Miracles

There are miracles, and then there are special miracles.

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Acts 19:11-12 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:  So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

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Miracles are real.  It is likely that they happen somewhere on our planet every day.  The working of miracles is one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12.   Sadly, in our language, the term miracle is used in so many ways that the real power of God being manifest in the working of a true miracle is diminished, and in many cases, considered by people to just be a really nice thing happening to someone.  Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Miracles do happen.  They happen as an action of Holy Spirit when, where, how, and through whom He chooses.

What I say here may anger some, but truth needs to be told.  Something wonderful happens and people say, “It was a miracle.”  Certainly, a miracle is a wonderful thing, but there are multitudes of wonderful things that happen daily that are not miracles.  To explain that, allow me to offer a Biblically accurate definition of miracle.   A miracle is a supernatural work of Holy Spirit that defies and works contrary to nature itself.  Let me offer some examples.  A broken bone will heal if set and treated properly.  So, a supernatural healing of a broken bone, instantaneous healing, is just that; a gift of healing.  But if a limb is lost in an accident, there is nothing in nature that can change that.  So, if a new limb grows out, that is not a healing, it is a miracle.  A human body being healed of cancer is the removal of cancer cells from the body.  But cancer destroys (eats) normal tissue, and the removal of the cancer does not replace the human tissue that has been destroyed.  If new tissue supernaturally replaces the tissue that was eaten away by the cancer, a miracle has taken place.

Let me be as clear as possible.  Never fail to be thankful to the Lord for every good thing He does in your life.  The blessing of a natural recovery from a cold is possible because of the glorious design God did in the making of your body.  Complete recovery from pneumonia in eight hours is a supernatural healing, but not a miracle.  To have lost a lung to cancer, and then to recover completely, having two healthy lungs is a miracle.  You see, a miracle defies the known laws of nature.  Examples are fire falling from heaven on a water-soaked sacrifice, the Red Sea or the Jordan River being divided, water turning to blood, water turning into wine; these are miracles.  Arms, legs, feet, hands, even fingers being restored that were lost; that’s a miracle.  Please, honor the Lord.  Give Him all the glory for every good thing He does.  But please, recognize what they are, and never diminish them by calling miraculous that which is not.

Manna for Today – Acts 19:11-20; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

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Not Just a Convenient Place

The place a soldier makes his stand is keenly important.

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Acts 19:10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

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Today I want to increase your awareness concerning the location the child of God chooses to carry out his delivery of the message of Christ.  The Scriptures do indeed tell us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.  At the same time, we see a repeating work of Holy Spirit in the early church to send teachers to specific places.  Peter was sent to the house of Cornelius.  Paul was sent to different places, and on several occasions tarried on one place for a more protracted time.  For instance, in our Text for Today, we see Paul teaching in the school of a man named Tyrannus for a space of two years.  He had taught for a period of about three months in the local synagogue, and when dispute arose, he moved his place of teaching to the school of Tyrannus, and there, for two years, we read that he taught there daily.   In today’s church parlance, we would call a continued daily ministry of an itinerant preacher a great revival, or outpouring of the Spirit.  Regardless of what you call it, the result of that daily teaching in the school of Tyrannus was that all who dwelt in Asia, both Jew and Greek, heard the word of the Lord.

My point is this.  The Scriptures give us indicators of a time to leave, and sometimes in that leaving, we are to shake the dust from our feet at that point of departure.  At other times, upon our departure, another man, or men, of God may take our place.  Such was the case when Philip departed Samaria after Peter and John came and ministered the baptism of Holy Ghost there.  once again, my point is simple.  While we are sent into all the world, it is not every place in the world that God has a place prepared for us to minister.  The Scriptures declare that Father has ordained good works in which you and I are to walk.  But that doesn’t work well if you try to walk in my works, or I try to walk in yours.  We need to learn to be led by Holy Spirit so we can abide in the calling in which the Lord has placed us.  The Lord told Moses, “There is a place by Me where I will place you in a clift of the rock.”  There are many places in Christ.  You and I don’t belong in all of them.  Allow Him to place you where you need to minister to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.  That place will still be in Christ, and when you are in your place in Him, you will accomplish the greatest result.  Prepare yourself to accomplish greater.

Manna for Today – Acts 19:1-10; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Ephesians 2:10; Exodus 33:21-23

How Quickly We Forget

 

Some questions have one definitive answer, but it can be found in many locations.

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Acts 19:2  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

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Take a moment and read the first 10 verses of Acts 19.  You need to see a more complete picture of the events in this story.  Apostle Paul encountered disciples in Ephesus.  Upon that encounter, he asked them if they had received Holy Ghost since they believed.  And what was their response?  They replied that they did not even know there was such a thing as Holy Ghost.  Now think of that.  This wasn’t 400 years after Pentecost, but likely less than thirty years.  Once again, think about this scenario.

Less than thirty years before, Jesus had spoken of the promise of Holy Ghost baptism.  He told His disciples to “tarry” in Jerusalem until they be endued with power.  Holy Ghost was poured out on Pentecost and people spoke in tongues.  On three other occasions before the one in our Text for Today, there were recorded baptisms in Holy Ghost, and in every case, we know that the recipients spoke in tongues as Holy Ghost gave utterance.  Keep in mind, too, that these disciples had been baptized unto John’s baptism.  At that thought, remember that John preached that Jesus would come after him and that Jesus would baptize in the Holy Ghost and fire.  Yet within thirty years of John’s teaching, the teaching of Jesus, and the multiple experiences in the church, these disciples didn’t even know there was anything such as Holy Ghost.  Oh, how quickly they forgot.

You see, when the Word is not preached again and again, it can be so easily forgotten.  That is why we read that faith comes from hearing, and the word hearing is a gerund, ending in ing, and it means that to build faith, one needs to hear the Word of God again and again.  Never forget that faith does not come from having heard, but from hearing, and hearing, and hearing, and hearing.

Therefore, is there any wonder that we have so many churches in our world today that do not know about Holy Spirit?  Some think such as passed away.  Some think it was only for the early church in which the original apostles ministered.  Of course, there are those who even think there are no more apostle.  Those who believe that are totally discounting Ephesians 4:11-16.  Go there and read that passage for yourself.  The apostle’s ministry will serve the body until we all come to the unity of the faith, and we’re not there yet; until the saints are perfected, and we’re not there yet.  We’ve still some distance to go.  And until we get there, we need the five-fold ministry, and we need the baptism in Holy Ghost and fire.

Manna for Today – Acts 19:1-10; John 14:15-17; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-13; Acts 8:4-24; Acts 9:1-19;          Acts 10:1-48; Romans 10:17

Convincing the Convinced

It is important to know the person(s) to whom we are speaking.

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Acts 18:28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

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To whom are you speaking on a regular basis?  Answer that same question as it regards your Christian witness.  To whom are you speaking?  Are you speaking to a lost person who has never heard a true witness of the Gospel?  Are you speaking to someone who has heard repeated witnesses of the Gospel?  Are you speaking to a babe in Christ?  Are you speaking to someone who has been born again for some years?  Are you speaking to a Spirit-filled believer?  Are you speaking to a mature, Spirit-filled believer who is truly anchored in the Word?  Depending on who it is to whom you are speaking should, in large part, establish the manner in which to speak to that person.

You don’t speak to a non-believer about the spiritual matters the same way you would a mature, Spirit-filled believer.  These two people are at totally different ends of the spectrum.  You would not likely approach someone who had heard multiple witnesses of the Gospel the same way you would a mature Christian.  The influences in their life have likely been diametrically opposed to each other.

Now look back at our Text for Today.  We see that Paul “mightily convinced the Jews…that Jesus was Christ.”  That was the whole point of this exercise of faith to which Paul was giving himself.  Now note two more things.  It happened “publickly.”  That indicates that what Paul was doing, he was doing openly, not behind closed doors, nor in a way that would preserve any of his anonymity.  He was not hiding who he was, nor was he hiding his intent.  And the second thing we need to see is the basis from which Paul “mightily convinced” the Jews.  He convinced them by using the Scriptures; the very Scriptures they held so dear as the rule book by which they should live. You see, Paul had kept his own counsel.  He had studied to show himself “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”

Paul was effective because he “rightly divided the Word.”  He didn’t just start throwing Bible verses at them.  He used the Word skillfully, like a master surgeon plying his trade.  He used the Scriptures, obviously under the leadership of Holy Ghost, but in a precision manner to do the work that needed to be done.  That does not mean that any believer is excused from the work of being a witness.  What it does mean is that it is the responsibility of every believer to be as prepared as possible for the work at hand, and then one can legitimately depend on Holy Ghost for the rest.

Manna for Today – Acts 18:24-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; 2 Timothy 2:15

Beyond the New Birth

Being born again is in no way the end of anything, but the beginning of something reaching still farther.

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Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

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I became a Christian as a child at the age of ten.  In those earliest years after my conversion, I was so hungry for the things of God that I would often weep for them.  Though in my teen years I grew somewhat indifferent, deep inside I never lost that hunger.  When I married, I found that “good thing” of which the Word speaks, and surely found favor of the Lord.  It was right after marriage that the hunger I knew as a child came boiling back to the surface.  But now it was twelve years after being born again.  We were attending a different church than when I was a child, and a greater interest was taken in young men than in mere boys.  (Be warned here, my friend.  Never lessen your interest in a believer because he is a child.  That child will grow up, and those early years of nurturing are so important.)

I was like a young lion encountering his mother after being separated from the pride for a time.  I had become so strongly imprinted on the things of God, that when I came back to them fully, I knew I was going in the right direction.  I have never stopped pursuing that direction.  But then, as a 22-year old, the church we attended showed me something beyond what I had known.  I wanted it twelve years earlier, but had no idea how to ask for it, or even what it really was.  Ah, but now; now I was learning.  I needed to be filled with Holy Ghost.  I needed something in me more powerful than I had known, greater than I had known, more enriching than I had known, to empower me, to teach me, to enrich the depth of knowledge of His Word.  I needed to be filled with Holy Ghost.  And so, at twenty-two years of age, I asked for and received the infilling of Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues as Holy Spirit gave utterance.  Yes, it’s real, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

To the Spirit-filled believer I say, “Re-fill, re-fire, and allow the Lord to use you to ignite others.”  To the Christian who has not yet received the fullness of Holy Ghost I say, “Ask, and you shall receive.  This precious gift of God is yours for the asking, but you must be a believer to receive that of which I write.  Jesus said to receive Holy Spirit, you must have a relationship with God so you can call Him Father.  Is God your Father?  Then He has a gift just for you, and He longs for you to receive it.”  To the unbeliever I say, “Go to Romans 10:9-10, read it, and act on it.  The best is yet to come.”

Manna for Today – Acts 18:18-28; John 14:15-17; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-13; Acts 8:4-24; Acts 9:1-19;          Acts 10:1-48; Acts 19:1-7

Know When to Walk Away

There are some things in this life you simply do not attack.  Sometimes you must simply walk away.

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Acts 18:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

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I have always been a very competitive person.  The bottom line is, I love to win.  When I played softball, I played to win.  When I bowled, I bowled to win.  When I golfed, I golfed to win.  When I competed in some arena of martial arts, I competed to win.  Now I’m 70 years old, and though some of the more vigorous competitions in my life are behind me, I still play to win.

But over a lifetime of competition, I learned some very valuable lessons.  My greatest opponent in competition of any kind is ME.  My greatest enemy is Satan.  And if Satan can cause me to think that someone else is my enemy, he can use that to cause me to hurt other people.  You see, I clearly know how competitive I am.  I fully realize I play to win.  And with all these lessons I have learned, I have also learned that if I direct my time, my talent, and my treasure to the right projects and in the right manner, I use my competitive drive, not to hurt anyone, but to motivate myself in the things that serve to inspire myself and those with whom I work and whom I serve.

But as competitive as I am, and I know some of my readers are very competitive as well, I am also a people person.  I love to be around good people.  I love to help people.  I love to point people in a direction that enables them to rise to their highest possible potential.  Because of that, it is easy for me to develop connections with people.  But even when I am operating at my highest possible level, I sometimes discover that someone has entered the picture who truly doesn’t want to be helped, or someone who, in reality, wants to damage the work the Lord is doing through my life.  Don’t think that I am thinking too highly of myself.  Jesus died for you, too.  That makes you a very precious possession of the King of kings.  Value yourself, for you can truly only value others to the degree you value yourself.  Remember, you are to love your neighbor AS yourself.  For that reason, it is imperative that the believer learns to be led by Holy Spirit, clearly directed in his steps and guided in his choices.  As never before in the history of the church, the believer needs to know when to walk away, when to shake off the dust from his feet, or when to press in to minister to someone.

Manna for Today – Acts 18:1-17; Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5; Luke 10:11; 2 Timothy 2:22;   Acts 13:51

Be Reasonable

To be reasonable does not mean to compromise.

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Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

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God’s Word in our chief fixed asset in life.  It is settled forever in heaven.  The Word and Jesus are One.  God cannot lie.  The Word of God will never pass away.  These things we believe and know to be true.  Therefore, we declare boldly, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”  When Isaiah penned the words of the Lord, “Come now, and let us reason together,” he was showing that our God is reasonable.  But Malachi wrote that God never changes, and in Hebrews we read that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  So how can our God Who never changes, and our Lord Who is forever the same be considered reasonable?  The answer to that is found in the true definition of the word reasonable.  Let’s look at it a little closer.

The word reasonable Is actually two words combined; reason and able.  In its simplest form, the word reasonable means to be able to reason.  Now think for a moment.  That does not mean to compromise.  Yet in our present point in history, that is precisely what many people believe it to be.  They think that if two people reason together, there will have to be compromise to keep things reasonable, or within the bounds of reason.  But that is NOT what it means to be reasonable.  To be reasonable is to be in a position of possessing adequate wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to be able to persuade another person.  Therefore, to be able to reason in any situation means you come to the table with truth, knowledge, and an ability to express that knowledge in an acceptable manner.

Think of this, it is the Lord Who said, “Come now, and let us reason together.”  He then states and obvious condition (your sins are as scarlet), followed by an outcome that defies natural explanation (they shall be white as snow).  Note again, the Lord said, with those premises stated, “Come now, and let us reason together.”  To the natural mind, that would seem to be totally unreasonable.  And yet God approaches it as reasonable.  Think on that. How can He paint such a picture?  It is because He understands what it means to be reasonable; it means being able to reason.  So, what the Lord is doing is setting forth a few simple questions.  (1) Can you reason?  (2) Are you willing to reason?  (3) Do you want to reason?  And with those questions asked, the answer lies with the one to whom they are addressed.  If your answer is, “yes,” then you are not about to enter into an argument or a debate.  You are about to enter into a discussion with the brightest, most accurate, most intelligent being that has or ever will exist – Jehovah God.  Therefore, to truly reason with God is to realize that He is right.

Manna for Today – Acts 18:1-17; Isaiah 1:18; Romans 3:4; Psalm 119:89; John 1:1 & 14; Hebrews 6:18

First Common Ground

We must find an element about which we can unite before we will ever have united ministry.

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Acts 18:3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

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Look closely at our Text for Today.  I want you to note something that is conspicuously absent.  Take a moment and read the Acts passage referenced in our Manna for Today.  Note that Paul chose to abide with Aquila and Priscilla.  That is plainly stated.  But a point that is not stated stands our conspicuously.  Note it closely; nothing is said of Paul abiding with them because they were Christians, because they were Spirit-filled, because they were members of the body of Christ, because they were able teachers of the Word, or because they became is close followers to ministered to him greatly.  I find it intriguing that while all these things are true according to the Scriptures, the reason for Paul’s dwelling with them was because they were “of the same craft,” that being tentmakers like Paul.

There, do you see it.  At the moment Paul joined them in the tentmaking trade, he likely knew little if anything of their testimony, and it would seem evident that he knew nothing of their future involvement with him in his ministry.  He joined with them because of their trade.  They had that in common.  Think of that as we continue.

In recent years, I was doing leadership training in Nairobi, Kenya.  I am from a Pentecostal background, but the ministers I was training were non-Pentecostal.  In some places in the world where I’ve been, they, in fact, seem to be completely contrary to one another.  But they’re not.  I said to them, “You and I really can’t get along.  You’re of a particular denomination and I am Pentecostal.  We really can’t work together.”  And then I cited some doctrinal differences.  The shock on their faces was evident.  But then I turned it around on them.  I asked if they believed in Jesus; if they believed in the blood of Christ; if they believed the Bible.  To each question, their response was a resounding “Yes!”  Then I said, “So, what if, instead of focusing on our differences, we chose things on which we could agree; perhaps just one solid Biblical truth, and then focused 100% of our energies on that work?  What could happen?”  They got it!  The next day in their conference, there were large number of Pentecostal ministers present.  They realized that our differences often serve for nothing but to keep us apart.  But, if we can find a place of agreement, what God can do becomes even more phenomenal.  We have so many differences with so many people.  Find a point of agreement, connect there, and release the power of God to make changes that can impact the world.

Manna for Today – Acts 18:1-17; Matthew 18:19-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Amos 3:3; Acts 18:18-26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19

Cast Out

You can be an outcast without being cast out.

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Acts 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

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In our Text for Today, we are introduced the Aquila and Priscilla, a husband and wife ministry team, Jewish by birth, Christian by choice and the grace of God, and outcasts from their hometown by Claudius Caesar.  That is quite an introduction for these two servants of God.  What I want you to focus on for a moment is that they were outcasts.  But they were outcasts who had been cast out.

But you and I, dear friend, are living in a different time.  In the day of which our Text for Today speaks, lepers were outcasts; having been put out of the camp (city, or community) because of their leprosy.  They were isolated from the uncontaminated.  When people were cast out, as were Aquila and Priscilla, they had to leave the hometown of their choosing, and live somewhere outside contact with people they no doubt loved and served.  And over many centuries, that was the pattern of being an outcast; cast out of family, community, city, and even nation.  And while that may still occur in a small number of nations in our world today, such is not the general rule.  We live in a different age.

In our time of modern convenience, housing as we understand it today, and with the advent of extreme use of social media, being an outcast will likely not resemble how it appeared 2,000 years ago.  Today, you can be an outcast while living in your own home, attending you home church, holding down a long-term job, and even surrounded by family.  While we have more means of communication than ever in history, and while messaging and sending pictures so others can see certain images are likely at their highest levels in history, true communication is, when you consider 7.3 billion people on the planet, at an all time low.

In real communication, there is a desire to understand.  It is amazing to me that with billions of people all over the world owning cellular telephones, there is less personal voice communication.  Texting, videos, messaging, Instagram, and the like, have all but replaced face-to-face communications, genuine telephone conversations where you can hear someone’s voice, and old-fashioned letter writing.  We’re likely using more words than ever in the history of man, but communication has slipped to an all-time low.  In the context of our modern age, there are multiplied millions of outcasts who never left home, community, or church.   Should we, as Paul did Aquila and Priscilla, come to them?  How many like Aquila and Priscilla might we find?  We will not know unless we try.  Just a thought.

Manna for Today – Acts 18:1-17; Matthew 25:40-45; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:8

Close Proximity

What do you do when people follow you without invitation?

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Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

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You’ve heard of magnetic attraction.  That is a natural force in which the north and south poles of magnetic force attract one another.  Almost everyone has played with a magnet at some time, and witnessed the result of a magnetic force on certain metal objects.  And then you’ve likely heard the old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.”  While these may be examples of attraction in nature, in the kingdom of God, I believe it is different.  I am convinced that every believer has a place in the body for which Father has chosen and equipped him.  I likewise believe that when that place is truly known to the believer who loves and desires to please Father, they will be attracted to that position as naturally as bees are to pollen.  It is part of their God-given makeup, and only there can the fullness of joy the Lord has provided for them be experienced by them.

In our Text for Today, there were people whose lives were impacted by Paul, and they “clave unto him.”  The word “clave” speaks of a relationship in which one person is, in essence, glued to another person.  And when God’s design finds a place of unity in people who are following and obeying God, strong unions and connections are made.  That is what was happening with some of the people Paul was winning to the kingdom.  They clung to him as if they were glued to him.

For your own good as a believer, you need to be aware of these principles.  If you love the Lord and are living to serve Him, there are people whose lives you will impact who will love you and appreciate what you have done in their lives, but will not follow you closely.  There are others who will follow you, or even support your ministry from time to time in obedience to the Lord.  And then there are those who become glued to you.  No matter where you are, they know about, pray for you, will give to support the work you do, and if you ever need them, they will be there for you.

When the believer attempts to determine who those people are, we will often make grave mistakes, possibly drawing people into an arena of ministry for which they are not fitted at all.  This connection must be left to the work of Holy Spirit.  Let Him lead; let Him decide; let Him direct.  But to the believer, I urge you, be ready, for when such a person is set in your life, glued to you, you need to be in a position to move with God, not only for your own sake, but now for the sake of those who are glued to you.  That kind of close proximity is established by God.  And remember, it’s not just about marriage; it’s about all things – what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Manna for Today – Acts 17:16-34; Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1