There is no greater threat to the unity of the church than legalism. These are strong words, but history, tradition, experience, and Scripture reveal that where legalism spreads, disunity prospers. Thankfully, God has provided an antidote to legalism through the free gift of eternal life which is received by grace along through faith alone in Christ alone. Just as legalism breeds disunity, love and unity flourish where grace and faith multiply. The more we emphasize grace and faith, the greater our unity will be. For this reason—and simply for the sake of the truth—a strong stance on the simplicity and freeness of eternal life by grace alone through faith alone is essential. To see this, it is important first of all to know what legalism is. Read more
Because I’ve never seen a “Prodigal Prayer List” before, it led me to think about what it all means:
1. Prodigals happen. Sometimes we want to deny this, but we shouldn’t. Even in the best homes, where Christ is honored and his Word believed, children may choose not to follow their family’s spiritual heritage.
2. Prodigals come in all varieties. Some wander into sexual sin, others lapse into spiritual disinterest, occasionally some will rebel by adopting a pagan religion. Some will become absorbed in the quest to build a career with no thought of God.
3. We can always pray when we can’t do anything else. We have probably tried tears and anger and constant discussion. We may have bombarded our prodigals by throwing Bible verses at them like hand grenades. But the problem is rarely in the realm of knowledge. If they were raised in the church, they already know what we believe. Sometimes they know the Bible better than we do. Our prodigals may run from us, but they can’t run from our prayers. Perhaps we need to say less and pray more.
4. Coming back to the Lord is a process, not an event. While there may be a crisis moment in which a life is changed, more often the change comes in small ways–a smile, a returned phone call, an email they send, a text received, a kind word spoken. We need to give God time to work, and we need to give people time to respond in their own way.
5. We ought to celebrate small victories. Thus the importance of the “Praise and Progress Report.” These bits of news remind us that no one is ever beyond the reach of God’s grace. In response to prayers that may feel useless to us, God reaches down and touches a heart and some prodigal begins the long journey home.
I have written more about this in my message Praying for Your Prodigals.
Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn:
O for a heart to praise my God!
A heart from sin set free.
Some hymnbooks don’t include Wesley’s hymn, presumably in part because it is read as an expression of his doctrine of perfect love and entire sanctification. (He thought it possible to have his longing fulfilled in this world.) But the sentiment itself is surely biblical.
But behind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.
What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:
Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).
Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.
Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.
Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”
Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”
Q.6. What four things does God counsel me to do so that my heart may be kept for Him?
A. First, I must guard my heart as if everything depended on it. This means that I should keep my heart like a sanctuary for the presence of the Lord Jesus and allow nothing and no one else to enter.
Second, I must keep my heart healthy by proper diet, growing strong on a regular diet of God’s Word — reading it for myself, meditating on its truth, but especially being fed on it in the preaching of the Word. I also will remember that my heart has eyes as well as ears. The Spirit shows me baptism as a sign that I bear God’s triune name, while the Lord’s Supper stimulates heart love for the Lord Jesus.
Third, I must take regular spiritual exercise, since my heart will be strengthened by worship when my whole being is given over to God in expressions of love for and trust in Him.
Fourth, I must give myself to prayer in which my heart holds on to the promises of God, rests in His will, and asks for His sustaining grace — and do this not only on my own but with others so that we may encourage one another to maintain a heart for God.
This — and much else — requires development, elaboration, and exposition. But it can be summed up in a single biblical sentence. Listen to your Father’s appeal: “My son, give Me your heart.”
Here is John MacArthur: The Infographic.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe‘s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,“ or “I follow Apollos,“ or “I follow Cephas,“ or “I follow Christ.“ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1.11-13)
Just because you’re a strong and effective leader doesn’t mean you’ve built a cult of personality. That should be all of us. But the Oxford Dictionary helps us know what we are trying to avoid. It defines a cult of personality as a “misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.”
There is nothing wrong with your people admiring you as their pastor. The problem starts when the healthy admiration morphs into unreflective obedience, fearful retreat, or a messianic complex.
Only our admiration of Jesus could never be misplaced or excessive. So perhaps the best way to avoid a cult of personality in your ministry is to actively pursue creating a cult of personality for someone else, namely Jesus.
Consider these other ways to help you avoid an unhealthy cult of personality.
In the spring of 2002, the government’s researchers began tracking a group of roughly 15,000 high school sophomores—most of whom would be roughly age 27 today. In 2012, the government’s researchers handed their subjects an enormous survey about their lives in the real world. Here, are some of the findings.
- More than 84 percent of today’s 27-year-olds have some college education. Only a third have a bachelor’s degree.
- Asians are far more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than blacks, Hispanics, or whites.
- Of those sophomores who expected to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree, only 34 percent did it.
- About half of today’s 27-year-olds borrowed students loans.
- Since Obama came into office, 40 percent have spent some time unemployed.
- One in ten say they have already fulfilled their career goals.
- They were more likely to be living with their parents than with roommates.
- 28.2 percent were married in 2012 and 30.9 percent were living with a significant other. The majority of bachelor’s degree holders, however, reported they were still single.
(Warning: Disturbing Images)
Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy the Same as Biblical Mind/Heart Renewal? (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:1-10)
My short answer is, “Absolutely not.”
I’ll develop my longer answer in a moment.
These have been part of my interactions with my friend, David Murray.
In one of David’s posts, he stated regarding cognitive-behavioral therapy that:
“It’s actually one of the ways way the Bible describes and portrays how we work as well (Psalm 42; 73, 77; Proverbs 23:7; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:8-9). If CBT is guilty of anything, it’s of unwittingly plagiarizing the Bible’s insights!”
Now, David doesn’t specifically mention Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:22-24; or Colossians 3:1-10). (I’m not sure if his reference to Romans 12:12 was meant to be Romans 12:2?)
However, many Christians who equate CBT with the Bible’s thinking on mind/heart renewal, attempt to link CBT with the three major passages where Paul discusses the biblical concept of putting off and putting on a whole way of life—Romans 12;1-2; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:1-10.
Let’s think about that attempted linkage.
The conversation is always sad, always tragic. The pastor who left his church after a two-year affair with another church member. The student pastor who has been out of vocational ministry since he had a brief sexual encounter with his assistant.
I have spoken with countless numbers of these men and women. And each time I am reminded of how much I need to love God with all my heart, and to be totally devoted to my wife.
Though the conversations are both sad and tragic, I do learn from them. And after dozens, perhaps a few hundred, of these conversations, I see patterns. These patterns become warning signs for any of us, lest we be so naïve to think we have no vulnerabilities.
Because the conversations were informal, I cannot say for certain which among them were the most frequent warning signs. So I provide them in no particular order.
Last night, the President delivered his annual “State of the Union” address. Some of you loved it. Some of you were infuriated. Some of you ignored it. Many of you feel deeply pessimistic about the direction our country is heading and powerless to make things better. I share your concerns.
However, the Scriptures tell us we are not powerless, and that we serve an Almighty God.
- “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1)
- “Nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)
- “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
As Christians, we know the Lord is sovereign — and this sovereign God commands us in the Scriptures to pray for our leaders.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are…
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Only 42% of Americans approve of the President’s approach towards Iran, a drop since December, finds a new AP pollreleased Tuesday.
What’s more, fewer than half the country believes the recent nuclear deal with Iran will work. A CNN anchor recently called the deal “a train wreck.”
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Obama insisted his Iran policy was working. He even vowed to veto a bill imposing new economic sanctions on Iran that is working its way through Congress.
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A Pastor fell from grace many years ago. His behavior was dark and despicable. Deservedly, he lost everything. After a long season away from the Lord, just like the Prodigal son, he repented. He received forgiveness from God and eventually experienced restoration from Christian leaders and Christian counselors.
His is a story of God’s grace and the hope of a fresh start with God through Christ. This man is once again serving his Savior in a church. It’s a ‘win’ for the kingdom.
Recently, this Pastor approached a minister he believed to be a friend–a minister who said he had forgiven this Pastor– and the Pastor asked the man if he might accept an invitation to be a guest speaker at the Pastor’s church. What the fellow minister said next was as surprising as it was devastating.
He replied, “I don’t think it’s best to do that because the association with you might hurt my reputation.” The Pastor left that conversation saddened and confused, wondering what this man meant when he said he had forgiven?
Forgiveness was God’s greatest desire and Christ’s greatest accomplishment. The central message of the Christian faith is the relationship we enjoy with God through Christ made possible through that forgiveness.
When the Apostle Paul reflected on this and felt the urging of the Holy Spirit to write about it, he had in mind exactly how God through Christ had forgiven us.
Few Christians would disagree over the thoroughness of God’s forgiveness. His sacrifice covered all of our sin; no aspect of our broken lives was left untouched or uncovered by Christ’s blood.
We would likely all agree that such lavish grace was undeserved. We didn’t have any capacity to earn such amazing forgiveness.
And the relationship with God that resulted from forgiveness, began immediately. God did not forgive and then withdraw, until we proved further trustworthiness. God did not forgive and then declare that we were not welcome to be with Him or His family.
God didn’t forgive and shun, forgive and hesitate, or forgive and walk away.
From God’s perspective, forgiveness was the starting line for a relationship, which could grow and develop and deepen through the years.
That is exactly what Paul was thinking when he turned his pen and his attention to unkind, hard-hearted, unforgiving Christians. It’s the reason he was compelled by the Spirit to write, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, JUST AS (identical to, exactly like) God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
Christians hungrily accept the thorough, undeserved forgiveness of Christ and the immediate relationship that begins. Then, tragically, we turn toward others and offer half-hearted, punitive, counterfeit forgiveness that says: We forgive you, but want nothing to do with you; we forgive you, but will not have a relationship with you; we forgive you, but won’t associate with you, lest it hurt our reputation.
Is it any wonder Christians are disillusioned by this discrepancy and the world is repulsed by this contradiction, and all the while, counterfeit forgivers live oblivious to this reality.
Brad Johnson is the author of “The Four Laws of Forgiveness: How to Forgive Yourself and Others.” He is the pastor of California Community Church in Agoura Hills, Calif. He writes: From my own experience of redemption and a fresh start with God, I now counsel hundreds finding their way to God. You can find Pastor Johnson on Twitter: @brad_s_johnson.
Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.
Answer: Bipolar Disorder, or BD, (formerly known as Manic Depressive Disorder) is a mental illness classified as a mood disorder. There are several forms of the disorder, some being more severe, and others emphasizing either the mania or the depression side of the disorder. In general, the disorder is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood which affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The manic episodes are what make this mood disorder different from other forms of depression. Mania can include any of the following symptoms: a feeling of inflated self-importance, grandiose thinking, hyper speech, racing thoughts, increased energy level, risky behaviors, and wildly unrealistic judgment. The manic depressive is easily agitated or angered when these fantastic views inevitably meet reality. Thus, a manic episode is typically followed by an explosion of anger and a plunge into depression and despair.
The behaviors and mood swings are the primary indicators for diagnosing manic depression, as there is no organic or physical evidence of a chemical imbalance that causes this disorder. The research simply identifies areas of brain activity, not the precise neurochemical reactions to indicate a causal relationship to the symptoms (the brain activity could be a result of the disorder rather than a cause). Furthermore, medicine that targets brain chemistry is not an exact science. Medicine can reduce manic depressive symptoms for some, but not all patients.
The Bible does not use the term bipolar or manic. These are man-made terms used to describe behavior patterns and characteristics. The science of mental illness is a way to study and diagnose problems rather than find solutions for them. On the other hand, the Bible does provide answers to issues related to Bipolar Disorder; for example, a manic episode includes a prideful view of self, a strong desire to gratify wants, and uncontrolled, destructive anger. These are natural desires we are all born with, but we respond differently to them depending on our DNA, environment, and spiritual condition. These factors all play a role in how Bipolar Disorder can develop and take hold in a person’s life. Having Bipolar Disorder is not a sin, but blaming sin on BD is inappropriate. It is we who make sinful choices due to our sinful nature.
In summary, Bipolar Disorder is a type of human frailty that is ultimately caused by our sinful heart condition. BD does not determine a person’s identity, nor is it a life sentence that cannot be overcome. The answer to surmounting BD lies in the spiritual reality we face. We need salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation sets the captive free from the chains of sin (Proverbs 5:22; Romans 6:6, 14). Without Jesus there is no hope of a redemptive work in our hearts to overcome human weakness.
The gospel is the first need of someone who suffers from BD. A relationship with Jesus is the first step and the only way to true, lasting healing. For those who are walking through this trial, the biblical advice is to examine what part they need to own and know how to respond biblically to temptation.
Having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder will indicate an area of struggle, particularly with anger and pride (self-importance, selfish desires). A Christian who is dying to self and following Jesus must face these weak areas like he would any other temptation through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 13:12–14; Ephesians 6:10–18). Discipling, biblical counsel, support from Christian friends, and personal Bible study are essential tools for spiritual growth and victory over habitual sin. Medication and psychiatric/psychological counseling can be helpful, as long as it is done in conjunction with spiritual guidance. Otherwise, such counseling is nothing more than a band-aid for BD’s symptoms and could potentially cause more harm if it keeps a person from seeing his greatest need is Jesus. Those who place their trust in Jesus will experience the hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:1–5).
Psalm 22:16 reads, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” The phrase “pierced my hands and feet” along with the surrounding context, are likely the clearest prophecies of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some propose, however, that Psalm 22:16 should read, “like a lion, they are at my hands and feet”? So, does Psalm 22:16 truly prophesy the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross?
What causes such discrepancy and confusion is that the two Hebrew words for “pierced” and “lion” are remarkably similar in the original text. All that separates the two Hebrew words is the length of an upright vowel stroke. A majority of Hebrew manuscripts, from the Masoretic text, of Psalm 22 have the “lion” reading, while a minority of manuscripts contain the “pierced” reading. However, which reading is in the majority is not always the deciding factor in determining which reading is correct. For example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which predate most other Hebrew texts by over a thousand years, note that the term is unmistakably “pierced.” In addition, the oldest Syriac, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions also go with “pierced.” The same is true in the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was completed approximately 200 years before the birth of Christ.
So, even though the Hebrew manuscripts that say “lion” outnumber the Hebrew manuscripts that say “pierced,” the older Hebrew manuscripts, and manuscripts in other languages that predate most of the Hebrew manuscripts, strongly argue for “pierced” being the correct reading. Those who argue for “lion” typically claim that “pierced” is a corruption, inserted by Christians, in an attempt to create a prophecy about Jesus. However, the fact that there are many manuscripts which predate Christianity that have the “pierced” reading disproves this concept. In fact, it is more likely that the “lion” reading in the Masoretic Hebrew text is the corruption, as the Masoretic manuscripts predominantly date to the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., after Christianity was established, giving the Jews a reason to conceal what the Hebrew Scriptures predict regarding Jesus Christ.
The prophets foretold the manner in which Jesus was to die. They knew that in some way His blood would be shed because “life is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Because we are sinners and are subject to death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23), in God’s divine plan, Jesus was to give His life (or blood), in order that we might live (Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:21–26). In light of this, Isaiah said: “He was pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). Zechariah prophesied: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10; compare John 19:37).
Although nowhere in the New Testament is Psalm 22:16 quoted, most scholars agree that this passage provides us a preview of Christ’s death on the cross. It is clear that only those who deny the inspiration of the New Testament writers fail to see that this passage points to the manner of Christ’s death. Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was asked by Christ as he hung on that cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Verses 7–8 graphically portray His actual suffering (Luke 23:35; Matthew 27:39, 43). Verse 18 shows the Roman soldiers gambling for His clothes (compare Matthew 27:35). It is in this context that this controversial passage is found: “they have pierced my hands and feet” (Psalm 22:16).
Two things about all this solidifies for us that “pierced” is the correct translation: 1) within its context, this word makes sense of the whole passage and agrees with the rest of Scripture, and 2) the mere fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls support this rendering and none other, especially that of “lion,” leaves no doubt that our modern versions have it right.
There is no question that Psalm 22:16 is an implicit foretelling of the crucifixion of Jesus. Our modern Bible versions have correctly translated this passage as: “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.”
Bankers committing suicide by jumping from the rooftops of their own banks is something that we think of when we think of the Great Depression. Well, it just happened in London, England. A vice president at JPMorgan’s European headquarters in London plunged to his death after jumping from the top of the 33rd floor. He fell more than 500 feet, and it is being reported by an eyewitness that “there was quite a lot of blood”. This comes on the heels of news that a former Deutsche Bank executive was found hanged in his home in London on Sunday. So why is this happening? Yes, the markets have gone down a little bit recently but they certainly have not crashed yet. Could there be more to these deaths than meets the eye? You never know. And as I will discuss below, there have been a lot of other really strange things happening around the world lately as well. (Read More….)
Science Guy’ Reveals Why He’s Ignoring Atheist Activists’ Warnings and Debating Creationist Ken Ham
Jan. 24, 2014 –
Since “science guy” Bill Nye’s upcoming Feb. 4 debate with anti-evolutionist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., was made public a few weeks ago, atheist activists have spoken out fervently against the initiative.
Biologist Richard Dawkins and others tried to persuade Bill Nye that engaging with creationists is ideologically dangerous and gives undue publicity to those who oppose evolution. He said, “The guy challenged me to a duel. What am I gonna do?” The topic of the debate is: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”
Natalie Grant, the Christian contemporary music star who has been nominated twice for Grammy this year, attended the 56th Grammy Awards ceremony but walked out earlier, after the performance of Katy Perry.
Natalie arrived at the Grammy with excitement, but soon after the ‘Black Horse’ performance done by Katy Perry and Juicy J, she tweeted about her early leave, saying “We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”
Award-winning gospel artist Natalie Grant left the Grammys early on Sunday, refusing to say why. Bloggers speculated that she left in response to Katy Perry’s “satanic” performance or because of a mass wedding of 34 couples that included homosexuals.
Christian singer Natalie Grant responds to critics regarding Grammys
Critically-acclaimed Christian artist Natalie Grant, who was nominated for two gospel Grammy Awards this year, became the unintentional center of a media storm when she left the awards show early on Sunday night,Tweeting that she had some thoughts in her head about the show which were better left unsaid. As reported in Natalie Grant leaves Grammys early–Tweets cause media frenzy, the mainstream, usually liberal media jumped on her Tweets and ended up accusing Grant of everything from being a poor sport to intolerance to hating gays. In response to her critics, the Nashville resident posted on her Facebook page: I NEVER said I left during any particular performance. I only said I left early. I never pointed out any one particular performance, I only said I had many thoughts about the entire show, which were best left inside my head and that is where they will stay. So those who say I condemned one performance but then condoned others clearly did not read the post. What I DID say is this: I am honored to be a part of the Christian music community. I’ve had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go in to mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus. I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. (Philippians 2:12) I was honored to be nominated for 2 Grammy awards last night. I’m so grateful that NARAS and The Grammys continue to recognize the contribution that gospel and Christian music make to the world. And I’m so thrilled for those who won in my categories. And I can say that with all sincerity. My last thought: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus for it is the power of God who brings salvation to ALL who believe.” Romans 1:16 Grant’s most recent project is 2013′s Hurricane. Besides her award-winning music career, Natalie Grant is also actively involved in campaigning against human trafficking. Examiner.com
How do people respond when they find out that you are a Christian? They shouldn’t be surprised, if your life models Jesus’ loving, patient, sacrificial example.
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Will you pray this week:
• That you will do good deeds to bring God praise
• That God will give believers humility as they do good things, so that other people will glorify the Lord and not men (Matthew 5:16)
• That people will know you are a Christian by your love
• That God will help you live a clean, innocent life
• That God will help you share His blessings with others
Where can you go online to get daily encouragement and inspiration, and to discuss living godly lives? Visit the GodLife Facebook Page where we can gather daily to share our stories, to express ourselves, and to pray for one another!