Tag Archives: Jesus

You Can Turn Water Into Wine

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There has been a lot of discussion about refugees in the news of late and a dialog of fear often accompanies the conversation. There are dire situations around the world that result in people being displaced from their homeland due to wars, persecution or natural disasters.  This officially makes the people involved, refugees–in pursuit of refuge.  This can happen in a land far away or in your own community. It’s not new news, but it appears to be happening with greater frequency and is a popular topic.
We often think of refugees as foreigners- perhaps from the middle east. However, I find there are also local people who have become displaced  for any number of similar reasons- the spouse that raises a hand as a solution, the family whose home was struck by a tornado,  the couple living on the financial edge at the brink of disaster, the “outsider”
who isn’t like us in one way or another and their life is made a living hell.
Refugees are near and far.  Any fear we muster pales in comparison to what someone being displaced must feel.
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When I grew up there were two young girls who joined our school mid-year.  They were from Cambodia.  Speaking absolutely no English they were integrated into my fourth grade class.  Thankfully they were fairly well accepted and we oblivious girls tried to make them feel welcome.  We had no idea about their nightmares,  or the devastating sights they must have seen in their homeland.  We rode our bikes, played with our dolls, ran outside for freeze tag and kick ball without a second thought.  Refugees were fairly unusual in our middle class, suburban neighborhood at the time.
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In a completely different situation I recall two siblings temporarily staying with my family because their father was dealing with mental illness.  I remember driving down a busy avenue looking out the back window with fear their dad might come after us.  I couldn’t have imagined what was going on inside our friends.  I selfishly harbored a high level of anxiety -probably not thinking twice about how they must have felt.
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Not too long ago a woman from Iran spoke in the church about the growing population of Christians in her homeland.  We saw images of hundreds of people being Baptized and heard amazing stories of people coming to know Jesus.  Talk about fear,  this woman’s  life is in constant danger.  She and her family have been imprisoned and threatened over what they are doing.  Yet, she has the passion and calling to continue with her efforts as a Christian converting Christians in a land of few Christians. Photos cannot be shown for her protection. Worth noting is the extreme danger she is under and the strength of her convictions.
Most are familiar with stories of families in World War II who hid persecuted men, women and children from the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi regime.  The fear of being discovered and sent to a concentration camp- how could they face each day?  Underlying thoughts of fear and trepidation must have engulfed them.
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While we, in our warm homes with stocked refrigerators, scan our tech devices for funny photos and celebrity tweets, have we considered the desperate situation that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are facing each day?  It’s easy to forget the tent dwellers thousands of miles away as we cozy up to our memory foam mattress.
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There’s another refugee story, from the middle east, involving a couple who needed a place to rest following a long journey.  The woman was going to have a child soon.  There wasn’t a great place for them to stay because there were already so many people in the area. I can’t say with certainty what their accommodations ended up being, but I have read that  the setting was not ideal.  After the baby was born he was placed in a feeding trough for horses and cattle.
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The birth went well, but not too long after, the family had to uproot themselves and go from their homeland to a foreign land.   They had to hide from a horrible king whose mission was to find this particular baby and kill him.  The family became refugees. They somehow survived the journey to the far off land and maintained an existence there until they could safely return to their homeland. The baby was not harmed.
You might be familiar with this family too.  In fact, we just celebrated the occasion of their baby’s birth…Christmas.  The baby’s name was Jesus and he, along with Mary and Joseph, lived as refugees until they could be safe.
With all of these stories it becomes evident that, aside from having amazing perseverance and determination,  there were people who surrounded the victims to help them and provide as they could.  Though not every story has a happy ending, during the time of refuge these people were cared for.  I imagine the love shown through small gestures to the refugees was worth more to them than the effect that any amount of money could provide.
When I look at today’s refugee crises around the world I ask what can be done to help?  What better place to look than the Bible?  There are stories of refugees from just about the beginning of time.  We are given clear direction on how to care for them.
Feed the hungry,
Give drink to the thirsty,
Provide rooms for the homeless,
Offer clothing for warmth,
Visit the sick and imprisoned.
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Every time you do this for one of Jesus’ children, and we are all Jesus’ children, it is like you are doing it for him.  I don’t want to carry that burden because it’s simply not the right thing to do.
Without regard to where you stand politically, we are called to take care of all people. Politics get in the way and delay taking action.  The week I heard the Iranian woman share her journey to Christianity the following was said:
People who think do not change the world.
People who act change the world.
People who think and act change the world forever.
When you do what Jesus tells you to do, water will turn to wine.
Write a check, provide food, purchase or donate clothing, make yourself available, extend a welcome, cook a meal, say hello or offer a smile.  Help turn water into wine.
There are many organizations who provide aid to refugees.  One that I put my trust in is Lutheran World Relief  –  http://lwr.org/

Europe and the Syrian Refugee & Migrant Crisis

Wellwishers offer warm clothing to Syrians after they arrived on a train from Budapest's Keleti station at the railway station of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, early morning September 6, 2015.
Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach, courtesy of Trust.org

 

AS THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA CONTINUES, the number of civilian casualties, internally displaced people and refugees continues to grow. According to UNHCR, 11.6 million people are in need of assistance, 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria and over 3.9 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and countries in North Africa.

LWR’s Response

  • Supporting ACT Alliance members in providing humanitarian support. ACT members are providing hygiene items, winter coats and blankets, emergency shelter and psychosocial support in Hungary, Serbia and Greece.
  • We are in contact with the ACT Alliance to determine additional needs on the ground. We will continue to channel our support to the refugee crisis through the ACT Alliance to ensure a well-coordinated response.
  • Lutheran World Relief is shipping Mission Quilts, Baby Care Kits and Personal Care Kits to Serbia to distribute to refugees and migrants. Since October 2012, LWR has provided $7.05 MILLION in assistance to Syrian refugees, reaching more than 235,912 BENEFICIARIES.

YOU CAN HELP

  • Give to the Crisis in Syria fund. Your cash donations will support the response of our partners in the ACT Alliance.
  • Make Quilts and Kits. Donating Quilts and Kits helps ensure we have an adequate supply to send around the world to partners who request them, as well as in response to emergencies.
  • Pray for the people affected by this crisis and the humanitarian aid staff working to reach them.
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Whose God is He Anyway?

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The first time I heard this unconventional song (see below for video)  it took time to process.  It had me thinking, and I had to take a step back and examine myself- my beliefs. Did I believe what I thought I believed?  Was what I believed right? Was God the God of thieves, whores, pedophiles even?  Isn’t this truth?  Why was I rethinking it?   I wanted to believe my God was also “their” God, but was I able to get beyond the “want” to the certainty of it?

When you read about the underbelly of society in the Bible the words used aren’t quite as direct as in this day and age.  They don’t feel like “pedophiles” and “whores”.  These are more uncomfortable to me.  Was I judging?  I don’t believe in judging…do I?

Biblically, sin is sin.  It’s hard to discern from reading the Bible that one sin is worse than another- except disavowing God. The consequences of sins vary greatly which may make us think some are worse than others. I have to admit at this point we may not agree. It’s challenging to fathom speaking poorly about someone behind their back is as bad as a sexual sin.  I kind of reconcile that dealing with our sin is God’s responsibility when it is all said and done.  It’s not that I don’t have to worry about my sins or those of anyone else.  There are things, though, I/we just can’t fathom here on earth.  I trust that God is omnipotent and takes care of it in His amazing way(s).   All things… work together for good… to them that love the Lord… and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Though I didn’t recognize I had issue with this, there was something nudging me as I listened to Kees Kraayenoord’s song.  I had to reconcile myself to the idea that the God I love and who loves me, is the same God who loves people who do despicable things. My God is everyone’s God.  He isn’t just here for me.  He’s not just mine.  He isn’t the God for only those who do good or live in a way that is pleasing to me.  He is the God of/for everyone…the worst of the worst and the best of the best.  He is the God of the Moon and the Stars and I come to Him.

People do unspeakable things.  I don’t agree with the choices everyone featured in this song makes.  I don’t agree with all the choices I make.  I have awaken to the notion there is one God and He is the God of all.  He loves us all.  His forgiveness is accessible to all.

Don’t watch this for the visuals or video dynamics.  You will be disappointed.  Watch and hear this for the words it expresses.

Completely thought provoking.

Paid In Full

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Fear, Hatred, Loss, Pain, Sadness, Grief, Loneliness, Hurt, Anger, Maliciousness, Murder, Greed, Theft, Anxiety, Depression, Cancer, Broken Spirit, Lies, Adultery, Betrayal, Meanness, Accidents, Harm, Cheating, Worry, Carelessness, Low Self Image, Illness, Lament, Burdens, Weariness, Bad Decisions, Falseness, Denial…____________…paid for at the cross… for those who believe…He Is Alive!

 

For God So Loved The World He Gave His Only Son To Die For Us, That Whoever Believes Will Not Perish, But Have Eternal Life!

John 3:16

Walking On Water

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Sometimes I share things from on line resources that are said in a great way that I can’t really make any better.  Today I came across a devotion that is brief and to the point with a message that unfortunately I need to hear time and time again.  I need to hear it over and over because I am just like the followers of Jesus who saw an amazing miracle of feeding 5000 with a few fish and loaves of bread and then forgot all about it when the next hill to climb presented itself.  

(from LCC Devotions  devotion@lutheranchurchcharities.org)

Walking On Water – Part 1

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. Matthew 14:22

When you find yourself in trouble, do you sometimes think, ‘I must have done something wrong, perhaps I’ve missed God’s will and He’s punishing me’? No. Trouble is multi-sourced, and frequently unrelated to our wrongdoing or God’s punishment. The disciples weren’t in the storm by disobeying, but by obeying Jesus; not by rejecting God’s will, but by embracing it. The Bible says, ‘… Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go… ’, and they obeyed. At times you’ll find yourself in troubled waters because you did what was right rather than what was popular, easy or selfish. (I don’t know if I’ve really thought of that in that way before myself). When that happens, here are some helpful lessons from the disciples’ experience: 1) Obedience doesn’t guarantee there will be no storms. The disciples had just seen Jesus feed five thousand people with five bread rolls and two fish, and end up with more food than He started with. Shouldn’t their faith have been strengthened? Yet they forgot it completely when fear came knocking. Jesus had told them He’d meet them on the other shore, yet they forgot His miracle-working power and His promise and gave in to anxiety (Guilty). Understand this: When God doesn’t solve your problem, He will show up in the middle of it and cause you to come out with your faith fortified.

2) Fear doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s just a reminder that you’re human, and, like the disciples, you’ve forgotten Who has the power and Who’s in charge. And these are lessons that transform your trial into triumph.

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I have often felt a failure for not having more faith in Jesus whom I profess to be my Lord and Savior.  Do I really believe that?  In my heart of hearts I have to say, YES!  But, how can I then forget about the fishes and loaves and panic when the new storm is coming?  Jesus must have known the outcome of calling the disciples to the boat and their reaction to Him walking on the water.  They freaked- at least Peter did. I would probably be the same way.  But, Jesus kind of created a freaky situation so He could remind them of His power and calm them.  By doing that their faith could grow.  Jesus gives opportunities over and over again to show we can trust Him; have faith in Him.  It’s one of the hardest things I have tried in my life.  Trusting in something I can’t see; trusting in Jesus. He has yet to let me down, but I continue to have moments of panic through difficult times.

Someone once used an analogy with me in talking about how we build muscle.  To an extent you actually tear the muscle when you work it out and your body goes into repair mode to fill in the gaps and make it stronger (pardon me if I don’t have the exact science of that down right).  The point is sometimes to become stronger we need a little pain and restructuring so that we will come back stronger.   In relation to this blog it means that with each challenge, worry and anxiety-maker we face, we hopefully get a little stronger and are better able to rely on the presence of our Father to walk through it with us and bring all to a satisfactory conclusion.  To be satisfactory, though, the outcome must be what God wants it to be and not what we want it to be.  That hurts sometimes and reminds me of my selfish nature.

None of us wants trials.  No one wants pain or hurt.  God has proven we need that so we can learn though. If our trials keep us growing in our faith that gives us opportunity to reach the lives of others who don’t have that certainty.

God doesn’t call us to do a lot in our lives really.  He calls us to bring others to Him.  His message is simple-Love Him/Love Others; God first.  As selfish people we have a really hard time believing our time on earth is that simple.  And the opportunities are there though we don’t always seize them.  

There is an end of the line for each of us- hard as that is to say.  God knows the plan and He puts me and you in places to do the work He wants us to do- even though we often have no idea what it is.  I haven’t become wise enough to deal with my trials in a completely obedient and trusting manner. That probably means more “opportunities” to practice trusting Him are in my future.  As I grow I am hopefully impacting the lives of others around me who can see my faith expanding and joy that my faith brings.   I expect my life will be that way to the very end- whether I have many years to go or I will be called home in short order.   It would be my honor to face God with all the trials in my timeline of life,  and be able to show with each one I’ve trusted Him more and more so He will say to me, “Well done good and faithful servant- you touched lives for me and you made a difference.”  

 

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Hanging blanketsIt’s been a while since I’ve written.  I just couldn’t get in the right mood or I didn’t feel like I had the right story.  Though my family and I recently made an unexpected and unplanned-for move away from the state filled with our family and friends, there was some novelty about the whole adventure that took me by surprise…in a good way.

However, now we’ve been here a few months and the novelty has worn off.  The reality of my life as it is and not as it was is painfully obvious at times.   My immediate family and I are kind of out here on our own. We have some distant family connections, but that doesn’t mean an automatic replacement for the family we left.  We’ve gotten to know people in our neighborhood and my workplace, but they don’t just take the spot of those people who were some of the most important in my life.

We are really strangers in this place and I have no idea what our purpose is.  It’s not clear at this time.  I do believe there is a purpose, but I recognize it could be years before it makes sense.  I feel like I’m in God’s remedial class.  I’m with the people who don’t get it even after the lesson has been taught time and time again.  Fortunately, as much as I fail the final test, He lets me back in the door and is patient with me over and over again.

Among the many areas I’m a little heart-broken about is not having connection to a church family.  You do not realize the impact of that setting until you don’t have it any longer.  As regular church attenders we find ourselves judging what each church we try doesn’t have vs. what it does.  I believe my family and I have tried close to 10 churches since we’ve moved.  We’ve gone places both in and out of our denomination.  We find something wrong with each and every place.  My husband tends to evaluate on how long the service lasts and what the building looks like.  I don’t care about the service time, but I want the place to “feel” right- whatever that means.  We both typically agree that the Pastor’s delivery has to hit us right.  We even let our 10 year old have a voice in the matter.  It does please me to say that this is an important area for us.  I feel my soul is closer to God in a church–not a building, but a church community.

One place we thought we really liked delivered its weekly message via a satellite connection because the membership was so large they had different sites worshipping at the same time.  We finally admitted it wasn’t happening for us.

The next forerunner has two different preachers.  We heard one who we really liked, and then every other time we went it was the other one who we didn’t care for at all.

Today we went back to a place we’ve tried  three different times.  We’ve had different reviews for each visit.  It’s the one closest to our home and it happens to be our denomination.   It’s not perfect, but our chances of being on time for the service are much better than the places that are twenty minutes away.  Additionally, we got to thinking as we find a place for our 10 year old to be involved it will be nice that she would know others who might also go to school with her.  I must also admit, I was envisioning having to shuttle her back and forth for events and thinking I’d like about a 5 mile radius if possible.

kids-walking-to-schoolOff to the service for which we were late by the way. I’ve got to keep working on that.  We came in about the time they were giving a blessing to all the kindergarteners starting school this week.  A group of adorable five year olds came forward wearing their back packs and holding the hands of their parents.  The Pastor and the Youth Minister talked to the kids, blessed their backpacks and gave the parents a sheet of Bible verses that could be cut and reviewed with the child each day as they went off to school or came home.  It made so much sense to me and was adorable to boot.  Only puppies could have amped that up further.

However, the part that touched my heart the most was when the high school graduates were called forward with their parents.  Each family brought a blanket with them and at the appropriate time the blanket was placed on the shoulders of their child.  It was blessed with the reminder that God’s love is wrapped around the child no matter where they are.  The Pastor talked about how the parents and the church had been a part of their lives and would never leave them.  Three different officiants took a part of the blessing and each one got choked up when they spoke.The best was when the youth minister started to get teary and said he didn’t even have any children.

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My tears of joy and empathy flowed too.  I didn’t know a single kid up there, nor their parents.  However, I could relate to the feelings of being a parent.  I could relate to the feelings of being an aunt to my nieces and nephews and feeling the same way.  I could relate to the deep friendships I have and how important the children of those people are to me.  It made me realize how truly serious the words are that we say at a Baptism even when we are not the parents–we will help these children grow in the love of Jesus Christ.  Today I realized I wanted that for all those around me and especially for those I personally love.  I don’t want to see a single one with hurt feelings, or walking through loss, or believing their life is so terrible they can’t live on this earth anymore.

I want them to grab their blanket and wrap up tightly knowing they are surrounded by love even in places where they hardly know anyone’s name, where they still don’t know directions to common places, where they are missing their family and friends terribly.  I’m not a graduate of anything this year, but I’m going to wrap a blanket around myself tonight and remember God’s promises to me.  When my tears come I will wipe them away with that blanket.  When my child is hurting I will hold her with that blanket.  When I just don’t get it I will tug at that blanket and wear myself out trying to make sense.  Then I will seek the comfort and peace The Blanket brings to me recognizing I’m wrapped in it forever and the only way out is if I make that choice.  I don’t think I ever will, but even if I do, the amazing part is The Blanket will always be there to give His warmth again.  The Blanket will never leave me or you.  It will never let go.

Stay warm.

 

Wrapped in Love

What’s love got to do with it?

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ImageToday’s entry is going to get twisty-turny in where we end up here so come along for the ride.  This has been a tough week.  I can sum up how things have been going by two events that I experienced yesterday and another from earlier in the week.  

I was in my car trying to eat something for lunch and get back to my job in a reasonable amount of time.  Admittedly I was driving and eating at the same time which was probably not the best choice.  Further, I made the poor decision of choosing to eat from a container of cole slaw that came with the basically average fried chicken meal not meeting my expectations.  

I got the brilliant idea to put a plastic bag on my lap to hold the fold up cardboard box that my meal was presented in.  I opened the coleslaw and was pretty much savoring it when I realized my pants and “sitting area” were getting a cool sensation that didn’t feel normal.  I turned off the road to investigate what was going on and I found that juice from the coleslaw container was seeping out and running down my leg to my buttocks.  My pants soaked up the liquid like a dry sponge.   I got back to work, rushed to the bathroom, took off my pants and doused them with water.  Thankfully, I found a blow dryer to absorb most of the water and uncomfortably headed back to my work space.  For about an hour I felt like I was sitting in a wet bathing suit.  I laughed about the incident with my colleague and filed it in my mental cabinet under lessons to learn.  

Later in the day I picked up my daughter.  I parked and went to meet her.  As I got closer I realized my right sandal was sticking to the ground with a greater connection to the cement than the left one.  Yes, I had stepped in gum and there was a nice clump of grass attached to it.   Again to a bathroom to try and clean up the mess I had gotten myself into.  It was gross and disgusting.

Earlier in the week as I walked my dog a neighbor’s pet ran out to let my dog know who was chief.  He showed his teeth and took a patch of fur from my dog’s curly locks.  There was no yiping involved so I assume in doggie communication some restraint was shown by the big bad dog that chased after mine and he was basically saying let it be known, I’m the boss.  After I gave the attacking dog my best Cesar Milan “ch” and then sternly said no, the dog cowered a bit and went back to his home.  My dog went about her merry way.  The joke of it is my dog just wants to have fun.  She’s not looking to be boss of anything.  I guess the approaching dog just needed to make sure of that. 

Those silly incidents sum up the week I’ve had in all areas of my life.  And I’ve been questioning a lot.  Not about cole slaw and gum- why God why?  No, those types of situations just demonstrate the craziness that surrounds me- often because of my own poor choices.  Sometimes to no fault of my own.  They make the tougher life issues palatable in some way perhaps?  Maybe they just put a real spin on how I sometimes take my life issues too seriously.  

At work I’ve been battling against the forces of non-sensical decision making and it’s tiring.  I question back and forth is it maybe me that’s not making sense?  Can a system invented by so many well meaning and smart people be so off course? 

I listen to the rantings on radio programs about what political view is right and why the other party is so wrong.  I hear stories in the daily news about current events that involve one group of the masses vying to get a first look at the new born future King of England and another group trying to make sense out of a devastating life altering event that has people greatly divided and arguing over racism and gun laws.

Locally, a family man went out for a run the other evening and didn’t come back.  A search party has been looking for three days.  He was finally found, dead, by a construction worker who was working in the area.  There may be foul play and there may not be.  It has not been determined yet.  Whatever the outcome, the lives of so many people are impacted by this devastating turn of events.  

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How does God maintain all of this?  How does he watch over it all?  What does He choose to be involved in and what does He watch from afar?  How does He say I need to let my people handle this on their own and how does He live with the poor choices people make when He chooses to step back and let them happen?  Is my current life struggle really important to Him?  Should I just handle it on my own and not involve Him? 

I try to humanize God because it’s what I can relate to.  I know we are made in His image so that leads me to take a literal view and assume that what I feel He feels.  

And there’s Jesus.  The way He managed life on earth day to day is beyond my scope of understanding.  I know the frustration of being surrounded by a dozen people with varying skill levels and opinions and trying to get them all to work toward the same common goal.  He’s the epitome of delegation and finesse.  And I need to study that more.  

He didn’t care about being popular.  He cared about doing what was right.  He cared about people – especially people no one else cared about- and didn’t pay mind to what anyone else thought of Him and His actions.

Are my issues important in light of all that is happening around me?  Is my pain insignificant in a world where people are giving up their lives for important causes, where people hunger and thirst, where types of people are treated abominably?

Once again, I have forgotten He is God.  He created the heavens, earth, stars, moon, sun, water, vegetation, animals, oceans and people. That should be enough to recognize His power and ability as well as making creative solutions.

ImageIn the Bible it says to imitate God (Eph 5)- live a life of love.  What’s love? Patience, kindess, not envious or boastful.  It’s not rude or selfish.  Love makes anger come slowly and it doesn’t keep track of what someone did wrong. It doesn’t delight in evil and loves truth.  Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

This makes me wonder if a lot of things that I think are important God is simply not concerned with because it’s not about love.  I’m probably due for a priority check.  If I wrote down the things that drove me crazy this week would they really be that important?  More important, did I show love this week?  Did I experience love this week?  Did I give love away?  Maybe love is the issue I should check myself on regularly.  

I cannot understand why people hate people who are not like themselves.  I can’t understand why a good friend would succomb to a terrible illness.  I can’t understand why people I work with can’t recognize the challenges they feed into with their choices.  I can’t understand why my husband and I can feel completely opposite on a current event issue.  Hey, I can’t understand why another dog isn’t nice to my dog.  I can’t understand why my daughter wants to have a lunch box of a certain style because a popular girl has one.  

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I can understand love.  I get what it means to be patient, kind, not envious or proud.  I know how to do that.  I get slowness to anger, not being boastful, trust and perseverance.  These are things I can work on.  I probably need a list near me to remind myself, but I can address each of my daily issues in light of love and maybe feel different about my life.  I’m going to put it to the test.  Hopefully I’ll have good news to report next time I write.  

If I fail, and it’s likely I’ll have a bit of failure along the way, I’ll remember sitting in cole slaw sauce and walking on a chunk of furry gum.   Then maybe I’ll look at myself in the mirror and say, “ch” the Cesar Milan way.  Most importantly, I’ll push to remember love and what it  means.  That God loves us which means all of those characteristics that define love, define God. 

There are just some unanswerable questions in life that we don’t understand.  He does.  What I constantly remind myself is that life on this earth is not what it’s all about.  We are here for a temporary purpose.  It’s what’s on the other side that is the long run and what we hope for in Christ Jesus.

Love has a lot to do with it, but it’s Jesus’ love, and not our own that has made the difference.  That’s what love has to do with it. 

 

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Are you ready?

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Since I’m on my Anointed kick I had to add this video to offer a “two-for” at no extra charge! This song is the one that turned my ear to Anointed. It had so much soul and feeling. This song led me to Take Me Back showcased in the prior post. They are completely different in style, but an equally important message. The Lord is coming so get ready. We don’t know when it’s going to be…tonight?

1 Thessalonians 5:2
…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.