Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shepastor: "The Danger of a Little Success..."

The Cost of Being a Disciple
25A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
28“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!
Luke 14: 25-30, NLT

Kingdom work is costly. It requires that you carry a cross. Many, however, have exchanged the proverbial cross for spaces and places of comfort, both socially and psychologically.

This past year and a half, I have been privileged to travel across the Country and speak with many individuals of various races, ages and socioeconomic status. The subject was women in ministry. Time and time again, I heard individuals lament the fact that pastors, laity and denominations have begun to say it is no longer an issue because so many women have become licensed and ordained, are serving in churches in various capacities and are even becoming senior/solo pastors.

One female pastor, working on her doctoral dissertation was told by her doctoral advisor to abandon thoughts of writing about the topic because “it is no longer an issue.” Ironically, the visible “success” of women in ministry over recent years has served to hinder the broader work of opening doors for women called to pastor.

As discussed in my book, Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors (Judson Press, 2013), although increasingly becoming the largest demographic graduating from seminaries, women still significantly lag behind men in positions and pay in the Church. Women still only comprise approximately 10-12% of senior/solo pastors across all Protestant denominations. The fact that you can name female pastors across the nation that have been called to mid-sized to larger more stable congregations is an indication of how few there are.

Because of the “success” of women graduating from seminary, being licensed and ordained, being called to serve as pastors (most serving in churches that are near death, have died or are so broken and dysfunctional that no man would ever consider going!) the view is rapidly becoming, “It’s no longer an issue.”

Tragically, even women who are happy to have “something, rather than nothing” are reluctant to continue to press for greater progress and opportunities. Yes, certainly the foundation has been laid, but the house is not built! Has success become our enemy? Much like those who believe that racism is no longer an issue in America because we have elected our first African American President, many believe that women ministers have broken through the stained glass ceiling and therefore, need to move onto more important matters.

There is a cost associated with pressing this conversation. But true success and deliverance is always a costly endeavor.
Yes, a little success can be a dangerous thing. Consider Dan Black’s words concerning the issue…

Three Undeniable Dangers of Success

Dan Black on Leadership:

I’ve not achieved the level of success I desire. However, I have seen enough success in different areas of my life to know: Success can leave in a blink of the eye if you’re not careful. If you want to achieve and maintain success then you should avoid common success killers. No matter the level of your success remember it has the potential to bring these dangers:

1. Future success can be blocked-
When you begin to obtain success, it can be tempting to relax and enjoy the moment. Relaxing and celebrating for too long can cause you to forsake the success you’ve achieved and be a roadblock to further success. This is because you stop putting in the hard work, effort, and energy that first allowed you to become successful. One solution is to take a short amount of time to relax and celebrate then to keep taking action toward higher levels of success.

2. Success can cause you to stay in your comfort zone-
Nothing significant or great is ever done in your comfort zone. A danger of success is that it can cause you to stay in your current situation or comfort zone. Success can bring comfort and complacency. This can prevent you from taking action or calculated risks. To avoid this danger I recommend being intentional about regularly moving outside your comfort zone and to associate with people who stretch you.

3. Success can bring harmful changes-

Success can bring harmful inward changes. The harmful changes might include: pride, arrogance, self-absorption, a sense of entitlement, and becoming egocentric. These cause a person to become an Outside-In Leader. This is dangerous because a leader’s inward life (heart condition) is shown outwardly through their actions, attitude, and behaviors. These changes can impact every area of your life. The solution is to be self-aware, have accountability partners (To keep you level headed), and to clothe yourself with love, kindness, and humility.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shepastor: "From Why to What..."

Judges 1:12-15, NIV
12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."

13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him [1] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"

15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

“Moving from Why to What?”

This brief, intriguing passage of scripture is packed with meaning. Caleb is now old – probably too old to fight himself to secure the land for his heirs, so he puts out the message that whoever can stand and fight the battle for him and win the land – he will give that man his daughter for a prize.

Caleb’s nephew – Othniel rises to the challenge – wins the land and also the hand of Caleb’s daughter – Achsah. As a dowry gift, Caleb gives Othniel and Achsah the land of Negev. Now, one might say Achsah should have been thankful and happy that her father gave them some land. Land was and still is a precious thing.

But Achsah was not satisfied with this land. Some commentators have suggested that Achsah was selfish, unappreciative, pushy etc., because she tried to get her husband to go and ask her father for more. But when, evidently (the text does not say) Othniel didn’t go and ask, Achsah took it upon her self and said, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water."

As I mentioned earlier, some commentators took Achsah’s request as an example of greed, selfishness and pride. But I see something different in Achsah’s request. Her request, in my opinion raises some very serious questions.

First off, I wanted to understand what was wrong with the land of Negev? Biblical scholars suggest that Negev was an arid land. In other words, it was a land that was lacking in water. It was difficult, near impossible for things to grow there. It was dry, lifeless, and barren. Negev was like a desert land.

In light of that definition of Negev – a dry, lifeless, barren, fruitless land – I wondered why in the world would Caleb give his daughter and her husband a barren land for a wedding gift? I thought it strange that Caleb would give his daughter Achsah – who’s name literally means, “ankle bracelet or bangle” something beautiful, precious and worthy of being “shown off,” was given such horrible gift – a barren land! I thought it strange that this daughter – who a man was willing to put his life on the line in battle for – was given, as a wedding present – a barren, dry, desert land. So when we consider what Negev was actually like, her request for a land with some springs makes perfect sense.

And as I thought about what Achsah was given and her request, I thought about the dry land and parched places of our lives. Let me see if I can’t make this a little bit clearer…

The other day I heard a man on a radio broadcast share that he’d experienced a major tragedy in his life…the untimely death of his young son. A son that had all of the potential in the world…a son that was preparing to do great things in life…a son that hadn’t done anything to deserve this tragic end to his earthly life. The man was understandably devastated. He wrestled day and night trying to understand why. Why did this happen? How could this happen? What good could ever come from this unfathomable loss?

He went on to say that he sunk down very, very low, depressed…despondent…angry…confused…in a deep pit. Then one day, he met another father who’d also experienced tragic loss. The man shared that as long as he tried to figure out “why” he just continued to spiral downward. But when he changed his questioning from “why?” to “what?” He began to hear and see life differently. “Since this is my circumstance, since I am in this situation, since this thing has happened, What God? What next? What would you have me to do? What is to come from this? What do you want to do with me? What can this do for someone else?”

The tragic loss of a loved one is always difficult and daunting emotionally. But there are other losses as well that can baffle, shackle and oppress the soul. For some, life begins “at a loss.” Some grow up wondering, “why was I given this set of circumstances? What did I do to deserve this?”

This passage of scripture can assist us in not only processing the “dry lands” given to us, but how to respond and move forward.

There are some things in this life we are given that we don’t have any control over – we were given life, we were given our parents, we were given our gender, our race, our genetic predispositions, our bodies. Some were born into rich families, some into poor. Some were born into healthy households – some were born to crack addicts. Some were born to loving, caring, supportive parents, some were born to cruel, neglecting and discouraging parents.

We were given some things that we have no control over. They were just given. Those things that are good – we praise and thank God for. And while the scripture says that we are to give thanks in all things at all times, and yes, we should - there are seasons in our lives where we are not poised to give thanks – but to ask the question – “why Lord, have you given me this dry and barren land?”

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give thanks, for Scripture says that “In everything, give thanks for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you.” But it does mean that there are times in our lives where thanksgiving is not our initial response. I am very thankful that we have a God, we have a Christ who is compassionate, willing and able to understand our human frailty. I am thankful that we have a God and we have a Christ who is willing and able to transition us from question, doubt, pain and fear to praise and thanks giving. But it is a journey.

How do we move from “Why?” to “What?”
How do we process – how can we be thankful? How can we embrace the sovereignty of God? I think the request of Achsah is instructive and can give us some help –

Achsah said, “Since you’ve given me this desert land – give me some springs also.” We don’t know why God has given us the circumstances of our lives – we don’t know why things have happened the way they have happened – things that we had no say or control over – but we can say, “Lord, I don’t know why you chose to let these things be a part of my life, but since you have – give me some springs in my dry land.” The operative word is, “since.”

In other words, you’ve asked somebody else to try and fix the situation for you. Maybe they like Othniel for what ever reason have not assisted you in getting some springs for your barren, dry land. But you, like Achsah can go to God and ask for some springs for yourself!

You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why I was born with bad health – but since I was – Lord show me how to live. You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why my family was so dysfunctional, why my mother was addicted to drugs – but Lord – give me the strength to live a healthy productive life.” Lord, I don’t know why I was born with a mental disorder – but Lord, help me to have good doctors who can guide me to the right types of medications that can keep my biochemistry in balance.”

Lord, I don’t know why my job was eliminated after I worked so hard, so diligently, but Lord supply all of my needs according to your riches in glory.

Whatever your dry land is today – like Achsah, you can say, “Lord, give me some springs for my desert!” Help me to move from “Why?” to “What?”

Look at what the Lord did for her… Caleb not only gave Achsah what she asked for, “a spring” but he gave her upper springs and lower springs. God will give you that which you need to refresh your soul and your spirit on the high mountain, and down in the low valley.

Just as Achsah’s name means “bracelet or bangle” something to show off in other words – God wants to show you off! God wants to lift you up. You are a precious prize. God wants to use you as a mighty testimony. Your trials, your struggles, your difficulties, your disappointments – all that you’ve been through – God is going to use it to lift you up higher and to glorify his name.

You will be used by God to let others know that no matter what difficulties occur in this life – if you hold to God’s unchanging hand – God who is sovereign will take your sorrow and turn it into joy. He will take your pain and turn it into peace. He will take your failure and turn it into faith. He will take your sadness and turn it into a surprise – He will water your dry and barren land.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Today we may be up and tomorrow we may be down – but God has promised to be with us every step of the way. He will take our bitter experiences and make them sweet. He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. God will take care of you.

Don’t give up. Don’t allow the devil to tell you that God does not love you. You are precious in his sight – ask him today – ask him right now to show you how to change your perspective. Ask him to show you how, since this thing has happened in your life – ask God to show you how to make it through and God will show up – God will water your dry land – God will provide springs in the desert.

Psalm 50:23 declares, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."
(NIV). Sometimes, thanksgiving is a sacrifice. Sometimes changing our perspective is a sacrifice. It means that we don’t necessarily want to do it, aren’t sure, how to do it, don’t have the mind or the energy to do it. But because we love God, and we have chosen to lift Him up as the wise and sovereign God, we sacrifice our finite thoughts and choose to praise God – trusting and believing that He loves us, understands us, and is for us, not against us.

The scripture declares that when we sacrifice thank offerings to God – God is honored and he prepares the way so that He will show us his salvation. In other words, our faith, our trust, our belief that in the midst of it all, God is still good, God still sits high and looks low, God’s promises are still real, God is still a way maker, and as the saints of old would say, “a heart fixer and a mind regulator,” God is still sovereign, - God will take our pain, He will take our tears, He will take our disappointments, our struggles, and all of that which would cause us to give up and die – God will take all of those things back to the potter’s house, and He will refashion, reshape, reconfigure, reorganize, remold our broken, wounded, disheveled lives and fashion them into beautiful vessels, making us no longer victims, but victors!

We can look to our Savior Jesus Christ as the epitome of “what?” It was not fair that he had to leave his Father’s side, humble himself and become like a man – it was not fair that he was mocked and scorned and beaten all night long.

It was not fair that he had to be buried in a borrowed tomb when all he had to do was to call on ten thousand angels to come and deliver him from cruel mocking soldiers and a shameful death on the cross.

But because God is sovereign – Jesus went through all of that so that you and I could be saved. Because God is sovereign – Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father pleading our case. Because God is sovereign, one day he is coming back again and every eye shall see it – every knee shall bow – every tongue shall confess –that He is Lord, Jesus is Lord – Jesus is Lord.

As you face your “why’s,” ask the Lord to help you to transition to “what?”

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shepastor: “The Power of a Transformed Tongue…”

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 7-8, NIV

Our words have great power and when they leave our mouths they take on a life of their own. With words we hurt and with words we heal. My mother always told me that “an angry word is not easily recalled, therefore, watch your words.” Listen to this quote about our words by Robert Brow,

“The other animals can communicate with each other. They growl, call for a mate, express alarm, sing for joy. Whales can apparently compose songs. Your dog can bark, beg for food, wag his tail, jump up to say he is glad to see you. But the human animal has a tongue with the power to create havoc in human relationships.”
Sometimes because of our own fears, our own insecurities, our own prejudices, we speak words or give advice that is not in the recipient’s best interest, but are comfortable for us. Like the parents who discourage their children from ever going away to school because they are afraid of being alone, or the husband who discourages his wife from taking a class or from pursuing a dream because he’s afraid she’ll out grow him and leave or the teacher or mentor who discourages a student from pursuing a particular learning track because that student does not appear to “have what it takes.”

How many dreams have been shattered? How many potential leaders have been stopped short, how many great ideas have been snuffed out because someone poisoned another persons mind and caused them to lose hope. Our words can wreak havoc upon the minds of those who are the hearers.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for every season and purpose under the heavens. The scripture further tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If our hearts are in line with the Holy Spirit of God, the Lord can and will help us to govern our speech. Our tongues will be transformed. Our words will be seasoned with the salt of grace and peace. We will learn how to tell the truth in love.

When our tongues have been transformed, we will pray daily, “Lord, set a watch over my mouth; guard the door of my lips." We will be patient and not just blurt the first thing that comes to our minds. We will be considerate, thoughtful and kind. We will refrain from expressing our ideas of what a person can and cannot do. Sometimes, it is best to allow a person to work things through on their own. Let them pursue their hopes and dreams, as long as it is not bringing hurt or damage to the family or the community. Sometimes we may not recognize all that God has placed within them. Sometimes we are the stumbling block to a person’s success because we have filled their mind with all of the reasons why they can’t succeed.

Why are our words so damaging? Why are we so negative or critical? Sometimes, as one commentator puts it, “it’s because our parents may have earned graduate degrees in negativity while raising us!” Sometimes we subconsciously criticize others as a way of building up ourselves. But what ever the reason, we are doing so at a great price – the hearts, minds and emotions of others.

Now there are some people whose constitutions are of such that no matter who tells them they cannot make it, they determine that they can. There are some people who take negative comments as a challenge and use it to motivate them to move forward. But everyone is not like that. Some people are crushed by negative and excessively critical comments. The phrase, “stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is a lie. Names have broken many a spirit. Words have battered many a soul. Constant criticism has pummeled many a person’s esteem.

James chapter 3: 1-13 in the New Testament says the following about the tongue…

Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. You know that we who teach will be judged more severely. 2 All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn't make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. 3 We put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, and we have control over everything they do. 4 The same thing is true for ships. They are very big and are driven by strong winds. Yet, by using small rudders, pilots steer ships wherever they want them to go. 5 In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame. 6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell. 7 People have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures. 8 Yet, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison. 9 With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God's likeness. 10 Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! 11 Do clean and polluted water flow out of the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? In the same way, a pool of salt water can't produce fresh water.
13 Do any of you have wisdom and insight? Show this by living the right way with the humility that comes from wisdom
The good news is that you can change the course of your words today. Today you can ask God to show you how to speak words of encouragement and hope. The first step is to examine your heart. Jesus taught that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

If we want to have a transformed tongue, we must first ask the Lord to change our hearts to reflect His heart. We must as ourselves, “is this something Jesus would say to another person?” We must as ourselves, “what are we hoping to accomplish by making this comment? Is there another, healthier, more wholistic and positive way to say what I am trying to say to this person?” “Is this comment necessary at this time?” Do they truly need this bit of advice from me?

There will be times when our words, no matter how kind will hurt… truth can hurt. But when we speak God’s words of truth to people, the hurt will eventually produce healing – like surgery. It hurts, it takes time to heal, but when it heals we are made whole.

The goal of our advice, our words fitly spoken should be to bring deliverance, to bring healing, to bring hope, to build up, never to tear down.

How are your words? Who have you encouraged? Who are you discouraging by your words? God said that we will give an account for every idle word we utter. Let us pray today to have a transformed tongue. Pray that our words will be seasoned with the salt of God’s truth, mercy, grace and love – words that give life and not death, words that give help and not hurt – words that set free and don’t bind – words that reflect the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Shepastor: "Tools for Handling Control Issues: Developing Self-Control (Temperance)"

A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. Proverbs 25:28, NLT

In ancient times, cities would build secure walls around them to protect them from enemies. Therefore, cities without walls or with “broken-down” walls were vulnerable to the attacks of enemy nations. The writer of Proverbs suggests that when we don’t have self-control, we too become vulnerable.

Below are excerpts from an organization,, a Public Service of James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D., 6319 Chauncy Street, Tampa, FL 33647.

In the following, Drs. James and Constance Messina share nuggets of wisdom regarding self-control…

Self-control is a set of behaviors which:
Accepts the reality that the only thing in life which you can successfully change and control is yourself.
· Keeps in check all self-destructive, addictive, obsessive, compulsive, irrational, and unacceptable behaviors.
· Gives you a sense of personal mastery, autonomy, and competency over your own life.
· Is under your control and power to direct and orchestrate with no need for interference or manipulation from others.
· Makes you the master of your own destiny because it keeps in check those barriers and obstacles which are a threat to your overall success in life.
· Is a middle ground between perfectionism and laxity in self care.
· Results in your life having a balance and focus by helping you to cope with new challenges in life as they come.
· Helps you to keep your over-emotional responses in check or moderation.
· Helps you to open yourself up from nonfeeling or pulled-in emotions so that you can have a healthy emotional life.
· Is the foundation for healthy coping and contributes to your accepting personal responsibility for your life.
· Keeps your life in moderation, helping you to avoid extremes in any direction…

What are the negative effects of not maintaining self-control?

If you cannot gain self-control in your life, you could:
· Focus all your attention on trying to control, fix, or rescue other persons, places, and things and divert your attention from your own needs.
· Suffer the negative impact of your out of control behaviors such as alcoholism, chemical dependency, overeating, compulsive sex, addictive relationships, compulsive shopping, gambling, smoking, etc.
· Become deeply depressed and despondent over your weakness and inability to get your life into "check'' or 'balance.''
· Prefer to be overly dependent on other helpers, caretakers, fixers, and rescuers to give your life the control it needs.
· Fall prey to an overly perfectionistic and idealistic belief system in which no matter how well you get things in order you see them as being imperfect and not good enough.
· Lose control over the emotional boundaries you need to maintain from becoming over enmeshed or controlled by others.
· Become lost as to where you begin and end and where others in your life begin and end in relationship to you.
· Find yourself responding to situations in your life either in an overly emotional and hysterical way or in a withdrawn, pulled-in and non-emotive way, with neither response being healthy or appropriate at the time.
· Find it impossible to become detached from people, places, or things who are toxic or unhealthy for you.
· Find yourself in a state of powerlessness to effect changes to get your life into moderation or balance.
· Fall into the trap of learned helplessness and convince yourself that you are not capable of taking care of yourself and thus allow your life to get more and more out of control...
How is self-control a control issue?
Self-control is a control issue because it is:

· Keeping the "locus of control'' internal and removes the "locus of control'' from the externals in your life.
· Giving to yourself the power and control to have an impact on your personal destiny and fortunes.
· Ensuring your focusing on what in life you have the ability to change and control, namely yourself.
· Not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of using manipulation or helplessness to get others to come to your rescue to fix or care for you.
· Not needing a "fixer'' or "caretaker'' to help you determine your own future.
· Not allowing survival behaviors to get in your way of reaching out for support, intimacy, and vulnerability from others in your life.
· Exercising moderation in your emotional reaction to life so that you are neither over controlled or under controlled in the expression of your feelings.
· Accepting responsibility for your own actions, feelings, thoughts, and life and giving power to yourself to accept the consequences for all of these...
How you can develop self-control
In order to develop self-control you need to take the following steps.

First: You first need to identify in what areas of your life you need to gain more self-control.

Second: Once you have identified the various issues in which you need to develop more self-control, then you need to identify which emotions tend to lead you to be more out of control with these issues. Use

Third: Once you have identified what feelings and emotions tend to exacerbate your loss of control, next identify what irrational beliefs lead to increased loss of control in each of these issues.

Fourth: Then you need to identify new, rational, reality based, healthy thinking which will lead to your gaining control over these issues.

Fifth: Once you have identified healthy self-talk to help you through this time of gaining self-control, then you need to identify positive actions or behaviors which will assist you to develop self-control in your life.

Sixth: Once you have identified the set of healthy actions which assist the development of self-control, then develop a plan of action for each issue which is out of control for you.

Seventh: Once your plans of action are developed, implement them one at a time, taking one issue at a time to get under control. To decide which issues to take first, prioritize the issues using the following scale.
· Highest Priority This issue is so out of control that your life is in danger.
· High Priority This issue is so out of control that your physical and mental health are in peril.
· Average Priority This issue is out of control and it affects your thinking and emotions so that you get compulsive or obsessive with it.
· Slight Priority This issue is out of control but it presents no current threat to my life, health, or actions.

Eighth: Once you have prioritized the issues to be worked on, then begin to implement the plans of action to get them under your control.

Ninth: If after a time you find that you are still out of control, then return to first step and begin again.

Information obtained from, a Public Service of James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D., 6319 Chauncy Street, Tampa, FL 33647.

As the people of God, we understand the first necessity is prayer and submission to the voice and leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Above all else, God will give you the strength to yield every aspect of your being to God, who is “able to keep you from falling.”

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris