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Posts Tagged ‘2 Corinthians 5:17’

Micki and I first met at church, and within moments it became clear: this woman would make a great friend. Not only did she exude warmth and smile easily, she asked questions.   Good questions.  And then she listened intently to my answers.

Fast forward a few years from that initial encounter. God did bring Micki and me together, and we’ve been friends ever since—over ten years now.

To know Micki is to experience loving acceptance from her heart, hear godly wisdom from her spirit, and receive splashes of joy from her effervescent personality.

You would not know that this well-balanced and vibrant person has suffered much pain and loss.

With Micki’s permission I am sharing with you her story:

At one time or another during her youth, Micki lived in the same house with an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a person suffering from mental illness.

In addition, she is an incest survivor and rape survivor.

“When you are abused by a person who should represent safety and security, and no one comes to rescue you, your entire world shifts,” Micki explains. “All the foundational undergirding and security a healthy child experiences is taken away. The world becomes terribly unsafe, with no one to trust or run to. And even though it is the abuser who is wrong, it is the child who feels dirty and bad.”

Those dreadful circumstances, however, were not the only tragedies to enter Micki’s life. She endured the trauma of teenage pregnancy and a doomed marriage as well.

“My first husband was a good and honorable man, but he was so wounded by his own childhood, he could not express love. For five years I was married to a man to whom I would say, ‘I love you’, and from whom would come silence. A man I hugged who couldn’t hug back. A man who regularly moved away from my touch.

“He never abused me, never fought with me, always provided for me, but his rejection was like a cancer, slowly eating away at my self-esteem. At that time I didn’t know he’d been wounded. I only knew he couldn’t stand to touch me, and the conclusion I drew was he must have discovered the truth—that I was dirty, unlovable and ugly.”

Micki recognized the damage in her life from living with an alcoholic, so she began attending Al-Anon, the sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Through that program, Micki was drawn to people with this light inside them—people who seemed happy despite their desperate circumstances—people who appeared to have a handle on that “Higher Power” the Al-Anon leaders taught about.

Of course, those people who radiated that Light were Christians, and in due time one of them led her to Jesus. She didn’t know it, but that was Micki’s first step toward wholeness.

Not long after she became a Christian, someone asked her, “Do you know how special you are to God?” She remembers sobbing because, how could ANYONE, much less GOD, think she was special?

Micki was so blinded by her past she could not fully grasp God’s personal love. But gently and tenderly over a number of years, he led her toward emotional and spiritual healing, that moment in time when she could finally accept God’s warm and gracious love.

Micki participated in her healing through enthusiastic Bible study. Where once she found scripture rather meaningless, the new Micki reveled in the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement she found within its pages.

Prayer became a lifeline as she navigated the rough waters of challenging family relationships and a stressful job.

Later, ministries at church became a source of great fulfillment. God has put her on a healing team and the planning team for women’s retreats, given her Bible study groups to lead and young women to mentor, as well as put her at the podium occasionally to speak. She has impacted hundreds of lives throughout the three decades since she said “yes” to Jesus.

As he so often does, God took the great brokenness of Micki’s life and created beautiful wholeness.

Then God took her wholeness, broke it open and poured it out, to multiply the beauty in others.

It’s what our God loves to do.

 

Micki and me, April 2018

 

 

 

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In one of his picture books, Barney Saltzberg asks all young artists: What can be done when your paper tears, a corner gets bent, or paint drips on your project? Throw it away and start over?

No, Saltzberg has better ideas, and through the pages of his book demonstrates his creative mastery of the mishap. A tear in paper, for example, can become the snaggly smile of an alligator. A bent corner can be turned into the head of a penguin, and paint drips into wheels on vehicles.

Saltzberg titled his masterpiece, Beautiful Oops!

 

 

What perfect imagery his book presents for the beautiful life Jesus creates out of each of us!

Without Jesus we make ourselves victims of mishaps and mistakes, motivated by the desires for self-gratification, power, and notoriety (to name a few). The results can include: gluttony, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, physical and emotional abuse, cheating, and slander (to name a few again).

But with Jesus, even those mishaps and mistakes can be transformed into something beautiful:

 

 

“Anyone united with the Messiah

gets a fresh start, is created new.

The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

–2 Corinthians 5:17, MSG

 

And what a life it is!

Those of us who ask Jesus into our lives get to enjoy incredible benefits such as:

  • A new perspective. No longer are we scrabbling for the next gratification, promotion, or thrill. Our eyes are opened to the delight of blessing others.

 

 

  • A new source of power. Dependence on ourselves is exhausting and worrisome. What a relief to rely on Someone all-wise and strong, Someone who even knows what will happen in the future.

 

 

  • A new certainty. No more lying awake at night with unanswerable questions pounding in our heads—questions like, “Is there life after death? How can a person know whether there’s a heaven and hell? If there is, how can I be sure to experience the former and not the latter?”  One step toward Jesus settles those questions. The believer knows his eternal destiny in heaven is secure.*

 

 

  • A new plan of action. No more striving after things that don’t satisfy. Life takes on new meaning, purpose, and fulfillment when God is integral to our lives.

 

 

(“The meaning of earthly existence lies not,

as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering

but in the development of the soul.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

 

  • New delights, such as: 1) anticipation and hope for the future, 2) awareness of God’s presence, 3) augmented relationships, and 4) understanding of and pleasure in Bible reading.

 

 

The person who doesn’t know Jesus may read this list and doubt its validity. Perhaps they don’t sense the need (yet) for these things or they question Jesus’ ability to provide them.

But like all the Oops in Barney Saltzberg’s book, we don’t really know the difference the Master can make until we turn the page.

 

______________________________

 

Have you turned the page to new life with the Master? If so, what aspect of your new life would you add to the list above? Share your experience in the comment section below!

 

*  Why would we believe what Jesus claimed in the Bible, that he’s the One to trust for the gift of eternal life in heaven? Whole books have been written to answer that question, to prove that the historical record of Jesus is accurate and his claims are absolutely true. One I highly recommend is The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998) by former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel.

Mr. Strobel was an atheist when he embarked on a thorough investigation of the evidence for a historic Jesus and his claims. When he had finished, Mr. Strobel had this to say: “The great irony was this: it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth” (p. 265)! Mr. Strobel was convinced by the overwhelming evidence and chose to become a Christian.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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She was more animal than human – grabbing food and stuffing her mouth, communicating with grunts, and reacting wildly to anything that did not suit her.

A teacher was hired to train the totally undisciplined six-year old, and make her into a mannerly, well-behaved child. To complicate matters, the child could neither hear nor see, the result of a high fever when she was a toddler. You’ve no doubt guessed her identity–Helen Keller, and the teacher’s–Anne Sullivan.

 

helen_keller_with_anne_sullivan_in_july_1888

 

You’ll remember that little Helen was not only wild but willful, too. She balked ferociously at the changes Miss Sullivan tried to initiate, attacking with fists and feet, tearing at clothing, and biting. No one would have blamed Anne if she had given up.

But the young teacher was even more determined than Helen. She would reach beyond the barriers of deafness and blindness. So the two of them moved into a nearby cottage where Anne offered constant support and instruction. With patience and tremendous perseverance, she tended to Helen.

You know the outcome. Helen was transformed into a cultured intellectual, who graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 at age 24, and went on to become an author, an advocate for the handicapped, and even a lecturer. In addition, Helen and Anne became lifelong friends and constant companions.

 

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Their inspiring story illustrates several ways in which our lifelong Friend and constant Companion, Jesus, transforms our lives:

1. Just as Helen discovered life was a much more positive experience when she submitted to the mores of civilization, we too experience a more positive life when we accept God’s ways and purposes rather than insist on our own (John 10:10).

2. Anne took up residence with Helen, ready and willing to transform the girl into a glorious new version of herself. Jesus has taken up residence in our spirits (John 15:5). He, too, is ready and willing to transform us–“into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

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3. Helen balked at change, unwilling to give up her way of life—unsatisfactory as it was. Little did she know what Anne had to offer. I, too, am slow to learn that “when God empties our lives of a treasured love, it is to fill them more completely with the greater treasure of himself” – Herbert Lockyer (1).

4. The relationship between student and teacher developed into a deep friendship as Helen grew up. She said of her beloved teacher, the day Anne Sullivan arrived at her home was “the most important day I remember in all my life.” Those of us who know Jesus as Friend would say the same of the day he came to live within our spirits (2 Corinthians 5:17).

5. As a result of Anne Sullivan’s instruction, support, and perseverance, Helen exchanged:

  • Constant uncertainty for confidence
  • Helplessness for achievement
  • Ignorance for knowledge

Jesus does the same and more. Because he dwells within us, we can exchange:

  • Our uncertainty for his wisdom—James 1:5
  • Our frailties for his strength—2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Our puny efforts for his ability to accomplish the impossible—Luke 18:27
  • ALL our inadequacies for ALL the fullness of God—Ephesians 3:19 (2)

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord Jesus, that the moment I invited you into my life, you began your transforming work—teaching, guiding, supporting, and encouraging. You have granted me newness of life! I am not a condemned sinner; I am a saint! I am no longer bound to the sinful nature; I am a brand new creature in you! I am not a reject; I am a beloved child of the King of the universe! Thank you, oh God, for these glorious realities.  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  But I am greatly relieved and overjoyed that it’s all true.

(Romans 6:6; 6:4, 8:1; Ephesians 2:18-20; Romans 8:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26; Psalm 139:6)

 

Notes:

(1) Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 15.

(2) Henry Blackaby, http://www.preceptaustin.org, Experiencing God Day by Day, “An Exchanged Life.”

 

Photos and art credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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Companies spend much time and money analyzing factors that grab our attention to their advertisements. They’ve discovered that certain colors, shapes, and layouts create impact upon buyers.

In fact, researchers have even determined the most powerful, persuasive words. They recommend  advertisers use these top ten:

  • You – you matter; you deserve the product
  • Free – after all, everyone likes a deal
  • Because – people need reasons why they should buy
  • Instantly – we care about immediate results
  • New – everyone appreciates an improved product
  • Save – people like a bargain
  • Proven – we appreciate research that backs up an advertiser’s claim
  • Love – taps into what’s important to us, like family, safety, and security
  • Discover – hints of a promise that we’ll be satisfied
  • Guarantee – removes the feeling of risk

As I read through this list it occurred to me all these words are part of the glorious message of Christmas:

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On that quiet night in sleepy Bethlehem, God sent his only Son into the world to be our Savior. Why? Because he loves us. Whoever believes on him will be saved from death and will receive the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16). That includes you!

 Oh, but there’s more. When we fuse ourselves to Jesus, we become brand new people (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Our outlook on life is revitalized; our values and motivations change. We instantly experience the peace of God and his joy (John 14:27 and 10:10). Each day is an opportunity to discover more of what it means to live a God-enhanced life.

And how do we know those statements are true? God’s Word is our guarantee that these blessings become ours through Jesus. The truth presented within its pages has been proven. 

  • Over 150 years of archaeological studies back up the accuracy of numerous facts in scripture. Not one discovery has uncovered an inaccuracy.
  • Dozens of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus. The mathematical laws of chance refute the possibility of coincidence.
  • Scientific and medical information in the Bible has been verified centuries later.*
  • Thousands of ancient manuscript fragments and letters (which include Bible quotes) corroborate the scriptures – many more than any other ancient text.
  • The influence of the Bible has been evident in the lives of individuals and upon the culture and history of the Western world. No other book has produced such impact.

There you have it. Ten words that researchers have found to be powerful and persuasive for selling products, or ten words that persuasively express the significance of Christmas and why it makes sense to embrace it.

The apostle John summarized the central truth of Christmas with these ten words:

nativityscene

(“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14)

That is glorious, incredible news worth celebrating.

But Christmas isn’t just a happy one-day celebration, it’s meant to be a joyous, whole new way of living with Jesus — all year, every year.

Better yet?  A day is coming when the joy of Christmas will be purified, intensified and extended for all eternity–on the day when he comes again!

 

*For one small example, see “Pathfinder of the Seas” about Matthew Maury and his discoveries.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wordstream.com; http://www.beyondwaiting.com; http://www.outreach.com.)

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(Remember Susan Boyle?)

 

Makeovers. What a remarkable change-of-appearance can be achieved with a becoming hairstyle (and maybe color-enhancement!), deftly applied make-up, and well-fitted clothing.  Add the benefit of plastic surgery and a person hardly resembles her former self.

But the transformation of someone’s face and body doesn’t begin to compare to the transformation of someone’s spirit.

 

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Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

–2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) 

 

Notice: We’re not just improved and beautified. Jesus remakes each of us into a brand new person.

And what might that newness include? Here’s a partial list:

 

  • New purpose

 

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(“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

–1 Corinthians 10:31b)

 

Those who follow this directive discover an interesting phenomenon: honoring God brings satisfaction and fulfillment to us. (By the way, God is not on some ego trip, demanding us to give him all the glory. He desires his splendor and benevolence to be evident everywhere, so others might be drawn to him.)

 

  • New attitude resulting in new character

 

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(“Put on your new nature and be renewed

As you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

–Colossians 3:10)

 

The more we know of God and appreciate all his benefits, the more we want to please him by following his example. That new attitude impacts every aspect of our lives.

 

  • New perspective

 

Psalm-23-6

(“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”

–Psalm 23:6)

 

Just knowing God has our best interest at heart is enough to renew energy and hope.

 

  • New power to face what comes

 

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(“[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us.”

–Ephesians 3:20)

 

Think of it: the same power that controls the universe is at work within us. Tell me again why we revert to worrying?!

 

  • New emotions, such as peace and joy

 

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(“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking,

but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

–Romans 14:17)

 

We do not need to live at the mercy of our circumstances. With God as our constant companion, we can experience peace and joy in spite of what happens. The Bible is full of examples of people who lived that way: Joseph, Daniel, Peter, and Paul readily come to mind.

 

  • New confidence

Proverbs 3.26 

(“The Lord will be your confidence.”

–Proverbs 3:26a)

 

God is not only with us, he is our Protector, Provider, and Guide.  As we become increasingly aware of his faithfulness, our trust grows. Trust = confidence.

 

  • New opportunities and blessings

 

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(“The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

–Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

 

Experience tells us that when we say “yes” to Jesus, God does not bestow the full measure of all of these wonderful new things instantaneously. God told Isaiah: “Behold I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19).  That hints at process. We’re made new, but growing into that newness.

 

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Think of buying a coat in the fall that’s a little too big for your child. She owns the coat, but it doesn’t quite fit yet.  Within a matter of weeks however, the sleeves hit the wrist not the fingertips, and the shoulder seams sit properly–no sagging down the arms.

Might it be that when we invite Jesus in our lives, our spirits are made new, but we don’t quite fit into them yet? Then, as we cooperate with Holy Spirit and his fruit grows within us (Galatians 5:22-23), we steadily become more Christ-like, day by day.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, I don’t want to cling to aspects of the old me—things like worry, perfectionism, selfishness, and pride. I want to embrace everything new that YOU bring to my life, to become my true self—the one you designed me to be.**

 

**Based on idea from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, p. 381.

Photo credits:  www.joblogging.weebly.com; http://www.ilovemybible.tumblr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.faithgateway.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.plus.google.com; pinterest.com (2).

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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cork-wall-art1

Take a close look at the intricate design above. Did you notice the artist’s medium? Corks!

And look at what some clever soul did with some old tires.

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And how about this stemware rack? Quite the creative use for a discarded garden rake.

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All three of these projects are examples of upcycling—the process of converting useless products and waste materials into new products of higher quality or value than the original.

On a much grander scale, consider:   those of us who know Jesus have also been upcycled.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

 And what does that new, upcycled life include?

  • The opportunity for intimacy with Almighty God
  • A fresh perspective on life
  • Strength to face whatever might happen
  • A glorious certainty for the future
  • A deep sense of peace and joy that circumstances cannot destroy

And that’s just the beginning of the list.

Just as resourceful people are able to upcycle any number of materials, God can use everything in our lives:

  • Every relationship
  • Every situation
  • Every trial
  • Every hurt
  • Even every failure

No matter what we go through, God can upcycle the experience to create something worthwhile.  Good things like:  1) important life-lessons, 2) steps in his carefully orchestrated plan for our lives, and 3) a positive influence upon others.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

–Bill Wilson

(founder of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Paul expressed the same truth in scripture:

“God is able to orchestrate everything

to work toward something good and beautiful

when we love him and accept his invitation

to live according to his plan.”

–Romans 8:28, The Voice, italics added)

The inconsequential bits of our lives are never wasted in God’s economy either. For example:  He uses every good deed, every exercise of self-discipline, every effort to keep peace, to mold us into better people and to minister to others.

And then there is the trash of our lives—those circumstances and relationships we wish never had happened.  Even the trash is upcycled:

Wailing becomes dancing (Psalm 30:11)

Tears become joy (Psalm 126:5),

Ashes become beauty,

Despair becomes praise (Isaiah 61:3),

The crooked roads become straight (Luke 3:5),

Darkness becomes light (1 Peter 2:9).

Someone very clever expressed it this way:

rose-quote

Does that mean we sit and wait while God turns our tears of disillusionment to joy? The ashes of disappointment into something beautiful? The crooked road of bad choices into a straight, smooth path?

No, God honors us by allowing us to participate in the upcycling process.

“Always work enthusiastically for the Lord,

for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

— 1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT

Let’s strive to choose the next “best thing” before us, and let God upcycle the results!

(Photo credits:  www.winecorkdesigns.com; http://www.newscentral.exsees.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.mediawebapps.com.)

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‘Ever watch one of those television shows that provides a person with a complete makeover? By the end of the hour she (or sometimes he) has acquired a personalized, updated wardrobe, learned how to apply make-up, and received a new hair-do.  The physical transformation is always stunning.

However, there is a transformation even more amazing.  Paul explains it this way:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

new-creation

 

Those of us in Christ haven’t just been adjusted, primped, polished, or camouflaged.  We have become new people with clean slates, strong purpose, deep joy, and vibrant enthusiasm for life.

And that’s not all.  Each day we’re becoming better than the day before–a bit more perfected–if we remain in Christ.  Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) says we’re becoming more fully our true selves–the ones God designed us to be.  I like that.

Each day in Christ is an opportunity to grow more completely into his glorious image.  These changes have nothing to do with outward appearance.  They take place on the inside, impacting our personalities, emotions, minds, and spirits.

That expression, in Christ (also “in the Lord” and “in him”), occurs 164 times in Paul’s letters.  Such repetition would indicate the importance of the concept.

So how would we define the meaning of being “in Christ?”  Here are a few possibilities.

1.  In Christ means we live within his presence.  Now that’s a rather abstract concept. Perhaps an analogy would increase our understanding.

Picture yourself surrounded by trees in a forest.  The woods fill your senses—the sight of tall, stately trees, the sound of chirping birds, the aroma of pine and earth, the textures of rough bark and velvety moss, the taste of cold, clear water from a stream.

 

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Similarly, the presence of Christ completely surrounds us as believers.  Christ fills the senses of our hearts, if we avail ourselves. We see more fully the glory of his creation, hear his truth, breathe in his love like a fine fragrance, feel his strength upholding us, and taste his goodness in the feast of blessings he provides.

Such sensations change who we are.  In Christ, we can become stable, contented, joy-filled people.

2.  In Christ means we are united with him, like a branch fused to the vine (John 15:1-8). He is the Source of everything we need, but we must stay in contact with him. How do we do that with Someone who’s invisible? Possibilities include prayer, praise, gratitude, and worship–throughout the day.

And when we’re united with him, his peace and strength are infused into us.

3.  In Christ means we’re in close relationship with him. Never should there “be day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him” (William Barclay).

And when we live in the presence of Christ, and in union with Christ, the inner transformation he has instituted will most definitely become visible. Jesus’ character will begin to flow through our attitudes and actions, just as sap flows through the vine into the branches. Attitudes like kindness, understanding, and forgiveness will give strong evidence that we’re living in Christ.

 

Woman praising with arms raised in the air

 

And what will the people around us see?  Folks who…

  • exude joy and optimism.
  • are gracious to others.
  • exhibit self-control.
  • make wise choices.
  • aim to express love–always.

Such delightful, purposeful living awaits those who center themselves  in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the supreme privilege of living in your presence.  You are the King of the universe, yet you want to be united with us in close relationship.  And as we avail ourselves, you infuse us with your attributes, your strength, your peace.  All praise to you, gracious Savior, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, as we abide in you.

(Photo credits:  www.brotherransome.com, http://www.wikipedia.org., and alishagratehouse.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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