OBEDIENCE AND THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

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[This was a letter I wrote in response to an online conversation of our organic fellowship I am a part of]

Hey Matt & body!
First, I am concerned that those who may not know you as well as I do, may read the below email as if it was written with a spirit of contention.  I know your heart & because I do, I know you wrote it in love.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure no one was distracted by a misunderstanding. Blessings!!!

Let me start by stating publicly how much I appreciate Matt & Elisa’s heart for the lost AND for Jesus’ body.  Matt, I have always appreciated your lens from which you see Jesus & His body.  You are right on when it comes to “obedience” (daily sanctifying walk) and it is born out of and rises from our new life (finished work of Christ IN us). Both your heart & Dave’s heart regarding truth are desperately needed, because it helps us be a healthier body.

I want to briefly further weigh in on this discussion.  First, it is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ body in action. Only when we share life together do we get the complete picture of HIM.  Both Matt & Dave are right on.  We work OUT that which WAS worked IN!!! Phil. 2:12b-13 says, “…but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  

Our life in Christ is not “positional” nor is it “legal”. It IS what it is. A new life for a dead man.  As this new person, according to Col. 3:1 & Eph. 2:6, I have been raised (past tense-finished work) with Jesus and I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. I AM forgiven…sanctified…holy…righteous…etc. etc. So…..now what?

Obedience without life (resulting in an intimate loving relationship) is religion and breeds death. In the NT, the phrase “bond servants” is used 12 times after the resurrection. What a glorious picture of our life in Jesus.  You see a bond servant was considered as a true part of the master’s family. His gratitude & love was so strong for his master when he was an indentured servant that he wanted to spend his life in lovingly service to his master.  True obedience IN CHRIST therefore, is a natural by product of the life we DO have as HIS SON’S/DAUGHTERS.  What are we obeying after all?  His voice…His heart…His passion…His desires!!! It is born out of a deeply intimate life with Jesus.

I spent a long time in my walk with Jesus “working hard for Jesus” and to be obedient & was also taught & told to so. This kind of life sent me deeper into a life of addiction and sin. Why? Because the law produces death…period.  Yes obedience should definitely be a part of our lives, because it is the natural by-product of the life we receive.  Hence the beauty of living in community together as His body.  We should be sharing our passions & desires that Jesus has placed in us to encourage and stimulate growth in HIS body.

I think the challenge is somewhat semantical. Obey is a verb; Obedience is a noun.  If you do a search, obey as it is primarily directed to the disciples, is used by Jesus prior to the cross & resurrection…hence under the old covenant. Whereas obedience (what we have in Jesus) is used in the New Covenant.  Jesus was burying those He taught under the burden of the law in order to accomplish the work of the law which is to lead them to their Savior (Himself.) (Also read Gal. 3:24-25.) We need to be careful regarding the preaching of “obeying” that is not born out of life in Jesus (intimacy.) Why? I Cor. 15:56 says, “…and the power of sin is the law.”

As for 1 Jn. 2:6, the logical question is how did Jesus walk? He walked in absolute dependency on His Father as the very sustenance of life.  Remember Jesus said He only spoke & did what Father told Him too. Again, this was born out of that intimate, real life that He experienced with our Father.

Therefore, brother Matt & Dave we must encourage each other to be diligent to DO somethings:

Eph 4:3 = “…to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.”
2 Tim 2:15 = “…to present yourself approved [accepted/pleasing] to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 
[my favorite] Heb. 4:11 = “…to enter that rest [Jesus], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [like the Jews who did not enter His rest]”
[I believe we should be “striving” and “working” to encourage & stimulate each other to walk in the REST that IS ours IN Jesus]
2 Pet. 1:10 = “to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
2 Pet 3:14 = to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”

I am not writing this response as a defense to anything or as an indictment on anyone.  I love the body & long to see us walk in love and harmony in the truth.  We are ALL unique parts of Jesus body (life) and we each provide a glorious balance to each other.  Let us walk in the obedience that is ours & walk in truth and total dependency on Jesus who IS our life.  There is so much more that I would like to write, but I will spare you my beloved family…LOL!

I want to conclude with Peter’s words:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

A JESUS MANIFESTO!

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THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE POST BY FRANK VIOLA & LEONARD SWEET.  IT IS NOT ONLY A MUST READ, BUT IS ABSOLUTELY A TRUTH TO BELIEVE!!!

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Posted by jesusmanifesto on the June 22, 2009

A Magna Carta

for Restoring the Supremacy of

Jesus Christ

a.k.a.

A Jesus Manifesto

for the 21st Century Church

by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Christians have made the gospel about so many things … things other than Christ.

Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces floating around in space.

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you have touched him who is Life. And in him resides all Truth, Values, Virtues and Gifts in living color. Beauty has its meaning in the beauty of Christ, in whom is found all that makes us lovely and loveable.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person. Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human connection.

In that regard, we feel a massive disconnection in the church today. Thus this manifesto.

We believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”

In this hour, the testimony that we feel God has called us to bear centers on the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically . . .

1. The center and circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including things related to him and about him, are eclipsed by the sight of his peerless worth. Knowing Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.

2. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount.

3. God’s grand mission and eternal purpose in the earth and in heaven centers in Christ . . . both the individual Christ (the Head) and the corporate Christ (the Body). This universe is moving towards one final goal – the fullness of Christ where He shall fill all things with himself. To be truly missional, then, means constructing one’s life and ministry on Christ. He is both the heart and bloodstream of God’s plan. To miss this is to miss the plot; indeed, it is to miss everything.

4. Being a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and ongoing, as the One “who was and is to come” now is and lives his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it, “partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son of God himself. How can we not be fired up?

To put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father. After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means “trust and obey” (respond), and living by his indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

5. The “Jesus of history” cannot be disconnected from the “Christ of faith.” The Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee is the same person who indwells the church today. There is no disconnect between the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel and the incredible, all-inclusive, cosmic Christ of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Christ who lived in the first century has a pre-existence before time. He also has a post-existence after time. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, A and Z, all at the same time. He stands in the future and at the end of time at the same moment that He indwells every child of God. Failure to embrace these paradoxical truths has created monumental problems and has diminished the greatness of Christ in the eyes of God’s people.

6. It’s possible to confuse “the cause” of Christ with the person of Christ. When the early church said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not mean “Jesus is my core value.” Jesus isn’t a cause; he is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned and embodied. Focusing on his cause or mission doesn’t equate focusing on or following him. It’s all too possible to serve “the god” of serving Jesus as opposed to serving him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by his irresistible beauty and unfathomable love. Jesus led us to think of God differently, as relationship, as the God of all relationship.

7. Jesus Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.

8. It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.

Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.

The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.

9. Only Jesus can transfix and then transfigure the void at the heart of the church. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power, authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only known fully in and through his church. (As Paul said, “The manifold wisdom of God – which is Christ – is known through the ekklesia.”)

The Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey. Knowing Christ and making him known is not an individual prospect. Those who insist on flying life solo will be brought to earth, with a crash. Thus Christ and his church are intimately joined and connected. What God has joined together, let no person put asunder. We were made for life with God; our only happiness is found in life with God. And God’s own pleasure and delight is found therein as well.

10. In a world which sings, “Oh, who is this Jesus?” and a church which sings, “Oh, let’s all be like Jesus,” who will sing with lungs of leather, “Oh, how we love Jesus!”

If Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world. We call on others to join us—not in removing ourselves from planet Earth, but to plant our feet more firmly on the Earth while our spirits soar in the heavens of God’s pleasure and purpose. We are not of this world, but we live in this world for the Lord’s rights and interests. We, collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.

May God have a people on this earth who are a people of Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. A people of the cross. A people who are consumed with God’s eternal passion, which is to make his Son preeminent, supreme, and the head over all things visible and invisible. A people who have discovered the touch of the Almighty in the face of his glorious Son. A people who wish to know only Christ and him crucified, and to let everything else fall by the wayside. A people who are laying hold of his depths, discovering his riches, touching his life, and receiving his love, and making HIM in all of his unfathomable glory known to others.

The two of us may disagree about many things—be they ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, not to mention economics, globalism and politics.

But in our two most recent books—From Eternity to Here and So Beautiful—we have sounded forth a united trumpet. These books are the Manifests to this Manifesto. They each present the vision that has captured our hearts and that we wish to impart to the Body of Christ— “This ONE THING I know” (Jn.9:25) that is the ONE THING that unites us all:

Jesus the Christ.

Christians don’t follow Christianity; Christians follow Christ.

Christians don’t preach themselves; Christians proclaim Christ.

Christians don’t point people to core values; Christians point people to the cross.

Christians don’t preach about Christ: Christians preach Christ.

Over 300 years ago a German pastor wrote a hymn that built around the Name above all names:

Ask ye what great thing I know, that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know; this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
His who triumphed o’er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Jesus Christ – the crucified, resurrected, enthroned, triumphant, living Lord.

He is our Pursuit, our Passion, and our Life.

Amen.

This IS the Christian Life!

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I have recently had the joy and privilege of listening to sermons from precious saints of “old” and wow has it been rich.  I have been soooo blessed listening to Major Ian Thomas, Watchman Nee and A.W. Tozer, and I’ve been reminded of wonderful truths that have transformed my life.

The consistent message you will hear from each of these saints is this: Jesus IS the Christian life.  What really encouraged me is how they will often say something and emphasize that “this IS the normal Christian life.”  So, for the last week my heart has been so richly blessed and encouraged as I was reminded of this liberating message of grace.

This is truly my life’s message; to let the world know I serve a risen (and therefore) LIVING Savior!  We don’t worship a dead religious leader on the cross. NO!!! He has risen indeed in order to give us HIS life!

We often talk about being saved to go to heaven, etc.  But as Major Ian Thomas has often said, “This is NOT salvation!  Salvation is perfect Divinity being clothed in a redeemed sinner’s humanity.”  Chew on that for a while.  We are not saved in order to get out of hell and in to heaven…no!  We are saved so that Jesus might “get out of” heaven and IN TO US!

As Jesus lived on this earth so do we live here on earth.  In Philippians chapter 2 we are reminded that Jesus chose to set aside His privileges as God to take on the form of a man…He became a man.  Our Divine Father clothed Himself in Jesus’ perfect humanity.  Think about that.  “God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world…”  The gospels often refer to God’s work IN and THROUGH Jesus.

So, do you see it?  This is EXACTLY what Jesus desires to do with us..wow!  Our Father wants to be clothed with our imperfect humanity.  If you read the gospels, you will be reminded that Jesus never did or said anything except what His Father told him to say or do.  He also said that “if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.”  My dear friend if you’ve been born again, this is EXACTLY how we are to live; in absolute dependence on Jesus “who is our life”.  When we do, the world will see Jesus when they see us!

This is truly the cry of my heart; to just let God be God (I heard He’s up for the job J) in my life and let JESUS live the Christian life through me, because He is the only one who did live it and can live it through me!  Believe me, I’ve “tried” and all I do is make a mess of things when I live by my efforts.  The bible reminds us that apart from Him “I can do NOTHING!”

My dear friend, is that your desire?  Is that the cry of your heart?  If so, then let us stop trying….trying…trying, and let us die to ourselves and OUR effort and simply start trusting Him to do what only HE CAN do; to live out HIS life!

What an exciting life this Christian life is….this truly is THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE!!! Blessings!

Check out my entry tomorrow for a wonderful illustration of “righteous” living…real cool stuff!

 

 

 

More Thoughts on Being a Bondservant

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As I said yesterday, if we are IN Christ, then we are in relationship with Him.  There are two parts to this relationship – kurios – Lord & doulos – Slave! 

In other words, if you call yourself lord you must obviously have a slave.  It would be silly to refer to yourself as “master” and yet have no one serving you.  Also, if you call yourself a slave you must therefore have a master. Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” So, when you are confessing Jesus as Lord you are confessing yourself as his slave.

According to Greek scholars, the word doulos is always used for (1) literal slavery (2) slavery to an inanimate object, i.e. to greed, to sin, etc.  So, why is it that in our English translations, the word “doulos” is translated as servant, bond-servant or bond-slave?

I want to challenge you to do something interesting.  Find some passages in a concordance where the word doulos is used and put in the proper word – “slave” and see what it does to the verse.

For example, at the end of Colossians 3:24 it says, It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” {douleuō}.”  So, this should actually say instead, “It is the Master Christ whom you are enslaved to.”

John MacArthur preached a wonderful sermon on being a bondservant.  In this sermon he said the following which puts this into REAL perspective:

A slave is someone whose life belongs totally to someone else, absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence.  Slavery then was a social relationship between two persons where one had nothing, willed nothing and received nothing but what the master authorized, desired and provided.”

      My dear brothers and sisters Jesus our Master wants our whole heart in absolute surrender to Him.  May He have today our absolute obedience, dependence, loyalty and love! 

Resting In Him J

STOP TRYING!!!

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Oh to live in “victory”!  The longer I walk with Jesus the more I realize how rare this is in the Body of Christ.  Yet, it IS the very life our Father intends for us.  Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.”

    When I consider how many of true believers are not experiencing Jesus alive living in us who IS our only “hope of glory”, my heart breaks.  My heart saddens because I lived like this for sooooo long!     What is sad is that the TRUE gospel is so simple yet so profound. It is simply this: (1) the FINALITY of the cross – He reconciled us while we were His enemies and (2) the REALITY of the resurrection – He rose to give us HIS life!

    Hudson Taylor (5/21/1832 – 6/3/1905), who was a missionary and founder of China Inland Mission discovered this realty WHILE in China as a missionary.  He wrote the following in a letter:

 

“…to find your heart all taken up by Him; to be reminded of His love by His seeking communion with YOU at all times, not by your painful attempts to abide in Him.  He IS our life, our strength, our salvation; He IS our wisdom and righteousness, our sanctification and redemption; He IS our power for service and fruit-bearing, and His bosom IS our resting- place now and forever…”

 

    So, how do we then live and experience this victory?  The apostle Paul said this in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him,” and again he says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

    We walk (live) just like we got saved…by grace through faith… period!!!

    Again here is what Hudson Taylor had to say about this:

 

“How then, is this faith increased?  Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all that He is for us: His life, His death, His work, Himself, as revealed to us in His Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts.  Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need – a resting in the Loved One entirely for time and eternity.  It does not appear to me anything new – only formerly misapprehended.”

 

May we REST in Him today!

Christianity…for Real!!!

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small-butterfly-flapping12I just read a post entitled “Is Christianity Your hobby or Your Life?” on a blog called Reasoning Together.  I really appreciated what he had to say, and I believe you will too.

I especially appreciated a quote he shared from a Chinese pastor.  This precious saint had been jailed a number of times as well as beaten.  This pastor said the following:

“For those Christians who live in the countries under persecution, Christian belief is a matter of life and death. But for those Christians who live in free countries, Christian belief is just like a hobby.”

 

I am not sharing this because I want us to feel condemned. NO!  But I do want us to be convicted about what meaning our precious life…the life of Jesus IN us…has for US.

I do believe that the very life of freedom we enjoy in America, which we are grateful for and are blessed to have may be the very thing that keeps us complacent and lethargic regarding this incredible, transformed life which we have.

Oh my dear brother and sister in Christ may we today in a fresh and new way surrender our hearts and lives completely to Him.  May we by faith rest in HIS finished work and enjoy HIS life in us!

I want to conclude by encouraging you to check out Voice of the Martyrs and let the stories of our brothers and sisters in persecuted countries stir your hearts as they have and continue to stir my heart.

Be Diligent to Enter This Rest!

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small-butterfly-flapping10I talk a lot about the rest which we have in Christ.  Well, I came across a blog/website by Bill Gillham.  He has a ministry called Lifetime Gaurantee that has been around for 31 years.  On their website they describe their purpose as follows:

 

“Lifetime Guarantee is known for its benchmark, ministry style of communicating the timeless treasures of God’s grace with personal transparency, simplicity and practicality.”

 

I just wanted to commend Bill and the ministry for impacting so many lives.  I also want to encourage you to read a post on his blog entitled “Struggling to Rest”.  Here is a paragraph from that post:

 

“I am supposed to rest in Christ. Nevertheless, struggling to rest is disconcertingly familiar to me. More often than not, my struggle is to control people and circumstances, which is to say, I harbor the deceptive belief that if I can gain control of all that affects me, I will achieve rest.”

 

This is fantastic, and I know you will truly be blessed….. ENJOY!!!