A Dangerous Legacy: Empire State One, by Elizabeth Camden

A Dangerous LegacyA Dangerous Legacy is Elizabeth Camden’s first in her new historical romance series, The Empire State.

As historical romance’s go, this one starts out with all the usual suspects.

The poor and struggling heroine Lucy Drake and her brother are up to their ears in the alligators who are their rich and treacherous relatives. A multi-decade lawsuit has Lucy and her brother fighting to regain their half of the family legacy.

Now enter Lord Beckwith the also poor and struggling aristo from Merry Old England with the juicy title and no money. Lord Beckwith is looking for a rich American wife who has the loot, but no title, in hopes that he can persuade her to marry one and thereby save his crumbling estate back home.

Of course when Lucy and the Lord meet the romantic sparks fly and that only complicates things for Lucy has no legacy to offer up.

There are the upstate relatives with the greedy wife, the treacherous uncle and of course the evil and snotty cousin,  who are also in cahoots with an evil doctor who runs the neighborhood  insane asylum and seems to get off on mental and emotional torture.

That’s where the story kind of lost me. The creepy doctor definitely took the story down a dark and murky path.

All this happens with the telegraph and it’s history playing a staring role in the story.

A Dangerous Legacy holds few surprises, with heroes and villains aplenty, but things sort themselves out in the end.

Still, I liked the story, and gave it five stars on Goodreads for it’s smooth style and interesting historical facts.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my review.

A Dangerous Legacy is available on Christian Book Distributors or at your other fine book retailers.

 

Hinds Feet On High Places ~ An Engaging Visual Journey

Tyndale House Publishers new release of Hannah Hurnard’s, Hinds Feet on High Places, An Engaging Visual Journey, is in a word—STUNNING!

Hinds Feet On High Places An Engaging Visual Journey

Jill DeHaan and Rachel McNaughton have taken this beautiful Christian allegory of  the journey of faith, and set it in the most exquisite settings of soft and muted watercolor illustrations.

The result, is indeed, a lovely and engaging visual journey that will find a welcome place of honor on anyone’s coffee table.

Invitation to the High PlacesAs I said in a previous post, Hinds Feet On High Places is a story of Little Miss Much-Afraid and her journey with the Chief Shepherd to the High Places where she hopes her disabling disfigurements will be transformed by healing streams.

Hinds Feet On High PlacesThis beautiful story is meant to portray both, the beauty and the harsh realities, that often accompany our journeys through this life.

Little Miss Much-Afraid is led to a barren desert, along the shores of loneliness, up the Precipice of Injury, as well as through the Forests of Danger and Tribulation and the Valley of Loss.

Hinds Feet on High PlacesThroughout the book are scriptures painted in bold and vivid colors marking Miss Much-Afraid’s journey, the way they so often mark out our own.

Bravo Tyndale House for bringing out this book NOW, just in time for Christmas!

Hinds Feet on High PlacesI’ll tell you the truth,  as I unwrapped this book from its shipping wrapper, I was delighted at what I saw! I thought, “With so many people going through their own difficult journey right now, I can’t think of a more welcome and fitting gift to give someone who is hurting this holiday season.”

Hinds Feet on High Places, An Engaging Visual Journey is available now on Christian Book Distributors or at any of your other fine retailers.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.



A Closer Walk: Redeeming Lamentations and Grief

I have tread the stony paths of grief more than once in my life.

Can I confess, again?

I never saw any redeeming value in these paths until very recently. Grief to me was always something to be avoided at best, or impatiently endured; gutting it out at it’s worst. I wanted to move swiftly through it; to just get it over with and be done; focusing on the finish line while ignoring the journey itself.

I mean, who thinks pain has any redeeming good?

We are taught in our Western Culture to abhor grief.

Grief is seen as something with no redeeming value, and we treat it as if it were a freakish and unwelcome enemy, when actually the very opposite is true.

I know, how could grief be a friend?

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the allegory, Hinds Feet On High Places.

In Hurnnard’s story, the heroine, Little Miss “Much-Afraid” is longingly dreaming of leaving her home, The Valley of Humiliation, and going to the beautiful and majestic, High Places. She is a member of the Fearing Family, and her bullying and unkind relatives, torment her at their every opportunity, especially her cousin Craven-Fear.

Much-Afraid has recently given her heart to The Chief Shepherd, who mostly lives in the High Places, and Much-Afraid longs to go there to be with Him, but has little hope of ever making the difficult journey because her feet are crippled and she often stumbles.

She is convinced that visiting The High Places are only a distant and hopeless dream.

Well, I won’t spoil the story for you. If you haven’t read the book, suffice it to say, I recommend it highly. It uses wonderful imagery to portray many of the difficult realities in our discipleship journey.

Hinds Feet: Sorrow & SufferingI bring it up here, solely to make this point.

In the story, Much-Afraid finds the courage to ask the Shepherd to help her journey to The High Places, and He grants her request.

To make sure she gets there safely, He gives her two traveling companions: one named Sorrow, the other, named Suffering.

The first time I read the book I thought, “What! What kind of love it that?” She asks to go to The High Places so that she can be healed, and thereby transformed. And so, The Shepherd gives her these two “friends” Sorrow and Suffering?

(Friends?)

Most of us find this idea repulsive.

Recoiling in shock, or fear and anger, when we are introduced to these traveling companions with grief as our teacher?

Why would God do such a thing?

Perhaps, it is because we pray to be changed… transformed? To become more like Jesus?

So God agrees, takes us at our words, and answers our prayers.

Unexpectedly, we are introduced to “…the fellowship of His (Jesus) sufferings” and because we are, we wail and rail against a God, who would allow such painful things to happen to us!

So I’ll ask again, “Why do we believe these songs of lament will never be ours to sing?”

God gives us the truth via our Bibles; spells it out for us.

His unchanging and ultimate goal is to remake us into the image of His Son… by any means, at any cost.

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ALWAYS

Have I not told you the witness of two is true?

What does the 73rd psalm tell you? “…you are holding my right hand… my health fails; my spirits droop, yet, God remains! He is the strength of my heart.”

And My word in Isaiah 41?

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. [vs. 10]

Come, I see you struggling with doubt and fear.

You think, “I am alone.”

You are not. I AM here, with you.

Hinds Feet quoteNot for one second since all this began have you been alone. Although, I know, many times you felt as though you were.

Ah, those feelings of yours! They sometimes lead you a merry chase!

But I wouldn’t have you without them.

No, no! I want you to bring them with you when you come to Me. Always, but you lead the way… the feelings will follow.

Meanwhile, keep those lovely eyes… (Oh, those eyes!) Keep them on Me!

I AM present child. The difficulties, the heartbreak, will pass. I remain. Everything, every. thing. you are going through, is preparing you. Do not reject your teachers. Do not fear them.

redeeming sorrowI AM upholding you with My victorious right hand.

(I AM here little one.)

You may stumble…

You may even fall…

But I have your hand.

(Always.)

Even when it hurts.


a closer walkAnd this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 

Philippians 3:10Philippians 3:10
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10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;

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A Closer Walk: The Idolatry of Approval

I never thought of family as an idol.

I mean how could wanting your family’s love and approval be idolatry?

For many years I longed to be loved and accepted by my family—but loved and accepted for myself.

Unfortunately, it was that longing to be myself that created a great many of my family problems.

I was an introvert born into a family of extroverts so instinctively I felt it. I just didn’t fit with everyone else’s idea of how I should behave.

The others in my household were life-of-the-party types—outgoing people-lover’s who hated being alone.

But rather than loving the stage and it’s limelight, and being the center of everyone’s attention, I often craved solitude. I didn’t fear solitude. Actually, I was serenely at peace with my own company. I loved doing simple, quiet things, which was good, for I often found myself in our house alone.

This sent the message,”What’s WRONG with you? You don’t fit with us unless you are willing to become, like us.”

"Going Along" for approval

“Going Along” is often the price to avoid rejection.

I wanted to feel a part of the group, but the price for their acceptance was to increasingly become someone I was not.

While I blamed my family for their pushing and pulling, badgering and bullying, one day I finally realized, they were not my biggest problem I was!

I had traded who I wanted to be for their approval.

finding peaceEven in my adult years, many times I surrendered who God was calling me to be, for the “love and approval” I thought I could not live without.

It took me a long time to face the truth. Paying emotional extortion is not love, it’s slavery.

I began to see that I could vainly attempt to please my family for the rest of my days, and hope for a few grudging crumbs of approval and affection, or I could accept myself exactly the way God had created me to be, and obey His vision for my life.

I knew what “the price” would be.

I’ll confess, I did everything in my power for years to earn my family’s acceptance first… but in the end I think I always knew that their rejection, and the pain that went with it, would be the price for obeying God.

Inevitably, my choice was no choice at all, God would not relinquish His demand to be my FIRST love. (He made me no apologies for it.) And, I knew my choice would be all on me, no matter what I decided. So, I prayed for the courage to let go of my family’s approval.

It has been painful and difficult living with the price of isolation and no family to connect with, but Jesus has always been brutally honest.

With no apology at all He reminded me,

Anyone who wants to my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters, yes, more than his own life, otherwise he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26Luke 14:26
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26 “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.

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SURPRISED?

I see you there mourning for what is lost.

(You think, it’s over, all over.)

Child, Am I over?

Have I abandoned you?

(Sometimes, you feel I have.)

But feelings are not facts; no.

I AM here, right beside you.

(Remember?)

“Shammah,” honey, “Shammah.” I AM beside you in your tears, beside you in your confusion and pain. I don’t leave when things get tough. No, dearest.

Lift your eyes, your lovely tear-filled eyes, to Me. I have comfort for you; encouragement for your fear, and HOPE.

I would say, “Trust Me.” but I see your trust for the moment is buried beneath your grief.

(I know.)

But, Sweet Heart, I have heard your prayers! I know you thought My silence was disdain and disapproval, yes? But to listen, truly listen, you must be silent, yes? I have heard you, never fear.

Forgiving and moving onYour Father has not forsaken you though others have; forgive them. It is the only way.

Leave your family to Me.

Meanwhile, let Me lift that chin of yours because, “Yes, I AM the One who lifts your head.”

Your tears are ever before Me. See… I have kept them all!Comfort yourself child, your answers are on the way. Why, before you were done speaking? I was in motion!

Surprised? (You shouldn’t be.) I AM always listening.

(Love does that you know.)

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“…Don’t cry any longer, for I have heard your prayers…” Jeremiah 31:16Jeremiah 31:16
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16 Thus says Yahweh: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says Yahweh; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

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Believing Is Not About The Outcome

I used to struggle a great deal about this believing business. Mostly because my expectations and outcomes didn’t always match up with what I was believing for.

It is easy to say to someone, “You need to trust God.”

Oh yes, that part is easy!

building trust and believingBut, if our trust is tied to our beliefs for a certain kind of outcome, and then things seem to go haywire?

Then what are we supposed to do?

Was our believing at fault?

Should we have prayed more fervently?

Isn’t my faith supposed to move mountains?

I used to stumble over these questions wondering if there was something faulty with my faith, or my praying, or my believing, until I realized one day that I kept making a very strategic wrong turn in my understanding.

I began to see that if my beliefs were based on my expectations for a certain outcome, and if that was the foundation for my trust, I would always struggle—because my expectations were so often wrong.

I needed a better basis for my trusting.

And then I saw it!

The “wrong turn” I kept making was right here:

Jesus said in John 6:29John 6:29
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29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

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, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

I needed to put my confidence and trust in who Jesus had proved Himself to be, not in what He would do for me—or not do for me.

My trust couldn’t stand on my outcomes.

No, my trust had to be based on who Jesus said He was—period.

The Bible says over and over, “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:72 Corinthians 5:7
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7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.

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walk by faithThe reality of this world is that sometimes bad things happen even if all of our faith is in good outcomes.

Therefore, if my faith and trust are to survive the storms of this life, then there will be times when I must trust in what I can’t see.

walking with JesusI must learn to “walk” with stability in the unseen with my trust based solely in the One God sent.

He is my Cornerstone.

If my confidence is in Him, and my trust is built solely on the character of God’s goodness, then no matter what the outcome to my faith, prayers, and believing—my TRUST will stand on a firm foundation.

Seeds for Trust #2:

believing for God's outcome

 

Foundation Stones for Trust

Before we begin our journey through the Psalms we must talk about the foundation stones for trust.

You cannot have a trust that will weather all the storms of life if it is built on the “sand” of what you see and feel.

Your eyes will deceive you and your feelings often shift and change with each passing storm that blows.

Therefore let us address ourselves to some of the basic truths from the inerrant and infallible word of God.

foundation of trustTo start with, the Bible doesn’t say there might be trouble in this world. On the contrary, it assures us that we absolutely will have trouble.

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33John 16:33
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33 I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.”

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The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” [3:12]

So, since we know we shall have trials, sorrow, and persecution, and since our life will not be trouble-free, we can’t base our trust on the hope that we should have a painless journey.

Often our trust falters or fails because it is based on the false hope that the promises in God’s word can be manipulated to suit our own wishes. We believe  by praying fervent prayers, or  “claiming” this or that Bible verse for ourselves, or our loved ones, we can have whatever we want.

But no matter how heartfelt those wishes and desires may be, or how sincere our hopes, even in the word of God we must face all of the truth. We must acknowledge that God knows what we don’t, and we must put our TRUST in Him, and His will on any matter. Then our trust can not only weather the storm, it can also flower and flourish in it.

Anyone who reads my blog, knows by now, I love to quote from the works of C. S. Lewis. So, in closing, let me add a few more of his wonderful encouraging words.

Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way around—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling; resisting? Don’t you think our Lord says to you, “Peace child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?”

— C. S. Lewis

SEEDS FOR TRUST #1:

trust God's love for you

Never Losing the Light: Illumination for The Future

“… without one ray of light.” that’s where you’ve been for months now, and yes, I have deliberately kept you ‘in the dark’ regarding your future.

walking in darknessI wanted you to grow accustomed to the darkness of ‘not knowing’.

It has been difficult to “adjust” your eyes to walking purely by faith and not by sight, yes?

It is necessary.

Very necessary.

Do you hear Me child?

(I’ll say it again.)

Very necessary!

I want you to become so accustomed to walking this way, that darkness or light?

Neither make any difference.

I want you to develop a highly tuned sense of “night vision”.

I want you to walk according to what I tell you, not what you see.

Your eyes will deceive you at times.

(Have you not already discovered this?)

How things “look” and how they “are” are often two very different things. Ah, but you know, the darkness and the light are both the same to Me.

I AM not bound by any such limitation.

I want you to be as comfortable walking with Me in darkness as you are walking with Me in the light.

Think of The Wisemen of old—they could not find Me in the bright light of day—in the rush and throng.

I led them by night… by a star.

revelation for the dark“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys His Servant? If such men walk in darkness, without one ray of light, let them trust in the LORD, let them rely upon their God.”

Isaiah 50:10Isaiah 50:10
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10 Who is among you who fears Yahweh, who obeys the voice of his servant? He who walks in darkness, and has no light, let him trust in the name of Yahweh, and rely on his God.

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Challenge of Jesus In A World of Brokenness

If not us, then who?“What we are faced with in our culture is the post-Christian version of the doctrine of original sin: all human endeavor is radically flawed, and the journalists who take delight in pointing this out are simply telling over and over again the story of Genesis three as applied to today’s leaders, politicians, royalty and rock stars. And our task, as image-bearing, God-loving, Christshaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce challenge of Jesusredemption to the world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to the world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to the world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion. So the key I propose for translating Jesus’ unique message to the Israel of his day into our message to our contemporaries is to grasp the parallel, which is woven deeply into both Testaments, between the human call to bear God’s image and Israel’s call to be the light of the world. Humans were made to reflect God’s creative stewardship into the world. Israel was made to bring God’s rescuing love to bear upon the world. Jesus came as the true Israel, the world’s true light, and as the true image of the invisible God. He was the true Jew, the true human. He has laid the foundation, and we must build upon it. We are to be the bearers both of his redeeming love and of his creative stewardship: to celebrate it, to model it, to proclaim it, to dance to it.

“As the Father sent me, so I send you…

…receive the Holy Spirit; forgive sins and they are forgiven, retain them and they are retained.” That last double command belongs exactly at this point. We are to go out into the world with the divine authority to forgive and retain sins. When Jesus forgave sins, they said he was blaspheming; how then can we imagine such a thing for ourselves? Answer: because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. God intends to do through us for the wider world that for which the foundation was laid in Jesus. We are to live and tell the story of the prodigal and the older brother; to announce God’s glad, exuberant, richly healing welcome for sinners, and at the same time God’s sorrowful but implacable opposition to those who persist in arrogance, oppression and greed. Following Christ in the power of the Spirit means bringing to our world the shape of the gospel: forgiveness, the best news that anyone can ever hear, for all who yearn for it, and judgment for all who insist on dehumanizing themselves and others by their continuing pride, injustice and greed…

The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture,

…articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even–heaven help us–Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?”

—  N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus

You’ve got a smile
That lifts me out of here
When I’m all tripped up
And turned around
Down in the trenches
Where you lift me up again
My heart and mind so far away

For the longing, the aching and the call
There is no denying her at all now

Beauty leads the way
Beauty leads the way
To the glory of the world
We were made for
Beauty leads the way

Look in the spaces
Where the separation thins
To dislocated cracks of light
Under the surface
Up above it’s all the same
You’re everywhere but hard to find

For the longing, the aching and the call
There is no denying you at all now

Beauty leads the way
Beauty leads the way
To the glory of the world
We were made for
Beauty leads the way
[x2]

our brokenness

Take you by surprise
Go right into the flames
Measures the sacrifice
‘Cause beauty leads the way

She’s like the morning sun
The answer to your shame
Rescued from where you were
Beauty leads the way
Beauty leads the way
Beauty leads the way
Beauty leads the way

Tears, brokenness & broken hearts

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


 

A Closer Walk: Escape to An Awesome Savior!

I grew up with condemnation and criticism. It was well meant (sometimes) but still, it’s tough to breathe in that world. Tougher still, to grow into the decent and kind person, you want to be. All you can “think” in that atmosphere is, escape… I have to escape.

I am slowly learning...Yeah, rejection is a powerful toxin—and verbal abuse a stone killer.

When will we learn that?

Why do we believe that we can control, and own others, by battering another’s poor heart into a million, shattered, and broken pieces?

I didn’t understand the power of bitterness as a child, but I could feel it.

I used to think that kind of enviornment was normal. (It was all I knew.) Then later, I knew I had to find something different, because I was becoming like my abusers. My “normal” was corroding my heart into something I no longer recognized—into a someone I didn’t want to be. I knew if I wanted to breathe, if I wanted to love and be loved, I had to get away.

I had to lay down the dead hopes that my family would magically change and choose something better than their old and bitter verbal artillery.

So, I laid down a dead dream, and picked up His cross.

For a time, I believed all that “broken stuff” was wasted debris. That, not only could it NOT be fixed, but the dead weight of it had to be jettisoned from my life. (And there is some truth to that.) Some toxic relationships, no matter how much sweet water gets poured into them, will by their own heart’s choices, choose to remain bitter.

Your are priceless!Yet, even though the people we had hoped would love us, reject our love—even those difficult experiences can be wonderfully useful for His Kingdom.

It is His M.O. in us, after all!

He is: A Ransom-Redeemer, A Reviver-Restorer. The Royal-Resurrecter!

It has taken me six decades, count them, SIX long-n-dusty… bloody-n-broken… rocky-road-decades, but I have finally learned these Kingdom Truths:

God wastes NOTHING.

Our SCARS and DEBRIS are someone else’s HEALING and HOPE.

Forsaking ALL will lead us straight to HIS REDEMPTION PLAN.

And His plan?

Will BLOW destiny’s doors off their JOY-HINGES!

He rebuilds shattered lives into bridges—strong sturdy bridges that will carry other shattered hearts straight into His loving arms of Redeeming Grace.

Yahoo, what an awesome Savior!

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THEN… YOU WILL KNOW

There will be times when you will do your best, you will pray, you will believe, and still things will seem to go wrong. You may even be tempted to think, all you’ve done is worth nothing; only empty space.

This is where the wheat and the chaff go their seperate ways.

It is easy to work when all are pleased and the applause abounds. I have many in My Kingdom who will serve under such circumstances, many.

Ah, but when the wind is contrary, how those “easy-chair-followers” scatter!

Following ChristAnd, you? What about you now that you see what is really in their hearts? Will you leave Me, too?

I tell you, building this Kingdom of Mine is not for the faint of heart. The day is quickly approaching when the enemy will come in like a flood. There will be testing and trying like My Church has never seen! Many will forsake their friends and betray those they called “brother.”

I AM coming to do away with these easy-chairs, and all who cling to them! (But you?) You are My First Fruit! You will show the way to those who remain. You will encourage their hearts by your words of comfort.

No turning back

Then, “Ha, then!” it will not seem in vain. Then, you will see your Teacher, and you will know how wise were your appointed lessons.

Yes, then, your work will stand.

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“…but my work for them seems all in vain;”

Isaiah 49:4Isaiah 49:4
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4 But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Yahweh, and my recompense with my God.

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