Here's A Thought...

Here are some "THOUGHTS" that will hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have about what the Bible has to say about our everyday lives. These articles are here to provoke thought; provide answers, guidance and resources; all in an effort to bring you into a closer relationship with your Heavenly Father!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why the "Love Chapter"

There is a very popular chapter in the bible that is commonly referred to as the “love chapter”. Most followers of Jesus Christ know the verses I am referring to. Most who have attended church for any period of time have probably heard the verses. If you have never attended church but have been to a wedding…you may have heard this chapter. It is Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, and it goes like this:
            If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
            Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
            Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
            So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

What I would like to do is to spend a few moments talking about why Paul wrote these words and why he placed these words right in the middle of his letter to the church in Corinth.
So let’s start with a little history. The church in Corinth was a very new and young church. It had only been established by Paul a few years before this letter.
There were several major mainstays of the social practices of the city of Corinth that were beginning to leak into the church culture. Corinth had been a community that was very big on social advancement. There was a big emphasis on pride related to personal accomplishments. The residents of Corinth had worshiped many other “Gods” and as part of that practice was the use of sex as part of their ceremonies and worship. It was common practice to have multiple sexual partners outside of personal relationships as it was considered “normal” in their society. It was also common in Corinth to pay speakers to come into the city; who by the use of lavish speeches, putting on a huge display, the use of humor and showmanship would attempt to “educate” or sway their audience in the way of social behavior and social advancement.

There were several of the above issues that were brought to Paul’s attention and prompted him to write this letter. As a matter of history, this is actually the second letter that Paul wrote and the first has been lost to history. Now it is important to understand that Paul was very pleased and proud of the church he had started in Corinth; however, he was equally concerned over issues that if left unattended could lead those of the church away from the Gospel of Christ. So he wrote a letter to bring to their attention or to clarify to the church the expectations of Christ.

So Paul is writing to the church at Corinth about division. He’s telling them not to be divided by doctrines or the use of spiritual gifts. Not to be divided by whom they follow or who they had been baptized by. He’s warning them about the sexual immorality that they have been indulging in.
The entire letter is an admonishment to unity. And right in the middle of this letter he places these couple of paragraphs regarding love. So why does Paul add these words in the middle of writing a letter of correction to the Corinth church? These few simple words in the middle of this letter are reminding the church that their focus should be on love.

I served in the United States Marine Corps and one of my specialties was that of a firearms instructor. There are many factors that have to come into play to teach someone how to place a round in the bulls-eye. Things such as stance, posture, grip, breathing, trigger squeeze and so on. But one of the things that is the most difficult to train a new shooters to do is to obtain and maintain the correct focus during aiming. In order to correctly aim the weapon, you have to obtain the appropriate alignment and picture of what the sights in relationship to the target should look like. The trick is that the human eye can only focus on one point at a time and if your eye is not focused on the appropriate point, you will not be able to obtain the picture and the alignment needed to effectively hit your target. In order to place the round where you need it to go, you must obtain and maintain your focus on the front sight.
I will try not to drag this out, but follow me for just a few minutes. In a lot of weapons, the front sight is fixed, that is it is welded. It cannot be moved or adjusted. On those weapons that you can adjust the front sight; once the weapon is “sighted in” the front sight is never touched again. All adjustments to the weapon in regards to sighting adjustments are then made to the rear sights (elevation and windage).

So how does this apply to you and me today? How does this apply to what Paul is saying to the church in Corinth? The target in our illustration represents the people in our lives. People from family to friends, from people we go to church with to neighbors, from those we are sharing the gospel with to perfect strangers. The rear sights that we must look through represent our beliefs and our doctrines, our customs and our habit’s, our pride and our self-righteousness, our foundation and our faith…our religion. The rear sights represent what we know and what we believe. But the most import part of lining up our sights is staying focused on the front sight which is love. The love of God, the love of Jesus Christ and the love we are to have for one another.

When we are focused on the rear sights; we can get hung up on our beliefs and our righteousness, our doctrines and our rituals, and completely miss our target. When we focus on our targets; we can become distracted by their faults and their failures, their shortcomings and their sins, their differences and their quirks, and completely miss the target. But when we focus on the fixed front sight of the love of Jesus Christ; things begin to line up. When we are completely focused on love we begin to notice that the target begins to blur. We can no longer see all the blemishes, spots and wrinkles on the target. When we become focused on love; we notice that the rear sights of our religion, our righteousness, our pride and our doctrines begin to blur – yet we will be able to obtain the perfect alignment needed to hit our target.

What Paul was saying to the church in Corinth is that you have lost focus and become distracted. Distracted not only by your own pride and religion, but distracted also by those around you that you have been called to be the light of the Gospel to. Paul took a minute out of the middle of his letter to simply say that if the center of your focus is not on love…you are missing the entire message of Jesus Christ. If you are not focused on love, you will have missed the entire purpose of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So why did Paul write the “love chapter”? He wrote it to call us back into focus. Focus on love and the ultimate example of that love was the sacrifice of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)

I pray that when in our lives we seem to be struggling to hit the target in regards to our relationship with those around us, we need to stop and examine our focus. I pray that we all learn to stay focused on love. Jesus said; “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)
Heavenly Father strengthen us through your Holy Spirit that we may walk in love, maintain focus on love and be examples of your love in all that we do. We ask in Jesus name – Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Treasure of God

How many times in your life have you lost a penny? If you even noticed, how much time did you spend searching for that penny; a glance, a second of your time? What if you lost something of greater value - maybe a hundred dollars, maybe a thousand…maybe a diamond or some other jewelry? How much effort would you put into attempting to find one of those items?

There are so many people in church today that are frustrated in their Christian walk; I know because I have been one of them. We go to church with the same laundry list of questions for our priest, pastors and spiritual leaders:
·         Who is God and what is Jesus all about?
·         What does God want with my life?
·         How does God want me to make this big decision?
·         Where was God when that happened?
·         Why wasn’t God there?
·         When is God going to do some work in my life?

There are those that will spend years or even a lifetime “going to church” and never get the answers to any of those questions. What is the most astonishing and equally the most frustrating…is that the answers are all very simple. Not easy…but simple.

A man we’ll call Jerry goes to a group of friends with a problem. He tells his friends that he just won the lottery but he lost the ticket and just can’t seem to find it. Out of concern and wanting to help their friend, they begin to ask him some questions.
“Where have you looked?” -is one of the first questions. Jerry said; “Well I went to a group of people I kind of hang out with on Sunday’s. I talked to some people and kind of glanced around for about an hour. Some of them had some great suggestions on where to look and some even looked around for me for a while; but we never found the ticket.”
“Have you looked anywhere else?” was the next question. “I had dinner with a group of friends last week and told them of my problem. I go there about every week; so they kind of looked around a little for me. They also had some great suggestions on where I could look.” -was Jerry’s reply.
A good friend of Jerry’s put his hand on Jerry’s shoulder and asked; “Jerry…have YOU looked for the ticket?” Jerry looked back at him with a very frustrated and puzzled look and said; “I just told you…I’ve been looking and no one has told me where the ticket is yet!”

The single biggest thing that God wants from us is a relationship. He wants it so bad that he has done everything on His part to make Himself available to us:
For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. (Ezekiel 34:11-13 ESV)
I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
                        I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
            I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
                        to a nation that was not called by my name. (Isaiah 65:1 ESV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Through the scriptures, God is letting us know that he is seeking us, his desires are for us and he is calling us. The problem enters however, when we fail to understand that relationships are a two-way street. A man and a woman can attend counseling and get all the advice in the world on how to improve their relationship; but if they don’t invest time in each other, if they don’t seek after each other…it is WASTED!
Let me simplify. Going to church on Sunday and hearing about how to have a greater relationship with your Heavenly Father but not spending any time in the Word or in prayer the rest of the week; is as useful and a couple attending counseling once a week to hear about how to improve communication in their marriage but never spending any time talking to each other! The solution is simple! Just start talking to each other…it’s just hard.

Your Heavenly Father desires so badly to have a relationship with you, but he will not force you. He will call you, he will nudge you, he will seek you and he will lead you…but he will not make you.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. (Deuteronomy 4:29-31 ESV)

            One thing have I asked of the LORD,
                        that will I seek after:
            that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
                        all the days of my life,
            to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
                        and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 ESV)

We want answers. We want to know. We want greater understanding and wisdom. We want peace and we want provision. God has given us the answers:
            Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
            But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
            “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:31-34 ESV)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:4 ESV)

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! (Psalm 119:2-3 ESV)

            My son, if you receive my words
                        and treasure up my commandments with you,
            making your ear attentive to wisdom
                        and inclining your heart to understanding;
            yes, if you call out for insight
                        and raise your voice for understanding,
            if you seek it like silver
                        and search for it as for hidden treasures,
            then you will understand the fear of the LORD
                        and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV)

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (Proverbs 8:17 ESV)

In closing, I have to confess an understanding that what I am saying is hard. Jesus himself told us that this would not be an easy road. But it is the only road to Him and to our Heavenly Father.
            He (Jesus) went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them,
            “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30 ESV)

What I have written is simple…it’s just hard. The simple is that God just wants a relationship with you and has made himself directly available to you through the Holy Spirit as granted by God’s sovereign grace through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ. The hard is that relationships require effort, sacrifice, time and a commitment. We are asked to submit our will for His. We are asked to sacrifice our desires for His. We are asked to acknowledge that we only exist because of Him; created by Him, designed by Him, made for him…we are asked to submit to Him.
            Seek the LORD while he may be found;
                        call upon him while he is near;
            let the wicked forsake his way,
                        and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
            let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
                        and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
            For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
                        neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
            For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
                        so are my ways higher than your ways
                        and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)

May all the grace of God fill you with His Holy Spirit; that He may create in you a desire to draw nearer to Him, to grow in your relationship with Him, to have the courage to submit yourself to Him so that we may all be together with Him for eternity in Heaven. May the LORD bless you and keep you; may the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. -Amen

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grace vs Law

There is a growing movement of teaching in the world today about “Grace”. That is, there has been an increased teaching about the “Grace” of God and how we are to apply that in our life today. I sometimes have heard it referred to as; “hyper-grace”.  As I listen to the various teachings and teachers of the Word and study the word on my own, I have found that I have been dealing with increasing conflict in my spirit over this teaching. Please allow me a few moments to share with you what I have been dealing with and I hope and pray that I can bring some understanding to those of you who have been struggling with this as well.

First of all, I think we have to have a foundational understanding or definition of what “grace” is. So here is the definition that I am going to be working from whenever I use the word Grace: Grace is the understanding that God sent His only Son to be tortured, humiliated, beaten and crucified (that is murdered) on the cross for the purpose of paying the penalty for my individual and personal sin against my Heavenly Father. Sin is anything that I do that violates, offends or creates separation in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Grace is also the power that is granted us from our Heavenly Father (as made available to us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ and delivered personally to us through the Holy Spirit) to stand against, resist, and defeat the very source of sin (that is Satan and all of his works) that is in our lives.  Grace gives us the power to overcome the very things we struggle against that pull us away from our Heavenly Father. Grace gives us the power and the strength to be obedient to the relationship that God so eagerly desires to have with us.

Now anyone who has had any familiarity with church or the bible has heard reference to “the Law”. I also want to have a common understanding of what I am referring to when I reference “the Law”. The Law refers to any directive that has been handed down from God. Now, this is not just referring to the “10 Commandments”. God speaking to Isaac put it this way;
I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:4-5 ESV)
So when I make reference to “the Law”, I make reference to all the above.

So here enters the struggle for me and I think for many others. We are somewhat mislead when we are taught that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we now live under the “grace” of God and no longer under the “law” of God. This is an accurate statement, however it is incomplete. I think that sometimes we can be given the impression that it is an either/or conversation. Just like it is difficult at times to understand that Jesus was “fully God and fully man”; that just sends our brain cells into “TILT” mode. Allow me to elaborate.

Under “the Law” of Moses; God made it clear to us that because of our sin, we were not worthy to be in His presence. We were not worthy to speak to him, not worthy to ask for His help and certainly not worthy of being in His presence. Under “the Law”, in order to seek some redemption for our sins; we would have to offer some sort of sacrifice in the form of a food offering or the slaughtering an animal, and we would have to go through a “priest” in order to make this intercession on our behalf. What “grace” does is that through the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, our offering for redemption has been given in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grace is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Grace does not abolish the law; grace is the love of God sacrificing his Son that we would no longer be liable for the punishment of “the Law”.

The main point that I want to get across to everyone is that it is not and either/or conversation. It is both! (This is where people begin to get uncomfortable.) Give me a minute to clarify.

There is only one person who walked the Earth that was without sin; that is Jesus Christ.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
No one can earn salvation by following the law. Salvation is only accessible through grace by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grace does not abolish “the voice, the charge, the commandments, the statutes and the laws” of God; it allows for the forgiveness in our times of failure. It strengthens us in our times of weakness. Grace is the power to overcome evil and the allowance for the weakness of our flesh.

Jesus said:
          “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)
Matthew chapters 5-7 are a collection of the teachings of Jesus. In this particular statement, he is laying the groundwork for the need of Him. He is beginning to let us know that on our own ability, we are unable to achieve a level of righteousness that will grant us access to the kingdom of Heaven. But there is also instruction of not relaxing the law and warning against teaching others to relax the teachings of “the law”.

The laws and commandments of our Heavenly Father do not go away through Christ; it is in Christ that we are able to escape the penalty of our inability to keep the law. Here is the rest of what Paul said in Romans:
          But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
            Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:21-31 ESV)

When we come to the conclusion that we are no longer under the law because of grace; we base that conclusion on an assumption that the law only existed to point out our sins. The problem with that assumption is that the law does so much more.

The law points us to righteousness. Paul continued:
            Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
            Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
            What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
            For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23 ESV)
Paul continues:
            There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
            You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
            So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:1-17 ESV)

Paul is clearly stating that for those who are under the grace of God, as provided by the Holy Spirit by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you will desire righteousness through obedience; obedience to your Heavenly Father, obedience to His righteousness, obedience to His laws and commandments. This is not to say to earn grace - this is to say to desire righteousness because of grace. Grace is the free gift of the sacrifice of Christ; obedience towards righteousness is natural outpouring of love to the relationship that we have been granted access to through grace! This is not an expectation of perfection or perfect righteousness, for we know that we all have sin. Paul wrote to Timothy in both letters encouraging him to “pursue righteousness” knowing that only Christ has obtained perfect righteousness.

Not only does the law point us towards righteousness, in pursuing obedience and righteousness we find protection from the consequences of sin. The law explicitly points out to us Gods desire for us. I could write a book on all that our Heavenly Father has to say to us in the bible in regards to blessings to the righteous and judgment to the unrighteous. I think the very first Psalm sums it up nicely for us.
            Blessed is the man
                        who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
            nor stands in the way of sinners,
                        nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
            but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
                   and on his law he meditates day and night.
            He is like a tree
                        planted by streams of water
            that yields its fruit in its season,
                        and its leaf does not wither.
            In all that he does, he prospers.
            The wicked are not so,
                        but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
            Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
                        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
            for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
                        but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1 ESV)

I would just like to conclude with this – the conversation we should be having is not grace instead of the law. It is obedience to the law because and through grace. It’s not one or the other; it’s both. To put it another way; Jesus Christ did not sacrifice Himself on the cross for you to pursue more sin; He died to grant you the freedom to pursue your relationship with your Heavenly Father, free from penalty and restrictions of sin. Grace abounds for the forgiveness of sin, not the allowance of it.

May the abounding love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ guide your heart and your mind towards a greater understanding of, and relationship with your Heavenly Father. May all the blessings of God fill you and strengthen you as we all battle against the flesh; and through the power of the grace of God lead us to victory over sin so we may walk in victory, walk in obedience, walk in peace…walk in grace. -Amen