Monday, August 23, 2010

From Caterpillars to Butterflies

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I LOVE butterflies!!! Who doesn't? They are just the prettiest insects God has ever made. The many colors we see on their wings and the different shapes their wings come in make them such majestic creatures that flutter effortlessly from one flower to another.

Of course we all know they didn't start out that way. These amazing and beautiful flyers come from a very different and unexpected start. Where they begin don't even give a hint of where they'll end! As we all know, these beautiful winged friends start out as an egg. (Don't we all start from that? haha...) The egg then hatches into a larva (otherwise known as "caterpillar"). This caterpillar spends its entire day doing one thing - munching on leaves. Day in and day out, the life of a caterpillar is as boring as that. It munches this leaf and then crawls to another and then munches that one. Munch, munch, munch! It doesn't really care about anything else but to get bigger and fatter as it munches along. The only job a caterpillar does is eat! (Ain't that something! Hehe) It thinks of nothing else but itself. It couldn't care less of the damage it does on the host plant.
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Interestingly, as the caterpillar grows bigger it's skin stays the same size and this become its problem. Because nothing can stop it from munching away and growing bigger, the caterpillar would have to want a newer and larger skin to accommodate his growing size! So, it undergoes what we call "molting". As he gets a newer and larger skin, the story begins again... munch, munch...grow bigger and bigger... munch some more and grow a lot bigger... this skin's too tight... newer and larger skin coming up! 

The caterpillar undergoes this phenomenon about 5 times before it molts the last time. This last molting will have the caterpillar form a  "chrysalis" (generally called a "pupa"). From the outside, this is the stage where we can see nothing but a covered-up caterpillar. It is not until the caterpillar "dies" that it emerges to become a new creation - the butterfly! Think of it this way, until a caterpillar decides to die to himself and change, it can never become a beautiful butterfly! Butterflies are totally different from caterpillars. Their anatomy and physiology, including the very nature of how they live, is so different that we can safely say that the caterpillar was, sort of, born again or "reborn" when it emerges as a butterfly. Jesus speaks about our lives this way, too. 

In John 3:3, Jesus said 

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (KJV). 

And take note that Jesus repeats it as He said in John 3:7, 

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (KJV) 

He used the word MUST in this sentence when he spoke of us being born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Why would Jesus say so? Why would he talk about being "Born Again"? And why was it a MUST for all of us to be born again? Here are the reasons why...

First, in John 4:24, we read that: 

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (KJV)

And when we speak of God's kingdom, Romans 14:17 says this:

"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (KJV)

The kingdom of God is spiritual! Why can't we get into this spiritual kingdom while we are where we are right now? Because the bible clearly speaks of what we all are:

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" 
(John 3:6) KJV, emphasis added

"These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." (Jude 1:19) KJV

We do not have the Spirit in us unless we've been "born of the Spirit". Jesus himself describes being born again in John 3:5 this way:

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (KJV)

Second, we read in John 2:23-25, the verses before the chapter where Jesus talks about being born again, that "many believed in His name when they saw the miracles which he did, but He did not commit himself unto them for he knew what was in man." It mentions that Jesus knew what was in man. He is, after all, Omniscient. He knows the heart of man. He knows what happened to man. Look at the following verses to understand what Jesus saw in us: 

"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) KJV, emphasis added.

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Romans 5:12) KJV, emphasis added.

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3:10) KJV, emphasis added.

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) KJV, emphasis added.

Yet, it doesn't end there. Jesus also knows that we have this in us:

"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:" (Matthew 15:18-19) KJV

Even the great apostle, Paul, was aware of this when he said:

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." (Romans 7:18) KJV

"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." 
(Romans 7:14-15) KJV, emphasis added.

Contrary to what most of us believe in, this truth lies before us: Apart from God, we are all depraved, unspiritual, dead human beings! And unless we're born again in the Spirit, we will continue to be as such. 

Yet, there are those who say that being "BAPTIZED" is being born again. I used to believe that it is very important to be baptized as an infant because it is going to make us be born again and become regenerated into a new creation that could enter the kingdom of God. Without such, the soul remains unsaved. Unfortunately for this belief, there is a stark contradiction on what the bible tells us. For when Jesus said we must be born of water and of Spirit, he also continued to say this:

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." 
(John 3:8) KJV, emphasis added.

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36: 25 - 27) KJV, emphasis added.

All this is the work of our Lord God who is sovereign over everything. It is not the work nor decision of man. It's not merely being sprinkled with water and getting wet with it during baptism that we get saved from our depravity and damnation. It is God who so chooses to sprinkle this clean water upon us to cleanse us and it is HIS Spirit that He will put within us! Water baptism is a symbolic burial by which a new Christian publicly declares that they have died, and are now beginning a new life in Jesus Christ. If we read the new testament, the people who are baptized are those who have first, heard the gospel and second, repented of their sins and believed in Jesus Christ. Baptism doesn't cleanse us of our unrighteousness. Just read what the bible tells us on how to be cleansed:

"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) KJV, emphasis added.

This is our hope, our LORD JESUS CHRIST! We call upon His name, whose name is the only one given under heaven for our salvation (see Acts 4:12)! We must REPENT and turn from our wicked ways and trust HIM and believe in HIM and confess with our mouths that HE IS LORD! (see Romans 10:9)

A new creation in Christ Jesus! Wow, we're just like caterpillars and butterflies then, don't you think? For before trusting in the Lord Jesus and dying and rising up again in Him, a person is just like a caterpillar. He thinks of nothing else but himself and how to get more for himself! We live savage lives that have us running for more and caring less of the damage we leave behind us! All we ever really think of is what SELF could achieve and what self could acquire. 

But when we become a new creation in Christ Jesus, the old things are gone. We become like butterflies! We float effortlessly as we're no longer "heavy laden". Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we help with the growth and proliferation of those around us like the butterflies do with their role in pollination. We are no longer self-minded, we are "Others-minded". On top of this, just as a butterfly becomes a source of food for birds and other wildlife, we too become a source of "spiritual food" for others as we share to them the very good news of the kingdom of God! And doesn't this beautiful new creature just glorify God and reflect his awesome power? 

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) KJV

Don't remain a caterpillar for the rest of your life. Pray that God will grant you the grace to see His truth in Jesus Christ! 

I am praying for you and will always be... all this with much love!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Building It ROCK-Solid!

Rocks have had a significant and pretty huge impact on the human race. We have been using it for more than 2 million years. The human race has managed to utilize this material ingeniously over the years and we've even managed to come up with the prehistoric Stone Age when humans first used stones for tool making.

Okay, for description's sake, a "rock" is commonly used in reference to a large piece of rock which could be anything from a size that you would have difficulty lifting with one hand up to a very large boulder bigger than your house. A "stone", on the other hand, is used in reference to a small rock that might easily be picked by one hand. Rocks are bigger than stones.

Building with rocks dates back to the beginning of human history. Various cultures have left interesting evidence of their craftsmanship with stone masonry. Since rock is an abundant, indigenous, long-lasting material, it is not a surprise that our ancestors came to know the value of it. Although building with rock is no longer a very popular thing these days (according to Kelly Hart, a natural builder, it's presumably because we don't see them delivered in construction sites as perfect rectangular shapes that builders can easily stack up one on top of the other), the bible did mention about being wise and building one's house on a Rock.

We know the story very well. Jesus was the one who told the story in Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:46-49:

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49) KJV

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27) ESV

There is more to Jesus' story than just a wise man who built his house on the rock. He was not talking about just the material aspect of building the house on a rock. A deeper meaning to what He has mentioned may be seen as we read the bible exhaustively. Let's look into this wiser way to build our house, shall we?

I'm sure you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 6:19 which says 

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own," (ESV). 

As christians we have been taught that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, which literally means that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Now Hebrews 3:6 reiterates this as it says that we are "God's house."

"but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope." (Hebrews 3:6) ESV

Please allow me to say at this point that you should understand that the New Testament was originally written in Greek and it helps a lot if we look closely into what Greek words were specifically used in the verses as they could vary a lot in form and meaning. Here's a good website I use to study the bible with some Greek references: I usually go to where it says "Lexicon" to get the breakdown of the verses. Okay, with that said, let's get back to how Jesus told the story of the wise builder. 

He said that a wise man builds his "house" upon a rock. The greek word used for house in this verse is οἰκίαν, oikian which is from the word οἶκος, oikos. This literally means a house or a dwelling. When we read of us being God's house in Hebrews we will find that the Greek word used for "house" in this verse is also οἶκος, oikos. So then, when Jesus talked about the wise builder's house he isn't just talking about the literal building, he was talking about our "Self", our lives. We live our lives as wise or foolish depending on where we build it upon! Are you following?

Now Jesus differentiated the wise and the foolish builder because of where they built their houses. The wise one built his house upon a "rock". Interestingly, the Greek word for "rock" in this verse is πέτρᾳ, petra which is a primary word that means a large mass of rock. Do you want to know which other verse we can find this word? Check this out:

"For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

As Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he explained to the believers in Corinth that what happened in the time of Moses in Scripture took place for our example. I love how he explained that the spiritual Rock that the Israelites drank from was "the Rock who was Jesus Christ"! Guess what Greek word was used in this verse for "Rock"? Yep, you're right! It's πέτρᾳ, petra.

Here is another familiar verse:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) ESV

When we delve into the original Greek words used in these verses, we will see a very interesting revelation. The Greek word for "rock" in this verse is very much like that in 1 Corinthians 10. It is πέτρᾳ, petra which meant the "large mass of a rock". Peter's name, on the other hand, has a Greek word Πέτρος, petros which means "a stone". The Greek word petros is described as akin to petra. If you want to understand what "akin" means, it is defined as "having a similar quality or character. It is not the the primary word petra. Peter then was a "stone" which only bears a similar character as that of Jesus. Contrary to what I used to believe in, Jesus mentioned in Matthew 16 that upon HIMSELF will he build his church. 

To understand this better, here's another verse in the bible that explains how believers, like Peter, can only be a "stone" in the church:

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. " 
(1 Peter 2: 4-5)

You don't need a degree in Theology to understand this verse. We ourselves are like living stones being built up as a spiritual house for God. The verse continues to show us that we are built up as a house to offer acceptable sacrifices to God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!!! Understand that if you build your life upon your career, or your family, upon friends, upon hobbies, upon entertainment, and upon your own skills and abilities, Jesus Himself tells us that we're just foolishly building on sand.

So then, as we build our "houses" - our lives on this earth, let us look back into the bible and learn that it is ONLY upon building our lives in JESUS CHRIST will we become able to withstand the winds and waves that this world has for us...

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39) 

May you be blessed now and always with God's Truth from His Word. 
My prayers are always with you.

With much love....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Road MUCH Traveled

 Any person living on this earth will always have the notion of life as a journey. We consider it an accepted fact that this life here on earth involves a journey on our part towards either a better place or to nothingness, depending on what belief and culture system you have been brought up with. Different religions and groups of faith take it that our life here is an experience of a passage, a pilgrimage, an expedition - however you want to put it. 

When we talk about traveling, we could not take away the fact that there is a road that we follow. No matter where that road leads us to, it is always a given that when one needs to get somewhere on a journey one must have a road to travel on. In this light, let me say that most, if not all, of us are on what I want to call the "road much traveled".  

Man has been going through life with one sense of direction. We have been going our OWN way, doing our own thing and hoping that we would get to where we want to by the end of our time. All of us prefer to ENJOY the journey we have in life. We have come up with a lot of "journey" quotes over the years just because we try to make the journey more enjoyable and fulfilling for us. Here are some quotes you might have already known by heart:

The road much traveled is the one that shows a signpost that leads us to a better place. Whether you believe in the teachings of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Chinese Faith, the Bahá'í Faith or Christianity, "HEAVEN" is the place we all aim to be in the end. Man is depraved here on earth that he longs to be in that better place called "heaven".  

Jesus speaks of roads as well. In Matthew 7:13 he said...

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.KJV

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easya that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." ESV

We must realize that the is a way that leads to our destruction and Jesus describes it with a wide gate and the way being broad or "easy". Why would he warn us of this? Because the bible also tells us that "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 16:25) KJV

As I have mentioned, we all have wanted an easy journey. A journey that would allow us to enjoy the ride. The road much traveled where most of us are is the road that we ourselves made. And the bible did tell us this:

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;" 
(Isaiah 53:6) KJV

We all have gone astray. Not even a single one of us is found on the right path. We have went on our OWN way. We've made up the different journeys we are taking and we've turned everything upside down just to fit all of it into whatever selfish desires we have for ourselves. Do you want to know why this was so? Because man, apart from God, is totally deprived of anything good! We all didn't want to do what's right. Our proud and selfish ways made us sing "I did it MY WAY...".

Do you know how vile, and depraved and empty and selfish and evil we all are? None of us ever desired God just because He is God. Our perverted hearts run after God and spiritual things because we wanted to attain that blessing, that happy place, that comfort and providence that God may have in store for us. Our hearts look up to God, cry out to God just because we needed something from Him. Not that we want to give Him all the praises, the worship, the Glory and Power He deserves but because we make Him into our most favorite "Jehovah-Jireh", the God who provides us with ALL that WE need. Can't you see, the bible tells us this:

 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not oneThere is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."
 (Romans 3:11) KJV

We are not seeking after God, we are seeking after our own selfish desires! We all are just prideful, selfish and arrogant beings that USE God for our own purpose! No matter how much you argue with me right now or explain to me that you love God as evidenced by your going to church or reading your devotionals and praying novenas and long prayers, or calling out to the name of Jesus, you can never argue with the bible's condemnation to all of us that NONE, not even ONE of us, is righteous before the eyes of God and that NONE, not even ONE, seeks after God! 

Man, apart from the saving grace of a merciful God, is nothing but a vile, empty, wretched, filthy being before the eyes of a Holy God.

"For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." 
(Romans 3:23) KJV, emphasis added.

We all have sinned against God. And because the One True God of the bible is a Holy God, this is where we find ourselves to be in - DEAD!!!

"For the wages of sin is DEATH..." (Romans 6:23)

Realize it, my friend, that apart from the grace of God, no matter what you do with your spirituality and how much good works you try to do to suffice, they never could measure up to what God requires of us for righteousness. We will come short of the glory of God because of our sin and the bible says that the "wages" or literally the (ONLY) provision that we might receive from God is the judgment of DEATH. Do not continue to be deceived that you can work your way into heaven and that you can present your own good works before God's throne and boast of them because this is what we read: 

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;" 
(Isaiah 64:6) KJV

A lot of us rely on our own righteousness. We believe that by being good to others and by showing love to people, we are doing our part to be able to get to heaven. We were taught to strive to do good, to respect others, and to make sure that everybody is happy and we don't step on anybody's back. We are brought up in a culture system and belief system that convinces us into thinking that as long as we do not commit any grievous act against another human being, then we should be okay with God. 

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20) KJV

Listen, no amount of prayer and petition and church-going or praise singing, and visiting the sick or serving the poor could get us anywhere near heaven! When presented to God, they are but FILTHY rags! How much filthy can that get?! Don't you see the redundancy of how it's been described? A "rag" is already defined as a small piece of cloth, such as one torn from a discarded garment; a scrap! A rag by itself is already a reject, but God didn't stop there. He makes it a point that we will realize that the good we see in ourselves as we do it OUR way is nothing but FILTH before His eyes! Can't you see? It's not just simply dirty, its FILTHY - it's disgustingly dirty!!!

Holy and Filthy can never go together. Damnation and Death are what awaits us in the end of this journey. The bible warns us that in the last days this is what we will see in us:

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholyheartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," (2 Timothy 3:1-4) ESV

As they would say it, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this is how the unsaved, unregenerated people of the world is today. Lovers of pleasure rather than of God. We run after the lusts of our flesh and fight for our right to do so. We want more of the things that God hates. We compromise to the left, right, up and down just to cater to the filthy nature we have inside. And we do not even flinch a bit about these! The bible exposes man's heart: 

"There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:15) KJV

My dearest friends and loved ones, READ YOUR BIBLE and see...

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." 
(1 Corinthians 6: 9-10) KJV

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (ESV)

What then is the hope of man before the judgment of our Holy God? Where do we turn for help? READ YOUR BIBLE:

"My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1)

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

"Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14: 5-6)

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (Romans 3: 21-25) 

"That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10: 9)

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2: 1-9)

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." (1 John 3:1)

"As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”" (1 Peter 1: 14-16)

My dearest friend, I pray that God will give you the grace to see His Truth in light of the gospel. May you be blessed with wisdom that He alone can provide. May your eyes be opened to His amazing GRACE. 

I pray that the Word of God will be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path as you follow the narrow path that leads to life. It is a road less traveled but take heart for the Lord goes before you. My prayers are with you always.

With much love...


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