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Archive for the tag “God’s plan”

The Waiting Game

It’s almost here – Christmas! It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s not only the gift giving and receiving that makes it such a joy, but the family gathering around. My Mom is no longer with us, but I remember all the times we gathered together as a family with her in our midst and the joy that we experienced together. She was a giver and the presents abounded. We rushed through the opening to discover our “wants” had been granted. It was always such a joyful time. Now, I watch the little children in the family experience that same joy in discovery that “Santa” knew just what they wanted.

As I contemplate Christmas this year, I am reminded of the truth of the Christmas story. It’s not about the presents under the tree, but the presence on that tree. Christmas and Easter tied together through the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. We celebrate Jesus’ birth in a place that was arranged many years before that event.

It’s amazing to me how God creates events long before they occur. Take Bethlehem as an example. God already had Bethlehem in mind long before Jesus’ birth. He set up that city as a place of importance. It’s the birthplace of King David, Jesus’ ancestor. But it was also known for the place where sacrificial lambs were raised for the temple. This was the place where lambs were raised without blemish for the perfect Passover sacrifice that occurred every year.

As the lambs were born, they were wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them from blemish. The shepherds in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth were the ones who were watching over these perfect lambs. They would recognize the significance of Jesus when the angel told them that Jesus had been born and was placed in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came in like a lamb to be the lamb of sacrifice for our sins on that last Passover of His death.

Passover was also a set up for the future fulfillment through Jesus. The sacrificial lambs were to represent the cleansing of each person’s sins – a lamb had to be sacrificed to take away the sins. This first Passover found in Exodus kept the house of Jacob safe from the angel of death. Each family had to sacrifice the perfect lamb and place the blood of the lamb on the door frame – top and sides. The Law of Moses was a set up for Jesus to fulfill them. Sacrifice – yes, that’s Jesus. Cleansing – yes, that’s Jesus. Sabbath – yes, that’s Jesus.

Every prophetic event takes years of preparation. It’s just a waiting game. But in the waiting, so much is happening behind the scenes. So what does this all have to do with my Christmas ramblings? God is the promise keeper. God sets up the events in our lives in anticipation of what is to come. We might not see it right now, but God is working behind the scenes to fulfill His promise and His plan. We’re a part of it.

I hate to wait on anything, do you? But right now, as we anticipate Christmas, it’s part of the plan to wait on the timing of God’s plan. Not just for the prophetic cycle of events, but also the events in our lives that we are waiting to be fulfilled.

God’s timing is perfect. So if you are waiting on something to occur, don’t rush ahead of what God is preparing for you. It’s going to happen in God’s time, just wait. But in the waiting, we also need to be in preparation for it. As advent is for Christmas – the preparation for the coming of Jesus, we also need to prepare for the next thing in our lives as well. God is all about shaping our character. This is His ultimate goal for each of us.

How do we prepare for what we don’t know? Pray. Let God’s will be done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Surrender to the plan. When it happens, be obedient in it. And praise Him before, during and after – it’s the only way to prepare for what’s to come.

Every event in our lives is a step forward in our transformational plan. It might not feel like it at the time, especially if it feels like a step back. But God has a purpose in the events in our lives to shape us for the future. This is our dress rehearsal for the real deal in the eternal Kingdom. This earthly experience shapes us for the eternal experience to come. That’s why we can count all our experiences as joy – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. That’s why Jesus counted the cross as joy. He saw the eternal purpose. We can too.

Just consider Christmas as the taste of what’s to come. He will bring it all together for good – He promised. Believe it because of the Lamb of God and Bethlehem, and all that was foretold long ago. What He promises will come to pass. He is at work preparing the events for what is ahead of us. Wait for it. The plan is good. He promised.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (ESV)

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The Big Ask

Why? The annoying question little children ask to learn and grow. Every answer always brings another why. After a few of those whys, we have to end the asking with “I don’t know” or “because I said so.” As adults, I think we have stopped asking why; and it’s one of our biggest mistakes. Andy Andrews said that the ones who are really successful in business never stop asking why. Why does this product line work? Why does this marketing plan work better? Why doesn’t this item produce more revenue? Why? It’s really a big question that could bring greater results.

I have been asking “why” for some time now. Why am here in this time and place? I want to find my greater purpose to why God chose me for this hour on His timetable. I want to discover the task that God has designed for me. Another speaker said recently the why gives us a vision. It’s the motivation to do what we do. It’s the purpose for living, for businesses, for ministry, etc. The vision of our heart’s purpose – the heart of the individual or the heart of the business – gets us motivated to do greater things. If we could discover the answer to the why, it could change everything for us as individuals and us as a people, the church.

Another statement about “why” is the importance of having a story behind the why. The story captures the heart of others. It causes them to act when they hear it. So if there is a vision, then there needs to be a story behind the vision. What happened that caused you to have this desire you have to do what you do? There has to be a flame of passion that fuels the vision or it will fizzle and die after a few years.

I think my biggest struggle with “my why” is that I don’t have the story. I don’t have this radical thing in my life that has stirred something in me. Spiritually speaking as well as emotionally speaking, there isn’t a great story. My spiritual awakening was a gradual increase in knowledge of Jesus and then one day deciding to follow Him with all my heart. It was after a friend’s death that I wanted to have this relationship with Jesus. Her death changed my motivation to learn what I needed to learn so that I could be sure of my salvation.

I grew up in church. I have learned about Jesus from the very beginning. There wasn’t anything radical about the experience like some have had. I just wanted what my friend seemed to have, which was a much deeper knowledge of Jesus and an assurance of where she was going in the end. I wanted that assurance so I asked Jesus to give me that desire to know Him in a real way. He did. I haven’t stopped learning about Him and the desire is still there to experience more of Him every day.

The disciples had a relationship with Jesus. They walked along with Him, ate with Him and even slept with Him. They saw Jesus’ actions, and heard Jesus’ words. They saw the miracles. When Jesus died, they had a crisis of belief. They thought that was the end. What they believed was not the reality. They believed Jesus came for a physical kingdom that would take them out of Roman rule. But that was not Jesus’ purpose. They didn’t understand the story behind the big why of Jesus. Why did Jesus come?

The disciples were not scholarly men; they were everyday, working men. They may have grown up memorizing Scripture as all Jewish boys did back in that day. But they didn’t have the understanding that Jesus was fulfilling everything that they had learned in those early years of education. Jesus came because of the great divide between God and us. He came to bridge the gap. Jesus tried to explain it to them, but they didn’t get it. However, everything changed after the resurrection. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and understanding brought revelation. It all came together for them.

So, why did Jesus save me? Why did He save you? What’s your story? I am asking the big question “why” and praying that the Holy Spirit will reveal to me what I need to give me the motivation that will last through eternity. I need a resurrection to change everything for me. How about you? What do you need to give you the motivation that will last through eternity? The trouble with asking this big question is I will hear the answer – and I have to be prepared to act upon it once I know. Yet, I am willing to risk it all for the answer. The disciples went on to great ministries that turned the world upside down. We can do the same if we are willing to risk everything for it. Are you ready? Do you have a spark that can be fanned into a flame of passion?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)

Let’s Get on With It!

On August 21, the US experienced a total solar eclipse – from the west coast to the east. There was another solar eclipse that did the same thing 99 years ago. Think about how much the nation has changed in those 99 years. But since this last solar eclipse, I think there has been a drastic change. It is like gears have shifted to a new level of intensity. Just think of everything that has occurred since August 21.

Everything changed in that same week with the devastation from Hurricane Harvey; then Hurricane Irma hit the islands about a couple of weeks later; then Hurricane Maria soon after. It’s been a busy hurricane season. Many firsts have occurred this year in the Atlantic Basin.

Not only has it been natural disasters since the solar eclipse, but man-made devastation as well. The Las Vegas shooting happened in October, NY had its day of terror, and now this church shooting just this past weekend. Did I forget anything? Every month, has seen something new. Will this end anytime soon? Unfortunately, I think we have turned a corner. It is interesting to me that the next solar eclipse to cross this nation will come in seven years. Leads me to wonder what God has in store for us in these next seven years.

And yet, here we are born into this time on God’s calendar. We were made for this season. He chose us for this hour. Scripture tells us that God has a plan for our lives. We have a purpose specific. Ephesians 2:10 says we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God molded us in a fashion to do something specific – to reach the people He puts in our lives in the only way we can do so – with our talents and abilities. You might think you have no talent or ability. I always did. But God has placed something uniquely in you that will make a connection with someone else. You just might not have found that uniqueness yet. But it’s there. God designed you for a purpose higher than you can imagine.

So what do we do in this new time? We go back to the beginning of the church age when Jesus walked this earth – Love God; Love others and tell others what Jesus has done. I think the church has forgotten its roots. We got all into our programs to enrich our spiritual lives, but we have failed to follow through and teach others outside the four walls of the building. We became self-absorbed and have failed to love others in the way we have been instructed through God’s Word (Matthew 28:19-20). Well, that’s my opinion based on what I have witnessed in my own life.

However, I really believe we are in a new time where this is really going to be top priority in the years to come. One day, we may not have church buildings to go to. The American church body may become like every other part of the world, meeting in homes under the guidance of everyday people who love the Lord and love others by teaching them what they know. We actually learn together as the Holy Spirit joins in to teach us. It stretches us to learn in a different way by participating in a group setting. No one speaks at us, but we engage in the conversation as we discuss the Bible and apply what we learn. I think this is where we will be going in the future. I could be wrong. Time will tell.

You also might think you don’t know enough to teach someone. I did. However, I know more than someone else. We are all at different points of understanding. We can all learn and grow from one another. We pray for a heart that is willing to listen and the Holy Spirit to help us in the process of teaching and learning from each other. We are to be open and ready whenever Jesus places us in the position to be His hands and feet. We can do this.

The first church did it with great success. Jesus instructed the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. The disciples weren’t ready in the beginning of His time with them; but when Jesus was ready to leave this earth, He put those scrappy young men in charge and they were ready. Three years of instructions from Jesus took a new form with the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who heard in the first few years spread the word and look how far it has gone. This is our time; and as you noticed, things are changing rapidly. Be prepared to tell others about your peace and your joy. They are going to want what you have.

So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! Hebrews 6:1-3 (MSG)

New Movement

Being a certified health nut, I listen to many speakers and read many articles concerning health. However, I have to discern what to keep and what to throw out based on the Truth that I know. For the last several years, I have been living a more holistic lifestyle – more is not always better. I read the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker that really opened my eyes to my consumer mentality. I went into cleaned up mode and purged my unused stuff, cleaning out the closets, also changing how I shop for items that I use. I think differently now about “stuff.” My eyes were also opened about sustainability.

When I read about sustainability, it really hit me as a follower of Jesus. I had never really thought about how we were the stewards of the earth in this day and time. It changed how I thought in regards to chemical use on my plants at home and on my plate; how I drink water – no water bottles if possible; using shopping bags instead of plastic bags, which seem to float through the air around every shopping center. Not to mention, the garbage dump in the ocean that is larger than Texas; clean water and food deserts that no governmental agency seems to fix. Poverty is everywhere, but if we bought responsibly maybe things could change for those communities.

Climate change is a hot topic right now. Is the earth getting hotter because of man or is it a part of God’s plan? However, we’re doing things now that are unsustainable – our natural resources are finite and eventually they will run out unless we switch to a new mindset. The governments of this world aren’t going to solve the problems. There are many “grass-root” efforts that are taking on the challenge to better this world. As followers of Jesus, we need to be involved. I am not a tree hugger, but we need our Amazonian rain forests – they are the lungs of this planet. We need to be instrumental in doing good – even for our planet.

There’s a lot of “new age” thought that I have to sort through to get to the truth, but one thing that stood out to me this week is this thought of a “trance” we are living in that we think we don’t have enough; it’s a scarcity mentality. Lynne Twist (Pachamama Alliance) mentioned in an interview that we used to be citizens, now we are consumers. We are supposed to keep money moving; however, we have been seduced into this trance of wanting more. We don’t know when we have had enough and it’s killing us and this earth. We need to wake up to the big lie that is keeping us from being responsible citizens of this world.

This trance that Lynne Twist mentioned is really a tool of the enemy. This really got me to thinking. Christians should be at the front of every movement to bring about change. Whether it is resources that need to be sustainable protected; using money to give a helping hand up (not a hand out); consuming products that are produced in a living wage environment as well as resourced ecologically and giving back to a community from where it came (this will end poverty in those places).

Whatever the cause, we should be moving the cause forward; holding a different conversation than the one being held today. We are not to find fault that leads to argument. We need to shift the conversation to the things that are working and make a model to replicate it elsewhere. We need this conversation today because it’s not going to get any better without us.

One day Jesus is going to return. According to Scripture, there will be a thousand-year reign on this earth – this earth, the way it is now or the way it will be if we don’t stop the destruction. We will not get a new heaven and a new earth until after the thousand years. I don’t know if we will have the ability to receive water from a rock or if we will have food that will once again be nutritious because the soil has been replenished by our responsible habits of organically grown produce and rotating crops.

We can see in the Book of Acts how the people helped each other – anyone who had need was helped by the ones who were able to meet the needs. In health circles, communities are seen as a good thing. Community is one of the ingredients for a healthy body. God created us for community. We are not meant to do these things alone. We need each other and we need a healthy earth to live on at least for another thousand years or so. We need to think differently about these things. We need to pay attention to what we use and throw away. We need to wake up from the enemy’s trance. These things should concern us and motivate us to be different. Are you out of the trance yet? Let’s wake up to the destruction and steward our resources well. It’s on us to make a better place for those coming behind us. Time to join the movement!

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28 (MSG)

Under God

It’s been two weeks since our country’s elections. People are still protesting the outcome. Even in our state, the governorship is still questionable. One would think we are a divided nation. We can’t even agree to disagree. We are called intolerant if we hold different viewpoints. We all hold up a banner of ideologies we are passionate about and will fight for them.

I grew up during the era of the Vietnam War. It was a very divisive time as well. People were protesting the war for whatever reasons; some felt it was not our war to fight; it had nothing to do with us as a nation, and many said we shouldn’t have been there endangering our young men. I don’t remember the protests, but I remember the bracelet I had with a man’s name on it who was a prisoner of war. During that time, my family lived close to an army base. I can remember the windows rattling when the base was practicing war games.

The great thing about our nation is that we have rights that we are allowed because of the forefathers’ forethought of what we needed as a nation to survive as a republic. At one time, there were only the select few who could vote. Protests happened, and women got the right to vote. Protests bring awareness to the problems that most of us would ignore. The sand looks pretty good when the world is falling apart. And if given the opportunity, we would bury our heads in it so we can ignore what others are going through.

As a follower of Jesus, though, we are told to carry our brothers and sisters burdens. We are to fight for the ones who are not able to fight for themselves. We are to carry the banner of God; not to lord it over them but to carry it into battle. We have our own war game that God is preparing us for battle. But that doesn’t mean we join the loud voices of protest; we get in the game. We get into the areas where we can make a difference. We join the political process; we join the military; we join the police force and be the change that everyone is crying out for. We can be the greatest change agent because we carry the banner of God. When we do His will, change happens.

The political climate doesn’t define us as a nation. The forefather’s put in checks and balances; and so far, those provisions have worked to keep a governmental order. God also put in His own checks and balances. God puts His plan in place. We may not see it right away, but God is always at work in the process. The outcome of the elections may not have thrilled half of the nation; however, God has chosen this man for this season (whatever comes of it).

We are defined as a nation by the rights we have. We can protest in an orderly manner. We can raise our voices to make change happen. We have the right to vote. We are allowed many freedoms in this nation, and people still come here for those freedoms. I ran into a woman yesterday whose second language is English. I don’t know her heart’s language. I have only spoken to her when I see her at a restaurant where she works. In our short conversation yesterday, she told me to have a Happy Thanksgiving. I gave her the same wish in return. She understands freedom; she came for it.

Maybe we aren’t so divided after all. We all have the hope of a better future. Some are a bit misguided about how that better future will come about – it’s not about an elected office. A better future involves God. He is the banner in which I will fight for the right to honor and worship openly – but also to be able to tell others about. As a follower of Jesus, I am being prepared for battle. God creates warriors to fight in His army. The fight though is not against other people; it’s against our common enemy – Satan. Satan is the one who is creating the division. As followers of Jesus, we need to see the difference and not fall prey to his snares. We are to be united as one under God – not as a nation, but as a people who live in a foreign place. This is not our home. Our hope is in a better home; home that is to come as promised by Jesus. We are to live as one because that’s what Jesus told His disciples to do. We will be known by His banner when we follow His lead.

Remember, we have much to be thankful for. Let’s live like it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:3-5 (NLT)

Right Now

Last Saturday, my friend and I sat chatting about our current job situations. She made this comment: you need to be content where you are before the next thing will come. My friend had gone through a layoff situation and gained new understanding about contentment. Enjoy the moment; relax even while facing the fear of the unknown. I had my own desert season to gain understanding. As I was contemplating these things, I realized I haven’t relaxed and enjoyed the moments. I get frustrated more times than not when I contemplate the future. My financial picture is not matching my future spending habits. And I don’t know how things are going to come together – God’s plan and my future well-being. I realized I am not as content as I thought I was.

Beth Moore recently spoke on “Wednesdays in the Word” (Life Today.org) about the “God who sees.” Beth spoke about Hagar and two questions God asked of her. “Where have you come from?” and “Where are you going?” We are usually caught in the “right now” between these two questions. I tend to get frustrated in the right now because I want to know the answer of the where I’m going. I want the vision that God has for me. I want to know that the right now moments will come together even when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to know that I am not stuck in the right now – there’s a plan to move me to the future “going.” I would like to rush ahead to the fulfillment of the plan without going through the prep work.

God gave Abraham a promise that took years to fulfill. The promise was not given with the timeline. However, when things didn’t come together on Abraham’s time schedule, Sarah and Abraham made other arrangements. The couple decided Sarah was too old. They thought since the child didn’t happen right away, then God must have left out a few instructions so they needed to improvise to help God out. Note to self: our plans are not the best plans.

The promise must have included another party, and Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant) seemed to be the obvious choice. Hagar had Abraham’s son Ishmael. Jealousy arose in Abraham’s camp and words were said. Hagar took off to parts unknown. Hagar wasn’t privy to the promise God made to Abraham. God promised Abraham He would make Abraham into many nations and kings will come through his line of descendants. Sarah’s son, Isaac, was the blessing of the promise (covenant). But Ishmael would also receive a blessing – “he would be fruitful and will greatly increase his number. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). God always fulfills His promises. But it is always done His way and not ours.

After a disagreement with Sarah, Hagar took her son and left the camp. God found Hagar in distress. She was in the midst of her right now moment when the future looked very bleak. God came to Hagar and revealed part of the plan. God instructed Hagar to go back to where you came from and wait. Wait for the fulfillment of the plan.

Drats. We’re supposed to wait for God’s timing and not ours. We have to surrender and wait. Be content in the right now. There’s always a reason in the wait time – the moments in between. God has to do the preparation in us and in His ultimate plan. The landscape needs to be arranged for the fulfillment to move God’s plan forward.

Hagar encountered the God who sees. Hagar was sent back to receive the blessing. The blessing is in the “right now” moment. God opened Hagar’s eyes a second time when she came to another desert place. God gave her a well to quench her thirst and reminded her of the promise to make her son into a great nation.

We all have a dry, desert place in our lives where the promises seem to be a long way off. God always sees where we are and knows where we are going. He knows we grow impatient in the waiting time. But if we surrender, be content while we wait; we will see God’s provision at His appointed time. Contentment truly is the way to the richer blessings of tomorrow even if we don’t see how it will come right now. Abraham is our example of God’s faithfulness. Right now, God is in the preparation phase and He is faithful to complete the work He started. It’s a guarantee!

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:11-12

And Peter

When I was in grade school, my church had an Easter play. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember I played Peter’s part. Strange I know. I don’t know if I was assigned the role or I asked for it. I thought Peter was the best disciple. He was always right in the thick of things when it came to Jesus. He followed Jesus with his whole heart. He even got out of the boat as the storm was brewing to walk toward Jesus (Matthew 14). He had great faith or more so than all the others sitting in that boat. Jesus changed Peter’s name from Simon because Jesus was going to use him to build the church. Jesus said he was changing his name to Peter which means “the rock.” So naturally, I wanted to be Peter!

At my naivety, I don’t think I realized who Peter really was; his true nature. He was a man of action for sure. But he was a denier of Jesus. He did not have the concerns of God in mind. He thought he knew better what Jesus needed or wanted (Matthew 16-17). Peter was rebuked by Jesus probably more times than what is written in Scriptures. Yet, when Jesus rose again, the angels sent Mary Magdalene and the other women to the disciples and Peter (Mark 16:7). Jesus sought him out when Peter went back to fishing after Jesus had risen from the grave (John 21).

Peter was in a hard place. He was waiting on something to happen, but he just didn’t fully grasp the things of God. Jesus came to him while Peter was out fishing. Jesus waited for him to come ashore. And three times, Jesus asked Peter for his devotion. “Do you love me, Peter?” Peter answered you know all things, you know I love you. Jesus wanted Peter to know himself. Peter was probably wondering how all of it could have gone so wrong. Yet, Jesus wanted to reinstate Peter’s calling. Jesus asked Peter to “feed my sheep.”

Maybe I am more like Peter than I truly realize. So long I have been questioning my love and devotion to Jesus. I am waiting on something to happen but have no clue as to what God’s plan truly is for my life. I guess all I really need to be doing is the same that Peter was called to do – take care of His sheep. Yeah, Peter fell hard. So have I. Peter rushed ahead of God. So have I. Peter didn’t have the things of God in mind. Me either. I am not lost to God’s plan though. He has something amazing for me too. Not that I will be a rock for the church, but whatever my calling God has a place for me too. Me and Peter – maybe we’re like two peas in a pod after all. And maybe I will be as bold one day too.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:15-18

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