Chosen for Influence ~ Part 3 of 3

Chosen

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you                                                  to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

The final portion of our key verse speaks of producing eternal fruit, this comes after our chosenness, using our individuality, following rest or sabbath.

God created man and woman on the sixth day…on the first full day of existence for Adam and Eve, God rested. And so did Adam and Eve…After a busy day of being created, the next thing we did was hang out with God for a whole day. Then work began…From this we see an important principle of life: We are to work from our rest, not rest from our workFruitfulness happens in stages and seasons: abide, grow, bear fruit, prune, abide…We cannot bear fruit if we do not spend time abiding.  ~ Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad, A Passionate Life

Influence is a representation of Christ in YOU! We are Chosen for Influence – that we might bear fruit.

“…all nutrients of heaven are offered to us…He brings us into a fruit-producing life that feeds and nourishes others. God chooses us, and we choose Him.” ~ Rebekah Lyons, You Are Free

We use our influence to help build the Kingdom of God, as a result of being rooted in Him, drawing on His strength.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ~ John 15:4

There is a parable about a Useless Tree in Luke 13:6-9 that I find fascinating. What I noticed about the tree in the story Jesus tells is that it did not need uprooted but restored to health. It needed fertilizer and good soil added to its current location. This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes:

Restoration is not a quick, prefabricated project that is thrown together. It is a deliberate and planned removal of the unwanted, a detailed refining of that which is to be preserved, and an addition of that which was not before. ~ Barbara Stephens, Psalms of Recovery: Meditations for Strength and Hope

A three-step process: remove, refine, and add. If we feel useless like we are not producing fruit perhaps our soil needs to be restored.

Do you need to add or remove something from your current situation…more exposure to God’s Word, an accountability partner to help remove weeds or rocks, a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit, some Sabbath/Solitude/Prayer?

We know from the Parable of the Sower that the types of soil were the crucial reason the seed did or did not grow. So we can ask ourselves are we producing fruit? Are we dwelling in God’s house, planted in good soil, resting in His presence?

God uses us to spread his knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume. ~ II Corinthians 2:14b NCV

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. ~ John 15:16-17

An effective influence is sweet smelling and rooted in LOVE!

But our God helped us to be brave and to tell you his Good News.                    ~ I Thessalonians 2:2b NCV

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. ~ Acts 4:13 NIV

The way we have courage is to be with Jesus, abide in Him.

Never doubt that God has chosen you and given you the strength and ability to bear fruit. Remember that your individuality is going to make your influence look unique compared to others.

He who thinks everything must bloom when the strawberries are in bloom doesn’t know anything about apples. ~ Greek Proverb

For further encouragement to allow God to use you in His time and within your own unique style, I recommend reading The Trellis and the Seed: A Book of Encouragement for All Ages by Jan Karon.

But the godly will  flourish…in the courts of our God. Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. ~ Psalm 92:12-14

You are Chosen, Chosen to be YOU, and Chosen for Influence.

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Chosen to be YOU ~ Part 2 of 3

Chosen

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

We are chosen by God.

God does not change, therefore he does not change His mind or His love for us!

…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. ~ Romans 11:29

Irrevocable is a big word that means set in stone.

I want to remind you of a blog I posted in 2015 entitled “Mom, is that you?” I shared in this post how I made some supposedly questionable decisions regarding the parenting of my children and the running of my household. A picture is worth a thousand words, I sent my children to school looking like this:

IMG_0346

Long story short, my husband questioned my choices, yet I could tell as he spoke to me that he clearly adores me! My chosenness as the wife and mom and my performance of those duties are two very different things.

You and I are irrevocably called even in our imperfection.

We have the freedom to separate our performance from our title as a child of God.

…When a child fails, he will be grieved because he has hurt his parents, and he will be corrected and disciplined. But he is not afraid of being thrown out. His basic confidence is in belonging and being loved, and his performance does not change the stability of his position. ~ David Seamands

We also have the freedom to be ourselves. When we come to Christ we do not throw out our talents, personality, interests, our character traits and become clones!

“…God’s image has been imprinted uniquely on each of us. In God’s infinite creativity there are no duplicates; you are the only you there has ever been or ever will be.” ~ Dick Staub

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”~ Dr. Seuss

God never expects you to show up as somebody else! 

And by the way, He adores you! So let’s be clear your status/identity is secure.

God appointed you to be YOU.

It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  ~ Ephesians 1:11 (MSG)

We find out who we are in Christ. If you do not know who you are then I urge you to intentionally seek Him.

Psalm 139:23 reads: “Search me O God, and know my heart”. If we read the entire chapter of Psalm 139 we find that it is God who already knows us.  He knows all our actions, words and even our thoughts. [Psalm 139]

One way to get to know ourselves is to spend some time with YOU!

“When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too…Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover.  And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be re-found through solitude.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Our identity is found in Christ, not in what we produce! Our worth is not dependant on what we do right or wrong, or whether we fail or succeed! We learn our worth through time spent with God. Another way to say that is Sabbath.

“Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than what you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight – and when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so, remember your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.” ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

We must stop and quiet ourselves so that we can remember and know who God is, what He has done…He has chosen you and me because of His great love. And this foundation for our identity encourages us to be the truest version of ourselves.

So who are YOU in Christ? I encourage you to take some intentional Sabbath and Solitude time to seek out the answer.

You be, You, everybody else is taken!

 

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Chosen ~ Part 1 of 3

This spring I was given the amazing privilege to speak for the 15th Annual Almira Coulee Hartline Ladies Retreat! A tremendous honor, as I am almost from there, a hometown girl. But, also, because I was asked to speak on one of my favorite topics, Chosen, based on our Blossom Ministries key verse.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

Our time together was broken up into three main sessions: Chosen, Chosen to be YOU, and Chosen for Influence. Following the pattern I used last fall after our Blossom retreat, I will give you a brief summary of the sessions here in three posts by the same names.

Chosen

Why we are chosen is crucial to our understanding that we are chosen. We must realize and believe that God chose us because He loves us!

My daughter loves Christmas Hallmark movies, she has 27 of them saved in her Netflix account. There is something satisfying about the predictability of a Hallmark movie.

God’s love for you and me is as predictable as the plot line of a Hallmark romance.

“The Christmas story – it begins in the beginning, this love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning. It begins with the always coming of Christ. Christ, who is there in the beginning, the voice calling out of darkness, an echo in cosmic emptiness, speaks it by the commanding word of His mouth: Let there be…No matter your story before, this is your beginning now:  you were formed by Love…for love.” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

Can you grasp the predictability of God’s love?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, ~ Ephesians 3:16-18

We are chosen and this is founded on God’s love and backed up by His unchangeable character!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ~ I John 3:1

We are chosen by God, and because God does not change, He also does not change His mind or His love.

“…When a child fails, he will be grieved because he has hurt his parents, and he will be corrected and disciplined. But he is not afraid of being thrown out. His basic confidence is in belonging and being loved, and his performance does not change the stability of his position.”  ~ David Seamands

Ultimately we must find our security in God’s faithfulness, not ours. Our worth is not dependant on what we do right or wrong, or what we produce whether it fails or succeeds!

Your identity literally means ‘the same’ – that regardless of changing circumstances, the core of you is unchangeable, stable, the same. When your identity is in Christ, your identity is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

God’s character does not change even when our circumstances change.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  ~ Romans 8:35, 37 NLT

We are chosen by God and that is securely based on His unchanging nature. He says to us in John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you!”

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Rinse and Repeat (Part 4 of 4)

Thankful

Thankful

Altars of Remembrance are things, places, quotes and moments that mark our lives.

This month I am sharing four of my life’s markers.

Marker #4 Gratitude, Rest and Remembrance = Sabbath 

Taking time to rest and remember what God has done, is doing, and I am hopeful for in the future is what Sabbath means to me – Rinse and Repeat, meaning to tiresomely repeat an action or event until it becomes predictable – I would like it to be said of me that I habitually paused to be thankful.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up  between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” ~ I Samuel 7:12

Ebenezer Stone or “Stone of Help” – is an altar of remembrance. A place marked in time and geography that says God has helped usI think of the hymn Come Thou Fount, and the line “Hither by Thy help I come”. Hither meaning up until this point.  When Robert Robinson wrote this in 1758 I can imagine he was resting and reflecting on what God had done in his life so far.

“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day. ..“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’ ~ Joshua 4:9, 21-22

Remember what God has done. Here are three possible ways to do this:

The Prayer of Examen is the first way to Remember and show Gratitude.

The Prayer of Examen is a Sabbath Liturgy of Remembering.

“…review your days at the end of each and…ask two simple questions: Where did I feel most alive, most hopeful, most in the presence of God? And where did I feel most dead, most despairing, farthest from God?… Try this. At day’s end…Quiet yourself. Reflect on the day.” ~ Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath, p. 201

“Prayer of Examen is retelling the story of God today. It is the practice of noticing.” Gail Johnsen, Keeping Company with Jesus

Ultimately, when we have gone back over a day and noticed what was with God and without God we come to confession and then resolution to live our lives more fully aware of His Presence.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. ~ II Corinthians 13:5

Keeping a Gratitude Journal is a second way to Remember and show Gratitude.

A gratitude journal is similar to the Prayer of Examen.  It is writing down what you have noticed you are thankful for each day, where you have witnessed God and perhaps where you have missed His interaction.

  • Keep your Gratitude Journal and a pen readily available.
  • Write three things you’re grateful for each night before bedtime, include anything, however small or great, that was a source of gratitude that day.
  • Personalize the gratitude journal, adding photos, quotes or verses.
  • When you find it hard to write something new, flip back a few pages and remind yourself of all you have to be grateful for.

“There is always something to be thankful for.”

Praying a Benediction is a third way to Remember and show Gratitude.

A benediction is simply praying your gratitude list.

“Training for Gratitude…A Benediction was good words…The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov, which means, literally, ‘recognizing the good’…pray your own benedictions – brief statements that recognize the good that comes from God.” ~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping, Caring for The Most Important Part of You, p.173-175

Blessed art Thou o Lord our God who has given me…

…this new day…my children…a warm home…friendship…redemption…enough…

“…you can take time each day to remember the benefits you received, see your benefactor, and thank Him for His Benefits. As Thornton Wilder put it, ‘We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.’” ~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping P. 176

The seemingly tiresome Rinsing and Repeating restores our souls!

Remember to pause long enough to examine your day, to notice the good, to list your benefits and to bless God from whom all blessings flow.

How would you finish this prayer of remembrance? Blessed art Thou o Lord our God who has given me…

 

 

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Rinse and Repeat (Part 3 of 4)

Altars of Remembrance are things, places, quotes and moments that mark our lives. In the month of December, I am sharing four of my life’s markers.  I hope you have been encouraged and will stay tuned for the last remaining post.

Rinse and Repeat is a phrase used to indicate the continual repetition of an action or sequence of events, typically in a way regarded as tiresomely predictable.

I want to repeat these markers so often they become predictable in my life.

Marker #3 The story of Naomi and Ruth*

 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she [Naomi] said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.” ~ Ruth 1:14-17

Naomi exhibits faith in brokenness. This is the first part of Marker #3. 

When we feel bitter, empty, without the skills to live successfully through this moment we can look to Naomi as an example. She is one of my Bible heroes because of her brokenness. She says about herself that she went out full and is coming home empty. (Ruth 1:21) Yet, don’t miss this; she is still coming home! Broken and grieving she is still finding her way to the promised land. And even better than that; she is not coming alone.

Remember this quote from (Rinse and Repeat Part 1):

“If I want to truly give it forward today, if I want to be the gift, don’t I have to believe there’s enough in me that’s a gift to give forward?…it is strange to believe He could find any value in my…brokenness…[but] Didn’t He believe it was worth redeeming, renewing, resurrecting, to make it all into more than enough?…Christ believed in us…” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way, p. 82

Jesus knew we would be broken imperfect people, yet like Naomi, He chooses to use us to help others find their way to Him.

Naomi inspired love and loyalty in her daughter-in-law, to the point that Ruth was willing to lay down her old life. Ruth chose a new faith, not just a new address.

This brings me to another Blossom Ministries verse that is an Altar of Remembrance:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. ~ John 15:16-17 

When we exhibit faith in our brokenness we influence eternal life.

The book of Ruth is named after the second character in the story for good reason.

Ruth loves brave enough to leave her comfort zone.  This is the second part of Marker #3.

Ruth chooses to follow Naomi’s faith and in so doing she becomes one of the characters in the greatest story ever told. Ruth marries Boaz and they have a son, Obed. He has a son named Jesse, and he has a son named David. You know him as King David and if you follow the genealogy you will find that God promised David that a king from his line would forever sit on the throne. (II Samuel 7:16 NCV)

Jesus, our Savior, is that King!

Brave love**, the kind of love that spurs us forward and away from our comfort zone also influences eternal life. Ruth put down her old life. She left behind her idols and choose the one true God. When we choose to follow the one true God we also become a character in the greatest story ever told.

 So it is with you. When you heard the true teaching—the Good News about your salvation—you believed in Christ. And in Christ, God put his special mark of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit that he had promised. 14 That Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive what God promised for his people… ~ Ephesians 1:13-14a NCV

The Holy Spirit Himself is an altar of remembrance. He is a deposit or a guarantee of our inheritance. Literally, God left Himself here with us so that we would know He is coming back for us. We are not alone in this broken life!

I encourage you today to keep the faith even in seasons of brokenness. Including others in your daily imperfections is actually inspiring.

I encourage you to bravely love God enough to leave behind the comfort of your old life and choose a new life in Christ. Do this daily, Rinse and Repeat!

 

*Look for Rinse and Repeat (Part 4 of 4) on December 28, 2017.

** For more on Brave Love see Rinse and Repeat (Part 2 of 4).

This post originally was published in the Blossom Ministries Newsletter, Issue 3 of 2017.

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Rinse and Repeat (Part 2 of 4)

Photo Credit: Eric Drivdahl

Altars of Remembrance are things, places, quotes and moments that mark our lives. In the month of December, I will be sharing four of my life’s markers. This was the topic I spoke on at a recent women’s retreat. I hope you will be encouraged and stay tuned for the remaining posts.

Rinse and Repeat is a phrase used to indicate the continual repetition of an action or sequence of events, typically in a way regarded as tiresomely predictable.

I find that if I am not intentional and tiresomely predictable I will become easily distracted and forget what I am about, what my true purpose is.

There are four Markers or Altars of Remembrance that I know God has asked me to live by. These markers are filters for how I want to see the world and those I interact with.

This post will focus on #2.* (for Part 1 of 4)

Marker #2 Help your sister

The year was 2014 and our theme for the Blossom Retreat was “Bloom Brave”. You may have noticed the beautiful violet growing out of the sidewalk in the photo above? Bravely blooming all alone!

While preparing for this event I attended a minister’s conference and had the privilege to hear Dr. George O. Wood speak. He regaled us with stories of missionaries and their contributions and sacrifices. Dr. Wood recounted the tale of Lillian Trasher who had founded an orphanage in Egypt. Lillian oversaw this orphanage for fifty years and it is estimated that over 10,000 children came and went under her care. Then Dr. Wood mentioned that Betsy Trasher, Lillian’s sister had worked beside her. Betsy had embarked on the same ship to Egypt and had been present for all fifty years. Someone once interviewed Betsy and asked her about her call to missions work. This is what she said:

“I never had a call to missions I had a call to help my sister.”  ~ Betsy Trasher

That quote has forever marked my life. It grips me every time I recall it. It makes me ask myself “Who is my sister?”

So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”  And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ~ Luke 10:27-29

As the Blossom team continued to prepare for our Bloom Brave event we encountered the opportunity to include a group of women from a ‘neighboring’ church who did not all speak English. At some point in the preparations, we realized as a team that we were going to be hosting a bilingual event. I remember not feeling brave enough to do this and hearing God clearly say Help your sister”.

There are times where we can be asked to do something that is not comfortable, it lands squarely outside our skill set. In those moments I know that what I am being asked to do may not be my call, but they are my sister!

It is your circus, these are your monkeys!

When we find ourselves faced with a something we don’t know how to do or someone we don’t know how to help we can turn to one of our Blossom Ministries key verses for advice:

…Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,
he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution
he will come to save you.” ~ Isaiah 35:3-4

Just because you don’t know how to do something or help someone doesn’t mean you can’t pitch in and learn, or offer support.

Be brave enough to see someone unexpected as your sister. Then take her hands and steady her knees. Tell her God will come, but in the meantime, you aren’t going anywhere.

 

*Look for Rinse and Repeat (Part 3 of 4) on December 21, 2017.

The original article was published in the Blossom Ministries Newsletter, Issue 3 of 2017.

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Rinse and Repeat (Part 1 of 4)

Altars of Remembrance are things, places, quotes and moments that mark our lives. Over the next four weeks, I will be sharing four of my life’s markers. This was the topic I spoke on at a recent women’s retreat and the theme as you will see was given to me at the conclusion of the retreat the year before. I hope you will be encouraged and stay tuned for the remaining three posts.

I have a tradition…every year for the last 10 years following our Blossom Ministries fall ladies retreat I have closed the door to cabin #611 and I have spoken a word of farewell. Often it is part prayer, part thanksgiving, and part see you next-year-old friend. (This cabin is my friend, “she” is an altar of remembrance.)

In 2016 as I shut the door I paused just a moment longer, placed my hand on the door and I heard God whisper: “Rinse and Repeat, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. What? That is weird! And then I knew…God was telling me to do it again! Keep going…be faithful…don’t stop. God was saying “See you again next year!”

Often I find it hard to believe that anything I do has much value. Do you ever feel that way? That you keep struggling on but does anybody care? Is anyone encouraged?

“If I want to truly give it forward today, if I want to be the gift, don’t I have to believe there’s enough in me that’s a gift to give forward?…it is strange to believe He could find any value in my…brokenness…[but] Didn’t He believe it was worth redeeming, renewing, resurrecting, to make it all into more than enough?…Christ believed in us…” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Rinse, Repeat…Redeem, Renew, Resurrect

“A constant scriptural refrain is to remember. Our faith is rooted in memory, so much so that one of the key works of the Holy Spirit is the ministry of reminding.” Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God (John 14:26)

Rinse and Repeat is used to indicate the continual repetition of an action or sequence of events, typically in a way regarded as tiresomely predictable.

Be intentional, Remember, Do it again!

These are four Markers or Altars of Remembrance that I know God has asked me to live by, again and again. This post will focus on #1.*

Marker #1 Push people toward God

“In so much as anyone pushes you nearer to God she is your truest friend.”

This quote is my life’s motto! It is also something that without being extremely intentional I often fail miserably at.

Who am I pushing nearer to God?

Who am I allowing to push me?

Or am I simply frustrated and turned around shouting “Stop shoving me!”

 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord ~ Philippians 3:8

I truly believe the verse above, and yet some days I am hopelessly distracted. One such day occurred at a football game this fall. My son is a senior this year and I have been tucking memories away. Knowing he will not play in the NFL every catch, touchdown, tackle is etched on my heart. At a home game, a young man sat down next to me and “interrupted” my memory making. He was struggling to know God had forgiven him for something. I assured him of God’s forgiveness, besides what he was worried about wasn’t really something I deemed necessary of forgiveness. But inside the Holy Spirit was putting up red flags “Pay Attention Melisa” this young man needs your attention.

I shared with him from memory the following verse:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” ~ Lamentations 3:22-24 

Then he shared with me that he was going to be speaking on God’s grace in the near future. I think this may have been the basis for his struggle in feeling forgiven. We like to be an authority on things before we teach others, don’t we?

So, that night I pushed him nearer to God and he most certainly pushed me!

 Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. ~ Hebrews 4:16

May I ask you who you are pushing nearer to God?

Anybody shoving you to your knees in prayer?

 

*Look for Rinse and Repeat (Part 2 of 4) on December 14, 2017.

This post originally was published in the Blossom Ministries Newsletter, Issue 3 of 2017.

Posted in God's Unchanging Character, Grace, Hope, Memories, Tradition | 3 Comments