Speak Life Over Your Kids

Posted by Brady Boyd

This is a repost from a blog I wrote a few years ago, but it reminded me why I wrote the book, Speak Life

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it, will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

It seemed the moment I became a dad, well meaning people warned me of a turbulent time that lay ahead. Pam and I would introduce our wobbly toddlers to people and inevitably they would say something like this, “Enjoy them now, because one day they will be teenagers.” With a plethora of proof, these older adults would raise the flag of impending doom for the seven-year period that was ahead for our two kiddos.

Pam and I never believed them, though. We started telling ourselves that our teenagers were going to be a great joy to us just as they were when we took them home from the hospital after adopting them both. These harbingers of gloom apparently forgot that babies and toddlers were challenging in their own right. Late night feedings, exploding diapers, vomit on carpet, and tantrums at Wal-Mart could not be the best of times, right?

So, we inched toward the ‘terrible teen” years with guarded hope that we were right and the negative parenting prophets were wrong. We were right. Our two teens did not transform into sub-human droids of destruction when they turned 13. Puberty was not the apocalypse, after all.

Now, before you dismiss me as the pastor painting his kids as perfect, allow me to digress. Our kids are normal and they are teenagers, which is indeed, possible. Our kids test the boundaries of our rules, like your kids. Our kids would rather gorge on junk food than healthier options, like your kids. Our kids do not like early morning school routines, like most other kids. Our kids have spiritual questions and even doubts, like most other kids.

Pam and I could write volumes on what we have learned NOT to do as parents, but one thing we have done well is not believe that our teenagers would be problems without solutions. Every stage of parenting is a challenge that requires more prayer than we think, more wisdom than we can muster, and tons of patience. We have leaned into godly mentors as often as possible and we have certainly paid attention to what our kids watch and listen to in the public media.

We have worked diligently at guarding their innocence, guided them toward life -giving relationships and helped them to see the wonder of the local church, not just its brokenness. We have also realized that our kids will have to make their own choices and some of them may not be best. It is not easy to put your kids into situations where their critical thinking is tested. It is much easier to calibrate robots and send them off into an uncertain world with pre-programmed software.

I wish parenting teens was that simple. Instead, it is a lot like skydiving. We have one chance to get it right and we sure hope it works out. What we speak about our kids before ever leaving the tarmac will go a long way, though, in deciding if there is a safe landing in our future. Speak life now over your toddlers, and when they are teens, they may actually give life back to you.

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Why Did I Write Another Book?

Posted by Brady Boyd

Words are central in the story of God as told to us in the Scriptures. God spoke and the world was created. God spoke to Abraham and he ventured off to a new land, full of faith, hope and fear. God spoke to Moses and he returned to his haunted past and led millions across a parted sea and miles of desert. God spoke and a teenager named David charged across an open field to liberate Israel from an oppressive giant.

I could continue, but it is clear in our Bible stories that God is a speaking God trying to communicate to his people. In turn, we learn how to speak to others. When this goes well, our lives are healed and blessed, but when it goes wrong, we’re pierced and wounded, sometimes irreparably. Words can heal and words can crush. I wrote this book because I want to get this right and having a published book holds me accountable.

If you will take a few hours and journey with me through Speak Life, you will find help in the four conversations we have every day:

1. The conversation between you and God

2. The conversation between you and yourself

3. The conversation between you and our enemy

4. The conversation between you and others

All four of these conversations can be found in Luke 3 and Luke 4. In the book, I explain the barriers we all face in hearing God clearly and regularly. I explain how insidious insecurities cloud our prophetic imaginations and keep us at arm’s length from God’s embrace. You will learn how forgiveness invites God into our lives and how prophecy sounds a lot like love.

Every book is birthed not from a solitary soul, but from a community committed to its message. This work took a community committed to hearing God, and speaking words that heal.

I’m thankful for my wife, Pam, who is my single greatest source of encouragement. You cheer for me even when the crowds are silent.

Thanks to my two teenagers, Abram and Callie. When you call me “dad,” my heart leaps.

I wrote this for my parents, Leland and Pat. You told me I would be okay, and I believed you, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. You spoke life to me, and for that I am grateful.

I wrote this for the great team of leaders at New Life Church. You are a joy to serve alongside and your words to me are life.

Most of all, I am grateful to Jesus, who calls me a son and a friend. Your words have saved me.

 

 

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When Leaders Gather

Posted by Brady Boyd

In just a few weeks, we will host our annual New Life Leader’s Conference. Our entire team looks forward to this time every year because it is a chance to have conversations and learn from some of the best pastors, leaders and volunteers on the planet. When I attend a gathering of local church practitioners like this one,  I pray for several things to happen for all of us.

1. Fresh perspective

There is nothing like getting away to a new setting to bring new perspectives. We sometimes cannot see the forest for all the congregational trees engulfing us every day. Coming away to a gathering of leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences can give us a fresh set of eyes. Many times, I have come to these gatherings wrestling with decisions that need to be made and the answer comes from one sentence from a speaker or during a random worship song or sideline conversation. Also, I know I am biased, but there is not a more beautiful spot on our planet than Colorado in late September. Trust me on this one.

2. New friends

Some of my best friends were introduced to me at leader’s conferences. All of us need more friends in the ministry and settings like a conference provide space for conversations and relationships that can last a lifetime. In fact, we are limiting registrations to only 500 to make sure that no one gets lost in the crowd and everyone has a chance to engage in a real learning environment.

3. Personal renewal

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places, away from his primary assignment, to pray, reflect, refuel and to reengage. The same is true with pastors today. We need to retreat, to take off our “pastor” hats and simply become a follower again. Sitting still and listening intently can mean the difference between burnout and finishing strong. Every day, we will take our time in worship and tune into what God is saying to us. We will make sure there is plenty of space for reflection, rest and renewal.

 

You need to be here, so stop what you are doing and register right now!!

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The Immigrants I Know

Posted by Brady Boyd

“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”

Psalm 146:9

I gathered with hundreds of people to worship and pray on a Wednesday night not long ago. Only a handful of us spoke fluent English and about the same number were legal US citizens. I spoke to them while a young woman stood next to me in the pulpit, interpreting my words into Spanish. Moments earlier, she had led us as we sang “The Revelation Song” in the same language. I was only 20 minutes from my home and my church.

That night, I again realized my city was more diverse than the mostly white, middle-class suburbia where I spend most of my time. That night, in my own city, I suddenly felt like the outsider, invited into a gathering where culture and language divided us. Our only common denominators were the scriptures we studied, the Christ we followed and the communal prayers that echoed upward into the cold night air.

These were not hardened criminals on the run, but families who had worked all day and studied in classrooms since early morning. They were grandparents, high school students, and married couples. I did not hear all their stories that night, but I heard a few. I met men who had built a successful landscaping firm with hundreds of clients and there was a woman who went from cleaning a few homes to running her own business with multiple employees. Her pastor had told her that America rewards honest, hard work. She believed him.

I found new friends that night and a new viewpoint. God knew I needed a new frame of reference in order to get a new perspective on the plight of immigrants in our country. I know many of my friends and those in my congregation will argue that “our laws need to be followed” and “we need those jobs for our own citizens”. I understand the anger and frustration caused by the broken promises from politicians and fanned by the fearmongering from pundits on TV. I just wish you had been with me that night.

Everyone does not fit neatly into my story. There are bad people who have come to our country illegally and have committed atrocities. They need to be deported and sentenced. Those are the few, though, and do not represent the remaining 11-million living here peaceably and quietly.

When I am caught in this tension, I sit still and listen to Jesus speaking to me in the scriptures. I know for certain he loves them as much as me. He wants them to thrive and not be subjected to threats and pain. He has watched them die from dehydration in the deserts. He hears their prayers and knows them by name. He speaks their language and understands their dilemma. He knows they miss their families and they feel unwanted and rejected in the only place they can go for help. Jesus also had to flee his country once and live in a distant Egypt. I am sure he and his teenage parents broke some immigration laws along the way. I am also certain someone in Egypt helped them because no one survives long in a distant land without some new friends.

I wish the immigration system was less expensive and easier to navigate. It is neither. I know this is a political land mine and I’m already bracing myself for the onslaught of comments meant to enlighten and correct me. I confess, I do not have all the answers to a very complicated social crisis, but I was there that night and I worshipped with them. I felt the same Holy Spirit at work that I sense every Sunday with my own congregation. I believe if we would gather with our brothers and sisters, hold hands and pray for one another, we could be a catalyst for hope in each other’s lives. We can help solve this. Jesus will not be offended, I promise.

 

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Slimed by Gossip

Posted by Brady Boyd

This is a brief excerpt from my new book, Speak Life, which releases in September. This part of the book tackles the topic of gossip.

 

Engaging in gossip is not altogether different from my experience of eating too much fried catfish every single time I’m back in Louisiana. If you know anything about catfish, then you know they are disgusting creatures. They’re bottom-feeders that consider algae, insects, and leeches “fine dining.” But if you catch one of those suckers, roll the thing in cornmeal, fry it up in near-rancid oil—without exaggerating, I just can’t get enough.

Comfort food like no other, I tell you. It tastes so good and goes down so easily—but a few hours later, your innards begin to revolt. You search desperately for some way to get the effects out of your system—“Maybe a shower will help. Or a workout?” you think. “Yeah, I’ll sweat it out.”—but you should realize your search is in vain. The toxicity is in your system now, and you’re just going to have to let it run its course.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why, when we channel surf past TMZ, do we have to flip back just for a second to see what’s being said? Yes, it slides down easily. Right before it makes us sick.

We do this because inside every one of us lives a little bit of Salacious Crumb-like fascination with the perils other people face. Do you remember him, the yellow-eyed monkey-lizard from Return of the Jedi?

Salacious Crumb was the court jester for crime lord Jabba the Hutt and had a maniacal, cackling laugh you don’t soon forget. The terms of Crumb’s employment were straightforward: if the strange beast managed to amuse Jabba at least once daily, then he would be allowed to stay and to eat and drink as much as he wished. If he failed to do so, he would be killed. To accomplish his do-or-die goal, Crumb mocked anyone and everyone—except his boss, of course—doing virtually anything to get a laugh.

The part of him that resides in our sometimes-deceitful hearts is that part that cranes toward salacious crumbs of another’s misfortune or grief. Collectively, our self-esteem is very low, and so when we hear someone quietly say, “You won’t believe what she did . . .” even across a crowded room, we can’t help but inch our way toward the gossipy morsel in the hope of learning something bad about someone else so that we can feel better about ourselves.

And despite our protests to the contrary, Christians can be the worst at this. We nod our heads in agreement that good favor with God is gained not by works of righteousness but by unmerited grace, even as we troll for ways to elevate ourselves by rolling around in the details of someone else’s plight like a dog in the carcass of a dead skunk.

“Well, if he’s struggling with porn, then maybe this lust thing I’m wrestling with isn’t really so bad after all.”

“Wow. She said that? I’m not as horrible a wife as I thought.”

“What? He got picked up on a DUI? I may drink a bottle of wine a night, but I would never, ever get a DUI.”

“I can’t believe it. He was sleeping with her all along. Only a fool gets caught!”

Juicy morsels, swept from the table of despair; but aren’t we all prey to swallowing them, bite after delectable bite?

“You are my beloved,” God says. “You are my prize. I have loved you with an everlasting love. You don’t have to earn it; it’s already yours.” And yet we keep on fighting for ways to prove that we’re not as bad as the next guy, or the next gal.

“No proof necessary whatsoever,” God whispers, even as we turn to a friend and spread the smut.

It happened again today. I was having a normal conversation at Panera Bread with someone I know, and then without any notice, he took a hard left turn, no clutch. Within seconds, he had delved into chatter about a mutual friend of ours. “Hey, did you hear about . . .” was how it began. I felt my head shaking before I had a chance to process the fact that by shaking my head—and, in effect, answering his question—I was encouraging him to go on. I didn’t want him to go on, but before I gathered my wits enough to discourage him, he’d continued.

Before I even realized, the catfish was sliding down again.

Gossip is two things: it is sharing the right information with the wrong person, and it is sharing the wrong information with anyone. As the immediate details this man was sharing flooded my consciousness, I realized I was neither part of our mutual friend’s problem, nor part of his solution.

The information being passed to me had no business being shared. I held up my hand to stop my friend from going on, but it was too late. I already knew our mutual friend’s situation—probably a situation he didn’t want me to know. (If he wanted me to know, he would have told me himself, right?)

I thought back to the night before, when Pam and the kids and I were at our friends’ house. They had just gotten a new puppy. All the kids were jostling the poor pooch around so much that after an hour or so, the over-stimulated dog vomited all over Callie.

Callie came rushing downstairs to the basement where the adults were watching a ballgame, and said, “Dad, the dog just threw up all over me.” She wanted me to help her clean things up, but as I took her in standing there with goo all over her shirt, I thought, “I’m not going to get out of this situation without also getting slimed.”

That’s gossip, in a nutshell: signing up to get totally slimed.

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Hearing God Despite the Distractions

Posted by Brady Boyd

My new book, Speak Life, releases this September. Here is a brief excerpt about distractions that hinder our ability to hear God.

At last check, you and I are receiving upwards of five thousand marketing messages a day, which promote everything from online gambling to new cars to the mammoth fast-food cheeseburger that somehow relates to the scantily clad blonde bombshell being used to promote it. “It’s a non-stop blitz of advertising messages,” says Jay Walker-Smith, who runs a London-based marketing firm. Marketers now plaster corporate logos and taglines on everything from escalator handrails to jetliner fuselages to the sides of buildings to big-city sidewalks. There was even talk at one point of using Major League Baseball bases to promote upcoming movies! According to Walker-Smith, “It’s all an assault on the senses.”

He’s absolutely right.

I was in New York City a few weeks ago to help celebrate the fourteenth anniversary of the church some friends planted just months after 9/11. I was in town to encourage them and their congregation, but when I discovered I had a four-hour block of unassigned time on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t resist the chance to take in a few Manhattan sights. I eventually wound up in Central Park, thinking I’d find a quiet corner where I could sit, think, and maybe pray for a few minutes. At least I could simply reflect on the season of life I’m in.

I wandered around the massive tangle of plots and trails for probably thirty minutes before I realized there is no such thing as a “quiet corner” in Central Park. That night when I reconvened with my friends, I told them about my afternoon and then asked, “Where do you guys find silence in this town? The streets are loud, the inside of my hotel room is loud, and even Central Park, for all its beauty, is, I’m convinced, one of the loudest places on Earth.”

They chuckled and said, “Brady, we’ve learned to thrive in the chaos. You would too if you lived here.”

It’s the mantra of an entire society now, this idea that we can actually thrive amid chaos, even as we’re not really thriving at all. Most of us are a restless people, incapable of stilling ourselves—mind, body, or soul. I asked my congregation to sit in perfect silence one Sunday to prove to them how uncomfortable we’ve become when the noise dies down, the lights quit blinding us, and we’re left with the company of our own thoughts. It was only fifteen seconds, but I could sense the jitters by the end.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We’re busier than we’re meant to be. We’re letting our senses get assaulted by what we see and what we hear, the net effect of which is our inability to detect the voice of God. We don’t see him in the world around us. We don’t hear him over the unceasing roar of our lives. Then we come away thinking that he’s the problem, that he’s abandoned us to ourselves. The hard pill to swallow is that our addiction to chaos is what’s keeping us from God—or one of the top things, anyway. If we’re serious about encountering him, we’ll get serious about quieting our souls.

If you grew up in certain circles, you’re familiar with the phrase quiet time. In the Pentecostal church of my youth, everybody was big on having a daily quiet time, which was the twenty or thirty minutes you were to spend reading your Bible, praying, and getting yourself centered for the day ahead. It may sound antiquated, but now more than ever I think we’d benefit from setting aside a daily quiet time, if for no other reason than to actually practice being quiet.

My advice to you if you’re struggling and straining to hear the voice of God: be quiet. Schedule a quiet time and just sit there in a chair, with nothing in your hands and no earbuds in your ears. Just get quiet before God and see what unfolds. Start small. Start microscopically if you have to. Just start.

 

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Wrestling with Negative Self-Talk

Posted by Brady Boyd

Throughout my day I ask myself a question as often as possible in the hope of keeping negative agreements at bay. This question has kept me out of the ditch on more occasions than I can count and is the safety net that runs underneath my life at all times, guaranteeing it will catch me in the event I fall. The question is this:How does this thought I’m thinking, this assumption I’m building, or this agreement I’m making line up with the Word of God?

If the thought, assumption, or agreement squares with truth, then it can stay; if not, it has to go—it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Throughout the Bible—all the way from Genesis to Revelation—warfare imagery is evoked, and in ten out of ten of those occurrences, God is referring not merely to battles fought with hands and feet and horses and shields and swords but to the battles fought in our minds. This idea is what was at the core of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). The “demolishment,” according to Paul, would occur as those Christ followers took “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” language considered strong (violent, even?) to first-century ears.

In Paul’s day, one of the ways Roman forces intimidated conquered cities was to chain the governors and other leaders of those cities and parade them through the streets, indisputably conveying the message, “Your situation is helpless and hopeless! Even your leaders have been defeated and shamed. Rome is here to stay.” Roman conquerors were masters of the siege, going to any lengths—starvation, humiliation, rape, and death—to take over the world. It is this imagery Paul looked to when describing how we are to conquer our thoughts.

“Take them captive!” Paul insisted. “Strip them naked until they are totally exposed. Bring them to a place of earnest submission, no holds barred.”

The stakes were high for cities Rome was overtaking, and the stakes are high for us too. If we don’t overtake our own negative agreements, proving their impotence by parading them through the streets, they will fight with all they have to exert their will on us. Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, and habits form who we are. To take our thoughts captive is to consciously declare whether our lives will be governed by truth or by lies.

NOTE:

This is an excerpt from my new book, Speak Life which releases in September.

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Motion vs. Momentum

Posted by Brady Boyd

As a pastor, there is no busier weekend than the one we just completed, a weekend filled to the brim with Good Friday and multiple Sunday gatherings to celebrate the resurrection. There was a lot of motion and activity around special songs, added sermons, and preparations for new guests.

For most pastors, this weekend was the high attendance mark for the year. There were more guests than any other Sunday, and for some, this meant more services than normal. If Easter weekend went well, everyone who served is feeling a bit tired today, depleted from all the responsibilities.

There. Was. A. Lot. Of. Motion.

What we need is an appetite for momentum, which can look a lot like motion unless you peer deeper. Motion is busyness. Momentum is miraculous. Momentum feels like cycling downhill with equal forces of mass and velocity working in your favor. Motion is energy spent, but not always with dividends paid.

Holy Week has always been the means to awaken the saints, to encourage the weak, to confound the cynics and to welcome home the prodigal. The darkness of the cross, joined with the ephemeral hours in the shadows of death, followed by the joyous actualities of the empty tomb is a story that awakens hearts and pulls us toward the deep.

Momentum is a gift from God to us, the extra push to get us off our spiritual training wheels. Momentum is Spirit working with the frailties of our will to engineer a better blueprint for living. Momentum is a cold breeze that makes us more alert, a warm sun on our face pointing us toward vigor. Momentum is a force grueling in its genesis but near unstoppable at its apex.

Motion is our attempt at getting systems right, to make the path easier by preparing diligently. There is nothing wrong with these things as long as the goal is clear. Let us not be so busy doing good things in good seasons that we forget to plant and water the spiritual seeds that bring us real life.

On this Monday, post-Easter, my prayer is for the millions who heard the narrative of Jesus last week to find themselves in a bigger story than any they could have written on their own. My prayer is for all the planned motion to point us toward real momentum, following the Way with renewed passion and strength. May the truth of the resurrection story cause us not to live busier lives with more motion, but to live resurrected lives with legitimate momentum.

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Four Ways to Build Trust on Your Team

Posted by Brady Boyd

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:6-7

For the past few weeks, I’ve undergone two separate heart procedures to correct some issues which are common for congenital heart patients like myself. The procedures have gone well and my prognosis is great, but I’ve been absent for many of my normal responsibilities as pastor at New Life.  When I realized I would be absent from leading and preaching, I had two choices – worry about the church or trust the team God has sent us.

This is not the first time I’ve taken a leave of absence. Two years ago, I took a much needed sabbatical and in 2011, I was gone for several weeks after major heart surgery. Each time, I had the same two choices and each time, the team proved trustworthy. How did that happen? It seems more teams implode than trust and grow. How does a team build this kind of trust? How does a group of independent people coalesce into family?

1. Surround yourself with really good people.

Obviously, no one intentionally builds a team of renegades. However, no one haphazardly builds a stellar team, either. We believe character, chemistry and competency are all equally important at New Life. If you fail to evaluate the first two because there is a pressing need for talent or expertise, you may well end up with a team you do not like or who cannot play nice together when you are away. Really good people have high character, robust emotional health and are constantly improving their skills and craft. Trust is earned in drops which means the calendar is your friend. Over time, character is revealed, chemistry is forged and competency is developed.

2. Allow for some messes

Even when there’s an all-star team, there will be some fumbles. If your team is afraid of failing, they will stop experimenting. When they stop being experimental, they stop innovating. The light bulb was not perfected on the first try. The Wright brothers crashed a lot before they flew and Columbus was probably lost when he discovered America. Create a culture of learning where mistakes are evaluated, lessons are learned and your team is encouraged to continue their discoveries.

3. Let them drive the car

There is only one way to really prove trust – leave it to the team and go away. Trust them in your absence. Right now, both of my teenagers are learning to drive. So far, all the lessons have been with me in the car. My prayer life has never been better. One day soon, I will have to give them the keys and allow them to drive solo. I am terrified at the thought, but I know I must let them grow up. Each time I have left New Life, I tell my team to have fun driving the car, keep the scratches to a minimum and keep it out of the ditch. Then I go away and trust them.

4. Give them the credit when it goes well.

Shared responsibilities should equal shared rewards. The surest way to keep good people around you is to constantly shine the spotlight on them when they succeed. Praise them in public, brag on them to your friends, and celebrate their ingenious ideas, especially when those concepts are better than yours. Take the lid off your team and they will rise. Secure leaders have discovered the greatest reward for leading well is having others soar past you.

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A Prayer to Know Jesus is Near

Posted by Brady Boyd

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14

For 49 years, I have been a heart patient and it seems as normal to me as walking or sleeping. I’ve learned to live with a heart that needs special meds to work well and sometimes needs medical maintenance. Three times I’ve had major heart surgery – first, when I was only months old, while the latest was in 2011 when my pulmonary valve was replaced. There have been countless miracle stories along the way – from my poor, rural family being introduced to the world’s best pediatric cardiologist in 1967, to having my life saved by a tiny device that was only implanted because a surgeon felt the whim to test me for a condition that no other doctor had diagnosed.

It’s a miracle that I’ve survived a heart disease that took nearly every young child’s life in the 1960′s. It’s a miracle that I have played sports, traveled the world, climbed and hiked through the mountains, and have had more than enough energy for a wife and two teenagers. I’m blessed to have lived a full life despite the constant reminders of a heart that is not always perfect or cooperative. There have been some scary days, but I’m not afraid. I’ve always known my life is in the hands of the One who made me.

I’m writing this to everyone who has ever heard troubling news from a doctor and felt alone or fearful. I understand because I’ve heard the same reports and felt the same dread. I’ve also been a witness of the faithful presence of Jesus and have found indescribable comfort from knowing Christ is, indeed, with me. He is with you, too and that’s more than enough. That’s not just some syrupy, sentimental cliche designed to numb you into some fantasy. Jesus, instead, gives us a new reality to proclaim over our sickness.  He is Lord and He is faithful. He is good and He is near.

Do not give up hope and do not be afraid. Both were constant reminders from Jesus, because, I suspect, he knew we would need to be constantly reminded. My prayer is for healing, wholeness and Divine repair for all that has been lost or broken. I pray that all of us would be a witness of the faithful presence of Jesus and would not spend a second of our lives feeling forgotten or lost.

 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:20

 

 

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