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Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

As autumn sweeps over the valley I call home I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and wonder that in all actuality signals the death of summer and warns us that winter is just around the corner. I am a warm weather lover. I don’t shed my jacket until the air hits at least 75 degrees, 80 is better and 85 is perfect. I want to be out in it, inhaling sunshine. But as soon as that pre-winter chill hits, I’m the sit by the fire and read girl, a quilt over my legs and a hot beverage in my hand.

Still – autumn captures me. I love russet maples. I love the sight of trees that rain down gold and yellow. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and I smile when one lands lightly on my hair or floats past close enough to brush my cheek. Logically I know they are dying. But spiritually, I sense them dancing.

They have accomplished their mission in life, to bud and unfurl and shine lush green, giving shelter to birds and squirrels and frisky house cats. They have dressed the branches in a vibrant veil of life and given the breeze something to tickle. They’ve provided shade for the summer lover, a cool spot to sit and watch bees and butterflies do their thing.

And now that their virile days are over, they don’t go out without making a statement. Oh no – nothing quiet about their golden age. They transform. They get out their catchiest outfits, they wear red, they laugh in rusty tones, they twirl and float and settle soft.
They know the secret. They know that while others might see their purpose at an end, they have much more to offer. Children will love to jump and play in them, friends will enjoy walking through them, couples will grasp hands for warmth and share special moments taking in the beauty they add to the landscape.

Winter will come, snow will cover them until the world forgets they were ever there. But they will still be doing their work, mulching the earth to provide nourishment for the new growth that comes with the spring.

Never forget that like the leaves, God has a purpose and a plan for us at every age. Our mission is to listen, follow His leading, and embrace our value in our current season. Don’t lament the fertile green we once wore when you can dress in a ball gown of autumn colors. Don’t regret the day you find you must rest at the root of the tree when you can treasure the memory of the journey that brought you there and the rich heritage you leave for the new growth that is nourished by it.

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” . Psalm 71:18

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515d3fl4iNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Just finished reading The Curious Christian: How discovering wonder enriches every part of life by Barnabas Piper. The book was provided to me in return for an honest review.

Piper makes the point in this book that all great discoveries didn’t just happen – they came about through research and trial and error. “Creativity is discovery put to good use in a fresh way. We cannot discover unless we ask and search; that is curiosity!”
Piper addresses the fact that we need to be constantly questioning and seeking new depths, new revelations, and new ways of expressing our faith. It’s so easy to become complacent about our Christian walk – not necessarily moving away from our beliefs, but certainly not moving closer to God through what we believe. As the author points out, curiosity is a valuable tool in any are of our life if we want what we invest our time and intellect in is to be vibrant and challenging.

The book is an easy, quick read and while I didn’t find it a “page turner” I did find it interesting and a worthwhile read. Curiosity that comes so easily to children is often quenched and buried in adults. But opening our minds to asking and seeking can take us back to the excitement of discovery we once experienced. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs practical advice on stepping up their game whether it be in Christian ministry, their personal Christian walk or any other area of their life.

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Wouldn’t life be great if we started at point A and moved to point B in a straight line?  Well, as this book makes apparent, no it wouldn’t.  The path to our destiny requires detours to help us mature, strengthen and develop into the person who can handle the destiny when it’s reached.

In his typical way, Tony Evans has written a book that relates to anyone who picks it up and opens to page one. “Detours are a good thing that often feels bad.”

Using the life of Joseph as the thread that carries out the theme, this book clearly opens the door to seeing the turns and roadblocks in life as vital parts of God’s plan for us to realize the very specific, very unique destiny that is ours from the day He blew breath into our lungs.

In his book, the author defines destiny as “the customized life calling for which God has equipped and ordained us, in order to bring Him the greatest glory and the maximum expansion of His kingdom.”  He goes on to explain how God will use the good, the bad and the bitter to get us there.

I’m a highlighter and this book tested the ink in my pink pen! Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Your destiny is not just to go through the motions day-in and day-out. It is a God-designed stamp on your soul that involves the use of your time, talents, and treasures for His glory and other people’s good for the advancement of His kingdom.”

“…in order to arrive at an authentic hope in your spirit, accepting your detours is necessary.”

“God creates detours in order to perform some construction on the pathways of our soul. ….. And depending on how we respond to our detours, we may need to be roadblocked several times before we reach where we are supposed to go.”

And my very favorite:  “When you fill a sponge full of water and then you add pressure to the sponge, water is going to flow out because it is full of water. When you are going through a trial and you feel the pressure of life caving in around you, how much of God comes out?”

And these are from just the first 50 pages!  I could go on and on. But you’d be better off running to the store and grabbing this book off the shelf. Because you are going to want to get to this one:  “Friend, if you ever get providence – the subset of sovereignty – understood, you will begin to view all of life differently. You will begin to rest when you used to fret. You will begin to breathe easily when you used to worry. You will begin to give thanks when you used to be filled with bitterness or regret. To fully live out the victorious Christian life and experience the abundance Jesus Christ died to provide, you must live and look at the events of your life through the lens of providence.”

You will find Detours by Tony Evans an easy, rewarding read filled with great perspective and profound revelation in how God uses the detours in the road to our destiny.

I received this book at no charge so that I would provide an honest review. I would very highly recommend this book to anyone whose path in life has and is filled with curves and roadblocks.

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euniceMy latest read, provided to me for review, was Sophie Hudson’s Giddy Up, Eunice. I have to say up front I tend toward more serious books and I am easily distracted and put off by parenthetical comments. I want to get to the meat of the story and those things just get in the way. Parenthetical comments abound in this book!

That being said, I did enjoy the book and though there were lots of cutsey comments for me to weed through, there were some wonderful nuggets that made it worth it. The book truly captures the value of mentoring and the richness of cross-generational relationships.

Hudson uses three such relationships from the Bible – Elizabeth and Mary, Naomi and Ruth and Eunice and Lois. I thought her perspective on these relationships was fresh and insightful. Where do we go when we find ourselves in a troubling situation? We seek the one who has experienced something similar. Mary ran to her cousin Elizabeth because a surprise pregnancy was right up her alley. Ruth, a broken widow, aligned herself with an experienced woman in the same boat, her mother in law, Naomi. And the beautiful relationship between Lois and Eunice spilled out on Timothy, setting his life path.

There is much humor between the pages and Hudson’s personal stories give practical examples of how strong relationships deepen us, carry us and help us survive. This would be a great gift book for a sister, a mother, a grandmother or a friend. Anyone on the receiving end would be touched by the message in the book, and the message in the gift – that they are special and that the relationship between the giver and the recipient is precious.

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51m3BdLgQJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Just finished reading Churchfails – 100 Blunders in Church History (& what we can learn from them), David Stabnow, General Editor. This book was provided to me through B&H Bloggers for the purpose of this review. The thoughts and opinions are purely my own. I am not a dedicated history buff and this is not my general choice of reading material. But I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

What a fun and informative book. Written in a most palliative and quick read style, and certainly anything but dry. The churchfails outlined begin as early as 35 AD and continue through to modern times outlining how seemingly intelligent and sane people twist theology and wander off in surprisingly ridiculous tangents.

Each short article gives a one or two line synopsis, a biography of the offshoot leader, defines the main theme of the churchfail, and then gives application for today.  Humor is incorporated in a way that makes us laugh not just at the wrong thinking of the leader but at ourselves and how easily we are led down the meandering path, away from solid theology if we aren’t careful.

Some of my favorites:

Marcion of Sinope who rejected all of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament, keeping only what supported his beliefs. He was the first to bring together certain Christian books and call them the writings of the church. Unfortunately, he selected only portions he agreed with and eliminated anything he didn’t like. As a result he was excommunicated, branded as a heretic and Marcionism died out.  The application for today: many modern day churches do the same – pick and choose what they want from the Bible and ignore the rest. The author points out that “no book, no miracle, and no nation should be left out of our message; the whole plan of God should be preached (Acts 20:27).”

Hippolytus of Rome who “never met a pope he didn’t agree with” and who also became the first in history to work out the exact date of Christ’s return. He met five popes in his lifetime and had issues with each which he was quick to verbalize. The application for today is the warning to avoid being known only for what you disagree with. And of course, for attempting to do what the Bible says is impossible – predict the exact day of the second coming.

Matthew Caffyn who was highly intelligent and decided if his brilliant mind couldn’t fully comprehend such things as how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could be one and the same then it must not be true. He disregarded the biblical teaching of centuries and came to the conclusion that he was wiser than the scholars before him. As the writer points out in the application for today, even Solomon, who was considered the wisest man on earth, had 700 wives and 300 concubines! How smart was that when with those wives came 700 mother-in-laws! In the case of Caffyn we are reminded “haughty arrogance regarding ones own abilities leads to one’s downfall.”

Throughout the book we are reminded how foolish it is to veer from scripture and assume we have a new answer or a new theology. There’s a reason the Gospel of Christ has endured – it is true and pure and life giving.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants glimpses into the history of churchfails and a few laughs along the way.

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51HG9Gv9bIL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I belong to a book review group through B&H Bloggers and am able to acquire books to read at no charge and post reviews. When I saw the topic of the book Cherish by Vicki Courtney, I thought of my young granddaughters and was led to check it out. So glad I did.

What a wonderful down to earth and easy to read yet deep book on cultivating relationships for teen girls. Courtney addresses relationships with friends, family, self, guys and God in such a simple straightforward way. Courtney poses the question “instead of just surviving relationships, why not cherish them?”

In the opening chapter she addresses what makes up a good friend (someone who doesn’t ditch you on your worst days, keeps a secret when she should, makes right choices and helps point you to God) and then turns right around and poses the question, What about You? The reader is encouraged to take a moment and examine how they measure up to those four points. I love how she addresses Friendship Fixers – ways to strengthen yourself as a friend and so much more in this chapter from when it’s time to end a friendship, how to survive girl drama, gossip, how to balance out relationships with Christian and non-Christian friends, and my favorite – how to be a real friend in a digital world. Courtney dedicates the final part of the chapter to how to recognize when a friend needs help and when it’s critical that you talk to an adult about a friend’s issues.

Throughout each chapter she splashes scripture and quick quizzes that just really make the book personal. The scriptures are presented in such a way as to not be preachy but to bring that “wow” reaction for how there is a Word from God on every topic.

On her chapter for family relationships she starts off with a bang, addressing the trust issue. Her nine points are perfect – everything a parent would tell a teen and find it falling on deaf ears. Courtney doesn’t lecture, just lists the facts that make sense (follow the rules, associate with people of good character, admit mistakes, etc.)The 25 things that will make your parents smile are great. and the section E is for Embarrassing – yep, sometimes we embarrass our kids! Courtney balances respect for parents with sitting down and having a conversation about how the parent can avoid embarrassing you again in the same manner.

She talks about divorce and unsafe home situations, getting along with siblings and blended families and even dealing with non-Christian parents when you’ve become one.

The chapter on self is beautifully done, reminding the reader how to find God’s truth about beauty and value in a world that’s a bit twisted in these areas. She even gives a great chart on what other religions believe so a teen can understand the differences. So much more in this chapter that is pertinent and appropriate for what teens face every day right down to coping with the death of a friend or loved one.

The chapter on relationships with guys starts with a bang by listing the actual responses from boys when asked: Describe the perfect girl, What do girls do that send you running, and Why do some guys act like they like you one day and ignore you the next. (My favorite response to that last one, “I think you are overanalyzing this – we are really very simple.” Spot on – we as females tend to deeply overanalyze, they as males tend to be pretty on the surface with things.) The reader will find real answers to why it’s important to dress appropriately, what sexual purity really means, why we date and questions to ask before you date a guy. I loved that Courtney covered abuse in a relationship and lies about sex because our girls, in their need to be popular and be loved, are so vulnerable to the dangers.

Finally, in the chapter addressing the relationship with God, the author makes it clear it’s not just about streets of gold and angel wings. She lays out the plan for a personal, close relationship with the One who can truly guard and guide the young girls journey through this life.

The book is contemporary and frank, beautifully written and easy to read. I am passing on my copy to my granddaughters who are just entering their teens and praying that they will glean from this insights that will ground them in a well rounded, satisfying relationships.

I would recommend the book to any parent, grandparent, or friend of teen girls. It would make a wonderful gift. And handing it off to a young girl would be an expression of love, show that you care, you understand the challenges in the world today, and you want the best for her.

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Earlier this week I sat in my office looking out at a landscape shrouded in heavy7223162 mist. With fresh snow covering the ground and laying like heavy lace on the trees, I have to say the view was breathtaking. It hadn’t made for a fun drive to work, but it certainly gave a soft, gentle, peaceful presence to the landscape.

The impression a misty view gives is one of perfection – no scars, no sharp edges, no dirt or stains. Unpleasantness is hidden by a gauzy veil. But the truth behind that mist is reality. Once it clears, all of those blemishes will be exposed again.

It’s a good lesson in the struggle we have comparing ourselves to others. People can look flawless – but they never are.  Families can appear to be conflict free.  They seldom are.  Other journeys can look pothole free, but believe me, curves and bumps and roadblocks are part of everyone’s life drive.

God has a specific plan for each and every one of his children, all different and unique. He doesn’t want us to be the image of someone else. That would be like an artist creating works of art that never vary in color, shape or design. Part of our uniqueness comes from the battles we survive and the challenges we overcome.

No offense meant here, but there is a reason antiques are appreciated.  They show wear and tear, host a history of everyday life, and remind us of the passing of time.  It’s no different with God’s children. We are marked by the years and the journey.

I was touched by a point Beth Moore made in the final video our ladies group watched last night in our Esther bible study. Beth pointed out how society tends to look at an elderly woman and say “She was beautiful in her time” but God’s word says “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  In other words, the passing of time and the events that mark that passing are what create the beauty of a life.

Queen Esther’s early life was all about looking good.  She had to catch the eye of the king and the story makes it clear that this took a lot of primping and preening. And it worked. The misty veil of preparation covered every flaw on the outside until she was perfection to the eye.

It took the life events Esther conquered over the years of her reign to bring beauty to the core of who she was.  Her later life was marked by courage and leadership and obedience to the call of God. We admired her in the beginning but we loved and respected her in the end.

Our struggles are not meant to be hidden by a false covering of perfection. They are meant to be honestly shared in an effort to help others travel the same difficult path.  I don’t mean that we have to spill every dirty detail of our failures and poor decisions.  What I do mean is when a young mother is at the end of her patience with fussy toddlers, lack of sleep and a role that she doesn’t feel she can possibly live up to, we can risk sharing the day we locked ourselves in the bathroom and screamed into a towel to keep from harming the child who pushed us over the edge.  When a woman cries out her pain from a marriage that seems doomed to fail, we can admit that the strong partnership we have today saw it’s own seemingly hopeless moments along the way.

No one sees the whole picture of a life from the outside until it’s over and the bits and pieces are remembered and pooled together to make a completed work. The important thing is to remember – we are unique and God has a specific path for us to travel. Some have more hills than others so God gives them more stamina.  Some have deeper valleys, more roadblocks, sharper turns or rougher terrain.  In every situation, God has the roadside assistance ready to respond.

It’s nice to have days when there’s enough mist (or heavy fog for some of us) to cover the blemishes and give us that soft glow of perfection.  I love it when my mascara goes on well, my outfit coordinates beautifully and there’s not a hair out of place. Those days are treasured because they are rare.

But the more precious and meaningful days  are those when someone sees our soul of overcoming struggles which left their mark, of fighting battles that left us scarred but still standing, of meeting challenges that found us exhausted but exultant in our victory.

“He makes everything beautiful in His time” is the promise.  Our prayer every morning should be, “Lord, today lead me down the path that widens the crevice to allow Your light living in me to escape and bring beauty to the world.”

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

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FerventWhat a great book with real, practical, helpful thoughts on making your prayer time powerful. In Fervent, Priscilla highlights ten strategies to focus on as we spend time in prayer. They are key to opening our hearts and minds to the true power in prayer.

I loved that strategy #1, right out of the gate, was to pray for renewed passion for prayer. Priscilla says “Fervent prayer is fueled by passion.” So very true but we get complacent, even lazy in our prayer life because the passion dims. We treat prayer time like a task to check off our to do list instead of the great privilege of coming before God and having a conversation.

Each strategy chapter includes Priscilla’s thoughts on why the strategy topic is key, a down to earth story illustrations from her life or the life of others to prove her point, and a host of scriptures that support the chapter. In fact, scripture is abundant throughout the book tying every thought back to God’s word. This is truly one of the author’s strengths.

I felt one especially “nailed-it” point she brought out in her chapter on “Our Hurts” was to point out that the bible tells us not just to forgive but to offer comfort to those that hurt us. What a challenge and yet, when acted upon, what a huge place of grace.

I also liked the way Priscilla began each chapter with a thought on “If I were the enemy I would ..” It made so much sense seeing it in writing that satan will attack the areas most likely to interfere with your ability to be completely focused in prayer.

I received this book from the Lifeway bloggers group in order to offer a review. I’m so blessed that this is the book I had opportunity to read and comment on. It was truly prayer-life changing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to discover the power in fervent prayer. Some of my favorite women will find this book in their Christmas stockings for sure!

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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