Posted in Holy Spirit, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

I Got It All Wrong

A little over a year ago, just for fun really and because I thought we could contribute something interesting and useful in the area of working overseas in missions, I started a podcast. It really didn’t enter into my mind whether or not there was a special technique involved. “It’s so easy to start a podcast” was the message out there and I felt encouraged to soldier on into a new world of communication. I knew ours would be a simple endeavor considering my setting (we live in Burundi, Africa). I read up on the basics of podcasting: how to submit your podcast to iTunes, adding it on to social media accounts, among other things, and simply got started.

Of course I’ve been told I’ve “gotten it all wrong” because “everyone else does it this way” i.e., translated a way other than what I was doing. Had someone said this to me when I was much younger, it would’ve bothered me quite a bit. You see, one of the benefits of growing older is learning to let go of any negative effect that the opinions of others have on us. I’ve learned to listen, make corrections, and even ignore comments made that have no bearing at all on what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve gotten so many things wrong according to what “they” say – but each and every time I’ve fallen for what “they” have said instead of allowing God to weigh in with His say, I’ve ended up miserable. Through that wonderful school of hard knocks called “life,” I’m finally at the place in my walk with the Lord where I know without a shadow of a doubt that what God wants from me is far more important than what anyone else would like to see me be or become.

So our podcast is so very simple; some may call it “dumbed down” to nothing. I don’t have any intro music, nor do I have facy fade-ins or fade-outs. I’m not against giving it a bit of polish but considering where we are and what we have technology-wise, having one as simple as ours is a victory!

As our world becomes increasingly desensitized to God’s voice in its pursuit of all the bells and whistles of remaining relevant, we risk being swept away in the current of sacrificing the message for the sake of being relevant. In this place of pressing to be accepted and current in society, things like prayer for those who need Jesus gets pushed farther and farther into more secluded areas in order to keep people comfortable. The Holy Spirit has become a ghostly phantom rather than a powerful presence. We slowly get lulled into a spiritual slumber thinking that if we draw bigger crowds then we are surely becoming more successful.

Jesus spends most of Luke 12 warning those following Him of the dangers of flowing with the crowd and allowing even a little bit of the world’s “yeast” to enter into our lives. That little bit of compromise, that little bit of trying to please everyone and not sound crazy might lead us somewhere we would have never dreamed of going.

**On a side note I’d say a lot of what we see in society today is itself pretty crazy so those saying we’re crazy don’t have much to talk about but that’s another entry for another day.

Luke 12: 51-53 MEV “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” 

Jesus’ desire isn’t for people to be in conflict, but in stating that His message would bring division seems to be in conflict with the “Peace on Earth” message (Luke 2:14) we’ve just come from celebrating during Christmas. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so how can a Prince of Peace cause division? He knew that people would not readily lay down their own ideas in exchange for His. He knew that people would reject His message that results in ultimate peace. He knew His message would run cross-grain to all cultures all over the world throughout many millenia. This is largely a result of our desire to be in charge; after all, we know better than anyone else what works in our culture, right?

Matthew 11:28-30 MEV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

What everyone all over the world have in common is that they labor, they are heavily burdened. What those labors and burdens look like from country to country vary; in Africa the majority of the population labor simply to have enough money to feed themselves and their children. In the developed world people labor to maintain what they have accumulated. No matter what the labor – it is labor and it burdens us and causes us to work, sometimes frantically, to ease the burden we bear.

True rest comes from letting go of our own opinions in exchange for His.

This year I want to rest and that will look like I’m getting it all wrong – and that’s fine by me.

Posted in Comfort, Eternity, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

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I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation of typewriters, handwritten notes and telephone calls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was new, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Have I become out of style myself? Am I past my “best before” date?

In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, my best before date falling many years into the future.

The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report on a store in Europe that uses these items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families. The savings passed on to those in society who are more vulnerable has been remarkable.

While groceries can go out of date, truth doesn’t expire. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required.

What appears to be forgotten in the static that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth can be as damaging as rejecting it for without exposure, truth won’t be understood by the hearers and when it is spoken, it sounds foreign.

1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”

The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods that are fallible, it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down:

Proverbs 27:6 NKJ“Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.

2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?…” 

People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding; they won’t like the way its packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right, in the face of truth (whose message seems to be irrelevant to the current crowd). The problem with questioning the truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with the changes making truth relative instead of absolute.

Truth is what gives us security and safety. My children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.

Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided end up themselves rejecting God’s truth for they have not experienced the unconditional truth of God’s love.

Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church – and the church has, by and large, succumbed to the whims of what is relevant, popular, and will “draw the crowds.”

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It may be that the frustration we feel, however, is after winning the crowds we fail to keep them or, if we do keep them, see them become active participants in what we know has given us purpose. While appealing to the culture of our surroundings is necessary to speak communicate the message of God’s love to those around us, appealing to culture will not keep a hungry soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Hidden in the heart of everyone, God has placed a sensitivity for things eternal. If what we offer to those we are called to appeals only to the surface, the longing of eternity will drive those people to find what their hearts long for: a connection with the Maker Himself. For the sake of keeping the harvest of souls God gives us, we have a responsibility to bring them beyond appealing to the culture but to address the longing for eternity.

Posted in God's Word, Rejection, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

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How did this happen?

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was fashionable, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Am I out of style? Am I past my “best before” date?
In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years in the future from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, best before many years into the future!
The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report about a grocery store in Europe that uses items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families.
Truth is never out of date, it never expires. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, wrappings that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required to help today’s generation understand what is being said.
What appears to be forgotten in the noise that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, is that our attempts to “be acceptable” may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth openly can be as bad, or worse than, rejecting it for without being spoken, truth won’t be understood by the hearers; it will sound foreign.
The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods to present it that are fallible; it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable or presentable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down.
Proverbs 27:6 NKJ “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.
2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ 
vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?’…” 
People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding it; they won’t like the way it’s packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right. The problem with forming truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with those changes making truth relative instead of absolute.
Absolute truth is what gives us security and safety. For example, my children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.
Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided will ever be searching, striving, and working for approval by all who they connect with. They want to prove they are worthy of love and acceptance.
Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church under the guise of relevance (see “The Problem With Being Relevant” by Patrick Schatzline).
Relevance has become a buzzword in the church world to the point of potentially exchanging the truth for a comfortable compromise of an outline of truth that has been colored in with relevance; have we actually sacrificed a real encounter with God for the sake of the “cool factor?”
The “cool factor” we crave is actually a poor substitute for the real “cool factor” found in the truth of God and His Word that, while old, is always new and always works.
1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”
The quick fixes of today, the self-improvement courses and how-to guides, seminars and endless “must have” lists will all fade and be forgotten – but God’s Words are never irrelevant for they go beyond what’s cool. They are eternal, they never expire, and they are always fresh from day-to-day, year-to-year, and generation-to-generation.
Psalm 119:160 NKJV The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Posted in Perspective, Rejection, Relevance, Success

Getting My Roots Done

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I was really irritated; it seemed I had just come from having my hair done and I woke to my hair rebelling and growing. It needed to be retouched and I simply can’t easily find time to keep myself sorted. I mean, looking this way doesn’t just happen by chance.

Yes, I’ve fallen as most of us have for the lie that we need to work hard to keep things at least in a satisfactory condition. I won’t stop doing my hair any time soon, although I wonder if there might come a day that I’ll opt for something simpler than having my roots done every 2 ½ months or so, but I do know that there’s a nearly invisible line that I need to keep myself from crossing in order to keep things in the right perspective.

There are many things we allow ourselves to think are important when, really, they fall under the “optional” category. Some of those things might even fall into the “unnecessary” category. Finally, there are things we may entertain with the hope of improving ourselves that fall into the “don’t do it” category.

Why have we allowed ourselves to believe we need to adjust who we are in appearance, personality, or ability to the point that we become almost unrecognizable? I wonder if we are simply trying to fill a void inside of us that only God Himself can fill for when He fills us – His satisfaction of Who He is fills us.

God isn’t in the middle of an identity crisis nor does He feel the need to change His appearance according to the eclectic whims of society’s norms.

Jeremiah  9:24b TLB “Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast; and that I love to be this way.”

When we come to know God, when He becomes our Father and Jesus becomes our Lord, His desire is for us to know Who He is and to understand that He is very secure in Who He is. He doesn’t try to make Himself out to be anyone other than Who He is – and He wants us to be just as secure in who He has made us to be.

As a parent of 4 amazing children (3 grown and one 9-year-old), there’s little that moves me to tears more than having my children believe that they aren’t “enough” as individuals. I know, and their father knows, that they’re amazing – and if someone doesn’t recognize this and tries to get them to change who they are, my heart is grieved!

I can’t imagine what our Heavenly Father feels every time we bow to the pressures of society saying,

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re too young to understand.”

“You’ve lived overseas, what do you know about America?”

“You’re now too old to make a difference.”

“You’re out of touch with what’s relevant today.”

“You take God too seriously.”

Such statements make us feel very uncomfortable and bring us to question our internal values – those values we used to hold dear. That we are the children of God, that we are redeemed, that we are loved, that we are cherished, and that He makes up for all of what we lack. He makes us to be enough for Him which astounds me.

Since when have we stopped loving who God made us to be?

God, our Heavenly Father, is the only One I can take seriously in a day and age when opinions change daily. Everything from earthly friendships to politics are subject to change moment by moment according to what is acceptable – according to what is relevant and politically correct at the moment.

So, in response to everyone who may think I’m not enough, or think that I take God too seriously I say:

Yes, indeed, I take God very seriously because He takes me very seriously and won’t discard me as I am tomorrow. When I wake up, He is with me and when I sleep, He will be there. I am His, and He is mine, and that I have found is enough.

Psalm 139:17,18 NLT “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

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Posted in Relevance

Divided Opinions

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Connection, it’s a buzzword today. When reading books, blurbs, blogs, and church announcements, it seems everyone is talking about connections or being connected. I believe in connection! Our church has small home meetings and we’ve called them, “connect” groups. We all need to be where God has made us to fit and serve; until we find that place, we will ever be searching for that place that we “fit” and are accepted.

The importance of being well connected in a community can’t be overstated. But lately I’ve been challenged to think a bit “outside the box” when it comes to being connected and where exactly God wants us to connect. Most of us would agree God’s is the most valuable opinion overall – yet our lives betray our divided opinions.

If God’s is the most important opinion, why do we find ourselves living as if by accident on a daily basis, rarely making contact with Him as we go about our days? Why do we spend more time talking to friends, relatives, and even our bosses about day-to-day life? Where does God fit into this life of ours?

We’re too connected. Too connected to this temporary life, too concerned with being accepted,  and we pay far too much attention to what is temporary at the expense of what is eternal. We agonize over opinions of people; we ache to “fit” with our local community. The effort we put into fitting in and making sure everything flows smoothly betrays our loyalty to fitting in with our societies over connecting with God.

I had hoped that peer pressure would have come to an end in adulthood but, shamefully, it hasn’t. It simply appears under a new name: “relativity.” Everyone wants to be relative in order to fit in and eventually be connected to something new and exciting. But, there are strings attached to being accepted and ultimately, connected. What are those strings? Staying within acceptable boundaries – color in the lines and no further.

You didn’t think that we want to really mess up our tightly knit community and mix with people who don’t fit do you? It’s fine to reach out and mingle with others but when it comes to fitting with us, we really don’t want to rock the boat. Church has become little more than a place for social gatherings where we tip our hats to God, give Him a nod, and give a nice handclap. See you next week – the message is sure to make you feel more relevant and fit in with society so we can be more “palatable” to the world.

The problem with being relative to the world is that the cross makes me unacceptable to the world – I am totally “non” relative – quite unpalatable at times, if the truth is told. I can try to fit in as much as possible, use the current buzzwords and catchphrases, but if I fit so much into the culture that surrounds me that I am undistinguishable and invisible among the crowd, then there’s a problem.

The disconnection we need to have with this world is vital in our role as ambassadors in this earth for God’s Kingdom. We need to be able to speak from God’s viewpoint, not our own. This comes when we detach, disconnect, from what is natural and connect with the eternal Kingdom.

This isn’t really a popular message in our day and age where we struggle “to be heard.” Would that we could learn to detach ourselves from the struggle and simply lift up Jesus (see John 12:32). Imagine if we simplified instead of made things more complicated? The Gospel points to our need of a Savior – and Jesus is that Savior. He knows the way for He is the way (see John 14:6) and His way is the best.

Luke 14:23 Weymouth “No one of you who does not detach himself from all that belongs to him can be a disciple of mine…”

Newsflash: Jesus Himself is enough and He doesn’t need us to make Him “acceptable” to the masses. Just as we met Him and His love turned our lives around, He can and will do the same for others who we connect to. None of our opinions, methods, buzzwords, or light shows can compare with the overwhelming love that God showers on those who come to Him. You see, God Himself is enough and our miserable attempts to make Him acceptable to others are only self-serving at best.

Just Jesus, that’s all – and He is more than enough.

Posted in Joy, Relevance

It’s Time to Laugh

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Proverbs 31:25 NLT She is clothed with strength and dignity 
and she laughs without fear of the future.”

I want a life of joy and laughter but in today’s day and age, that seems next to impossible. Wars, plagues, hunger, elections, economic worries, and housecleaning all occupy our lives and minds and put us in a bad mood. I would love to be able to laugh without fear of the future, but I find it almost impossible to laugh when my mind is filled with the “what ifs” that life throws my way every day.

Life is so complicated now; things are now moving at “Mach” speed. News didn’t travel this fast in my parents’ generation. I think that was somehow a blessing. The news wasn’t broadcast all day long every day; you could watch the morning and evening news and that was about it. If something happened in the middle of the day, it rarely made the radio waves unless it was an absolute disaster.

There’s always a new problem, a new issue, a new hashtag, a new saying, a new trend, a new fashion, and then we find ourselves running to catch up and keep up. Sometimes we run after these new trends not knowing if what is being advertised is good for us or not. Some of those trends aren’t new ones, just old ones wrapped up in different paper.

Romans 14:23 “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” This verse is the cornerstone of all things when it comes to matters of trend and faith. If we have no conviction in an area – then maybe we need to ask ourselves why we have no conviction, why does it not matter? Or why does it, in some cases, matter too much? Too many times we get offended in our dealings with people without understanding why we are offended; we’re simply flowing with the trends of the crowd. Often, these trends are “pushing the envelope” to the very edge of what is acceptable, making us push the boundaries of our faith beyond what we had originally imagined.

1 Cor. 6:12 MSG “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.”

If what we are doing or thinking enslaves us, if the trends of the day hold us back from living out our faith and it dictates our thoughts, budgets, and lifestyle – then we have become enslaved by it.

1 Cor. 10:23,24 MSG Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.”

Maybe we would do well to ask ourselves what are we after in our walk with the Lord? What do we want? Do we live life in such a way to avoid confrontation with the outside world? Is this why we are so addicted to social media and the internet? Avoiding confrontation is easier than deliverance – because freedom and deliverance is never easy and true discipleship is more than a 6-month journey. It is the walk of a lifetime.

In this day and age of performance driven society has Christianity turned into an experience instead of an encounter with God? Is what we want to be accepted and embraced in society? If so, then we need to be non-confrontational and only offer a feel good message not just from the pulpit but also from our lives. Is this what we want from our walk with God or is there more? Is this what God wants for us?

In Acts 17 when Paul was at Athens, he spent time studying the people, (vs. 23 “for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship…”). He later appealed to them through what he learned about them. This is why media is valuable today. This is why learning the “language” of the people of today is necessary. If they need a cup of coffee after church then get one, if they need to “chill” and “hang out” and “connect” or be “messaged” in order to understand the Gospel then I believe Jesus is the greatest social networker in all the universe. He was relevant.

Being relevant by definition means connection with the subject at issue. What is the subject at issue here? Jesus and getting people connected with Him. This is called fulfilling the “Great Commission.” However, if we lose our connection to this one issue by trying to appeal to the masses, we become irrelevant no matter how many bells and whistles we tie around our necks.

Yes, we can be relevant and bring people to a place of encounter with God as long as we don’t abandon our main role of transforming souls into the Kingdom of God. It’s easy for our message to fade away into oblivion if we ourselves begin to water down the Kingdom in us. Why would we rob ourselves and this generation of really encountering God for the sake of popular opinion? Are we allowing the importance of being current and relevant crowd out the Kingdom within us?

It is God’s goodness that leads men to repentance (Rom 2:4) not our anger or most persuasive arguments. God loves this world and so desires to see them come to Him. It’s just the messiness of redemption that turns us off – it’s easier to be either too rigid or too complacent than deal with the life issues that people face.

It’s easy to say, “Stop drinking” to the alcoholic.

It’s easy to say to the drug addict, “Stop doing drugs.”

It’s easy to say to the hurting family, “Get it together.”

It’s hard to walk those people through their issues. Rather leave them alone than confront them – it’s too hard, we reason.

I want the life that I live to create an atmosphere of God’s love around those who I come in touch with daily. What I do, what I say, and how I present myself will either speak conviction or compromise, rejection or acceptance.

Maybe the real relevance we should look for is being prepared to be the bride of Christ and having a glimpse of God and Who He is. Any laughing I do outside of the revelation of Who God is won’t bring me any freedom. It will be that false laughter – an insecure laughter of trying to just fit in with this world.

I want real laughter that will see me through the lies that this world throws at me. What’s real? He loves me and He loves you, warts and all!

James 4:7-10 MSG “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and He’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”

It’s time to really laugh the laugh of faith in a world that is void of the joy that knowing what it means to really fit in with a Father Who loves them more than they could possibly imagine – then and only then will we begin to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Who wants part of something that is void of laughter? The world has that already – so, it’s time to laugh.

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