The Glorious Freedom of Subjection

There is a glorious freedom in subjection, which seems to be the opposite of what the word “subjection” actually means. So let us explore what Christ teaches us concerning this mysterious discipline. What we will find is that this notion is not a suggestion but rather a direct call to obedience. The beauty of this condition of the heart is that it ushers us onto the narrow path, or what the Apostle Paul calls, the Way. For, without this clearly marked path into subjection, we miss what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ; and therefore, we miss all that God has for us as His children.

First, let me point out a structural element found in Luke, Chapter 9. Now, we know that the Bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and based on that Truth, we need to notice His intent not only in content but also in the very specific order in which it is presented.

Let me outline it simply first, and then we will unpack it so we can digest it and wholly bring it to bear.

  1. Subjection of Christ to Father, vs. 22: Christ tells His disciples that He must suffer and die.
  2. Subjection of the Beloved to Father, vss. 23-24: Christ tells His disciples that they too must “take up their cross”, and in order to gain their true life, they must lose it.
  3. Subjection of the Beloved to Christ, vss. 29-35: The transfiguration shows Christ’s glory, and Father confirms Christ’s deity.
  4. Subjection of the Beloved to One Another, vs. 48: Here, Jesus defines greatness as subjection to one another.

For edification, let us define the word “subjection”. Webster defines the English word as, “to bring under control or dominion, to make (as oneself) amenable to the discipline and control of a superior.” And the Greek word is hypotasso, meaning, “to subordinate; reflexively, to obey:—be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.” These definitions will guide us into what Christ is teaching us here. Also, be aware that a similar word in English meaning the same thing, is the word submit.

We first must address the subjection of Christ to Father. In perfect obedience, Jesus will soon walk the lonely and torturous path to Calvary. In many references throughout His teachings, Jesus confirms that He does nothing of His own initiative. He speaks that which Father speaks, and He does what Father asks Him to do. In the garden of Gethsemane, we find the prayer that we all know well: Our Lord feeling the anguish of what true obedience entails. He was in such desperation, He actually began to sweat blood! But nevertheless, Christ subjected Himself to Father with the famous words, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” The telling condition of His heart screams out to us the true statement that Christ’s will was to NOT “drink of this cup”, the cup of suffering and the gruesome death on a cross, the ultimate in humiliation! But, in the end, the Father’s will was done. So Jesus subjected Himself to the Father’s will.

Next, we enter into the mandate given from Christ to us, that we too must subject ourselves to Father by taking up the cross (daily no less!). Here, our Master is laying the foundation to what pure, undefiled discipleship looks like. He tells us plainly that in order to follow Him, we must crucify our flesh as well. But why? Can’t we say that Christ paid the full price? Why must we pay that price as well? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:2-3: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NASB)

Jesus, for the joy set before Him, took up the cross. We, for the joy set before us, take up our cross. But what joy? What joy is there in dying? It does two things: 1.) It puts to death the slavery of sin. Note what precedes verses 2 and 3, found in verse 1. We do this so we can “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” So we take up a cross to “kill” the flesh, to exterminate the sin that easily overtakes us, and to be able to not “grow weary and lose heart”. So in essence, to put to death our flesh is to put on the “new man”, the spiritual man. And 2.) It presents Christ to a dying world. Crucifying the flesh allows us to operate in the Law of Love, where the joy is in knowing you are pleasing to Father and also bringing the lost to Him! Jesus had nothing to gain from the cross…except us! We must do likewise. What we gain is freedom from our evil hearts and desires, and yet we also gain victory in “lifting Him up” to draw all people to Him. Oh the joy one day, when we shall see those that we presented Christ to, standing next to us in Paradise! But woe to us if while standing in Paradise, we look across the “great gulf” and see those we knew and think to ourselves how we could have done more.

Now we come to the third part of subjection, mainly, that we subject ourselves to Christ Himself as our Lord. Think of the progression here: Jesus subjects Himself to Father, we subject ourselves to Father, and then Christ is seen in His glory thereby pointing us to subject ourselves to Him. And this is not something that He asks us to do; this is Father telling us directly as reflected in the Father’s statement to the three disciples that witnessed the transfiguration: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” Wow. Jesus shows us that He is indeed an obedient Son and that glory awaits Him very soon; in like manner, He is pointing us in the same direction! Glory awaits you dearly beloved! Is it worth the price? Listen to what Paul says concerning this future glory for those who take up their cross: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (KJV)

We absolutely must grasp this concept that echoes all through Christ’s teachings in the gospels and in Paul’s letters to the Churches: We must follow Him. Following Him requires us to walk in His footsteps, pain and suffering, the world hating and mocking us, and ultimately the world being blessed by us. We should be able to say at every offense by an unbeliever, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” We think this a high and lofty goal that seems unattainable, do we not? The fact is YOU CAN’T, but He can by the working of Holy Spirit through us! If we don’t take up our cross, then the flesh wins, and the flesh simply does not possess the ability to love enemies, to pray, to have faith, to create joy or peace, and certainly does not have the ability to subject itself to God! Romans 8:7 says, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” So, to submit ourselves to Christ is to obey the mandate to follow Him.

The final destination for us here on earth is to subject ourselves to one another. The structure of Luke 9 is brilliant! I have skipped many points to get here in this teaching for time’s sake. I challenge you to go back and study the flow of Luke 9 and see the “icing” that smothers this profound cake. But suffice it to say, the law of subjection is presented here as best as I can deliver it. Notice the final step of subjection found in verse 48: “…for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” This should be nothing new to us, as the Scripture is quite clear concerning this biblical definition of “greatness”. Here are some other citations:

Philippians 2:5-11: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! NIV

Matthew 20:25-28: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 23:11-12:  The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

And finally, but not exhaustively…

James 4:10: Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

So as we can see, subjection to one another in love is the defining factor in discipleship. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 13:35 that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And love defined by Holy Spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We have to know that this type of love is impossible by ourselves. So we must submit first to Father, then to Christ, and the Holy Spirit will make His home within us! By our hearts beating as one with Christ, this type of love just flows naturally. But all is a moot point if we have not subjected ourselves by taking up our cross and being crucified with Christ! Subjection to one another is the mark of a mature Christian. In fact, one simply cannot submit themselves to another without first having submitted to Father and then to Christ. The order is paramount.

Ultimately, we must die in order to live, we must surrender in order to walk in victory, and we must humble ourselves to receive glory. God is awesome isn’t He? Now we must embrace this Truth and walk in it. You can’t and won’t walk alone in this subjection. Holy Spirit is here to guide and comfort and advocate for us, and we are surrounded by loving brothers and sisters that are walking the “narrow way that leads to salvation”.

The Missing Piece

His mind sees the puzzle of the whole,

How the pieces fit to together,

In a symphony that never ends,

But he is lost for the one piece still missing.

The picture begins to take perfect shape,

But never complete without that one last piece,

He searches high and low and everywhere,

But he can only see that which is without.

Will the day ever come when he realizes

That the final piece resides somewhere else?

He looks everywhere and asks others,

Nowhere is the land where the piece resides.

He wants to sit and study the beauty of the picture,

But restlessness won’t let him find peace,

In frustration, he begins to walk to nowhere,

Finally sitting by the stream, he begins to cry.

The quiet of the lonely is deafening,

The wind tickles the tops of trees,

The stream gurgles its strange melody,

And the man lives in the dream of searching.

Finally resolved to quit the quest of the final piece,

He leans over the water to drink,

And in a moment he will never forget,

He sees the missing piece looking back at him.

True Repentance

freedom3

Note: This is a condensed version of a longer teaching. For the longer, more thorough version, just click here, The Joy of Repentance.

Introduction

What do you think of when you think about repentance? Does it bring to mind an Old Testament scene of rolling around on the ground in sackcloth and ashes? Or do we think of something like groveling before God and crying out as we rip our hair out or rent our garments?

Here is the problem: I don’t think we really understand how repentance works. I don’t think we even understand the process of repentance. Now, I will ask another question: What does repentance look like today? What do you think of when you imagine yourself repenting before God? Don’t we all think or have thought at one time that it is like a one-time action? We say to ourselves, “I must repent”; so we hit our prayer closet with a cry out to God “I repent!” And by merely feeling sorry for our sin and crying out to God, we think we have repented. Is that all there is?

What if I told you that repentance is a joyous affair, an opportunity to allow God to enter into our lives in a way we never thought of, and an occasion where our lives can significantly change? Not only that, but what if I told you that revival can only come out of this true and biblical repentance? If the balance were to tip the scales in the right direction for our post-modern Church, don’t we know that only true repentance will cause such an occurrence? If we have been doing it wrong, don’t we owe it to ourselves, our God, and even our society to get it right? The resounding response to this question is “YES and AMEN!”

We are going to explore the beauty and joy of true repentance. Now this is not my idea or my construct or anything new, although it is new to me for I have recently been led by the Spirit to this Truth. This journey, if taken to heart and explored through the Scriptures, will prove to enlighten you in a way that will empower you to reach new heights in your walk with the Lord. The possible chain-reaction is nothing less than earth-shattering. As people learn how to truly and affectively repent, the Lord will do what He has promised to do.

The final point to my introduction will be the glaring truth that I have discovered. The discovery is that repentance isn’t merely an act but rather a process. In a microwave, “got to have it now” world, this would appear to be a less than joyous message.

The Teaching

So let us begin this epic journey together by starting in the Scripture where it was birthed. Acts 3:19 says,

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (NASB)

Defining the word “Repent”:

Notice in this verse that we are to “repent and return”. So how is the word “repent” meant in this context, or rather, what is repentance? The Greek word here is Strong’s #G3340, metanoéō, and its origin is as follows: (from 3326 /metá, “changed after being with” and 3539 /noiéō, “think”) – properly, “think differently after,” “after a change of mind“; to repent (literally, “think differently afterwards”).

Did you catch that? The definition of the word assumes a primary occurrence of before or there could be no after or afterwards! So if we are “changed after being with”, whom were we with? You know the answer to this already. So if we “think differently afterwards”, what should be the accepted response to this new thinking? The answer is found in our original text…return! So if we think we can repent by ourselves, then we are incorrect in our thinking. Why do I say this? I say this because by definition the meaning of the word repent assumes you have been with someone or think differently afterwards!

See, we have this false notion that change happens by something we heard or something we have “taken to heart”, but in reality, this is simply not the case. Change happens by being with God. When Moses was exposed to the glory of God, his face shone; his face glowed so much so that he had to veil his face. When the scruffy fishermen of Galilee began their ministry, the elites of the religious community could tell “they had been with Jesus”. Even today, it is glaringly obvious when someone has spent time with the Spirit of God; we use the phrase “the Spirit is on them”. You see, we must confess and embrace the truth that real change and real, true repentance happens after being with Him.

In my own seeking of what true repentance looks like, the Spirit led me to a familiar verse for most of us. I had never seen this very familiar verse the way the Spirit showed it to me. It flooded my spirit and I was taken completely off guard! God is so awesome, I realize I scarcely fathom His deepness and tenderness. When He speaks to the depths of our spirit, it leaves us breathless. I am overwhelmed by Him regularly, and it is a healthy habit to put oneself in the posture to be overwhelmed!

The Spirit led me to 2 Chronicles 7:14.

As I was praying and asking the Lord to give me eyes to see what repentance really, really looked like, He whispered, “2 Chronicles 7:14”. Are you kidding me? Reluctantly, I turned to the worn-out page of my Bible to this Scripture and the words literally jumped off the page and slapped me right between the eyes.

Let me show you what He did, and I hope you are as amazed as I was! The verse became personal and illumed as the Spirit spoke this verse to me, to you, and hopefully to the Church.

Here is what He said: “If you, Insert Your Name , called by My name, will repent, I will hear from heaven and heal your heart.” Now say this out loud to yourself and put your name in the verse.

But the actual verse says this: “and 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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NASB)

In an instant, two searing truths hit me:

  1. This is a formula for personal revival
  2. The process of repentance is specifically and clearly defined right here

Before we move forward, let me state some points to consider:

The first thing to contemplate is “My people”. I would assume, that most of us reading this consider ourselves to be “God’s folk” or “bought with a price” and call ourselves a follower of Jesus. So this verse is aimed directly at you! This verse is not intended for society as a whole, or for your city, or your nation, or even the world in general. This is God talking to “His peeps”!

Secondly, notice the order in which it is presented. This is the recipe for repentance! All this time, we wonder to ourselves what repentance looks like or what it truly involves, and here it is in black-and-white. Now, before we all collectively shout “Amen”, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. Do we understand what each of the ingredients are? Do we truly comprehend what it means to “humble ourselves”? Do we enter into prayer with a goal in mind? Pointedly, to the goal of repentance? And what on God’s green earth is meant by “seek My face”? Of course, we all know what “turn from our wicked ways” means!

Lastly, how many of us have erroneously thought that repentance starts with “turn from your sin”? OOPS! That is the last part of repentance according to this verse, and to be completely candid, most of us don’t even see the sins that keep us from God’s healing! I’m just keeping it real here. I would not make this statement if it were not applicable to me. God, forgive me. You see, we associate repentance with being sorry for sin, but the stark reality is that the process of repentance points us to the sin. True repentance is a process that puts us on the operating table of the Almighty that He might cut out the root of the problem! Asking for forgiveness of sin is biblical, necessary, and a prime ingredient of the Christian faith. But repentance by its very nature is the tool to expose what’s “really going on”. Repentance, I now know, is a divine tool to expose the disease as opposed to just identifying the symptoms of that very disease. The process of repentance gives us eyes to see clearly that which ails us.  This is the godly, jagged pill of truth that is painful going down, but glorious in its ability to heal.


Defining the Process of Repentance


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Step One: Humble Yourself

To become humble literally means to bow before, to be brought low, to succumb to authority. The word in Hebrew for humble is kânaʻ and means: properly, to bend the knee; hence, to humiliate, vanquish:—bring down (low), into subjection, under, humble (self), subdue. Let’s talk about this for a minute.

The Bible exudes a principle that we dodge, explain away, and avoid most of the time; that principle is what is called “the fear of the Lord”. Proverbs tells us that this fear is the beginning. The beginning of what? The beginning of wisdom. Contrary to popular opinion, and even in opposition to many stated and unstated positions in our churches, this fear of the Lord is a serious matter. Unfortunately, this primary building block is conspicuously missing or has been watered down to mean “a profound respect for” or something that smacks of “He is God and I am not”. If you do a word study on the word(s) for fear, you simply cannot duck the bullet of what this fear really means. It means to be terrified; yes, gentle reader, it means fear in a real bad way. Even Jesus fires a round off at His listeners when He says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (NASB)

BOOM!!

See, even you weren’t fast enough to dodge that bullet. Ironically, it is for our own good to fear God. You know why? Because it brings us to the threshold of step number one in repentance: humility. By yourself, you cannot humble yourself. Just as we cannot create within ourselves spiritual states such as peace, joy or love, so we cannot “muster up” humility. Who can wake up each day and command themselves to be full of joy? Who can survive the stress of the world by conjuring up peace out of thin air? And who can willfully make themselves humble? The answer: no one! And if anyone out there doubts this truth, they wouldn’t have made it this far into the teaching! Plus, if you think you can muster up humility by yourself, then you are full of pride, and pride is the opposite of humility. See the absurdity? It is the catch-22 of the spiritual life.

What is missing in the world today is the fear of God; it should not be missing in our Christian lives. We have a hard time rectifying the notion that God is love and yet also a God that rages like an inferno towards sin! A Christian life full of sin is an oxymoron. Who, after being released from prison, chooses to stay in their cell while the door is wide open?!

All that to say, the fear of God is what brings us to humility. By now, we realize that pondering God and contemplating His greatness causes us to “bow down before Him”, to “bring ourselves into subjection”, and to lay prostrate at His feet. By His very nature, even a mere glimpse of His greatness creates the fear. If you don’t fear the Lord, just ask Him to grant this to you…He is more than happy to accommodate that prayer!

There are ways to be humbled besides the recognition of God’s awesomeness. For instance, life can humble you. Loss can humble you. Consequences for bad choices can humble you. And even God Himself can directly humble you. It is MUCH better to fear the Lord and enter into humility by spiritual discipline, but if you missed that opportunity or refuse to enter through the front door, then the Christian life will unashamedly slide you in the back door and get you there one way or another! If you love Jesus, and you know He loves you, then He will ensure that you get the amazing gift of humility.

Often people will quote from the Bible, “it is the goodness of God that leads a person to repentance”, and I say “AMEN!” It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, but it is the fear of the Lord that leads a man to humility. And you can’t enter through the door of repentance without the key of humility.

Fearing the consequences of sin is not, I repeat, not the doorway into repentance. Fearing God lights the ember of humility, which then kindles the wildfire of true repentance, and this is the beginning of revival in our hearts first and ultimately spreads until He consumes us in His love and the baptism of fire!

So step one is humble yourself. Special Note: you can’t skip this one…

prayer of patience

Step Two: Pray

The second step is to pray. This prayer is not The Lord’s Prayer, this prayer is not intercessory prayer (don’t repent for your nation, church, or city before repenting for yourself!), and this prayer is not a time to lay out your laundry list of wants, needs, and desires. Even if your “wants” include the desire to please Him, even if your “needs” are to receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and even if your “desires” include a more intimate relationship with Him, a more holy life or whatever noble desires you might have. This prayer is the prayer of repentance. It is a time to humbly come before God and admit your weaknesses, it is a time to confess (don’t ask for forgiveness here) your known sins, it is a time to apologize, and it is a time to weep at His feet. If we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up! (Thank you James) Any false pretense or shallow motive will be burned up as dross. This is not the time to ask for anything! The prayer of repentance is steeped in sorrow. Without true humility, this sorrowful prayer simply cannot be infused into the air of His sanctuary. The spiritual offering of sorrow and humility is a sweet smelling aroma to our God indeed! If you are not floating in the raging sea of sorrow on your tiny rowboat of humility here, then you never completed step one. It’s OK! God is patient with us. Just continue to knock on the door of humility until He opens it for you. Just seek Him in the Word to see how perfect and terrifyingly magnificent He is. And simply ask for the gift of vision to see Him clearly and to see your depravity without Him. Holy Spirit will guide you and comfort you; if He doesn’t take you through this, then you will find it impossible because it is, no doubt about it, impossible without the Spirit. His glorious response is found in the next step.

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Step Three: Seek My Face

This step is in and of itself worth any effort to achieve. This is where most of the work of repentance is accomplished. This IS the before. The immeasurable beauty of this step is that God has the opportunity to do His work! If the first two steps are defined as “drawing closer to God”, then the third step is Him “drawing closer to us”! This is where you stop and He starts.

Let’s look at some Scripture concerning this:

Psalm 27:8 says, “When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”

Psalm 105:4 says, Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

1 Chronicles 16:11 says, “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.” Notice these two verses are word for word! One from David and one from the chronicler!

Hosea 5:15 says, “I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

Let me break it down like this: If I look at your face, your expressions, and into your eyes, what can I learn about you and your disposition towards me? Did you know that 80% of your communication comes from your body language and more importantly, your facial expressions? Can I not see love in your face, can I not see pain in your eyes, and can I not notice joy radiating from your demeanor? Of course I can! From the face we derive words from the mouth, a window to the soul through the eyes, and an overall expression of the heart.

So we must understand that “seeking God’s face” is seeking His expression toward us. Seeking His face is to seek what God thinks of you, what God is feeling towards you, and what God wants to express towards you! We are, in essence, in His presence and wanting to know God’s heart toward us! We are seeking His heart…NOT HIS HANDS!!! We are seeking not what He can give us, but rather only Him.

Do you see why I warned us not to ask for anything in our prayer of repentance? The reason is that you really don’t know what to ask for! God gives us the truest desires of our heart, and whether we recognize it or not, all we have ever wanted is…is…Him. It all boils down to seeking His kingdom, where He rules, and His righteousness, where righteousness is refined into the purest treasure; the purest treasure is KNOWING HIM. To know God is to love God…there is no other response. Dallas Willard, in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, says it best: “When we see Jesus as he is, we must turn away or else shamelessly adore him.” We as Christians can never truly turn away, but as we present the Christ to a dying world, many have and will turn away. If you don’t turn away…you repent!

To seek God’s face is to discover His thoughts of you, His love for you, His words for you…personally. It is one thing to read the Word and read of His love, it is another thing to hear our preachers, teachers, and pastors tell us of His love for us. But nothing takes the place of a one-on-one, face-to-face encounter with the Father. To hear the words from His mouth, to see the love in His eyes, and to behold the glory of the Creator of the universe is to know for sure. He answers the unasked question with, “Yes, I forgive you” and He answers an even more important unasked question, “Yes, I love you more than you will ever know”.

This is all in spiritual terms of course. Have you ever noticed that Jesus Himself defined the gospel as the present reality of the Kingdom of God? Do a little research and you will see. In every gospel, He boldly proclaims the purpose of His coming to earth as “to proclaim the Kingdom of God”. This kingdom is unseen by the natural eyes, although its workings, like the wind, have an effect on the natural world. When you are “changed glory to glory”, you are being changed into a more spiritual creature, you are born again in the spiritual realm (John 3), and you are learning how to operate as a light in the world (Matthew 5:14-16). The gospel, or the good news, is that there is a whole fantastic experience of the REAL world, right here, right now. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, in me, right here and right now, as it is in heaven!” All things that are seen are temporary; all things unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). So this face-to-face with God will eternally define who you really are!

Should we define ourselves as we see ourselves? Should we define ourselves by the world’s standards? Do we find our true identity by self-contemplation or listening to how others assess us? Shouldn’t we rather depend on our Lord to show us who we really are and find our true identity in Christ?! Here, in His presence, we find the pearl of great price, we find the treasure hidden in a field, and ultimately we find ourselves. To see yourself as God sees you is overwhelming, and every fiber of your being is drawn into His embrace. It is intoxicating…in a godly, good way.

From this step, we enter the final step of repentance.

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Step Four: Turn From Your Wicked Ways

The final ingredient is turning from our wicked ways: Let’s be honest here. If you have humbled yourself, prayed, and been in the presence of the Almighty, now knowing His heart towards you, can you do anything else but turn from your sin?! You see, if we focus on the God-ordained recipe for success, then we are almost guaranteed victory over sin; but if we get the order reversed, as most of us do, then we are doomed to failure! Remember the steps of repentance. You don’t start with beating yourself up and saying to yourself, “I need to clean up so I can approach God”! This is backwards. Come as you are to the altar of repentance. Jesus replied to Peter when Peter refused to have his feet washed by the Master, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” He does the washing…not us! We are powerless to do so. You are going the exact direction that the enemy wants you to go!

Don’t be fooled. Without the resurrection power found in His presence, you will fail to conquer sin. After you fail, you will be rife with guilt. You will try again, and again you will fail. So turning from our wicked ways is made possible only by the biblically prescribed method:

The fear of God ushers us into humility which is the proper posture for prayer. The prayer of repentance has no pretense; the only intent of repentant prayer is to fall at His feet, confessing our wretchedness. This worship in “spirit and in truth” translates us into His presence, where seeking His face is desiring nothing more than His heart and thoughts towards us. And finally, empowered by an unquenchable faith rooted in love, we turn from our sinful ways.

The Recipe For Success!

So now we come to back to the original Scripture. What is the purpose of repentance? So that, refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord! Do you know what this expression means? The phrase literally means: “to cool again, to cool off, recover from the effects of heat, and to refresh (one’s spirit); to recover breath, take the air, cool off, revive, and to refresh one’s self”! To walk in the coolness of the evening with our Lord is to truly find rest. Life can beat us up, cause us to see the natural as more real than the eternal, and spiritual battles fought incessantly by godly men and women cause them to grow weary. God wants to blow His cool breeze over the fiery battlefield of life! This applies to us personally, applies to our churches, applies to the Church, and will be applied once again to the world in the form of the “latter day rain” revival. (Notice the little prophecy I snuck in there?) It is coming, but it won’t come until we repent!

So who needs repentance?! Answer: ALL OF US. Of course, repentance is the first step in salvation. John the Baptist yells at the top of his voice, “Repent!” Jesus walks the dusty roads of Palestine announcing “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, shouts from the rooftops, “Repent!” And today, we whimper in a corner, afraid to even whisper the word and wonder what’s wrong with the world!

Never forget that repentance is a change of mind and heart after being with Him! We must answer the question that the world asks us:

What shall we do that we may be saved? 

REPENT!!!!

Now, what about professing Christians?

So we need repentance to be saved, to recognize that Christ is the answer, that He is our savior, and that He is the only way back to our loving God. And repentance is also necessary to grow in the Lord. Think of all the verses in the New Testament that speak of “being transformed into the image of the Son”, of “being transformed glory to glory”, the “renewing of our mind”, of “sowing to the spirit”, or “seeking the Lord with all of your heart”. We never get too mature spiritually or too old physically to stop the process of repentance.

So the sheer joy of repentance is that it is the doorway that opens onto endless fields of untold riches and glory. Repentance sweeps us into the presence of the Almighty. And repentance promises us that “the mind of Christ” is a reality if we seek it. Remember, to repent is to change your mind, and I think the mind of Christ would be quite a change!

Charles Spurgeon states it this way:

Even while I rejoiced in being pardoned, I felt almost ashamed to look Him in the face and claim His mercy! To think that I should have sinned against such a Friend who was so ready to forgive me my guilt, made me ready to hide my head in the very dust! If He had bidden the thunders of His wrath to roll around me, I would not have been surprised. But when, instead of thunders, He gently said, “I love you and I forgive you,” then was my heart broken—

“Dissolved by His mercy I fell to the ground,

And wept to the praise of the mercy I’d found!”

Exhortation

My precious brothers and sisters, do we not understand that true repentance is the process of seeing God’s heart for us? You see, when we know His heart and thoughts, it exposes our hearts! And this causes a spiritual process to occur. Don’t think that repentance is just confessing your sins. Repentance starts with God giving us the vision to see sin that we never even knew existed! Oh, we are quick to judge others and ourselves on the obvious sins like breaking the Ten Commandments or sins like fornication, pornography, drunkenness, using drugs, and the like. But there are even more insidious types of sin that go undetected in our lives. What about self-righteousness, what about judgment of others, what about talking about people behind their backs? What about the egregious sins of envy, strife, and division that Paul rails on and on about? Ever notice that Jesus lovingly throws His arms around the sinner, but shuns the proud and self-righteous? Maybe one is ready for the process of repentance and the other feels no need of it.

Honestly, I think the greatest tragedy in Christendom today is that people have settled for “good enough”. They won’t say it out loud, but they ask themselves, “Is this all there is?” God has more…always more! The grand truth is that God is infinite and eternal, and therefore, we always have room to grow and reach new heights with Him. The joy of being a child of the living God is that He always beckons us into a deeper intimacy with Him. To settle for a perceived status-quo is to literally die a spiritual death. We must repent for settling for less than what He wants for us, and to be quite blunt, we must repent for not being the Church that brings light to the world! We are His Body, we are His hands and feet, and we are called to be on fire for our Lord. We cannot reach to the heavens and ignore the call to reach out to a dying world! Where will this revival come from? It will be born out of repentance and start with the person you see in the mirror.

 

A Christian Response to Abortion

As I have been reading through a plethora of books (research for a book I’m writing) concerning the early Christian church, I stumbled upon something unexpected:  did you know that abortion was an enormous problem in the Roman Empire when the Christian church first started to form?  I wasn’t really surprised as to how the Christians responded…but rather the fact that they had to respond to this phenomenon.  We sometimes think that present issues are unique and unprecedented…this is false.  Honestly, every social issue dealt with back in 100 A.D. is almost exactly what we deal with today.  I was inspired to remind us of the importance of a measured and correct response as Christians.

When I was younger and enrolled in college, I tailor-made my own curriculum.  At the time, what stood out to me and grabbed my attention were two things:   the explosion of science in all areas but especially in the field of genetics, and the social climate of an escalating social tension that centered around abortion and euthanasia.  Dr. Kevorkian was in the news constantly and abortion clinics were being blown up and tensions were high.  I began to weave together biology and philosophy and one of my professors suggested we rightly name it Bio-Medical Ethics.

As a believer in God, this proved to be a very, very deep and dark well.  I was amazed at the absolute magnificence of creation; from the design of the atom, to the incomprehensibility of the universe, to the unbelievable dance that is bio-chemistry, and also the development of human understanding and evolution of thought.  Philosophy is a myriad of swirling questions that never get answered…and even people who think they have found an answer get thwarted by their contemporaries.  So the destiny of a philosopher is to be forever trapped in a whirlwind of arguments, never to be set on solid ground.  No life for a Christian I tell you.  But the questions my first two years of college brought to my mind were these:  just when does life begin, should we let someone suffer, when should we unplug the life-support system, where is the mercy?  Is it more merciful to help someone escape pain, or let nature take its course?  Where on earth do we draw the line?

I really hate to admit this, but I must confess so that my testimony is true.  I pondered on these issues so intensely that it became my consuming thought.  It was at one point joyously rewarding and in another point acutely  painful.  In hindsight, I see why I took this path and I also understand now why God chose to move me out of this valley of confusion:  because the Spirit of God is not the author of confusion, and we all know who is that crafty author.  I had a time when I was so maddened that I didn’t leave my apartment for three days.  I don’t even remember whether I used the bathroom, but surely I did…right?  That is my point; I was consumed in a darkness: a “look into my eyes” kind of darkness.  I did not like what I saw.  The stark reality is that these questions cannot be answered…rightly or wrongly.  Period.  However, I can offer this as a resting place, if you will…regardless of which side of the fence you stand on concerning the issue…it is a peaceful, hopeful place to stand.

God loves the mother that aborts just as much as the aborted.

God will take care of the unborn in a way only He can.

God cannot help the mothers without our hands and hearts.

So at the point where life is lost in a clinic, the innocent is saved, but the guilty is not.

We are Christ’s “body” here on earth and are told to love.

That love has no boundaries, because the Lord’s love knows no boundary.

We cannot love our convictions more than our God.

If we want to stop injustice, then we must use our hands and hearts.

Words are of little value, but the Word is all-powerful.

Love in action changes things, not opinions and arguments.

If one has a conviction, they are required to move into action with love.

We cannot point our fingers at Rome and accuse it of being Rome,

We cannot point to America and accuse it of being America.

And we can’t look at the world and accuse it of being itself.

We want “Thy kingdom come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

And forget that “the kingdom of God is inside of you”.

We fashion our own kingdoms and try to make them acceptable to God.

But we forget that His kingdom starts from within each of us as living stones.

We put the cart before the horse, witnessed by our testimony of failure.

Failure to love, failure of our earthly kingdoms, failure of our laws, failure of our nations…

There is only one kingdom that lasts, and all others will fail.

So as Christians, true followers of Christ, we must find a way to stop talking and start doing.  There is nothing worse and nothing more pitiful than an “armchair Christian”.  We become “hearers of the Word”, but not “doers of the Word”.   Truth tells us that belief without action is doomed to failure.  Because when the storms of life roll through, if the foundation is not in action in love…the “destruction of that house is great”.

The love in action required to lift these heavy burdens left in the wake of abortion is all about the mothers, the abandoned woman, the lonely and confused woman, the woman on a path of destruction:  not only a person trapped in a dark life of guilt and shame but a person trapped in isolation and loneliness.  As a man, I cannot empathize with the soul of one who has chosen to abort; but, I have seen its devastating effect in an afflicted soul.  It must be addressed, or it can destroy a woman…I’ve seen it too many times.  So if you really feel strongly about abortion (or any other cause!) and it eats at you all the time, then start a counseling program, an outreach program, a way to rebuild a life:  seek out the women before, during and after, extend a hand of friendship instead of judgment, don’t tell someone you care…show them you care.  Do not trumpet yourself; whisper into ears that need to hear our Lord’s message of love.  Do not push your opinions on others; pull them into Christ’s love.  The kingdom of God is by nature organic:  it spreads by fellowship, spending time with each other, showing the love of Christ that we are called to show to not only our friends but our enemies as well.  If you cannot or will not do this, then be quiet for you are taking the Lord’s name for your own vanity…to solidify a position you feel is right…if not founded in love, then it is in vain.  Let us stop for just a moment and listen…listen to what the Spirit says.  Do not think yourself able to declare the kingdom of God in word, but rather declare the kingdom of God in deed.  This pleases our Lord and the blessing goes out to both:  the one helping and the one helped, the one who reaches out and the one who accepts a helping, healing hand.  Remember who the victim really is…the one who could be lost.  If there are women out there who have had an abortion and been reconciled and healed by love, then it is incumbent upon the healed to reach out to others who are walking on a path that they have tread.  We must all heal, and Isaiah 58 tells us that in order to heal our own wounds, we must heal the wounds of others.  Then our healing will break forth like the morning sun!  This is not an impossible dream, this is the hope of Christ and “hope does not disappoint”.

If we debate the political and social travesty that is abortion, we must do it in love.  If not, then the Bible tells us that we are just making useless noise (1 Corinthians 13).  It is painful for God to hear!  In a world of great injustice, we are called to be children of light.  We know that God takes care of the innocent, so we should focus on the woman who God loves.  God is a jealous God; He wants us all!  So we should not stand in awe of the loss to the world of one soul, but should stand in humility and realize that it is two souls!  He’s got one of them; you need to retrieve the second.

Do we then not concern ourselves with the debate and the larger problem?  Quite the contrary, we should concern ourselves and have a say in the matter on all levels (personally, communally, institutionally, and nationally, and maybe even on a global scale)…But the impetus for change does not start from the top down, but rather from the bottom up.  It doesn’t start with our “policies”; it starts with the one that you see in the mirror.  What is your capacity for love?  If you feel strongly about issues, then by all means…do something about it.  God will give you the strength and the vision; you must take the first step.  It is simply a choice.

May the call to love and forgiveness not catch us off-guard.  God grant you all peace, hope, and love,

Gideon

Spiritual Water For the Thirsty Soul

Every one of us suffers.  We suffer from depression, from confusion, from health problems, and from poverty of body, soul, and spirit.  All of us go through times of pain.  Most of us go through times of great want: bills stacked up, the need to know an uncertain future, and the search for significance.  What if I told you that there is a solution to solve all our problems…no strings attached!

What I am about to say will fly in the face of a humanist, it will challenge our preconceived notions, it will be against all that we know, and there are a million reasons and excuses to not believe.  The fact still remains that what I am about to tell you is true!  The enemy doesn’t want you to know, your friends and family might not understand, and the “professionals” will most certainly disagree (well, most of them anyway).  You see, Truth is truth, whether you believe it or not; truth stands in perfect power independent of whether you recognize her or not…that is the beauty of truth…it never changes and cannot be altered by me, you, or anyone else.

Do I have your curiosity piqued yet?  We can feed our minds with books and knowledge and science; we can feed our souls with entertainment in a million-plus ways; and Lord knows we are quite adept at feeding our bodies.  But the key is finding the way to feed our spirit.  When we hear people toss around the phrase, “You have to change from the inside-out”, we may smile and say, “Amen”, but do we really know what this means and how it works?  Or do we just agree with the statement without having experienced it to the fullest.  Many of us begin the process but lose our way and never bring the seed of joy to harvest.  Again, the whole world system is set against us to bring the seed to harvest.

We can change our mind without ever changing our spirit.  We can be emotionally happy without ever changing our spirit.  We can decide to change our life, but will fail if we don’t change  our spirit.  Think of it as layers:  the body, the soul (mind, will, emotions), and the spirit.  We must understand that outward layers can NEVER affect the inward layers for any substantial amount of time…it always radiates outward, not inward.  This is truth and we need to understand it!  One more time: the outward layers cannot affect lasting change on the layer under it.  So pleasing our body can make our mind and soul change for a little while, so the soul can make the spirit feel uplifted for a little while, and we can fill our minds with “happy thoughts” but it eventually fades away.  Can we begin to see that this is true?  Just take a moment and consider the outward layers and their ability to satisfy temporarily.  And to top it all off, we are ever growing more and more hungry; what used to satiate us can no longer satiate us…we need more and more, never to be ultimately satisfied.  The layers are defined in this way:  the outward layer is the physical body, the middle layer is the soul (mind, will, emotions), and the inner layer (sanctuary) is the spirit.

The opposite is true as well.  If we warp our spirit with pornography, negativity, worry, selfishness, and the like, it can affect our body and soul in very damaging ways.  If we have problems in our spirit and fill our spirit with garbage, then it will manifest itself in our soul in the form of depression, anxiety, and stress, and can eventually manifest itself in our physical health.  This is just good old-fashioned science.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Dr. Phil or Oprah (they are experts…right?) or read about the effects of stress on your body on WebMD!  So are we getting the picture?  Real and lasting change happens from the inside out…Good OR Bad!

So I’ve pulled you along for a minute now and you’re probably thinking…well here comes the other shoe or ok, what’s the catch, or what are you about to sell me…but that is not the case!  The solution is not only simple, but it is probably the most accessible solution we have in America and in the Western world.  The solution is the BIBLE.

Now, let me stop your objections before they begin to pour out.  I’m almost positive your first thought or impression was, “Awwww, darn…I thought it was better that that!”  Why am I almost positive of your reaction?  Because that was my first reaction!  When I said the Bible, I know you immediately had an avalanche of objections and here are maybe a few you are familiar with:

  • Intellectual Objections:  the Bible is too big, it is too confusing, I don’t understand it, I don’t know where to start, I’ve “read” it before, people smarter than me say it is just another book, scientists say it is flawed, I’m just not a “reader”.
  • Emotional Objections:  It won’t work, I feel guilty about not reading it enough, it won’t work, I’m not a religious person, it won’t work, I see Christians all around me that look and act just like me, it won’t work.
  • Willful Objections:  I don’t have the time, I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to know the truth, God expects too much, this sounds a lot like work, I’d rather just listen or watch something, this is my life and I don’t need to read the Bible.

The reason we have these objections is too simple to bear sometimes:  the WHOLE world is set up against it!  We are a product of our circumstances, our education, our experience, and our perception of reality…what is generally considered our worldview.  Remember at the beginning of this post when I put forth the idea that we are built on layers of existence?  You see, it is hard to penetrate past our objections because all of them have come from the outward layers:  i.e. our emotions, our mind, our own self-will.  What I want us to see is that having a lasting change requires that we get to the heart of the matter; we must change our spirit first, and the rest will follow.  It doesn’t work from the outside-in; it works from the inside-out!  I know I am repeating myself, but it is necessary in order to get through…if it weren’t necessary, then we would already know this and be practicing this!

How does it work?  I can honestly tell you…I DON’T KNOW.  If someone tells you that they know HOW it works…they are a liar, for “the wisdom of man is foolishness to God.”  I don’t care who you ask:  if you ask Billy Graham, if you ask your preacher, if you ask a psychologist, if you ask anyone and they say they know HOW it works…then run, don’t walk, run from them!  They could tell you WHY it works or testify to the fact that it DOES work, but HOW?  You see, in all my years of time in the Bible or anyone’s experience of being “in the Bible”, if we are honest with ourselves, we would have to throw our arms up in the air and say, “I honestly don’t know how it works!”  It is supernatural, it is “magical”, it is unexplainable, and it is an enigma unto itself.  Some intellectuals would say that infusing text like this will “brainwash” you; I set forth the notion that staying in the Word will “spiritwash” you!  We read phrases in the Bible of “renewing your mind”, of “being transformed glory to glory”, and that Scripture is “sharp as a two-edged sword, dividing soul from spirit”.  We should say to ourselves, “Bring it on!”

We can spend hours at work trying to figure out a problem, we can spend hours watching television, we can spend countless dollars and emotional investment into someone we love, we can spend a lifetime searching for answers, but how long do we spend in our Bible?  You have given people in your life many chances, you have maybe tried therapy many times, maybe you have spent months of your life in re-hab, you have tried and tried so many things throughout your life, but have you REALLY given the Bible a chance?  I know people who will read countless books on self-help, but can’t bear 5 minutes in the Bible!  Why is it so “hidden in plain sight”?  Again, the WHOLE world is set up against it!  Even your own psyche is set up against it.  Are we beginning to see the problem here?

This I can absolutely guarantee:  if you are sick, it will heal you;  if you are depressed, it will give you joy; if you are confused, it will give you clarity; if you feel unloved, it will show you true love; if you want answers, it will give you answers.  Period.  I stake my life, soul, and eternal destiny in this statement.  But why?  Because I have been changed by it, I have experienced the power, and I have been set free!  Is it easy?  No, it is not easy, but anything worth having requires effort!  Does it work immediately?  No, it takes a little time.  Can it change my life forever?  Yes, it can and will.

The fact is this:  time in the Word is like a direct download into your spirit.  Time in the Word begins to make eternal changes on the inside, the inside of the inside…in essence, the “core” of the matter.  When trying to understand the layers of existence, if you change the spirit, it radiates (for lack of a better word) outward and begins to change your soul (mind, emotions, will), and will eventually change your outward appearance.  A supernatural force, we will call the Light (it is actually called the Holy Spirit, but I get ahead of myself), grows like a heat (you can actually feel it) and begins to transform the layers outward from it.  So lasting, eternal, glorious change happens only from the spirit outward.  Oh my God!   How many hours, days, months, and years have we spent trying to change the outward layers!  We spend countless dollars on making our bodies look good, we spend a lifetime it seems trying to make ourselves happy, and we spend our emotions on seeking “chicken soup for the soul”!  It always fails…unless…we get to the root of the problems we humans have.  We all desire, whether we know it or not, to know that which is eternal, the “meaning of life”, the significance of existence, and to know our Creator.  To coin a popular phrase, “We all have a God-shaped hole in our heart that only He can fill.”  We must know that when we spend time in the Word, it supernaturally downloads (to use modern vernacular) into our spirit, which is where it all begins and ends.  I don’t know how it works…it just does!

So you may ask, “Where do I start?” or “How do I start over?”  In the world we live in today, I would suggest finding a translation that complements your modern language:  if you speak and talk in simple terms, then get a modern translation; if you are more educated than most, then get a translation that is closest to the Hebrew and Greek; if you are an intellectual, then buy a parallel Bible that shows the original language with several translations side-by-side with the original.  It doesn’t matter which translation as long as you can read it and understand the language.  The next question should be, “Where do I start?”  From my perspective, which happens to be the only one I have, what worked for me was starting in the New Testament.  I suggest the Book of John first.  But just starting at the beginning of the New Testament is perfectly easy enough with the Book of Matthew.  I suggest reading two books at a time.  For example:  I will read, say, John for a while and then read Proverbs; I will be reading Acts and at the same time going to Psalms. It’s like changing the channel while watching T.V or switching between two channels. What inevitably happens is that we are supernaturally transformed day-by-day and glory to glory.  It is the tool, a gracious gift, to fix ALL of life’s problems.  It is the road-map to a spiritual existence.  When given a chance, the Holy Scriptures will give you new eyes to see and new ears to hear!  Many seek a spiritual life, but the Bible is the Guidebook.  Many pursue the supernatural part of existence, but the Bible is the map to the greatest treasure on this tiny planet we call Earth.  Christ actually warns of people who want to enter, but fail to enter through Him and His gate…He doesn’t have very nice things to say about those folks!

The last thing I want to say is that you must spend time in the Word.  You may ask, “How much time do I need to spend in the Word?”  At first, you should set up an hour at a time…uninterrupted.  Once a person begins to take this journey, they will find themselves hungering and thirsting for more!  I have spent an entire weekend in the Word before; actually, I have spent months at a time in the Word before.  What we need to grasp here is that nothing is more important than the solution!  So the excuse of not having time is foolish.  Because when the solution is the Word, it takes care of all the rest.  Why would we spend our time and effort on anything else, when the answers for what we spend the rest of our hours on is found in the Word?  You see how obvious this is?  When you begin to feel the radiance, when you begin to physically feel the warmth, when your spirit begins to respond, you are forever changed and will desire nothing more than more!  When the eyes of your heart begin to open, the world around you changes!  I don’t mean some philosophical enlightenment…I mean a “Wow!  Where have I been, and what have I been doing all my life” kind of enlightenment.  This is a journey of unbelievable proportions.  This is the magic bullet!  And like I said earlier…it works!  It always has and it always will.

If you are new to the Bible, buckle your seatbelt and welcome to eternal life here and now; if you are a burned-out Christian, prepare to be set on fire anew.  The problem with being a “churched” Christian is that you hear the Word on Sundays, you toss verses around all the time, so you think all is well…WRONG!!!!  Time in the Word, again, is the supernatural download into the spirit.  I can’t say it enough; I don’t know how it works…it just does.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of your PRIVATE time in the Word.  Do you want to pray more?  Then spend more time in the Word.  Do you want to learn to love?  Then spend more time in the Word.  Do you want to be a victorious Christian?  Then spend more time in the Word.  What if I know the Bible backwards and forwards?  Watch the heck out!  Don’t be fooled…spend more time in the Word.  What if I read Christian books all the time that quote verses?  Again, don’t be fooled, spend more time in the Word!  Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of being in God’s presence, and the most accessible way to be in His presence is by being in the Word and prayer.  Yes, there is more to it than just this, but it all starts here.  And the foundation of your faith is continually being edified and strengthened right here in the Word.  Nothing else will make sense in the spiritual world unless it starts in the Word.  The Word is the portal, the gate, and the transport system into the spiritual life.  I mean, most of us don’t know how to pray correctly, but even that is learned through the Word.  It is the key that opens the gateway onto the narrow path that leads to life.

I hope this post has gotten my point across.  I know I just drilled this into your head, but I won’t make any apologies!  Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I speak is true.  We cannot complain any longer, we cannot be discouraged any longer, we cannot feel sorry for ourselves any longer, because the God-given solution is right here at our finger tips.  I’m sure you probably know that some would literally kill for a copy of the Bible and many (too many to count) have paid with their very lives to provide access to the Bible in hostile regions.  Our Father must just wonder why we are so thick-headed!  He says to you and me, “I have given you the solution, I have given my only Son, I have provided the cure for all that ails you…but you still just don’t get it!”  He has given us the “user-manual” for the spiritual life and many of us let it collect dust on a shelf and complain of not living a victorious Christian life…Forgive us Father.

In a world full of confusion and a life that is ever more complicated, let us all agree to get back to the spiritual source for satisfying our thirsty souls.