Posts Tagged ‘Christian theology’

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Bestial Stupor

March 21, 2020

I have been reading through Soren Kierkegaard’s exploration of Abraham’s faith in  “The Kierkegaard Collection”.

His description:

“People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, birds of rare plumage, queerly deformed fishes, ridiculous breeds of men — they abandon themselves to the bestial stupor which gapes at existence, and they think they have seen something.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

I have never thought of the myriads of social media accounts chronicling something “astonishing” as feeding my bestial stupor.

That might be a little harsh.  However, I am reminded of my own bestial nature of gaping at the creation without ever considering that which is truly amazing…faith.

“But if I knew where there was such a knight of faith, I would make a pilgrimage to him on foot, for this prodigy interests me absolutely. I would not let go of him for an instant, every moment I would watch to see how he managed to make the movements, I would regard myself as secured for life, and would divide my time between looking at him and practicing the exercises myself, and thus would spend all my time admiring him.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

ancient antique armor armour

Photo by Maria Pop on Pexels.com

There are “knights of faith” living amongst, which are testimony of what is more miraculous than any of God’s other creation.  That is worthy of a pilgrimage to see; a pilgrimage to gape into the infinite.  However, you have to know what you are looking for because a true knight is easy to overlook.

“He lives as carefree as a ne’er-do-well and yet he buys up the acceptable time at the dearest price, for he does not do the least thing except by virtue of the absurd. And yet, and yet I could become furious over it — for envy, if for no other reason — because the man has made and every instant is making the movements of infinity. With infinite resignation he has drained the cup of life’s profound sadness, he knows the bliss of the infinite, he senses the pain of renouncing everything, the dearest things he possesses in the world, and yet finiteness tastes to him just as good as to one who never knew anything higher, for his continuance in the finite did not bear a trace of the cowed and fearful spirit produced by the process of training; and yet he has this sense of security in enjoying it, as though the finite life were the surest thing of all.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

We once called a pilgrimage to observe and learn from a Knight of Faith, discipleship.  Unfortunately, we don’t hear that term very often and even rarely take that sort of pilgrimage.  We have social media after all.

We have allowed a bestial stupor to blind us to the truly remarkable; exchanged the creator for the creation.

Let’s open our eyes to what makes angels rejoice.  Look around, there might just be a Knight sitting beside you worthy of amazement… worthy of imitation.

“The Kierkegaard Collection” is free: http://a.co/6alGyrH

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QUOTE (Oscar Cullmann) – Feb. 25

February 25, 2015

cullmann“The fountainhead of all false biblical interpretation and of all heresy is invariably the isolation and the absolutising of one single passage.”
~ Oscar Cullmann,

In honor of Oscar Cullmann, German New Testament Scholar, who was born on this day in 1902.

Resources:
February 25 – Today in Christian History
One Verse Heresies

 

 

 

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AM I SICK – Dec 29

December 29, 2014

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

After a month of eluding, it has happened.

An occasional dry cough has mined down into my bronchi to produce the rattling notes of illness. My sinus passages refuse to work in unison. They are contented to take turns passing air while the other throbs with the pressure of an impassable clog.

I am sick.

I had successfully managed to avoid this cold as it passed through our household. Germs have filled the confined atmosphere of a house sealed against the frigid winter weather. These germs have systematically progressed through my family – son to daughter to wife… and now to me.

I thought I had successfully eluded the buggers since wellness prevailed through our home for more than a week. Yet, there were signs that all was not well for a few days.

Sleep has been restless;
Sinus pressure has built;
And a tickle has been maturing in the back of my throat.

My wife asked me how I felt this morning and made an observation as to why my immune system may have now succumbed when it had been able to fend illness off for so long. “We haven’t been eating well lately,” is what she said.

It is true. We came off of our diet cleanse (SOUL CLEANSE) through the Christmas festivities. We have not been eating horribly but it surely hasn’t been as well as before.  Our diet might not be the sole reason for my illness, but I surmise that it was a significant contributor.

I came across a survey at Ligonier Ministries recently. The survey purported to take the temperature of America’s theological health.

TheStateOfTheology-InfographicThe survey concludes:

  • Answers are reflective of our “made-to-order” god.
  • The majority of Americans perceive “goodness” to be a better description of people then “sinful”.
  • The majority of Americans aren’t convinced of a literal heaven and hell.
  • Pluralism is rampant within our culture.
  • Our culture is anti-theological – we are in a new dark age.

The survey demonstrates that many professing Christians are theologically sick. After writing this blog for a couple of years, these survey conclusions do not surprise me. I regularly get emails and comments from individuals purporting beliefs that are anti-theological.  I wonder if one of the contributing reasons for the theological illness of America is our typical Christian diet.

I read Psalm 63 as part of my daily Bible reading this morning. I was struck by three words.

Earnestly
Thirsts
Faints

We will not earnestly seek after someone we don’t value. We will never wait for our thirst to be quenched by someone we don’t trust. Surely, we will never exert ourselves to the point of passing out for a belief we doubt.  I find these words very convicting because they do not describe me to the degree that I would like.

The passion of the Psalmist is the natural manifestation of a healthy soul. It is the result of someone regularly grounded on a dietary foundation of sound doctrine. It is through sound doctrine that the value of Christ is expounded; the trustworthiness of God is demonstrated; and doubts are answered.

Doctrine is not a bad word.

Doctrine merely means knowing what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. It is anti-theological to reject doctrine just because it is doctrine.  This attitude resigns us to a life of chronic spiritual aliments.

Let’s embrace a regular diet of theology and the passion that will come from a spiritual healthy life.  If you are interested in my thoughts on how to cure bad theology, check out CURING BAD THEOLOGY.

“People are cutting themselves off from 2,000 years of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the Word of God. We never want to exalt tradition over Scripture, but we still need to recognize that we are par of the historic body of Christ.” ~ Stephen Nichols

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your word.  Thank you for the centuries of ministry by the Holy Spirit to your children.  Lord, I want to be passionate about you.  I want to thirst for you.  I want to seek after you earnestly.  Give me that commitment to follow you and be obedient to you.  Draw me closer to you.  Heal me of my chronic spiritual aliments.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“PICKING THE THOUGHTS OF GOD” – Mar. 20

March 20, 2013

“But some believers, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5

Stretching before the 2006 NCAA Men's Division...It is the first day of spring.  Spring brings a very sacred time at the office where I work.  The first day of spring inaugurates March Madness and our office NCAA Basketball Tournament pool.

I stare at my bracket in befuddlement.  There are some schools on there that sound more like some bureaucratic anachronism; LIU Br/JMU, is that a college or some new pharmacological wonder.  My problem is that I have not followed college basketball very closely this last season.  My interest in college basketball has waned down to March Madness.

Therefore, I have very limited information upon which I can build bracket certainty.  I default back to what is familiar:

Duke, Kansas, and North Carolina – they are always good

Pac-12 Teams – they usually choke under the tournament pressure

Gonzaga – I have a soft spot for the small, Northwest school

Butler – Do they have some magic for another run?

I know that the bracket that I complete will be wrong.  There will be some Cinderella team that comes along and ruins a whole branch or the quality that I assume in some teams will be based on decade old traditions and misplaced.  Here are my  picks.

My bracket is made up of some knowledge and a lot of wishful thinking.

It seems like that many folks approach their faith much like the NCAA Tournament.  They pick out what they are going to believe based on a little bit of knowledge and a lot of wishful thinking.

We have enough evidence in the physical world around us to inform us that there is a God.  Beyond that, what can we really know about God?  Man’s rational approach to reasoning is based upon man’s own experience.  We apply evidence from our senses and make logical inferences to broader meanings and principles.  What if the truths that we seek are beyond our experience?  What if the true reality of the universe is beyond our senses?

God is beyond any man’s experience and senses.  Therefore, it is impossible for man to discover God.  A scientist will never be able to conduct an experience and proclaim, “I have discovered God.”  God had to reveal himself to us.  That was the only way for us to know him in a way beyond the fingerprint of creation.  God made himself known to mankind through His prophets and apostles by his own initiative.  He preserved that sacred revelation in His scriptures.

We get ourselves in all sorts of trouble when we think we can know God on our own.

The reality is that we will sometimes have strong debates about the revelation of God.  The early Church had such debates.  We are told that the early Church engaged in “no small dissension and debate” (Acts 15:2) and “much debate” (Acts 15:7).  These were debates between believers.  There was Paul and Barnabas on the one side and believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees on the other side.  The debates in the early Church were resolved by those who had received the direct revelation from God – the Apostles.  They relied upon God’s revelation.  We no longer have the apostles but God’s revelation through them is now within the wonderful texts of our Bibles.

There is much debate in the Church today.  There are people who assert that which the scripture calls sin as mere cultural remnants of an ill-informed past.  There are people who preach theological gymnastics to support realities that are clearly denied in the scripture.  They are creating a faith based on a little information and wishful thinking.  They have much less hope of discerning the thoughts of God than I do of picking the NCAA Basketball Champion.   I might get lucky; they won’t.

The debates that arise in the Church can be resolved in one place and one place only – the revelation of God.

Sola Scriptura – by scripture alone.

Any argument that runs counter to what is clear in the scripture is built on the foundation of human reasoning.  Those who follow their own knowledge and wishful thinking do so at their own peril and the peril of those who follow them.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your word.  Thank you for the scriptures that You have preserved for me in my Bible.  Father, do not let my pride lead me to beliefs and understandings that are not grounded in your revelation.  I know that it is by your grace and mercy that anyone can know you.  Thank you for revealing yourself to us, your creation.  Father, continue to protect your Church and your people from those who try to lead many astray by their own knowledge and wishful thinking.  Amen

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“CRASHING IN OUR FAITH” – Feb. 23

February 23, 2013

“Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.  But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there arose a sharp disagreement,
so that they separated from each other.” Acts 15:37-39a

DSC_0004Last fall I was training for my first triathlon.  I was a little nervous about all the race uncertainty.  I thought that it would be a good idea to ride the actual cycling course.  My hope was that riding the race route would alleviate some race day jitters.  A couple of weeks before the race, a friend and I packed up all of our gear and traveled to the site where I planned to cross-off a goal that I have had for a couple of decades.

My goal for the race was to average 20 mph so I was trying to cycle the course at that pace. I was on a part of the course that had a several mile long straight section followed by 90 degree turn at a road intersection.  I stopped pedaling as I approached the intersection.  There was no traffic to be seen so my intention was to make a long sweeping turn and immediately start pedaling in an effort to regain the speed I lost in the turn as fast as possible.

I came out of my handlebar drops and leaned into my turn.  I quickly crossed the opposite lane of traffic and traveled through the intersection.  That was when I realized that I was in trouble.  The trajectory of my chosen line was not going to keep me on the road.  My route now included the gravel of the road shoulder, a concrete irrigation ditch and a field.  There was not time to hit the brakes and stop. My only option was to try to alter my course with a little more lean and hope my tires held.

There is a point at which the force of a turn overcomes the ability of your tires to hold the road.  I discovered that point.  When I pressed for a little more on my turn, my tires slipped out from under me.   There was a moment of clarity as the tension throughout my bike was suddenly released.

I thought, “This is going to hurt.”

In the next instance, my chest hit the asphalt, followed by my chin as I unconsciously twisted to take the blow.  Apparently, my bike had gone airborne, along with my clipped in feet, so that the last part of my body to hit was my hip and legs.

I lay ingloriously stunned along the roadside after I had slid to a stop.  I was bleeding from various cuts and scrapes but there was not excessive pain coming from any particular joint and bone.  I gathered my senses as my friend checked out my bike.  Surprisingly, it was intact except for some scrapes and gashes. Since I only had some flesh wounds, we decided that we might as well complete our ride at a much reduced pace.

I had made a pretty big mistake and had paid the price.  I had crashed and left some DNA behind.  My choice was whether I was going to let my mistake take me out of the race.  I pretty quickly decided that I would learn from my mistake and take that experience and allow it to make me a better cyclist.  I now know how to turn better.  That crash has not dictated my future.

I wonder how many people have crashed in their spiritual lives and allowed that painful, miserable, and embarrassing experience dictate their lives from that point forward.

I am encouraged by the life of John Mark.  John Mark made a huge mistake.  He bailed on Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  They were just getting started and John Mark leaves them and heads back to Jerusalem where his mother lived.

It was a big deal.  I don’t know what his reason for leaving was but based on Paul’s response, I don’t think it was a very good excuse.  John Mark’s decision had some significant consequences.  Paul had lost his confidence in John Mark.  John Mark had shown that went times got tough he would run home.  Paul did not want to take that chance again.  The split up of the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas was centered on John Mark’s mistake.

How would you like to have one of your mistakes be the reason for an argument and split between two pillars of the early Church?

John Mark had some choices.  He could have let his mistake dictate who he was.  He could have refused to take any future responsibilities because he lacked confidence.  He could have been bitter and resentful of Paul.  He could have allowed his mistake to take him out of the race.

John Mark did not allow that to happen.  He stayed in the race and he learned from his mistake.

John Mark learned to be one of the most faithful of the early Church leaders.  It is John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark.  He is that Mark.  He was a faithful confidant of Peter and dictated Peter’s experience into one of the four gospels.  He proved himself and restored Paul’s confidence in him.  It was John Mark that Paul asked for when he was in prison in Rome.

“…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me in ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11

How wonderful is that?  John Mark went from a person that Paul did not want to do ministry with to a person that Paul found “very useful.”

That was only possible because Mark stayed in the race.

Mark crashed in a very painful and public display.  He caved when the pressure was applied.  He ran when his fellow servants needed him.  His mistake caused division.  He disappointed many of the people that he respected.  He did all of that.  I am sure that his crash stunned him; it probably dazed him for a while. I am sure that his poor decision caused him much pain but he did not get out of the race.

It is obvious that Mark took his mistake and learned from it.

He proved that he was “very useful.”  He proved that he could be relied upon.  He demonstrated that his mistake did not define his life.  He stayed in the race and God used him in some incredible ways.  Mark and the early Church were all beneficiaries of giving his mistake to the Lord and allowing our Lord to repair, restore, and teach from it.

God could have used another person if Mark had decided that his mistake was too big and painful.  Mark’s decision to live for God in whatever the Lord had for him resulted in him participating in the ministry of the Apostles.  That is an incredible privilege that was granted to Mark.  It would have been very sad for Mark to have missed out on being used by God just because he had crashed.

Maybe, you have crashed in your faith. 

Maybe, you have proven yourself unfaithful. 

Remember Mark. 

Don’t let your mistakes dictate your future.  Our God can restore and rebuild.  We just have to give it to God, trust Him, and give it some time.  That does not mean that our mistakes will not have consequences that hurt.  The question is what will you do with that pain?

Will you allow the pain of your mistake to sideline you or;

Will you allow your experience to make you “very useful?

Every person who has followed Christ for any length of time has made a mistake in their faith.  They are painful and embarrassing.  No one likes them.  However, we all face some decisions after a mistake happens.  We can take our ball, run home and abandon the race or we can stay in the race, learn from our mistakes and become better servants of our Lord and Savior.  It is up to us.

Let’s take our mistakes and become that person who others will seek out because the Lord has made us “very useful” for His work.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for not allowing our mistakes to dictate our future.  Thank you for rebuilding and restoring those things that in our flesh we have destroyed.  Father, use all of my mistakes.  Take those unpleasant and painful experiences and make me useful through the work of your Spirit.  Lord, please don’t leave me like I am.  Change me more and more into your image in spite of the mistakes that I have made..     Amen

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“I AM BLESSED” – Feb. 22

February 22, 2013

“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!  For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?  Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? Psalm 89:5-7

“Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.” Psalm 89:14:14-17

How are you doing this morning?

I am doing OK.  I would like for my work not to be so slow.  I would like not to have to deal with management issues.  I would like for winter to be over.  I would like to remodel our kitchen.  I would like my Church to feel more like home.  I would like to be rid of this nagging cough.  I would like to be in better shape. I would like to get more done in a day.

It is easy to come up with a list of things you would like to change.  My list is very minor.  I know that some folks are dealing with major issues.  I am blessed to have such an insignificant list of wants.

However, that is not why I am blessed.  I am not blessed because I have a good life.  I am not blessed because I am financially secure.  I am not blessed because my family and I are reasonable healthy.  I am not blessed because I am free to worship my God in the open.  I am not blessed because I have a nice home.

If I were to lose all of those wonderful things, I would still be blessed.

I am blessed because my God is in heaven and there is no one like Him.  I am blessed because His steadfast love and faithfulness goes out before Him and it washes over me.

Who is like the Lord in all the skies?  NO ONE!

Who among all the heavenly beings is like the Lord?  NO ONE!

Who can challenge the might of the Lord! NO ONE!

Who can rule the raging seas like the Lord?  NO ONE!

Who owns heaven and earth?  The LORD!

Who owns the world and all that is in it?  The LORD!

Who has a mighty arm and a strong right hand?  The LORD!

No one is like the Lord and He knows me.  The light of His face shines upon me.  It is His glory that gives me strength.

I am blessed. 

There is nothing in the world that is better than to be known by the God of the Universe.  The source of my blessing is outside of me.  It is outside of my physical comforts. The source of my blessing resides in the reality that the Lord, who is awesome above all, is my God.  He has shown me His steadfast love.  I swim in His steadfast love every single day.  He is faithful to me even when I am pitiful.  I am astounded and delighted by His faithfulness

I am blessed. 

I can’t even comprehend how blessed I am.  I am a child of  the Lord whose wonders are praised by the heavens.  That is who has adopted me.  It is His glory that fills my lungs and sets me upon solid ground.

I am blessed.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth will I make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1

PRAYER: Father, thank you for showing me steadfast love and your faithfulness.  Thank you for allowing your face to shine upon me.  I am so blessed because of You and You alone.  All praise and glory belong to you and you alone.     Amen

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“A LIFE-RING ON A SINKING SHIP” – Feb. 21

February 21, 2013

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

English: (ship) half-submerged and sinking.It is a peaceful night aboard a comfortable ship, sailing through calm waters.  You rest in  peaceful sleep in a warm bunk after a long day of leisure.  Dreams of adventures and loves fill your head as your mind is freed to follow its own meandering course of conscious-less bliss.

This state of peacefulness is suddenly shattered by an unnatural jerk, a shutter, and a metallic groan of a mechanized beast that knows it has just been slashed by a death blow.  You jerk up in your bed, fully alert but swimming through the confusion of panicked shouts, faint emergency lights, warning alarms, and an incessant trampling of feet.

You place your stocking feet to the cold floor and move with no clear directions but certain that movement is the only response to this unknown danger.  Upon leaving your room, the fleeing crowd grabs you.  It pulls you.  It pushes you. It assaults you.  Up and up the crowd of massed fear flows.  There is no fighting it.  It is impossible to resist the blind energy being release by those desperate to be saved.

The crowd spills onto the deck. A cruel and stinging wind bites your face.  The air is filled with panic.  You are surrounded by tears, anger, rage, desperation, wailing, and anguish. They are all seeking an expression, an answer, to what appears inevitable. This is not a respite.  This is not the expected calm that you sought when fleeing the metal walls of luxury that has turned into a tomb.    You try to calm yourself.  You try to think and get your bearings.

At the moment your brain begins to cope with this reality, a man with hands hardened by years at sea grabs you.  He pulls you close and screams in your ear so that he can be heard above the din of confusion.  “You have to jump.  We are going down.  There is not time,” he says these words and forcefully pulls you to the rail and with a push you are falling free from the only thing that feels safe.

You hit the water with the force of a heavy-weight’s upper-cut.  The cold momentarily blinds you.  It stuns you into a new reality.  You have 15 minutes.  You must be saved in 15 minutes or hypothermia with drag you to the depths.  “Think,” your brain screams!  You must think.  You must grab something that will be secure.  You must find the answer in all of this floating debris.  What will you place your trust in?  Deck chairs float past. A wooden pallet bobs precariously.  A person-less life jacket eases past, shocking you to the reality of the sharp-edge that you are standing upon. Death can just as easily slip you from your mortal restrains.

There are so many choices  you have to think through.  You grab one but it sinks.  You try another but it won’t hold you out of the water.  15 minutes.  Your time is passing.  It is hopeless.

English: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class J...
English: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua McGowan throws a life ring to a victim of a Rogue Wave kicked up by Hurricane Bill (2009) in Maine that killed a 7yr-old girl. (Image Credit – US Coast Guard) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is when you see the white ring.  A life-ring and it has rope on it!  Where did that come from? It wasn’t there a moment ago.  It doesn’t matter.  You flail your numb arms toward your only hope.  You must make it.  Swim; your life depends upon it.  Swim; even though you are feeling warm.  Swim; where did it go – focus; there it is; the white ring of hope.  One more stroke and you grasp it.  The moment you slip the ring under your shoulder, you feel the powerful tug of your salvation.  You hear the words, “I’ve got you.  You’re safe now.”

You’re safe now.  You are in the cradle of the only means by which you could be saved.

We are all in this position of being aboard a sinking ship.  Mortal death is a cruel, inevitability for every person walking the face of this earth.  However, we are all spiritual beings, so death is not an end for any of us.  We all will face God at our death.  We all will be judged.  We have all earned a judgment of eternal punishment – hell.

There is an escape from God’s judgment.  Jesus Christ came to save us from the punishment that we have earned.  He came and paid the price for your sin and my sin.

Jesus did not come to make our lives better.  He did not come to make our cruise-ship a little more luxurious.  He did not come for us to sit on a sun-deck to be served mojitos and fried shrimp.  He came to be our life-ring.  He came to drag us away from certain destruction.  He came to save us because there is no other way.

There are many who will point to other ways to be saved.  There are even some Christians who shrug to the possibility of other ways for us to be saved.  There is no scriptural basis for that indifference.  Jesus is as clear as He can be:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)

Causally conceding multi-ways to God to a seeking person is like directing a drowning person to a floating deck chair or bobbing pallet.  There is no salvation in those.  They will perish in their delusional hope.  To suggest that there are paths to salvation other than Christ is a cruel hoax draped in the illusion of compassion.

There is salvation in no one else.  Jesus is our life-ring.  Grab Him with all of your mind, heart, and soul.  Cling to Him because your eternal life does depend upon it.  Let’s shout at the top of our lungs to our fellow ship mates and direct them to the only thing that will save them as we are being pulled to our salvation.  We only have a short time until we are gone.

Let’s get as many as we can into the arms of our Savior.  He is their only hope.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for reaching out and pulling me to yourself.  Lord, I know that my salvation is in you alone.  There is no hope in any other god or religion.  You are the only way.  Father, may I never proclaim a false gospel of multi-paths to you.  May I never soften the truth of your saving grace for fear of a confrontation of awkward discussion.  Lord, grant to me the strength and courage to speak your word with all boldness.  May your Spirit work in the hearts of all those who are lost and draw them to yourself.     Amen

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