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August 2017

Negate No One

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"Once you label me you negate me." - Soren Kiergegaard

That one simple observation, that we know intuitively, provides the best argument against hard and fast labels that I know.

It may also be the reason why people are so prone to use them ... on others.

When our arguments against issues or for our own positions are weak, we feel we can score an easy "win" by putting our adversaries into boxes of someone else's making.

Once we have categorized the person, we can dismiss him or her and that person's words as party lines from some villainous sect or persuasion.

It works except for one annoying reality. It is wrong.

And it counts us out of one of those groups that Jesus commended – truth seekers.

If we cannot seek truth in every situation, we cannot seek it anywhere.

Negate nothing but negativity and negate no one … ever.



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"...we have too often sacrificed love for progress." - Gerald May, "The Awakened Heart"
I came late to Gerry May's books. at the gym.
I started reading some years ago at the gym, where I would read a paragraph and then it takes a set of weight lifting to think/pray/meditate it over.
During the time I knew Gerry on CompuServe, I had never read any of his books. How I cheated myself!
I sure needed the time between sets to let it all sink in. May is one of the deepest, most profound writers on the inner, spiritual life I have ever read.
"The greatest commandments are not obligations at all, but affirmations of grace."
"We are created by love, to live in love, for the sake of love."
"The only way to own and claim love as our identity is to fall in love with love itself, to feel affection for our longing, to value our yearning, treasure our wanting, embrace our incompleteness, be overwhelmed by the beauty of our need."
I am discovering that I have much to discover, that there is much I lack, and that the dissatisfaction of my soul may be one of the best things in my life.
"When I am weak, then I am strong." - The Apostle Paul
Paul's affirmation of dependent poverty and faith were foundational to his power and influence.
We, who follow The Way, are a paradoxical and conflicted people, who, in the midst of paradox and conflict, possess the sweetest shalom of all.
In a contest between love and progress, I choose love.

A Morning Garden Prayer


In the garden
Good Morning, Yahweh, Abba,  my God who strolled through the garden with our mom and dad.

There will soon be enough light to walk to the garden and I will do so.

I am grateful for the light of day, the coolness of the morning, and the promise of sunshine.

I will be making some new discoveries of maturing corn, ripening fruit, more okra, peppers, and developing questions.

Will that tiny watermelon have a future?

What about those beans?

Have the cucumbers and zucchini played out?

What is that? It looks like something, but I don't remember what it was when I planted it.

I guess I'll have to wait and see what it becomes?

Too much water, too little, or just the right amount?

Do I need to add something to this soil before I plant the next seeds this weekend?

Somehow, all of this is an unfolding of a morning of prayer.

Do you receive it as such, my Abba, my Father?

Somehow, it is preparing me for a day of pastoring people. Teach me what I must learn today by walking among the crops and weeds

Somehow, the insights I am about to receive sink deeper into my soul than words in a book ... not that I am about to give up books!

God bless this garden. God bless this day. God bless the work of Your hands.

And mine.

In Jesus' Name, the Vine, Amen.


God Does Not Need Us to Defend Him

Why do we get so flustered as if God depends upon us for His power and glory?

Why do we get so frustrated at the sound of opposition if we truly believe God to be God?

Why do we think we must prove Him or defend Him?

We need to know Him, to trust Him, to stand boldly for Him, but we do not, ever, need to prove Him or fear that He will not be made known.

Be still and know that He is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” - Isaiah 46:10


Control Issues

If you have control issues, it may be for a variety of reasons, good and bad. Let us assume that you are not a "control freak," but that you prefer to tightly control every aspect of your organization or project. What are the repercussions of this?

1. You will wear yourself thin and wear yourself out.

2. You will limit your potential, your reach, and your overall effectiveness because you cannot be everywhere doing everything. All that will ever be accomplished will be what you can personally touch, control, and supervise.

3. The people you lead will never develop to their fullest potential. In fact, your best people will move on because they want more challenges and autonomy in their lives.

4. You will miss out on the synergy, ideas, and  creativity of a team working together and bringing all of their gifts and ideas to the table.

5. If you are engaged in kingdom enterprises, you will be ignoring basic kingdom principles. While these apply especially to churches on mission, they are principles that can also benefit any business or entrepreneurial effort. The genius of a body with many parts and functions is that no person has every skill set necessary for great initiatives. Coming together, the sum of the whole is great than the sum of the parts.

There is no need to sacrifice quality to move from linear thinking to team thinking However, it requires trust and relaxed energy that allows mistakes and diversity of ideas.

Unwillingness to let go of control issues is the kiss of death for any organization. Without letting go, you will never progress from an entity to a movement.

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Psalm of the Hopeless Man - for now ...


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The hopeless man sings Psalm 88.

He is tossed about and in distress.

That does not mean that he has no faith. He has faith and remains faithful.

It is hope that eludes him, but he keeps turning to God.

All he does is cry out.

He offers no assuring self-talk.

No remedies are offered.

No word from the LORD is conveyed.

He is in distress and is courageous enough to record such a day for all to see this step in the journey.

Some days will be like that. It is not the end of the story.

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

Psalm 88, NIV



Thoughts on Thinking Well Beyond the Boxes

We have some "locked in thinking" about self-preservation, competition, and control. Through a series of opportunities, Jesus invites thinking change in his student-brothers.

Think like a dead man.
Think like a servant.
Think like a child.

I will not fill in the blanks here. You will have to do the work on this one and see if it propels.

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. -  Mark 9:30-41, NIV  


When introducing radical paradigm shifting thinking, don't count on people "getting it" right away ... unless those people are kids or kids at heart.

" And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” - Mark 9:33-37 ESV

I have been Eutychus, dazing and dozing through the droning of the prophets.
I have been Paul droning into the hours of hunger and sleep,
I have lost my focus and fallen from high place to near death spiritually.
I have been awakened by the same word that lulled me.
And ... I pray, that. like Paul, I have been or will be used to awaken the dead.

We cannot always stay awake, but we can be awakened.

We cannot always keep folks awake, but we can call them to awakening and ...

... Some will wake up.

"On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted." -Acts 20:7-12 ESV

Putting Out the Spirit's Fire

Quench not the spirit
"Quench not the Spirit." - 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Not everyone is comfortable with the raging fire of God in the midst of His people. You cannot be neutral about fire. It is not a passive religious sentiment. It is out-of-control, destructive, and threatening from a human standpoint. But from God's vantage point, it is controlled, regenerating, and life-affirming. We are frightened by it sometimes, because we don't know where it is going. But if it is truly God's fire, we don't need to know. If we trust God, we can trust His fire. 

There have always been those who would quench the Spirit. We see Him as unpredictable and impulsive. Yet, He is the one in our lives who leads us to God-ordained outcomes and produces the fruit of self-control. We look at Spirit empowered people and often judge them as unbalanced. Yet it is the Holy Spirit who knocks away the false props of our lives so that we can find true balance in Him. 

We are sometimes embarrassed by the unbridled enthusiasm and unrestrained exuberance of new believers. Paul instructs us not the quench the Spirit in their lives. God is able to bring people to maturity and smooth over the rough edges of their character. Rather than dousing their fire, we ought to be throwing on more kindling and long-burning logs. 

Quench not the Spirit in your own life through sin, bitterness, self-interest, or neglect. When God is at work, you will always feel slightly on edge. Learn to celebrate that and you will find yourself being weaned from false security and comfort onto the deeper nourishment of His peace that passes understanding. Quench not the Spirit.
There is much on my mind to say and do, but sometimes you just have to stop while you are still behind. Blessings.

Still Standing

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“I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.” – Psalm 77:5

“Can you believe that old church is still standing?”

Harold shook his head. He had been sure that it would have toppled over by this time. It had been in disrepair 40 years ago, the last time he had darkened its door. Now, here it was, just as he had left it behind along with his faith so many years ago.

It still stood as a beacon to its community and a reminder of the days of old and of a Savior who was and is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

We must often look back to look forward. The past informs the present and fashions the future. It prepares us to trust the God we have known in times of old to be as faith today as He was then.

We stand on the shoulders of the pioneers of faith, those who tested the Word of God with confidence because they had nothing else upon which to stand.

We come to the ancient monuments to be reminded why our clever schemes have so often gone awry and the Word of God endures.

We see that the Church of Jesus Christ still stands in spite of onslaughts from without and dissensions from within. We cry to God for help. We stretch out our hands. We sing the songs we sang as youngsters with simple trusting belief. We groan; we faint; we inquire.

And we come home to what is unchanging, God Himself.

Eventually, every edifice shall fail, even those dedicated to His glory. Yet, he shall never fail. His Word and His Truth shall endure through eternity.

He has called us to remember and to use that memory to move forward.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is still standing.



Psalm 77 Voce mea ad Dominum

  I will cry aloud to God; *
I will cry aloud, and he will hear me. 
  In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; *
my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire; I refused to be comforted. 
  I think of God, I am restless, *
I ponder, and my spirit faints. 
  You will not let my eyelids close; *
I am troubled and I cannot speak. 
  I consider the days of old; *
I remember the years long past; 
  I commune with my heart in the night; *
I ponder and search my mind. 
  Will the Lord cast me off for ever? *
will he no more show his favor? 
  Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever? *
has his promise failed for evermore? 
  Has God forgotten to be gracious? *
has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion? 
10   And I said, "My grief is this: *
the right hand of the Most High has lost its power." 
11   I will remember the works of the LORD, *
and call to mind your wonders of old time. 
12   I will meditate on all your acts *
and ponder your mighty deeds. 
13   Your way, O God, is holy; *
who is so great a god as our God? 
14   You are the God who works wonders *
and have declared your power among the peoples. 
15   By your strength you have redeemed your people, *
the children of Jacob and Joseph. 
16   The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and trembled; *
the very depths were shaken. 
17   The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; *
your arrows flashed to and fro; 
18   The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; *
the earth trembled and shook. 
19   Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, *
yet your footsteps were not seen. 
20   You led your people like a flock *
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.



Why Indeed

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The king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” - 2 Samuel 7:2

Why indeed?

David's statement, wrapped in a question, is descriptive more than prescriptive.

David wanted to build a "house for God."

It was not his job or calling, but he did have the right sort of sentiment and a sentiment that would grow and be given space to be fleshed out in his son's calling.

He felt conviction that he lived in a nice house and the symbol of God's presence lived in a tent. The tent had worked during the days of travel and conquest. Now things were settling down. An historically brief golden age was emerging, a dynasty of a united kingdom that would exist for a relatively short time had begun.

Jerusalem would be the political and religious center of all the children of Israel in a way that would last a season before division, scattering, and infighting took hold.a long succession of evil, oppressive rulers would be punctuated by a few kings who were as sincere as David.

It would never be exactly the same again after the tragedy of the divided kingdom. Civil wars, fragmentation, occupation, destruction, rebuilding, more occupation, and eventually, Herod and the Romans.

After Herod builds a temple more to his honor than God's and uses it as an economic engine, Jesus steps forward denouncing empty religion and faith in any edifice.

The final temple was ultimately destroyed.

Jesus predicted it and then pointed to the temple of his own body which would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.

A tent had been very appropriate for a God on the move through the wilderness.

It was a rather nice tent at that.

Today, God prefers temples that move around more like tabernacles.

Back to David and his desire. Things were settling down and when things settle down, they settle in and institutionalism becomes the norm.

Perhaps David's desire was misguided or perhaps it was predictive or it may have just been a step toward the next phase of development.

It may have been all of those at the same time.

The truth is, we have no more Jewish temples and the only temples that have ever been prescribed and described for the Jesus movement have been those made of individual and collective flesh and blood.

But still, there is a principle that this verse illuminates.

Why should God be given less prestige, honor, and prominence than our social, political, economic, and personal structures?

Why should we treat God as an addendum to our lives?

Why should we give so little credence to ultimate and eternal values and so much to our own comfort and security?

Me first! Us first! America first! Anything first other than God, followed by the things people, and causes God cares about is sacrilegious and idolatrous. 

But that is where we live and who we have become.

There is a house to be built, but it is not always the house we think it is.



The Battle Within Is the Battle Without

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"In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem." (2 Samuel 11:1 ESV)

We live is a raw world where nations go to war to grab power and place and people commit adulterous sins which lead to even more devastating sins where lives are destroyed and ended. Some of those people have the hand of God upon them and they wrestle with their humanity on the battlefield and off.

I am not for war. I am for peace. However, the story is raw and real and about real and really raw people. David was the king and the leader. He was supposed to be somewhere else fighting another battle when he was in a position to fight the battle of his life - and lost. What if he had been where he was supposed to be?

He was not in his place and so he had to fight his battle within.

Whether it was right to go to war every spring just because it was spring is a matter for another discussion. The point is that he had a role and was not playing it and so, in the wrong place at the wrong time, his eyes fell upon Bathsheba and he wanted her.

He wanted her badly.

His lust was greater than his sense of duty, responsibility , and integrity. It was greater than his loyalty to a loyal friend. It was greater than his will power.

It was greater, in the moment, than his own strength and he did not cry out to God for strength.

That is because lust is a strange meeting place of need (or distorted perceived need based upon real need) and arrogant power than pivots the universe around our own egos.

He wanted it and he could have it ... so he took it.

David confused lust with love, self -satisfaction with self-giving, and self-entitlement with blessing upon his life.

David and we have placed our interests above all else in life. We have sought security, safety, wealth, and comfort at a terrible cost to ourselves and to others.

There will always be a battle unless we surrender to the enemy of our souls. Then, the battle will be over, but all will have lost.

Sometimes the bad choices begin when we choose to stay home and not be where we are supposed to be. Sometimes the safest and best place to be is in the line of fire and criticism for the sake of peace and rightesousness.

Choices can have devastating consequences. Two people died because of David's choice. Bathsheba was wounded in her heart. David was scarred for life. ....

But afterwards ...

Steadfast love and faithfulness met and righteousness and peace kissed each other.

That is the message of hope and that message still resounds.



Prompted by ... 72 years of shame, horror, fear, & disconnected living in a world on the brink. Weeping is our wisest word.


"So Don't tell me hate is ever right or God's will 
These are the wheels we put in motion ourselves
And the whole world weeps and is weeping still
Though shaken I still believe 
the best of what we all can be
And the only peace this world will know
Can only come from love." 

Carrie Newcomer

"God is love!"

Messy Lament

Lament gets pretty messy, gutsy, and honest to the nitty grittiest core of the seat of our emotions.

Yet, as raw and sometimes egocentric as it might appear, it is still prayer and part of the process of rearranging our thinking.

If you cannot pour out your most tumultuous cries to God, who knows you completely, what will you do with them? You have to pass through them and exhaust them to the point of moaning and fainting to the place where there is no prayer left for you to voice and no energy to deliver it --- sometimes.

Then, you let His prayers in and through you carry you to a new place, eventually, the high ground of love and praise. In the meantime, do not be afraid to let God see you at your worst. He already does and loves you anyway.

Psalms like this show us the dark side of ourselves so that we can be reassured that no darkness is stronger than God's light.

When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.- Psalm 77:3, ESV

Brought Low

We have often been brought low that we might be raised higher.

You are in water over your head and you go down. What happens? You come up. You breathe. You go back down and this time, there is a little more push and bounce and back up buoyancy lifts you. You start making choices to allow forward movement and rhythm.

Down and up and forward until you reach the shore. It is not swimming and it is not drowning. It is bouncing through the "brought low" experiences of our lives - many of our own making and resulting from our own sin and poor choices.

Mercy, forgiveness, grace, resilience, and buoyancy defy any notion that we must sink forever when we are brought low.

Do not remember against us our former iniquities;1
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low. - Psalm 79:8, ESV

Fleecing God

Lest we get smug about Gideon's quest and request for assurance and certainty, not the patience and extravagance of God.

He was undertaking a pretty big task and he did not want to go into it alone.

Fleecing may not be the most spiritually mature way to seek the will and call of God, but God meets us where we are when we seek Him and we need that!

Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.- Judges 6:39-40, ESV

A Different Sort of God

Joash had a history of collecting tribal gods and incorporating them into his world view and theology. However, when confronted about his son's moment of loyalty to THE ONE, he knew that he was comparing a god that needed to be contended for with a God who was capable of contending for himself.

It can be a defining moment when we stop trying to do for God what he alone can do for himself and simply do as we are told on our assumption that HE IS. We don't need to save God; we need God to save us.

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” - Judges 6:31, ESV


Feral Cats and Domestic Blue Jays


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It is 2006, or at least, it was.

It was a strange paradox.

My mother-in-law's apartment adjoined our house. As a result, we could witness all of her patio activity which included the feeding of her wild cats who were letting us get a few inches closer each month and a couple of blue jays who had no fear of humanity or felinity.

I was sitting at her dining room table one night as one of these jays hopped over to the cat's bowl and grabbed a food pellet. Within seconds, the same bird was back and then its mate.

If one of the cats interfered, the jay pecked its head.

A precarious peace emerged on the patio. The cats remained wild and the birds became rather tame.

What concerned me was that the jays seemed to be feeding their young with the pellets and they might have been learning some bad habits.

The first time I jotted down these reflections I thought I might discover some profound truth to share.

But I did not.

I guess sometimes, I just stumble over an interesting story -- at least to me.

Profundity can come later. Perhaps a stronger paradox will emerge as well.

It has not happened in the last eleven years, but I live on hope.




Psalm 27:4

Art from Bethel Cincinnati

"One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple."  Psalm 27:4

Asking and seeking the same thing --- ONE thing:

1. To Dwell
2. To Gaze
3. To Inquire


Worthless Labels

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Random Thoughts on Political Labels

Courtesy of some of my old tweets from 2009 or so ...

What if, for a month, all political discussions were in private in groups of adversaries who HAD to solve one problem each?

Could we function in a world where people and their views were not labeled in indelible ink?

Today's "liberal" is tomorrow's "conservative,"  today's "conservative," tomorrow's "liberal." Put away your meaningless scorecards.

What if we all considered every issue on its own merits without assigning it a box, category, or ideological label?

When did we start using "liberal" and "conservative" as nouns instead of adjectival modifiers? Seems like a denigration of the language.

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Unpacking Believing

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I know that not all of life can be summarized in acronyms and cute clever sayings.

I also know that when we say, "Just believe," that there is the danger of the same sort of simplistic manipulation.

It is simple. It is not simplistic.

I have thought about this acronym for the kind of belief that Jesus called for and that the early apostles proclaimed. I think it may help us remember some key points of New Testament believing - even in an age of "easy believism."


 Acts 16:31 – And they said, “Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

Here is an acronym for what it means to have saving faith:

B- Be convinced that God loves you and that Jesus died for your sins, rising again to give you eternal life. This is the gospel

E– Examine your life honestly in the light of God’s Word and admit your need of a Savior as a result of sin. The Holy Spirit will guide you through this process of conviction if you are open.

L– Let go of your sinful resistance and self-centered control of your life. Another word for this might be repentance, a turning from sin to God.

I– Invest your life completely in God. This is basic, gut-level trust and is necessary for the new life in Christ. Express this change of heart to God in prayer.

E– Eternalize your values. Stop adding up your assets the old way. Understand that eternal reality is true reality and that only what lasts forever is worth our lives.

V– Visualize a new life of freedom, forgiveness, and fullness based upon God’s grace, mercy, and power. This is the beginning of the exercise of faith in your life.

E– Embody the life of Christ within you by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, His indwelling presence. This is new birth.