Change: Not Gradual Or Sudden, But Both/And

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Change.

Don’t we love change when it is our idea? At least initially, we welcome that move, anticipate that promotion, and feel exhilarated by a fresh page on which to write our story.

However, change that creeps up on us, is inflicted by another, or runs contrary to our expectations can be unwelcome and unwanted.

Pounds gained ounce by ounce, or, one morning awaking a decade older having not lamented the last 10 birthdays, but realizing this one finds you closer to middle or even old age; these are gradual changes that we are cognizant of but not attentive to until the little, seemingly subtle changes add up to a paradigm shift. I.e. I’m old! I’m overweight! I am not the person I thought I would be!

Note that last one. Changes in our character can be similar to subtle weight gain and the edging closer to the next age bracket on the census. We can either draw nearer to the person we desire to become-for some to become in Christ and for others in general-or we can, with one small decision at a time, recede away from our objective.

What about you? Where do find yourself today: at work, in relationships, with your self-assigned goals? Are you closer to the person you pictured yourself to be 5 or 10 years ago or are you farther off target than you imagined?

The continuity of change is that whether gradual or sudden, whether anticipated or shocking, whether welcomed or displeasing, it happens. In fact, change is not really gradual or sudden, it is both/and. Both gradual and sudden change is going to stare us each in the eyeballs as long as we live.

We should indeed expect the unexpected even while we anticipate the logical consequences of our everyday decisions.

Amidst all the change, one venue we possess control over is the character with which we respond to vacillating life circumstances. We can take the punches thrown at us in life from friend, foe, or our own bad decisions of the past and present and decide how we respond.

With every change there is a choice. 

We can choose to draw near to Christ or we can choose to run the opposite direction. We can choose to let our personal failures continue to knock us down the path we don’t want to go, or, we can turn on our heels and head back in the direction in which we initially aimed.

The truth of the matter is that regardless of our choice, God remains the same. He is the only unchanging factor that we can anchor our souls to. The only fixed point on which we can rely as on a compass in the wilderness of our subtle or drastic change.

Therefore, in the face of both gradual changes in our lives and sudden unexpected decisions that may send us reeling or, conversely beaming with joy, we have a choice to make. Will we let these changes, both good and bad, impede our ability to achieve the character we wish to develop? Or, will we utilize changes to improve our knowledge that ultimately our hope is anchoring our lives on the only fixed point in the universe–Jesus Christ.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. ~Psalm 90:2

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A Living Lighthouse

Living Lighthouses

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Lighthouses line our coasts from sea shore to sea shore and the interior of our Great Lakes and some major waterways. They warn ships of impending trouble lest they run ashore and among rocky coasts and  dangerous reefs beneath the sea. Lighthouses serve to guide ships into a safe harbor or urge them out to sea. So the message of the lighthouse varies from a cry of danger to this is the way. Therefore, lighthouses serve as navigational markers to let sailors and boaters know exactly where they are and where they do not want to go.

As Christ-followers, we are bearers of the light of Jesus Christ and the gospel message. We serve as lights in this dark world to point people to the Way, the Truth, and the Life found in Jesus Christ.

When we hold firmly to the teachings of the Bible–God’s Word which is the same yesterday, today, and forever–we serve as navigational guides to the lost and dying world signaling to them by the power of the Holy Spirit, this is the way, walk in it. Or warning them of impending doom if they do not turn from their wicked ways, repent, and follow Jesus.

If or when Christians decide they will bend to the moral tide of our culture, we darken our light, the light within us of the Holy Spirit, from shining as a beacon in the night. We forfeit our purpose, and our responsibility, to be the city on a hill Jesus taught about in Matthew 5. We no longer guide our fellow-men to The Light when we ourselves are cloaked in the darkness of the world.

The Christian opinion has never been the popular opinion; though a watered-down version of Christian teachings may have in fact been the popular opinion. No more; and, so be it, in order that our light may shine ever brighter until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who are we shining God’s light to today? In what way are we acting as living lighthouses telling and showing the way toward Jesus Christ? May we live on mission in every area of our life pointing our fellow men and women to the Light of the World.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 1:6-7

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A Somber 4th of July

A Somber 4th of July

I can hear Lee Greenwood’s voice in my head and vividly remember the fireworks blazing over his head as I listened and watched him sing on a televised 4th of July celebration many, many years ago, ” I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I proudly stand up, next to you and defend her still today. Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S. A!”

I can no longer sing that song with Mr. Greenwood. I couldn’t last year, and I certainly can’t this year. My Christian beliefs preclude me from asking God’s blessing on a prideful nation that has collectively turned its back on Him. The current President has downplayed American exceptionalism and crafted an environment fertile for a pluralistic republic. He declared that we are not a Christian nation early in his presidency and regretfully, we are moving further and further away from “one nation under God.” Instead, we have moved to one nation apart from God.

The Supreme Court’s decision to legislate from the judicial branch, an act which the Founding Fathers warned against and worked to prevent, has set the course for the nation’s undoing. We were heading that direction state by state, but the ruling by SCOTUS last Friday expedited the process and ushered in a new fight to protect our First Amendment rights, specifically the exercise of  religious liberty.

I am rendering a very gloomy state of the Union. I understand. Many may stop reading and thankfully, you have every right to. Likewise, I currently possess every right to say what’s on my mind. Freedom of speech, also a right under the First Amendment.

Our First Amendment rights may be under siege, dear Christian, but our first allegiance to the Living God need not be.

As a pastor’s wife, a homeschooling mom, and an American grateful for the government set up by the founders of our nation, the men and women of our armed forces, and the firefighters and police officers who risk their lives for their fellowmen every day,  the ruling and ramifications of the SCOTUS decision greatly saddens me. I  have read the Bible, I watch and read the news, and I see the cultural road signs–we live as in the days of Noah. Sin is rampant, self-love is evident, and persecution of Christians is like unto the days of the Roman Empire. I’m not surprised, for Jesus foretold of such, but I must admit that I am deeply saddened.

We have often wondered why we Christians in America have not suffered persecution like our brothers and sisters around the globe. Well, our time may be at hand. We must cling to the document which bears the words of the Living God; it is the only firm foundation in a world of shifting sand. The Word of God is not tethered to one nation or one time period. The Word of God is for all mankind in every nation, forever. His joy comes in the morning and our work is at hand. Be strong in the Lord Jesus and stand firm.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace
In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Ephesians 6: 10-20, HCSB

Home is a place called Heaven,

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Today, in light of the news I will…

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The news has never been a place to run to for uplifting information. Sure, you might catch a Friday concert series or a fashion show on some of the morning news programs, but no real sustaining hope.

As I age and pay more and more attention to the current events in our country and around the world, it seems the news only gets bleaker and more troubling. It is clear our country is divided on so many levels, none the least of which are moral issues and religious professions.

The most recent news facing moral, legal, and red/blue dividing lines are the Baltimore rioting, the Duggar’s past family sins and crisis, and Bruce turned Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transformation. Each of these issues divide our country’s people, seemingly down party lines. We live in a day of seemingly fluid measures of morality.

Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner was applauded and even alleged to be awarded the Aurther Ash Courage Award at the ESPYS because of his act of “courage” to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. Compare this to  the latest news on the Duggar’s past family crisis (molestation within their family 12 years ago) and the lines are drawn and the hate speech is flying.

In regards to the Duggar’s, no doubt this was shocking information for all. Does it seem plank/speck? Maybe. However, did this family address the situation the best they knew how? Should the whole family’s voice in society be squelched because one of their family members acted in an immoral and illegal way? Did the offender seek forgiveness and rehabilitation/counseling?

We all have sexual sin in our pasts. That does not disqualify those who have sought forgiveness and turned from sin, the freedom of speech against proposed laws which goes against their moral and religious consciences. The LGBT community and its supporters are absolutely outraged that a family who has spoken on behalf of the evangelical community against legalization of gay marriage and against the allowance of transgender citizens the right to use the public restroom to the gender with which they identify and not to which they were assigned at birth. Some pundits have gone so far as to condemn the Duggar’s all to hell! Hate is rampant there is no question of that. Pundits are even condemning people to a place it is questionable they believe in!

I am not defending Joshua Duggar’s actions, and quite frankly, neither are he nor his family. I am simply lamenting the fact that the secular and progressive community is using this news as a war cry against evangelicals and Christians in general. It seems only those with no past sins can speak out about their religious and political beliefs. If that is the case, then the conversation has surely ended for both sides. 

We as Christians need to be careful to address the moral issues of our day with love and respect even as we speak out in favor of laws upholding the Biblical definition of marriage. Our rhetoric must not be hate-filled and neither should that of the people who stand in opposition to the teachings of the Bible. In America, we must uphold and adhere to freedom of speech even as the true Enemy seeks to shut down the message of the Gospel and the liberating mandates of God.

As we continue to respond to this culture war by the spreading of the Gospel, may we not forget that the real enemy is not someone whose political and personal practices differ from our own, but rather Satan himself. The church must speak against all sexual sin. My sexual sin may seem a backpack’s load compared to someone else’s U Haul truck, but the loads were the same weight when Christ carried our sin to the cross.

The backlash on the Duggar family and their handling of molestation within their family, compared to the awards given to Jenner for his  transgender identity is simply astonishing.  There is no war on women in America, rather, there is a war on God’s design and the celebration of God-given life in the form of male and female. 

It is clear that the further we have walked away from the Bible and the message of Jesus Christ as a nation, the worse things have gotten for our country. We are tearing ourselves and our country apart. We are a house divided on every issue by liberal versus conservative beliefs. Now more than ever we hear it is us against them.

May it not be so within our churches, nor the Body of Christ. We are not to be fooled that this is about flesh and blood, it is about evil and principalities in the unseen realms. (See Ephesians 6:12 here.) We must not throw our hands up in despair and forgo this battle.

If we are on God’s side we will come out victorious in the end. The battle of good verses evil has already been called. That statement isn’t a cliche to excuse the church to sit on its laurels and watch as the parade goes by, rather it is a rally cry to remember what is to come.

These troubles and issues do not come as a surprise for those who read God’s Word. Paul reminds Timothy that we must endure suffering and expect a battle, and then, he offers three ways to respond.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)

Today, in light of all the news headlines, I must remember and abide by these three truths:

  • Know your Boss. The ultimate Boss whom I must work to please and follow His command is God and Christ Jesus. He will be the One that I ultimately answer to for my behaviors.
  • Follow the laws. We must first abide by God’s laws and then the laws of our country.
  • Work to the finish. There is no crop for the farmer to reap if he quits working. Press on!

We must keep our head up, bend the knee, and work to the finish. Everyday faithfulness to our God and our family will make a difference. Don’t give up.

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A Lasting Legacy

I often find myself in second hand stores like the Goodwill or our local used library store. I love finding richness and bargains in the items others have deemed unnecessary or no longer useful. It is often a thrill to find a classic book in worn or like new condition.

I say find myself in such places, maybe lend myself to such places is a better way to put it. In any case, I like finding value and bargains in discarded items. The adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is certainly one that my mom taught me.

About a month ago, I was using some alone time to peruse our local Goodwill. I don’t often check out the furniture section, but decided I would. Imagine my surprise when I spotted a stunning, dark wood piano. I heard my breath catch and my coffee cup quickly found its way to a resting place as I eagerly fingered each key to check and see if they worked.

To my delight, each key let out a beautiful note equal to the beauty of the piano. The cost…a meager one hundred dollars. An expense great in some measures, but a bargain in this case. Dare I text my husband to see if I could purchase the piece? I dared… and waited.  While I was waiting for a response from Ron, I lifted the piano bench to find several very old and well-used hymnals. As I already said, I love old books, but even more than old books, I love a life lived worshiping the Lord Jesus. This bargain piano had belonged to a woman named Faith, who had been praising the Lord on this very piano for, as it appeared, quite some time.

A Lasting Legacy

Sold!

I wavered a bit between texts with Ron and conversations with the manager about pick up details. Ultimately, I knew this piano was a gift from God. He had seen my sideways glances at our silver keyboard seemingly out of place in our dinning room area. He knew that I would love a piano even though I hadn’t even hoped to acquire one, much less ask. I know it is a luxury item when compared to the poverty stricken world, but a laughable pocket change expense to the richest in our land. Even so, it was a gift of affordable price from the Lord wrapped in the remnants of a life of worship played on its keys for years before.

I find it amazing, that the choices we make in this life echo long after our bodies return to the dust. Faith’s legacy was apparent, in part, by the choices in music she made and the pages of worship she left behind. Our actions preach beyond our present and our legacy lasts beyond our life’s breath. 

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Proverbs 20:11, KJV

Our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions; but in the One who possess our very souls. We labor and toil and worry, and are liable to miss the point if we aren’t seeking to live the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. Yes, this means possessions will come and go, but how we use them, and for whom, is more the point.

For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.

Ecclesiastes 2:21, NIV

It is a misfortune if the only reason for which we have toiled is to acquire or to satiate our selfish ambition in this life. If we have toiled to bless and to be an instrument of God’s glory then we are working for eternal riches to be realized in heaven for eternity. As David Platt says in his new book, Counter Culture, we aren’t working for twenty years from now, we are working for twenty million years from now. Solomon wrote the above verse in light of the temporary. When we work for the eternal, then our work is never meaningless and whatever remains for others to use is not a misfortune. The rewards that matter most comes from work that is lasting and ultimately realized in heaven.

Some of the greatest composers of all time were men who loved God and penned lasting music for God’s glory alone, Soli Deo Gloria. Consider:

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.

Johann Sebastian Bach

What will those after us find when they open the boxes of our left behind possessions? Boxes filled with worldly remains or the remnants of a life well lived? In all that we say and all that we do we strive to do it Soli Deo Gloria. For the moments we fail there is grace found in faith through Jesus Christ. 

Praying we live a life of lasting legacy,

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Parting Words: Until We Meet Again

Parting Words: Until We Meet Again

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The wonderful part of looking at the parting words of Christ, is that Jesus did not ultimately say goodbye. Rather, He said, until we meet again. Essentially, Jesus parted with a promise and with directives and encouragement for His disciples. For all who would follow after Him. That’s the beauty of celebrating Easter, it is a reminder of the promises of God through Christ Jesus.

Easter is a reminder that the work of Christ is finished but the work for His Kingdom continues.

His finished work established our life’s work.

His purpose fulfilled, birthed our purposes revealed.

I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:12-13)

His ascension was God’s plan to prepare a place for us and grow His Kingdom and message of redemption all over the earth. Does Jesus really need time to prepare a place for us, unquestionably no. However, this is part of making everything beautiful in its time. His time.

For those in Christ Jesus, no parting words would henceforth be forever. A reunion of saints now awaits after this life. What joy! Promised joy and a weight of glory unimaginable. He came and conquered death and He is coming back…next time as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords not as a suffering servant nor sacrificial lamb.

This life’s temporal goodbyes which separate the living from those in eternity continue to sting, but joy filled reunions will resound in heaven for those in Christ Jesus. Take heart and press on until such time.

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Parting Words: An Easter Series

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Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8,ESV)

Good-byes are difficult. The good-byes of life: the dorm room, the parting of child from family at the alter of marriage, the distance of a move, the deathbed…many moments in life involve parting words. As we enter into the Easter Season, I want to focus on the good-byes of Jesus and of Paul. What did the Savior of the world want to leave as parting lessons with his disciples–with us? How did Paul part with Timothy? What were his final instructions to the young man he mentored in the faith?

I believe that our good-byes can be strengthened by looking at the good-byes of Jesus and Paul. In the next five weeks leading up to Easter we will delve into:

  • Paul’s last words to Timothy
  • Jesus’ last words to the Apostles
  • Jesus’ parting words in Revelation

I look forward to learning how to say meaningful and lasting parting words in this life so that the hellos of eternity will be all the sweeter. I certainly need these lessons, and I eagerly anticipate learning them alongside you this Easter Season.

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Homeland: Until We’re There

Homeland Part 3

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

~O’Holy Night

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14, ESV)

We find find ourselves waking to a world akin to the setting Christ entered into over 2,000 years ago. He came to bring peace and redeem lost mankind; even now, especially now, the Prince of Peace is needed on this earth.

The hopeful message of Christmas is that God became man and sympathizes with our weaknesses, our daily needs, and the temptations that are common to man. He is no stranger to the sting of death, separation from loved ones, betrayal, want, and the disappointment of broken relationships and broken people. Christ knows that rejoicing in darkness is impossible apart from the Light of the world; so He came to deliver the Light–Himself–for all mankind. (See John 1:9-13)

He is the Light that gives birth to the sons and the daughters of God. He is the Light that pierces the darkness with the full knowledge of how the darkness bears weight on all mankind. Jesus drew near to us so that we could draw near to the Father. How are we to press on in the meantime? How do we live until we reach our Homeland?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12, ESV)

So, until we reach our Homeland, until we cross the threshold of time and space to Heaven and eternity, Christ sets the example for us to follow. He gives us a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) to imitate their faith and patience so we may inherit the promises of God–eternal life through Christ Jesus.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:14-16, ESV)

He knows our needs, and to our weaknesses He is no stranger. Behold our King this Christmas season and before Him lowly bend. God is with us and if He is with us and for us, then none shall stand against us.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

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To Honor and Remember

Rice has become a mainstay in our home the last 6 months with our new diet restrictions. Thursday as I was preparing our rice for lunch, a few cooked grains fell to the counter. As I retrieved the three stray grains, my mind wandered to the story of Louis Zamperini as documented by Laura Hillenbrand in her brilliantly crafted book, Unbroken. Shortly after reading his biography I recall telling a friend, “I’ll never look at rice the same way again.”

You see, for Louis and his fellow Pacific POWs, rice had become a symbol of the horrors they endured. Curious about the connection? Read the book and find out why.

The Pacific POWs who went home in 1945 were torn-down men. They had an intimate understanding of man’s vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness, to inflict it. They carried unspeakable memories of torture and humiliation, and an acute sense of vulnerability that attended the knowledge of how readily they could be disarmed and dehumanized. Many felt lonely and isolated, having endured abuses that ordinary people couldn’t understand. (Unbroken, Hillenbrand, p. 349)

The story of Louis Zamperini is one of God’s amazing grace and restorative power in the midst of life’s pain, the forces of evil, our insufficient coping mechanisms, and His unfailing pursuit of human hearts.

Louis Zamperini went on to be with the Lord this week. How fitting that a man who sacrificed years of his life as a POW drew his final breaths so close to the day we celebrate America’s Freedom.
This weekend as we remember those who have sacrificed life, limb and certainly peace of mind in the wake of all that they are witnesses to, I would like to pause and remember the life of Louis Zamperini. He endured the unimaginable and went on to live a life grounded in Christ Jesus. Thank you Louis for your service  to our country and for sharing your story of faith with the world. I look forward to meeting you in heaven and telling you, thank you face to face.
May America turn in repentance to Jesus Christ and return to the shining city on a hill that we were founded to be. One that was founded on religious freedom and the quest to spread the gospel. May we recognize and honor the sacrifices valiant men and women make today to secure our liberty and protect our land.  My sincerest thanks to them and their families.
I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still ~Ronald Reagan, 1984
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Love Thy Neighbor

Love thy neighbor

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, ESV)

You might assume that all pastors’ neighbors have heard the gospel. I should hope that you are right. However, evangelization doesn’t mean salvation.

My pastor-husband and I have lived in the same house for twelve years. In that time span we have witnessed to all of our neighbors in our court with the exception of two – one who moved in within the past year and one set who only scurry to the mailbox, their door, and their car.

For one reason or another, none of our neighbors have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus. Each of the neighbors have their own reasons and excuses. Some attend mass and feel that the combination of going to church, being a good person, and committing no unpardonable(venial) sins is enough to get them into heaven and rescue them from hell. Others take the pragmatic position of “that’s good for you.” Finally, one adheres to a self-made form of religion that mostly resembles the modern thought of coexistence—every path leads to god.

For me this begs the question, what are we doing wrong?  

Hop over to iBelieve to read this post. (Click here)

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