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Create in me a clean heart,O God;

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.   Psalm 51:10-12

This was the prayer of David after he had fallen into deep sin. This once humble shepherd boy turned giant killer, the apple of Gods eye, has been knocked off of his lofty throne by pride, arrogance, and lust.

Having committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband killed in a vain attempt to hide his sin, King David found himself in bitterness and anguish of soul. As you read Psalm 51, the depths of this anguish nearly jumps off the page, and no doubt many of us can empathize with his sorrows.

For the rest of his life David would pay a tremendous price for his moral failures. Not only he, but his family as well would suffer the consequences of “the pleasures of sin for a season”. Indeed, his own son tried to take the kingdom from him, and never again would David know complete peace and contentment in his life.

thou-art-the-man_peter_rothermel_david_nathan_b

Thou Art The Man- by Peter Rothermel

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this tragic episode in the life of Israel’s beloved king, not the least of which is that none of us has to be a murderer or an adulterer to have need of a clean heart and a right spirit within us. All of us are in need of these things.

Everyday events can drain us, leaving us discouraged and feeling so lowly that we have to reach up just to be able to touch the bottom. Life, for all of its joys and triumphs, also brings with it incredible heartaches and disappointments. For these, we need the security of knowing that God is working “all things together for our good”.

Who among us doesn’t need renewal from time to time? Contrary to popular opinion, there certainly is no shame in acknowledging our own inabilities to “fix ourselves” by calling upon the Lord. As a matter of fact, He tells us to “cast all of our cares upon him, because He cares for us.”

I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but I’m craving a deeper walk with him. So many things in this life cause division and separation between us and God. Even good things, in excess, can come between us and our relationship with him.

The last thing I want is to be found like David, far from God, yet I know that if I don’t pray and study his word that is exactly what will happen. Our prayer then should always be like David’s; “Lord, cast me not away from your presence.”

In perilous and uncertain times such as we are living in today, all of us need the strong hand of the Lord to sustain us, to keep us pointed in the right direction. Let’s face it, we need Him!

David understood that even though he had committed horrible sins before his God forgiveness, albeit at a cost, was available to him. The son that was born to him out of the illicit affair with Bathsheba for example, would become sick and die. No amount of fasting and prayer for him could save his life, yet this event served a greater purpose in turning David’s heart back to God.

Having done that, he began the road back to once again having a clean heart, a right spirit, the joy of the Lord, and a restored relationship with God. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, however with God’s help; David was able to persevere in spite of them.

The grace of God is truly amazing isn’t it? A God that would forgive David is just as quick to forgive us for our own shortcomings. It really is as simple as calling upon Him to forgive us and create in us a clean heart.

Be blessed on this Lords day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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And we wonder why…Part 4

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As I conclude this series I want to begin by focusing on a key point of contention being tossed around today, that being that our school systems are somehow to blame for all of the recent school shootings.

What has brought us to this point in our nation’s history, a point where we find ourselves burying innocent children who have been murdered at school, is not an inept educational system.

Dysfunctional at times…absolutely. However, the current media fixation on all that is wrong with our schools being one of the leading causes of the repeated carnage taking place is just plain wrong.

Interestingly enough, if you were to look closely at the past six decades of education in America, you would see that our schools have always been used as a “battleground” of sorts.

For example:

  • In 1954 Segregation was finally outlawed.
  • In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. The following year reading the Bible was also banned.
  • In 1972 Title IX became law, prohibiting discrimination based upon sex.
  • In 1983 President Reagan issued the report “A Nation at Risk”, detailing the ways in which America’s schools were underperforming.
  • In 2001 President G.W. Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind” ,increasing funding while ushering in standards based reforms.
  • In 2010 President Obama’s “Race to The Top” program brought with it many additional education reforms.

It is obvious that the education of America’s children has long been a priority. For certain, mistakes have been made, but there have also been tremendous successes.

Today, our educational system is one of the best in the world. More importantly, our children continue to receive a quality education. While some countries may boast of better test scores, considering the sheer magnitude of our educational system I believe we do a great job.

I think we can also safely say that a lack of funding is generally not a problem (yes, I know, tell that to a teacher!). After all, the trillions of dollars spent on providing a good education testify of our commitment to continue doing so.

The problem of school shootings therefore does not lie with either the school or the government. Both of these entities continue to do what they’ve always done. Why anyone would think that either is to blame for the tragedies in our schools is beyond me.

Of course, there is that issue of finding a Scapegoat…

If not the schools system itself or the government, what then is the problem?

Here’s a thought for you: if you are 50 years of age and upward, how many school shootings happened while you attended school? In my case, there were exactly ZERO school shootings during all of my years of education. How about you?

Likewise, when I was in school we had exactly ZERO school psychologists. The closest thing we had to a psychologist was a guidance counselor, and I realize what a stretch that is.

Did you know that the position of school psychologist is currently one of the most in-demand and highest paid positions in the state of Florida? Not an educator of students mind you, but a psychologist. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

How have we gone from a nation where our children’s education was of such primary importance that generation after generation approved one tax levy after another in order to support our schools, to a nation where career educators today have less value than a school psychologist?

How have we gone from a nation where we would send our children off to school each day, confident that they would be taught the necessary skills needed to succeed in this world, to a nation where each day we say goodbye to them causes a nagging fear to surface that this might be the last time I see my child alive?

The hard question that no one wants to ask is this: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed is the heart and consciousness of America is now on life support. Our society has gone from a vibrant, thriving, God loving one to a society known more for its capacity for evil than its good works.

Our collective soul as a nation is on a death watch.

To put it in the simplest terms: as a nation we are sick. We have been infected with an incurable (by man’s standards) disease. And we need to accept the fact that this disease has infected every facet of our society, including our schools.

And we wonder why the killings?

Judging by the frequency of attacks upon our children, one could make the case that we would rather argue and cast blame than admit we have been inflicted with this disease so that we can then be able to ingest the antidote.

Which by the way, is NOT a school psychologist.

As long as we can argue and blame one another, we can avoid having to confront the real issue here. You see, it’s difficult to admit that we have a disease called SIN, because not only is God not welcome in our schools, neither is He welcome in our government.

And He is becoming less welcome in our homes each and every day.

Get rid of God; get rid of the sin issue. Get rid of the sin issue, we have cleared our consciousness of any guilt in the matter. It’s as old as the original sin in the garden! Isn’t that what we have done?

We can talk all day long about policy changes and new/more gun regulations in the hope that they will put an end to the murder of our children. Let me be the first to say that there must be changes made to prevent access to weapons of any kind by anyone. To continue allowing things to continue as they are is madness.

But let’s be perfectly clear about something: no policy or regulation has ever been implemented that will change a person’s heart, any more than a simple STOP sign will cause everyone to stop at the intersection.

The biggest obstacle to changing the status quo is the fact that our society has yet to hit rock bottom, thus we do not yet want to change. As perverted as this may sound, apparently we have not yet suffered enough, or else we would take the necessary actions to right this sinking ship.

Until we acknowledge that we are incapable of piloting this ship apart from Almighty God, we will continue to flounder in the cesspool of sin and violence.

And our innocent children will continue to be killed.

I won’t bore you with one story after another from the Bible, because history itself is filled with examples of nations and society’s who have chosen the slippery slope of independence from God. And like the proverbial blind leading the blind, we too will fall into a ditch from which there is no escape unless we repent, humble ourselves, and seek His face.

As horrific as it is now, how loudly will this nation cry when these evil, sadistic murderers turn their guns on the nursing homes or the hospitals? How long will it be before someone bursts into a public library and commits the unthinkable?

Lest we forget, it’s happening in our churches right now!

Whereas this nation was once grateful, humble, and thankful for God’s mercy, compassion, blessings, and divine protection, we have in this generation decided that there is no place for God in America.

Accordingly, the innocent among us are now paying the price for the sins of the fathers.

This is our choice.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we received.

Let no one ever say again that God doesn’t give us what we ask.

May God help us is my heart felt prayer.

Ron

And we wonder why…Part 3

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Let us now draw our attention to the leadership of our churches here in America. In the face of a national crisis, which the murder of innocent school children certainly is, we should expect our Christian leaders to rise to the forefront in the fight against such heinous acts.

Appreciatively, many of the mainline denominations were swift to respond to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which was reassuring to many.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. Episcopal bishops are arranging for services of lamentation at churches around the country. The Presbytery of Tropical Florida has announced a “Vigil of Prayer and Light.

While all of this is good, what they all have in common is that they are reactive responses to the violence that has already occurred. In other words, they’re too late!

This level of violence is interwoven with America’s steep spiritual decline, and as such must be met head on with our spiritual leaders LEADING a proactive charge.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Texas, all of these horrific acts of extreme violence fade quickly from our memory. To be sure, these events shock us, bring us to tears, make us angry, and cause us to point our collective fingers at what we perceive to be the cause.

They do everything except cause us to change on the inside.

Where is the leadership in our churches collectively calling for repentance? Why don’t our leaders issue a call to adhere to 2nd Chronicles 7:14?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

How is it that our church leaders can rail against the government, against gun manufacturers, against nearly everything except for SIN?

The problem as I see it that our Church Leadership seems more apt to jump on the bandwagon of blame, rather than lead the spiritual initiatives required to combat this issue.

Recently, I read a Tweet from one of the “rising young stars” in the Charismatic church who declared that he was angry at the Congress and angry at the President for not doing something to stop all this gun violence.

Well my brother, I’m so glad you said that because I feel like you should be angry. I’m angry too. Only, be sure you direct your anger in the right direction.

That’s right, I said it.

Before we blame the President and the Congress, the NRA, or the Conservatives or the Liberals, we need to step back and review what our church’s leaders have done to stem the tide.

For example, it shouldn’t be too hard to add up all the hours we leaders have spent on our faces before God pleading for the soul of this nation, should it? I mean, that is part of OUR responsibility, isn’t it?

And no, Facebook and Twitter “I’m praying for you” prayers do not count. I’m talking about the kind of praying that has all but been forgotten in our churches. The kind of praying that requires we first repent of our own apostasy before we call upon a Holy God.

And it should be real easy to add up how many meals we’ve fasted as we assail the throne of God on behalf of our children, shouldn’t it? That is what real men and women of God do, isn’t it?

I mean, if we’re going to blame someone else we ought to make sure our own house is in order, shouldn’t we? That is how this is supposed to work, is it not?

From where I sit on the front row, I am appalled at how carnal we church leaders have become. We wring our hands along with the rest of the nation, while God waits patiently for someone to “lay hold of the altar”, or to “stand in the gap” for this nation and its children.

Surely, the constant pleas from the grief-stricken parents should be enough to motivate us and drive us to our knees!

I can’t help but wonder however, how much longer God will withhold his rod of judgement. And just to be clear, the rod of judgement will be used first in the house of God.

America’s church leaders are not innocent bystanders in the battle against the forces of darkness that are attacking our children. Far from it. We church leaders have blood on our hands just as any other watchman who fails to sound the alarm.

In the 4th and final installment of the series “And we wonder why”, I’m going to address the question of “what has changed?”

Until next time,

Ron

And we wonder why…Part 2

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So…what have we replaced God with in America?

For one, we have replaced God with the great “god” of Entertainment.

This “god” comes in many forms. How many can you think of?

Movies, the internet, music, video games, books and magazines, outdoor activities like fishing and boating, cycling, concerts/shows, and the theater are just a few of the entertainment options available to most of us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. There is a problem however with the inordinate amount of our time that these activities consume. When our lives revolve around these entertainment activities, they have become to us a “god”.

When it comes to our children however, we have replaced Almighty God with a different type of entertainment “god”. This “god” comes in the form of a rectangular box, a box that dispenses goodness or morality in bite size portions, while spewing hatred and violence at an unprecedented rate.

This same rectangular box has also replaced parental guidance and nurturing. We have come to the point where we don’t need or want parents pushing their outdated morals on our children. Society has divorced itself from God. Just give us the box!

While you may scoff at such assertions, the evidence is overwhelming. According to csun.esu, the amount of violence our children are exposed to on TV from very young childhood until they reach 18 years of age is nothing short of staggering.

“Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000….    Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000….    Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79%”.

Add to this recipe for disaster the fact that a child spends roughly 900 hours in school each year, but nearly 1500 hours in front of a television!

Did you know that 2000 hours a year is considered the normal number of hours for a full time worker in America? What this means is that our children are watching TV at almost the same rate as having a full time job!

Does this not astound you? Does this not bother you? If our children are spending such an incredible amount of time in front of a TV set, what else does that leave time for? How much blood and gore can a mind absorb before it accepts that this is normal?

And what about the music our children are listening to? Did you know that explicit sexual and violent content have become the norm in a lot of the music our kids are listening to?

Reading the following paragraph from an article entitled Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth from pediatrics.aappublications.org will give you some idea as to how pervasive this filth is.

Lyrics have become more explicit in their references to drugs, sex, and violence over the years. A content analysis of the top 10 CDs performed by the National Institute on Media in 1999 revealed that each of these CDs included at least 1 song with sexual content. Forty-two percent of the songs on these CDs contained very explicit sexual content.

Lyrics of some music genres, such as rock, heavy metal, rap, and new emerging genres such as reggaeton, have been found to revolve around topics such as sexual promiscuity, death, homicide, suicide, and substance abuse. Most recently, some rap music has been characterized by the presence of explicit sexual language in its lyrics as well as messages of violence, racism, homophobia, and hatred toward women. Drug, tobacco, and alcohol use also tend to be glorified in these songs.”

I purposely chose this particular article, written in November 2009, solely because it references information from 1999. That’s over 18 years ago. How much worse do think the situation is today?

And where are the parental controls the cable provider likes to tell us about?

Our children are acting out what they see glorified on TV and in music videos. This garbage has now become the norm to them, and yet we want to blame the NRA, the Congress, or the President?

And we wonder why the killings?

The sad truth of the matter is that society, and parents in particular, are looking for a “Scapegoat”!

Where does the parent factor in to this equation?

Where are the parents who should be stepping up and taking control of their homes? What has happened to parents assuming responsibility for every facet of their child’s education, both public and private?

We have abdicated our parental rights and responsibilities to the great “god” of Entertainment, and we have the gall to ask why the killings?

We as parents have willingly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what our children are watching and listening to, and we still ask why the killings?

Perhaps,and I say this with all due respect, perhaps we should turn our attention away from searching for a Scapegoat, and instead look in the mirror.

In part 3 of “And we wonder why” we will look at the role the Church has taken in all of this. I assure you I have some hard questions to ask of our spiritual leaders, and I hope you will be watching for this next installment.

Until next time,

Ron

And we wonder why….Part 1

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The recent massacre of 17 children on Valentine’s Day in Parkland Fl. has turned my thoughts once again to the plight of America’s children, and the ever increasing dangers they must contend with in a society rendered (seemingly) helpless to protect them.

Though this most recent mass shooting occurred about three weeks ago, I have purposely delayed writing this series of posts until now in order to clear my head and heart of the emotions I’ve been contending with as a result of this tragedy.

Parents and average citizens alike are outraged, as well they should be, that yet another mass shooting has taken place in one of our schools. The senseless, cowardly attack on our children has once again left our nation grief-stricken, searching for answers.

Searching for someone, or something to blame.

True to form, whenever a tragedy of this magnitude takes place, the inevitable call to do something about guns, particularly guns such as the AR-15 rifle, soon follows.

Of course, it is understandable that grieving parents would lash out at what they perceive to be the primary cause of why they must now bury their child.

Who wouldn’t?

Also true to form, the moments after such a tragedy find our elected representatives on both the Left and the Right politicizing the event, as if the murder of seventeen innocent children were some sort of sick, twisted, political football to be tossed back and forth.

How sick and perverted is it when the people we elect to represent us cannot lay aside their differences in the face of such a tragedy, and come together in the spirit of unity and compassion for the betterment of the nation?

No offense, but if this doesn’t cause you to feel outrage, you should have someone check your pulse.

Surely one would hope that the cries of anguish from a broken-hearted mother would be able to break through the self-imposed impasse that prohibits having a reasonable, rational discussion among the stakeholders.

You think?

Some say it’s the fault of the NRA, or the Congress. To others it’s the fault of the President. Depending on which side of the political pendulum you swing from, it’s either the fault of the Conservatives or the Liberals.

None of which is completely true. Rhetoric rarely contains more than a thumbnail of truth, after all.

You see, when we don’t know what to do, we look for a scapegoat. For those of you unfamiliar with the word scapegoat, it comes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

On the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were ceremoniously placed upon a goat called the “scapegoat”, who was then released into the wilderness to wander.          Scripture reference Leviticus 16:5-10

When our children are mercilessly slaughtered, our righteous grief and anger demand that we affix blame; hence we look for our own version of the Levitical scapegoat.

And who could blame us? Sins of such magnitude stir within us the desire for revenge and justice. Someone must pay! Someone must be held accountable!

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the murderer of the 17 kids at Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed killer Nikolas Cruz, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

But does that bring any of those children back? Does a lifetime sentence for Mr. Cruz mean the end of school shootings in America? The answer I’m afraid is NO to both questions. Let me explain why I believe that.

Our nation is drowning in violence, hatred, and evil, and as a nation there is no longer a life preserver of righteousness or morality for us to grab hold of. This is the path that we have chosen, despite those who would say otherwise.

We have systematically removed the one Source from this nation that is capable of defeating the evil that is upon us. Indeed, our “Life Preserver” has been tossed overboard without us. Consider the following:

  • We have outlawed public prayer nearly everywhere. Heaven help you should you want to open a public meeting with a moment of prayer.
  • The ACLU has made sure that the Baby Jesus can’t show up at the town square at Christmas.
  • Football coaches are forbidden to pray with their students before game time.
  • The Ten Commandments have been removed from our courtrooms.
  • Christians who denounce SIN are now denigrated as haters.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States.
  • The names of God or Jesus cannot be used least someone become offended. Of course, if you want to use those names in a curse, then no harm, no foul.

And we wonder why we’re killing one another?

We’ve removed GOD from America, and what has He been replaced with?

In Part 2 of “And we wonder why”, I’ll share with you just one of the things that has replaced God in America. I’ll also show you some startling facts about the efforts taking place to steal our children’s innocence, and the devastating effects it is having upon them.

Until then…

Ron

Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

Be blessed,

Ron