Sovereign

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This past Tuesday, I preached a brief message entitled, “Sovereign,” based on Habaakkuk 3: 17-19 (NIV).  Here is the bulk of the message.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

Introduction:  Turn in your Bibles to the book of Habakkuk.  It is hard to believe it is Thanksgiving!!  It’s a holiday filled with family, food, football…not to mention time from school and work.  What a great holiday!  Of course, it was designed for more than what it has become.  Thanksgiving was the discipline of our nation to stop and give thanks for the harvest.  Here is a brief history of the Thanksgiving celebration:

  • 1621 – Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated a harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
    • 1777 – George Washington and his army on the way to Valley Forge, stopped in blistering weather in open fields to observe the first Thanksgiving of the new United States of America.
    • 1789 – President Washington declared November 26, 1789, as a national day of “thanksgiving and prayer.”
    • 1800s – The annual presidential thanksgiving proclamations ceased for 45 years in the early 1800s.
    • 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln resumed the tradition of Thanksgiving proclamations in 1863. Since this date, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.
    • 1941 – President Roosevelt established the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

It is interesting to me, that some of the toughest moments in American history is when our godly leaders declared that we need to praise the Lord, give thanks, and intercede for our nation.  When the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving, it was following a tough year where half of their brethren had died.  George Washington was leading his troops to Valley Forge and the toughest winter of the war when he said that they had to stop and give thanks.  Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, said we have to stop and praise the Lord and give thanks.

Why do we give thanks?  I will submit to you, that we give thanks because as followers of Jesus, we believe that God is Sovereign.  Listen to what God’s Word says:  

James 1: 17 (ESV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Giving thanks is acknowledging everything we have is from God Almighty.

 1 Corinthians 8: 5-6 (ESV) For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.  Giving thanks is acknowledging that no one else, no other god, but our God has given us life, salvation, and that which we enjoy in this life.  God is sovereign.

 I confess for the last three months, one of my favorite songs is Michael W. Smith’s “Sovereign Over us.”  Grace will tell you, that I’m singing it fairly often.  It’s his new release, and yes, many in the Cape area got to hear it live this past Sunday.  Here are some of the lyrics.

There is strength within the sorrow; There is beauty in our tears                                                                                        And You meet us in our mourning; With a love that casts out fear

You are working in our waiting; You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding; You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper; You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood; You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love; You are sovereign over us

Tonight we want to look briefly at Habakkuk 3.  Habakkuk is one of the ‘minor prophets’ and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophesied of the coming Babylonian invasion of Judah.  World events were about to take a turn for the absolute worse for Habakkuk and the nation.   In Habakkuk chapter 1: 2 it says, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrong?”  We often  ask the same questions don’t we?  With events in Ferguson unfolding in our backyard and International events like ISIS, we often question God’s ways.  Don’t we?

God answers in verse 5 that He is raising up the Babylonians to sweep across the whole earth.  In verse 12, Habakkuk says, “O Lord, are you not from everlasting?  My God, my Holy One, we will not die…your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.  Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?  Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves.”  He’s complaining again!  J

Habakkuk says in chapter 2, verse 1, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me and what answer I am to give this complaint.”  You’ve got to love Habakkuk’s moxie.  He is going to wait for God to answer His complaints.  God answers in chapter 2, verse 2:

Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time, it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.  See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live be faith.”

God is saying to Habakkuk that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but in the end God’s justice will prevail.  Wait for it.  And until it comes…live by faith.  So then we get to Habakkuk 3 and the prophet makes an incredible statement of faith:

Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (NIV) “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

Let’s notice three things about God’s sovereignty.  God’s Sovereignty…

Directs circumstances. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls… Habakkuk understood that world events were about to change, and the fortune of the nation was about to change.  He saw a day when there would be no figs, grapes, olives, sheep or cattle, because of the destruction of the Babylonians.  Yet, we will see in a few minutes that he still rejoiced.  Why?  Because God is Sovereign.  Let’s look at other Scripture that talks about our response to events and God’s purposes:

Job 2: 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Jeremiah 29: 11  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God’s sovereignty directs circumstances, and secondly…

Produces joy. …yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  We can truly say with Job that when God gives and when takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!  Habakkuk says that even when his circumstances change, he will be grateful in God, his savior. The decision to rejoice and give thanks, especially when things are going bad, has to be deliberate and intentional.  We choose to give thanks because God is in control.

David was being pursued by Saul…Saul was trying to kill him!  This is what David wrote in Psalm 34: (Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! 

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you

Corrie Ten Boom tells of her experience in a Nazi concentration camp with her sister Betsie.  “‘Oh yes:’…”Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'” “‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said. “‘Such as being assigned here together.’ “I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’ “‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible. “‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’ “‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded. “‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.'”‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘ “The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’ “‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us. “And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

If Betsie and Corrie can thank Sovereign God for fleas, what do I need to thank God for?

God’s sovereignty directs circumstances, produces joy and thirdly…

Gives strength. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”   If we remember God is in control and acknowledge Him as Sovereign…he will give us the strength to climb mountains and give us a perspective to see the future.  In other words, we live in the valley, but God will take us to the heights to see His perspective of the future.  We only need to live by faith.

Hebrews 10: 35-39 (ESV) Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Abraham Lincoln:  “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.  We have been preserved for these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God…we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us…and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessing were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own…intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God  that made us!  It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

The Mayflower was ready to return home inviting the Pilgrims to leave the new country.  Even though many of the Pilgrims had died and the work was so difficult, they refused to leave because they trusted God.  This is what William Bradford wrote:  “But these things did not dismay them (though they did sometimes trouble them) for their desires were set on the ways of God, and to enjoy His ordinances; but they rested on His Providence and knew whom they had  believed.”

Conclusion:  Michael W. Smith’s song ends this way:  Even what the enemy means for evil; You turn it for our good; You turn it for our good and for Your glory; Even in the valley, You are faithful; You’re working for our good; You’re working for our good and for Your glory

Your plans are still to prosper; You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood; You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love; You are sovereign over us

You’re faithful forever; Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

Give thanks to God because He is Sovereign!

Thanks giving

One of my favorite days of the year is on a Saturday in November when the Scouts (a BIG THANK YOU to the Scouts), area businesses, Cape County Cowboy Church and Fruitland Community Church go together to give out 120 food bags for families in our community. I think I will just let the pictures do the talking.

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Not pictured is 240 pounds of donated hamburger!

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“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”  Jesus of Nazareth

Happy thanks…GIVING!

Dedicating a Whiffleball Field

Stay with me for just a few minutes.  A group of young men from our community (one of which was from our church) came to me several months ago and pitched an idea for a whiffleball field on our church’s property.  It was quite a presentation.  They came dressed in ties with flip charts and powerpoint presentations.  It was so entertaining!  They video taped the whole thing.  Here’s a picture of these young men.

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And then they told me that they would like to dedicate the field to Nolan Weber and the conversation changed.  Most folks in the Jackson area have heard of Nolan.  He was a young man who battled cancer heroicly with a deep faith in Jesus Christ.  There were signs all over Jackson saying, “We Believe,” encouraging everyone to pray for Nolan.  You can read more of Nolan’s story here:

Believing Beyond

Today we had a ribbon cutting and dedication of “Believer’s Ball Park.”  Several spoke briefly.

Levi

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Steven

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Trent

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Nolan’s Dad, Dean

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After a prayer of dedication we had a ribbon cutting:

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It was a fun event as 60 or so came out for the dedication, and then watched small children step up to the plate and swing for the fences.  Of course shortly after all that, the big kids divided up into two teams and the first official whiffleball game was played.

It’s my prayer that those who come out to play whiffleball will remember Nolan, but even more so, remember his faith.  And may the Lord guide some conversations around the Gospel and eternal things.  May someone truly come to be “Believing Beyond.”

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“…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10: 31

Blessings!

Overwhelmed – 15 Years

This coming Sunday, our church will celebrate our 15 year anniversary. Wow. Sometimes, words come very slowly. Music often breaks my writer’s block. I was listening to “Big Daddy Weave’s” song, “Overwhelmed.” It fit! Here’s a portion of their lyrics:

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

All that You’ve done is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I’m overwhelmed to think about what God has done in 15 years. Well let’s see…it’s approximately 780 sermons and 4,680 songs of praise. It’s exactly 200 baptisms and $650,000 given to missions. We’ve experienced funerals together…and miracles.

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Brian and Abby Strickland

It’s been many mission trips.

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Mission team to FBC, Chalmette

It’s countless children involved in Sunday, School, Children’s Church, AWANA, Upward and VBS. It’s an amazing group of youth and college students who have matured right before our eyes.

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It’s been servanthood evangelism and Kingdom Assignments.  It’s been Fall Festivals and Easter Egg Hunts.

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FCC Connection Card

It’s been like eating regularly through worship, Bible study, and fellowship. I’m overwhelmed at what God has done in changing lives at Fruitland Community Church!

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The children’s sermon time at FCC

Below are some historic highlights:

FCC Historic Timeline

May 2, 1999 Informational Meeting for Core Group

July, 1999 FCC Prayer Team enlisted

September 12, 1999 Public worship kicks off at North Elementary

November 14, 1999 First Baptism and Lord’s Supper service

November 19, 2000 Celebration Sunday with $350,000 pledged for building

April 1, 2001 Groundbreaking Service

June 14, 2001 120 Chilton Builders arrive in Fruitland

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Chilton Builders motto: “God is Able!”

Summer of 2001 13 teams come to FCC for building and mission projects

October 21, 2001 FCC Building Dedication

September 8, 2002 AWANA ministry begins at FCC

September 7, 2003 FCC Constitutes as a church

January 8, 2004 Cape County Cowboy Church is launched

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CCCC is 10 years old!

March 14, 2004 8:00 am worship service begins

January, 2005 Field of Dreams Campaign to develop our property is launched

November 8, 2005 Antiguo Cuscatlan mission in El Salvador is launched

November, 2006 FCC Food Pantry launched

March 29. 2008 Upward Soccer begins at FCC

January, 2009 FCC votes to partner with Cuidad Obrera church plant in El Salvador

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Children from Ciudad Obrera

Fall, 2011 10 year anniversary remodel of building begins

Fall, 2012 FCC Widow’s Ministry began

February, 2014 BTCP Training for 60 El Salvadorian leaders is launched

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Our month long birthday celebration will include the following:

September 14 – Baptism and Lord Supper Celebration
September 21 – Church-wide Potluck
September 26 – FCC Food give-a-way
TBA – “Believers Ballpark” Whiffleball Field is dedicated in memory of Nolan Weber

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Believers Ballpark

So, this Sunday let’s look back and say “Thank You!” to the One who has made it possible. But, let’s look forward and dream, asking the Lord for His direction for the future. I’m not a prophet, but if the Lord tarries, we could see in the next 2 to 5 years (Lord willing):

Our building paid off. Praise the Lord!
A family pavilion built on our property.
A new church started in El Salvador and in the Cape/Jackson area.
More preaching…singing…Bible study… baptisms…kids…youth…students…missions.

So overwhelmed. So grateful.

Ice Water Bucket Challenge

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Honestly, I’m not wanting to pour ice-water on the “Ice Water Bucket Challenge.” It is a fad that has been entertaining, raised the awareness of the evil disease of ALS, and apparently raised millions of dollars for ALS research. I’ve been called out by my good friend Scott Chilcutt and I need to respond before I’m called out by others! There is so much pressure to come up with a bigger and better challenge. Mine would flop. Trust me. Haha. If others are starting to give because of this, that is great, but here are three questions that we might want to ask ourselves:

1. Can I give to the group asking for help with a good conscience?
2. What is my motivation for giving?
3. Will I give once the fad is over?

And I want to do something…something big…something meaningful…something eternal. My pastor, missionary friend Dan Hale has ALS. I hate what ALS is doing to him. I wrote about that on the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous speech.

Lou Gehrig’s Anniversary

But I always give out of conviction. Here is an article that explains why some find themselves in a moral dilemma:

The FAQs – ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge

This may not fit your conviction, but I will give a one-time donation to one of the three organizations listed in the above article.

Many of my friends have taken the challenge and been creative (I’ve enjoyed them!! Please don’t hear me criticizing! Some have been hilarious!) George W. Bush, Derek Jeter, Kermit the Frog, and many other celebrities have taken the challenge. I’ve even been drawn into watching epic fails and unknown people taking the challenge and then see them curse the people who did it to them. Why do it, if you are going to complain for 30 seconds after you’ve done it?  I’m grateful that awareness has been raised, but let’s give out of compassionate hearts, not to impress anyone else.

One of my daughters did the challenge and I was impressed that soon after she called me to see how our friend, Dan Hale, was doing.  She connected the fad to a real live person who is suffering.  I was proud.

I’m going to make a one-time gift to an ALS charity of my choosing and conviction. I’m going to continue to give to my church each and every week. My friend, Dan Hale, shares a passion with me for missions and specifically for El Salvador. We have worked together for the Kingdom. Those who have found Christ, will find the ultimate healing when they reach heaven. I am going to double my gifts to missions and to El Salvador in 2015 in honor of my friend, Dan Hale.

Will you join me in giving out of conviction to relieve suffering here on earth and for eternity?  Will you join me in giving beyond the fad?

Blessings! For the Kingdom.

A Ragamuffin

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I watched the movie, “Ragamuffin,” last night and I’m sorta of a wreck and still processing it.  It was based on the life of Rich Mullins.  Rich was a Christian who struggled with his brokenness. He wrote songs that were recorded by others as well as himself.  Here’s the trailer to the movie:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF7qbCTFja0&feature=kp

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What is a ‘ragamuffin?’  My on-line dictionary say it’s “a child who is dressed in rags and is usually dirty and poor.”  Brennan Manning, who had a big influence on Rich, wrote a book entitled, “The Ragamuffin Gospel.”  The Gospel is for the outcasts and prisoners; the sick and poor.  Mullins began to see himself as a ragamuffin.  He didn’t fit it, wearing ratty clothes and going barefoot.  Even more so, the hurting child inside him was broken and poor.

Brennan Manning wrote: “For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.”

It was Rich Mullins’ brokenness that drove him to the heart of God.  What struck me about Rich’s life was:

  • His honesty.  This movie isn’t probably for small children…as there are honest portrayals of Rich’s struggle with alcohol (and there is some light cursing).  It also probably isn’t for some Christians who struggle with judging others.  The movie…Rich…was honest about his struggles and brokenness.
  • His art.  Rich struggled with the hypocrisy of some in the Christian Music scene, but he sought to write songs from the heart.  Some were cathartic with lyrics like, “hold me Jesus, I’m shaking like a leaf,” or worshipful like, “Awesome God.”  Rich didn’t try to be trendy or make lots of money, but to create art that came from his heart.
  • His simple life.  He did go barefoot and wear ratty clothes, but it was more than the clothes.  He chose to live simply.  I was amazed that he made the decision to only live on what the average person’s salary was for that area.  The rest he gave to churches and charities.  He never knew how much money he was making.  Later in his life, he moved to an Indian Reservation and ministered to the kids there.

I confess the movie gave me impetus to explore Rich Mullins’ life a little further.  This morning I began the book,”Rich Mullins: A Devotional biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven” by James Bryan Smith and I’ve found my Rich Mullins CDs (LOL).  I’m listening to “The Jesus Record” right now.

Rich always signed his autographs:  “Be God’s.”  Most of us are told to “be good,” but our goodness only comes from “being God’s.”  So what’s my take-away?  I’m a ragamuffin too and I’m praying for a heart that gets bigger and bigger for all the ragamuffins God puts in my path.  Be God’s!

 

Lou Gehrig’s Anniversary

Today is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.  All of baseball is celebrating this date…

Lou Gehrig was a baseball icon who played for the infamous New York Yankees.  He was nicknamed Iron Horse, because prior to Cal Ripken, he held the record for most consecutive games in baseball history.  The nation was shocked when it discovered that Iron Horse had ALS and had to retire from baseball.  It fact, this “I’m the luckiest man…” speech was his last public appearance.  Now the terrible disease, “ALS,” is known as “Lou Gehrig’s” disease.

I love baseball and baseball history, so this story has drawn me in.  You can see a one minute summary of this famous moment:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/marty-noble-gehrig-delivered-a-declaration-of-inspiration?ymd=20140704&content_id=82741782&vkey=news_mlb

Except this year, it’s a little more personal.  One of my ‘Iron Horse’ pastor friends, Dan Hale, has ALS.  Dan is as strong as anyone I know…he and I share a love of the Cardinals and a love for International missions (not necessarily in that order–LOL),  He and I have seen victories and struggles on the mission field  and we were all shocked to discover that he had ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease.’  Dan has been the pastor of FBC, Millersville. for 25 years.  25 YEARS!!    More importantly been a great husband, father and grandfather.

Lou Gehrig was the luckiest man on earth because he got a chance to play for the New York Yankees.  Dan Hale is one of the most blessed men on earth because he knows Jesus, has a great family and church family, a bunch of friends, and a legacy of a pastor and missionary.  Now he hasn’t gone to heaven yet.  He’s still fighting.  He still posts devotions on Facebook and still tells people about Jesus.  He inspires me and hundreds of others.  

Most are thinking of Lou Gehrig today…I can’t help but think of my Iron Horse friend, Dan.  Would you take time to pray for Dan today?  

Dan…if you are reading this:  Sigue corriendo la buena carrera … te amamos y estamos orando por usted!