Come To God As A Counselor

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’ll bet you have “go-to” people in your life. The ones you immediately call when you need computer help, relationship insights, household or car repairs, Bible questions, or even cooking instructions. 

We love having these go-to people in our lives, but I’m also going to guess that none of us has someone who possesses all of these go-to skills. After all, all of us are only human, with limitations and deficiencies. 

We’ve learned that in prayer we can come to God as a Father—calling Him our Abba Father. We can also come to God as a Brother—knowing that Jesus has walked every path we will ever walk, and He intercedes to the Father on our behalf. 

In fact, we saw last week that Jesus was never at a loss of what to say, what path to take, or what prayer to pray. He spoke what He did, and did what He did, and prayed what He did because of the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

This is the same Holy Spirit that is in us as Christians. It’s because of this that we can come to God as a Counselor. The Holy Spirit is THE Go-To Resource for everything! 

Jesus said that both He and our Father love to give us the Holy Spirit as our Counselor, and then the Holy Spirit loves to reveal our Father and our Brother to us (Luke 11:13; John 14:26, 16:15; Galatians 4:6; Matthew 16:17). 

Andrew Murray wrote, “Prayer is simply the breathing of the Spirit in us; power in prayer comes from the power of the Spirit in us as we wait on Him. Failure in prayer is the result of a spirit that is not yielded to the Spirit of God.” 

What does it mean to yield to the Holy Spirit? It means that we don’t look for other go-to people for certain situations, but we trust the Spirit to be the Go-To Resource for everything. This is what Jesus did. 

As Jesus relied on the Counselor, so must we. As the Counselor helped Jesus, so He will help us. 

Let’s break this down. 

First, Jesus was never at a loss of what words to say, and the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say as well (John 12:49; Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:14). 

Second, Jesus was never at a loss of what path to take, and neither do we have to experience any confusion about what to do and when to do it (Matthew 4:1; Luke 2:27; Acts 16:6-10).

Finally, Jesus was never at a loss of what prayer to pray, and so too will the Holy Spirit help us go deeper into our prayer time (Luke 10:21; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 3:14-21). 

In addition, there is not one issue we will ever face that God hasn’t already addressed for us in Scripture (Ephesians 3:4-5). We see Jesus being totally reliant on Scripture (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). In an identical way, the Holy Spirit will help illuminate and apply the Scripture to our lives (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13). 

Let me repeat this vital truth: The Holy Spirit is THE Go-To Resource for everything!

  • We are vulnerable to temptation without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 
  • We are limited in our understanding of Scripture without the help of our Go-To Counselor.
  • We have a shallow prayer life without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 
  • We will be frequently confused about words to use or paths to take without the help of our Go-To Counselor. 

Let us learn to rely on our Counselor, as we keep our eyes on our Brother, and as we go together to our Father in childlike prayer. This is what leads to true intimate conversation! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our prayer series Intimate Conversation, please click here. 

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Come To God As A Father

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Jesus told us numerous times that we can come to God as our Father. 

Have you ever played a word association game? For instance, if I said “winter” you might say “shoveling” (or kids might say “sledding”). If I said “summer” you might say “vacation.” But I think the word “father” may bring up a lot of very different feelings or images. Some may have fond memories of the word “father” while others may think:

  • playful but not a good provider 
  • disciplinarian 
  • hard to please 
  • absent
  • unavailable 

Even if our human fathers were good, they were still flawed. Jesus said this about us, “If you parents, that even know how to give good things to your kids are evil, how much more amazing is the goodness and love of God” (Matthew 7:11). But Jesus had something entirely different in mind for us when He told us we could come to God as our Father. And, sadly, it’s a level of intimacy that many have never known. 

All of us could only experience limited intimacy with our earthly fathers, but with our Heavenly Father we can have unlimited and unimaginable intimacy! 

When Jesus was teaching us to pray in Matthew 6:6-9, there are two thoughts that stand out to me about coming to God as our Father. First, Jesus tells us that we don’t have to use any special language. When He said some people babble in prayer, Jesus was saying they were using a language that was unnatural to them—they weren’t being themselves. 

Our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him as children: full of innocence, and wonder, and expectation, and imagination!

Second, I notice that three times Jesus calls God “your Father,” but when He begins His model prayer He says, “Our Father.” Think of that: Jesus is saying we can approach God the same way He approached His Father! 

In His intense prayer time just before His crucifixion, Jesus used the phrase “Abba Father” to express His intimacy. This phrase is used two other times in the New Testament. Both of these times it’s telling us that we can approach our Heavenly Father the same way Jesus did (see Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). 

The Romans understood the weight that was associated with the practice of adoption. They knew that a father chose that child to be a part of his family, giving that child full acceptance into the family. Marvin Vincent noted,

“We have but a faint conception of the force with which such an illustration would speak to one familiar with the Roman practice; how it would serve to impress upon him the assurance that the adopted son of God becomes, in a peculiar and intimate sense, one with the heavenly Father.”

In writing to the Romans, Paul reminds them that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation—nothing holding them back from God’s presence. He also said that God has fully adopted us into His family, and that the Holy Spirit was now in us, encouraging us to call God “Abba Father” just as Jesus did (Romans 8:1, 14-16). 

Check out these two final thoughts from Jesus: He encourages us to approach God as innocent children, and He praises Our Father for then intimately confiding in His children—

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. … I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 18:3, 11:25) 

No matter what your relationship was with your earthly father, Jesus encourages us to approach our Heavenly Father in innocence, wonder, expectation, imagination, and intimacy. This is what God desires in His relationship with you! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Intimate Conversation, you can find them all by clicking here. 

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“Let The Reader Understand”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When Jesus said, “Let the reader understand,” He was saying He wants us to be able to understand and apply every Scripture we read. Check out this teaching video—

Here are the resources I mentioned in this video:

And although I didn’t mention it in the video, you can check out five different kinds of Bible studies I have shared here and here. 

I’m excited to hear about your Bible study journey. If you have questions or other resources to share, please get in touch with me or leave a comment below. 

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Year-End Review (2022 Edition)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

The apostle Peter said he wrote two letters to the church “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul reminded his young friend Timothy to “keep reminding [your congregation] of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

In the spirit of those great apostles, I have made it a practice to take time at the end of each year to look back on all that we have learned in the previous year, and then to look forward to where God may be leading Calvary Assembly of God in this upcoming year.

Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Awesome—Jesus told us that we could pray in His name and expect amazing things (see John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This does not mean that simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to the end of a prayer unlocks a secret code. Rather, it means that the more we understand just how awesome our Savior is, and that He is the Key to God’s storeroom, the more we will being to align our prayers with the will of God. Jesus desires for His Father’s glory to be seen on earth through the answers to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews opens his letter by reminding us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Is That In The Bible? (part 1 and part 2)—A meme that makes me chuckle every time I see it is a “quote” attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which he says, “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.” (Not to spoil the joke for you, but unless Lincoln knew how to time travel to the future, I don’t think he knew about the modern internet! 😂). I love this meme because it captures something that so many people fall into: a quick acceptance of a statement without verifying its source or thinking through the implications of the statement’s truthfulness. I think you may be surprised to discover just how many phrases we call biblical aren’t, and how many phrases there are that we never realized are actually in the Bible.

Christmas Unwrapped At Easter—Remember as a kid when you would unwrap a gift and discover it wasn’t something you really wanted, but then your parents explained that it was something you needed? The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a little like that—it wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for, but it was exactly what they needed. The real meaning of that Christmas gift wasn’t realized until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected back to life.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Craving—Doesn’t it seem like far too many Christians think of their relationship with Jesus as bland? After all, we’ve been told that any cravings we have should be quickly downplayed so that they don’t carry “good Christians” away. But what we discover in the Bible is that God made us to be craving creatures—He wants us to long deeply and find ultimate satisfaction for those longings. In short, God created us to long after the things that only He can fulfill. As we dive into this new series, I think you will find it quite eye-opening and heart-lifting. 

The Great Attitude Of Gratitude—There’s something about gratitude that distinguishes people. Think about it: would you rather hang around with grumblers or grateful people? The gratitude of Paul and Silas certainly made them stand out from the crowd when they were in Philippi. Wrongly accused, beaten, and thrown in prison, but instead of bellyaching, they were praising God. Later on, when Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Philippi, the theme of gratefulness permeates his letter. The distinguishing mark is actually in the title: The GReat ATTITUDE spells out GRATITUDE!

Bethlehem Is Proof—The prophet Micah foretells that the Messiah will arrive in dark times. Enemies will surround Israel, and Israel’s ruler will receive a nasty punch to the jaw. Demonic strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry will appear to be gaining the upper hand. And then Micah turns his attention to a small village just south of Jerusalem—a village so small that it is often overlooked—a village from which no one would expect Israel’s Deliverer. And yet, Micah writes, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Jesus the Deliverer was born in the little town of Bethlehem, and His birth there 700 years after Micah foretold it is our proof that God always gets the last word, the decisive word, and the best word!

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2023, and we’ll be launching some brand-new ones as well. If you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Judging By First Appearances

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Judging By First Appearances 

     A good horse cannot be a bad color, and a really good preacher can wear what he likes, and none will care much about it; but though you cannot know wine by the barrel, a good appearance is a letter of recommendation even to a plowman. Wise men neither fall in love or take a dislike at first sight, but still the first impression is always a great thing even with them; and as to those weaker brethren who are not wise, a good appearance is half the battle.

     What is a good appearance? Well, it’s not being pompous and starchy and making oneself high and mighty among the people, for proud looks lose hearts, and gentle words win them. … When a man is as proud as a peacock, all strut and show, he needs converting himself before he sets up to preach to others. The preacher who measures himself by his mirror may please a few silly girls, but neither God nor man will long put up with him. The man who owes his greatness to his tailor will find that needle and thread cannot long hold a fool in a pulpit. …  

     At the same time, the preacher should endeavor, according to his means, to dress himself respectably; and, as to neatness, he should be without spot, for kings should not have dirty footmen to wait at their table, and they who teach godliness should practice cleanliness. … A worn coat is no discredit, but the poorest may be neat, and the men should be scholars rather than teachers till they are so.

From John Ploughman’s Talks of Plain Advice For Plain People

Like it or not, people do form first impressions on external appearances, and all leaders (and especially pastors) would do well to measure these words from Charles Spurgeon. 

I think Spurgeon is talking about honesty here. I need to be honest with who I am, while at the same time being honest about the office that I hold. I’m not playing dress-up, but I also need to be aware that I am representing the King of kings so an appropriate dress and lifestyle are required. 

I also need to be honest that people are forming first impressions the moment they see me, but also that I cannot try to dress or act in a way to please or attract people. 

I remember meeting a group of “seasoned saints” who all showed up at our church one morning. When I engaged them in conversation, they told me that their new pastor appeared to be too young for their style. They formed an opinion about him before ever giving him a chance. I told them that I knew their pastor and that I liked him a lot. I directed them to return to their home church and give their best support to their pastor for at least six months before they made any decisions. Thankfully, during that time they got to know this pastor and remained in that church with him. 

I am in the position I am in because God placed me there. I am working to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I don’t want my appearance to get in the way of people hearing the message. I don’t want to try to be someone I’m not. I need to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction in how I should dress, talk, and live. If my conscience is clear before God, then I won’t have to pay attention to the opinions of others.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Tricky Tongues

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our Tricky Tongues

I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned…. (Psalm 39:1-3)

     Tongue sins are great sins; like sparks of fire ill words spread and do great damage. ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue’ (v. 1). If believers utter hard words of God in times of depression, the ungodly will take them up and use them as a justification for their sinful courses. If parents’ own children rail at them, no wonder if their enemies’ mouths are full of abuse. 

      Our tongue always wants watching, for it is fidgety as an ill-broken horse, but especially must we hold it in when the sharp cuts of the Lord’s rod excite it to rebel. 

     David was not quite so wise as our translation would make him; if he had resolved to be very guarded in his speech, it would have been altogether commendable. When he went so far as to condemn himself to entire silence, ‘even from good,’ there must have been at least a little sullenness in his soul.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

Oh, how often our tongues trip us up! More times than we would like to admit, our tongues completely undo the good example we have previously shown. James spends almost an entire chapter talking about the fire our tongues can kindle, concluding that our tongues are “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:1-18)! 

Part of David’s solution was to notice who was around him so that his words would not add fuel to their skepticism about God. But notice that he went too far because he didn’t speak out the good that he should have spoken. 

Clearly, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. David’s son Solomon talked about the wisdom of speaking the appropriate words at the appropriate time (see especially Proverbs 10).  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about a valuable discipline: A personal review of our words and actions at the end of the day. After all, it’s hard to correct something of which we are unaware. Here’s what Lewis wrote—

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to mind is that the provocation was so sudden or unexpected. I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself…. Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness did not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows what an ill-tempered man I am.” 

We would do well to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the rats in our cellar—evil words spoken that shouldn’t have been uttered, and helpful words left unspoken at the moment they should have been said. If we will humbly listen, the Holy Spirit will help us mature in this vital area of taming our tricky tongues. 

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Attitude Adjustment

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Imagine if 700 years before you were born there was a prophecy given about you (Matthew 3:3). Or if on the day of your birth your father said, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him” (Luke 1:76). 

This was John the Baptist.

With these kinds of announcements and the stamp of approval from God Himself, it’s really quite astounding how humble John remained:

  • “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11). 
  • “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

The confidence that he was God’s man for the hour gave John boldness to speak truth to religious leaders, wealthy people, and Roman soldiers (Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3:7-20). Yet his humility was almost his undoing. 

John preached boldly, fulfilling the prophecies that were made about him. But when Jesus came to him to be baptized, John’s humility caused him to defer initially. Then Jesus reminded him that His baptism was necessary “to fulfill all righteousness. Then John consented” (Matthew 3:13-15). 

Whether I am lacking confidence to speak or lead boldly, or lacking humility to let someone else take the lead, I need to return to the Word of God—just as John did. Both his confidence and his humility were balanced by words spoken over him by God. So it must be for you and me too. 

Confidence without humility or humility without confidence can trip me up and cause me to miss out on all that God needs me to do. So my daily prayer must be: Holy Spirit, may I be sensitive to every correction and adjustment You need to make in me. Illuminate the Scriptures that I need to apply to my life that will keep me in a healthy, balanced place. 

I wrote about this tension between confidence and humility in my book Shepherd Leadership. This was also a topic of conversation in two interviews I did, which you can find here and here. Healthy leaders need the proper balance of confidence and humility to keep their leadership in a place that God can use powerfully. 

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Help With Our Blind Spots

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Check out a snippet of this conversation I had with John Opalewski and Jim Wiegand on the Leading From Alignment podcast. If you want to watch the full 30-minute interview, check out this link. 

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I have posted quite a bit this week about a leader’s self-awareness—from my book review of John Maxwell’s The Self-Aware Leader, to my training with a pastoral team in South Carolina, to the clip I just shared from this interview. This aspect is so crucial for leadership success. 

As one of my friends commented to me this week, “Your timing on this is incredible—I was just thinking about self-awareness this morning. It’s probably my biggest fear as a leader: am I accurate in my own self-assessment? am I who I think I am?” These are questions that all leaders should be asking regularly. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Leading From Alignment interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Heart’s Desire

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Heart’s Desire

Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:1-4) 

     There is no room for fretting if we remember that God is ours; there is every incentive for sacred enjoyment of the most elevated and ecstatic kind. Every name, attribute, word, or deed of Jehovah should be delightful to us, and in meditating on it our souls should be as glad as the epicurean who feeds delicately with a profound relish for his dainties. 

     A pleasant duty is here rewarded with another pleasure. People who delight in God desire or ask for nothing but will please God; hence it is safe to give them carte blanche.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

When we only have eyes for our God, when our heart craves for only what our Savior can provide, when we have ears that tune out all but what the Holy Spirit whispers to us, then we are living in a place where our hearts are continually delighted with what God provides. 

We have to trust the One who gave us His unshakable promises—Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart’s desires (v. 4 TLB). Be delighted with Him and He will—not “may” or “hopefully He will” but He will—give you ALL your heart’s desires! That’s because your desires align with His. 

There is an ultimate reward in Heaven but there are incredibly satisfying rewards along the journey to Heaven as well. Take time every day to meditate on the boundless love that God has toward you, and let your heart be transformed so that you only crave the very best that your Heavenly Father has for you!

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How I Learned To Stop Sabotaging My Sabbath

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We all know that it’s impossible for a leader to be “on” 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Yet many leaders continue to operate as though they are supposed to be “on” all the time. The Bible not only calls for us to take a Sabbath rest, but it is something that God Himself demonstrated for us. 

I enjoyed my time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. Kyle and I didn’t plan this, but he mentioned a passage from Hebrews 4 that the Holy Spirit used years ago to get my attention. 

I would make my plans for a day off, or even a break in the middle of a busy day, only to find myself allowing work to consume that time. I was sabotaging my sabbath time until I saw three life-changing words in Hebrews 4:10. 

It is a very humbling thing to recognize that it is “my own work” that is sabotaging my sabbath rest. God is aware of my need for sabbathing, but I have to submit my plans to His plan. As I mentioned in this interview, and in a previous blog post, writing “ITLW” at the top of my daily To Do list has helped me immensely. It is a reminder to me that God knows what I need to be doing, with whom I need to be speaking, and what ministry needs to be accomplished each day far, far better than I ever could. I must listen to the Holy Spirit and submit “my own work” to God’s will. 

I talk about some other strategies that helped me in this area in my book Shepherd Leadership. It is a part of a 5-chapter section where I discuss how leaders can achieve wholly healthiness—mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health. I hope you will pick up a copy for yourself.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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