A Letter to My Children about Church Stuff

 

To my children,

All I really want is to see you in heaven. I want you to be successful in this life, but so much more in the life to come. Success in this life is determined by human standards, but success in the life to come is determined by your life with Christ now.

The church is changing; some good and some bad – but always remember, the God side of the church is perfect, it is the human side that’s the problem. As humans, we desire to see change we want instead of changes we need. I desire that you be the change we need!

Stand firm on your convictions and stand with evidence in the Bible; not on the words of man. Believe nothing you read or hear until you following the Berean example (Acts 17.11). Check the Bible for the truth (John 17.17). Believe not the philosophies of man, but the words of an eternal God (Isaiah 55.8-9). Man’s ways will only take you to the ends of this Earth; God’s words take you to the unending life.

Strengthen the church. Be the strengthening factor in the church. While some will seek to separate the church from Christ, realize it cannot be done. When you separate the head from the body (Ephesians 1.22, 23), the body dies. The church cannot live without Christ. We need Him and the church needs you to tell others about Him and His church.

Looking at you now, I see the desire you have to follow God. You are readers, hearers and doers of the word even when the world challenges you the other way. Continue reading, listening, studying, and living the life you know is the life to live. Let not the world determine your choices. Let your knowledge of the Creator of the universe be your guide. Let the word speak today as it spoke in years past – it changed souls then and it will change lives today (2 Timothy 3.16-17).

Each day, reach for the prize ahead (Philippians 3.12-14) and put aside those things which are slowing down your spiritual life (Hebrews 12.1). Run the race so you may receive a prize, but let that prize be given to you by God and not by man (1 Corinthians 9.24; 2 Timothy 4.7-8).

Live your life in such a way you will see Jesus and we will see each other in the end.

Your proud father,

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Fantasy Football, My Bible and Winning

 

Over the years, fantasy football has become a rising fad among many armchair quarterbacks and I am among them. After winning my league in crushing defeat eight years ago, my fantasy football teams resembles the heritage of the Detroit Lions. We are simply awful. I am gladly holding down last place in our league and still searching, praying, hoping and wishing for the first win of the season.

Every year I wonder the same thing about fantasy football, “Why do I do so bad?” Well, I know the answer – I do not pay attention to football or my fantasy football team as much as I need to in order to win. Instead, I casually glance at my team every few weeks to be sure it is still there. Since I do not watch ESPN or read the paper, so I have no idea what players are good and which are on the injured reserve list. Face it, my football knowledge is so bad right now that if Terry Bradshaw were a choice, I would have drafted him.

One interesting thing is, I have the fantasy football app on my phone, which is in my hands several dozen times a day. I just never check it.

The same thing happens with our knowledge of the Bible. When we do not use our knowledge, or keep up with our reading and study then we start lacking in knowledge. Those once simple memory verses have all been forgotten. As with my fantasy football app, there is a Bible app in my hands several times a day.

I wonder if many Christians need to carry the Bible in their hands every day.

Have we lost the touch and feel of God’s word in our lives?

Have we replaced God’s Word with the self-help, motivational philosophies of the day?

Here are five quick thoughts to see how familiar you are with God’s Word:

5 – Your favorite version on Sunday mornings is the “pew version.”

4 – You think Daniel’s three friends are Larry, Moe and Curly.

3 – The preacher gives a lesson on lying from Mark 17 and you tell him you read Mark 17 all the time.

2 – Your children read from 2nd Hezekiah last night.

1 – You favorite Bible verse is “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

 Just some thoughts,

 


Recognized this post? This article is a previous post on the Preacher’s Pen and has been brought back, revised and reposted on the new website format. It is my hope and prayer, these posts are bringing you some thoughts to motivate and inspire you to greater service. Over the next few months, new articles will be written and older articles will be revised and reposted. Stay tuned for more!

34 Ways to Encourage Your Minister

 

October is “Minister Appreciation Month” and over the next few weeks I would like to share a few posts with you regarding minister and encouraging your minister. Many times, it is difficult to understand ministry because of the aspects of ministry which are cannot be shared and without walking in a ministers shoes. Let us all, ministers included, seek to encourage the ministers we know.

Appreciation is a powerful word when it comes to certain professions. Appreciation brings a boost of self-esteem and also the ability for someone else to admire the work you do. When it comes to preaching, many ministers avoid the describing the ins and outs of their career choice because they do not want to boast about their lifestyle. While many professions come with an 8 to 5 workday, the ministry is a continuous, 24/7 effort. The phone rings at 3:00 pm just like it might ring at 3:00 am. There are some who think the ministry only occurs on Sunday and possibly a Wednesday night, but they are sadly mistaken. Preaching is a daunting task not fit for everyone, not encouraged for everyone and not everyone will make it through.

Below are a few ways you can encourage and show your minister you truly appreciate his work.

34 Ways to Encourage Your Minister

  1. Pray for him every day!
  2. Give him a gift card to his favorite restaurant.
  3. Send him an anonymous card letting him know what you appreciate about him and do not sign it.
  4. Babysit or offer to pay for a babysitter so he and his wife and have a free night.
  5. Donate to a mission effort in his name.
  6. Send his family a basket of flowers.
  7. Get him a magazine subscription for his favorite magazine.
  8. Go visiting with him.
  9. Donate to his retirement fund.
  10. Give his children “happy meal money.”
  11. Mow his grass.
  12. Give him tickets to a sporting event or a concert.
  13. Give his family a weekend trip out of the city.
  14. Buy him a suit.
  15. Take he and his family out to dinner
  16. Donate to his children’s college fund.
  17. Landscape his yard.
  18. Do not wait until he is offered another position to give him a raise.
  19. Stay awake during his lesson.
  20. Buy him lunch and have it sent to his office.
  21. Get a book he enjoys reading and mail it to his house anonymously.
  22. Provide an end of the year bonus.
  23. Give him a sabbatical. (Sabbatical – a specified amount of time off to refresh and relax.)
  24. Buy him a car (Yes, I know a congregation who bought the minister a car. The last time I was talking to him, he was still driving it with well over 100,000 miles.)
  25. Let his wife know what a good man he is.
  26. Make the minister and his family a homemade gift and present it to them.
  27. Be patient as he grows.
  28. Never call his children “Preacher’s Kids.”
  29. Take him fishing/hunting. (If you take him hunting, be sure to bring him back.)
  30. Buy him a set of gift cards to his favorite coffee shop.
  31. Call him just to say you appreciate his efforts.
  32. Stop complaining about the length his lessons and tell him how much you learned.
  33. Do not wait until he is gone to appreciate him.
  34. Send him to lectureships and let him “get fed” instead of him doing all the “feeding.”

Just some thoughts,

 


Recognized this post? This article is a previous post on the Preacher’s Pen and has been brought back, revised and reposted on the new website format. It is my hope and prayer, these posts are bringing you some thoughts to motivate and inspire you to greater service.

VBS is Coming! (VBS Plans Ahead)

I know, it is only September, but very soon Vacation Bible School will be upon a majority of churches. I publish this article every year and it yields tremendous results because everyone has a connection to Vacation Bible School (VBS) and everyone wants VBS to be a successful part of the congregation. From my experience, VBS does not start a the month before; to have a successful VBS the planning starts at least six months from the VBS date.

This is a post based on the planning and some of the logistics behind Vacation Bible School; this is not a doctrinal post. The ideas expressed in this article are mine and gained through my personal experience.

Take a moment and read the thoughts below. I would like to hear your feedback.

Several years ago, a close friend of mine and I were talking about the process of getting ready for VBS and I thought I might give some hints to get VBS done better each year. Remember, I am no VBS guru, but I have learned some vital necessities of getting VBS done well and it has nothing to do with me, but the people involved make it happen.

It used to be the preacher was the one “volunteered” to handle VBS, but the trend is changing and people are now more involved. So if this does not apply to you, pass this list along to someone else.

Here are Gallagher’s Rules for VBS:

  • Start early – Don’t wait until two weeks before VBS to begin handing out the material and drafting teachers! This is possibly the second worst mistake you can make with VBS.


Here is the timeline I used for VBS:

  • Six Months from VBS Start Date – First meeting to gather teachers, helpers, maintenance crew, snack people, and any other area needed.
  • Five Months from VBS Start Date – Begin gathering material or ideas for material if your plan to create your own.
  • Four Months from VBS Start Date – Begin sending postcards to family, friends, visitors, and even the congregation to remind them of the VBS date. Publicize the VBS date on the Internet.
  • Three Months from VBS Start Date – Gather your decorating crew together and brainstorm for materials and ideas for decorations.
  • Two Months (8 weeks) from VBS Start Date – Pass out material to the teachers and ask if they need anything and be sure to get it. Advertise VBS again in the community paper, direct mail, word of mouth, postcards, whatever it takes to get the word out. Be sure a sign is placed on the church property noting that VBS is coming.
  • Six Weeks from VBS Start Date – Begin door-knocking opportunities and create posters to be passed out to the community bulletin boards in grocery stores, etc. Arrange for transportation of kids whose parents cannot bring them; begin now to get volunteers.
  • Four Weeks from VBS Start Date – Gather every VBS member together and as if there is anything needed. Whatever is needed, get someone other than yourself to be responsible for getting it and delivering it.
  • Three Weeks from VBS Start Date – The decorating team should be placing the final touches on the decorations and material. Also, more flyers need passed out and sent to each contact.
  • Two Weeks from VBS Start Date – The teachers need to be asked if there is anything they need. Constant encouragement is needed because of their powerful role.
  • One Week from VBS Start Date – Pray! The final touches need placed on VBS and the congregation needs to be regularly encouraged to be there.
  • The Day of VBS – Drink Coffee, Jolt Cola, Mountain Dew and eat lots of Twinkies – you will need it!

 

Gallagher’s Notable VBS Techniques:

  • Always encourage your VBS staff – Write them notes weekly, email them, call them and be there for them. Make sure they are taken care of, because they will take care of the children during the week.
  • NEVER MICRO-MANAGE! – Now stand up and say it with me, “I WILL NOT MICRO-MANAGE VBS!” 
  • Involve Everyone – Make sure everyone in your congregation is involved in some way. Get those who like to talk on the phone to make phone calls inviting people, get the computer savvy to develop a web page for VBS, leave no one out. Get a new Christian to be an assistant and watch them grow.
  • No Skimping on Snacks – Homemade snacks are always the best.
  • Reward the reward-able – Make sure you reward the children for a job well done. Give Bibles to those who brought others, give good gifts to those who work hard.
  • Acknowledge your staff each day – At each gathering thank, show appreciation and acknowledge the great qualities of your staff. Provide your staff with rewards as well.

     

Gallagher’s After VBS Techniques

  • Food! – After VBS is over, have a meal for everyone who took part in VBS and thank them for all the work they have done.
  • Review VBS! – Soon after VBS, but separate from the Appreciation Meal, have a VBS review. Be open and honest, let people voice opinions and discuss situations that could be improved and situations that are great. Bring the good and the improvable to the forefront of the discussions.

The techniques listed above is a brief look at the way VBS worked for me. As I said previously, this post is based on my experience, successes and failures with VBS planning. Much of this timeline and techniques were developed over several years of working with a great staff. I took these techniques and tweaked them over the years and saw a great increase in attendance and performance, but most of all the gospel being spread each year.

Remember — Start Early! and NEVER MICRO-MANAGE!

What would you add to the list?

Just some thoughts,

Possible Signs of Marriage Problems

Got a few minutes? If so, take this quick quiz to see if your marriage might be in trouble.

While the age of busyness and technology is upon us, sometimes we forget to communicate in the simplest ways with your spouse. As people have come to me over the years for marriage coaching, I notice several couples who did not see the warning signs of a great marriage problem which began as a small issue. The small issues in a marriage might go unnoticed until a larger problem brings every issue to the forefront.

The list below is not a guide, but a starting point to determine the health of your marriage

(1) If you call your spouse by the wrong name – your marriage might be in trouble.

(2) If you talk to your Facebook friends more that you talk to your spouse – your marriage might be in trouble.

(3) If you send your wife a text message and you are sitting beside her on the couch – your marriage might be in trouble.

(4) If you have a date night with your spouse and you go out alone – your marriage might be in trouble.

(5) If your children mean more to you than your spouse – your marriage might be in trouble.

(6) If you put yourself before your spouse – your marriage might be in trouble.

(7) If you remember your wife’s Twitter name but cannot remember her first name – your marriage might be in trouble.

(8) If you refer to your spouse as “Ball and Chain” or “Doofus” – your marriage might be in trouble.

(9) If your husband cares more about his dog than you – your marriage might be in trouble.

(10) If your wife cares more about her dishwasher than you – your marriage might be in trouble.

(11) If the only communication you have is on the phone – your marriage might be in trouble.

 

If all the above signs describe your marriage, your marriage IS in trouble.

So, how did you do?

Just some thoughts,

 

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Free Weekly Newsletter

 

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This free email newsletter will arrive in your inbox each Tuesday filled with information to motivate you in your spiritual walk. There will be articles, links, pictures, quotes and much more. The purpose of the newsletter is to strengthen others in Christ every week.

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Thank you,

 

 

 

 

Five MUST NEEDS of Congregational Leadership

 

 

As the leadership speaker and guru John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” While John Maxwell usually says this to a business crowd, the concept also applies to a congregation.

Consider for a moment the congregation who hires a new minister and the work, as well as the membership, takes off like a rocket. As long as the minister stays the congregation is moving ahead, but as soon as the minister leaves, the congregation heads back to much of the same situation from the previous years. Ministers can bring an influx of motivation and desire for a better work, but the leadership is the sustaining catalyst and structure of a growing congregation. The leadership is powerful in its perception and more powerful in its influence.

Below is a list of “Five Must Needs in Congregational Leadership.” These five needs are important in every congregation as Christians seek to take the gospel to the world. As others obey the gospel, they are joined with our local congregations and the leaders needs to be available to assist the membership in living the best life they can and growing every day. Without leadership, the lives of the membership might fall into a windstorm of chaos.

Here are the “Five MUST NEEDS of Congregational Leadership”

 

The Five Must Needs in Congregation Leadership

5 – Every Congregation Needs Knowledgeable Leaders

The leadership of any congregation not only needs to know the text of God’s word, but they need to know the members. God has provided us with the words of everlasting life and also a fellowship the world does not understand.  As our fellowship grows closer, the shepherds (elders) need to know their sheep. Physical shepherds know the sheep they care for each day. They know the food they eat and the water they drink; shouldn’t spiritual shepherds (elders) know their sheep?

4 – Every Congregation Needs Leading Leaders

Congregations do not need “bill-paying” leaders who pay the bills and maintain a congregation. Church members need leaders to step up and be the shepherds (elders) and servants (deacons) they have been appointed to be. There is a powerful difference between leading a congregation and maintaining a congregation.

Sheep (church members) need to be led by their shepherds (elders). The role of a shepherd is not an easy role in the Lord’s church. It takes hard work to oversee those mature in the faith and those new in the faith. As a physical shepherd leads the sheep through the valleys and to the mountain tops, the spiritual shepherds (elders) should lead their congregation through the spiritual valleys and mountain tops.

3 – Every Congregation Needs Seeking Leaders

How many members miss on Sunday morning the elders never go visit? If a sheep was missing from the flock, the shepherds should leave the present and find the absent. (Remember the parable of the lost sheep –Luke 15.3-7) Personally, I would love to see a congregation where the elders notice people absent from the assembled worship of the church and they immediately leave and go seek those lost sheep out? If we cannot save our own flock, are we sure we will be able to save others?

2 – Every Congregation Needs Prepared Leaders

Troubles and turmoil will come to every congregation. The majority, if not all, of the problems a congregation experiences do not arise overnight. Clear signs of problems and conflicts are usually seen several weeks, months and years before the problems rear their ugly heads. Shepherds need to see these problems before they rear their head and deal with the situation before the problems get any worse.

Remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians elders? (Acts 20.18-35) Specifically verse 29 –”I know after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…” Paul urges the elders to be prepared for the problems to come.

1 – Every Congregation Needs Loving Leaders

Without love, leading is worthless. Yes, you can lead a congregation without loving them, but the results will not be one of spiritual greatness. In fact, leading without love will not sustain a congregation seeking to serve the Lord.  Paul himself says that if he had all things but did not have love, he is nothing. (1 Corinthians 13.2-3)

Loving the members enables the leaders to bring the needs of the saints higher and serve them as Christ served others. A loving leadership will love the sheep enough to save their souls!

What do you think? What qualities do you see as “MUSTS” on congregational leadership?

Just some thoughts,


Robin Williams, Jokes and Depression (Church Edition)

Last night, the comedian side of me was tearful. A man whose antics, voices and expressions brought my home a thousand laughs was suddenly gone at the young age of 63. He had just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago and now, he is gone. He brought our family laughs in Mork and Mindy, Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, Patch Adams, RV and Mrs. Doubtfire, along with thousands of other guest appearances in shows and movies. His comedic genius was great and his desire to make others laugh was clearly seen in his life.

My heart breaks for his family. Losing someone in this world is difficult; whether you know their time is near or whether they pass suddenly. Mr. Williams’s departure comes as a new Night at the Museum is going to be in theatres soon. Those on the outside saw his career continuing with laughs and more of the wonder character of Teddy Roosevelt. His last publically posted words were to his daughter, Zelda, wishing her a happy birthday.

In the wake of this tragedy, news is breaking that Mr. Williams suffered with depression on and off throughout the years. While most find this odd that a man of a million laughs, millions of fans and a life most who dream to live would suffer from depression, a few others find this to be consistent. While at the time of this writing the speculation is suicide tied to depression, our hearts still break and our prayers still go out.

Before I begin, I do not write the following words from scientific theory, applied psychology or theological studies, I write them from personal experience; this is my heart.

Every day people around you and me are suffering from depression. Many of those you may see as “having it all together” are suffering from this dreaded illness today. This illness can manifest itself is many ways and at various times. Some see depression as someone who sits around and gloats in their trials, tribulations and sorrow; and while this may be true to some, the effects of depression are not always present in the public eye.

I know of preachers who suffer depression but publically are professional, loving and involved in everyone’s life. Inwardly, they are struggling with their own lives and the future of their family. Their lives are a service to others continually, but on the inside they are raging and suffering. They are struggling, but to whom can they go? Everyone looks to the preacher to solve their problems; the preacher is not supposed to have any problems.

I know church members who suffer depression because they feel no one cares about them. How can this be, you ask? Easy. They are the ones that come and go in our assemblies without a handshake or a smile. They are the ones that no one gets to know because no one is sure how to talk to them. These members go home every Sunday and sit alone having left an assembly of joyful people.

I know of church members who do everything they can publically, but just as preachers, they are struggling with depression themselves. Every Sunday they put on the public face of prosperity so people will look to them as an example, not a case. Publically, they do “have it all together” but at home, at work and alone, they are questioning life and the path their lives are taking.

Many times, people who “have it all together” are the ones struggling the most. There are those who we know struggle but we do not know what to say or even what to do. They are the people on the prayer list who have been battling cancer for years, struggling with their marriage, trying to find a job, etc. Those are the ones we need to hold close as well.

There are people struggling with depression right now; some close to you and some far away. You will not be able to pull everyone out of depression’s pit, but you will be able to assist them. In the light of future events, many are telling others, “If you are thinking of Suicide call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.” I agree with their efforts because there are many who need professional counseling and help. However, giving someone a number may not help them. Sitting with them as they make the call will. Holding their hand as they suffer through the ups and downs of life will provide them with people around them to love and support them.

I am thankful the Lord gave us the church to depend on and strive for the prize together. This life is a constant battle and the awesome mind of the Lord gave us a community of people struggling through the same problems we do to love and support us, to pray for us and to help us in our time of need. How is your church family reaching out to everyone?

Here is how you can begin to help?

Get to Know Others – Break out of your church routine and get to know everyone. Church are a family, not a private club with your own table. Get up out of that pew and change pews ever week. Shake hands with people you do not know and get to know others. Want to have some fun? Walk up to someone and ask them their favorite color and why? Get the conversation started.

Stop Telling Others to Reach Out and Go to Them – We live in a lazy religious culture. We invite the community to church and never invite the church into the community. Jesus did not say, “Invite them and they will come,” He said, “Go into all the world…” There is a difference. The church building is not a “Field of Dreams” where we build it and they come; Christ already built it and we go to them.

Stop Just Praying for the Prayer List – Ok, before you jump me, you should pray every day, but why just pray? Why not use the hands, the feet and the abilities God has given you to serve those on the prayer list? I bet many of them will not see anyone during the week. So, why not cut their grass? Rake their leaves? Fix them dinner? Or just stop by to help clean their home if they will let you? Service is action, not words!

In the midst of a worldly loss, let us rise to the occasion!

Just my thoughts,

For those interested in the “Business Edition” of this article, you may go here.

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Personal Note – This was not written as a cure-all, but as a start. There are thousands of people much more qualified than I to handle the situations others are going through. I am writing from personal experience. My prayers go out to those who are currently struggling through life and those who will struggle more. I encourage you to reach out.

 

The Hummingbird Morning

This morning as I read the words of Proverbs 2 and 3 and Ecclesiastes 1, the sound of the rain falling on the earth provided gentle background noise as the words of God filled my mind. The sound of the rain was perfect – constant drops falling on the house, the tree and the ground. It was great reading weather; almost perfect.

As I read in Proverbs, my peripheral vision caught a bright red Cardinal hopping across the flower bed looking for the newest worm to pop out of the ground; an early morning breakfast. While the cardinal hopped around, I thought of my mama (my grandmother) and how she always took care of the birds, especially the hummingbirds. At least one hummingbird feeder hung from her deck in the midst of the wind chimes. Growing up, it was normal to see hummingbird after hummingbird flying around the porch waiting for their turn to drink the red colored homemade mix she always had available.

Even though I was reading, my thoughts kept going back to planting flowers and what particular plant I could get to attract hummingbirds. Little did I know, a second later my thoughts would be interrupted by two hummingbirds; one large and one small. The humming of their wings made the sound of the gentle rain become background noise. Quickly the two hummingbirds took turns drinking from the Torenia flowers Carrie placed on our front porch a few short weeks ago.

Being a mere two feet away, I was amazed as the hummingbirds quickly made their way around each flower in the pot. Their agility was amazing to see while only an arm’s length away. It has been years since I have seen a hummingbird as close as they were; especially since my thoughts were already on hummingbirds.

It turned out that Carrie planted the Torenias and the hummingbirds showed up, amid the rain, to bless my day.

How interesting life is when we just stop and look. Today, stop and look, see the beauty God provides.

Just my thoughts,

Some of My Favorite Quotes on Religion

What is a Quote? – A quote is nothing more than a short thought by man speaking a truth or causing one to think more deeply than he has before.

As some of you may know, I am a quote addict. I have a journal and an Evernote file full of quotes on religion, business, life, parenting, marriage, money and much more. In fact, every morning I text a few friends a challenging quote of the day just to encourage others to expand their thinking and to encourage them.

Below are several of my favorite quotes on religion. They are mean to challenge your thinking. Enjoy.

 

 

“Salvation is free… but discipleship will cost you your life.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

God doesn’t use people simply because they are gifted, but because He is gracious – Wesley Walker

 

“I find that doing the will of God leaves me with no time for disputing about His plans.” — George MacDonald

 

“If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be better than they are in the world: at least, we should be better enabled to bear them.” — John Owen

 

“There are only 2 reasons everyone is not a Christian: 1) They do not know a Christian or… 2) They do.” — Author Unknown

 

“The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reserve to God.” — W. T. Richardson

 

“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” — Author Unknown

 

“Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church… nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy Presence.” — Susanna Wesley

 

“If the heart can conceive it, and the mind can believe it, God can achieve it.” — Charles Pollard

 

“God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” — St. Augustine of Hippo

 

“No wonder people do not want the Gospel, have you seen our Christians treat their brethren/” (Chris Gallagher)

 

“In Jesus’ case, we have the story of the holiest man who ever lived, and yet it was the prostitutes and thieves who adored Him, and the religious who hated His guts.” — Rebecca Manley Pippert

 

 

Just some thoughts,