Look at Me! I’m Suffering! Luke 23:34

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But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
Luke 23:34

Last year we looked at the willingness of Jesus to forgive others as He hung on the cross.  This year, I was struck by his willingness to intercede on the behalf of others as he suffered.

While I was looking at the story of our Lord I kept thinking, had this been any one of us, we would have been screaming from the top of our lungs, “Look at Me; I’m suffering!”  “All eyes on me!”  “Look at this crown on my head!”  “Look at the nails in my hands and feet.”  “Look at them gambling for my clothing.”  “Look at Me!  I’m Suffering!”  But, not our Lord!  In the height of His suffering, He opened His mouth towards heaven and sought mercy and grace for those who were abusive towards Him. images (3)

What about you?  In your journey towards the mark, are you in the habit of considering the state and need of others before your own?  If your like me, and I am assuming you are, our personal plights often come with blinders at best, most often a sleep mask!  We are so caught up in our own circumstances that the pain, suffering and needs of others can take sit on the back burner, getting minimal if not any attention.

Not only do many of us ignore others in the middle of our ordeals, we call attention to ourselves, highlighting our struggles, calling for the compassion and empathy of others in a way to cope and compensate us as we travel through.  Though Jesus could have made a legitimate, and I mean LEGITIMATE CASE, that the world revolves around Him, we must realize that the world does not revolve around us.

Jesus was not a narcissistic, and neither should we.  We are neighbors!  We are fellow members of a larger community, though we find ourselves paired with smaller groups  and individually loved by God.  Our God is the creator of all mankind, and desires to be the Savior of all, though all have yet to acknowledged His existence or His sacrifice.  It is this knowledge that must keep us pressing to reach out to all people, and displaying our love for all His creation.

 

Let us follow the example of our Lord.  Remembering others even as we are experiencing the pain and struggles life presents us.  Let us gain confidence and peace such that we show compassion to those who lack the connection to God, and the security of being justified by His sacrifice.

Fight of Flight (Judges 14:5-6)

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Judges 14: 5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father
and mother.  As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly
a young lion came roaring toward him.  6 The Spirit of the LORD came
powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands
as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor
his mother what he had done.

Are you prepared to Fight?  or Are you preparing for Flight?

As I read this passage, I thought about the many who have not prepared to fight the many lions on our journey.  I first thought of the natural portion given to us called “adrenaline”.   God has uniquely designed our bodies with a “fight” or “flight” system powered by adrenaline.Adrenaline

In key moments, our minds will be called upon to make the distinction as to what should be done in key situations.  In this, the adrenaline produced can give us the strength to “fight” or for “flight”.  This distinction is an assessment that happens on the spot and determines the best way to respond to any given situation.

I thought about the response of Samson, a man of God who as a Nazarite, accepted his vow to live for the Lord.  While others took the vow by choice, Samson was chosen before birth, but had to accept his appointment to live for the Lord.  His response to the roaring lion was based upon his knowledge of Who God is and Who He was in God.

Vineyard; No Problem

Even before addressing the Lion, I was first captured by his position.  His journey to investigate his future wife took him through a vineyard.  As a Nazarite, he is not to drink or eat anything from the vine.  As he travels, it seems as though the presence of the vineyard does not phase him.  He has become so disciplined in this area of his life, that he seems to advance, not even distracted by what he sees.  This comes with a lifestyle of denial and focus to be disciple.  I wondered if I and other could get there?  To be like Samson in this moment or like our Lord in the wilderness.  Samson placed his vow to the Lord before his commitment to please his flesh, considering his pleasure secondary to pleasing God.  If only we could get here!

How close are you?  Would you be snacking from the vines as though walking through Cosco or HEB?  Truthfully most of us would have been full of grapes, stumbling from the wine, and crawling into the Temple with our sacrifice, shaving our heads and starting our vows yet again.

Will you keep your vows?  No you aren’t a Nazarite, but as brides of the Divine, we have a commitment as a disciple to live a life of discipline, denying our self, and pressing towards the mark of righteousness placed for us.  We must position ourselves to be used by the Lord by living out or vows not before man, but before a righteous God!

Are you positioned? 

In this, I took a close look at my life; asking myself am I prepared to be used by the divine?  Sadly, I concluded No; not completely.  I examined my health, and determined that my lack of discipline in eating and drinking, presents to God a temple that is partially prepared to carry out my calling.   Are you positioned?

As we looked at Adrenaline, we see how its use can both save your life, giving you the ability to fight or for flight, but that in certain cases, the use of it can take the life of one who’s temple is not able to handle the power it provides.  Are you prepared?  Samsoms’ temple had been set aside for Gods’ use and was ready to handle his first assignment.  When the Holy Spirit came upon him, it had complete use of his temple to carry out this super natural feat!  Could you?  Are you positioned?  Positioning is the result of preparation.  Denying himself and being discipline with his eating and drinking, Samson was ready to physically handle the rigors of the fight.  He, under control of the Holy Spirit, tore a lion in half, with the inference being that it was with very little struggle.

Are you prepared? 

The Holy Spirit was able to use not only his body, but was able to control his actions by the connection he had to the Divine.  Resembling his covenant daily, He most likely stood facing the lion with a larger mane that the young lion that attacked.  He kept razor from his head, symbolizing his connection and covenant to the Lord, refusing to break his vow.  His close connection allowed him to be overtaken, and his discipline and life of denial allowed him to quickly submit in the heat of the battle.  Fight or Flight?  For Samson, even before knowing the power he possessed, Flight was not an option.

How will you respond to the attack? Diving

Because most of us are not prepared, we choose Flight!  I want to encourage us to take a stand and to Fight!

What I love about the passage is that Samson was taken by surprise!  Many of us feel being prepared is knowing the exact challenge that we will face, but when you are walking with Christ, and guided by His Spirit, being prepared is not knowing what is a head, but knowing who is your head!  Yes, we are a body; and Christ is our Head.  It is the knowledge of this that allows us to fight as though taking a test as though we had the answer key prior to the exam.

We must stay built up in the Word, increase our intimacy with time in Prayer, Chasten ourselves by Fasting!   

Again, being surprised is not equivalent to be unprepared.  That is, unless we are undisciplined.  The reason many of us have to choose flight is our undisciplined lifestyle.  When we assess the situations we face, we have not prepared ourselves or structured ourselves to carry out the fullness of our calling.  Will you prepare?

I’ll show you a Lion!

Samson stood up to the Lion, knowing that he was not standing by himself.  Yes, you guessed it!  Why take flight from a young lion when you are walking with the Lion of Judah?  You want to see a Lion, I’ll show you a Lion.  You might think I am walking by myself, but I am walking in power with the favor and protection of the Lord.  I am covered by His blood and empowered by His spirit to do greater works that already displayed.

I face all challenges with faith, not responding to the roar of the lion, but to the voice of the King!  It is His voice that presents fear and the respect I have for His love and sacrifice that is the power that allow me to walk towards a challenge as opposed to running away from it.

Which Direction are you Running?

You are either headed back or you are moving forward!  You choose how you use the power you are given.  Are you praying to get out or praying to power through?

handsinsoilDid I do that?

I am grateful that God doesn’t do everything for us or without us!  God powered Samson with the Holy Spirit but allowed him to experience the power and the satisfaction of achievement.  It is an honor and so satisfying to see the things God allowed your hands to participate in accomplishing.  Yes, here I am Lord; send me!  Lord forbid that the Kingdom is built while we are spectators!  I want to point to a brick, a wall, a chair, a person, a ministry, an offering, a miracle that God worked through me to accomplish.

Like Samson, I want to travel and see the work of my hands, celebrating and remembering the power of the partnership I have with God, and reveling in just how powerful I am when fully dedicated and submitted to Him.  Don’t you?  Don’t you want to look at your hands as the tools of the Lord to accomplish His will on the earth, and not just as tools to bring pleasure to your flesh? olympic-victory-celebrating (45) As I look to the floor, I see the prior works of my hand.  Feeding my temple things that have brought harm and have been a hindrance.  Lord forbid that this be the only changed visible to mankind by my hands.   I pray that your hands show more than clothes and cars, houses and land.  I pray that God will use you to produce more than grapes on a vine, but fruit from a life lived that honors God.

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

 

Waiting to Produce (Judges 13:1-2)

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The Israelites again did evil in the LORD’s sight,
so the LORD handed them over to the Philistines
for forty years. There was a man named
Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe.
His wife was infertile and childless.
Judges 13:1-2

 

Because of disobedience, the Israelite’s find themselves under the rule of the Philistines.  Yes, God’s people found themselves subject to those who were not God’s chosen because they were constant breakers of the covenant God had made with them.  Here we find Manoah in captivity corporately with his brothers and sister, and still having to deal with personal conditions and circumstances. 

012-jacob-weddingThis really struck me.  As a father, husband and as a man of God.  Even in the midst of our corporate struggles, there are still personal struggles going on within the group.  As a leader and visionary, sometimes we loose sight of this, and this lack of sight can cause us to be both instinctive or to appear as though we lack compassion.  In Manoahs case, most were aware of his circumstance because they could not visually see any children, but in many cases, what we go through is not publicized.  Many times we find ourselves struggling and suffering in private.

Though in a in captivity, Manoah had been blessed with a wife.  Though there are many benefits to having a wife that, one was not afforded to him; offspring.  Manoah was not only unable to secure  Verse 2 informs us that his wife is both infertile and childless.

Though we are not given details on how her infertility affected either he or his wife, we are clued in that she has not produced a child.  This means she was barren when betrothed, and barren after covenant was solidified.  Though he was able to produce an offspring, he was childless because she was unable to produce.

I wondered:

Have you ever united with something barren?

I think back to college.  One of the worst things that could happen to you in a lab was to be partnered with someone who was unproductive.  Their unproductively had a direct affect on your ability to produce.  It caused you to work harder, in turn making your shaper, but robbed you of opportunities to take full advantage of your circumstances.

image001I wondered how many nights he prayed, thanking God for what he had, but asking God to add to his numbers that he might produce more and be more efficient with his holdings?  I wonder how many times he prayed over her, anointing her body with oil?  How many days did he fast?  I wonder how many times he stood exhausted looking over land that was not cultivated and wished he had an extra hand to aide him in his duties?  How many sacrifices did he make?  How many times did he fight through the advice of friends?  How many advances did he turn down?  How many offerings were given?  How many hours did his head hang low? One can imagine the frustration and disappointment he might have questioning himself and his relationship with God.

On the other end we have his wife.  

Have you ever been the Unproductive Partner in a Relationship?

Being a faithful and loyal wife, I am certain she served her husband to the best of her capacity.  She was certain to have compensated in each way, working along side him to help him, knowing that she was unable to provide an heir or an aid for anything he acquired.  Furthermore, she would not have a covering or company if she were to loose Manoah.  Each day she awoke to the frailty of her present state, and operated within her circumstances, hoping one day they would change.  She most likely faced the label of her community, and the constant judgement that was given to a woman who had the equipment to produce, but had not been selected  by God to bare one of His gifts.

 

I pray for each tear that was shed.  I pray for each time her head grew heavy and her knees grew weak.  I pray for each time she touched her belly.  Each time she countenance was low.  Each time she cried out to the Lord.  Each sacrifice she made and each offering she offered up.   I pray for each time she saw a mother with her child.  And for each time she held someones blessing and wondered if her womb would every be blessed with a gift from the Lord.

At some level we have all been either Manoah or Manoah’s wife.  From both vantage points, we must continue to be good partners to one another.  We must take advantage of what has been given to us, until more is provided for us to steward.  In every case, God will meet our needs and allow us to function if we will continue to get the full usage out of what we have.   Manoah and his wife find themselves still blessed by the Lord while in captivity, and we can too.  Not having today does not mean that tomorrow will be the same.  For both Manoah and his wife, the day would soon come that they would not only be Monoah/Monoahs wife, but Samsom’s Father/Samson’s Mother.  Soon the tails and chronicles of his actions would not only make his name great, but the name of his family.

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

Choose Peace on Earth

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“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people
with whom he is pleased.”
Luke 2:14

The 14th verse of Luke says in the 2nd chapter, “…peace among people with whom he is pleased.”  Peace from the Messiah is a progressive peace received by those who choose to follow Him.  Seeking righteousness and choosing love over hate is the fertile soil that allows us to breath and breed peace in our lives.Peace of Mind wooden sign with a beach on background

This is made possible by our commitment to make peace with the world.  We must choose not to live in conflict with one another and must show respect also to all of Gods’ creation.  Think it not odd that God was even concerned with how man treated the animals which he was to consume and the plants which gave him life.  He taught man to respect life by making him a farmer and also a creator himself through womb birth.

Jesus brings us life to the full not just through eternal life, but through the gift of His Word and Walk, which instruct an model for believers how to live among creation and not collapse.  We are now able to encounter people through the lens of Christ, which we inherit through His Holy Spirit anointing our eyes and ears with the balm of compassion.  It is our outlook on life, which now shaped by our faith in God, that should allow us to paz_mundialencounter each set of circumstances with the measure of faith given to us that we might obtain peace through believing which then shapes our choices.

This is best summed up by our Lord who stated that the Love of God as the greatest commandment, followed closely by Love Your NeighborHow is your relationship with both God and man?  Are we applying God’s Word to our lives in respect to interaction with His creation or are we extracting the portions that allow us to gain wealth and prominence?   If you are not in a right relationship with God and man, chances are, He is not pleased with you, and neither are you experiencing peace on earth.

 

#PastorJDO3

Don’t be a Jezebel! (1 Kings 21:25)

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(There has never been anyone like Ahab, who was firmly
committed to doing evil before the Lord, urged on by his
wife Jezebel…) 1 Kings 21:25

There are many titles attached to Jezebel.  A woman noted for her seductive and manipulative ways.  She waived her fist in the face of God, talked trash to His prophets, lead a campaign against the Lord, encouraged idolatry and disgusted the Lord.  No better is the picture of the Lords long suffering and patience as seen with those who have hardened hearts against Him.  jezebelSending prophets and signs, He works to reach and transform the life of those who are darkened, yet some are just hardheaded.  Such is Jezebel.  No matter what she hears or sees, Jezebel will not change her ways, and invest her time in getting others to do likewise.

In the 20th chapter of 1st Kings, Jezebel finds herself encountering her husband Ahab who has been rejected by Naboth on the sale of his vineyard.  Ahab, downcast, has his head lifted by Jezebel, his wife who encourages him.  Yes, Jezebel supports her man.  She encourages him to go after what he desires.  She encourages him to take control of the circumstances, and to use his power to gain what he needs.  And yes, this is a problem!

An encouraging wife is normally thought to be a good thing, but in this case, Jezebel encourages her husband to abuse his power and to commit and offense against a child of God.  Jezebel takes the pen and paper and drafts up a letter and puts into action a plot to accuse Naboth of cursing God.  Worse, Ahab, realizing what Jezebel has done, becomes a partaker in the evil by taking possession of that which did not belong to him.

Her encouragement to Ahab was a stirrer, that stirred up Ahab to commit more and greater atrocities against the Lord.  She took a man who already found himself not in favor with the Lord, and moved him up the chart to enemy number one.  This is so key.  REALITY!  Your Spouse will be or is FLAWED and has a SIN NATURE!  So what will you cultivate.

So What are You Cultivating?

Jezebel Encouraged her man to abuse his power!  stirrer-2She drafted up a note and plan to kill an innocent man all for convenience.  In this, she modeled and encouraged him to set aside all principles and care for the people he led and the God he served, and to do what best fit him.

As we watch life play out before us, I wonder how many Jezebels there are?  Not speaking just of the nation or world, but of our local congregations.

I remembered speaking to a woman on a Saturday witnessing day  that said she was propositioned by her Pastor.  She recalled him approaching her upon graduating High School and asking her to go to a training to run a new program at the church.  Upon arriving, he checked them into the hotel.

First, she didn’t realize they would be the only two traveling.
Second, she didn’t think they would share the same room.
Third, even after contacting her parents, they spoke up for
the man of God and encouraged her to stay.

After dinner, The Pastor decided to have a special laying on hands ceremony, substituting the sacred oil with anointed lotion.  Replaced the Easter Palms for Rose Petals.  Replace the Altar for a Bed and was told she was the Sacrifice!  She refused, and thankfully, the Pastor returned her home.

But it doesn’t end!  It gets worse!  The following Sunday, the First Lady scolded the young lady for dressing in a manner that tempted her husband (who confessed what happened, but directed the blame to the young ladies night clothes).

She hasn’t returned to church since!

I am not sure if this story is even true, but I thought she was being very genuine.  Even if true, its important to note this isn’t everyone’s story, nor is it the norm.  But we would be foolish to pretend that there aren’t some cases of abuse.  And worse, some cases with spouses who support the Abuse of Power taking places in some of our local churches.

And no, I will not call this First Lady a Jezebel, not will I get on a soap box about a Mom and Dad that allowed their Daughter to travel alone with a man, but I will say that we must be clear about our roles and spouse and saints.

queen-jezebelAnd no, covering the man/woman of God does not mean us being modern day politician apologist.  We must cover the man/woman of God in prayer, supporting them as God works with them, not by lying and with deceit, but not being quick to judge and or exposing their flaws that they might be susceptible to future sin and or sudden destruction.  Covering the man/woman of God involves the support not only of prayer, but protecting their anointing and making sure they can stay before the Lord and serve the people unhindered.

And for that matter, touch not thine anointed does not mean we as clergy get a free pass to carry out foolishness, with the understanding that God is our judge or will carry out justice.  Or that there is no accountability for those who wear the cloth.  The word says that a claim against an Elder should only be received if it can be verified by two or three witnesses.  Then continues to say that no favoritism will be shown, and that they must be rebuked before all!  In other words, God’s has no favorites, and neither should we.  He will punish and judge us all, regardless of title, position or works!

Encouraging ungodly behavior and pursuits of Greed, Selfishness, Covetousness, Gluttony and the like are not the types of stirring that is needed among those chosen to support and serve the man/woman of God, rather those who continue pointing towards the path set for us all.  Don’t be a Jezebel!

 

#PastorJDO3

 

Life by the Bee (Drunk in Love)

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Tuesday, we closed out the Life by the Bee series with a casual stroll through her classic, Drunk in Love. Beyonce, newly married, placed her heart and soul into articulating the freshly squeezed passion of wedded bliss. beyonce16

She takes the listener on a journey from a wife, newly introduced to another level of intimacy with her spouse. He memories of their time together, scorch the track, and impress upon the hearer the powerful nature of their loving expression. She recalls in the chorus, that she is “Drunk in Love!” Her words highlight her new life as an addict, in constant wait for the next fix.

Each attendant was asked to think back to their first encounter with Jesus; our Lord. The moment we moved from hearing, to opening our hearts and experiencing the Love of God through Jesus! We rolled the clock back to that moment our heart was broken, and our soul was stirred by the knowledge that God had unconditional love for us accompanied with forgiveness, grace and mercy.

In my heart I store up your words,
so I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Our focal scripture focused on the need to maintain our covenant with God by keeping His word in our heart. We know we must do this by following the instructions given to us in verses 1-10.

It is written, “…happy are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law….observe his rules…seek him with all their heart, obey his demands…” (Verses 1-3 of Pslams 119).

Keep Your Covenant!

When was the last time our marital covenant with God was the guiding factor in our life? God’s Word is a guide given us to navigate life on earth and also to please our creator. God promises us that we will be happier for following His mandate, if we make Him the sole desire of our heart, and not succumb to the desires of our flesh.

We must Consume and be Consumed!

breathalizerWe must “store up” His Word in our heart! Yes, we must consume Him. He must be “stored up;” running through out veins. To be drunk, we discussed, points directly to not just consumption, but a high level of consumption. Someone that is drunk has had more than their fill. They are well beyond a buzz! They began to see life through the influence of what is coursing through their veins, touching every organ, and affecting each thing that they come into contact with. Every step changes! Even the speech is different!

Too Many of us are Social Drinkers!!!

Our problem; with Christ, we are mainly Social Drinkers! We are casual with Christ. We consume him in controlled settings and only when others are drinking. It’s not because it is our desire, its because we desire to fit in with everyone else. This is a true problem. You can not store what you do not consume. You can not draw strength from what you don’t have.

We found it key that the actions of one who has consumed alcohol or other substances is defined as being “Under the Influence!”

Are you “Under the Influence?”

Are you Drunk in Love? When we looked at the song, we saw the actions of Beyonce as one who was truly “Under the Influence!” Her day and actions were controlled by the encounter and her feelings and emotions were guided by the relationship that continued to delved into new levels drawing them closer to one another! So too must we be with God. His influence in our life must lead us to sing sweet melodies. The testimony of who He is in our lives must be ready and present on our lips.

Verse 4 stated, “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” We must live our life knowing that God has not given us His law as a suggestion for living. He has given it as a mandate that dictates how we should behave. Once we are in covenant with God, His expectation is for us to submit to the will of the one that covers us. He design is for us to be disciples. One that not only accept His sacrifice, but that will make the sacrifices needed to bring our minds and bodies under subjection that we might have life to the full an find ourselves pleasing to Him!

#Pastor JDO3

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Life by The Bee (Flawless)

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Tuesday, we continued the Life by The Bee Series. Last week, we looked at her song “Hold Up” which challenged each member in our Discipleship Group to reconsider the depth of Love God has for us. This week we looked further into the Lemonade Album of 2016 with “Flawless!”

beyonce16Flawless was a powerful song that captured a bold confidence from Beyonce. Her declaration in the chorus of “flawless” presented a bliss and level of satisfaction and peace far above the standard that many before her had been able to articulate or capture.

She listed her many acquisitions that support her claim, leading us to ask the question?

Are we flawless too?
What makes us flawless?
Is it tangible things?
Are our possessions our confidence?

Is flawless simply being satisfied, proud or having the best of something? It is taking care of the things you possess? Is it carefully selecting and purchasing or being gifted things that are beyond the financial reach of others?

We looked at Philippians 1:6 for our lesson:

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hatch begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ. Philippians 1:6

While Beyonce focused on outward beauty, God desires to develop an inner beauty. As discussed, one of the dangers of the song is that it encourages us to place much attention on things, displaying wealth, or meeting and or surpassing the worlds standard of beauty. We have long defined beauty by accessories and feature, as opposed to character and behavior. Jesus became our mark, and His Word stood as our instruction manual. Helping us to live life to the full on this earth, accomplishing things through Him whom is our strength.

beyonceflawless
One thing is for sure:

 

Growth Takes Time

 

Paul said as he looked upon his brothers and sisters. even after hearing about struggles and failures. Even having experienced them himself, he reaffirmed that he was confident in the ability of Christ to change them as he too had been changed. He realized that growth took time! Paul said, “…he (God) which hath begun…” The patience that God has shown with him, had taught him by modeling that we are all unfinished and imperfect. Upon saving us, God begins the work of cleaning us, determined to present us before God without spot or wrinkle.

Don’t Get Discouraged!

Facing failure and stumbling is not only humbling, but it can be debilitating! One can question their progress or even the start from a failure of a struggle, but Paul wrote as a big brother and boldly stated he is “confident!” Confident not in yourself, but confident in Him! He begun the work. It’s His job to complete, but our job to comply!

As exciting as it is to know that God will complete the work He begun, it was even more exciting to know, “….will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ!” Yes, Beyonce has one thing right! One day, we will all be able to say, “I woke up like this!”
innerbeauty

You will Be Flawless!

Though we are the process of being made perfect, we live with the knowledge that perfection will only be achieved on the day of Christ. When He returns for us, we will be removed from these jars of clay and live in our new bodies with will be Flawless! We will live eternity with him, singing His praise, and standing beside Him in victory. Though perfection is close to some and far away for others, we must all be on the same plan of growth, becoming better disciples or soldiers in the army. We must continue to submit our will to Him, that we might be able to meet His approval and bring about His Kingdom on earth.

#PastorJDO3