old and I have a television show on GOD TV. Why did God have to wait until I was in my fifties to put me on TV? Very simply, I obviously didn’t have the character to handle it when I was younger. But you go through “stuff” and you realize how weak you are. The trials of life humble you—they break you—like proud Peter who was willing to “die with the Lord,” finds himself denying he even knew Him. He had to go through that humbling situation to be ready to preach to the Jews of Jerusalem on Shavuot (Pentecost).

If the promises of God are not appearing in your life, like you think they should, ask the Lord about your motives for wanting the promise. Can you handle the blessing/promotion? Or would it cause pride?

Hannah came to the place where she was willing to use the blessing for the Kingdom, and not for herself. Shortly thereafter, Elkanah made love to his wife and “the Lord remembered her.” She had a boy and, according to her vow, brought him to the tabernacle to serve the Lord.

Next, she prays a prophetic prayer:

The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. (1 Sam. 2:6-8)

In other words:  God is fully in control! There is nothing that has happened in your life that God has not seen or allowed. I am not saying that everything that happens is His will. But He allows trials to come to perfect us, so He can bless us. James urges us to rejoice in trials because:

…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3-4)

Don’t give up my friend. God has not forgotten you. In fact, He has you right where He wants you. He is setting you up for blessing!

And don’t feel bad for Hannah, that she had to give up her one and only son. She saw Samuel every year and

“the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” (`1 Samuel 2:21)

 

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When the book of Hebrews speaks of angels, it is to make clear to the early congregation (that struggled with error and heresies because the New Covenant was still being written) that Yeshua is way beyond the angels. It would appear that some of these Jewish believers saw Yeshua as the Messiah, but could not see Him as divine; He was like an angel in their thinking. The writer seeks to correct this.

The writer shows Yeshua’s superiority to these awesome, yet created beings:

  • Yeshua is the Son of the Father. (Heb. 1:5)
  • The angels worship Yeshua. (Heb. 1:6) Revelation speaks of ten thousand times ten thousand around His throne (Rev. 5:11)
  • He is God with an everlasting throne. (Heb. 1:8)

However, angels do play a powerful role in the lives of men. In fact, one of their primary roles is to minister to us who serve the Lord.

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews. 1:14)

They bring prophetic messages

Angels announced the birth of Messiah to the shepherds in Bethlehem. Gabriel, the angel, appeared to the father of John the Baptist with a prophetic word about John. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to tell him it was okay to marry Miriam, “because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:20)

Daniel received a visit from Gabriel, as well, with an extremely important prophetic message (Dan. 9). It was an angel who told Philip where to go so as to be in the right place to find the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). It was an angel who announced to Cornelius that he should send for Peter, who would then open the way of salvation to the nations.

They protect us

In the book of Acts, the apostles are freed from prison by an angel (Acts 5) and told to go to the Temple courts to “tell people about this new life.” (Acts 5:20) An angel punched Peter, in Acts 12, to wake him up and get him about of prison! That reminds of when I was in Bible College. I was falling asleep during the class of our no-nonsense director and would have received a four- hour work detail, had I been spotted! But, suddenly, someone poked me hard in the chest, just as I was drifting off. Startled, I looked around to see who poked me, thinking I was in trouble, but there was no one. An angel? Maybe.

Psalm 91 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Over and over again in Exodus, God says, “My angel will go before you.” (Ex. 23:20, 23, 32:34, 33:2) An angel shut the mouth of the lions that would have gladly eaten Daniel. (Dan. 6)

Fight Demons/Spiritual Warfare

When Daniel was seeking the Lord, the angel who visited him said he was in a battle with demonic forces for 21 days. (Dan. 10:13) What is interesting here is that it appears Daniel’s intercession strengthened the angel in his battle. Don’t give up in prayer! Again we see Michael and his army of angels fighting the dragon. (Rev. 12:7)

They Help us in Temptation

When Yeshua was tempted in the wilderness, the text says that “the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matt. 4:11) And when He was tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggling with the fact that He would soon be separated from His Father, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43)

They can appear to us as Humans

Hebrews tells us:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

The idea here is that when someone is in need, it may be a test, and actually an angel that you are helping. Lot shows hospitality to visiting angels who came in the form of men. When Mary encountered the two angels after the resurrection, though they were “in white,” she does not appear to know they are angels, as she has a conversation with them. When Yeshua comes as the angel of the Lord to Joshua, he does not know at first that it is not a mere mortal. (Joshua 5)

Bring Judgment on the Wicked

Herod, when he was praised as a god and did not give glory to God, was struck done and killed by an angel. Angels brought judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, saying, “we are going to destroy this place.” (Gen. 19:13) The angel of the Lord defeated the Assyrians in the time of Hezekiah.

Revelation speaks of angels announcing judgment through sounding trumpets (Rev. 8:7-13). It is an angel who releases God’s wrath on earth (Rev. 14:19).

Do I have a Guardian Angel?

I cannot find any strong support for this in scripture. There are two verses that somewhat speak to it. One is:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matt. 18:10)

Personally I see the “their” as belonging to the collective group of “little ones,” and others, not each one having an angel. However, I would be thrilled if there was an angel for each of us. Regardless, angels do watch over us and they do belong to us in the sense that God has commissioned them to serve believers (as noted above Heb. 1:14).

Then, when Peter is freed from prison in Acts 12, the maid Rhoda, who answers the door. The people don’t believe her and say, “it must be his angel.” But that is merely the quote of someone who may have been brought up to believe that we each have an angel assigned to us. She was not a theologian. Nevertheless, there is enough support in scripture to expect angels to be active in our lives and to minister to us, the heirs of salvation.

Warning

I cannot see any place where we are to pray to angels. I think this can open one up to deception. Yeshua taught us to pray to the Father, in His name.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:26-27)

I regularly ask the Father in Yeshua’s name to send angel to be active in my life to protect and guide me. But I do not speak to angels and make this request. They are to do God’s will, not mine:

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. (Ps. 103:20)

 

 

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“It doesn’t really matter what you say I have done. God has called me here, and you can’t stand in His way.”

According to a friend of mine, these were the words a leader of a congregation used as he responded to a congregant, who sought to challenge him on issues of deep concern—issues of sin.

It reminded me of something that happened while I was in Bible school. I had been attending a church on Long Island led by a dynamic preacher. Everyone loved his fiery teachings. He was truly anointed. However, I became concerned when, during a service, he physically attacked an usher. The usher had laid his hand on someone, and the wife of the pastor removed his hand, as he was there to usher, not to pray. The usher reacted angrily to the pastor’s wife, and both he and the pastor had to be physically restrained.

I stopped going to this congregation. A few weeks later, some of my college buddies came back to the campus with glowing reports of Pastor Phil’s (not his real name) latest message. “You’ve got to hear it, Ron!” they crowed.

I popped the cassette into my Walkman (it was 1986!) and listened as Pastor Phil screamed at the people and blamed them for this and that. I did not sense anointing but human anger.

A few weeks later, I was told that Pastor Phil prophesied over a young lady in the church, just after he returned from a four-day prayer retreat, in which it was discovered he brought the very same young lady with him. Someone saw them return together, and Pastor Phil was confronted regarding his adulterous affair.

“He is still anointed!”

When the elders sat down with Phil and his wife for this confrontation, the very first words out of his wife’s mouth were, “He is still anointed.”

Most women would have hit him, yelled at him and called him a cheating #$%^—yes, even believing women. But this wife’s greater concern was for her husband’s authority in the congregation—that it would not be forfeited. While this was an elder-led team, she had much freedom as the senior pastor’s wife and loved being in that position.

In her mind, Phil was God’s anointed, even if that anointing did not help him with his zipper! It was like she was saying, “David committed adultery, and he was still king. Who are these elders to remove us from power? We are God’s anointed!”

The theory that leaders can only be removed by God comes from 1 Samuel 26:9-11, where David warns his trusted friend Abishai not to kill King Saul:

“‘Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,’ he said, ‘the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed’” (NIV).

A Dangerous Doctrine

From this text, some leaders have derived a very dangerous doctrine regarding a senior leader and accountability. According to this doctrine, the senior leader is understood as having a position like the ancient kings of Israel. He is “God’s anointed”; therefore, he is not to be removed by any process of men—no matter what he does. He is beyond congregational discipline. While he may have elders or a board, they are advisers only, and all decisions are his to make. Within his sphere, he is the final authority (or, as I call it, dictator).

If he abuses people or they do not like his decisions, they have two choices. They can either submit to his leadership and entrust the situation to God, or they can quietly leave the community. In any case, they are to make no waves or protest in their leaving. Those who do are labeled rebellious troublemakers and often become the target of malicious rumors and gossip.

In these circles, the authority of the senior leader is taught in very absolute terms. We are told, “Touch not God’s anointed.” I believe it is a destructive and devilish doctrine, and people should separate from those who teach it.

First, this was no even a doctrine in the Old Covenant. This was David not wanting to take matters into his own hands, and make himself King. There are plenty of examples of kings being rebuked in the Old Covenant.

  • Nathan rebukes David
  • Samuel rebukes Saul
  • Elijah rebukes Ahab
  • In fact, David publicly rebukes Saul, after he spared his life. David even says, “May the Lord judge between you and me.” (1 Sam. 24:12)

To be clear, we should honor and respect those who have embraced the yoke of leadership, but leaders should be held to an even higher standard than those in their congregations:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

And if you find yourself in a place where you need to bring correction to a leader, do with a loving, humble heart.

The Leader Is Not a King

In the New Testament, congregations are not led by kings. Yes, I know in many circles the pastor and his wife are treated like royalty. Some even refer to the pastor’s wife as first lady. 

Just this morning, a pastor friend was telling me of a young elder who said, “Now that I am an elder, people will respect me.”

My friend told him that it was quite the opposite: “Now that you are an elder, you give up your rights in order to serve.”

In Hebrew, the word for minister (mesharet) is the same word for servant. A leader is called to serve, not to be crowned. Yeshua said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

New Testament congregations should be governed by teams of elders under the direction of a senior leader who is accountable to the team. Both Titus and Timothy, who were senior leaders, were encouraged to appoint elders (Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). And elders govern the congregation:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17, emphasis added).

God’s anointed

Saul did not declare himself God’s anointed. He didn’t tell people, “You can’t touch me because I am God’s anointed.” In fact, when David did not kill him, but cut off part of his garment, Saul did not rebuke him, but repented to David.

It most cases today, it is the senior leader who declares himself to be God’s anointed and therefore untouchable by man. In the case of David and Saul, it is Saul’s enemy, David, who calls Saul God’s anointed. It is a dangerous thing for a man to declare himself God’s anointed.

In Bible school, I had the opportunity to meet the great English Bible teacher David Pawson. After one of his messages (he was teaching all week), I was deeply moved. I felt like I had heard from a prophet. I walked up to Mr. Pawson and asked, “Are you a prophet?” He wisely said with his beautiful British accent, “That is not for me to say, but you.” And he walked away.

I was blown away. He was right. You don’t become a prophet or God’s anointed because you post it on your Facebook page or business card. You can’t declare yourself an apostle, as did the drunk and abusive character that Robert Duvall played in The Apostle. No, others affirm the gift of God in your life.

So let us be done with this abusive doctrine. It is rooted in pride and leads to abuse. May God raise up strong leaders who are secure enough to be accountable to their elders. If you find yourself in a situation where a senior leader refuses to be accountable because he is “God’s anointed,” my advice is to run! Find a congregation that has clear standards of morality for its leaders.

NOTE OF BALANCE: I do want to be clear about one thing. The explosion of mass media has given a wider voice to anyone who wants one. That is good. However, too often, people without all the facts enter into internet gossip and cast suspicions on leaders based on wrong information or half truths. We must fear the Lord and make sure we have all the facts, before we publicly accuse. 

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One of the great promises of the end times is that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This was first prophesied by Joel, and then partially fulfilled on the day of Shavuot, when Simon Peter preached his first message under the influence of the Holy Spirit. When men accused him of being drunk, he said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:16).

Yet, Joel’s prophecy was so much more extensive than what took place on Shavuot. There was no “blood, fire, and billows of smoke” and it clearly was not “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Yet, like many prophecies, this one had a partial fulfillment in Acts 2, and will have a full fulfillment in the last days.

All Flesh?

In this blog, I want to focus on one misunderstood phrase. In Joel 2:28, we see the famous words, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

The NIV gets closer to the meaning, but it doesn’t really say, all people, but in Hebrew “all flesh-basar-בשר.” This is one reason I like the NIV—they used common sense to help us understand the original intent of the author. Clearly God was not saying He would pour out His spirit on dogs and cats or sheep and goats. Clearly, He meant people. But it doesn’t even mean all people.

Prophets, Priests and Kings

Not everyone under the Old Covenant could experience the presence of God at the same level. The Levites were different from the regular Hebrews. The Cohanim (Priests) were higher than the rest of the Levites. And, of course, there were those who walked in an even higher level of anointing – like the prophets of Israel. When Samuel anointed David as king, the Spirit of came on David, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” (2 Sam. 16:13). And, of course, there were differences between men and women in society, not to mention servants and slaves.

The Mystery of the New Covenant

What Joel is referring to, at least in the first part of his prophecy, is the advent of the New Covenant. It is the great mystery that even the apostles missed until that fateful day in Cornelius’ house when the Spirit of God did the unthinkable – He filled Gentiles, as they spoke in tongues.

The mystery is that under the New Covenant—initiated on the cross, but corporately birthed on Shavuot—is that anyone, no matter their gender, race or standing in society can enjoy a deep experience with the Holy Spirit. Look at Joel’s emphasis:

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29).

The idea of a servant or a woman being used by God or enjoying deep intimacy with the Spirit of God was very rare under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, it is the norm. So when He says, “all flesh,” He means without distinction. The Holy Spirit is not just going to fall on every human being, no matter their desire or lack thereof for God, but rather anyone who wants more can have more!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

This would be the correct understanding of Paul in Galatians.

So in Messiah Yeshua Jesus you are all children of God through faith … There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. (Gal. 3:26, 28).

He is not saying there are no longer distinctions between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 11:29) any more than he is saying men and women have no distinctions. He is saying that despite those distinctions, nothing can hold you back from the Spirit of God. No one can tell you, “You can’t prophesy, because you are a woman,” or “You can’t be used of God, because you are a slave,” or “You cannot be as close to the Father as Jewish believers.”

William Seymour

God used a one-eyed, black man to birth the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. He had to overcome all kinds of racism. Forced to sit outside of the door of a bible school, he studied for ministry. White men told him he could not study the word in the classroom because He was black. Instead of getting bitter, he pursued God; and God used him to change the world.

Yes, there needs to be order. I believe in submission to authority. And I believe we all have different roles, functions and gifts. But nothing and no one can hold you back from experiencing God. When it comes to our gifts and callings, God chooses. But when it comes to intimacy with Yeshua through the Holy Spirit, there are no limits!

When Joel says that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, he means that any human who wants the Spirit can have the Spirit. In fact, it is God’s great desire to give you more.

 

 

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