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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa TerKeurst   Faithgateway

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God

SOURCE:  Dr. Bob Kellemen

There’s nothing more important in life than our relationship with God through Christ.

This is, of course, true for our eternal life. It is also true for our daily life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples—and us—how to pray, how to talk to God.

The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4 

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus teaching us how to pray. Known by many as “The Lord’s Prayer,” I also like to call it “The Prayer of Jesus.” For all eternity, the Father, Son, and Spirit communed together and communicated (John 1:1-18; John 17).

So…when Jesus teaches us how to talk to God, we need to listen.

A Memory Aid: “CHRIST” 

If you’ve heard me teach or read any of my writings, you know I like memory aids. Sometimes, I use alliteration—starting each point with the same letter. Sometimes, like today, I like to use acrostics—using each letter in a word as a teaching devise. We use it to learn how to pray in Christ’s school of prayer.

I’m doing that today with the Lord’s Prayer, or The Prayer of Jesus, using our Savior’s title—Christ—as our memory aid. You see it outlined below.

For a one-sheet, front/back Word document version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

For a one-sheet, front/back PDF version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God 

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

Your Daily Prayer Guide: “CHRIST

Prepare to Pray: Meditation“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”

C   Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

H   Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”

R   Radically Commit: Submission—“Thy Will Be Done”

I   Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

S   Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins”

T   Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom”

Learning How to Pray in Christ’s School of Prayer

  • Prepare to Pray: Meditation—“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”
  1. Meditate on the perfect fatherly character of God: Our Father in heaven.
  2. Contemplate the nature of God’s fatherhood: Our Father of holy love.
  3. Reflect on the Body of Christ: Our Father, not only my Father.
  4. Enjoy God the Father’s full attention and acceptance in Christ: Bask in His fatherly grace.
  • Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  1. Praise God for Who He is: Worship, magnify, exalt, and glorify your heavenly Father.
  2. Thank God for what He does: Express your gratitude for all His grace-gifts, for His works.
  3. Pray that the whole world would be in awe of God: All the earth grasping, enjoying, and        exalting the character (name) of God.
  4. Set apart God as the supreme desire of your heart: Let your daily mission statement be to exalt God by enjoying God.
  • Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”
  1. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule in your heart: Surrender to God’s governance.
  2. Pray for a widening of God’s rule in all people’s hearts: Salvation.
  3. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule on planet Earth: Christian living (make a difference).
  4. Pray for the soon return of Christ: Second Coming.
  5. Pray that you will live for God’s kingdom and not for your own: Total allegiance. 
  • Radically Commit: Submission/Direction—“Thy Will Be Done”
  1. Pray for the right purpose: That all you do is motivated by the desire to glorify God.
  2. Pray for calm assurance: The understanding that God’s glory and your good are inseparable, that the Father’s will is always good and best.
  3. Pray for clear discernment: That you will know God’s will for your personal life, family, church, work, community, country, and world.
  4. Pray for radical obedience: That God would grant you the courage to do His will.
  5. Pray for supernatural power: That God would empower you to obey His will.
  6. Pray with brutal honesty: Share the desires of your heart, any confusion, doubts, and perplexity with your heavenly Father.
  7. Pray with other-centered focus: That family, church, community, national, and world leaders would know and do God’s will.
  • Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
  1. Confess humbly (Give): Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, admitting that without God you are and have nothing. Pray for the faith to believe that all you need is God and what He chooses to provide.
  2. Asks unselfishly (Us, Our): Pray for others and for yourself.
  3. Request wisely (This Day, Daily): Pray for today’s needs. Trust God for today’s supply. Ask God to give you nothing more and nothing less than exactly what you need and can handle.
  4. Entreat practically (Bread): Pray for physical, material, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs. Pray for freedom from worry as you trust God to supply your every need.
  • Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”
  1. Acknowledge Sin: Confess known sins and ask God to reveal hidden sins.
  2. Repent humbly: Your debt is immeasurable; His grace is infinite.
  3. Enjoy forgiveness: Claim Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. Your slate is wiped clean!
  4. Grant forgiveness: Forgive those who have hurt you and sinned against you physically,      emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.
  5. Seek reconciliation: Go to those you have sinned against to restore the relationship.
  • Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”
  1. Seek protection: Ask God not to allow Satan even to tempt you to sin.
  2. Seek boundaries: Ask God to keep you from situations where you are most prone to sin—your besetting sins, areas of vulnerability, temptations, etc.
  3. Seek victory: Ask God to defeat sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil in your life.
  4. Seek faith: Ask God to help you to trust His awesome power as your only hope for triumph.
  • Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever, Amen”
  1. Trust God (For): Believe that since God is the Almighty, Eternal King that He can answer.
  2. Glorify God (Thine): Pray that God will be glorified by your prayers.

When You Are Waiting For God To Show Up

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Jade Mazarin

A few things to remember when it feels like your prayers aren’t being answered.

Have you been praying for years for certain people or situations?

I have.

I know that God has called these people, and I know who they can be and the healing God has in store. I also pray for situations I yearn to improve, even after years of stagnant. But so far, those miraculous changes I’ve longed for remain seemingly at bay.

It’s easy to wonder if anything will change, when nothing seems to be happening. It’s easy to become discouraged when the physical reality looks nothing like what I think it should.

However, I continue to ask for the healing, the restoring and the saving, that I (and I know He) wants.

The other night while praying, that phrase at the end of TV shows popped in my head: “To be continued.”

“To be continued” arrives at a pivotal point in a show. We’ve gotten invested in the characters; we’ve followed them through a series of events and emotional drama. We may glance at the clock a few minutes prior and wonder how the nicely tied-up conclusion will arrive in time. It’s not looking good at this point.  How is this going to get fixed? we wonder.

Then suddenly, the screen fades to black, with the message “To be continued.”

Typically, when this happens, my reaction is, “No! I want to know the rest of the story, now!” Then again, another part of me is relieved. The story won’t end badly. This mess will somehow be fixed. Of course, now I have to wait.

The Middle of the Story

What if that same “to be continued” is showing up around your prayers or the situations you’ve stopped praying for, because nothing seemed to change?

You might be upset because someone you love is in trouble. You might ache with sorrow for the distance between you and a family member. Or, you could be dragging around discouragement because of a problem you can’t shake. And with all this, you might wonder where God is or if He really cares. But, maybe the reason things seem so dreary is because you’re only in the middle of the story, and God isn’t just going to show up and make things right in the end—instead, you’ll realize He’s been there through it all.

This idea makes me think of Mary and Lazarus. Many of us are familiar with the story—Mary and her sister Martha have a brother named Lazarus whom Jesus raises from the dead. But have you thought about what Mary and her sister go through from the time Lazarus gets sick to the time Jesus resurrects him?

Mary and Martha know Jesus loves them and their brother Lazarus. They know He’d be there in time of need. So when Lazarus gets deathly ill, Mary tells one of His disciples to relay the message. She and her family then wait in expectancy for his arrival.

They wait. And they wait. Three long, drawn out, painfully quiet days, as Lazarus just gets sicker.

And then, no longer able to hold on, Lazarus breathes his last breath.

What were Mary and Martha thinking at this time?

If they were like most of us, I would imagine it was something like, “I thought Jesus loved us. I thought we were special to Him. Why didn’t He come?” Perhaps they felt angry, and a sense of abandonment or betrayal.

When Jesus does show up, Mary tells him, “If you had been here earlier, Lazarus would have lived.” Everyone is grieving what they see to be a tragic end to the story. Even Jesus weeps when He sees their pain and loss.

But what if Mary, Martha and their friends knew that this was not the end of the story? What if they knew there was good to still come?

Out of seemingly nowhere, in a sudden turn of events, Jesus acts. He stands up, walks over to Lazarus and calls him back from the dead.

We’re only in the middle of the story—and God isn’t just going to show up and make things right in the end, we’ll realize He’s been there through it all.

Yes, Jesus loved this family dearly all along—just as they believed He did. In fact, it was His love for them that caused Him to wait to show up. He could have arrived and healed Lazarus when they expected, but instead, He waited for a special moment; for a tremendous finale kind of moment. He chose a way that would display the greatness of His love and the magnitude of His power. He took the opportunity to say to them, “Yes, I love you. And I will show you how much.”

The Real Ending

But what about the times when things don’t turn out beautifully? Maybe you’ve prayed for a loved one to be healed, and they weren’t. We all know there are tragic endings to countless stories—ones that can’t be made better by belief in a changed situation.

Yet, there is still more to the story—at least, to the whole story. In the grand scheme of things, we are still in the middle of God’s ultimate story of redemption. We won’t always get happy endings now, but God has a greater intention for the earth—one to instill perfection into every facet of it. He’s at work in us, through us and with us, even when it doesn’t feel like He’s there.

When I pray for the same things I’ve poured my heart into for years, I remind myself that God is at work, even though I can’t yet see it. When I wrestle with doubting it, I actually say to Him: “Don’t be done with this yet. Make things right.” I ask Him to reveal His glory.

God has a special investment in the end of the story. He will often provide glimpses of His final redemption in our daily lives, that we can look for and hope in. It may not be how we expected, but it will display His creativity. God’s plan does not always match up with our expectations, but it leaves us with more. And He will always reassure of the incomparable finale, when everything is set straight.

Getting on the Same Page with God

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

75% of Americans pray on some sort of regular basis. My guess is that most of their prayers are, “Help!” which is a very good thing to pray!  My guess is that many of those “Help!” prayers are “suggestions” to God about how to “help” certain people—to get a job, to change their behavior, to do certain things. I used to do this—I think I presented God with entire outlines!

It’s surprising that Jesus didn’t pray that way when his best buddy-disciple was about to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him and then told him what he was praying—but he wasn’t praying that Peter wouldn’t do it!  What?

Instead, he was praying that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail. Why? “It would not have advanced Peter toward being the person he needed to become. . . .  How earnestly Jesus longed for Peter to come out right in his time of testing!  But he left him free to succeed or fail before God and humans.” Jesus was concerned about the person Peter was becoming. Jesus didn’t ask God to force Peter to do the right thing. After his failure, Peter’s faith didn’t fail as he made his way back to Jesus. His confidence in God did not fail although his brash self-confidence did.

Instead of praying to fix people, or patch them up, it’s wiser to seek God, to get on the same page as God. What does that mean? We have (and can have) the “mind of Christ.  So we might ask God how to get the “mind of Christ” about a person or situation or problem. It’s better to ask God questions rather than try to give God what we think are the answers.

  • What do I need to pray for this person?
  • What larger issue is at stake?
  • What do I need to know about this person or situation to be of any help?
  • What do I need to say, or not say?
  • What do I need to do, or not do?

This kind of prayer assumes that God will inform us and give us wisdom. It will probably not come in an immediate audible voice but in other ways, often through thoughts that would never occur to us on our own. Such thoughts just don’t sound anything like what we would say.

This kind of conversational interaction with God is possible. You might try it out—ask God a few questions and see what comes to you when you are quiet, what is said to you in an offhand comment by someone else. Then bring that back into conversation with God and talk about it.

PRAYING FOR OUR CHILDREN

Source:  Unknown

…that they will know Christ as Savior and Lord early in life.  Ps 63:1; 1Tim 3:15

…that they will have a hatred for sin.  Ps 97:10

…that they will be caught when guilty. Ps119:71

…that they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives:  spiritual, emotional, and physical.  John 17:15

…that they will have a responsible attitude in their personal relationships.  Dan 6:3

…that they will respect those in authority over them.  Rom 13:1

…that they will desire the right kinds of friends and be protected from the wrong friends.  Prov 1:10-11

…that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right mate, and that they both will be kept pure until marriage.  1 Cor 6:18-20; 2 Cor 6:14-17

…that they will learn to totally submit to God and actively resist Satan in all circumstances.  James 4:7

…that they will be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ.  Rom 12:1-2

…that they will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or places and that wrong people can’t find their way to them.

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

Your Child Is Not Your Enemy

SOURCE:  Brooke McGlothlin/Gospel Centered Mom/FamilyLife

Here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

When the days of mothering grow long and make a girl weary, and when what you really want to do is lock your child in a bedroom and throw away the key, it’s good to remember this: Your child is not your enemy.

Our goal for our children isn’t to create super kids, nor is it to strip them of all the quirks and traits that make up their personalities. Our fight is to help them grow toward Christlikeness, into the best version of them that they can be.

With that in mind, here are eight ways we can fight for, not against, our children in their hard-to-handle moments.

1.Tell God He can have you. I made this number one because it’s the most important. None of the other steps matter much at all unless you’re willing to let God change you first.

I’ve learned firsthand the importance of allowing God to strip me of old, sinful habits that hinder my ability to fight for my children. In other words, most of the time the battle for my boys involves battling with myself. I’m the parent, and I can’t win if I allow myself to be dragged down to their level. My goal is to rise above and invite them to come with me.

2. Get in the habit of prayer. Every one of us wants to know what God wants us to do so we can just do it and be done. I sometimes feel frustrated because it doesn’t seem like God gives me clear direction when my heart is ready to do whatever He tells me to do. But I’ve come to this conclusion: Most of the time I’m too busy talking to actually hear when He is speaking to me.

That’s why taking a break to pray before I speak, before I react, and before anyone else gets up in the morning, and praying throughout the entire day is so important. God wants to give us direction and comfort, but we’re often too busy juggling life on our own to ask.

3. Embrace the power of a mommy timeout. It doesn’t necessarily take long to recharge if you know what works for you. What gives you a healthy sense of relief almost instantaneously? Is it music? A good book? Reading your favorite Bible passage? Getting on your knees in prayer? Whatever it is—and it may vary from day to day—do that.

You cannot parent your children well when your heart is frazzled. Even if you have to take five-minute mommy breaks multiple times a day, do something to focus your attention on Jesus. Remember that peace has nothing to do with what’s happening around you. Peace comes only from relationship with Jesus Christ. You can’t manufacture it with things or even changes in circumstances. It comes from within as you surrender your life to Christ.

4. Prepare ahead of time. Just as I have my own triggers, certain things tend to agitate my sons. After studying them for years now, I’m beginning to recognize these triggers and to be physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared for the inevitable.

When it’s time to leave the pool, I get their attention about 20 minutes beforehand and let them know we’re leaving in 20 minutes. Then I give them updates every few minutes so that when it’s actually time to leave they’re not taken by surprise.

I don’t think I can overemphasize prayer’s importance as an in-the-moment tactic as well as part of the advance preparation. I pray a lot. For my response as well as for my sons’.

5. Be stronger. When they were very young, I would often pick up my boys and carry them, despite their flailing and kicking, to a safe space for them to calm down. Now I can ask them to go somewhere safe, and they will, albeit not always without emotional drama. We’re fast approaching the day when they’ll be much stronger than I am, so what I’m talking about here isn’t physical strength so much as emotional and spiritual strength.

You may have heard it said that a leader can take his followers only as far as he has traveled. As a parent, you are, by default, a leader. God gave you to your children to teach them, train them, and make it as easy as possible for them to know Him. To lead them well, you don’t have to know the answers to every theological question or have your whole life together; you just have to be a few paces ahead of where they are.

6. Love harder. There are a lot of amazing things about my boys, things I know God will use one day for His glory and purpose in their lives. But for right now, they’re raw and unrefined and often drive me crazy.

One day, they’ll fight for something instead of against it. Until that time, it’s my goal to love them harder than they fight me. If my boys go to bed each night feeling more loved than fought and more a treasure than a hindrance and know there’s nothing they could ever do to make me not love them, I call that day a success.

7. Be a student of your child. There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to raising godly children. Sometimes, I wish there were. Other times I’m glad it’s not up to me to change their hearts. God can do a much better job of that than I can.

What is within my power is to study my son, to really know him—his personality, what makes him happy, what makes him tick, what sets him off, what makes him feel loved. When a mom knows those things, she can tailor her parenting to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the child. It empowers the parent to reach the heart of the child, deep down inside, instead of just trying not to be inconvenienced by his bad behavior.

8. Refuse to give up. I know you’re tempted daily to give up. So am I. When things don’t go as planned, when children continue to be resentful or disobedient regularly, when the clutter grows unmanageable, and the pile of laundry threatens to avalanche, we might be tempted to say, “I quit. I’m not even going to try anymore.”

The circumstances we’re in today are not forever. If we stay the course, we will reap a harvest, even if it happens on the other side of heaven. There’s more waiting for us when we get there. The choices we make today to press on and fight the good fight will make a difference in generations to come, influencing who among our family and friends will get to join us with Jesus. Do not give up.

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