Category Archives: General

The Strength Of Surrender

Submit yourselves therefore to God. (James 4:7)

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “The greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his surrender.” So let me ask you: How surrendered are you to your Savior? What does the confession of your life say about your surrender?

When God chooses someone for His service, He does not choose that person because of their strength. He chooses them because of their surrender, because it is only the surrendered heart into which God pours His strength.

Did you know that everyone lives a surrendered life? You simply cannot live life without surrendering to something. Either you will surrender your life to your Savior or you will surrender your life to yourself. See if any of the following resonate with you. Are you surrendered to . . .

  • The applause of man?
  • The pride of life?
  • The pleasures of the flesh?
  • The expectations of others?

Here is the truth about surrender: You are free to choose what you will surrender your life to, but you are not free from the consequences of that choice. Remember, you are because of God, but you are where you are because of the choices you have made in life. Have you chosen to surrender to Jesus? Or are you surrendered to yourself?

Abraham surrendered to God. Moses surrendered to God. Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrendered to God. Saul of Tarsus, who would become the apostle Paul, surrendered to God. The strength of their surrender was found in the One to whom they surrendered.

Years of walking with Jesus has taught me that there is nothing more powerful than a Savior-surrendered life. The people I encounter who have done the most in and for the Kingdom of God are the ones who are most surrendered to Jesus. They surrender their time, their talent, and their treasure, all to be used by God for His glory and the good of others. And do you know what? They are also some of the happiest people I have ever known.

If you want to live a life that truly matters, your life must be lived surrendered to your Savior — not just in one or two areas, but in every area of your life. By God’s grace, may this be the confession of our lives, regardless of the cost or the circumstance.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Great Commission, Not A Great Suggestion!

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Everyone wants to live a life of meaning, significance, and purpose. And the only way that will actually happen is when we are living out the plan and purpose God has for our lives. That is why our today’s passage is known as The Great Commission, not a great suggestion. When Jesus saves us, it is for the express purpose of expanding the cause of His Kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven, not for expanding our own kingdom.

Here is one way of looking at this profound biblical truth:

Jesus not only calls us to COME to Him; Jesus calls us to GO for Him!

Over and over again, Jesus made it clear to His disciples then, and to you and me today, that we are to be a sent people who share the good news of the Gospel with everyone we come in contact with. Today, it is not uncommon to hear someone say something like, “The Great Commission is for the super-spiritual – pastors, missionaries, and parachurch organizations.” This is simply not true. The Great Commission was given to every child of God, and it is the greatest privilege in the world to know that God does not need us to expand the cause of His kingdom, but He wants us to be part of His kingdom expansion.

And know this, Christian: there are some people in this world whom God has ordained will only get saved through you. Sent in the power of the Almighty, we have been given all we need to do all God is calling us to do. And the best thing about that is that we can calmly, confidently leave the results in His hands. We water and we plant, knowing that God will supply the increase in His precise time and in His perfect way (1 Corinthians 3:6).

What is the greatest gift you have ever given anybody? If you have ever shared the truth about Jesus with someone, you need look no farther than that. Jesus is the greatest gift you could ever give to someone, because Jesus is the solution to every problem, the answer to every question, and the provision of every need.

So let me ask you: Have you received The Great Commission? Or a great suggestion? Remember, the consequence of living out The Great Commission is the only thing you can do in this life that will last forever.

One final point: God has commissioned you right where this message finds you. Regardless of your current calling in life, whether butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, you are to bring Jesus everywhere you go, and share Him with everyone you come in contact with. God will place in your path exactly those people He wants you to share Jesus with.

The only question is this: Will you do it?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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 Expressions of Thanks-Living – Part Two

On Monday we looked at how we can utter our expressions of Thanks-Living with our words.  Today we will think about making expressions of Thanks-Living with our works. Both expressions are rooted in Ephesians 5:20 —

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Expressions With Works

As we express our thanksgiving to God with our words, our words must be matched by our works. In short, our talk has to match our walk. The 16th-century Reformers were fond of saying, “We are saved by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone.” I have stated here many times that God does not in any way need our good works, but everyone around us absolutely does need them. And there is no better way for us to demonstrate that we are His than by our selfless service to others.

The way Paul opened his letter to the Philippians would be well said of all of us:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:1)

Could your name be plugged in for Timothy’s?  How would those around you respond to that question as it relates to you? Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and this is to be the confession of the lives of all those who are His.  Remember, Jesus said if we want to be great we must serve (Mark 10:44-45). Service is the key that unlocks the door leading to living a life of significance.

Think about the happiest, most joy-filled people you know. I’d be willing to bet that the reason for their joy is because their lives are marked by service to others.

Here is a verse that we should all keep in view:

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good . . . (Acts 10:38)

The life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ was marked by service.  He went around doing good — healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the brokenhearted, and ultimately, giving His life as a ransom for all those who would believe in Him. When we realize just how blessed we are, we should want to spend the rest of our lives blessing others. Salvation, rightly understood, makes Christian believers so “other-oriented” that what we are by nature — self-absorbed — begins to be exchanged for self-sacrifice.  We begin laying our lives down for others, just as our Lord did.

So . . . is your life marked by going around and doing good? Our calendar tomorrow is marked with the word “Thanksgiving.” But for the Christian, every day is to be a day of “Thanks-Living,” and it is to be expressed to all those we come in contact with, both by our words and our works.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your every day be marked by joyful expressions Of Thanks-Living.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Expressions of Thanks-Living – Part One

We have arrived at Thanksgiving week, and I’d like to share a few thoughts as we move towards a day that has been set aside for giving thanks for our many blessings. Today I’d like to discuss expressing our thanks with words, and on Wednesday we’ll look at expressing thanks with our works. Both these ideas are rooted in Ephesians 5:20 —

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated who He was by both His words and His works. As His disciples, we must do the same.      

Expressions With Words

The first way we are to express our thanks to God is with the words we speak.  We all must take inventory of our language and see if the words we speak let those who hear us know just how thankful we are to God for all we have been given. It is all too easy to be very thankful for the many good gifts we have received from God without ever expressing our thanks to the One who gave them to us.

Here is an important truth to keep in view:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  (James 1:17)

The apostle Paul asked the Christians in Corinth, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). It’s a great question for you and I to consider with Thanksgiving only three days away; the answer, of course is “Nothing!” Everything we have has been given to us, and the Giver is the Lord God Almighty (Romans 11:36). Our families are a gift from God. Our careers are a gift from God. Our health is a gift from God. Our education is a gift from God. Everything is a gift from God, including our next breath and the next beat of our heart. The words we speak should shout to those around us just how thankful we are to God for the countless good gifts we have been given. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  (Colossians 3:16)

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. (Ephesians 5:18-19)

Did you know that the Bible instructs us to thank our God in song? Yes, that’s right. When you sing praises to God you are being obedient! We are not just invited to sing our praise to God, we are commanded to do so — even those of us who don’t have the “gift” of song! Jonah even sang a song of thanksgiving while he was in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 2:9). 

I am blessed to have musical children; it’s such a joy to hear them singing praises to God, whether with the praise team at the church or around the house. And make no mistake, our God delights in hearing heartfelt praise expressed in words that are both spoken and sung.

On Wednesday, we will take a look at giving expressions of thanks with out works!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

The title of today’s word of encouragement, when understood, will transform your life in a way you cannot imagine. It certainly transformed mine.

As a new believer, when I was first exposed to the biblical truth of the sovereignty of God — the fact that He is in complete control of all things, at all times, and in all places — I struggled to see God working for good in all the chaos that was swirling in my life. At the bare minimum, I supposed, God was either too busy to care about my little, insignificant life, or perhaps He simply made a few mistakes along the way. But when a caring Bible teacher took the time to explain today’s verse to me, the scales began to fall from my eyes and I learned to trust God in every aspect of my life, even the chaos and waves of challenge that were washing over me.

The first thing my teacher explained to me was what this verse does not teach; I frequently remind our congregation that Romans 8:28 is not teaching that all things that happen are good. There is a great deal of bad that happens in this life, things that cause suffering and sorrow. The second thing I learned was that Romans 8:28 is teaching that even the bad stuff that happens is under the complete control and care of God, and He has promised to use all of it for the ultimate good of those who love Him . . . even me! God works in all things to accomplish His ultimate plan and purpose — not just in my little life, but in the entire universe.

Finally, I needed to absorb the truth that God is more focused on my holiness than my happiness, a truth that is emphasized in Romans 8:29 — “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” My teacher explained that if God’s ultimate goal in my life is to conform me to the likeness of His Son — and often that conforming process includes seasons of suffering — then holiness, not happiness, is His primary purpose for my life.

These three truths were foundational to my understanding that God doesn’t make mistakes. What we might think is a “mistake” is actually ministry from the hands of our Maker. God is working all things together to make us more like Jesus. God takes the good, the bad, and the ugly to chisel away what is left of the sinful self in order to reveal more and more of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who dwells within us through His Holy Spirit.

So when you look back on your life and see the chaos, the confusion, and the challenges, remember that God doesn’t make mistakes. His works are perfect, all His ways are just, and He does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4). No, in all things, He is working to make you more and more like His Son. And that is a very good thing indeed!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Jesus’ Favorite Book

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me . . . (John 5:39)

Did you know that Jesus had a favorite book? Scripture makes it clear that our Lord certainly did have a favorite book— the Old Testament—as evidenced by the fact that He quoted it so many times throughout His earthly ministry.

I must confess that Jesus’ favorite book was my least favorite book early in my Christian life. When my wife, Kim, and I first came to faith in Christ, the church we were attending gave the Daily Walk One Year Bible to anyone who would commit to reading through it each day for the upcoming year. Kim and I accepted the challenge and began our year-long commitment on January 1. We cruised through Genesis. We read through Exodus. When we got into Leviticus, our eyes began to glaze over. I am not sure how we got through Numbers, but I can tell you that we both began to long for the day when we would finally get to “the good stuff” — that is, the New Testament — and that day would not come until October 1st.

Beyond the prophecies about Jesus as the promised Messiah, all we could see in the Old Testament was what seemed like a series of disconnected stories and moralistic messages telling us how to live a life that pleases God, coupled with ominous warnings about what happens to those who fail to do so. Today, by God’s grace, we don’t see it that way anymore. Now Jesus’ favorite book is also our favorite book, and here’s why: The Old Testament is all about Jesus, a fact that Jesus made perfectly clear over and over again. He told the Jewish religious leaders:

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

When the truth of these words from Jesus began to sink in, we started slowing down in our reading of the Old Testament to search the Scriptures, looking to find Him there. And if that statement from Jesus was not enough, a few verses later He added the following thunderclap:

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. (John 5:45-46)

Kim and I knew that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), but we did not understand just how profound these words were from Jesus. Then one day we encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, just like the two downcast disciples who met Him three days after the crucifixion. There the thunderclap turned into a lightning bolt!

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

These two men were disciples of Jesus, and they had expected Him to redeem Israel from Roman rule. But after Jesus was arrested, sentenced to death, and crucified, all hope was lost. They remembered that Jesus had spoken of a third-day resurrection, but this was the third day, and they had not seen Jesus alive and well. They did hear reports about the empty tomb from some of the female disciples and even from some of the men, but an empty tomb without a resurrected Jesus did not offer much hope. At the end of their walk to Emmaus, they stopped in the village and had a meal together; it was there that the Lord opened their eyes to recognize Him, and what they said next has been our continuing life experience every time we read the Old Testament:

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Today, Kim and I experience this “holy heartburn” whenever we read the Old Testament, seeing Jesus not just in prophecy, but in promise (beginning with God’s first Gospel proclamation in Genesis 3:15), in pattern, in people, in places . . . in short, on every page of Scripture. Jesus’ favorite book is now our favorite book, and it is my prayer that it will be yours also.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Intersection Of Our Reach And His Rest

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

We live in a fast-paced, burnout inducing culture — always going, going, going, but seemingly never arriving. We are often deprived of both sleep and satisfaction, and we yearn for stillness. So how do we arrive at the intersection of our reach and His rest that has been promised to us, even on this side of the grave?

First, we must keep in mind that we are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:26); we are to reflect Him through both our reach and our rest. God reached down from the heavens and created everything in the universe, but He did not keep creating non-stop. After six days of creative reaching, God rested on the seventh day. Please note that His rest was rooted in relationship; He walked with Adam and Eve “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). But when sin entered the world through their rebellion, our reach was disconnected from His rest. And herein lies the key to rest: It is not simply a cessation of our labor; it is a connection with our Lord.

When we are not in right relationship with God, we reach and we reach but we cannot find His rest. We toil and we labor, but we find no rest or relief from all of our reaching. Even when we are in a right relationship with God, rest often feels as far away from us as the east is from the west. And that brings us to God’s promise given us in our passage today: When we come before the Lord and we are still in His presence, we will experience His promised rest. You have His Word on that.

It is important to keep the context of today’s verse in mind: Psalm 46 was written during a time of great difficulties and challenges for God’s people, including war. Rather than offering a gentle reminder for “stillness,” God’s word is commanding us to stop struggling and shift our focus from ourselves to our God.

Jesus invites all those who are weary and heavy-laden to receive the rest that He alone offers (Matthew 11:28-30). At the deepest level, this is rest for the soul apart from the yoke of the Law. But Psalm 46 is also reminding us of the rest we need every week to be refreshed in our reaching. There is a special silence and stillness that will only be experienced when we are deeply connected to our Savior. Remember, God is in control of everything, even when it looks like everything is in chaos. When we are reaching within the context of our relationship with God, looking to Him for our guidance and direction and strength, we will experience the promised rest we need for everyday life as we make our way toward our promised rest for eternal life.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Prayers That Produce

Ask and it will be given to you. (Matthew 7:7)

It is an undeniable fact that we all want our prayers to be answered in the high court of heaven, yet we all know from personal experience that the answer to those prayers is often “No.” So the question is, What prayers are guaranteed to produce? I believe the Scriptures give us a clear answer. Let’s take a brief look.

When Jesus was teaching His disciples about the True Vine and the branches, He said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). “Ask whatever you wish” seems to be an amazing, open-ended promise to the believer that should keep us on our knees before God. But we cannot separate it from what Jesus said just before that: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Clearly, prayers that produce are those prayers that align our desires with His desires; when they do, we can rest assured that when we ask, it will be given. Here is how James explained it:

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

The Bible makes it clear that the prayers that produce are the prayers that bring our lives into conformity with Christ and His will for our lives. Now, do not misunderstand what James was saying. He was not saying that our prayers should never be connected to our pleasures. Rather, our pleasures are to be connected to the will of God. We should take great pleasure in the expansion of the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and the good of others. On the other hand, if we let the natural desires of the heart dominate our lives, we will miss God’s greatest blessings, because we are praying with “me-centered” motives, not God-centered ones.

The prayers that produce are the ones that keep us connected to Christ through His Word. The more we get into the Word of God, the more the Word gets into us; the more the Word gets into us, the more our desires are aligned with God’s desires for us. Remember, to want a pleasurable life is to want a good thing. God gives us good gifts for our enjoyment and our pleasure. God is not a cosmic kill-joy; He simply wants us to align our pleasures with His plan and purpose for our lives. When we do that, we will be pleasing our God by offering up prayers that produce.

What have you been asking for lately? Have you been seeking God’s will for your life? Or your own will? Let this reminder from John fill your prayer life with great expectation –

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (John 3:21-22)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Desires God Will Deliver

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

This is one of the most misunderstood promises in all of sacred Scripture; when taken out of context, it can lead to frustration and disappointment in the life of the believer. So let’s take just a moment to drill down a little bit and discover what are the desires that God will deliver.

Look again at the opening phrase of today’s verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord.” You can see that Psalm 37:4 is a conditional promise, can you not? Simply stated, the desires God will deliver to us are those that are rooted in our delight in Him. God is promising that He will fulfill the desires of the heart for those who keep Him in the center of their lives as the object of their desires.

Many theologically barren pulpits have preached this passage as if it gives Christians some sort of “cosmic carte blanche” that binds the heart of God to prove His love for us by granting us any and all of our desires, from health to wealth to everything in between. But this notion is nothing more than the gospel according to man, not the Gospel of God.

The truth is that when our hearts are beating for nothing smaller than Jesus, we are delighting in the Lord. This delight becomes the deepest desire of the heart, and that is the desire that God will deliver to us every time. Because we were made by God to live for the glory of God, we will never find true happiness or satisfaction apart from God. We will not find it in in our professions, our prosperity, or our possessions. These are all good gifts from God, but only when we are delighting in the Giver of these gifts. As Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). We will only find true, lasting happiness when we seek it in Jesus.

How is it with you? Has God been delivering the desires of your heart lately? It may help to keep these words of the psalmist in view:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25-26).

Remember, the desires that God will always deliver will always be in direct proportion to the delight you are experiencing in the Lord at any given time in your life. Every pleasure in life will have its proper place only when it is rooted in your personal relationship with Jesus. C. S. Lewis summarized this truth beautifully and powerfully:

“God cannot give us a happiness apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

So delight yourself in the Lord! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. When you do that sincerely and consistently, God will give you the desires of your heart. You have His Word on that.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Personal Testimony Power

“I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25)

If you are not familiar with this passage of Scripture within the context of the gospel according to John, perhaps you recall hearing the words sung in John Newton’s famous 1779 hymn “Amazing Grace.”

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.

In John’s gospel, we read of Jesus healing a man who had born blind. This took place on the Sabbath, the day of rest for the Jewish people. Throughout the ancient world in general, and within the Jewish culture in particular, it was believed that suffering was the result of sin; the greater the suffering, the greater the sin. This man had been born blind, so people believed that either his parents had committed some great sin, or perhaps the man himself sinned within the womb. Jesus dismissed this notion, saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).

After the blind man’s miraculous healing, both he and his parents were questioned by the religious leaders, not because there was insufficient evidence of this supernatural healing, but because they were jealous of both the power and popularity of Jesus and how it was diminishing their influence over the lives of the people. After the religious leaders had condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, they intimidated the man’s parents, and finally kicked the man out of the synagogue.

With that backdrop in mind, let’s take a brief look at what I call “Personal Testimony Power” as it relates to two things: audience and argument.

AUDIENCE – The audience that was questioning this blind man was comprised of the religious elite, the most educated and influential people in Israel. Because the Jewish religion and the synagogue were the center of life for the people of Israel, the religious leaders sat in the seat of power that could profoundly affect people’s lives. “Give glory to God,” they said sternly to the man Jesus had healed. “We know this man [Jesus] is a sinner” (John 9:24). In effect they were saying, “You’d better agree with us that Jesus is a blasphemer, or you will be excommunicated — evicted from the community of Israel.” Yet even in the face of the most powerful audience in Israel, this uneducated man, who had been blind since birth, stood boldly against the seat of power in his culture, without any fear of the consequences.

ARGUMENT – The man’s argument could not have been more straightforward. He was not intimidated by the religious leaders’ power, position, or prestige. He was not fearful of their education or intellect. He knew what he was before Jesus showed up — blind — and he knew what he was after his encounter with Jesus — able to see. This was his personal testimony, and it contained the power of the universe: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see.”

Every Christian has this powerful personal testimony. Often we hear some of the dramatic stories of salvation in the lives of others, and we begin to believe that our own stories are nothing special, certainly not noteworthy enough to share with an audience. But this is simply not true! When Jesus entered your life, the greatest, most miraculous power in the universe appeared with Him: the power to give sight to the blind . . . the power to raise the dead to life . . . the power that saved you. You need no complex apologetic argument, no special story, no divine discourse to share with others. There is no more powerful story to share about the saving power of Jesus than this: “I was blind, but now I see.”

When was the last time you shared this glorious Good News with someone?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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