Father Shake This Place…

O my soul, why do you faint within me?

O foolish heart, why do you melt in my chest?

The saint trapped in this body of corruptible seed,

I know I would lose hope without the Promise.

O Father shake this place…

I pray all the day long for your Hand to be outstretched,

I am haunted in the night watch by the enemy,

When my eyes are open they see only You,

When my eyes are closed they see only darkness.

O Father shake this place…

My enemies of doubt and fear have surrounded me,

The curse of time has haunted me,

Why must I be tossed in the tempest of the sea?

Why must I walk in the desert of loneliness?

O Father shake this place…

The walk of faith as a man is the persecuted road,

The child with his childish thoughts is now passed,

But I long to be a child again at the kingdom’s gate,

The wonder of Your creation sparkling in my eyes.

O Father shake this place…

I stand firm as the siege continues to press me on all sides,

I lift the banner of Christ however weary my arms,

The refiner’s fire is the enemy’s playground,

But faith will prevail when all dross is consumed in the flame.

O Father shake this place…

Like the sunrise, Your healing chases away the darkness,

Like the living water that quenches the thirsty soul,

You Father will give strength to my bones

And heal the brokenness that is my only offering.

O Father shake this place…

So I wait in prayer for the Spirit’s breath of new life,

I look only to You O Holy One of Israel,

Renew me and make me to shine in your glory,

Lift my head as I stand on the Rock of my salvation.

O Father shake this place…

Remember me Father in my time of need,

Bend me to your will but don’t break my spirit,

Let me stand in your presence and be transformed,

And give me rest in your perfect peace.

O Father shake this place…

For all that can be shaken will be shaken,

This man is shaken by the wind of Your voice,

Build out of my emptiness all of Your fullness, O God

And I wait upon you alone Lord to restore my soul.

O Father shake this place…

So I praise you Father with my hands lifted up,

My lips testify to the greatness of our King and Savior,

I lift my life up to you as a sacrifice,

Burn me up with your unfailing love!

O Father shake this place…

Purified by Hope

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Did you know that hope can purify you? The Christian walk is steeped in hope. Not by hope in general, but rather by a specific hope. I think most of us as Christians have many hopes: eternal life in heaven, meeting our loved ones in heaven, the hope that someone in our life who is lost will come to Christ, and the list can go on. But the Bible, more accurately, the New Testament, has a golden thread of a specific hope that is woven into the writings of our forefathers. It is almost like a hidden truth that must be excavated, like uncovering a hidden treasure. The reason for this is beyond my knowledge; although, conjecture leads me to propose that maybe some spiritual truths absolutely must be “mined out” by spending time in the Word, that maybe the Spirit has left clues throughout His inspired words for the faithful to discover, or maybe it is hidden on purpose so we have to work at it! All that is conjecture. However, I want to share with you an amazing Truth that the Spirit showed me while studying 1 John, chapter 3. Enjoy…

1 John 3:2-4 says,

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

The astounding statement here is two-fold. Number one, that one day we will “be like Him”; and number two, this hope purifies us. Or rather, when we see Him we will be like Him. Sounds simple enough, but it is not that simple. That sounds incredible for when that day comes, but what about today? We can’t see Him physically now. If that is the case, then how do we become more like Him? You see, there is a truth here that is simply magnificent. The truth is that we can ONLY be transformed by “seeking His face”, by beholding Him, and by straining our spiritual eyes to see Him. For to not see Him, is to not know Him, and that leaves us unchanged. Sanctification (or purification) necessarily requires the Spirit to give us the eyes to see Him. But don’t take my word for it; let’s look at some scriptures that make my point for me!

2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

And 1 Corinthians 13:12 says,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

Notice in the verses cited above that it requires an action on our part, mainly to “see” or to “behold”. Also notice that the process of sanctification is described as “being transformed…glory to glory”. So the Bible is telling us something practical and supernatural here. But I wonder sometimes just how many of us take this seriously. Furthermore, don’t we sometimes think this some type of romantic notion, a philosophical and poetic suggestion, or even something we file away as “too deep to understand”? Honestly, what does it mean to see and behold Christ? If we can’t answer this question definitively then we are missing out on the glory and beauty that Christ purchased for us. Let’s look at few more verses and see if we can’t get to the heart of the matter.

Ephesians 2:4-7 says,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

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Please notice that the scripture above when it says “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, is in the past tense! That means it is already done, we don’t have to wait until we pass from this life to be seated with Him, and that the reason for this is so God can show the “surpassing riches of His grace”. We might be tempted to get confused here but bear with me; I will stitch this all together in a minute. One more passage of scripture and I will be off and running.

Romans 8:28-30 says,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Notice the phrase “conformed to the image of His Son”. That is God’s definition of things working together for good. Good, in God’s eyes, is not to give you a comfortable life, health and wealth, or a fat checking account. Although God can and does bless us in these ways, His ultimate plan and goal, predetermined for you and me, is to be transformed into the image of His Son! How many times do we quote Romans 8:28 when times are tough? We forget that sometimes those tough patches are meant to refine us and cause us to lean more on God in faith and consequently, bring us closer and closer to the image of His Son.

You have no idea who you are. That’s right, I said it. I will repeat; you have no clue as to who you really are. How can I say that? I can say that honestly because our true identity is hidden in Christ. Part of our quest in this life is to find ourselves in Christ. If you really want to know who you were created to be, then the only way to begin to truly see yourself is to seek Jesus! The monumental and mind-blowing truth is two-fold: number one, to seek Christ is to seek your true identity; and number two, to NOT seek Christ is to deny who you are.

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How many times do we search our own hearts, try to figure things out by going inward, or rely on our own mind or will to correct what we perceive as a flaw in ourselves or a situation we need to address? We all do this from time to time, and some know no other way. The truth is that looking inward IS the solution; but where are we looking? We have to understand that our heart (same as our soul, biblically speaking) is not the place to look; that is the battleground. The true inward reflection is found in the spirit. The Bible is very clear on this fact: there is a difference between your soul and spirit. Your soul or your heart is where your mind, will, and emotions reside. If you rely on your emotions to steer you, then you will be tossed on the storm of emotions that all humans come equipped with; if you rely on your mind, then you are relying on a limited understanding (some more limited than others!); if you rely on your will, then inevitably you will fail. Even Paul in the book of Romans laments that even he is powerless to do the right thing (Romans 7:16-18), and actually delivers an awful verdict to himself. That verdict is found in verse 18 where he says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me”!

I know I promised “one last scripture”, but I have to bring into play one more (but don’t hold me to it). Now this passage is going to be the pivot-point of our understanding, so read it carefully at least once, if not twice. The context of this verse is Paul telling the Ephesians why and how he is praying for them. Paul is basically showing us a model prayer, and who prays a prayer (especially an apostle) that can’t be answered?

Ephesians 3:14-19 says,

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Did you catch that? Notice that we receive power in the “inner man”, and that it comes by agency of the Holy Spirit. For what reason? So that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. Simply put, Christ cannot live in our heart until the Spirit makes it possible. So if we want to see or behold Christ in our heart, then we have to be empowered to do so by the Spirit! You can’t do it, a preacher can’t do it, and believe it or not, Jesus can’t do it either. I speak to born again believers here. Jesus just won’t show up one day unannounced or uninvited; the Spirit must be invited and He will announce Jesus to us! This, by the way, is not a one-time shot; this is a day to day endeavor on our part. It requires a daily invitation for the Spirit to “strengthen us with power in the inner man”. So the connection is clear and undeniable. If we want to “behold” Jesus or “see” Jesus, we must do this spiritually. And that spiritual vision is a gift from God that comes from His Holy Spirit. Then and only then will we be able to be transformed “glory to glory” by beholding our magnificent Savior. So we absolutely must get this: the Spirit ministers to our spirit/inner man in a very intimate way; this is not the same as ministering to our soul/heart. Our spirit is deeper than our soul, but the ministering of the Spirit in our spirit radiates outward and changes our souls! Think of it like the spirit being the light bulb and the soul as the lampshade; the spirit “light bulb” warms and gives light to the soul “lampshade”. Another way to think of it is like a circle within a circle within a circle: the inner circle is the spirit, the next circle is the soul, and the last circle is the physical body. True transformation happens from the inside-out; true change radiates from the deepest part of us and affects the soul and the body as well!

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The common thread is love. It is all about love. In 1 Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter), notice I pulled out only one verse, verse 12, but the context of the entire chapter is love. In Ephesians 4, we notice that this process “roots and grounds us in love” and that we will “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge”. Now I DO have to apologize for one last verse (I told you I might and don’t be surprised if I toss one more in for good measure!).

Notice that Romans 5:5 says, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” There it is! Hope purifies us because hope doesn’t disappoint. But why? Because the love of God is poured into us by the Holy Spirit.

Now I am going to pull it all together. Ready? The hope that purifies us is that one day we will be like Jesus. The reason this hope purifies us is that it makes us want to be more like Jesus now! If you truly allow the Spirit to minister to you, you will come to know that your destiny is to be like Jesus…your hero! The idea that one day, when we meet Him physically, we will see Him face-to-face, and at that moment we will clearly understand who we are and who we will be for eternity. This is such an awesome hope that God expects us to taste it right now. We behold Him now in the spirit, but we must have eyes to see. The Holy Spirit gives you these eyes…if you ask for them. We are purified by this hope. And this hope is more than a thought or a notion; it is a tangible and very real thing. When the Spirit pours the love of God into you, it becomes more real than anything in the physical world. This is the reality and the hope that Christ purchased for us. The Bible tells us that the Spirit is our “down-payment” for an eventual, full ownership. So we see through a glass dimly, so we only see in part, so we only get a glimpse; but what an incredible gift!

I invite you today to take Jesus up on His offer to walk in the kingdom NOW. It is true. You can walk now in the kingdom by seeking Holy Spirit’s help and counsel and love and knowledge. But how do we do this? The answer literally yells out from the Gospel of Luke. Luke records an amazing statement right from Jesus’ mouth:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:9-13 (NASB)

Paul prayed for his Church to walk in the Spirit’s power, Jesus tells us to ask for the Spirit’s power, and the Father knows how to give good gifts! Once you taste that the Lord is good and His love is poured into you by the Spirit, you will have that hope. Maybe you forgot what that is like, maybe the memory of when you were first saved has faded, but God wants to invite us back…every day! This hope makes God and His love very real to you. This hope is that one day you will stand before Christ and finally know who you are, who you have always been destined to be, and who you will always be. The race that we run is toward divine and pure love. Our destiny is to be like Jesus, conformed to His image, forever wrapped in heaven’s embrace and God’s love for His children.

One last scripture found in this photo (see, I snuck another one in on you!)

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Be full of hope my brothers and sisters!

Gideon

Running to Stand Still

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Life has been coming at us all so furiously, so quickly, and so heavily that most days I just want to call a cosmic “time out”. My wife and I were talking the other night and she was concerned that I just hadn’t been myself lately. I agreed with her and went through the laundry list of things that were pressing down upon me and my concerns financially, spiritually, and mentally. I caught myself in mid-thought and simply told her, “Honey, I honestly feel I am running to stand still.”

Each person I know could express a lengthy manuscript of all the things pressing in on them right this moment. As Americans, we could point to the onslaught of ISIS, the Ebola virus, an over-reaching government, the meltdown of our society evidenced by school shootings, moral decay, wars and rumors of war and failed social policies. The media in our western world keeps us worried 24 hours a day with a constant diet of negativity! As families, we could speak to the invasion of technology in the form of smart-phones, computers, social media, and distracted children. No longer is it fundamental to sit around the table every evening and eat and laugh and discuss our day; instead we have busy schedules that never line up. And if we happen to go to dinner or have time to sit down at the table, the smart-phone seems to be the guest of honor!

As Christians, we could point to the ever-increasing church events, fund-raising, revival meetings, prayer movements, and a frenetic attitude of “we must do something”! Maybe in your neck of the woods, this is not the case, but lately here in Knoxville, Tennessee, you can close your eyes and throw a dart at a calendar, hit any day of the week, and there would be at least two possible events where you would be needed or encouraged to participate! The most difficult issue to swallow however, is the plethora of prayer requests coming down the pipeline: a countless number of brothers and sisters plagued with cancer, broken families, deaths in the family, addiction, mental health issues, and diseases of all shapes and sizes. What is going on here?

The answer is simple: we are being attacked in ways we never planned for, we are squarely in the middle of an epic spiritual battle, and we are slow to recognize the nature of the attack. We are in an epic storm.

One of the greatest weapons the enemy uses is the artillery shell of distraction; a friend of mine has an acronym for BUSY (burdened under satan’s yoke). The glaringly obvious question is, “How are we going to shake this yoke off?!” It seems reasonable to offer up excuses like: I have a family to provide for, I have responsibilities, my friends and family need me, my church needs me to participate so I can be a “good” Christian, and the best one of all, God needs me to be busy doing the Father’s work!

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I must take the time here to pause, take a breath, and ask myself and my readers: How’s that working out for you?

So if I am taking the time to offer up the problem, under the Spirit’s guidance, I want to remind us of the solution.

Let me start by giving an analogy. Forgive me for using a sport’s analogy, but it seems to fit quite nicely for what is to follow.

All great athletes, especially in team sports, have to adjust to the “speed of the game”. When you play in high school, you get used to the speed of the game and can function at your best when you know what you are supposed to do on any given play. But when and if you move on to collegiate sports, the speed of the game increases and most athletes have to get used to the new speed and that takes time. And even after adjusting to that speed, if you move on to professional sports, the speed is even greater. All athletes that succeed at any of these levels have to adjust to the speed of the game.

The best and most successful players are described as “cool under pressure” or they are described as “making good decisions”. Any observer of sports will easily recognize whether the player has the “it” factor or not. So I am asserting that we as Christians absolutely must find this focus where life slows down for us. Isn’t that ironic? The speed of the game is increasing in reality, but inwardly the game is slowing down. It is almost like the best players see everything in slow motion. How do we do this as Christians? The answer may surprise you.

Personally, the Christian life for me is best when I see things from a place of peace. In a peaceful place, the world is not daunting; when peace reigns in your heart, you are unshakeable; when the Spirit rules in your spirit, you can battle anything without being stressed. The key is finding this place of peace and knowing how to abide in it; for to not function in this manner is to function in the flesh, and the flesh fails us every single time.

Recorded in Matthew 14 is a curious and amazing account of events. We must look at this pragmatically and then spiritually. A great crowd of people had followed Jesus and His disciples and found them in a desolate part of the region; they came to see this man of God and to listen to what He had to say. When Jesus observed the throngs of destitute and desperate people, He had compassion for them. It overwhelmed Him. It broke His heart that right there, gathered at the foot of a hill, was a sampling of human desperation and pain. So Jesus “healed all the sick”, ministered to them, and then fed them in a miraculous way. This is the famous “feeding of the 5000”.

After this, Jesus needed some time alone with the Father; so He sent His disciples by boat to the other side of the sea and withdrew from the crowds. In my soul, I sense that He was tapped-out, needed a break, and was most assuredly exhausted from the course of events. So here is the picture: mighty works and wonders had been performed that day, Jesus needed some “alone time” with His Father, and He sent His disciples onward so He could be alone.

That evening, while crossing the sea, a great storm arose on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were “freaking out” and feared for their lives. I’m sure they were thinking and speaking openly about the fact that if Jesus were there with them, they would be better off! What a mess. How could Jesus let this happen to us? Where is He and why did He send us off alone? How could we come this far just to perish in the sea?!

Just as the storm was raging, just as the threat of death was at its apex, just as all hope was lost, here comes Jesus walking on the stormy sea! Peter thought it was a ghost. Most of you know what happened next: this is where Peter gets out of the boat and attempts to walk on the water with Jesus.

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What I want us to focus on is a question. There are many lessons in this inspiring passage, but I want to focus like a laser on one simple question and one simple solution.

Don’t you think our God knew when He sent His disciples out to sea that a storm was coming? Of course He did! Why would our God knowingly send His beloved into danger?

ANSWER: God’s power is best demonstrated in the midst of trials!

There are no accounts of Jesus walking on the sea on a calm and balmy day, there are no accounts of Jesus demonstrating His power after a good meal and fellowship, and there are no accounts of Jesus walking on a gently lapping surf.

Sometimes, nay, in almost every instance, our Lord sends us into the storm! Does that hurt your ears, does that ruin your theology, and does that break your heart? Our Lord knowingly sends us into the storms of life, but why? SO THAT HIS POWER CAN BE UNDENIABLE AND MAGNIFICENT.

In our world today, we can lament about all the distractions, all of the evil, all of the seemingly impossible situations. We are no better than the disciples tossed on an angry sea; we look around at the waves and the wind and the impending doom and fear for our very lives. We ask, “Where is God?” We wonder why He would let us get into this mess. We lament the fact that we think Him MIA. As we fear and bemoan and throw ourselves a “pity-party”, the Lord is walking on the tempest-tossed sea headed our way. As life comes at us full-force with responsibilities, broken homes, a carnal society, bills to pay and mouths to feed, a world gone wild…Jesus calmly approaches waiting to see who will recognize Him and who is straining their eyes at the horizon to witness His approach.

So as I describe to my wife that I feel I am “running to stand still” and that I worry about my children and my country and my church, my Savior tells me in Matthew 6:

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

So as I fear where we are going and what I should do about it, my Savior says in John 14:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

As I close this post, I want to encourage and exhort my readers to find that peace for the storm. The only way to have peace is to have a personal, intense, and deep relationship with your God. The only way to have that relationship is to spend time with Him! Just as Jesus withdrew often to have alone time with the Father, so must we withdraw and have some one-on-one time with the One that loves us beyond our imagination. If you feel lonely and insecure, let Him show you how much He cares for you and show you that He is with you every step of the way. If you feel unloved or taken for granted, spend some time with the One that loves you enough to die for you. If you feel overwhelmed, spend some time with the One that has already overcome!

You see, my friends, just going to church will not set you free; being in ministry will not liberate your soul; working and living a good life is not good enough. God wants you and you alone, He longs to spend time with YOU because He loves you more than can be expressed in words or sermons or songs, and He wants you to stop as often as you can to spend time with Him. Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of time with our Lord. Let Him speak to you through His word, let Him speak to you through prayer and meditation, and let Him breathe life into you as you admire His handiwork in a breeze, in a songbird, in a waterfall, in a sunset, and in the most beautiful of creations…silence. Find time to quiet the world, find time every day to press the “pause” button, let your knees hit the floor before your feet every morning, and learn the melody of hearing Him in your silence that calms the stormy seas.

This place in His presence is where we are infused with peace. In this time with our Lord is found the strength to endure trials and tribulation. If we give time to Him, He will cause the “speed of the game” to slow down. And Jesus promises us that if we seek Him first, He will tackle life’s burdens for us! Amazing, but do we truly believe this? We should.

You see, we can’t help our families, we can’t heal a broken Church, we can’t love the unlovely, and we can’t be effective agents of change until we learn that all outward changes start and end with inward change. We can’t do it…but He can and will.

The lyric from U2’s song “Running to Stand Still” says:

And so she woke up

Woke up from where she was lying still

Said, “I gotta do something About where we’re going

Step on a steam train

Step out of the driving rain, maybe

Run from the darkness in the night…

Sweet the sin

Bitter the taste in my mouth

I see seven towers

But I only see one way out…

You gotta cry without weeping

Talk without speaking

Scream without raising your voice…

You know I took the poison

From the poison stream

Then I floated out of here…

She runs through the streets

With her eyes painted red

Under black belly of cloud in the rain

In through a doorway she brings me

White gold and pearls stolen from the sea

She is raging, she is raging

And the storm blows up in her eyes

She will suffer the needle chill

She’s running to stand still.

So I preach to myself, so I exhort my readers, and so I offer up a repentant and broken heart to my God and echo God’s plea recorded in Psalm 46:

Be still and know that I am God…

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The Leper’s Prayer

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Oh precious Father in heaven,

how great are Your mercies toward us!

Who are we that you care so much for us?

  Only You care for our life that we ourselves had lost.

  You have heard our crying out and reached out to us in Your perfect love.

  Oh Savior, our King, praise be the Name above all names that walked with us,

talked with us, and put His holy arms around us!

You and You alone have made it possible for us to receive life.

  The payment You made for us is beyond our understanding,

but we receive it with arms wide open.

We embrace You and cry out for joy at your compassion.

Praise be to the Holy Spirit, praise to the Power that heals us!

The hand of the Almighty God,

He has given us freedom from bondage.

  I offer myself to You as a leper, full of death;

but You embrace me as a child of Light!

  Your mysteries are far above me and I am humbled by Your favor.

Heal me, Lord.

I know you are willing;

perfect my willingness to receive your act of love

as a wonder from the heights of heaven itself.

  Praise God for His goodness,

and let me shout for joy as a prisoner to death no more.

For Your name’s sake, I will confess Your salvation

and remember to thank You the rest of my days.

  In the name of the Christ and for His sake,

Amen.  And Amen.

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