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Category Archives: Church Planting

A Working Knowledge of the Bible

*(An excerpt from my new book, “Reading Your Bible For All It’s Worth”If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to get a few copies of the book, maybe this chapter will get your attention. Anyone who knows me or has read some of the broad range of things I’ve written over the last few years knows that the content is ultra-easy to understand and equally as easy to apply to your own life. Everything I write has either an overt, or covert message that ultimately leads the readers into the possibility of a genuine, life-changing encounter with the Father. It’s Always done with absolutely no coercion, manipulation or pressure. *You know, just like Jesus did it! You won’t find a more comprehensive or practical book anywhere that will help you learn to read, understand and more importantly, enjoy your Bible. Give me a little feedback. Let me know if you like it. Blessings!  AT

A Working Knowledge of the Bible

“You gotta get in the Word, til the Word gets in you”  AT

When my life made a dramatic turn in 1984, my wife, Julie had just recently bought a New King James Version Bible. I basically took the Bible from her! I’m not sure she even gave me permission to take it but I guess she thought that maybe I’d actually read it, and that would be a good thing! And, read it I did! When I got into that NKJV Bible I couldn’t quit. It was easier to understand than the King James Version for me. And, as I found out later, it remains very close to the KJV without the cumbersome language of the 1600’s. At any rate, it was the version of the Bible I first became acquainted with and I’ve stuck with it for 35 years now.

I was raised on an extremely remote ranch in the Texas Panhandle. We were 35 miles from a town of any size. (Canadian, Texas, Pop. 3000). And, as the old adage goes, “where we lived wasn’t on the way to anywhere!” But after I began my walk with the Lord a strange phenomenon began to take place. Many of my friends from my ‘old life’, beer drinkers, partiers, etc. started showing up at my house, out there in the middle of nowhere. It was really amazing how often it happened. These guys were opening up about their lives and their problems asking me what they should do. Even though I had been immersed in the Bible I had hardly any answers for them. I just knew that if God could fix my life, …..He could surely fix theirs! Their extremely diverse, and broad range of problems and questions caused me to dig in the Word for answers. I’d go home at night and dig, and dig, and dig to find the answers. And, now after 35 years, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same question twice. I can see clearly now that it was the Lord’s way of helping me find my way around the Word.

I had to put that old Bible aside for a new one several years back. Its pages are worn and torn. They’re marked with half a dozen different colors of pens, pencils, and highlighters, The cover is faded and coming apart. Mark 1 & 2 are completely missing. Cole, my third son, at about age 2 had ripped them out, wadded them up in a little ball and was about to put them into his mouth when I discovered them. 

I learned my way around the Bible by looking for answers for my friends. Through all that I developed, what I call, a ‘working knowledge’ of the Bible. I had no idea in those days that the Lord would use me in any ministry capacity at all. Never dreamed of it! But He knew! And, how He trained me in the Book has been invaluable to me in being a leader, counselor, and teacher of the Word.

You can do the same. Whenever your friends or family have a serious life event, grab your Bible and start looking. Keep looking until you find an answer or a verse that would encourage them. Just do that! Keep doing it and you’ll develop a working knowledge of the Bible, yourself!

 

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A Prophetic Dream and A Defining Moment

God has a broad variety of ways He can speak to us. If you think about it and understand that He’s a Father, you’ll understand that He always wants to communicate with us. It really comes down to us tuning into His frequency, if you will, and receiving by faith what we hear. God is not limited to speaking to us in an audible voice. I know plenty of people who say they’ve heard Him that way, and I believe them.  But the Bible lists numerous other ways He speaks to us, and some of those include dreams and visions.

I can’t say I’ve had a lot of prophetic dreams; maybe a few dozen, in the years I’ve been learning to walk with the Lord. But the ones I have had were very profound and life-altering, to say the least. One such instance happened nearly 32 years ago. We had moved off the ranch in the Texas Panhandle and were just a month or two deep in starting the church. In the dream, it was if I was in a classroom with about 15 people in it. They were all sitting in those desks like you used in high school. All of these people were reaching out for me and moaning and groaning in a very defeated and agonizing tone as if to be crying out for help. On top of that, they were all covered with some kind of bluish, green substance. One of the women toward the front of the classroom reached out for me but as she did her arm just broke off and crumbled like a piece of brittle pottery. Another man got up and started toward me but as he stood his leg broke like the woman’s arm and he fell to the floor. I walked up to another person, still in his chair, to pray for him and I put my hands on his head. When I did I noticed that the bluish-green substance (the best description I can give is that this substance had the texture of that blue cue stick chalk used to play pool, but it was also damp) had a terrible smell to it. A smell so bad in fact that it was making me sick to my stomach. I should insert here that nothing makes me sick enough to throw up. Only done that a few times in my whole life. In fact, my family knows if I start throwing up they better call the undertaker! lol In my dream the smell was making me sick enough to throw up. It was at this point I woke up. I sat up in bed as quickly as I possibly could and actually gagged for about 30 seconds. I didn’t throw up but I came as close as you can without doing it. That was the end of the dream.

At that precise time I had no idea what the dream might mean but the next morning the Lord began to give me some specific insight into what it meant. He showed me the brittleness of the people in the dream represented what dead religion does to a person. It makes us rigid and fragile. (as opposed to supple (teachable) and strong) The hopeless nature of the people in the dream was a result of what religion does to us, without the life-giving component of a relationship with the Father. The blue-green substance was also the residue of religious mindsets that smother the life out of us. I believe the sickening smell I experienced is exactly what the Lord experiences when we are bound up by lifeless religious thoughts and practices…..but have no relationship with Him!

The Lord spoke very clear to my spirit in His still, small voice; “Andy, My people are smothering and dying because of dead religion. I’m sending you to deliver my people from that bondage and to set them free.”

That’s been years ago but still very fresh in my mind. Looking back, it now seems crystal clear to me that it’s what my life is supposed to be about. That dream has served to form me and shape me into ‘who’ the Lord wants me to be, ……and ‘what’ He wants me to do. And, looking forward, I believe I can trust Him to continue to carry out that mission through me and the people He’s assembled here…..if we’ll simply keep on being obedient to Him.

Try out the audio version:

A couple you might like:

Mexican Food and Prophecy! They Go Great Together!

A Place Where People Get Well

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Sacrifice Cats? Why, Yes…..Yes We Do!

When we started Trinity Fellowship back in 1989 there were less than ten of us. We didn’t know much but we were sure we’d heard the Lord. Those early years were extremely challenging (as have been the rest of ’em! lol), but really rewarding too. Looking back, those were some great years. The little group of people we started with were growing in the Lord….and we were growing in how to lead them. We were literally in the ‘school of the Spirit’! Being the only non-denominational church in town we had to grow through what I call, “the snake handlers syndrome”. Because you’re different there’s a lot of talk….and much of it was negative talk. They don’t know what you’re doing….but because it’s different it has to be wrong. We were looked down on by the other leaders and churches in town and often ignored, made fun of and treated with disrespect. That all served to make us that much more determined to hear the Lord and be obedient to what we believed He was saying to us.

One particular case in point was when one of the ladies in our group came to me somewhat distressed. She said that another person asked her at the beauty shop if it was true that we sacrificed cats, …….if you can believe that! I asked the lady from our group what she told them, to which she replied, “I told her….NO! ….absolutely not!!” I said, “Well, you go right back down there and tell ‘em that we do sacrifice cats!” She had a surprised and puzzled look on her face. I said, “But be sure and tell ‘em there’s nothing religious about it……we just don’t like cats!” I don’t think she told ‘em!! LOL, I do think we had quite a few visitors who came just out of curiosity!

But, seriously, there’s not one thing that cleanses a feller’s soul quite like a good ‘ol cat sacrificin’!

*(Easy cat lovers….I’m just kidding!)

More humor:

“It’ll Ride”

Them Swallows Can’t Return to Capistrano Soon Enough For Me!

Just Some Friendly Advice: Always Approach a Possum With Extreme Caution!!

 

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

WMD’s, weapons of mass destruction; that’s a fairly new term we’ve started hearing over the past fifteen years or so. WMD’s are defined as: a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans or cause great damage to human-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere. There are those out there so devious as to devise these ways to wreak havoc on the masses. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around anyone wanting to do that kind of harm to humanity….but it exists. And the potential for the use of WMD’s is probably growing rather than diminishing. Pretty scary to say the least!

You know, the Bible says that we have an adversary, the devil, who loves to kill, steal and destroy. he (caps left off on purpose!) doesn’t have a lot of tricks….but he’s very good at the ones he does have. he’ll do anything he can to keep us from coming to the Lord to begin with. It seems that there’s always someone in front of us that is over-religious and arrogant about it to boot. Those folks can come across in ways that make some people think we’re all like that. I know a couple of these people and it bothers me that in their perceived zeal for the Lord that they actually repel people from coming to the Father. Tragic, but it happens.

But, even after we’re born gain there are plenty of distractions thrown our way to keep us from the best that the Lord has for us….and to cause us to possibly miss our destiny. Many of these distractions are not the work of the ‘enemy’ (but plenty are!) at all but just the details of life, ….which we all agree, can be very distracting.

So, “what”, you might ask is such a big deal about distractions? Distractions have a profound way to keep us from our real purpose in life. God has a plan, an intricate one, for our entire existence on the planet. Our lives will never take on the value God has placed on them until we’re moving in unison with His Spirit. And, if we lose sight of that because of our distractions we end up questioning, or doubting, even our importance to the Father.

If we’re going to fulfill the plan of God for our lives it just makes sense to start now to learn some inventive ways to deal with distractions. If not you could be dealing with these little things from now on. It’s important to note that these things fight directly against your faith. That’s a pretty important thing to remember!

It might take a little work to identify what your distractions are and how you’re going to deal with them, but you can do it! …..

…..And you’ll have to if you’re going to keep these Weapons of Mass Distraction from stealing from your destiny!

What are your distractions??

Try these, too:

Weapons of Mass Construction

“You Are Here”

It’s Either a Blessing or a Curse!

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If You Ain’t Walkin’ It, You Probably Oughta Quit Talkin’ It!

That’s one of the big problems the world has with us Christians. We say one thing but do something different, altogether.  We talk love but they don’t see it in action. In fact, many times they see the polar opposite. It just doesn’t look good. We talk faith….but they don’t see us actually walking by faith. They hear us talking about righteousness but observe us compromising in our daily lives. So, really, who can blame our criticizers? It’s a wonder we have any credibility at all.

This kind of thing has caused a lot of distrust of churches and church people. It’s going to be quite a challenge to get this ship turned around. But it’s worth the effort…and we oughta start ASAP!

A good starting place would be, for ministry people like myself, to just be open, honest and forthcoming about ‘where’ we are in our own lives. As we learn to walk out our Christian mindset, and lifestyle, we make plenty of mistakes in the process. I’ve always tried to be honest about that with the people the Lord has given us. And I’m a firm believer that whatever it is that I’m teaching or preaching about….I don’t know every thing about the subject; I’m a learner; a work in progress. I think it helps our family (church) to hear of the challenges even we have in walking this stuff out in real life. It gives them hope to hear their leaders admitting to their own struggles. I know every ministry person won’t agree with that….and that’s OK with me. Many ministry people won’t ‘go there’ fearing it’s a sign of weakness. I can totally understand that as church people can sometimes be some of the most vicious. But my conscience won’t let me tell people I have something perfected when in all actuality…..I’m far from it. You might be surprised at how much that’d help the whole big picture. A little honesty, a little openness, a little vulnerability could go a long way.

When that happens with leaders the entire ‘flock’, so to speakstarts the ‘buy in’ process. They slowly change the way they think and in turn it begins to affect how they behave and interact with people on the outside. It’s a long, slow process so we should start now!

If we’ll just start walkin’ out what we’re talkin’ (or at the very least, …..try to!) we might actually start changing the world for the better.

Why don’t you read these, too:

Love People, Trust God!

Identity Theft

Just Say, “Yes”!

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Theorists and Practitioners

Theorist: Someone who considers given facts and comes up with a possible explanation is called a theorist.                                                                                                                            Practitioner: A practitioner is someone who is actively involved in real life situations, and qualified to practice a particular occupation, profession, or religion.

I had a conversation 10 years ago with a few close friends. I don’t actually remember the exact details of the entire conversation but I definitely remember the conclusion I came to soon after it was over. I was with four other ministry people, all of which had quite a few years of experience. A couple of these guys are great communicators, orators, Bible teachers. But they weren’t actively involved in the day to day dealing with people and their problems. It’s not that they couldn’t do it; they have. It’s just that they weren’t heavily involved at that time. I’ll call them the ‘theorists’. They’re important people; they’re good at what they do!

It was a really good, brisk discussion on how things ought to work in the church from a, strictly, Biblical standpoint. On those topics, there wasn’t much disagreement, whatsoever. But the ‘rub’ came when we began talking about how it really is in the ‘trenches’. You know, out there where the rubber hits the road….in real life; Where you get knocked down, get your nose bloodied, betrayed, lied to, lied about, tripped up and derailed. That all can happen (and really a lot more!) in the process of ‘practicing’ the theory, especially in ministry.

I am deeply involved in the day to day challenge of dealing with people…and their issues. Been doing it for over 30 years. It’s what I do. I’m far from perfect at it….but I have learned a few things. For that reason, I’d say I’m more a ‘practitioner’ than a theorist. When you add, what I’d call the ‘human factor’, to any theory, even a Biblical one, it complicates that theory to a large degree. Doesn’t mean the theory is wrong or even faulty, for that matter. But it’s different when it’s being lived out in real life. It’s never quite as neat; in fact, it’s usually pretty messy; it’s never as cut and dried as we’d like for it to be. When you add people to the equation it gets a lot more difficult. It’s nearly always worth it….but difficult, nonetheless.

It led me to this conclusion; There needs to be a ‘coming together’ of the ‘theorists’ and the ‘practitioners’. They need to sit down at the table and talk, discuss, compare, hash it out, even argue a little if it’s friendly and helpful. It’s vital, I think. And, if it’s done in a productive manner….everyone leaves the table wiser and better equipped…..and both have a much better understanding.

In all truth, and I think this is how the Lord designed it for obvious reasons, …..unless the theory is tested in the laboratory of life….all you have is a theory. But when the theory is a Biblical one, and the parties involved will lean toward the Lord, it usually works out……..a whole lot more often than not!

The theorists and the practitioners need to get together!

Readin’ a book about learning how to fly an airplane is fine…..but when you’re taxiing down the runway……things get REAL!

Check these out:

I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

A Long Ways From the Lord

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Yoke Up!

The old timers will all tell you that one of the sure-fire ways to train up a young draft horse to pull a wagon, a coach or a plow is to hitch him up to an older, seasoned horse. The young horse will fight the harness, buck, pitch and kick for all he’s worth but it doesn’t take long until he gives it all up. Yep, the old plow horse doesn’t let any of it bother him. He’ll just plod along doing his job until the young horse decides to cooperate.

Seems like a pretty fair analogy to describe our walk with the Lord. In fact, Jesus used that exact same analogy in one of the classic statements He made in His earthly life, “Take My yoke upon you”. For the most part His message up to that point had been directed to the Jewish nation and people. And this statement, while we can easily apply it to our own life, was directed to those who were ‘yoked’ up in the Law of Moses. Jesus’ message of grace flew square in the face of the over-religious, self-righteous, doctrinal police and they hated Him for it.

This message of grace and love was ultimately why they so often sought to kill Him. I find it extremely peculiar that as good as Jesus was they sought to vilify Him because He wouldn’t submit to their lifeless religion. And that’s exactly what legalistic religion is…lifeless. No man has ever been made righteous by the Law, and no man will ever be! The Law, as Paul says, served as a schoolmaster until Christ came, and after that there is no need for the Law. It’s a polarizing subject even today. In fact, it’s the issue at stake in the whole Body of Christ, this argument over law and grace. There are those who are being vilified in the same manner as Jesus was and the bottom line is that the legalists don’t believe that God is as good as we’re saying He is! So, Jesus’ statement was designed to take the heavy weight of trying to keep the Law off those who were burdened down under it and get them to ‘yoke up’ with Him.

Hitch up with Jesus!

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Maybe we oughta quit our buckin’ and pitchin’ and try it!

Life is hard; It’s harder if ‘ya ain’t yoked up!

Here’s a couple you should take a look at:

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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Are You “Right” With God?

I hear people asking that question fairly often.It’s a pretty important one, I guess. But I don’t ever ask it myself. I don’t ask anyone that question for several reasons…the main reason being is that I think most people, when asked, would answer it wrong. Our religious culture causes us to place the emphasis squarely in the wrong place most of the time. Nearly always the thought process leads people to look at their own life and make some serious determinations. Most people would tell you that they don’t read the Bible enough.Most of them, if they were comfortable enough to be totally honest with us, would also tell us that they don’t pray nearly as much as they should. And, by that, it leads them to think that they’re not right with God or that God, somehow, is displeased with them. I think that’s tragic!

Of course we should read the Bible; it’s good for us……for a lot of reasons. And prayer, well prayer is extremely important…again for a lot of good reasons. And while they benefit us in countless ways doing them doesn’t push our righteousness up the thermometer even one little tick. 

But the question of , “Are you right with God?” must really be looked at from His perspective (as best we can with our little finite minds). You see, God is a Father….and that changes everything! Now, I’m not saying I have the total perspective of God. That’d be stretching it a bit! lol ….But I am a father,…been one for 39 years now. And I’m a father of 5 incredible kids (all grown now).….so I know a little bit about how a father thinks. My love for my kids is not based on how many good things they do. I hope they do a lot of good things….but whether they do or not doesn’t affect my love for them one little bit!

I’m not looking at the things that they do wrong and holding those things against them. I’m not withholding my love for them until they get everything right. That just sounds dumb! And if you were to ask me if my kids were ‘right’ with me…..I wouldn’t even have to think about it! It’d be a yes every single time. My love for them is not conditional….and neither is God’s love for you.

If you’re born again you’re right with God. It’s that simple. Truth is, you can’t get any more ‘good with God’ than you already are! You’re the apple of His eye! You were ‘given’ His perfect love, already.

You should live in that….and quit trying to ‘earn’ something you already have!

You might like these:

I’ve Never ‘Led’ Anyone to the Lord……and I Ain’t Planning on Doing it Anytime Soon!

“Obviously, I’m God’s Favorite!”

 

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A Word or Two to the Grace Preachers Out There

I’m a grace man. I’ve been a grace man since November the 17th, 1984. That’s when I sat on the edge of my bed, with everything wrong in my life that could be wrong, and prayed this prayer….word for word; “God, if you’re out there, you gotta help me”. That night marked a turnaround in my life, a transformation if you will, that has continued every day since then. Hopefully that transformation will stay in progress from now on. I’m still a long ways from where I need to be….but after 32 years I’m still moving in the right direction.

Because of how I came to the Lord (read about it here), it shaped me into being a grace person. And, even though I cried out to the Lord in all sincerity He really had no good reason to rescue me. But He did it anyway! That, in essence, is what grace is! I experienced His amazing grace firsthand long before I heard anybody teaching on it. I think people who are around me would say that I handle and treat people with grace. *(if not….you have my permission to tell me!)

There has been an upsurge in the last few years on the topic of grace. The ‘finished work of Jesus’ is something a lot of people are talking, and writing, about these days. Clark Whitten’s book, “Pure Grace”, is a good one. And Joe Langley’s, “Unfiltered Grace” would also be a great starting place if you’re interested. Both are personal friends and their books are well written and easy to read.

Grace has become a very controversial issue. A friend put it this way, “If you want to make people mad, preach the Law; if you want to make them furious……preach grace!” I’m finding out there’s some truth to that. It really turns out to be an argument over how good God really is.It’s an important topic and one I think you should give some attention to.

Grace is a subject that God is breathing on. Truth be known, He has always been doing that. Anytime that happens there’s a rash of preachers and teachers jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak.That can be a good thing but it can also bring a lot of problems with it as well. Here’s how; Anytime we teach something but are not walking in it (or at the very least, trying to) the message is tainted. Listeners have a hard time reconciling the truth that they hear (about grace in this instance) with the level of personal integrity with a teacher who doesn’t handle people with grace. Who can blame them?

There are several teachers out there with a huge following. I find myself agreeing with most of what they’re saying. But their prideful and critical (my opinion) attitude toward other preachers/teachers who are not yet where they are in their understanding of grace causes me to ‘not’ be a fan. I don’t think I’m alone.

Here’s how I’d encourage the grace preachers out there:

  • Your understanding of grace is a ‘gift’ to be treasured and stewarded with wisdom and maturity. It’s not something you’ve earned…or even deserved, really. It’s a GIFT!
  • Grace is something that is best understood through experience. I, personally, don’t care how much Bible a guy knows if he doesn’t have some experiential knowledge of the subject.
  • If you’re going to preach it, then at the very least, attempt to walk it out in your attitude, words, and dealings with people. Jesus was the best example: He didn’t just ‘have’ a grace message……He ‘was’ the grace message! He embodied the truth He communicated. We should do the same.
  • “Let not many of you be teachers, knowing that you will incur a stricter judgment” It’s a lot more serious if you’re a teacher. *Something to remember: “You teach what you know, but you impart ‘who’ you are!” If it’s coming from a critical heart you’re producing that same critical heart with others. That’s serious!
  • When you mock and make fun of leaders who’ve not been exposed to the message, you alienate them. So, you should take some of the responsibility for the controversy over grace.
  • When you criticize others and use strong words like ‘extortion’ toward those who are still finding their way…..you just lost me! I think you’re losing others as well. And what’s more important…you’re giving others a wrong or skewed perception of grace.
  • When grace is adequately communicated……very few people reject it!
  • Oh, and don’t forget what they say about knowledge! It ‘puffs up’!
  • Grace is a beautiful message; don’t contaminate it with the wrong heart.

Share this message!

You oughta read these, too:

The Elusive Definition of Grace

A Long Ways From the Lord

If He Can Fix My Life…..I Know He Can Fix Yours!

It Ain’t Grace’s Fault!

I Fought the Law….and the Law Won!

There’s Grace For That!

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Follow the Cloud

From the very beginning of the Bible we are introduced to a God that wants to interact with His people. He and Adam walked together in the cool of the day. Can you imagine that?! Just hanging out with the Creator of the Universe. Wouldn’t that be a trip! But there was trouble brewing in the garden and when it went down it led to some abrupt changes. 

God has always wanted to communicate with His people…..and He communicates in all kinds of ways. But after the fiasco in the Garden of Eden He began doing it different. It was still clear communication but He would handpick a man and over time He would transform that man into someone who could be trusted to bring His word to the people. He’d talk to that man and give him the instructions to be followed so His blessings could be experienced by all.

The Israelites were under some severe persecution in Egypt. God raised up Moses to lead His beloved people out of Egypt. It’s a great story; three million people displaced from their homes out in the middle of nowhere. A tabernacle was constructed according to the exact specifications of God, Himself. And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The tabernacle was portable, so to speak, and when the pillar of fire by night, or the cloud by day moved…..the tabernacle….and those three million people moved with it.

Logic would say that it would be amazingly easy to follow God that way; Fire by night, cloud by day. But from the very beginning the Lord had something even better in mind for all mankind. A time was coming when He would give His own Spirit to anyone willing to receive Him. And His Spirit, living inside us, would be able to direct us at every turn and give us God’s own wisdom for every situation.

As easy as it would have been to follow the cloud or the pillar of fire….it should be exponentially easier to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It should be the most natural thing for us who are sons and daughters. The Father wants us to know His will in every single situation….and the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, has that information; and….He’s very free with it!

It just makes sense that we would seek to know that Person Who lives in us. It makes sense that we would consider it a priority to ignore some of the other voices so we can hear His voice better.

We’ve been given an incredible advantage through His Spirit. We should make the most of it!

Follow the Cloud!

Audio: 2:09

I’d sure appreciate it if you’d “Share” these posts!

Here’s a few more you might like:

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

‘Thorns in the Flesh’

The Fear of the Lord…..Let’s Get It Right!

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