Is God’s Love Conditional?

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit.

It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness.

If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes.

Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).

But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.


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Halloween, the Powers, and You

“We have put a spell on you, now you are ours.”

Those are the words I saw on top of the invitation the night before Halloween. The apartment complex invited their tenants for a movie night with little regard for what they were actually saying.

This speaks volumes on how much the spiritual world is underplayed in the American society. Of course, this is one instance, but it would not be too difficult to find more examples that demonstrate how much the spiritual world is merely imaginary, jocular or, at best, superstitious in the minds of the average American. Sadly, this is true among proclaiming Christians even.

In this note, I want to invite you to pause for a moment and think about Halloween and similar holidays and how you interact with them.

Before I address the person who claims to be Christian, I will address the one who is not a follower of Christ.

First, to the person who is not a follower of Christ, I want to make a plea: if you are Wiccan, Pagan, or a worshiper of any gods other than the Lord God revealed in the Bible and through Creation, hear me out!

The Lord Jesus is the greatest proof that the spiritual world exists. It can become tangible, and  it has effects on the physical realm. Jesus Christ is also the Lord of both the visible and invisible world. You owe Him allegiance– not to another!

“Why?” you ask. He made you! He created you and therefore has all claims on your soul, your spirit, and your body. He is the One sustaining your life even as you read these lines. Even more, you have sinned against Him and therefore became His enemy. Christ, the judge of all the earth, is coming back to judge every thought and action that you have posed and he will find you guilty.

“But I am good person!” your heart may claim. “’Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? He puts no trust even in His servants; And against His angels He charges error. ‘How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before the moth!” the Bible claims about God.

In fact, the Bible teaches in Colossians that Jesus Christ “is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.” – Colossians 1.

The Bible, makes it clear, however, that “everything was created through [Christ] and for Him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1). This is why you are better off coming to Him for the forgiveness sins and fellowship with the God who actually created the universe.

Christ “is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” – Colossians 1.

The Bible both warns you and invites you to the life that can only be found in Christ. You can have eternal life in friendship, communion, and fellowship with your Maker, your Creator, the Lord God. To the one who turns from their wicked ways and sin and comes to Christ, the Word of God insists that the invitation to have peace with God “includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” – Colossians 1:21.

The Bible announces the Good News that God has made a way for you to be reconciled “to Himself through the death of Christ in his physical body” (Colossians 1:20). As a result, God can allow you into his presence, and make you holy and blameless. He can clear your records of sin and make you “stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22).

Without a single fault! So, dear reader who is still caught up in and enjoying the world of darkness, come! Come to the light of Christ!

“Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” Psalm 2:12

Do you think you are too far gone, or that there is no hope for you? In the name of Christ and in His finished work at the cross at Calvary is the type of salvation that can deliver you out of the darkest place. If you profess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, this can be true of you today: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:13.

Finally, to the reader who identifies as a Christian, I want you to know that I acknowledge your freedom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your everyday life. You may be led to relax on this day with your family or to bestow generosity on these days. For example, I have seen families organize an evangelistic outreach event in their neighborhood on Halloween nights. In doing so they made the most of this opportunity where the mission field comes to their doorsteps. Others have considered an opportunity to excel in generosity as shown in the example linked at the end of this article.

With that said, dear Christian brother or sister, I want to draw your attention to certain realities that our society causes us to dismiss from our thought process and thereby hinder a prayerfulness and thoughtfulness to our decision-making.

Now, you know that of the things we cannot see are the spiritual things and that these things include invisible kingdoms, rulers, and authorities? Do you also not know that Satan, the devil, is a spirit and has a people under his command?

Among these are the pagans whose traditions have become part of national holidays in America, in Europe, and in and some other parts of the world. Ancestral worship, divination, cultish or promiscuous guising, necromancy, witchcraft, drunkenness, promiscuity, and sexual immorality are but a few of the things that are blindly celebrated by some who claim Christianity and conscientiously practiced by many pagans on and around the Halloween festivities as well as other major holidays.

I would like to invite you to not completely dismiss the warnings by those who call for caution concerning the way these holidays are celebrated. Instead, please pick up your Bible and reflect on ways you can most impact the world for the Kingdom of God on days like Halloween or any other holidays that are tainted with pagan origins.

Dear Christian reader, here is a command for you “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2. In other words, do no just copy, but think! Yes, “ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” – Proverbs 4:26.

Now, as you reflect on the days, the holidays, the festivals, and seasons, and New Moon, and every aspect of every day life in your family, your neighborhood, your church, and so forth, you will come to a conclusion as to what to do or not do on these days.

Once you do, I want to invite you to also thoroughly read and respond to the very practical commands we are given in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Beware of knowledge that puffs up and makes you think that you are better than your neighbor who decides to act differently from you. I invite you to the kind of love described in Romans 13 and 1 John 3:18-24.

Therefore, for those who are in Christ, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:17-19.

Some good reads on this topic include the Wikipedia article on Halloween, a pagan website that gives an insight into how they see Halloween, and finally, a very practical example of what a Christian family decided to do with this holiday.

Questions? Thoughts? Please let me know using the comment section below.

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lament. rejoice.

Between Blue Rocks

We’re topping international headlines with our news of racially-charged violence, and I’m remembering how, after 9/11, my family’s Ugandan sponsored child wrote to tell us she was praying for our country: she in whose country the LRA was kidnapping children and brutalizing communities while the world at large barely batted an eye.


I’ve been trying to write some of the grief for days now, but it just keeps piling up: Orlando and Dhaka, Baghdad and Medina, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, now Dallas . . . .

I used to start each semester of college English instruction by sharing two basic premises with my students: “Words are important” and “People are important.” I rooted both of them in the first chapter of John.

Words are important because God calls Himself “the Word.” The Word who was in the beginning, who was with God and was God, through whom all things were…

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Jeremiah 1-10 Condemnation, Call for Repentance, and Warning

In the first 10 chapters, I learned how God has appointed Jeremiah to be a messenger to God’s people. God chose him even before birth.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

God tells Jeremiah that He has made him like a fortified city against this rebellious people of Israel. The Lord is announcing great punishment on Israel because they have ceased to obey God and have turned to idols.

And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.
Jeremiah 1:16

Also, the Lord is encouraging Jeremiah to be strong and to not be afraid to proclaim the message from God even though the people will hate him and threaten him. But God has chosen Jeremiah from before birth and will sustain him even when the people will turn against him (Jeremiah 1:17-18).

Don’t we see the same things happening to our Lord the Christ later on?

The following chapters 2 to 10 continue in
– condamnation of Judah for unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 2:1-3:5) because they have rejected Jehovah and chose other gods;
– charge of backsliding during the reign of Josiah (Jeremiah 3:6- chapter 6) with a call for repentance and a preview of coming judgement;
– and a warning delivered in the gate of the Lord’s House reminding the people that false religion leads to destruction (Jeremiah  7-10). Note: a really helpful outline of the book is shared by The Book Wurm.

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A Study of Jeremiah

A friend of mine and myself just decided to virtually get together and study the book of Jeremiah. This blog will be where I want to write down my observations as we go through the book. May the Lord be our Guide.

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The meaning of Eid al-Adha

If you ever wondered what Eid al-Adha was all about, you are one of the many who will be surprised to find out that the Holy Bible in Genesis chapter 22 has the whole story and that Romans 8 (especially verse 32) explains the meaning. The sacrifice that took place at the mountain was an illustration for humanity of how God’s wrath (fire and knife) that was reserved for all humanity was poured out on the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. Yes, the wrath of God against sin was poured out on Jesus so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

please read up some more in the Bible and understand for yourself what a wonderful thing the Lord God did on the mountain.

Christ the Truth

from The Big Picture (see also many other fascinating photos)

Yesterday marked the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.  Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was nearly sacrificed.  But Genesis 22 is clear that Isaac, the child of promise, was the one to be sacrificed.   And he, the child of promise, was the one who Abraham received back from the dead.

The action took place on a mountain in the region of Moriah (Gen 22:2).  Mount Moriah was where the temple would later be built (2 Chron 3:1).  And so as they ascend this hill the father carries the tools of judgement – the fire and knife.  The son carries the wood.  He asks his father about the sacrifice.  “God Himself will provide the lamb” says Abraham.

On this occasion the Angel of the LORD intercepts the judgement. (v11ff) …

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Top 10 Lessons A Son Remembers from His Dad Who Went to be With God.

Note: You can read Jacob’s presentation of this list at the bottom of this post.

#1: Be a man or woman of the Word.

One of his favorite verses was Psalm 119:97 “Oh how I love Thy Law! It is my meditation all the day.” Those were not just pretty words to him, but a way of life. He constantly reminded people of the need to apply God’s Word to their lives by reading it (Deuteronomy 17:19), meditating on it (Joshua 1:5, Psalm 1), studying it (2 Timothy 2:15), telling others about it (2 Timothy 4:2), and helping others learn to study it (2 Timothy 2:2). He had a deep and genuine love for the Words of his Savior, and it showed in how he treated everyone around him, made decisions, etc.

#2: Let God’s Word affect your decision making process.
Romans 4:3 says “what does the scripture say?” This was his standard way of seeking to answer questions and make decisions.

#3: Be affectionate, and not afraid of showing emotion.
Far from being a hyper-emotional basket case, Dad was the toughest man I’ve ever known…and I’ve been around and worked closely with some extremely tough men. It’s interesting that biblical tough guys showed emotion as well. David was a celebrated giant killer (1 Samuel 17:50) and had a very Greek hero like persona due to his battlefield exploits to the point that when he returned from battle the women were known to sing that “David has slain his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Although the fact that it’s put into song points to the conclusion that he may not have literally had that many “confirmed kills”, he was no doubt a great leader and a tough warrior who had killed many, many enemies. However, he was known to be VERY emotional! (see 1 Samuel 20:41, 30:4, 2 Samuel 12:22, 13:36, 18:33…)
Jesus was also an extremely tough, imposing figure. He single handedly drove the merchants out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-13), and “set [His] face like a flint” in order to “endure the cross” (Isaiah 50:6, Hebrews 12:2). However, He too showed emotion in public (John 11:35).
Dad was a great example of a tough guy with a capacity for emotion. The notion that “crying” is always a sign of weakness in men is utter nonsense perpetrated by men who are not secure in their manhood.

#4: Love the Creation.
“the invisible things of Him from the Creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…” (Romans 1:20). We might paraphrase this to say that “the attributes of God can be clearly observed by looking at the things that He has created.” Dad LOVED being outside, and took every opportunity to smell flowers, point out songbirds and insects, etc. I also don’t think I ever saw him walk outside on a clear, starry night without looking up and quoting from Psalm 8, Psalm 19, or some other passage which extolled the “eternal power and Godhead” by observing “the heavens.” Obviously, his adoration was not directed toward the created things themselves, but appropriately, toward the God Who made them.

#5: Get up early.
O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek thee…” Psalm 63:1 was a verse that dad lived by. He was up at 4:00am every day to seek the Lord through Bible reading, meditation and study on the Word of God, and prayer.

#6: Be together as a family as much as possible.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says “and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children…”, and dad ensured that we gathered up every night to sing, and read God’s Word. Also, whenever we got older and busier, dad would say “I’d like to stay in as large a groups as possible.” He steered us toward activities that we could maximize our time together. His way of thinking was that he’d rather his children be influenced by a man seeking God (Dad!) than by others outside the home who weren’t necessarily doing that.

#7: Use a “rod” for disciplining kids.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15 Dad was a believer in corporal punishment and had many, many scriptures to support his actions. Though it’s wildly politically incorrect these days to lay a finger of discipline upon a child, that aversion is not in line with God’s Word. Some parents say that they “love them too much” to do that, yet the bible says that “he that spares the rod hates his son, but he that loves his son with discipline him early.”(Proverbs 13:24) Over and over again in Proverbs it says that an indicator of a “fool” is a person who will not heed instruction, while a “wise” person does. Proverbs 23:14 says to “beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” That’s strong language by today’s standards, but Dad believed that it was a definite endorsement of spanking, and that “driving foolishness far from him” causing him to listen to his earthly father, would make it more like that they would eventually heed the Word of their Heavenly Father (1 John 3:23) and put their faith in Christ. It workedJ Also, he kept a list on the refrigerator of “spankable offenses” which went something like:
Rebellion – 1 Samuel 15:23
Lying –Proverbs 12:22
Disobedience- Ephesians 6:1

#8: See every person as a “soul for whom Christ died.”
Acts 17:26-27 says that God created “of one blood, all men…that they should seek the Lord.” Dad was constantly reminding us that the prejudices that we sometimes saw or heard about growing up in the deep south were not of God, and indeed, were satanic. To say that all men are not equal when God has decreed that they are, is pure blasphemy. Also, if has Christ died for the “sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2), how can I look down upon anyone? He constantly reminded us of that. Also in Revelation 5 it talks about the multitude of saints around the throne from “every tribe, tongue, people, and nation” saying “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!… for Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood!”
Since heaven is multicultural, we might as well go ahead and practice getting along down here!
In my own life, this view of mankind has led to countless opportunities to give the Gospel. For instance, in Iraq I often had breakfast with two African American officers from another unit due to the fact that our schedules co-incided, and we quickly became friends. They were both from the Chicago area, and when that they found out that I was a born and raised Mississippi kid that grew up in the swamp, they asked how I had overcome racial culture of the south to the point that I could be best friends with them. Now being that they’d never come that far south, I’m sure that what they thought, and actual reality did not line up exactly. However, I was able to give them the Gospel starting in Acts 17. (This happened a lot actually)
When a person views other souls like the Lord Jesus does, they are much more likely to be quick to share their faith like Philip did in Acts 8.

#9: “Leave peaceably with all men.”
Dad could put up with anything. Sometimes us boys would tell what drastic measures we’d take if we were in his shoes and he’d just say something like “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you; live peaceably with all men”…I’d rather be a little inconvenienced and keep a good relationship than start a blood feud with a neighbor.” He was never weak or naïve, he could just put up with a lot, and it was a great example to me.

#10: Be a man.
In 2 Kings 2:2 King David told his son Solomon to“…Be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses…”
(reference). Here was a warrior, a tough guy, who was in essence saying that to be a “real man”, you need to be obedient to God’s Word. In our culture, especially, it seems, in the rural south, the concept of true manhood is distorted to an almost satanic degree. To many people, how big a buck you kill, how hard you can throw a punch, how little “crap” you take from anyone, how many outlandish things you can do to burnish your notoriety throughout the countryside, etc are marks of real man. However, God’s Word says that the true indicator of a “real man” is his obedience to God. Even of when speaking of the angels it mentions their great strength, but then says that they “do His commandments and hearken unto His Word.”
Dad always said that obedience God was the true measure of a man, not exploits or anything else…and he had the authority of God’s Word to back him up on that.


 Randy Phillips Page

9 Oct 2013 near Jackson, MS
A “Top 10” list was requested from a lady in our bible study who didn’t know my Dad, but was interested in what kind of man/parent he was. Here’s what I told her…although it’s really just a “Top 1” list with some added random associations. Please comment with additional scriptures:)
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“Encourage Mothers”, how Rudi is working with women affected by war to heal their trauma

If you are looking for opportunities to minister to those in pain, here is a way you can be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rudi International

Encourage Mothers” is our new program under Rudi International!

Group photo of the first meeting in Lac Vert community Group photo of the first meeting in Lac Vert community

31 mothers attended our 4 meetings held so far. Each week, the meeting is taking place on Saturday between 8 to 9am. They are conducted by Mama Jeanet and held in the Lac Vert community either in a local church where we have been generously given space or at one of the women’s place when there is a service in that church.

In our last newsletter (need a pdf copy in your email box? Let us know), we announced the launch of our new program, “Encourage Mothers” which aims to work with the mothers in the Lac Vert area to help them become good mothers for their families through conversations. They are affected by war, are living in poor conditions and since have…

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Quick Resources

Let us look at a couple of websites I would recommend for anyone wanting to study the Word of God:

  • : A summary of what the Bible teaches about salvation and the life of a believer in Christ.
  • Never Thirsty: A good collection of Bible study tools, Questions and Answers on Christian life with the answers are supported by biblical references, and topical studies on themes like Halloween or Christmas.

These resources are considered good only to the extent they do not convey any message but the truth revealed by God in the Bible. Below is a prayer from our Lord Jesus Christ as He was getting ready to die for you and me.

[Father] Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.

Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.

O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

John 17:17, 24-26

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Good News

It is my greatest pleasure to share with you the best news the human race will ever hear and believe and thereby be saved from the wrath of God.

First, let us start with establishing the true state of all humankind: we are sinners. Just like that, plain and simple. Yes, we are sinners, you are a sinner too by nature, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I am thankful we this clearly established in the Word of God, the Bible. A few references should help make it it clear.

Next, considering that we are sinners by nature, we are subject to God’s wrath both now and for eternity. Ever heard of the lake of fire, hell, second death, eternal death? These things refer to the true reality of what is awaiting you and I if nothing happens to spare us from them. In fact,

  • Although God created us to look like Him, our forefather Adam rebelled against God and has begotten us with a broken nature; in sin we have been conceived (Psalm 51:5);
  • As a consequence of the above, if we die without remedy to our sinful nature, we are in for eternal damnation (want to get in the details?). You can read for yourself in the whole book of Revelation (esp. Revelation 20).
  • Well, if that’s not clear enough, let me call to your attention that we need a Saviour. Our own works or efforts will not take away our sin and sinful nature. We desperately need God to save us from His wrath. Sure enough, “we are all like an unclean thing. All of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Finally, what if that was it? What if we were told that we are a lost cause and there is no way out? That’d be pretty sad. God is just and will surely punish the unjust, but God is good and loving as well! He has offered us a chance out. But we have to take it and there is only One. No copies, no nothing else! Just One way out (details in the link).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Jesus is our only way to God. Image from

None of our works can take us to God, only faith in Jesus Christ will save us from second death in the lake of fire. (More graphics on, you can even download a Word or a PDF copy of the whole teaching)

In summary, here is the great news I mentioned earlier:

  • Jesus Christ died to pay for our sins.
  • He was buried, rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:4).
  • He is the only way for dead, condemned, sinners to be saved.
  • He promises life after death, no condemnation, or judgement for our sins, and that we will no longer be dead spiritually, but alive in our Spirit.

Please read up on that and find our where in the Bible these truths are displayed. You will soon find out that it’s all over the Bible, yet many are blinded by the prince of this world (the devil and father of all liars; he is already condemned) so that they miss out on the plan of salvation and perish with him for eternity.

So, now what can you do about all this apart from sharing it with everybody you know or don’t know?

Look into your own heart, ask God to search you, acknowledge that you deserve punishment (death because of your sinful nature), repent, then call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ if you believe and you will be saved.

“THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART “– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.… (Romans 10:8-9)

A few references from the Bible should help you understand God’s plan of salvation for whoever believes.

Have you ever been the object of a party? Like, people rejoice for and with you? Guess what? There could be a party in heaven for you if you believe. Yes, in heaven!

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents,” (Luke 15:7) words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself!

Would you have a questions, please do not hesitate to ask us in the Contact form below. If you mention that the message should remain private, we will make sure it is not displayed on the blog. If you would like to read more on the subject of the Gospel, just find a good translation of the Bible in your language, pray, ask God to teach you, and start reading.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve…” (Jeremiah 17:10)

I encourage you also to find a Christ believing, disciple making, and Bible preaching community of believers you can join in order to be encouraged and challenged to a closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunset in the Golf reminds me of  Psalm 10:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

I took this picture in the Mississippi Golf. It is one of those sunsets that reminds me that our days on earth are few and could be ending any minute soon. It also makes me thankful that I know that if this is the end of it all for me, I am going to a better place by the Lord God who offered up Himself for me.

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