“Then he said to them, “Go eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD.  Do not be grieved, for the Joy of the LORD is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB)

The book of Nehemiah talks to a spectacular time in the history of the nation of Israel.  The Israelites had been in captivity and GOD was fulfilling HIS promise and bringing them back to the land.    Nehemiah was allowed to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall around the city.   Scripture tells us in Nehemiah 6:15, that the wall was completely rebuilt in 52 days!  Even though the wall was now completed…God’s work within HIS people was not.

The verse from Nehemiah 8 is taken from the reading from the Word of GOD that was led by Ezra the scribe.  He read the words of the law of Moses aloud to the crowd from the morning until midday!


Can you imagine a church service like that?


The Word of GOD must have brought such conviction on the crowd that day that they began to mourn and weep.


When we realize how far we have strayed from GOD’s will mourning and weeping is a normal response, right?   Have you ever been convicted by the Word of GOD?


However on this day, Nehemiah reminded the crowd that it was not a day for mourning, but a day of celebration.   He told the crowd that the JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!  Basically, in ourselves we can do nothing, but the LORD is our strength!!!!

Aren’t you glad that the JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!  When we are convicted by the Word of GOD and realize how far we have strayed from HIS will, we are to repent with tears, but we are not to stay in that mournful condition.   We are to realize that in ourselves we will never be perfect, but through the sacrifice that JESUS made – taking on our sins – we are made clean through the blood of the LAMB!   TODAY IS A DAY TO REJOICE BECAUSE THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!

In Christ,

Stephen and Mary

On Behalf of True Hope Ministries



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in the silent age

Last week I posted about the three days of silence between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ (click here to read).  Ah, did you know that there was another silence?  …which was MUCH longer than three days?

How much longer?

Try nearly five thousand times longer!  This period of silence lasted about four hundred years.  FOUR HUNDRED YEARS!  This silence occurred between the revelations of Christ foretold in the Old Testament (c.a. 400 B.C.) and the incarnation of Christ in the New Testament (c.a. 5 B.C.).  Could you even imagine what experiencing four hundred years of silence must have been like?


“What fear we felt  i n   t h e   s i l e n t   a g e, four hundred hears can He be found, but broken by a Baby’s cry, rejoice in the hallowed manger ground” – Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground), Chris Tomlin


In Luke 2, we are given a glimpse of someone who experienced such an anticipatory longing for Christ to end that silence and then experienced perfect joy when He did…25There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s CONSOLATION, and the Holy Spirit was on him.  26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.  27Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said: 29Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.  30For my eyes have seen Your SALVATION.  31You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— 32a light for REVELATION to the Gentiles and GLORY to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32, HCSB09).

What was Simeon “looking forward to”?

It’s better stated: Who was Simeon “looking forward to”?  The long awaited Promise– the One who would bring consolation, salvation, revelation, and glorification!  Consolation (paraklēsis): comfort.  Salvation (sōtērios): divine salvation.  Revelation (apokalypsis): made fully known.  Glorification (doxa): unequalled splendor.[1]  All these were brought by Christ Jesus alone, as…  Jesus Christ IS the Consolation Of Israel!  Without Him there is only condemnation (John 3:18, 2 Corinthians 1:3).  Jesus Christ IS the Salvation Of All People!  Without Him there is only separation (John 3:16-17, Titus 2:11-13).  Jesus Christ IS God Made Fully Known!  Without Him there is no way to know God (John 14:6, 1 Timothy 4:16).  Jesus Christ IS the Most Splendid Redeemer!  Without Him there is no hope whatsoever of being freed from the captivity of sin (John 8:36, Titus 2:13-14).

You see, “18[t]he birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  19So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.  20But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.  21She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because  H e   w i l l   s a v e  His people from their sins.”  22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him IMMANUEL, which is translated “G O D   I S   W I T H   U S.”  24When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him.  He married her 25but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son.  And he named Him Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25, HCSB09).

This is the Good News…that He IS the Good News! We do not have to be without God nor without Hope because Jesus Christ is IMMANUEL, God With Us!


May you and yours have a Very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year with God and with Hope!



On Behalf of the True Hope Ministries Team


1. In the immediately proceeding portion of the text in Luke 2, we are given a glimpse of another who experienced such an anticipation for Christ to end the silence and the perfect joy when He did… “36There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and was a widow for 84 years.  She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.  38At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the REDEMPTION of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38, HCSB09).  Redemption (lytrōsis): liberation.  Liberation brought only by Christ Jesus!

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That our souls may live…

“Give ear and come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:3, NIV84).

How do we receive the Word of God?  Longing?  Hungering? Thirsting? Seeking? In amazement?  In expectancy?  In acceptance? In gratitude?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5, NASB95).

The ONLY way that our souls may live is in the Light of Life– Jesus Christ.  Apart from Him our souls are in darkness– irremovably stained with sin, blinded from the truth, owned by death, helpless and hopeless.  BUT because of Jesus Christ, “full of grace and truth”, our ears may hear and our eyes may be opened and our souls may live!

Our Hope came…

Showing His kindness to…

Though He did not have to…

But knowing we needed Him to…

That our souls may live.

Do not ignore the Light, my friends!  He is Life!  Open your ears and hear, open your eyes and see that the great Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ is too precious to not long for, to not hunger for, to not thirst for, to not seek, to not be amazed of, to not be in expectancy of, to not be in acceptance of, to not be in gratitude of!


“And it’s all because of YOU, JESUS, it’s all because of YOU, JESUS, it’s all because of YOUR LOVE, that my soul will live” (“Scandal of Grace”, United).


My Soul Lives,



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ALWAYS pray and NEVER give up

Who doesn’t love when the scripture interprets the parable for you?!? “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should ALWAYS pray and NEVER give up” (Read Luke 18:1-8, NIV84).

For me, it is very easy to pray when my heart is especially burdened.  I am quite sure that throughout my life, the closest I have ever been to God is in my times of struggle.  In those times of struggle, I definitely want relief, protection, closure, and sometimes… I even want to “fast-forward” to the time when the pain will be over.

What happens in the moment when the break up happens or the person we care about so deeply takes a turn for the worse? Have you ever gotten angry with God for allowing a situation?  Or wonder where He is and why He hasn’t rescued you?  ALWAYS pray and NEVER give up.  Don’t ever lose hope or faith in your struggles!

On the other hand, what about when things are settled?  When we leave the hospital or heal from the break-up or begin resolving the issues that tear apart a marriage?  When these struggles are over, when they are not burning inside us every moment, distracting us from everything else, do we just “get back to life”?

Have you ever experienced a spiritual drought?  The kind where your prayers almost seem like they lack heart… when things are so settled that you start your day and then seek God…maybe… instead of seeking Him in desperation the moment you wake up?

What does God prompt you to always pray about and never give up on?  This also implies always believe, always hope, and always trust that He will answer and that He will answer FULLY.


Why the widow?


When I read this scripture, I wonder why God used a widow.  My first thought was that it is because God uses everyone to tell His story and His glory.  Noah was  a drunk.  King David was an adulterer.  Rahab was a prostitute.  The list goes on.  And you think your sin is too big or you have too much baggage to glorify God?!?  Newsflash, He has plans for you just like He had plans for these sinners.


I also believe that one of the many reasons Jesus chose a widow in this story is that we can all relate to her desperate and vulnerable nature…


Widowhood presented a difficult time in a woman’s life, especially when compounded with a diminished ability to meet financial needs– a common circumstance in the ancient patriarchal world of the Bible.  From the time of Israel’s inception, God has been known as the Defender of widows (Deuteronomy 10:18 and 24:17). “Justice” among God’s people was measured in part by the treatment of widows (Isaiah 1:17). God’s compassion for the widow became the covenant community’s responsibility, which the early church naturally took up (James 1:27).  First Timothy 5:3-16 gives clear instructions about the treatment of widows.

Luke has a habit of focusing on the “underdog”.  In this chapter of the gospel alone, we see this widow, little children (Luke 18:15-17), a blind beggar (Luke 18:35-43), and a humble tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).  You see, God tells us to pray and not give up, but He continues with this parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector… why?  What does this tell us about the quality of our prayers?  Pray and never give up… but be humble.  Pray for righteous things that are of God’s will.  Pray in humility.  Pray that revels to us the sins we need to repent of.  Pray that He will be merciful to us!

I ask you, if this judge who doesn’t fear man or God grants the widow’s request, how do you think our Heavenly Father feels when we, His children petition Him?

Those of you who are parents, do you not want what’s best for your children?  Doesn’t it hurt your heart when they want for something?  Or when you need to keep them from something because it is not in their best interest?  My friends, God hears your every cry!  In fact, He knows the desires of your hearts before you speak them!  He wants what is best for you!   And He will answer!

ALWAYS pray and NEVER give up,



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“The pressure makes us stronger, the struggle makes us hunger, the hard lessons make the difference, and the difference makes it worth it” (“For Those Who Wait”, Fireflight).

Dawn Michele, lead vocalist of Fireflight, explains: “There are so many hard things going on in so many people’s lives that life sometimes can be seen as a giant waiting game.  We’re just waiting for those hard things to teach us something.  Those hard things that happened to you can become the best things that ever happened to you because God can use that pain.  He’ll turn it into power for your life, to help yourself and to help others.  And those will be the cornerstones of your entire life and the basis and the formation of your character”.1

You know, the Apostle Paul talks about something along these lines too.  In his letter to the Romans, he writes: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, NASB95).

What in the world do tribulations have to do with hope?

Well for Christians, a whole lot!  Tribulations are experienced by all– Christians and Nonchristians alike.  As for the exulting hope, that’s experienced by Christians as it’s a result of a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Even though present tribulations may abound, those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ have guaranteed, non-disappointing hope in the midst of them!  The hope is guaranteed and non-disappointing because it’s fixed on God!  “If hope is fixed on God, it embraces at once the three elements of expectation of the future, trust, and the patience of waiting”.2


Such a hope “rests on the divine act of salvation accomplished in Christ “.3  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee– and with His help we can expect, trust, and wait!  No matter the pressures, the struggles, or the hard lessons we can exult in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that  tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope!




1. Dawn Michele. Story Behind the Song: For Those Who Wait. Available from

2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.. 1964.

3. Ibid..

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Confessions: Lacking to Lavished

Gee, where to begin!  I have happened upon a new season in my life.  It’s exciting!  And I’m thrilled!  But I must confess that it has been terrifying too!  The accompanying feeling as I found myself treading where I have never been before– considerable inadequacy.


Inadequacy (inˈadikwəsē) — lacking confidence that you have what is required.


“What if I don’t have what it takes to do this well?” “What if I’m not able to make it?”  Now there’s a place I have been many-a-time, a place where these and like questions rush in like crashing waves to overcome me.


…then I’m reminded of HIM whom I must have confidence in and HIS promises!  “This resurrection life I received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches my spirit  and confirms who I really amI know who He is, and I know who I am: Father and child (Romans 8:15-16, MSG02).*  I “[s]ee what great love the Father has lavished on me, that I should be called a child of God! And that is what I am (1 John 3:1, NIV84)!*

So my confidence is in Jesus Christ who has called me into this new season for such a time as this.  I know that He has and will continue to provide me with what is required to do well!  I trust that He is full able to and will “[s]trengthen (complete, perfect) and make me what I ought to be and equip me with everything good that I may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in me and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages).  Amen (so be it)” (Hebrews 13:21, AMP87).*

Confident In Christ,



* I have edited the pronouns to the singular form in these verses.

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always on His mind…

“Jeremiah 29:11” is sort of like the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament.1  It’s likely that most of us are familiar with it…”For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NKJV82).  It is such a phenomenal verse!  There is encouragement in knowing that even if our situation is not panning out like what we have expected, as happened to the Israelite captives, we can confidently trust God and acknowledge that He has established all– the beginning, middle, and end!

When I’ve come across this verse in the past, I’ve often tended to see it with emphasis on the future and the hope.  This time I’ve been compelled to see it from another perspective with an emphasis on the thoughts, and more specifically, the ONE who has those thoughts.


God has thoughts toward us!


Isn’t that absolutely awesome!  God has thoughts toward us!  Psalm 40:5 confirms, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You.  If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count” (NASB95)!  Psalm 139:17 too, ” How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered” (NLT07)!


We’re always on His mind!


God knows us!  He’s not some “clockmaker” who set the world in motion then left it to itself.  He is NOT distant, unresponsive, uncaring.  He IS personal, concerned, loving!  And the fact that He has thoughts toward us demonstrates this!

Do we believe that?  Are we able to say with conviction, as the psalmist has, “how precious are your thoughts about me, O God”?  Should we dare to consider that the question ought to become, “if we’re always on His mind, how then shall we live”?

On His Mind,



1. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV82).

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Lacey Sturm’s Ransom Note

Thank God for Jesus Christ, through whom God demonstrates His own love toward us (Romans 5:8, NASB95)!  While we– all of us— were yet sinners– unrighteous, unholy, letting the pride of our hearts keep us from trusting God and knowing His Salvation, having hatred toward Him– He sought to love us!  “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7, NIV84).  May we know the reality of God’s love for us today, knowing that it is His pleasure to ransom us…it is His pleasure to be the Ransom for us!  He doesn’t want us to be held back by the hatred and pride of our hearts– He doesn’t want us to continue on and die in our sins!  May we truly understand the beauty and greatness of Christ’s lovingkindness, grace, and mercy and live as heirs who have been ransomed by Him and who have the hope of eternal life!


Trusting trouble? Welcome to the club…


I’m a journaler– have been for nearly ten years.  My journals are filled with many reflections, narrations, questions, resolutions, and lessons.  You know, it’s not too often that I find myself picking up an older journal to read through some of its entries, but this week I did.  I read one of my first ever entries in which I cited Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV82).  The peculiar thing is that a vast majority of my entries could be summed up in that verse!

What do I make of this?  Well, it seems that trusting the Lord has been an enduring lesson for me!  For instance, take a look at a couple excerpts from some of my other entries:

“…I just want to throw up the hands of my heart as I desire for God to do His will, for Him to have His way.  Sometimes in my mind I really have no idea why things are happening the way that they are.  Deep down in my heart, though, I know that my God is in control.  Yes, it would be easier– to a certain degree– to have the specifics laid out right in front of me.  But I have to ask then, where would that leave room for trusting God…?

“…there’s something to be said about trusting God, or rather asked: why do I find it so hard?  I’m coming to understand that it all has to do with perspective!  It’s hard to trust God when I lean on my own understanding, when all I see is my present situation– of which I may add I don’t even see in full–, when I am focused on the things I am uncertain of, when I forget who He is!”

Why do I share this?  Because I don’t think I’m the only one in the club of I-have-trouble-learning-to-fully-trust-God.

In Isaiah 36:5 is the question, “Now in whom do you trust?” (NKJV82)  Concerning this, Charles Haddon Spurgeon has commented:

“Reader, this is an important question.  Listen to the Christian’s answer, and see if it is yours.  “On whom dost thou trust?”  “I trust,” says the Christian, “in a triune God.  I trust the Father, believing that He has chosen me from before the foundations of the world; I trust Him to provide for me in providence, to teach me, to guide me, to correct me if need be, and to bring me home to His own house where the many mansions are.  I trust the Son.  Very God of very God is He—the man Christ Jesus.  I trust in Him to take away all my sins by His own sacrifice, and to adorn me with His perfect righteousness.  I trust Him to be my Intercessor, to present my prayers and desires before His Father’s throne, and I trust Him to be my Advocate at the last great day, to plead my cause, and to justify me.  I trust Him for what He is, for what He has done, and for what He has promised yet to do.  And I trust the Holy Spirit—He has begun to save me from my inbred sins; I trust Him to drive them all out; I trust Him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weakness, to illuminate my darkness; I trust Him to dwell in me as my life, to reign in me as my King, to sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and then to take me up to dwell with the saints in light for ever.”   Oh, blessed trust!  To trust Him whose power will never be exhausted, whose love will never wane, whose kindness will never change, whose faithfulness will never fail, whose wisdom will never be nonplussed, and whose perfect goodness can never know a diminution!  Happy art thou, reader, if this trust is thine!  So trusting, thou shalt enjoy sweet peace now, and glory hereafter, and the foundation of thy trust shall never be removed.” 1

You know, I could just hear the Lord God in His reassuring, fatherly voice ask, “Now Victoria, in whom do you trust?”  I am finding that question to be very helpful in the process of learning to fully trust Him.  It helps me see things from the right perspective, as I am encouraged to remember and acknowledge the certainty of God’s trustworthiness in everything!

So to those of you who also find yourselves in the learning-to-trust club, I ask, “Now (insert your name here), in whom do you trust?”



1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Complete and Unabridged.  New Modern Edition.  Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 2006.

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…And the summer mission trip experience series continues! (Guest Contributor)


Hello readers! My name is Adam and I am a college student, assistant to my church’s youth leader, Awana teacher, and preacher. This past June 23rd–27th a small mission team from my church traveled to Elizabethton, Tennessee to help spread the Gospel and God’s love. It was the first mission trip away from home for all seven members of our team, even though we did not travel very far from our homes.

We arrived safely on Sunday afternoon and settled into our place of dwelling for the week. A local church was gracious enough to allow us the use of their activities building and kitchen. Later on Sunday night we met with our mission’s coordinator from Hale Community Ministries. After our meeting, our mission’s coordinator determined that we weren’t quite prepared enough to do the Bible club on the first morning. As a group, we were extremely disappointed because we were so excited about teaching each lesson, conducting recreation, organizing crafts, and preparing snacks, food, and drinks. However, we decided to use the extra time to prepare more and conduct a small Bible study and discussion with our group.

On Monday afternoon, we visited a local nursing home to witness, pray, sing, and do anything to make the home’s residents feel better. One of our group members had never ministered in a nursing home before and was really touched by the experience. After the nursing home, we met with our mission’s coordinator and went to the area where we would be doing the Bible club— a poverty-stricken mobile home park. Our team began knocking on doors and informing those in the community of our intentions. We returned to the church after spending some time there.

Tuesday was our first day of the Bible club which was intended to be for kids K-6, but we did not turn away kids of any age from attending. Each day we conducted a prayer walk, asking God to continue giving us courage, wisdom, and guidance. After our prayer walk, we went door to door to walk the children to the site where we would conduct the club. Once all of the children were there, we gave them pop-tarts, granola bars, and juice boxes. The ages of the kids spanned from three to thirteen.

We conducted the club and shared lessons about Christ. Our group continued this until Thursday morning which was our last day. We bought each kid a Bible and some toys too. It ended up raining on Thursday morning so we had to cancel the club, but the Lord allowed the rain to subside so we could go door to door to hand the kids their gift bags and the snacks we had already prepared for the day.

It seemed that our trip flew by, but it was definitely fun and an experience I will not forget. We played basketball, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail to a magnificent waterfall (pictured above), and really grew as a group! Everyone who went on the trip was touched by God.

The most important thing we realized was that the kids were hungry and not just hungry for food, but for attention, love, and the Hope of Jesus Christ.

The image that touched me the most was a little three year old girl. We grilled hotdogs one day for the kids and anyone in the community who wanted them. The little girl ate three hotdogs on a bun and one more without a bun while only an hour and thirty minutes before eating two pop-tarts. To see how hungry the kids were really spoke to me and made me realize all the things, including food, we often take for granted. I would challenge anyone who reads this to count your blessings and if you have never been on a mission trip, make it a priority to do so. I guarantee you that the Lord will bless you.

I would like to thank first and foremost God, our church, Hale Community Ministries, and many others, but especially Victoria for allowing me to post on the With True Hope blog and giving me the opportunity to share with you what our group did and how the Lord moved in and through our lives, while we humbly served Him.

I will leave you with this verse from 1 Peter 3:15 which states, “but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (HCSB). Is the Messiah– the Lord Jesus Christ– the reason for the hope that is in you? And if so, are you always ready to share of Jesus Christ’s hope with those who are hungry for Him?

In Christ,


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