Category Archives: Newsletter Article

What are you asking for?

In Mark 5 there’s a story of a woman who was suffering from bleeding for twelve years. Having heard reports of Jesus miracles, she comes to Him in a crowd and touches His clothing. She thought to herself “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.” She touches Jesus and indeed is healed. She feels it immediately and Jesus also notices that healing power had gone out from Him.

Who touched me? Jesus asked. The disciples scoff at a silly question in a crowded place where everyone is touching others. The woman comes to Jesus knowing what had happened and fell down in fear and trembling and told him it was her. And Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Sounds good! What a great healing story, if not a bit strange. But there’s more going on here behind the words. Jesus calls an old woman, “Daughter.” This loaded term goes well with the word for healing. In “Your faith has healed you.” Jesus is using a salvation word (Greek: sozo not iaomai which is used strictly for physical healing) meaning rescue from eternal death. It’s the same word in the woman’s thoughts when she comes to Jesus thinking to herself “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.”

“Your faith has saved you” is what Jesus is saying and He sends her with the peace that passes all understanding. He sends her with the same peace that God gives you under His name put on you in baptism and in the benediction where He “looks upon you with favor and gives you peace.” (Numbers 6:22)

So what was she asking for when she touched Jesus? It seems God had given her eyes of faith to see a saving available in the healing of Jesus. She had seen the healing miracles of Jesus and was granted faith to believe that that healing would be hers along with a place in the family of God. Certainly the physical healing is good but as God’s sons and daughters, we know that the healing of the soul is the eternal importance.

So what are you asking for? God is listening. Whether it’s for healing, job advancement or security, family situations, clarity in vocations, our Father hears our prayers and promises to answer. We should keep praying with the God given faith that we are in His family. We have a Father who does immeasurably more than we are able to ask (Ephesians 3:20).

Our Father did immeasurably more than we ever could’ve imagined or expected when He gave His Son as The Sacrifice for all sin. It was your cross that you deserved for your sins that Jesus hung on. Believe in this and you will be healed. What does this healing salvation look like? It looks like the command to go. Go away from the empty tomb where only your sins remain and into the arms of your Savior. Go with God’s peace, knowing He has done it all for you. Easter isn’t just about empty, it’s about a life full of God’s love. And He’s given it all for you. He’s given you faith to believe what Christ has given in His life, death, and resurrection.

Let’s share that love as we share Christ with the world!

Mark Madness

You ever feel like a crazy person as a Christian in the world today? Yes? Good. If not, maybe you should. Of course, let’s be careful with what we mean by crazy.

King David acted “foolishly” for the Lord. In 2 Samuel 6 we see his wife despising and mocking David for his rejoicing and dancing before the Lord. David responded to her saying, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes… ” (2 Samuel 6:22) Contemptible and abased is beyond crazy if you ask me!

In our Sunday Gospel readings this year and in our current Wednesday morning Bible study we are going through Mark. One thing we learn about Jesus from the Gospel of Mark is He is someone who is odd. (Voelz, 42) Jesus is strange? Pastor you can’t say that! That’s why I cited a seminary professor on that one. Just kidding. Let’s talk about strange Jesus.

In Mark 3:21 we see Jesus’ family seeking to seize him because “He is out of his mind.” He had been living a strange perhaps crazy existence up to this point. He heals a man and yells at him in 1:41-43. He gets away from crowds (1:45) even though He had told His disciples He came to preach (1:38). He walks on water attempting to get past the disciples without them noticing (6:48). He curses a fig tree for not having figs even though it was not fig season (11:12-14). Not only this, but He is constantly recognized and acknowledged by demons that seem to flock to Him. Jesus is strange.

There’s a banner in the sanctuary this week that is strange. Kati (my beautiful wife the artist) has told me that good art is supposed to create discussion. If that’s the criteria for good art, then the banner is certainly good art. It has had lots of discussion. It’s strange art as well because it’s Jesus and Jesus isn’t usually portrayed with a strange look on His face. We think of Jesus as comforting and safe. Not so when you look at this banner which has John 15:5’s “I am the Vine you are the branches” at the bottom. It causes you to wonder what is wrong with this figure. His face is concerning and He has a bush growing out of a wound in His side.

And there we see our Savior. He’s one from whom men hide their faces. He has no form or majesty that is desirable. He has no beauty for us to look on. (Isaiah 53:2-3) This is Christ through the eyes of sin that look on Him. This is Christ for you. He became crazy, strange, and ugly in eyes of sin for you so that you may become crazy, strange, and ugly to the world for Him.

He is the crazy vine we are the crazy branches. In a world where expectations are all over the map, we know what to expect from our savior. From Him we have a joy which causes us to dance like no one is looking. Through your redeemed eyes, your Savior has a beauty beyond compare. May you keep on dancing in this March Madness of Lent.

Voelz, James W. Mark 1:1-8:26. St. Louis: Concordia House, 2013. Print. Concordia Commentary.Banner from TLC Toledo

Epiphany in Exile

This past week I spent a few days in Fort Wayne at the Seminary learning alongside fellow pastors, deaconess, seminarians, professors and more. One of the days I was able to sit in a sermon seminar on the upcoming Lenten series we are using this year. Rev. Dr. Reed Lessing of St. Michael’s in Fort Wayne went through the context, content, theology and themes of Isaiah 40-55. Isaiah draws from the rest of the Old Testament scripture and points to Jesus. These chapters speak of Yahweh’s rebellious servant, Israel whom He loves and delivers through the perfect Servant Israel, Jesus.

A theme that runs through these chapters is exile. The Babylonian nation had taken Israel captive and the Israelites were no longer home. They lost not only their homes and possessions but many of their loved ones and leaders. They were stripped of their comforts and confidence and were captive to a foreign nation that worshiped false Gods. Through this, Yahweh was teaching them to trust in Him above all.

A book like Isaiah that is so ancient that it’s often hard to application to our lives. But in the nation of Israel we see a rebellious people loved by God. The Lord (Yahweh) is hopelessly devoted to Israel. In this picture we see ourselves. We are a rebellious people loved by God. We also are living in a land that is deficient of lasting comforts and eternal confidences. And the voice of God’s comfort is threatened to be drowned out by the voice of the tempestuous pleasures of the now. We are convinced without much consideration that we are leaderless and we are cut off from our loved ones who abandon us for the things of the world rather than the things of God.

We may feel abandoned and on the edge of defeat, but in our weakness, He is strong. When we see our failures and our misfortunes and our faults, Yahweh guides us to confess our sins and to confess His salvation. And that is what we get. We give our sins and He gives His Son. Jesus came as the perfect servant, to suffer for us in our flesh in our place. The Suffering Servant, Jesus, is revealed to us from God as all we need in this dark place as we wait the full and final restoration to come.

Generous Thanksgiving

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
(2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV)

One of the hardest things about saying goodbye to summer is the shortening of days that we experience. As the days grow shorter we could all use more light! In the church year readings that we have, we are approaching the end of our current cycle. The end of the church year always goes like the end of summer-fall-winter transition. The readings focus on the darkness that we experience in the trials and tribulations of the world and they point us to being prepared Christ to return. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus, He has enriched us to be lights in this dark world! 

We are not only equipped to shine, but as fellow members of the body, we are gifted to assist others in their shining. As God’s people called to the body of Christ at Trinity we are called and gifted to Share Christ. This past month or so we have been taking a stewardship voyage where we consider how our gifts are used to share Christ. Among other godly pursuits, our time can be spent sharing in His word, our talents can be devoted to demonstrating and supporting Him in our world, and our treasures can be given to God for the work of furthering His kingdom.

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Our sharing of Christ and sharing of the gifts He has blessed us is a tangible presence of His body growing together into the Body He has knit us into. I continue to raise heartfelt prayers of Thanksgiving to our Lord for His guidance. The days of the vacancy have been much like the daylight, time seems scarce! But, thanks be to God, He continues to sustain His ministry at Trinity. We continue to be blessed to share Christ through the preaching of His word and the delivery of His sacraments in worship. These along with the strengthening of families we are blessed to be a part of in the school, the life together among believers and the acts of service I witness, are things I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for? There’s much we receive from our God who gives us freely. May I suggest, foremost this month we recall the enriching we have received undeserved through Christ’s work on the cross for us. This gift of life enriches us with the Spirit filled generosity that flows forth into the world. This generosity has and will continue to produce thanksgiving to God. God is doing His work through our sharing. May we continue to give Him all the thanks and praise that His name deserves.

With you, Sharing Christ at all times and in all places,

Pastor Kleimola

Ending Well

All’s well that ends well, the peacock said as he looked at his tail. There is a story told of a peacock’s pride in his appearance. A particular peacock is distraught over the condition of his feet. He cannot believe how ugly they are and grouses about this to any of his feathered friends who care to listen. The condition of his feet do not reflect well on his perfect appearance. He can’t get past it!

All’s well that ends well, the peacock said as he looked at his tail.
This is much like the lives we live, perfection on the surface, but further examination demonstrates ugly sins and imperfections that would lead to our embarrassment and ultimate condemnation. Fear in being found out and healthy fear of God’s wrath against our sin could leave us lost.

April contains a big end for us at Trinity. We are seeing the unfortunate end of Pastor Carr’s ministry at Trinity as he transitions from his position as Senior Administrative Pastor to the role of Emeritus Pastor as his cancer and treatments prevent his engagement in the work of ministry. This end leaves many questions and uncertainties as we face the future of sharing Christ at Trinity.

Another end we will see this April is the end of Lent as we see the life of Christ end in His Good Friday death on the cross. At the time of His death many questions and uncertainties were in the minds of His followers. We know those questions and uncertainties did not remain for long as the death of Christ ended well three days later in his resurrection. This resurrection is our hope that as we remain in Him we would live in Him and would have a blessed end this side of eternal glory.

This month as we consider many ends (the end of cold weather!), I encourage you to take a moment and consider your final wishes and to make preparations for the Church militant’s farewell service for you. As Christians found by Christ, we are blessed to have the confidence of eternal life, yet we continually face the sting of death until Christ’s return. In this month’s newsletter is a brief form for you to share with our church office some of your wishes for your funeral service. If you would like assistance with this, please contact me at anytime and we can schedule a meeting.

He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 1:6)
It is hardly fun to consider the end of life but the words of the peacock ring in my ears as we are certainly ugly not just in our feet but through and through. Yet, the plumage of Christ’s glory shines through us through the grace of His gifts found in the forgiveness of sins. We are confident that He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 1:6)

Download the form here.
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Fasting for Lent? For life?

Fasting is a practice of our faith that is not common among us. Yet, fasting is something Christ encourages. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives instructions for fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). In answering a question about fasting from the disciples of John the Baptizer, Jesus assured them that the day was coming when His disciples would fast (Matthew 9:14-17). In the early church fasting was practiced regularly among the congregations (Acts 13:1-3, Acts 14:21-23). Paul suggested fasting (from marital relations) as a way to devote oneself to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). And of course there is Christ’s forty days in the wilderness when He fasted while being tempted.

The season of Lent is forty days long and appropriately draws to mind this temptation and fasting of Christ. The season is a penitential season which draws to mind our sorrow for sin, our regret, and our brokenness. Part of our Lutheran tradition to emphasize this is fasting from Alleluias and the Hymn of Praise during our services. The season of Lent is also a preparatory season. In the early church the season of Lent was the time when those learning the faith and preparing to be Baptized would have intense preparation leading up to the Baptismal service traditionally held during the Easter Vigil.

This Lent I encourage you to fast. This ancient practice encouraged by Christ is an opportunity to take a step back from the “have-it-all-right-now” mentality we typically operate under these days. Fasting can be from a food item, from meals, from activities, even marital relations as Paul suggests in 1 Cor 7. Whatever your fasting involves, it should be something that you do purposefully, focusing yourself on prayer and study of scripture during the time when you would typically indulge yourself.

The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 189) gives a good suggestion for daily fasting that I am going to use in lent (and beyond).

How you might fast:

  1. Rise before dawn and eat breakfast.
  2. Examine yourself as you would prior to partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
  3. Offer your life to God in penitent prayer.
  4. Go about your day, breaking your fast at evening.

If you are diabetic, fasting could be hazardous. Check with your doctor. Do not consider fasting as a dieting program. If abstaining from food is not possible, consider abstaining from something else. For example, turn off your television and spend time in prayer and study of God’s Word. (Adapted from The Lutheran Study Bible page 189 published by CPH)

Fasting is not something that we have to do, but much like prayer it is something that we get to do. And it is not something that we should only do at certain times, such as Lent, but throughout our life of faith. Certainly our Father provides our daily bread for us, giving us all we need. In fasting we are taking a break from the continual taking in order to return thanks and praise and trust in our Father.

As we approach the season of Lent, consider the calling Christ has given you in Baptism. He has given us a new life to live in Him. Thanks be to God.

More reading on Fasting (and Lent):
http://cyberbrethren.com/2012/02/17/on-fasting-and-lutheranism/
http://www.lcms.org/faqs/worship#lent
http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php#article26
http://wmltblog.org/2011/03/blessedlent/

Sharing in Faith

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

We cannot be certain what sort of persecution the Thessalonica church was facing, but Paul commends them for persevering in their faith in the midst of the persecution and trials and points out their growth in love in the midst of it all. Their faith and love was central to their survival. We cannot be certain what sort of persecutions the Thessalonians faced, but we know well the persecutions and trials that we face. The pains of the sinful world affect us we cannot but itch and squirm and often avoid talking and thinking about these trials. As sinners we cannot perfectly and patiently endure these things alone.

Thank God, from the moment we enter His family through faith worked in the water and the word, we are no longer alone. One amazing thing that Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians is that they were growing stronger together in their love for one another. This is an amazing way to see the difficult situations that we inevitably face in life as opportunities. They are opportunities for us to grow in love for one another.

That love doesn’t grow from fear, fighting and avoidance, instead it comes from sharing together. Our congregation has a mission statement of Sharing Christ through Witness, Mercy and Life Together. When we share with one another in these ways, our love will grow and we will remain even when all around us is falling.  We have many opportunities for our congregation to grow in love underway and many more starting up. Our small group ministry, our CRHP teams, our friendship circle, our Wednesday morning prayer group, our youth and confirmation programs are just some of the many places you can see our congregation growing in faith and love.

But nowhere is this growth more clear than in our Divine Services. There we continue to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, hear His Word and receive the washing of renewal all for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. This is obviously not from our own doing — but by God for our faith which is created and preserved by Him — all so that we can love Him and our neighbors. He loves us enough to keep us standing when falling seems likely. His continued persistent, tenacious love for us is something that will endure and is nothing short of miraculous. May all we do bring glory to Him.

Growing in Faith

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This month marks the beginning of Trinity’s 139th school year as well as the beginning of our 2013-14 confirmation year. Our confirmation students have a large process in front of them as they take part in the catechism classes. It takes much dedication from the families involved. The weekly classes, memorization, sermon notes, service hours, acolyting and all things involved may leave us wondering, “Why do we go through all this effort to teach and learn the catechism?”

Consider a tree nursery. Trees don’t start as trees, they begin as seeds in pots of soil. The pots are placed in a greenhouse where they receive water and light. Soon the seeds come to life and sprout. They draw from the nutrients in the soil as they grow in their fragile condition. After a while the seedlings are taken outside of the greenhouse and continue to grow in the real world. The blue sky, the breezy air surround the saplings as they grow among the other trees. There they continue to draw from the nutrients in the soil. At some point the growing plants become large enough to be transplanted and they may arrive at a new location perhaps part of a replanted forest. There they grow year round assaulted by the elements of the changing seasons.  They may experience droughts, floods, storms and more. But as part of a forest they are safer than they would be alone. And as part of a forest they are able to accomplish things, they provide food and shelter for countless numbers of other creature, they prevent erosion, purify groundwater, and provide wind barriers.

Much like seeds in a nursery our confirmation students are being prepared to live a life in a forest and from this we have a picture of the Christian life. With Baptism, the seed of faith is planted within the soil of God’s Word where the Gospel brings it to life and nourishes it. Faith springs to life from the Gospel nutrients within the soil of God’s story. But just as seedlings need to be nurtured and cultivated in the protective arms of the nursery, so also Christians need the “milk” of the Word. Our roots in the faith need the rich nutrients of the Gospel.The six chief parts of the Small Catechism gives the shape of our life of faith: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper. These six teachings, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, are the richest of nutrients that we receive as Christians. These teachings provide the structure for our lives, the DNA of our faith.

Continuing with the analogy of a tree being planted in the soil, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer is like the humus, or organic material of the soil that provides the structure and the nutrients that the roots of the tree need (12). These three teachings provide the structure for all the teaching of Scripture. They summarize and organize Scripture for us. Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are the nutrients from the humus or organic material of the soil that awaken, nourish, and strengthen our faith. They deliver to us the Gospel of Christ that awakens faith in Christ. Together they sustain our faith from cradle to grave (13).

Like a tree, we keep growing. As we grow in the Christian faith we also, like a healthy tree, bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit that we share with others (Gal 5:22-23). We continue learning and growing in the teachings of the Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. When we grow in our faith we are more deeply anchored in the Word and prepared to weather the storms of false teachings, persecutions, and trials that blow our way (11).What is the benefit of relearning and reflecting on the chief teachings of the Christian faith? Well, the relearning and the reflecting encourage growth in our Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. Just as trees grow from sunlight for photosynthesis and from water that brings nutrients of the soil to the roots of the tree, so also continual learning, studying, and reflecting on God’s Word and the teachings of the Christian Faith helps the Christian grow. And as individual Christians grow, our Lord’s Church grows!

forest

This article is modified from a newsletter article by Pastor Josh LaFeve from Atonement Lutheran Church in Spring Valley, California. This article and the original rely on an analogy taken from the book, Rooted in the Faith—Preparation for Church Membership by Dr. Charles Arand (2010), pp. 6-13. It has been adapted for use in this article. The Numbers in parenthesis throughout the article refer to page numbers in the book.

God Keeps Going

old-trinity

In Deuteronomy 31:8 Moses commissioning Joshua speaks to him, saying: “(Be strong and courageous…) It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Powerful words for a man and a people rising to the powerful occasion of entering the promised land. They had much reason to fear and much reason to be dismayed. The Israelites stood at a crossroads and the road they were being down contained fortified walls, giants and bloody battles and the road behind was littered with their failures.

The past couple of months (and years) have brought some unexpected bumps to us at Trinity. An unsuccessful church plant, rearranging of positions, cancer diagnoses, sins by pastors and more — all strike painful chords deep within our congregation and community. What will happen next? Who’s going to have the next unexpected, un-welcomed life event take place? Why can’t we be a church without problems like these? These questions and more are all signs of our fear and despair that crouch at the door waiting to overtake us. For over 138 years Trinity has traveled a bumpy road and continues to overcome bumps as God guides. Bumps of bad weather and bad behavior, bumps of falling attendance and running out of space, bumps of infighting and conflict, bumps of all sorts have befallen us as God’s people at Trinity. Even over these bumps, God is going before us.

During these summer months, our Stewardship committee is taking an initiative to catalog some of our past records. In looking through some of the stacks of documents and pictures (which will be made available for congregation perusal in the near future) I noticed the earliest recorded minutes from a Trinity council meeting. One of the first acts on record for our congregation was the nomination of a person to the position of “collector of past-due tuition” the person (who shall remain nameless here) declined to serve. I can understand his objections! We may look to the past to see greener pastures but with all honesty, there are struggles all along.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”(Deut 31:8)
Since Trinity has begun, we have struggled to be a people living in perfect unity. We have struggled to be whole. We have failed to be healthy. We have hurt ourselves and others around us. At Trinity, we are a broken people. But at Trinity we have the thing that broken people need the most. You have God going before you. You have Jesus Christ enduring the hardship of all hardships on the cross in your place. You have him going before you to the grave. You have him going before you from the grave to the resurrected life in glory that awaits us all even as we are now assured of it in our baptismal grace.

There is much ahead of us. In the immediate future, our 2013 Pre-Confirmation Retreat is mere weeks away. The start of our 139th school year at the end of August. In-home-fellowship-Bible-studies (better name tbd) are coming this fall. Packing a million meals alongside fellow Toledo Christians and neighbors is happening in October. The start of a comfort dog ministry at Trinity. Who knows where else the Lord will take us as we Share Christ together…  Who knows where will we be in 139 years? God knows because He is going there right now, ahead of us; To prepare the works for us to walk in. May we be ever mindful of His grace which keeps us going… through it all.

Any Day is the Day

Baby K

Kati and I are expecting the birth of our baby any day now. Chances are by the time you are reading this you may have heard the news. We have been expecting it for a while now. At the beginning of June we had a measurement ultrasound where we found the baby was measuring at 8 pounds already. (Give or take a pound and with the understanding of uncertainty with these measurements already.)  At that point it was 36 weeks into the pregnancy and the measurements were averaging at that for a baby at 38 weeks, 5 days. In our mind, any day was the day. That was weeks ago. Any day is the day. The signs are there and the clock is ticking.  Jesus tells us something similar in Matthew 24:42 – Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Waiting for our baby is serving to remind me of all the things in life that we are waiting for, and even more, all the things that we think we are ready for. We look at the world and our lives and begin to believe that we are ready for the Lord to come. We have had enough waiting. We have had enough of the sin and filth of this broken world. We are ready. Right? It is tempting to believe that we know best. It is tempting to forget we have work to do as we wait. Jesus tells us to “stay awake” and it is not just to sit on the couch watching infomercials at night, it is for a reason we are to “stay awake.”

There are two things this “stay awake” should encourage us toward.

  1. Stay awake in the Word.  
    Jesus: “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42
    The best place to watch is that which God speaks to us. Watch His Word. Yes, it was written thousands of years ago, but it was written for you. It was written to tell you not what to do, but what God has done for you. He has sent His Son to die in your place for your sins, to make you ready; ready to work and ready for eternal life with Him. In the summer months it is easy to get lax on our habits and schedules. In this, guard your family’s worship life and devote yourself to the word and equipping your family with this assurance of God’s love for you continually.
  2. Stay awake in the world. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some consider slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.(2 Peter 3:9) It is easy to go about our days ignoring those who disagree with us on God stuff. But God has called us to stay awake and to love our neighbors. Stay awake and look for and seize opportunities to love your neighbors as God has loved you. There are many perishing around us and we are equipped with the Love of God to do something about it. The good news is, we don’t have to look far to find our neighbors (or “the world”) they are the people we encounter every day. These are people God has put in our path for us to love. The love for these people is the good works that God has prepared before hand for us to do. As Christ’s redeemed we are blessed to be His hands and feet and as he lives in us we know that He is working through us as we wait.

As I wrap this article up, I am planning to head home to see how Kati is doing, what I can do for her as we wait for the baby to come. As you wrap up reading this article, say a prayer asking God to help you stay awake and aware of what He has done and what He equips you to do as we wait for His return.

Peace in Him