Death and Life – Part Two

Just how much power is there in the human tongue, not only for good, but for potential destruction?

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Acts 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

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The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one of the most intriguing stories of the Scriptures.  They were both new Christians, as were all Christians at that time.  In fact, the church itself was in its infant stages.  Many people were selling various possessions, and bringing either all or a portion of the price of that sale to the apostles, and laying it their feet in a demonstration of love for the Lord, honor for the work of the kingdom, and in recognition of the role of leadership that rested upon the apostles.  Whatever they sold was in their possession, and therefore in their power to do with as they pleased.  Likewise, what was gained from the sale of whatever possessions were sold was in the possession of the seller, and in their power to do with it as they chose.

But in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it seems that their giving was with a false pretense to make people think they were doing something they really weren’t doing.  They wanted everyone to think they were giving the entire amount of the sale.  They were attempting to impress.  For what, precisely, I do not know.  But that was their intent.  But it was NOT the holding back that was so dangerous to them.  While they held the possession, it was within their power to do with it as they pleased.  It does not seem that the Lord was demanding a certain amount from them, and the church certainly was not demanding anything.  It was in their discussion BEFORE the presentation of the gift to the apostles that they opened the door for death come enter into the transaction.  Ananias and Sapphira had secretly agreed to bring a portion of the sale price, lay it before the apostles as their gift, and to indicate that what the gave was the TOTAL sale price received.  In short, they PRE-meditated a lie.  I don’t know if they were so self-deceived as to think they could deceive Holy Spirit, or not, but the certainly intended to deceive the apostles and all the onlookers so as to gain some kind of perceived favor.

It was at the point of their discussion and decision that their judgment was set.  God is true, so by their decision to go against the Lord, they placed themselves in an unjustifiable position, opening themselves to critical judgment.  They failed to recognize the great truth that by their words they would be justified or condemned.  Their own words condemned them.  Were it not for the great mercy of our Lord, how many people today would fall into the same level of self-judgment as did Ananias and Sapphira?  They held the power of death and life in their own tongues, and they used, but alas, not well.

Manna for Today – Acts 5:1-11; Matthew 13:24-30; Ecclesiastes 1:9; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Proverbs 18:21; Deuteronomy 28:10; Isaiah 11:2; Matthew 12:37; Romans 3:4

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Death and Life

Not just public words, but words spoken in secret need to be viewed as critical to living.

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Acts 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

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The death of Ananias, and later the same day, his wife, Sapphira, is one of the most storied events of the early church.  There was a great movement within the infant church in which people were selling certain of their possessions, and giving part or all of the proceeds to the work of the Lord.  Many, of course, such as Barnabas, were giving the total price of the sale, but we don’t know if everyone who sold something did that.  We DO know, however, that Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession and secretly kept back a part of it, indicating to the church that they were giving the total proceeds from the sale.  The point that needs to be noted here is that Peter stated very clearly that such deception was not viewed by the Lord as lying to the church, but as lying to Him.

There is a subject of which the body of Christ SHOULD be keenly aware, but alas, is little taught in today’s ministries – the FEAR of the LORD.  The fear of the Lord has two sides.  One side speaks to the matter of standing in deep awe at the power, ability, holiness, and where He chooses, sovereignty of God.  Those qualities in our heavenly Father are certainly worthy of the fear of the Lord, or as it may be more clearly defined, the deep and abiding reverential awe of God.

And there is another side to the fear of God.  The Scriptures declare that the world shall fear the child of God for it will be clearly seen that the child of God is called by the Name of the Lord.  That, too, is the fear of the Lord.  That can be more clearly seen when we read in Isaiah of the Spirit of the Lord that shall rest upon Jesus.  One of the elements of that Spirit is named as “the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.”  That Spirit, Who is Holy Ghost, resting and abiding upon the child of God is what causes the child of God to stand in that deep and abiding awe of God, and at the same time, causes the world to fear the child of God because that Spirit is on the child of God.

That abiding presence is awesome indeed, and when manifested as it was to Ananias and Sapphira, it was sufficient to cause them to literally be “scared to death.”  Since Father never changes, and Jesus never changes, we should embrace the truth that Holy Ghost never changes.  That fear of the Lord was known and recognized in the infant church.  Should it not them be known and recognized in today’s church?  How far as the church withdrawn from and failed to recognize the true fear of the Lord?  Is it pleasing to the Lord?  I think not, and I further believe it both hinders and hurts the church and its work.

Manna for Today – Acts 5:1-11; Matthew 13:24-30; Ecclesiastes 1:9; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; Proverbs 18:21; Deuteronomy 28:10; Isaiah 11:2

The Lie: NOT the Holding Back

Focus on the real problem.

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Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

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Yesterday I wrote about Ananias and Sapphira “holding back” a portion of their possession as it related to their offering to the Lord.  We need to clearly understand that it was NOT the “holding back” that was the problem relating to the gift they brought, but their deception, their lack of integrity in what they gave.  They attempted to make it appear that what they gave was the full price of the possession they sold, when in truth, it was not.  They were falling prey to one of Satan’s schemes that he still uses against the church today regarding giving.  Let’s identify that scheme so we do not fall prey to it.

We know, according to Acts 5, that some of the people were selling personal possessions and giving the totality of the sale price to the work of the Lord.  The Scriptures do not say everyone was doing so.  It seems clear that those who did so were doing so out of a heart of willful love for the Lord, or possibly the Lord was speaking to certain ones to do that, as Jesus had the rich young ruler who went away sad when Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it all to the poor.  We also know that Jesus spoke in a more general aspect concerning giving in Luke 6:38.  This is two different kinds of giving to which different laws of reciprocity apply.  Remember, we must rightly divide the Word of God.  Failure to do so, especially in the matter of giving and receiving, or the laws of reciprocity, has brought great misunderstanding into the body of Christ, and in some cases, has turned the hearts of people FROM giving to the Lord.  With the love of money being the root of all evil, Satan has well used misdirected thought and teaching concerning the laws of reciprocity to create division in and to rob from the kingdom of God.

In the case of our Text for Today, we don’t know the full motive of Ananias and Sapphira, but we do know they were deceptive in their actions.  In essence, we can clearly see that their giving was NOT cheerful.  I believe their giving was an attempt to ingratiate themselves in the eyes of fellow believers in order to gain some position of power or prestige in the infant church.  People with such thinking rely on the tradition that power attained early often becomes long-term power that translates to money and people-control.  What we must note here is that if Ananias and Sapphira had simply given to the work of the Lord silently, not attempting to get people to believe they were “giving all,” their gift would have been received and blessed by the Lord and honored by the church.  But to lie, to deceive; there, my friend, is the problem.

Manna for Today – Acts 5:1-11; Luke 6:38; Matthew 10:29-30; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Corinthians

Are You Keeping Something Back?

Christians need a clear understanding of who possesses what, and who owns what.

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Acts 5:1-2 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

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Let me come directly to a point that needs to be understood in the body of Christ.  Possession and Ownership is NOT the same thing.  Let me give you the clearest natural example of which I can think.  A thief may be caught with money, jewelry, or other expensive items in his possession, but that is absolutely NO indication he owns that which is in his possession.  I realize this example is an extreme one, but it does make the point.  But how does this apply to the Christian who is not a thief?  Let’s look more deeply.

As a Christian, to whom do you belong?  You already know the answer to that question.  You belong to Jesus.  You belong to Him spirit, soul, and body.  Apostle Paul understood that so well he called himself a “prisoner of the Lord.”  And we must remember that in the government and culture of that day, a prisoner would be used for slave labor.  The only real difference between a prisoner and a slave is that the prisoner would generally be in a cell, and possibly even chains when not engaged as slave labor.  The point I wish to make is this, prisoner, or slave, may be in possession of many things from time to time, but was the owner of nothing.  Now put yourself into that picture as a prisoner, or slave, of the Lord Jesus.

Another thought can bring clearer understanding to what I write.  Often, if I am speaking about tithing, I will ask a congregation, “If you earn $1,000, how much of it belongs to God?”  Almost every time the answer is “$100.”  When that is the response, I say, “In truth, it all belongs to the Lord, but all He requires of you is 10%, the tithe, and in that he leaves 90% of what He owns in your possession over which you serve as steward.”  Think on that, dear one.  Once again, the point is simple; God OWNS it all, but by His great mercy, compassion, and grace, He leaves 90% of it in your POSSESSION.  Even then, you are required to use it properly, for Father is the OWNER and you are the STEWARD.

Of course, you and read further in the Scriptures to see the deception used by Ananias and Sapphira.  Because they “kept back” a certain portion, and especially because they lied about it, they made themselves thieves, God-robbers, and that, my dear friend, is not a category into which anyone would desire to be placed.  And they did it to themselves.  Keep in your mind; ALL you possess is owned by the Lord.  Hold NOTHING back from Him.  Yield it all to Him.  You will NEVER regret it.  Be blessed!

Manna for Today – Acts 5:1-11; Ephesians 4:1; Malachi 3:6-12

Creating Unity

True unity is really not all that difficult.  You just need the right glue.

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Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

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Do you want a New Testament pattern for church growth?  Read the first four chapters of the book of Acts and watch it unfold.  Gather a group of people who have a desire to follow Jesus and be His witnesses.  Agree upon a place where they can pray, fellowship, and tarry together.  Meet with them to seek for the divine direction of the Lord.  Make sure the people in that group are filled with Holy Ghost.  Worship together in the power of Holy Spirit, and following your gathering times, be ready to tell anyone you can about what is happening in your life.  Continue in your times of fellowship, making sure the focus is fellowship in the Spirit and the teaching of the Word of God.  Share freely with one another, making sure none of the group is lacking, and that God gets the glory.  Carry regular fellowship beyond the usual meeting place; take it from house to house, location to location, daily at some point.  Pray, pray regularly, pray often, and always be alert for an opportunity to open a door for Holy Ghost to go to work (Yes, I know the Lord opens doors for us, but we also open doors for Holy Spirit.  When we open such a door, Holy Ghost fulfills His role as our Helper and Paraclete).  Be bold in faith through both speech and action.  Glorify God for every good thing that happens.  NEVER bow down to pressure or threatenings; be bold, and speak the truth, both of what you have seen and heard (keep it in line with God’s Word; experiences can be deceiving).  Clearly define the attacks of the enemy, and always ask for and expect to receive what you need from Father to overcome them.  (In defining the attacks and devices of the enemy, never allow it to become a complaining or pity party.)  Be bold in your confidence of God’s protection and provision, knowing that whatever the Lord has supplied to you is, while it may be in your possession, it is not your own.  You belong to God, and so does all that is in your possession.  It is for the good of the kingdom, for the body, and for His glory.

Take time to read these “Genesis” chapters of the church.  The pattern is there.  You won’t find the same characters, the same enemies, the same attacks, or the same situations, but the pattern for victory is there.  Read it, study it, meditate upon it, learn it, and put it to work.

Manna for Today – Acts 4:32-37; Mark 16:15-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Matthew 18:19-20

Time to Break Loose

It’s impossible to clap your hands when they’re tied.  They need to be loosed, and so do you.

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Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

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Shaking is not always the result of prayer.  The affects of prayer can be many and varied.  The product of real prayer, faith prayer, may be quiet and peace over turmoil, or revival and rejoicing over grieving.  It could be slowing down from moving too rapidly, or a speeding up to prevent delay.  Perhaps a rising up is in order from being down-trodden, or even a putting down when evil has arisen.  But in our Text for Today, we see a shaking that stirs to break free from the lethargy of religion and binds.

In our present age, it is so sad to see multitudes of churches that are merely existing in the lethargy of religion and tradition, being so bound that in them the Word of God is made of none effect.  My dear friend, if the church ever needed it, it is now that the church needs a strong and clear shaking that causes the kind of eternal change that causes heaven to rejoice.  When the apostles were released after their brief detainment, along with commands and threats to remain silent, they realized they had a window of time, and something needed to be done.

They came together with their fellow believers and shared all that had transpired.  Then they prayed; they prayed the Word, telling Father what they perceived they needed, that He would bring about signs, wonders, and healings in order to inspire boldness.  God honored their prayers according to His Word.  He had already declared that signs and wonders and healings would follow the proclaiming of His Word as confirmations.  What was truly needful was the bold proclamation of the Word of God.  It was through boldness in great faith that the lame man was healed at the Beautiful gate.  It was that kind of boldness that was needed, not just in Peter and John, but in all the apostles, and in all the church, too.  That was the true focus of their prayer, and God answered.

When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken.  God is still a Shaker.  When it was shaken, they were all filled with Holy Ghost.  Jesus is still filling His people with Holy Ghost.  And when the place was shaken, and they were all filled with Holy Ghost, they spoke the Word of God with boldness.  Holy Spirit is still a great source of boldness that is absolutely needful for Father-pleasing ministry.  We are in a time for such praying.  Recognize the commands and threats against the church.  Communicate them.  Pray in unity.  Expect a shaking from our God who never changes.  Get ready for a new infusion of boldness the will break people loose.

Manna for Today – Acts 4:23-31; Acts 2:1-4; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 16:25-26; Mark 7:1-13

Source of Boldness

When you need something, it would serve you well to first discover its source.

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Acts 4:29-30 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

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This day in which we live is one that requires great boldness for any believer to be an effective witness.  To that end, we need to know the source of boldness, and what is necessary to acquire it.  Let us consider the sources.  We can access boldness by . . .

THE BLOOD – the blood grants us boldness to enter before the throne of God.  All you need to do is believe the Word.

HOLY GHOST BAPTISM – when you receive Holy Spirit, you receive power (dunamis/ability) from God that carries with it great boldness.

PRAYER – in our Text for Today, the disciples prayed for it.  So, shall we, and we must believe.

HEALING, SIGNS, & WONDERS – when healing, signs, and wonders accompany the boldness with which you speak, greater boldness comes to press in to even greater depths of God’s holy power.

SERVANTHOOD – when we step up to serve the body of Christ in a manner that pleases the Lord, we “purchase” to ourselves “great boldness in the faith.”

Part of the great joy of knowing and serving the Lord in His kingdom is realizing we have full and complete access to all these supernatural sources.  By walking with Jesus, His blood continually cleanses us and keeps the way open to Father.  Bold is our approach.  The dunamis/ability/power that comes with Holy Ghost baptism stirs boldness that is by the Spirit.  Bold is our witness.  By believing God, we exercise our faith that pleases God, boldness is fed by that faith.  Bold is our faith.  By looking to the Lord to confirm His Word with signs, wonders, and healings following, boldness strengthens our believing.  Bold is our expectancy.  By serving the body of Christ for its upbuilding and orderly operation, boldness makes great our passion.  Bold is our life in Christ.

The sources await our access, and as we access that boldness, great is the fruit of that work in life, souls, healing and health, fire in the Spirit, and our witness in a world so filled with hostility, anger, fear, and desperation.  Father, help us, “grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”

Manna for Today – Acts 4:23-31; Mark 16:15-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-18; 1 John 4:17;           Hebrews 10:19

Silent No Longer

Now is NOT the time for the church to go silently into the night.

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Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

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How thankful I am that Jesus was my substitute to bring about my redemption!  How thankful I am for all He did to that end!  Part of what was required of Him was that He went silently, like a lamb to the slaughter, not opening His mouth to defend Himself, or even complain about all that was laid upon Him.  Through it all He held His peace, and oh, how thankful I am for that!

But, NOW, TODAY, we are living in a new age.  We are no longer living under the dispensation of Law, but of Grace.  And once again, oh, how thankful I am!  We no longer live in a time when we must remain silent when the enemy of our soul rises against us.  Jesus showed us that principle at the beginning of His ministry.  When Satan came against Him after His 40-day fast in the wilderness, Jesus was not silent.  He responded to every afront of Satan with the strong Word of God.  He ALWAYS spoke, not only at His temptation, but in every point of His ministry, from the position of “It is written.”  But for the purpose of His divine sacrifice, He spoke not a word of defense.

But, NOW, TODAY, we are living in a new age.  For that reason, I am amazed when I hear Christians say that we are to be like Jesus at His sacrifice, and that we, too, should remain silent.  My friend, that day has past.  We are NOW the redeemed.  We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.  We are overcomers; more than conquerors; we can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.  When the enemy attacks, we MUST REFUSE to remain silent.  We are armed for the battle, being fully equipped with the whole armor of God.  We are commanded to put on that armor, and having done all, to stand, stand.  We have the “word of faith” in our mouth and heart so we can proclaim it to the end that our complete salvation be both enjoined and enjoyed in this present time.  As a minister of reconciliation, it is my responsibility to speak the truth of God’s Word into ANY and EVERY situation in life, knowing that my Father is upholding all things by the word of His power.  I will NOT be silent, nor will I allow myself to be silenced.  I am a bringer of light, and I choose to use every word that comes from my mouth to pierce the darkness.

Manna for Today – Acts 4:23-31; Mark 16:15-20; Romans 12:12; 2 Timothy 4:2; Romans 10:6-17;  Psalm 39:9; Isaiah 53:7; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Hebrews 1:3; Joshua 1:6-9

Good Works – Attacks – Freedom

In this world, some patterns are almost inevitable.

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Acts 4:21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

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Take a moment to briefly review the first 22 verses of the fourth chapter of Acts.  Great power encounters great need; great power overcomes great need in a wonderful, kind, good, and creative way; those who have positional power (authority) attack those with operational power (ability) because the light is taken off position (authority) and is focused on operation (ability).  And that, my friend, is one of those patterns of life in this world, and it is as old as the ages.  It was Cain’s pattern with Abel; Joseph’s brothers’ pattern with Joseph (favor in their case); Absalom’s pattern against David; the religious community’s pattern toward Jesus, and the priests and Sadducees’ pattern toward the disciples.  The characters may change, the appearance of circumstances may differ somewhat, but the pattern remains the same.

It is no different today.  When men do good, especially when Christian people do good, that action (operation) takes attention from those with position or high rank, and they don’t like it.  Their response is usually in the attack mode.  It could be physical, even brutal, or emotional, verbal, and in some twisted legal manner, always with threats of some kind, and always filled with intent to get the attention back on themselves.  It is not to actually stop the good, for if they could, they would do good themselves.  But, alas, in their present state, that is not possible.

To do the supernatural good works requires relationship with Jehovah, integrity of heart, a focused anointing, and a complete yielding to Holy Spirit.  Our heavenly Father longs to perform good works like the one found in our discussion.  It is not His will that any should perish, nor that any be found with sickness or disease, or suffer lack.  Yet such suffering is common in our world, and one of the chief reasons is the same for what we see in this Second Miler.  We have people with authority but little or no ability being the voice of authority.  And when someone with ability comes along, those with authority will generally use whatever means they can to keep the authority.  Oh, that God would send us people of ability who are bold enough to speak the Word that God will confirm with signs following!  God has not changed, but it is time the church did.  We MUST change into that which our Lord intends – a glorious church without spot, wrinkle, or blemish – a church of good works.  Yes, attacks will come, but so will Holy Ghost freedom, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Manna for Today – Acts 4:1-22; John 14:12-14; Matthew 5:2-12; 2 Corinthians 3:17

 

I Shall Speak!

I say one thing to those who tell me God can’t fulfill His Word.  “Hide and watch!”

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Acts 4:20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

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I believe God.  I believe the Word of God.  God’s Word is truth.  If God said it, that settles it.  The Word of God is settled forever in heaven, and He has magnified His Word above all His Name.  Heaven and earth shall pass away but the Word of God shall never pass away.  Not one jot or tittle of God’s Word will EVER fail.  God is upholding all things by the Word of His power.  It is impossible for God to lie.  I make all those statements so I can say again, I believe God; I believe the Word of God.  I MUST speak what I have seen and heard.

More than believe it, I choose to live by it.  I have heard the Gospel of Jesus preached all my life.  I can recall from my earliest childhood being in church, hearing the ministry of the Word, and even sitting at the foot of the pulpit, looking up at the Pastor as he spoke.  I can recall, again even from my youth, words of truth that came from the pulpits I have been honored to observe. And I have seen with my own eyes great manifestations of the power of God.  I saw my father healed of stomach ulcers for which the doctors were preparing to do surgery, but the final exam before surgery could find no ulcers.  With my own eyes, and many times by the laying on of my hands as I ministered, I have witnessed blind eyes and deaf ears opening, cripples rising and walking, tumors, cancers, and cysts melting away in moments, demons cast out, all manner of healing, and on no less than three occasions, the dead raised.  I MUST speak what I have seen and heard.

I have witnessed as people under the conviction and drawing of Holy Spirit run to Jesus for salvation and repentance of sin.  I have witnessed, on numerous occasions, with my own eyes manifestations of what we call the Shekinah of the Lord; that is a manifestation of His glory in the form of fire or smoke.  I have been so drunk in the Spirit that I could not stand, and had to be held up by others, even driven to my home and placed in my bed, awaking the next morning without knowledge of how I got home.  I have witnessed such a strong presence of Holy Spirit that the business of a restaurant was stopped as the anointed vessel of the Lord walked through it on the way to a hotel pool to baptize new converts.  I MUST speak what I have seen and heard.  I urge you, be the witness you have been called to be; speak up.

Manna for Today – Acts 4:1-22; Mark 16:15-20; John 14:12-14; John 15:7; John 16:23; Philippians 4:13