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Too stubborn for God

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If you had to name the one attribute of YOU that you wish you could change, it’s likely that stubbornness would be at or near the top of your list. Seriously, read the definition below, and for a real eye-opener read the synonyms as well. Do you see yourself in any of these words?

Having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
synonyms: obstinateheadstrongwillfulstrong-willedpigheadedobduratedifficultcontraryperverserecalcitrantinflexibleiron-willeduncompromisingunbending.

See what I mean? Not a very flattering picture, is it? Yet I must confess that my name should be written right alongside the definition of ‘stubborn’. Might I find yours there as well?

There was a man in the Bible that also wore the moniker of stubborn. His name was Saul, the very 1st king of Israel.

King Saul was given a very specific assignment to attack the armies of the Amalekites, a people who had dealt treacherously with Israel by ambushing them when Israel came out of Egypt. Per the word of the Lord, it was now payback time.

The problem was that king Saul only partially obeyed God. Instructed to utterly destroy every trace of the Amalekites, Saul and his men instead kept for themselves the best of the spoil.

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed1st Samuel 15:9

There is a key word here that you don’t want to miss: unwilling. Saul and his men were unwilling to fully obey the command of God. Do you know that when someone is unwilling to do something, that the decision not to do it is a choice?

Think about it this way; if you are willing to do a thing, you don’t think twice about it. You just do it. Being unwilling however means you had to make a conscious choice not to do it. See the difference?

That’s what Saul did on that fateful day. He knew what he was told to do, what he was supposed to do. He was simply unwilling to obey once he saw all of the good things that were his for the taking. Only they weren’t his for the taking!

All of this incurred the wrath of God. So angry was the Lord over this, that he sent the prophet Samuel to go and confront king Saul and tell him that because of his disobedience, God would take the throne from him and give it to someone better than he.

Here are the words that Samuel spoke to Saul.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”  1st Samuel 15:22,23

What Samuel was telling Saul here was that God placed a much higher value on obedience to His word than any burnt offering or sacrifice. He then calls out two traits of Saul that God hates: rebellion and stubbornness, equating the sins of witchcraft and idolatry to them. In case you’re wondering, those two sins were about as bad is it could get. In fact, either of them could cause you to be put to death.

Saul was too stubborn to be used of God. All the Lord wanted him to do was simply complete the assignment he had been given. Saul, however, thought he had a better plan. Isn’t that the hallmark of stubborn people? They (we) always have a better way of doing things, or so it would seem.

How many of us can look in the rear-view mirror and say ‘if only I had listened to the word of God’….? This should cause all of us to take a look inward and see if stubbornness has taken root in us.

Stubbornness is actually an outward expression of an inward rebellion that is at work in our hearts, and it must be defeated if we are going to move forward in our walk with God. Prayer, the study of God’s word, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit are the weapons God has given us to defeat this enemy called stubbornness.

Let’s use them, in Jesus name!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever you do, do it with purpose!

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Last night I spoke at our church from Daniel chapter one, which tells the story of Israel being carried away into Babylon and of Daniel being selected to stand before the king.

As heartbreaking as it is to read of God’s punishment for their rebellion, the captivity of Israel served a dual purpose.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Israel was going to be punished for their continual rebellion against God by being carried away to Babylon as captive slaves for a period of 70 years. This was the fulfillment of that prophecy. [1]

While in Babylon, God used Daniel in miraculous ways to revel Himself to a people who otherwise would have never known about Him. Through his ability to interpret dreams and his unwavering faith in God’s deliverance, Daniel was able to turn the heart of the king of Babylon completely toward the Lord. [2]

None of this would have been possible however, had Daniel not maintained a positive attitude in spite of the overwhelming situation he found himself in.

Uprooted from everything he knew at a very young age, Daniel could have easily succumbed to bitterness and allowed his heart to become hardened towards his God.

Like so many of us, he could have asked God “WHY?” a thousand times, yet what he did instead was fall back on what he had already been taught, which was to keep God first in his life.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.   Daniel 6:8

Daniel had purposed in his heart that despite his circumstances, he would not reject the Lord. In essence, he was drawing a line in the sand and letting everyone know that he would not be drawn into the sinful culture of his captors.

What does that say about this young man? Well, for one thing, it says that his faith in God wasn’t predicated by his feelings. If Daniel was going on feelings alone, I’m pretty sure he had much to be discouraged about had he chosen that path.

Being a hostage in the king’s court, separated from his family, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment could easily have overwhelmed him.

I have a standard answer to tell people who say that they haven’t sensed or felt God’s presence in their life for a season. That is that God has promised to ‘never leave us nor forsake us ‘. And that God’s promises trump our feelings. [3]

Every. Single. Time.

As I told the congregation last night, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are not of our choosing. We did nothing to warrant the predicament we find ourselves in. Yet here we are, and we must choose how we will face adversity.

I have found myself in those situations and have been forced to endure hardship all because of the poor choices of someone else. While our own poor choices bring about consequences that must be dealt with, it’s quite another matter when you are forced to suffer because of someone else.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let’s face it, there can be no doubt that some things are just not meant to be understood by our limited ability to reason and comprehend. In those times, I believe God calls us to simply place one foot in front of another as we walk with Him. That is real FAITH my friends!

If we choose to be like Daniel, and purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves with doubt and conformity to the world’s way of doing things, we can expect God to stand with us no matter how difficult the test.

God’s vision and hope for you far exceeds your present condition. Think about that, and rest assured that God has his hand upon you.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Jeremiah 25:11

[2] Daniel 2:48, Daniel 3: 28,29, Daniel 6: 26,27

[3] Hebrews 13:5

Being a ‘Daniel’ in a hostile world

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Being a person who reads a great deal, it is obvious to me that the world has embarked upon the next phase of open rebellion against God. Not only has God’s word been relegated to the status of mere stories and fables by the secular media, but His children are under the most intense mental and physical persecution since the Inquisition.

If scripture is to be believed, and of course I do believe every word of it, what we are witnessing is just the beginning of what will eventually turn into The Great Tribulation that Jesus prophesied about in Matthew 24. [1]

Additionally, Paul told the church of the Thessalonians that before the second coming of Jesus, there would be a great falling away and the man of sin would be revealed. Meaning, the people of God would fall away from the truth, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and the Anti-Christ would then come on the scene. [2]

What must our reaction be to these current and soon coming events? Well, I believe we should take the approach of the prophet Daniel, who as a young man was taken away captive along with the rest of Israel and remained in a strange land for 70 long years. [3]

Because Daniel had what the Bible refers to as an “excellent spirit”, God exalted him above his contemporaries and placed him in a very high level position within the government of Darius, king of Persia.

Jealous of his favor with the king, his fellow leaders plotted against him, hoping to trip him up in the manner in which he served the Lord. Here is where it gets really interesting. When Daniel knew that the trap had been set, what was his reaction?

He went home, opened his windows, and prayed toward Jerusalem three times a day just as he had done every other day. In other words, Daniel refused to become alarmed at the king’s decree, even though he knew that by not abiding by it, he could be put to death.

Because he possessed a different spirit, or more accurately because he was filled with the Spirit of God, he refused to be conformed to the world around him. He was determined to live his life God’s way, and God blessed him because of it.

As we see spiritual darkness covering our nation, and indeed the entire world, we must be ready to answer the call to obey God rather than man, just as Daniel did. We must purpose in our hearts that we will not bow down to the whims of a society that has forsaken God.

In the near future, there can be no doubt that new laws will be enacted to further quench the work of God. Existing laws will be changed to suit the Anti-Christ agenda that is alive and well upon this planet. All of this will leave God’s people with a decision to make. [4]

Will we conform to a society that is morally bankrupt and spiritually dead, or will we hold fast to God who will see us through these troubled times?

One thing is for certain, and that is that with God’s help, I will cling to the Savior who died for me upon The Old Rugged Cross. With His help, I will be a Daniel in this hostile world that we live in.

My prayer is that you will join with me in standing firm for God.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Matthew 24: 15-22

[2] 2nd Thessalonians 2:3

[3] Daniel: chapter six

[4] “The demise of religious freedom in America” 

 

 

 

 

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.  Daniel 6:10   NKJV

 

How secure is your lifeline?

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It’s been said that prayer is the Christian’s lifeline to God, and in this day of rebellion and licentious behavior that lifeline has become more important than ever.

So many vile, reprehensible events are taking place in our midst that one hardly has time to sort them out before the next one occurs. Mass shootings in churches, schools, and synagogues have become horrifyingly common place.

A reduction in violent crime by a mere 0.2% is somehow thought to be a success. Tell that to the 1,247,321 victims (or their families) who in 2017 were raped, murdered, robbed, assaulted, or violated in any number of violent ways. [1]

We live in a time when a new kind of slavery is stealing our children from us. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 1 million children are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade. [2]

Sin, no matter how you choose to define it, has taken control of our government, our schools, our workplaces, and yes even our churches. Just as the scriptures foretold:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  2nd Tim. 3:1

The foremost writer on the subject of prayer, E.M Bounds, said that “prayer is the most appropriate thing for a soul to do in the ‘time of trouble’. Prayer recognizes God in the day of trouble”.

We are living in a largely prayer-less society. The days when churches would meet regularly for prayer are a thing of the past, an abandoned relic from a time when the fire of God burned in the hearts of His people.

How shocking is this when you consider that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting! [3]

Which brings me to the crux of this particular post. As a child of God, do we actually pray anymore? I’m not speaking of praying over our meals, or ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ prayers.

Prayer is, of course, an intensely personal thing. Everyone does it differently, just as most churches approach prayer differently.

I’m referring to the kind of praying however that the people of God have done in the past when confronted by situations and circumstances beyond their control. In other words, the deep, heartfelt, one on one communication with God that we read about in the Bible.

Again, E.M. Bounds understood this well when he said that “A lack of fervency in prayer is the sure sign of a lack of depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of intense desire is a sure sign of God’s absence from the heart”!

Take the prophet Daniel for instance. As a teenager, Daniel was part of the captivity of Israel when it was led into slavery by the Babylonians. So determined was he to not forsake the Lord and adopt the ways of the heathen, that he continued to earnestly seek the face of God even unto his 80’s when he returned to Israel.

Because the Lord had given Daniel great favor in the eyes of king Darius, many of the governors became consumed with jealously and plotted his demise. From this the famous story of Daniel and the lions den ensued. [4]

As the story unfolds, we find Daniel refusing to bow to the decree that there could be no worship of any type for 30 days, except it be the worship of the king. Daniel’s response to this was to continue to pray three times a day at his open window, a window that faced Jerusalem.

The prophet knew that his lifeline to God was prayer. In a strange land, surrounded by people and customs he was unfamiliar with, Daniel maintained his integrity by seeking God in prayer three times each day.

He clung to his lifeline.

The story of Danial and the lions den is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it mirrors our own circumstances today.

In just a few days, we here in America will be voting for our chosen candidates, a vote that many believe is one of the most critical this nation has ever faced. For weeks now we have been inundated with viscous attack ads that say nothing about what the candidate plans to do, but rather are all about how evil their opponent is.

The nation is on edge, uncertainty reigns in the hearts of the populace. “Blood in the streets” has been promised if the Democrats don’t take back control of the House. Funny how that inciting comment has gone largely ignored, isn’t it?

Christians, I’m sad to say, are just as anxious as the heathen over the upcoming election. One has to ask if Heaven is our home, and we’re merely pilgrims passing through, then why the fear over all of this?

It is because we have lost sight of whose we are. We say that Jesus is Lord of our life, but we live and act like everyone else who has no hope. This is a testament to how well Satan has done his job in dividing our heart’s loyalty.

It is because we do not truly believe that God reigns in the affairs of men. Christians are no different than the heathen who believe that man is in charge of his own destiny. If we truly believed that God was God and that He reigned in the affairs of men, we would not have one ounce of anxiety over the upcoming election.

But we have allowed Satan to garner a toehold in our minds, and he is exploiting this for all he is worth. The enemy of our soul is confounding us with doubt, fear, and disillusionment.

We are not looking to God as we should for hope, strength, and peace. Instead, we are looking for a candidate that we can throw our support behind who will lead us to the worlds version of the “Promised Land”.

Where are the modern day “Daniels” who will point out to us that we are not to cower in the face of societal unrest and uncertainty? Where are the seasoned Christians who have lived through tumultuous times by clinging to their lifeline to God? Have they too been silenced by the decrees of the unrighteous?

It was Joshua who uttered the famous words…

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   Joshua 24:15

And it was the Lord himself who said…

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matt. 6:21

I know where my hope is. I know where my treasure is. I also know that I cannot let go of my lifeline to God. It is my only real security in these days of uncertainty.

Ron

[1] source: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/violent-crime

[2] source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/nation-now/2018/01/30/sex-trafficking-column/1073459001/

[3] Acts chapters 1 & 2 reference

[4] Daniel chapter 6 reference

 

Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

aarc.org

There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

A Matter of the Heart

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Heart Disease

Did you know that about 610,000 people die each year from heart disease? Or that 25% of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease? Add to these staggering numbers the fact that about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year.  Statistical source: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/statistics.htm

Unhealthy eating and drinking, lack of exercise, and stress are all major contributors to heart disease. We all know this, yet somehow we continue to justify our unhealthy lifestyles. Too busy, too tired, too whatever.

With these kinds of numbers it’s getting harder to find any family that has not been impacted in some way by heart disease. My own family, for example, has a long history of heart disease. Maybe yours does as well?

My father, older brother, all of my uncles, and even my mother has succumbed to this dreaded disease. Unfortunately, I too am being forced to deal with this monster.

As one who has this condition, I am always interested in learning about the latest procedures and techniques for dealing with heart disease. Suffice it to say that in the past 20 years, incredible advancements have been made in the treatment and diagnosis of this disease, all leading to healthier,longer,and more productive lives for the patient.

What a wonderful time we live in that doctors possess such incredible knowledge and amazing technology with which to work, and all of us are the beneficiaries of these advancements.

There is, however, a far more sinister type of heart disease that no doctor can cure. This type of heart disease strikes every person. It excludes no one, small or large, rich or poor, privileged or destitute. No one gets a pass.

What is this type of heart disease that is immune from the wonders of medical science?

SIN

That’s right. SIN is a heart condition, the outcome,or consequences of an inwardly rebellious heart. And it is consuming more lives on a daily basis than all other physical types of heart disease combined.

I won’t bore you with an endless array of statistics. Most are numb to them anyway, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve heard it all before. Besides, as someone would surely say, how does one measure sin in the first place?

Of course, SIN cannot be measured, as in percentages and ratios. The aftermath of sin, however, can easily be calculated by the amount of human suffering left in its wake.

Take substance abuse for example. The following table gives a snapshot of self-induced human suffering in America that is almost beyond belief. Abuse of tobacco products, alcohol, and illegal drugs is astoundingly costly to our nation, exacting more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

table 3

source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

One of the problems with the above information however, is that it attempts to “clean up” the damage by calling it abuse, rather than SIN. Substance abuse sounds so much better than SIN, doesn’t it? “Societal issues” is so much easier to stomach than SIN,would you agree?

By taking away that nasty word SIN, we eliminate the morality of it all. Besides, if we choose to use the word abuse instead of SIN, we are implying that the participants are somehow in charge, as in they alone choose to over indulge, or abuse.

It’s seemingly OK to indulge in the items listed in the table above, just don’t over indulge, or abuse them. Really?

Now let’s look at yet another heart issue that is taking a staggering toll on society.

The divorce rate in America currently stands at 40-50 %( depending upon which method of calculation is used-some cite a much lower rate). Irregardless, can any of us argue the point that divorce is primarily a heart issue? Specifically, a hardened heart issue with one or both parties?

What do you suppose is the price of divorce to America just in dollars? According to published reports, a conservative, minimum cost of $112 billion dollars annually is attributed to divorce in America.

And you ask, where does our money go?

We live in a fallen world, one that has been decimated by SIN, or outright rebellion against God. Things like substance abuse, divorce, crime, and the like are not however the causes of SIN. They are merely the output of an unregenerate,or unrepentant heart.

While medical science is not equipped to treat SIN or it’s contributing factors as they relate to the heart, I know Someone who can. His name is Jesus, and He has the antidote for every unregenerate, unrepentant heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.   Psalms 51:10

What would happen if all over America, millions of professing Christians were to pray that simple prayer that David prayed after he had been confronted of his sin? I believe we would see a dramatic reduction in SIN (or abuses if that makes you feel better) and a dramatic increase in love for one another.

Our SIN induced heart issues,while untouchable by medical science, are the very reasons why Jesus came to this earth in the first place.

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.   Mark 2:17

Looking for a solution to your “matters of the heart”?  Look no further than Jesus my friend. He alone has the antidote for all of our heart issues.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Do you know what God uses?

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We’ll, to be sure He uses a lot of things to accomplish His will. Mostly however, He uses people. Broken people. People who have been humbled to the point of understanding that in and of themselves, not much would ever get done for the kingdom this side of heaven. People who “get it” that “…without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

In short, God uses people who can and will hear His voice. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that when God speaks we are to be obedient to His voice.

Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”   Hebrews 3:15

I am writing this post because I am of the firm belief that God is searching for people; broken, humbled people to reach this generation that is hell bent on self-destruction at a never before seen pace.

The signs are all around us that God is calling His people to the front lines of ministry. Where are these signs, you may ask?

The things we daily witness, man’s inhumanity against his fellow man, open rebellion against God on a scale that would cause Sodom and Gomorrah to blush, all are opportunities to show this world there is a better Way.

In spite of, and perhaps because of the magnitude of evil so prevalent in the world today, Jesus is calling. No less than seven times we read the following words in the book of Revelation:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;”

Yes indeed, God is looking, searching, and calling for His army to run to the forefront of the battle. He is not calling us to cower in the corner, wringing our hands in fear and desperation at the sight of it all.

We know what God uses, now the question is does anyone hear the call?

Be blessed,

Ron