Posted in endurance, joy, perseverance, trials

Personal testimony: reclaiming joy after a heartbreak

I am in the midst of finalizing the last essay regarding the LORD’S Four Sore Judgments: beasts. But I felt compelled to leave off that till tomorrow, and write something of a more personal nature today.

I have written once or twice about personal things, but mostly I keep it technical so the focus can on Jesus and the Word. I also personally hate to write about emotional things. But here goes.

It has to do with how I handle devastating personal attacks or heartbreaking betrayals. If you are a bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian in today’s world, I don’t care where you are in the world, America or Iran or anywhere in between, the world hates you. At some point you will have to endure a devastating heartbreak for Jesus’ name.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:18-20a).

“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).

It is especially difficult when those revilings against you come not from the world, but from within the confines of the safest place where you thought you could be safe: your own church and from people who profess Christ. I wrote about the State of the Church a while ago, and how more and more churches are turning into sheep-shearing or sheep-slaughtering factories by false teachers or pastors who run them. The case of church carnality and abuse is dealt with in Part 5a, Part 5b, and Conclusion. Unfortunately personal attacks and/or betrayals inside churches are becoming more frequent, and many of you have written to me about your own stories.

Now, I am not talking about the minor day-to-day slings and arrows of life. Sins abound and people are going to get on your nerves, say the wrong thing, take credit for your work, lie, cheat and steal, in the workplace and some of them happen even in church. That’s life and we forgive and move on. I’m talking about the devastating things that happen that make you want to quit church forever. The kind that set you back years in your walk. The things that happen where you just want to throw in the towel. The big things.

Fortunately I have had only two of those. I am a baby Christian, lol. I know there will be more. Here is what I do:

First, I get very angry. That’s the flesh. This kind of anger is different from righteous anger. When I am reviled against I get mad because my feelings are hurt. So I rant and rave in my head or at home alone out loud. I say stupid things, like “I pray that he dies of a thousand plagues!” Or, “I hope his tongue shrivels up!” That doesn’t last long, because that kind of lashing-out anger is bad. If I said anything or even thought anything negative about the person, I repent sincerely to the Father. I know the flesh wants to rear up and be mad, and to some small degree I let it because I’m human, after all. But I really try to let the Spirit restrain my sin, because that would be all the more for me to repent about! I do not let myself stay angry for longer than a day. I take my action from this verse:

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25-27)

When that anger simmers down I cry or get depressed. I lay around moaning “I can’t take any more.” Or “Why me?” Or something equally piteous. I’m useless to anyone, I can’t think or function well. That goes on for a day. Then I stop it.

Like Bob Newhart said in his famous comedy skit, “Stop it!” How does one stop one’s self from feeling anger or sadness or grief over a hurtful situation we are currently enduring? Emotions and thoughts are a choice. We don’t feel love, we choose love. How else to explain marriages that successfully endure for fifty or more years? If one of the spouses bailed every time they felt mad, every marriage would fail. They persevere in love even when they don’t feel love. I want the joy of Jesus. I am in the depressing part of the cycle. There is a gap, and I will not reach that joy unless I move my body and change my thoughts.You choose it. Anger is a choice. Hurt is a choice. In that way I simply choose to stop feeling mad. I do this 3 ways.

1. Move the body. To move my body, I rouse myself, I get off the couch, and I resume normal life. Chores, shopping, cleaning, no matter how minor, I do it. I make my body get up and do something normal. Do the dishes. Cook some soup. Vacuum the rug. Whatever. And I keep doing that normal thing even though I don’t feel like it, until it feels normal again.

2. Capture the mind. As for the emotional thought process, I stop thinking about the wound. The first thing I want to do is constantly rehash it all over in my mind. When the thoughts come into my head to relive the event or the hurt, whatever it was, over and over, I stop it. I certainly don’t talk about it. I deliberately capture every thought. (2 Corinthians 10:5). If what I am thinking is weakening me through negative emotions and hindering my joy, then I stop thinking about it. Satan is too sneaky and Jesus is to important for me to be sidelined by grief or upset. So what? I’ll be happy in heaven. For now, I have work to do.

People put too high a regard on their feelings. Feelings are temporal, fleeting and deceiving. I allow the hurt and grief to have expression through tears or anger for a short time, and then it is time to get back to work. When I sink into my problems they tend to become large and Jesus becomes small. When I concentrate on Jesus, my problems become small and He becomes big. Therefore,

3. Concentrate on Jesus. Spiritually, I reclaim my joy through Jesus. Jesus IS my joy and He is the path to my reclaimed joy in the dark times. To that end, I spend a lot of time reading His word. It washes me. I spend a lot of time listening to hymns (not contemporary praise music, which is as empty as a tin can rolling down a tumbleweed highway). Old Hymns have doctrine in them and therefore are edifying. I sing and I talk aloud, either bible verses or the music. And last, I listen to sermons. I am not feeling the joy yet. BUT I KNOW I WILL.

Singing, praising, listening will allow the Spirit to apply truth to your mind and comfort to your heart. Let Him do it. Instead of running to my dark place, I run to the Light.

My own process involves gravitating to sermons about Genesis 1 at the dark times. Listening to sermons on Genesis 1:1 helps me to put my problems in perspective! The majesty of God the creator is revealed in Genesis and His eternity and holiness and power compared to my puny problems puts myself into perspective in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. He is great and good. I am not. And yet, He loves me. I begin to feel the joy again.

I apply Philippians 4:8-9 here:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

And guess what? Putting off the negative, holding on to what is good, praising His name, washed in the word, pondering the noble and performing praiseworthy things does the trick. Pretty soon I feel the Holy Spirit’s strength flowing back into me! I start feeling the heartbeat of joy again! He wants to lift us up! If I just continue walking He meets me more than halfway and showers grace and strength to me! He wants to do that abundantly for everyone, you included!

Source

Persevering in the faith is not glamorous. It is hard, hard work. It doesn’t happen by magic. There is no genie who will wave his wand over you and all your feelings of heartbreak or betrayal will go away. Persevering in the faith, to me, means putting one foot in front of the other. Each day. Some days if the dark time has come and I’m enduring a trial, means I do so mechanically, tearfully, slowly, but even though I’m moving slowly, my eyes are fixed on Jesus!!!!! Keep your eyes on him and the joy will return. He wants to comfort you! He shed His blood for you, didn’t he? He wants to restore you.

Don’t let grief or satan or anything steal your joy. It sounds like an oxymoron, but some days we just have to work at being joyful. One day my faith will be sight, and He will wipe away my tears. My heart will be full of love, never to experience another heartbreak or betrayal. What a day that will be! Meanwhile I’ll close not from the bible, but John Prine lyric, “A heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.” Don’t you want a strong, courageous heart? Wash those stains with Jesus’s blood. It will come out clean and strong, I promise. Better yet, HE PROMISES.

“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5).

Posted in bible, comfort, inspired, joy, peace

How the bible’s word can comfort you

When times are good and nothing bad is happening, we can take anything, any philosophy or biblical doctrine, and in our leisure time we discuss it and mull over every minute detail. This is OK in the case of biblical doctrine. The Lord gives us time to examine the details. That’s good, to go deep.

But when tragedy comes, we don’t have time for close examination and hyper-detailed discussions over tiny threads of doctrine. Take the Titanic sinking. If I was in the water and someone threw me a life ring, I would not stop to discuss whether it was made of fiberglass or polyurethane or cotton. I wouldn’t have a discussion in the water with the next survivor over the fact that the ring is round and rather should be square. I would simply grab it and cling to it.

When tragedy comes, I run to the bible. I don’t study it. I don’t mull over the lexicon and the different word definitions. I don’t read the parallel verses. I don’t study the overview of the writer and his audience and the message’s purpose.

I just read it.

How does just reading the bible help when tragedy strikes? The bible is a supernatural book. It is from Heaven. It is not just words on the page. It is a heavenly sent Spirit-breathed and God-inspired book. One definition of the Doctrine of Inspiration states of the bible: “It is God superintending human authors, so that using their own individual personalities, experiences, thought processes and vocabularies they composed and recorded without error His revelation in the original copies of scripture.”

As John MacArthur restated it, “God spoke through men without violating their thought processes and their own vocabularies, and yet they were able to produce scripture without violating His truth.”

Thus, the words of God pierce the soul sometimes in ways we cannot articulate, but nonetheless speak truth to us. Here is a beautiful example of that.

I was teaching the first and second grades on Wednesdays night. I had a good-sized group of 6 and 7 year olds. Mostly boys. Active boys, lol. It never failed to impress me and the other leader ladies in the room how the children stilled to hear the bible lesson. Anyway, as we got ready this particular night to start the lesson, one thing the kids had to do was open their bibles and turn to the page of text from which the curriculum was to be taught. Because their fine motor skills were immature, they had a hard time with this. It took a few minutes to get all 12 kids opened to the right page and their finger on the right verse. Some kids got there faster than others.

I had one second grade boy who had turned to the verse very quickly and being in second grade, was able to read well. It was from Psalm 100:1-5

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

This boy re-read the first line by himself, in a quiet voice. I was watching him and listening. “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands…” He stopped. He played with his shoelace and was quiet for a minute. Then he whispered aloud to no one,

“I like that. I don’t know why I like that. But I like it.”

THIS is why reading the bible on days of national tragedy or personal stress can help us. Mark 10:15 says, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

This boy allowed the Spirit to apply truth and beauty to his heart. He let the Holy inspired words wash over him and rest there, with no ability to articulate why it had blessed him, but he understood it was a blessing and he acknowledged it!

Romans 14:17 says that “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

To me this means not a joy we manufacture or feel on our own, but the joy in Him that the Spirit brings forth to us through His word. I don’t see supernatural things in the world today like the ancient peoples did, of rivers drying up or Red Sea parting or a plague of frogs raining down, but I do see the supernatural. This boy accepting with joy and peace the truth of the Spirit-inspired word to his heart and soul was a visible supernatural event of the Spirit’s work of comfort.

In the trying times, race to the bible. The Spirit wants to comfort you. Let Him. Read it as if it is the Titanic’s life ring surrounding your body, buoying you up over the cold waters that swamp you. Because, it IS.

Posted in joy, psalm

Psalm 8

I’m very grateful to Jesus for all He does for me, undeserving as I am. The more I read His word, pray, and watch the Spirit’s work in me and the world, the more I am in awe of His holy Being. And David’s question is a good one. I ask it too, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Indeed?! Who am I? Yet He saves us, provides for us, teaches us, loves us, and so much more, despite our faltering and ridiculous fumbles. O Lord, you are loving! How wonderful will be the day when all will know your majestic name in all the earth!

LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Posted in joy, prophecy

Studying prophecy brings joy in seeing God as sovereign

Word of the week: Collapse.

Societal, cultural, financial, economic, political. The world as we know it is ending. And now we really see that this is so. This week’s news brought the world ever closer to the consciousness that things will not remain as they have been. And still, as much as the world sees that the events we are experiencing in the aforementioned realms are changing, for the worse, and perhaps to never be the same again, they still insist that this has nothing to do with Christ. They say, ‘Oh, the world is changing, and the Zombie/Mayan/Cayce/Nostradamus apocalypse may be near, but it has nothing to do with that guy, Jesus.’

A prophecy from Peter: “They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”” (2 Peter 3:4).

They say such things because they believe them. Satan has blinded the lost to the things of Christ. It has always been so. The Israelites taunted Jeremiah with the same:

“Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.” (Jeremiah 17:15)

And why do they believe the Zombie/Mayan/Cayce/Nostradamus apocalypse and not the Christian Revelation of the promised Apocalypse? Because the aforementioned are from satan. Now satan, they’ll believe.

Technically, the world has been ending since Genesis 3, but the feeling of chaotic flying apart has increased dramatically in the last two weeks. Pundits are talking openly of a Euro collapse, and at one point Bloomberg’s market screens showed Greek drachma! Panic calls to the institution yielded a short statement that they were ‘just practicing’ and ended with a please move along, nothing to see here.

I’m enjoying the Spirit’s sweet presence every day. I enjoy my walk with Jesus in increasing amounts of awe and joy. I am encouraged by knowledge of the sovereignty of the Father. Far from being depressed personally, I am more joyous all the time. Seeing these world events and understanding where we are on the timetable of God’s prophetic clock, I’m slain with wonder at the vastness of His intelligence and the scope of human history- and grateful that I am a part of His kingdom.

Yes, the days are difficult, and I mourn for people who are lost in sin and for my own sins. But the events we read about here and elsewhere far from saddening me, make me think of Exodus 15:11.

“Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”

In the current phase of Christianity, many have lost that sense of awe. I think it is because many popular teachers and preachers have taught and preached a raised up man. The excessive focus on our prosperity, our self-esteem, our pits, our problems, combined emphasis of His love to us, His friendship with us, His Bridal “romance” of us, has resulted in a lowered God.

Too often Western Christianity looks to Him as a friend, (which He is) but in looking at Him only as friend, through that one facet, and not so much as Sovereign King, Judge, and Holy God. This looking exclusively at Jesus through one facet has allowed many to devolve His status in their minds from friend to ‘old buddy, pal o’ mine.’

A sense of awe in Him was heightened in me this week as I read the unfortunate incidences of cannibalism (the South Beach Miami event was not the only one! And the problem is in Maritime Canada, too.) But as read some of these headlines- not purposely- but even as my eye caught them as they were listed on a page with other headlines, and I averted my eyes in disgust, I was amazed in realizing that the lower society sinks the higher I see Him. It is as if He is stripping away the layers and revealing us to be the depraved sinners we are and by contrast, we can’t help but see Him as August Holy One.

Quite simply, western Christianity does not have a transcendent view of God anymore, and thus a sense of awe is lost. This particularly applies to prophecy. Only a Sovereign God expressing His will upon the world knows the end from the beginning. Only He at His will and pleasure states what will happen in a thousand years, or six thousand years, and it comes to pass exactly as He said! We are living in the times of Romans 1. Our nation is being judged, Romans 1 IS the judgment as He gives them over to their depraved minds. This is an awe inspiring thing- to see the bible pages ripped from its bindings and come to life on earth in the news. It makes me fear Him and it makes me love Him.

That He stays His hand of execution despite seeing the perversity in the world makes me love Him even more. He said in Luke 13:6-9

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”

The vineyard owner is God who rightly wants to see fruit in His tree. The gardener is Jesus who came to sow seed and tend it. He pleads with the Vineyard owner (God) for a bit more time. The parable relates to both the nation of Israel that God had planted and also to the fruit-bearing individual. Jesus had been preaching for three years, but even after He ascended the tree was not uprooted- yet. That happened in 70AD when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome and the inhabitants scattered.

So when I write of judgments to come and the signs that indicate their nearness, rather than be completely sad, I also focus on how compassionate He has already been. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22) He has been giving the Spirit time to grow seeds, waiting for us to repent, bringing many sons to come to Glory! (Hebrews 2:10). His wrath is tinged with patience, and I am in awe of this God who loves us despite the perversity and rebellion we see in the world today!! THAT is how I stay positive. I hope you do too.

Habakkuk finally got it, saying in chapter three:

“Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” and then he said,

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

No matter how low the world gets, the Lord makes me tread on high places. My Holy awe of Him is a reverence mixed with fear: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’” Hebrews 12:28-29

Posted in joy, praise

Three praises to the Lord Jesus

It’s been a really good week for me, spiritually. The news in the world is not so good, but we are not of the world. If you walk closely with Jesus the news of the world will affect you only in that it helps you see and understand God is sovereign and everything He does is good. Actually, it is awe-inspiring because the closer I walk with Him and the more news I read that lines up with what He said would happen, it makes me feel more humble and grateful that a God such as He wants to interact on a personal basis with His people.

Some of the ways I could see Him with us during the week ran from the most High to the smallest things. There are some great praises to share. First, a teenage boy people have been praying for repented and accepted the Lord as His savior. That is the one thing in this world that will reduce me to tears of gratitude and awe. Eternity began for that boy on Wednesday and he will never be the same. It is a Holy God who cares about sin, and a Holy God who redeems fallen and sinful humanity to His bosom.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

Another praise was the rainbow that appeared in the non-rainy morning pre-dawn over our school. It began from a point on the left of the school, arched high and went over the right side. It feels truly like God was speaking to us. And He IS speaking to us when He sets His bow in the sky:

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:13-16).

It is so great to know that when you see a rainbow you know what God is thinking at that exact moment. Thank you for this heavenly beauty, LORD:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

Also, here is a small thing. It may not seem like much to you guys. It may just be a coincidence, but it meant a lot to me. I drive a Ford SUV that is 18 years old. It has 213,800 miles on it. There are a lot of things in the car that do not work any more, such as the gas gauge, the right-hand blinker, three of the window motors, and the driver door doesn’t shut properly unless I slam hard and push up just right when I close it because the inside door handle is also broken. To close it from the inside I have to roll the window down and put my hand outside and slam it that way. The blessing is that all the turns I need to make are left-hand turns, the one window that still motors up and down is the driver’s side, and until now, the door has always shut without too much trouble. And the things that do work are the ones that matter.

Friday morning, the door didn’t shut. No matter how I pushed hard and up, it would not latch. I drove to school praying and praying. You see, there is also an alarm system in the car that I have not yet figured out how to disable. If the driver door does not shut within a certain amount of time, the car alarm goes off and keeps going off. If the door doesn’t shut, it would be a problem at the elementary school at which I work. You can’t have a car alarm going off all day in the parking lot. The only other alternative would be to leave it unlatched with the key in the door, which is the only thing that stops the alarm. But that exposes me to car theft and also drawing the battery down. A small thing like the door not shutting could end up being a major disaster.

So the whole 6 miles to work I prayed. I asked the Lord to take care of this small thing. You see, He is a personal God, this same Jesus who walked the earth and now resides at the right hand of the Father and Who will come again. He loves us and wants us to have life abundantly. From holy things like a person’s salvation, to displays in creation like setting the bow in the sky, to tiny things like what to wear and food to eat, He is involved. That is how great He is. When I arrived at school and got out to shut the door, it shut properly. Thank you Lord. He cares for His sheep, even to the minor things of life.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

I know I’m blessed. I have clothes and food and a place to live and a church to worship in and a good job and so much more. But even if it wasn’t good, I’d praise Him. If you feel your life is too hard, too desperate, to praise the Lord, then I ask you to start looking for ways to praise Him. Even at the lowest point of Job’s life, and I daresay no person on earth could get as low as Job, Job yet praised the Lord. Seek reasons to thank Him. Soon it will become a habit to see His blessings unfolding one miracle at a time.

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:1-5)

In my life this week, He displayed His holiness, His sovereignty over creation, and His involvement in my life. My hope for you this week is that you also seek opportunities to praise Him. He is working in your life. Do you see it?
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