Obey Heaven's Vision

Your greatest joys in life will rise through your fullest obedience to your heavenly vision.

Acts 26:19 – Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

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Paul had been given a vision by the Lord.  Paul called it his “heavenly vision.”  He knew it came from God, and he was intent on following that vision and fulfilling.  He knew He was being sent to the Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.  I am sure that as he went, that vision was revealed more and more clearly to him, and according to his own words in his epistle to Timothy, he fulfilled it.  A study of the life of Paul clearly indicates that as long as he obeyed that heavenly vision, and it was for the remainder of his life, that God was with him, supplying his need, protecting him, delivering him, and manifesting Himself through Paul with signs and wonders.  Keeping in mind that God is no respecter of persons, you should understand that if you will be obedient to your heavenly vision, Father will do the same for you.

So, do you know what your heavenly vision is?  Has it been revealed to you, or are you as yet not walking in it?  If you’re not walking in it, why?  Is it because you were not even aware that God has one for you?  Is it because you have not yet discovered it, or perhaps you have not yet taken the time to seek after it from the Lord?  Might you be someone who has had your heavenly vision shown to you, but for whatever the reason, you have not yet begun to walk in it?  Or have you begun the journey and find that at times you must fight for it?  Regardless of your present state, I can assure you that Father has a plan for you, a heavenly vision designed for you, one that it is up to you to fulfill, and one that is a part of something much bigger than you can imagine.  And while much more could be shared here, allow me to make one more point.  The heavenly vision Father has planned for you is bigger than you know, greater than you, and is, without a doubt, part of a greater work that is connected to other people, many of whom will have similar directions in their lives.

Allow me to encourage you today.  If your heavenly vision is clear, follow it with all your heart.  If it is not clear, remain faithful where you are and follow after your heavenly vision as it becomes clearer.  If it is unknown to you, pray, fast, seek Father’s face until you receive it from Him.  Then follow it with all your heart.  The blessing of Father awaits the faithful.

Manna for Today – Acts 26:12-32; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Romans 10:6-17; 2 Timothy 4:7;  Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 29:18

It is Personal

Do we really take seriously how connected we are to the Lord?

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Acts 26:15 – And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

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Here is a second look in the book of Acts at the conversion of Saul (Paul the Apostle) on the road to Damascus.  Though we’ve looked at it previously, the fact that Holy Spirit saw fit to have Luke write of this incident twice in such detail should speak strongly to us.  I am convinced that if God said it, that settles it.  If He says it one time, that settles it for eternity.  If He says the same thing two times, especially if it is telling about the same event, He has a strong reason for doing so.  There are many great teachings in the Scriptures that arise from Father having spoken something one time.  I can only imagine how important a thing must be if He reiterates that same incident or specific teaching multiple times.  Surely, He is desiring to show us something very important.

The story of Paul’s conversion is related twice in the book of Acts; chapters 9 and 26.  And the statement we read in our Text for Today is clearly stated in both accounts.  We read the words of Jesus concerning Paul’s actions.  In both passages, when Paul asked who it was that was speaking to him, Jesus responded, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”  Just short years before, when He was arrested, beaten, savagely abused, and crucified, Jesus went to the slaughter like a sheep before the shearers.  He did not speak a word in defense of Himself, for He was required by Father to be the ultimate sacrifice; the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world. 

But that day on the road to Damascus, things were different.  Now Jesus was resurrected.  Now it all belonged to Him again.  The work of redemption was done.  Satan was an outlaw and had no more legal right to dominate man, especially any man or woman who had made Jesus Lord, who had become one with Jesus, and as such, had become a child of God and member of the body of Christ.  No longer would He remain quiet.  And for His infant church, He acted to stop the chiefest of persecutors, Saul of Tarsus.  And when He identified Himself to Saul, He revealed a truth you and I need to embrace.  Because we are now one with Him, members in particular of His body, anything that is done to attack, injure, or destroy any member of His body is a direct action against Him.  He takes all such matters very seriously, and very personally.  You are His.  You belong to Him.  You are a part of Him; His joint heir.  When the enemy of your soul attacks you, he is attacking Jesus, and He takes it personally; very personally.

Manna for Today – Acts 26:12-32; John 17; Isaiah 54:17; Deuteronomy 28:1-14

Give Your Own Answer

It really helps to know where you stand when you speak as a witness.

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Acts 26:1 – Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

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Let’s remove some misconceptions at the very beginning of today’s Second Miler.  I grew up in the church, so often hearing of how Christians should be silent when persecutions, and especially verbal attacks come at them from the world.  I believe the basis for that mind-set can be found in Isaiah 53:7.  There the prophet Isaiah writes that Jesus went to the slaughter of the cross, like a lamb, silent, not opening his mouth.  That is exactly what Jesus did, for if He had opened His mouth against what was happening to Him, because He was the only begotten Son of God, sinless and blameless before the world, His words would have stopped the proceedings against Him, just as His words stopped storms, opened blind eyes, cast out devils, and raised the dead.  The reason for the silence of Jesus just prior to His crucifixion was that He knew He was to be the sacrifice for the sins of whosoever would believe on Him, and that includes you and me.  Thank God He held His peace. 

But dear reader, for the believer today, silence is NOT the answer.  Quite the opposite.  After Jesus was raised from the dead, He was seated as Savior and Lord on the right hand of the Father, and there He still sits as Head of the body of Christ.  And if you will examine the actions of those of the early church, especially the apostles, when they were persecuted, arrested, and falsely charged, they did not keep their silence.  Rather, they spoke up.  They understood well that they had been sent to preach the Gospel to “all creatures.”  They full-well understood that their ability to overcome arose in great part from their testimony, and of course, the blood of the Lamb.  They clearly understood that the world that was against them was saturated in darkness, and that they were now the light of the world, and that the entrance of the Word they spoke, and the word of their testimony brought light.  Therefore, they would not keep silent.

It is to that end today that I encourage you, urge you, even plead with you, that you study the Word of God, have it deeply engrained in your heart and mind, have your mind renewed through it, and allow your tongue to be the pen of a ready writer.  While the Lord always knows what is before you, you do not.  For that reason, fill your heart so full of His Word, that if bumped, jostled, or squeezed in any way, you overflow with that Word.  You can taste the apple in the juice when the apple is squeezed.  You can taste the orange in the juice when the orange is squeezed.  You can taste the grape in the juice when the grape is squeezed.  What will be tasted when you are squeezed.  God is not looking for dried fruit.

Manna for Today – Acts 26:1-11; Isaiah 53:7; Revelation 12:11; Matthew 7:16-20

Make Your Appeal

Now is the time to appeal unto Jehovah God.

Acts 25:12 – Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

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To whom do you turn when you need comfort?  Family, friends, church family?  They may all be great listeners, but there is only One Who can guarantee all the comfort you need.  To whom do you turn when sickness attacks your body or your home?   Doctors, clinics, hospitals, family and friends?  They may all be trained in medicine and have the latest tools, but there is only One Who can guarantee complete healing, and even health.  To whom do you turn when circumstances pile up against you?  Attorneys, legal aid organizations, the courts, even influential friends?  They may all be highly trained, educated, licensed, and skilled in every possible legal ploy, but there is only One Who can guarantee complete victory.

I’m sure you’ve gotten the point by now.  No, I am in no way excoriating Paul for turning to the legal system in which he found himself.  Part of his problem was that he had not fully listened to the Lord before going to Jerusalem.  And it was his trip there that brought him to where he was.  And remember, he had just spent more than two years with very limited access to the world about him in Caesarea under the arrest of Felix and then Festus before he made a second appeal to come under the protection of Roman law.  But even there, God had His hand on Paul.  Paul understood that those who were in authority in the land, and that included law enforcement (Romans governors and soldiers), were God’s ministers for his good, and he utilized that knowledge.  So, even in what looked like a precarious position, Paul put his trust in the Lord to take care of him.  Though in the natural, it looked like Paul was putting his trust in the system, he was not.  He was using the system, but trusting the Lord.  You can be assured that the apostle Paul, this man of God who wrote so much in his epistles about prayer, had made his appeal to the Lord before he made his appeal to Rome.  He followed this pattern throughout his life, and it can be seen even while on board a ship in a great storm.  He first went to the Lord before going to the captain and crew of the ship.

Once again, I ask you; where do you appeal when any need arises?  Make it first to your Father, and let all else be tools.  If you build a house, you don’t put your trust in the hammer and saw, but in the craftsman who uses them.  Put your trust in the Wise Master Builder, and let Him use any tool He desires; doctor, lawyer, government, family, or friends.  Just make your appeal to Jesus.

Manna for Today – Acts 15:1-12; Mark 11:22-24; John 14:12-14; John 15:7; Romans 10:13; ; Luke 1:37; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Romans 13:1-7

He Reasoned – Part Five

Let us not forget the fear of the Lord.

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Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

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What was the result of Paul’s reasoning with Felix?  Well, he received a powerful witness, and from that came an insight that he needed to talk more with Paul; obviously there was more he needed to know.  But part of the delay Felix desired arose from Felix’ thought that Paul might offer him a bribe to get out of his predicament.  The bribe, however, was not forthcoming.  And allow me to insert just a thought here.  If Christians are to be poor, why would Felix, after having time with Paul, ask him to meet later, with hopes he would receive a bribe?  Just a thought.

Another insight here is that those who do not understand the depth of the need for a strong Christian witness is Felix’ words to Paul; “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”  The problem with folks not understanding the importance of that strong Christian witness is they don’t realize a “convenient season” may not come.  Only those who are in Christ have a promise of tomorrow.  Some would say no one has a promise of tomorrow, but the believer certainly does.  Read Psalm 91:14-16.

But something happened to Felix that cannot be ignored.  When Paul had given his witness, “Felix trembled.”  My friend, when the Word of God, when a true witness for Christ is given, it carries with it the power to shake those who hear.  In too many churches today, the only shaking is from the vibration of the drums.  We need the return of shaking or trembling that comes from the power of the witness of the Word.  For that to be accomplished, we may have to put the program aside for the power of God.  It might be said that in many cases, the power of God in the upper room has given place to the program of man in  the supper room (a paraphrase of Leonard Ravenhill).  I hear this almost daily from men of God, and see it far more often than I would like as I travel.  The only thing shaking (trembling) in most praise services is the tambourine; in the preaching service, it is the person nervously reacting to his cell phone ringing, and in the alter service, it’s the hands of two folks greeting one another.  Oh, that we may see shaking once again that comes under the power of God, anointed preaching of the Word, and conviction of Holy Ghost at an alter service.  If we see trembling in those places, we’ll see it in the homes, marketplaces, schools, and even business and industry.

Manna for Today – Acts 24:22-27; Isaiah 1:18-20; Daniel 5:1-12; Acts 4:31; Hebrews 12:18-29;            Acts 16:26

He Reasoned – Part Four

If you want to get attention, stir some, and even cause some to recoil, just bring up the word judgment.

Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

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Today we examine a subject that some fear, many more use it to dodge their God-assigned responsibilities, and still others ignore to their own detriment.  That topic is judgment.  Those who fear it are afraid of being judged.  They have something to hide.  Those who use it to dodge their God-assigned responsibilities are afraid of upsetting the status quo, and especially of being shunned by other people.  And just as sad are those who just ignore the entire matter, saying all judgment is up to God.  They are either scared or lazy.  In any of these circumstances, judgment still awaits, and they are in no position to reason of judgment as a witness to any lost person.

But take a look at our Text for Today once more.  Paul reasoned with Felix about judgment.  While it is little understood by many Christians today, it is still one of the points of reasoning that is vital in the winning of the lost.  Allow me to share some points concerning judgment that will serve you well.  While there is not space here to even begin deep study, simple use of a good concordance examining these points will serve you well.

·         We are to judge righteous judgment.  That is judgment that is based solidly upon the instruction of Scripture, applying it in love.

·         We are to judge ourselves in light of our Covenant, for if we do so, we will not be judged by others.  They may pass opinions for judgment, but there is no power or authority behind it.

·         We are to judge the fruit we see in the lives of others, and if we see no fruit, we must make a Biblical judgment of that.

·         We are to judge the works we see, using that Biblical judgment as a line of demarcation to keep us from entering into fellowship with that which God says to avoid.

·         We are to judge as though making a summary judgment between brethren who are found at odds with one another and cannot be reconciled.  And in this case, if a mature believer is not available to make the judgment, even a young believer can do so, for doing the right thing according to the law of love should be easy to discern.

Within the church lies a very dangerous failure to apply the principles of judgment that belong to the believer.  To overcome this danger requires deeper study on the part of all Christians, and especially among the five-fold ministry.  And among the five-fold ministry there is the grave responsibility to teach these truths in their divine assignment to “perfect the saints.”

Manna for Today – Acts 24:22-27; Isaiah 1:18-20; Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 12:57; John 5:30; John 8:26; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 1 Corinthians 6:3-5; Ephesians 4:11-13

He Reasoned – Part Three

Self-control is great, but there is much more to temperance.  Consider being tempered.

Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

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As Paul witnessed to Felix, he reasoned with him about three elements; righteousness, temperance, and judgment.  Today we take a more in-depth look at temperance.  That word, temperance, is found in the New Testament three times.  You can read them in our Manna for Today.  It is the same Greek word in all three instances.  That word is engkrateia.  In its simplest form, it means self-control.  But when one considers that Proverbs speaks to us that “iron sharpens iron,” the implication of the word temperance creates an image for us of the tempering of metal that we really should not ignore, but should rather study to show ourselves approved unto God, realizing that we have a great hand to play in the production of temperance in our own lives.

The temperance one exhibits is dependent upon how well one is tempered.  If you speak accurately about temperance, you must address the process of tempering.  Consider this.  The metals we utilize in our daily lives do not occur in a natural state.  They are made through some process, and in almost every case, there is some tempering of that metal to make it perform in the setting where it is needed.  Some metals must be flexible, some more brittle.  Tempering is what makes the difference.  While I am not, in the purest sense, a smith, I have read enough to know that in the tempering process, three key elements are essential in the process; fire, liquid, alloy elements.  Fire makes the metal malleable for necessary shaping.  Liquid, usually water, but other liquids can be used, is for cooling the fire-forged metal.  Alloy elements are used to affect such things as strength and flexibility. 

Now consider this.  You are the metal.  You need the consuming fire of Holy Spirit to make you malleable and consume flaw-making elements.  You do NOT need ANYTHING from Satan (sickness, poverty, depression, pressures of life) to help shape your life.  Holy Spirit knows how hot to make the fire, and now long you need to be in it.  Yield only to Him.  You need the water of the Word of God, and the proper blending of the oil of Holy Ghost for the cooling work that will ultimately produce in you the proper strength, stability, rigidity, and flexibility you need to be a highly sharpened tool in God’s hands that can maintain keen sharpness when used.  And you need other people of like precious faith to help sharpen you and maintain that keen sharpness.  Allow me to say it this way.  If you will produce and model the fruit of temperance desired by the Lord, you must first yield yourself to the work of His tempering.  You MUST be continually fired by Holy Spirit and bathed in the water of the Word.

Manna for Today – Acts 24:22-27; Isaiah 1:18-20; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-11; Proverbs 27:17

He Reasoned – Part Two

Righteousness is much more than a position. 

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Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

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Paul “reasoned of righteousness” with Felix.  Let’s take some time today to give ourselves to reasoning of righteousness, and go deeper into seeing the bigger picture. 

  • Righteousness – the Position – this seems to be the most common thought when the word righteousness is used – it is a position, or place, of right-standing with the Lord
  • Righteousness – the Apparel – the Scriptures are replete with righteousness being used as clothing for the servant of the Lord, especially with terms like “robe of righteousness” commands like “put on righteousness
  • Righteousness – the Work – Isaiah tells us that the “work of righteousness shall be peace”
  • Righteousness – the Effect – Isaiah also tells us that the “effect of righteousness” is quietness and assurance
  • Righteousness – the Person – Jesus has been made to be our righteousness, and He became sin so we could be made the righteousness of God in Him
  • Righteousness – the Speech – Paul asserts in Romans 10 that the righteousness of God which is of faith “speaks” in a certain manner, and that manner is always speaking that which the Word of God has declared
  • Righteousness – the Armor – our breastplate in God’s armor He has given us to wear as soldiers of the Lord is the breastplate of righteousness

With more than 300 uses of the word righteousness in the Scriptures, you can be assured that there are many more uses, purposes, and functions of righteousness than we have room to mention here.  Righteousness is an incredibly powerful force in the kingdom of God.  It will serve the believer well to recognize as many of those uses, purposes, and functions of righteousness as he possibly can.  And this is especially true when a person who is witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ recognizes how they apply to himself as a witness.  While there are clearly many functions and identifying tags of righteousness, allow me to mention one more.

Righteousness – the Upholder – time and again throughout the Scriptures we are strengthened and encouraged that our God will protect, uphold, and undergird with His righteousness those who are righteous before Him.  And with that, please allow me to charge you once again with the statement, “If God said it, that settles it.”  Never forget, the Scriptures plainly declare that YOU ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST.  Believe it, embrace it, stand on it, and expect God to uphold you in it.  He has said He would.

Manna for Today – Acts 24:22-27; Isaiah 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 21, & 30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;        Isaiah 32:17; Romans 10:6-17

He Reasoned – Part One

Reasoning is one of God’s great methods of raising up a people to victory in life.

Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

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Read our Text for Today once more.  Felix trembled.  He was so shaken by the words of Paul that he sent him away until it was convenient for him to hear Paul again.  I don’t know if that time ever came, but of this you can be assured.  He had received a witness.  Paul reasoned of three things; righteousness, temperance, and judgment.  While we must at all times be led by Holy Spirit, especially in matters of witness, we can learn a great deal from Paul’s approach to Felix, a man in high position.  Paul’s approach was not social, comfortable, entertainment, or seeker-sensitive.  It was Biblical.  It was the “foolishness” of the preaching of the Gospel.  And he spoke on three elements; righteousness, temperance, and judgment. 

Righteousness is perhaps defined in the simplest of terms as right standing with God.  But we shall look more deeply at this glorious truth of God’s Word.  Temperance is thought of as self-control, or continence, but there is much more to that word when we consider passages such as Proverbs 27:17 – “iron sharpens iron.”  That word, too, need a deeper examination.  Then we shall look at judgment.  It is a word we typically connect with going to law to make a decision against crime of some kind.  That, too, is a word we need to examine for deeper understanding.  And examine it, we shall.

But look first at the word “reasoned.”  According to Strong’s Concordance, it means “to say thoroughly, that is, discuss (in argument or exhortation): – dispute, preach (unto), reason (with), speak.”  God calls us to come and reason together with Him.  Think of that.  God is calling all people to come and reason with Him.  And when He did, look at the subject of that reasoning.  He said, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:  But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”  That is the very thing about which Paul was reasoning with Felix.  He was reasoning with him for his soul.  While we do not know all the words Paul spoke to Felix, since he (Paul) was certainly a scholar of the prophets, I am sure he reasoned from a purely Biblical perspective.  We have the world around us.  They need Jesus.  We have the Word of life.  We can reason with them, but will we reason Biblically.  Use all the tools you will.  If the words you speak do not reason Biblically, there is no power in your mouth to same.  Let us never forget Romans 1:16.

Manna for Today – Acts 24:22-27; Isaiah 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 21, & 30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;        Isaiah 32:17

Prisoner of Freedom

How paradoxical does it seem that one could be a prisoner, and yet be totally free?

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Acts 24:23 – And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

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The following logic is truly quite simple.  If you’re a prisoner, you’re not freeIf you’re free, you’re not a prisoner.  To say that you are free while you are indeed a prisoner in maximum security would be considered an oxymoron by some, while others would consider you a total fool, bereft of all good sense.  But dear friend, that is simply a way of life in living out a divine prerogative that belongs solely to the child of God.  Consider for a moment the physical circumstance in which Paul found himself.  He was a prisoner of Roman government, and at the same time experienced every freedom a non-prisoner enjoyed.  He lived in a state of liberty that gave him any desire of human contact he desired. 

Now let’s look at the life of the believer.  On at least five times in the Scriptures, Paul referred to himself as a prisoner in the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And yet we fully recognize that in Christ, we are free, having been fully redeemed from the curse of the law.  It was Paul who penned the words, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Oh, what an oxymoron this is to the world.  The unsaved cannot understand this at all.  They can read the words, hear the words, and even speak the words, but without the light of Jesus living in them, they cannot under- stand the words. 

But if you are in Christ, everything, for you, has changed.  You have indeed been redeemed from the curse of the law, Jesus having been made a curse for you.  However, in that work of redemption, Jesus paid the total cost for your redemption, spirit, soul, and body.  And through the completeness of that work, you have become His prized (peculiar) treasure.  You belong to Him, totally and completely.  You are His.  In Him you live and move and have your being.  Without Him, you are lost, aimless, powerless, and fruitless.  But in Him all those things change, completely.  You have a free will, to be exercised as you desire.  Though He owns you, He does not control you.  Many people say God is in control.  Of some things, yes, but of all things, no.  You are one of those things He has left outside His control.  But though not in control, He is in charge.  And if you will enjoy the fullness of freedom Jesus has purchased for you, you must control yourself to be yielded to His charge.  Whatever He says, goes.  What a joy it is to be the prisoner of the Lord Jesus!  Freedom beyond compare, yet fully His possession; His prisoner.

Manna for Today – Acts 24; John 15:7; Ephesians 3:1 & 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:8; Philemon 1:1 & 9;     Romans 8:1-2