Saved By Grace

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For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God  (Ephesians 2:8).

This little phrase “by grace are ye saved” is undoubtedly the favourite of many believers. There is no denying the fact that the Christian life is all of grace from start to finish. Even if you do not know this text, as a Christian, you know or must know that your salvation is all of grace to which you added nothing or contributed nothing and the text is clear in that sense: “and that not of yourselves.” If you don’t know this fact, perhaps I will ask you “how did you become a Christian?” B. B. Warfield, a theologian in the 19th century said that: “The whole gospel turns as upon its hinge on this fact,that salvation is of pure grace.” The text under consideration therefore is one of the glorious truth of the Christian faith that salvation is all of grace.

What Is Grace?

In the world, there are only two religions. There is a religion of grace and a religion of human effort: a religion of faith and a religion of works; True religion and false religion. And Christianity apart from all religions is a religion of grace through faith alone for salvation. Now before we can have a good appreciation of the grace of God, we need to have have a good appreciation of what our problem as human beings is. Grace has become a normal language so perhaps many often lose the true significance of grace. You ask someone how are you and whether they are a Christian or not, you are likely to hear them responding “fine by grace.” Grace is not lost on us I believe, but often many people interpret grace in very shallow and materialistic way. Listen to the words of this contemporary gospel music:

From the planes I fly, the cars I drive, the money I have
Ebe God e dey bless me
Food on my table, houses I’ve built, family I’ve got
Ebe God e dey bless me,
It’s not by power, it’s not by strength, just by the Holy Ghost
And I’m not ashamed to tell the world, my blessings dey come from God

You see what people call blessings out there? Money, cars, houses, food… Not that these are not important. But if these are what we want to point out to the world as God’s blessings, then we are doomed. Our understanding of blessing is very shallow and materialistic indeed. To have a good understanding of grace therefore, we need a good understanding of our condition as human beings. Contrast and compare the words of the song we just looked at with the words of this hymn and the difference will be clear:

Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see

Here is a true reflection of what grace really is and it reveals the condition of the sinner and everyone before they came to Christ: They were wretched, lost and blind. Wretched because we lacked the love of God. Lost because we are distanced from God and blind without an appreciation of the truth of God. Sinners are blinded to the truth of God. Grace, is commonly described as God’s unmerited favour. Others have described it as God’s Redemption at Christ’s Expense using the letters that spells grace.

All these are true. But I want us to look at the text and get our own understanding from the text about what grace is and what Paul is talking about. As we attempt to do that, we will also answer the question.

What Have We Been Saved From?

The text speaks of been saved by grace. Now to be saved means one was previously in a dangerous or precarious situation. And as we look at the Scriptures; what we have been saved from becomes clear.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Dead in trespasses and sins

The whole text we are looking at paints a picture of gloom and hopelessness from vv.1-3. Paul here contrasts the life of the Ephesian believers when they were unbelievers with their lives when they became believers. And in this contrast, we learn something true of all humanity before they come to Christ.All of us and all human beings have different personalities. We come from different backgrounds. Different parts of the world. In our own country we come from different tribes. We are different in so many ways. But all of us, despite our different background have one thing in common; we are sinners. We come into his world as sinners. One theologian has said that “we come into this world, dead on arrival” And our sin has actually separated us from God.

Hopelesness

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (vv 11-12).

To be hopeless is simply to be without Christ and without God. The world’s greatest problem is not poverty or sickness. The world’s greatest problem is separation from God. As Gentiles, the Ephesians, before they came to faith were hopeless. They had no hope.
Not only that, as Gentiles, the Ephesians were outside of God’s family: they were aliens and strangers from the covenants of promise. When God’s people are counted, they didn’t belong. The Jews had a national pride for being the people of God and everyone else was outside of the covenant of God. Remember David’s description of Goliath? “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?” Circumcision then was a mark of covenant relationship. In simple terms Gentiles did not fit in. They didn’t belong to God’s family. They were far off (v.13).

Enemies of God

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (vv. 14-16).

Because sinners are dead in sin living their lives contrary to God’s commands, they have set themselves up against God. Sinners are enemies of God, they will have nothing to do with God. We hate God. Naturally of our ownselves we will have nothing to do with God. Paul used an actual historical event to illustrate this. There is evidence that in the second temple of Jewish worship, there was an inscription barring Gentiles from entering the temple. Any Gentile who goes against this will suffer death. The inscription reads:

No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow
So both from the natural point of view and the spiritual, man is lost and helpless without God.
that not of yourselves

The very first three verses of Ephesians as you can see is full of gloom and hopelessness. Natural man is depicted as not having the ability in themselves. to respond to God: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:44). In fact, if left on her own, the sinner would not come to God. To be dead in sin is comparable to a corpse. A corpse cannot give life to itself can it? It is in this sense Paul say “not of yourselves”. You cannot save yourself. You have no power over your life. In Matthew 6 Jesus said you cant even add a cubit to your height. How much more salvation?

But God
Having spoken of how gloomy our situation was, a light of hope is shown through our hopelessness with the words in vv.4-5“But God”. This juxtaposes God’s ability with our inability: what we couldn’t do with what God did in our regeneration. Out of our despondent, desperate, hopeless situation as sinners, hope sprung from God. From v4 onwards, we see the love and mercy of God at display towards the sinner. And that’s what grace is about:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us (v.4)

Grace is about God’s richness in mercy towards sinners. Grace is God’s great love towards his people.

A New Life

When God intervenes in our deadness, He gives us eternal life. He makes us alive to be able to relate with him. He also grants us eternal life and draws us to himself through Christ. The sinner who once had no hope is now given hope in this life because he is now united with Christ and reconciled to God (v5). We are seated in the heavenly places that means we are now citizens of heaven. We have hope now and hope in the life to come. God has purposed to show us “in the coming ages…the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(v7).
This new life is not a result of anything good or meritorious work in us. It is a new life that springs from the love, mercy and grace–unmerited favour– of God

What Must You Do?

If you have not come to faith in Christ Jesus, all that has been said of the former life of the believer is true of you. You are dead in sin, hopeless without God, you are an enemy of God and his wrath is upon you. This is a fearful thing and this very day, God offers you life in his Son Jesus. You have to turn to him in faith and repent of your sins. He makes a call: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

 

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Christ Was Crucified For Our Sins

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I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38; 19:4;6).

Three times in his trial, Jesus–the Great and Sovereign Judge of all—was found not guilty by a human judge Pilate. However, justice was perverted and an innocent life killed.

Though innocent, his death was to keep in line with biblical prophecy. His death was no random death in human history. He came to die for the sins of humankind. Isaiah prophesied of his death saying: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). Matthew narrating the annunciation recorded the angel telling Mary “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). John the Baptist, calling the attention of the people gathered, pointed to Christ saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

Apostle Peter reflecting on Jesus’ death quoted Isaiah saying: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Peter 2:24). Finally apostle Paul also summarised the intent of Christ’s death saying: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21).

All the biblical writers attested to this one truth that Christ died for sinners. He gave his life so we might have life and be reconciled to God through faith. Jesus died so sinners will be delivered from eternal damnation: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The message of Easter is Christ’s death for sinners. God condemns all human beings as sinners separated from him and culpable of death (Isaiah 53:6,Romans 3:23;6:23). However, hope is provided in the death and resurrection of Christ to reconcile sinners unto himself (1Peter 2:25).

What Has This Got To Do With Christmas?

Genesis 3:8-15

 

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I have been given this text to read as one of the lessons in a community carol’s night organised by our resident’s association. The first question I asked when I had the text was “what has this got to do with Christmas?

However, reading and pondering the text, it is as relevant as any other account of the birth of Christ in the gospels. If you are familiar with Genesis 3, that is where the fall occurred; sin entered the world and thus all of humankind became sinners.

In Genesis 3 also, God announced his redemptive plan for salvation. In that pronouncement, Christ—the seed of the woman was revealed. The seed of the woman shall bruise Satan’s head, and Satan his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Theologians call this (v.15) protoevangelium; that is, the first gospel. The bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman paints a picture of the passion of Christ and bruising the head of the Serpent is the victory Christ won over the devil in his Crucifixion (1Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 2:14-15).

The point is that Christ’s incarnation which we celebrate as Christmas was for the purpose of destroying the work of the devil and deliver sinners from bondage (1John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15). This is why we celebrate Christmas: the ‘seed of the woman’, prophesied in Genesis 3:15 was born to bring hope to a dark dying world burdened with sin. Of course, we know the date of his birth is only commemorative, but he was born and the importance of the season is that his birth was God’s plan from the beginning by which he will reconcile sinners to God.

Genesis 3:8-15 has everything to do with Christmas. The deliverer from sin and destroyer of Satan’s work was revealed.

The Light Of The World

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Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Light dispels darkness. Where there is light, darkness cannot be present. Metaphorically, Christ speaks of himself as the light of the world. This points us to the fact that there is darkness in the world. He goes on again to say whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of the world. This also means is anyone not following Christ is in the darkness which is in the world. Again, anyone who follows him has come out of the darkness of the world.

Here we see a contrast between light and darkness.

Now the ” I am the light of the world” is one of a number of “I am”  statements by Jesus  Christ recorded in John’s gospel. These “I am” statements are not a simple first person pronoun usage; rather, they point us to Christ’s divine identity and his saving relationship with sinners in a fallen world (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:28, 28, 58; 18:5). You may also be familiar with some of these specific metaphorical rendering of the “I am” statements:   “I am the bread of life, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life and the true vine (John 6:35; 48, 51; 10:7; 11; 14, 11:25; 14:6; 15).

All these words were spoken in various contexts where they addressed specific needs ultimately pointing to our need of a Saviour.  “I am the light of the world” is an identification with divinity –Jesus is God— which we can trace back to John’s prologue : “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).

Now if Jesus says he is the light of the world, it means that;

The World Is In Darkness.

Darkness here depicts a world of sin and ignorance; lack of knowledge of God. Darkness contrasting with light is the realm of evil; the kingdom of darkness. The whole world, Jesus said lies in wickedness (1John 5:19). In the beginning, God created a perfect world and he saw that all he made was good (Genesis 1:31). However, this perfect world was plunged into sin when Adam disobeyed God’s command subsequently inflicting the world with sin causing a separation between God and man (Romans 3:23). This darkness is a universal darkness. Every human being is affected by the effects of this dark sinful world. It is called total depravity. We are all badly hurt by the sin problem

Life Without Christ Is A Life of Darkness.

If the world is in darkness, it follows that everyone who enters it enters a world of darkness–filled with sin and ignorance of a knowledge of God. We all enter the world corrupted by a sin nature. Burk Parson in a sermon notes that “we enter the world dead on arrival.” Further, there is a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan and any person who enters the world is automatically under the bondage of Satan and until they come to faith in Christ, they are doomed for destruction and under Satan’s rule. Paul says this clearly when he described the former world of the believer which is the present world or reality of the unbeliever. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They are following the course of the dark world which is  sin and bondage under Satan’s rule (Eph 2:1-3).

If you don’t know Christ and have no relationship with him as your Lord and Saviour, this is your world. You are dead in sin and living in darkness.

Life With Christ Is A Life of Light.

Where light is, darkness gives way. Because Jesus is the light of the world, the darkness of the world must give way. So if a person walking in darkness encounters Christ and comes to saving faith in him; they are rescued from darkness and brought into the light; the light of the world, Christ Jesus. Just as darkness depicts sin and ignorance, light represents righteousness and life. When we come to Christ who is the light of the world, our dark; sinful and ignorant life is illuminated with light, which is the life of men.

All human beings are in bondage to sin until they come to faith in Christ. Are you burdened with sin? Are you heavy laden with guilt? Christ calls you to come into his life. He will forgive you of your sins and bring life into your dark world. Come; Christ calls

Rev. Korankye Ankrah Erred About Denkyira-Boasi

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Image Courtesy Starfm online

About a month ago, the nation woke up in shock of the gruesome murder of a Captain of the Ghana Armed forces, Captain Mahama, who was mistaken to be an armed robber. Following this, a number of arrests were made of those involved in this heinous crime. He was subsequently posthumously promoted to the rank of a major.

Yesterday, I read a media report on Star Fm of the words of a clergy man, Rev. Korankye Ankrah necessitating this post. In the article, various statements were attributed to the Reverend who describes himself as an ‘Apostle General.

Speaking during a 30-day prayer and fasting event at Cedar Mountain Chapel Assemblies of God Church, East Legon, Rev. Sam Korankye Ankrah pronounced no youth will go past 33 years in the town – the age of Maj. Mahama when he was murdered in cold blood.

Rev. Ankrah, who serves as the Apostle General of the Royal House Chapel International, a church in Ghana with more than 30,000 members, also prophesied that there will be no leader in the town, having killed a commander of an army.

However, Rev. Ankrah, who is the first vice president of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, said the people of Denkyira-Obuasi can atone for their sins with a three-day special fasting led by men of God.

These words if indeed uttered by a minister of the gospel must be condemned. They are not words befitting a minister of the gospel. Reverend Ankrah erred in those words and his error cuts to the root of the gospel. Among many errors, I will address three.

Pronouncement of Curses

Among many definitions, a curse is defined as the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom etc., befall a person, group, etc. We see the above definition clearly fitting the words of the Rev.. He pronounced a curse:

no youth will go past 33 years in the town – the age of Maj. Mahama when he was murdered in cold blood”

there will be no leader in the town, having killed a commander of an army.

What authority has Rev. Ankrah to determine the lifespan of those individuals? Only God has that authority and hence the minister is playing God by pronouncing a limit on the lives of the youths of Denkyira-Boasi.  No doubt, the people involved in the murder of Major Mahama have committed a sinful act.  They have broken the constitution of the land which upholds the dignity of all human life. Hence, the laws of the land must deal with their breach of the law as stipulated by Scripture (Romans 13:1-4). Not only have they broken the nation’s constitution. Most importantly, they have broken God’s command: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV).

Their crime however doesn’t justify a curse from a minister of the gospel.  What the perpetrators of this crime need, just as any sinner needs, is the mercy of God and his forgiveness; not curses from a minister of the gospel. The Bible doesn’t teach Christians to curse: “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). How can a minister of the gospel preach the blessings of God and pronounce curses on people at the same time, how? (James 3:9).

Fasting To Atone For Sins.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

–Robert Lowry

All human beings are sinners separated from God by virtue of our sins. The people of Denkyira-Boasi who were involved in this heinous crime are sinners acting out their natural inclination—sinning. They acted out what is in their heart just as every sinner (Jer. 17:9, Eph. 2:1-3).

Now, though separated from God by sin, God has not left sinners to their fate. Rather, he has provided for his own self an acceptable sacrifice by which sins are atoned for. He sent Jesus Christ to come and die to atone for the sins of humankind so whoever believes in him would be saved and their sins forgiven when they put their trust in Christ. However, the Rev. is asking sinners to do something they cannot do—atone for their sins.

the people of Denkyira-Obuasi can atone for their sins with a three-day special fasting led by men of God

This is a departure from essential Christian beliefs and it is troubling.  Sinners cannot atone for their sins by any act of theirs. Christ’s death on the cross is what atones for sins. And sinners are cleansed by faith in that finished work on Calvary. Nobody atones for their sins in Christian theology. Sinners, however heinous their crime must look to Christ alone and his finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. (1John 2:1-2, Romans 5:7-9, 11; Hebrews 1:3). It is futile therefore to call on sinners to establish their own righteousness by their works.

Human Mediators

The Rev. didn’t only call for fasting to atone for sins. He called for that fasting to be led by men of God (whatever that phrase mens). In effect, the people involved in Major Mahama’s murder need human intermediaries to go to God to plead their forgiveness. The Bible doesn’t teach this. Christ has been put forward by God as the propitiation for sins. He is the only mediator between God and sinners.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1Tim 2:5-6).

Rev. Korankye Ankrah is the General overseer of Royal House Chapel International, a Charismatic church in the nation’s capital, Accra and also the  the first vice president of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council. His words therefore carry influence and such utterances as those he made are a serious breach of the truth of the gospel of Christ.

Christ Died For Our Sins

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Image: Cover Photo for TableTalk Magazine (Ligonier.com), January 2015 issue

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us  the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).

But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;

What Is Sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4

~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14

In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).

How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).

Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.

However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.

Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).

Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).

Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Gospel Tract: What’s The Gospel?

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There are many so called gospels out there. But many of these miss what the gospel actually is. The Gospel is not God will heal you. The Gospel  is not about wealth or your well-being. The Gospel  is about our salvation. It is a good news that cancels a bad news of our separation and rebellion towards God in our sins.

Here is a short tract that tells us succinctly what the gospel is. You can download a PDF copy here :Gospel Tract (PDF)

If you need a hard copy for your personal use or outreach, kindly contact info.truthpublications@gmail.com