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Running the Race (Hebrews 12:1)

Loss: Finding a Better Perspective

“I was born to do gymnastics!” These were the words spoken by my daughter the week we enrolled her in a full gymnastics facility. She especially loved working on the bars and beams, and showed real talent. I will never forget watching her effortlessly and fearlessly climb the rope up to the ceiling and back down on her first try. A few months later, we were forced to pull her and relocate to a small, rural city for my husband’s job. Here there was no full gymnastics facility and my daughter was crushed. As a parent, you want your child to have every opportunity and to be able to live out their passion. I immediately began plotting and praying for an exit plan out of here.

 

Almost three years later, God still has us in this small, rural city. I can’t say that I am anymore satisfied with my surroundings. Of course, the mountains are a couple of hours away and there is a beauty to this area, but I am a suburb girl. So even though I have prayed for contentment in my surroundings, I miss the many opportunities and choices of living just outside of a large city. My daughter finally agreed to enroll in the local tumbling program. This wasn’t an easy decision for her as I suspect it felt like an act of surrender. She did not want to give up her dream of bars and beams, and even though she has amazing, supportive coaches, is on the competitive team, and practices in a brand-new tumbling facility there is still a loss felt by us both. Yet, it recently occurred to me that maybe we aren’t seeing the big picture here.

 

What if God placed us here to keep us from something or prepare us for something greater? Maybe our relocation is a protective measure or a step towards something better than we can even imagine?

 

Back in Genesis, chapters 37-50, we read the story of Joseph. Joseph was greatly favored by his father and as a result, his jealous brothers faked his death and sold him into slavery at the age of 17. He was carted off to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian guard. Potiphar treated Joseph exceptionally well until Potiphar’s wife made advances towards him. When Joseph refused Potiphar’s wife, she falsely accused him of making those advances towards her. From there, Joseph is thrown into prison where he remained for several years. Through a series of events, Joseph interprets a dream of Pharaoh’s. God reveals in this dream that there is going to be seven years of great abundance in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of great famine. The Lord gave instructions through this dream on how to manage the food so that there would be reserves in the time of famine. Pharaoh is so pleased with this interpretation that he not only releases Joseph from prison, but gives him control over his house and the land. So, at the age of 30 Joseph is given Pharaoh’s signet ring and made the second most powerful man in the land of Egypt. When the famine strikes, Joseph’s brothers are forced to travel to Egypt to buy some food. They end up appearing before Joseph although they do not recognize him. Through another series of events, Joseph provided food for the family, eventually revealed himself to his brothers and they are reconciled. When Pharaoh finds out about Joseph’s family, he tells Joseph to move them all to Egypt where he will give them the best of the land. Sometime after this Jacob, Joseph’s father, passes away. Joseph’s brothers become fearful that he may not have forgiven them for their past actions and may now seek revenge. When they approach Joseph, his response is profound and we finally get a glimpse into God’s purposes in this situation.

 

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result – the survival of many people. Therefore, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21 HCSB).

 

We may never know what God’s purpose is for our present situation. Sometimes it may feel like a loss or a great inconvenience, but maybe what our present situation needs is a different perspective. Perhaps we need to accept our circumstances and trust that God has our best interests in mind. Who knows what great things God has planned for us? In the meantime, let’s keep running with endurance the race that lies before us. (Hebrews 12:1).

 

Until next time

~ Barb

 

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Overcoming Fear Part II:The Spiritual Battle

 

Every day we face a battle. Most of us don’t think much about the spirit world, but Jesus, and his disciples spoke about the Enemy who is out to kill, steal, and destroy.[i] (John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:12) The Bible tells us that this enemy isn’t so much your boss, annoying neighbor, or local politician as it is the unseen forces that drive the people that we regard as our foes. An effective battle tactic of our enemy is to instill fear in us. So let’s take a look at how these unseen forces work so we know what we are fighting against and how to defeat them and their fear tactics. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul lists for us the proper wardrobe and accessories we need to deal with spiritual war:

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

 

Notice that three times Paul tells us to stand against the devil’s schemes and that five pieces of armor are defensive in nature. We need not run away in fear, nor do we need to race in an ambush. Christ has already fought the ultimate battle and eliminated death for His children, we just need to stand and resist the enemy’s schemes with the tools that have been given to us.

Let’s start by unpacking each of the pieces that Paul refers to. We begin by putting on the belt of truth. Roman soldiers wore their belt as we do – around their waist. It would hold their sword and it was also used to tuck their tunic into during times of battle so that it would not hinder them. The belt of truth in Ephesians refers to knowing the Word of God. We need to study it daily, not in a legalistic fashion, but in preparation. Back in Genesis 3 when the first attack was made on man, Satan twisted the Word of God and questioned Adam and Eve about its truthfulness to get them to disobey the Lord, and it worked. When we doubt or neglect God’s Word it puts us in a place where we can be deceived and unhealthy fears are often based on deceit.

When we put on the breastplate of righteousness we behave in a way that is free from guilt and sin. Proverbs 11 lists many benefits of putting on the breastplate of righteousness. Let’s take a look specifically at verse 9, “With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.” (NLT) Gossip can definitely bring some fear into our lives and bring about some undesirable consequences. However, this verse reminds us that the righteous will be saved by their own knowledge of the truth of who they are in Christ and their friends will also see through the lies. Those who know the righteous see through the slander. [ii]

A few years ago my husband and a co-worker were both laid off from their jobs at a small company in the quaint town of 6,000 where we lived. My husband quickly found a position 350 miles away while the kids and I stayed behind waiting for the house to sell. One of the disadvantages of a small town is that word travels quickly and gossip spreads like wildfire. Someone had started the story that my husband and his co-worker were in fact not laid off, but fired from their positions. To make matters worse, this gossip supposedly originated somewhere within our church. Needless to say, we were hurt and angry – not to mention disappointed that our friends and church family would believe such things. I spent the next six months isolating myself. I had convinced myself that our church was no longer a good place to be as most of those people probably didn’t support us anyway. I had believed the lies of the enemy and he had me right where he wanted me – alone and away from my church family. I was full of hurt and resentment. The thing is, that was not the truth of the situation. Most people did not believe or even hear the gossip. Had I embraced the truth of verse 9 those six months may have turned out differently. I would not have feared the reactions of our church family. Already we can see how the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness work together.

As we stand, we are instructed to sandal our “feet with the readiness for the gospel of peace”. Roman soldiers wore heavy sandals with hobnails, a short nail with a large head, to ensure firm footing. [iii] When referring to the “gospel of peace”, Paul is speaking about the relationship with Jesus Christ with whom we are taught about in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Truly knowing Christ gives believers peace and firm footing even in the midst of battle. It’s important to find a quiet time and place free of distractions to meet with God daily.  As we pray and get to know God better we begin to experience the peace that comes a relationship with Him

With our shield of faith, we can expel the lies that our enemy tells us. The type of shield being referred to here is about the size of a door.[iv] It is enough to cover the whole body. If we are fighting the fiery arrows of an enemy, we need to turn to Scripture for the truth of who God is and who we are. When the Enemy tells you that you will never be good enough because of the things you have done, God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) When the enemy tries to convince you that you are not loved, God says, “not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:38-39) And when the enemy makes you feel defeated and hopeless; God says the He “will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

No one should enter into battle with their head uncovered. The helmet of salvation protects our mind and covers us with the truth so that we can fight back with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The sword is the only offensive weapon specifically mentioned by Paul. When our minds are convinced of our identity in Christ we are equipped to stand with endurance, confidence, patience and strength. We can then use the Word of God to fight back against the enemy.

Here concludes the qualities of Ephesians associated with a piece of armor, but there is actually one more offensive weapon mentioned in verse 18.[v] Prayer is one of the most effective weapons we possess and often times we don’t fully utilize it. Talk to the Lord about your struggles. He already knows your inmost thoughts so nothing you say will surprise Him. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to deal with your fears. Believe that God has your best interests in mind. Trust that He will see you through your hardships and you will find that with your growing faith comes the peace that only God can provide.

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition and thanksgiving, let our requests be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6

Remember to dress for success! Until next time…

~Barb

 

 


 

[i] (Greear 2016)
[ii] (Holman Christian Standard Bible 2010) p.1046
[iii] (Bible Hub n.d.)
[iv] (Bible Hub n.d.)
[v] ibid.
Bibliography
Bible Hub. Ephesians 6:15. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/6-15.htm (accessed February 2, 2017).
Bible Hub. Ephesians 6:16. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/6-16.htm (accessed February 4, 2017).
Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

Taking Our Thoughts Captive

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I’m forty-four years old and I still have to get out of bed and close my closet door if I see that it is open even a crack. I’m no longer afraid of monsters or imagine that some ax murderer is lurking in my closet, yet I cannot break the habit of checking the door. That’s how fear works. It can drive us and may even put us in the habit of doing something long term. What we need to examine is whether the behavior is harmless like closing a closet door, or is it something more serious that interferes with our lives?

There are two different types of fear. There is the beneficial fear that we should have of the Lord. This is the reverential awe of God and does not necessarily mean we are to be afraid of God as much as we are to be in awe of His power and glory all the while aware of His wrath and judgment.[i] To possess this type of fear means that we have a good handle on our relationship with God and this relationship is the key to overcoming the second type of fear. This second fear also has its place. Without fear, we would not have a healthy emotional response to danger and could not protect ourselves from “legitimate threats.”[ii] It is when we allow fear to move past this point, feeding it continuously with our varying scenarios that it leeches onto us, thriving on our untruths until it is so large that one cannot carry on with life the way God intended. Our freedom is compromised.

When I get caught in a slump, I notice how one negative emotion can turn into an avalanche of negativity and this is where fear has its roots .[iii]  So what is the first step in changing that negativity? We need to change our thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes to the Corinthians about the untruths that the false teachers were bringing into the the church. His advice: “We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” Paul was instructing the Corinthians to embrace the truth of Christ as they were originally taught. How? By taking every thought captive. The Greek word for captive is aichmalótizó, meaning making a prisoner. When battling fear, we need to keep close tabs on the thoughts going through our minds. Fleeting thoughts can easily turn negative and grow out of control so we must treat them as if they are a prisoner – unpredictable and easily out of control. As soon as a negative thought enters into our mind we need to demolish it with positivity. “What ifs” need to become “I cans” and “I cant’s” need to become “God can”. So this week let’s begin by monitoring our thoughts, because God can transform us and empower us and we can begin to overcome fear by changing our thoughts.

Until next time

~Barb

[i] (Got Questions n.d., Taylor 2017)
[ii] (Psychology Today n.d.)
[iii] (Taylor 2017)

Freedom From Fear

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The last year was a struggle. We experienced some health issues, marriage and family turmoil and walked through some tough trials with some close friends. As the New Year approached it became evident that many of these issues would not be left in 2016, so I began to reflect on the things that I could change. So much in our lives is truly out of our control, this was one thing that was abundantly clear in 2016, but how we handle those situations is everything. It all comes down to our attitude and thoughts.

 

When I was a child I was an incessant worrier. My mother’s favorite book to read to me was, The Very Worried Walrus. Walrus was always worried about a variety of scenarios that could happen to him. Ninety-nine percent of the scenarios Walrus envisioned never happened and in the end, when one of his worries, falling off a bike, did come to fruition it was not nearly as bad as Walrus had imagined. All of us worriers know that this is most often the case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cease the worrying, nor did the book cease mine in case you are wondering. What did help my worrying over the years was my walk with Christ. Yet at times I still struggle with fear. It doesn’t paralyze me like it used to or keep me up as many nights as before, but it still limits my life at times. So this year, I am taking a stand. I am digging deeper into God’s Word and living out what it says. I hope you will join me on this journey and pray 2017 can be a year of freedom from fear!

 

On Monday, I will be posting the first in this series. Be sure to subscribe to my blog to never miss a post. Click follow at the bottom of the post to subscribe.

 

Until Monday,

~ Barb

 

Merry Christmas

From morning thunderstorms to afternoon white outs here in western Nebraska, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

A Christmas Refocus

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With Christmas rapidly approaching our spiritual walk can get a bit stale. Maybe it’s not that you stopped praying or reading your Bible – life just has you distracted. I liken it to the child examining all of the gifts under the tree, counting how many have his or her name on them and noting the size of each box. The focus of the child begins to shift from the tree and its meaning to what is in the boxes.

 Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. Children view the gifts with wonder and delight, while our distractions may bring us heartache and worry. There are the large concerns like family and close friends undergoing various trials. Add to that the everyday matters like ongoing health concerns and the accompanying medical bills. Circulating among these thoughts are the things that need to get accomplished on a daily basis. All of these together can pile up, steal our joy and divert our attention away from the true meaning of Christmas.

This unengaged feeling is not unusual. Our world has become so fast paced that even when we have a set time to be still matters intrude on our quiet time. The thing is, we are always going to have difficulties in our life, but we need to manage them or they will consume us. Maybe right now your hardships seem a bit overwhelming. Please remember that if we are walking in obedience, God has us right where we are supposed to be. He uses all of our circumstances to shape us to be more like Him.

 The only way to find peace when life feels out of control is to surrender those major issues to God. It’s an act of faith that becomes easier as you build a closer relationship with Christ. Once we deal with the major concerns appropriately the other distractions become more manageable. Here are some steps to help you get refocused:

  • Read the Bible. A wise pastor once said that even if you have trouble understanding scripture, keep reading. It will eventually come together. There are plenty of versions out there. The New Living Translation (NLT) is quite easy to comprehend. Others like the Amplified Bible and The Message also help to clarify the more literal translations.
  • Spend some time in prayer. Find a quiet place to get away from any interruptions, whether that is a prayer closet or even a master bathroom. Begin with thanksgiving for all the Lord has blessed you with. Ask God to examine your heart and bring to mind any sins that need confessing and repent. Then ask God for what you need, but do so with a yielding spirit, knowing that God’s will is always best for your life.
  • Finally, take some time to reflect on all that you have as a result of our Savior’s birth, death, and resurrection. Make a list and keep it somewhere in sight so you can to add to it. Continue to reflect on it during this busy season. Start with the grace and salvation that are offered to you as a child of God. If you have not yet confessed your sins and surrendered your life to Him see here.

 

Merry Christmas and God bless!

~Barb

I am having trouble finding peace among the presents by the tree.

Life is busy. The kids are sick. There are issues with the family.

Cookies need baked and musicals attended.

Appearances to the in-law’s home are highly recommended.

What is Christmas all about? I can’t see it through the haze.

I search for Peace each morning as I quietly stare at the page.

Yet thoughts keep churning in my head, stealing the gift that I most need.

My quiet time with Jesus doesn’t feel like it will succeed.

Today a soft voice whispered, “I know all of your concerns.”

It takes complete surrender to find what you most yearn.

So in faith I hand over the things I cannot carry.

The worry and the fears and the things that I should bury.

For the Prince of Peace has come and brought this gift to you and me.

Tomorrow I shall have my Peace as I read beside the tree.

~Barb Douma

Accepting Your Circumstances

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For some time now I have been dissatisfied with my life circumstances. I have asked God numerous times to change this one area of my life and I often don’t stop there. I proceed to give Him a list of the reasons why this situation is not beneficial to me and all of the advantages there are for granting this request. Sure, I have moments of surrender where I tell God that I will rest in His will, but it is soon forgotten as I am again prodded with another reason why this circumstance should change.

 

One morning during my quiet time I came across some verses in Psalms that humbled and convicted me.

 

You divided the sea by your might;

you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.

 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

 You split open springs and brooks;

you dried up ever-flowing streams.

 Yours is the day, yours also the night;

you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.

 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;

you have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74:13-17 ESV)

 

I was overwhelmingly reminded of how powerful my God is. How could I presume to tell Him what I think is best for my life? Praying for relief is of course acceptable and encouraged, but the answer may not always be “yes” as Paul tells us here:

 

Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Corinthians 12:7-10)

 

So how do we share in the same contentment in our circumstances that Paul did? There are a few things to remember. First, God cares more about our spiritual status than our comfort. As believers, we are in a process of transformation. God allows us to be in the situations we are in for our own improvement, whether He is disciplining us, teaching us a lesson, humbling us or bringing us into something greater. So first, reflect on your life and see if there is a sin in this area of your life that you need to confess and repent of. Whatever God’s purpose may be, find peace in knowing that your Father loves you enough to bring you to a better place spiritually. Second, trust God’s plan for your life. He truly does know what is beneficial for us. Psalm 32:10 tells us that “the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.” (HCSB) Lastly, find joy where you are at. Even in the worst of circumstances there are blessings to be found. Hold fast to these and remember that God has plan for you and it is a good one!

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

 

 

What lessons have you learned through life circumstances?

 

 

 

 

Unqualified

A photo by Sergei Akulich. unsplash.com/photos/hJ2BFoo8DKg

Have you ever felt unqualified – called to do something but feel like you are lacking the skills or experience to carry it out? Often times the feeling is fueled by insecurity or fear of failure. Someone approaches you with a ministry opportunity that they believe you will be perfect for. Your heart quickens at the thought and then seems to halt as the negative voice in your head tells you that you’re not equipped or that your past is too ugly to qualify you for such an opportunity.

 

I can imagine Moses also shared these insecurities. He was born as a Hebrew but raised by an Egyptian princess. One day he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. Murder was punishable by death so Moses fled to the desert where he stayed for 40 years until God called him out. Despite his past, God had chosen him to lead His people out of exile. Listen in on a portion of God and Moses’s conversation:

 

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-17)

 

The thing is, you may not feel able to do the things God has laid on your heart, but the truth is that God does the equipping for what He calls us to do. We simply need to put our trust in Him. It will take some work on our part, but if the God of the Universe has put us in charge He is going to supply us with what we need regardless of the size of the task. Not sure where to begin? “Just show up!”2

 

Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus – the great Shepherd of the sheep – with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21)

 

Notes

  1. Hindson, Ed, Courageous Faith: Life Lessons from Old Testament Heroes (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 62-63.
  2. Moore, Beth, prod “Living Proof Ministries Subsplash Broadcasts (August 25, 2016).

Doing and Praying Gets Results

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/9O1oQ9SzQZQ

 

 

 

When something is troubling me I often turn to prayer and Scripture. One morning while reading the Bible and feeling like I wasn’t finding the peace that I needed, a voice of conviction whispered in my head.  “You are not soaking in the Word, but hiding in it.” In other words, I wasn’t correctly using any of the tools God had given me.

 

Upon reflection, there were a couple of things I was doing wrong. First, I wasn’t living out what I was hearing. Instead, I was waiting for and wanting constant reassurance. Many times we read through our daily devotions, attend a church service or Bible study and hear some comforting or convicting words, ponder them for a few minutes, think on how profound they are, and then get on with our day. We can recall the lesson, but we don’t put it into practice. Then we become frustrated when do not have peace in our situation.

 

James offers some wisdom in this area:

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:22-25 NLT).

 

Notice the promise that is also included in the above verses., “if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

 

The second mistake was in my prayer. We can read and even memorize Bible verses, but without a relationship with God it is fruitless. Prayer can be a dialogue between us and God that builds that relationship. If we have confessed our sins and acknowledged Christ as our Savior then prayer can become a source of comfort, strength, guidance, and healing.1

 

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 says this:

Rejoice always!

Pray constantly.

Give thanks in everything,

For this is God’s will for you

In Christ Jesus. (HCSB)

 

Being in constant prayer doesn’t mean giving God a list of demands repeatedly, but having a dialogue with Him throughout the day. Thank Him for the blessings He has provided and ask Him for what you need. Most importantly, listen to the stirrings of your heart where His response may be felt. 2

 

After hearing from the voice of conviction, I redirected my approach and began to pray in a new way about the problem I was facing. I embraced the words in Scripture that applied to my particular situation, and when I prayed I asked God to not just reveal Himself to me, but to reveal Himself through me. I prayed in such a way as to model 1 Thessalonians 5. As a result, I witnessed God’s faithfulness and answer to my prayer.

In what ways do you keep from acting like the forgetful man in the mirror?

 

 

 

For more on prayer visit: The Priority of Prayer

 

 

Notes

 

1.Dr. Charles Stanley. “The Priority of Prayer.” In Touch Ministries, Inc. Sept. 8, 2016.

Accessed 9/11/16. https://www.intouch.org/watch/the-priority-of-prayer

2.Ibid.

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