Running with Mark 86

 

Day 86 – March 23, 2020

 

Read: Psalm

Psalm 89:1-4 New Revised Standard Version

This week five of the readings from the Narrative Lectionary come from the Psalms.  Why were they chosen?  Psalms were a primary form of prayer for the Jewish community.  They continue to speak to the hopes, fears, struggles and worries of all people today.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian known for his opposition to National Socialism. His ties to the July 20, 1944, conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime led to his execution in 1945. His theological writings are regarded as classics throughout the Christian world.

Bonhoeffer penned these words on the Psalms:

“The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time…we understand how the Psalter can be prayer to God and yet God’s own Word, precisely because here we encounter the praying Christ…because those who pray the psalms are joining in with the prayer of Jesus Christ, their prayer reaches the ears of God. Christ has become their intercessor…”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

As you read Psalm 89 from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying – An Invitation to Wholeness, may this be your prayer:

I will sing of your steadfast Love

            forever, my Beloved:

with forthright voice I will proclaim

your goodness to all generations.

For your abiding Love rules to the universe,

your faithfulness extends throughout the firmament.

Your Covenant from the beginning of time

encompasses all who choose to walk

the path of Love;

And to all generations that honor

your Way and your Truth

will Love make Itself known.

 

 

 

Music:

Sanctuary by Carrie Newcomer

Every Praise by Hezekiah Walker

 

Prayer Focus:

In this time of anxiety, ask God to be your Rock, your faithful One.

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark – 85

 

Day 85 – March 22, 2020  

Today’s blog comes from guest blogger Rev. Chris Carr. Chris is the preacher for Sunday, March 22, 2020.

  

 

Read:

Mark 12: 28-34 (inclusive Version)

28 One of the religious scholars who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answered them, now came up and put a question to him: “Which is the foremost of all the commandments?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the foremost: ‘Hear, O Israel, God, our God, is one. 30 You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 The scholar said to Jesus, “Well spoken, Teacher! What you have said is true: the Most High is one and there is no other. 33 To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself—this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” 34 Jesus, seeing how wisely this scholar had spoken, said, “You are not far from the kindom of God.” And after that no one dared to question Jesus any more.

 

This seems as important a time to understand to heed Jesus’ call to Love God and Love our neighbor.    

 

Right now, it feels hard to see God, let alone love God.  In this season of a pandemic, there are a lot of questions, and the answers are unclear.  We are spending a lot of time looking out of windows, to keep separation and keep people safe.  People are either stuck inside, away from family and friends, out of school.  We had to make the tough decision to reschedule REYOUNITE youth event, where we had JJ Warren, Jennifer Knapp, and others coming for an amazing weekend.  It was a really hard decision.  We had a great Youth Group time online on Wednesday and the questions raised were mostly about this sense of the length of time this will continue.  How long will we be out of school?  How does God let this happen?  It feels like there is a lot obstructing our view of the Holy.  Fear does that.  We get tunnel vision and close off.  We are trying to look through a window to see God, but the curtains of Covid-19 are blocking our view.     

 

We don’t know when things that have ceased or been cancelled will be able to happen.  But we do know that when we commit into relationship with that which connects us beyond physical contact, we are able to throw back the curtains that obstruct our view and see with greater clarity, and when we do, our actions, whether they are in our home, or in the world of live-streams, can tell our neighbor they are loved.                     

 

Please read 1 Corinthians 13 to see what Paul, the apostle whose writings make up a lot of the New Testament, had to say about love.                                                                                                                               

 

CHECK OUT THIS MUSIC VIDEO FOR “NEW DAY” FROM JENNIFER KNAPP. 

 

https://jenniferknapp.com/videos/new-day/

 

Music:

“Feeling Low”

 

Lyrics:

When i’m feeling low

and my heart is weak

i know you have the strength

 to carry me

When i’m broken down

and i’m filled with grief

 i know you’re far beyond

what my mind conceives

 

As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

Through the pain and strife

 As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

feel you wash my sight

i can feel your heart

feel you offer life

 

you lead me to the water, sweet water

the water of life

when i am sinking,

you lift me up out of the night

 

how can it be hallelujah

i feel this love overtake me 

 

 

Prayer:

God, we bring our cries, we bring our questions, we bring our fears.  In this uncertain time, help us seek clearing our vision out the window, to push back the blinds and feel your love, and be in relationships that magnify Your love into the world.

 AMEN 

 

 

Peace and Love in Faith,

Chris

 

 

 

 

Read:

Music:

 

Prayer Focus:

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 84

 

Day 84 – March 21, 2020  

 

Read:

Hebrews 1:1-4 New Revised Standard Version

 

Here is the same reading from The Inclusive Bible.

 In  times past , god spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our ancestors through the prophets; 2  in these final days, God has spoken to us through the only begotten, who has been made heir of all things and through whom the universe was first created. 3  Christ is the reflection of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s being; all things are sustained by God’s powerful word. Having cleansed us from our sins, Jesus Christ sat down at the right hand of the Glory of heaven— 4  as far superior to the angels as the name Christ has inherited is superior to theirs.

 

Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Dr. Craig R. Koester writes:

The author begins by focusing on God’s methods of communication. God has spoken in many various ways through Israel’s prophets, but things take a radical turn when God communicates through an embodied Word: the Son. The writer’s opening lines encompass the Son’s inheritance of all things and his activity at creation. The writer will not let the readers’ imaginations remain impoverished with a Christ who is too small. The writer uses words like “radiance” to evoke a sense of divine light entering human sight. He speaks of “exact imprint,” using a term that could refer to the image on a coin. The imprint made visible the very being of God, which was otherwise invisible.

Then the writer sketches out a journey. He follows Jesus from death to glorious life. He goes from making purification for sins through his suffering and death, and to a place above the angels. For a moment readers are taken out of the ordinariness of their situation, as they follow Christ into the presence of God. As readers then and now are drawn into the presence of God in worship, they too go on a journey. It reorients their perception of the situation in which life is lived[1].

 

Where do you see God’s radiance breaking into our world?

 

Music:

Christ Whose Glory FIlls the Sky –Charles Wesley

Notice the images of light and radiance in this hymn.

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

 

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return
’til thy mercy’s beams I see;
’til they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

 

3 Visit, then, this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #156

 

 

Prayer Focus:

Pray for God’s light to break through in your life and in our world.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2479

 


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Running with Mark 83

 

Day 83 – March 20, 2020  

 

Read:

Psalm 121

Mountains are my sacred space.  There’s no vacation I enjoy more than time in a national park with great big mountains. 

 

Our family has traveled to Alaska three times.  The first time was with all our boys when they were high school and college aged.  We spent time in Denali National Park which was amazing.  Everyday we looked for Denali, the big mountain, but it was always covered with clouds.  We thought seeing Denali was just a myth meant to lure tourists.

 

The second time we went to Denali, we didn’t see the mountain either.  But…..as we were driving back to Anchorage, suddenly the clouds cleared and the mountain was visible in the rearview mirror.  We quickly pulled over to the side of the road to see it and take pictures.

 

I think God is like Denali.  God is always there, but sometimes it is cloudy and I can’t see God.  Sometimes the clouds are of my own making, like when I am too busy and not making time to spend with God.  Later I see God in the rearview mirror and say, “Oh, there you are.  You were there all along!

 

Sometimes the clouds are things the world throws at us, like a pandemic, it can be hard to see God.  The mountain is so big, and it looks so cloudy.  But, when we really look, if we open our eyes, we will see God and God’s people at work.  Mr. Rogers used to counsel people to look to the helpers at a time of crisis.  Goodness the helpers are everywhere.

  • doctors, nurses, medical personnel helping the sick
  • grocers who are working so hard to keep food on the shelves
  • truck drivers who are delivering needed supplies
  • nursing home staff caring for vulnerable adults while under quarantine
  • first responders
  • neighbors who are checking on their neighbors and offering help with groceries etc.
  • schools and organizations that are finding creative ways to feed people

Personally, I’m so very proud of our church community and the way you are pulling together.   We have a team of volunteers who will be calling all of our members who are age 75+.  There is another team of people ready to help with whatever our elders may need.  The staff is working on all kinds of creative ways to connect.  People have been supportive and patient during technical glitches during live streaming because of so many new churches and people watching online.  Others have reached out to fund the pastor’s discretionary fund so that I will be able to help people who have needs or may have lost hours or their jobs.  Ministry teams are checking in and doing their work.  Some adult small groups have been meeting online!  In the midst of this challenging time, we are learning how to be the church in a new way.

 

May the words of Psalm 121 bring you courage and hope today.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.

 

Music:

Immortal Invisible God Only Wise – Tommy Walker

This is a fun, upbeat version of the hymn done be a big inter-generational chorus.

 

Prayer Focus:

Pray that God, the mountain, would be revealed.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 82

 

Day 82 – March 19, 2020  

 

Read:

Isaiah 5:1-7, The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard

When you read the passage it may strike you as very familiar.  It is – that’s because you read it a few days ago in Mark 12:1-12, where Jesus quoted this familiar story.  Jesus out a leadership twist on the parable, pointing out the failure of the tenants.

 

Isaiah’s version doesn’t talk about the tenants.  It addresses the “fruit” of the vineyard.  God is saying, I planted an amazing vineyard.  It had everything you could ever need.  It is reminiscent of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden.  God had created a beautiful garden with all they needed for a rich and full life.  But Adam and Eve were tempted.  The temptation was not so much to eat the forbidden fruit, it was a temptation for them to want to be God.  We get that.  We want so badly to control our lives.  We think we are wise and know what should happen. 

 

I shudder to think how many bad choices I have made in my life.  There were of course the times when I was a teen and made some silly choices and a couple of dangerous choices.  Who thought it was a good idea to ride with two people on a bicycle, who were not wearing helmets, to ride down the 50th street hill as fast as we could….in the dark!  There have been times when I have not chosen the way of love, but the way of gossip or triangulation.  There have been times when I “pilfered away my time” in the words of John Wesley.  Sometimes I have held onto anger and nursed hurt.

 

What about you?  What choices and decisions do you regret?

 

The vineyard yielded not grapes that were good for eating or making wine.  It yielded wild grapes, literal sour grapes. 

 

The first part of the book of Isaiah is often called “First Isaiah”.  It is made up of chapters 1-12.  In this section the prophet is calling out Judah’s faults and failings and the ways they have wandered away from God.  Israel was divided into the northern kingdom (known as Israel) and the southern kingdom (known as Judah). 

 

The latter parts of Isaiah will talk about the coming of the Messiah.  Isaiah does not leave us sitting in the rotten mess of grapes we have made.  Isaiah brings us hope!

 

 

Music:

Let It Breathe On Me

 

LET IT BREATHE ON ME (1942)
Words & Music: Magnolia Lewis-Butts —
Harmony/Arranger: W. O. Hoyle

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.

While I’m working Lord in your vineyard here,
I can do naught if thou aren’t near.

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.

When the pathway Lord I cannot see,
When the way is dark, Lord, breathe on me.

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.

 

 

 

Prayer Focus:

This would be a great time to talk to God about the wild grapes, you have sown.  Consider asking God to help you let go of the “sour grapes” you have held onto.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 81

 

Day 81 – March 18, 2020  

 

Read:

Mark 12:18-27  The Question about the Resurrection

It’s important to remember that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.  The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection.

 

The Sadducees in this story are trying to trip Jesus up by asking an absurd question about who a woman will have been married to several different brothers.  After she became a widow, she was married to one brother and then the next and so on.  So the Sadducees want to know who she will be married to at the time of the resurrection.  They don’t really want to know.  They just want to prove to Jesus that believing in the resurrection is silly and problematic.

Jesus tells them the resurrection isn’t about being married or not.  It’s about the promise of God being fulfilled.

 

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. 

 

I like what New Testament scholar N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”[1]

 

You may enjoy this interview with author Anne Lamott. 

Anne Lamott on Easter, NPR Interview

 

 

Music:

Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise – Charles Wesley

Redeemer – Nicole C. Mullen

 

Prayer Focus:

In the midst of these scary times, what does the resurrection mean to you?

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] ― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


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Running with Mark – 80

 

Day 80 – March 17, 2020  

 

Read:

Mark 12:13-17

This is an excerpt from my sermon on March 15, 2020.

“Bring me a coin and let me look at it.”  Someone pulls one from out of their coin pouch.

 

Jesus says, “Whose head is this”?  “What is his title?”

 

Remember a few weeks back when we talked about the Ten Commandments?  Commandment #2 says, You shall not make for yourself an idol – a graven image.  No carved gods of any size, shape or form.  Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them, because I am God, your God.

 

These religious leaders, these excellent keepers of the law, were violating the second commandment by having these coins. 

 

Whose head is on that coin?”  Caesar’s of course.

A better translation than head is the word icon.  Your phone has little icons for all the different apps you have. 

 

The coin, that icon, represented Caesar.

 

Jesus says to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s”.  You’ve probably heard it as “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God’s

 

GIVE BACK.

Everything hinges on the word “GIVE”.  A much better, and much more literal translation of the word “GIVE” is to GIVE BACK. 

 

Give back to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s.  

 

Jesus is so great at making his point.

That coin has Caesars image on it. 

It’s a little piece of metal. 

That’s all it is. 

Caesar made it.  Caesar minted it.  So give it back. 

That coin is NOT WHO YOU ARE.

 

Give back to the empire the things of the empire.

Give back the idolatry.

Give back the unfair system of Caesar.

Give back the unjust taxes.

Give back the corruption .

Give back the greed.

Give back the violence and the war.

Give it all back to Caesar.

 

And…

 

GIVE BACK TO GOD the things that are God’s. 

 

What belongs to God? Everything God created.
Who belongs to God? Everyone.

 

It’s almost like Jesus is pleading with the Pharisees, sending them a not-so-subtle message…RETURN TO GOD.  You’ve gotten off track!

 

It’s as if Jesus is saying to the people in the crowd….

GIVE YOURSELF BACK TO GOD.

 

You can give this little, tiny insignificant coin back to Caesar.

But this big thing.YOUR LIFE.Give IT BACK TO GOD.

Return it to God.

All of it.

Don’t hold anything back.

Return all your life; your hopes, your dreams, your struggles, your sins, your failures.  GIVE IT ALL BACK TO GOD.

 

You may live in Caesar’s world,

but this world, Caesar’s world, is not your home. 

Your home is with God.

 

Whose image, whose likeness was on the coin?  Caesar’s.

 

Whose image, whose likeness do you bear?  God’s.

You were created in the image of God.

You are adopted children of God.

You were meant to live in the kingdom of God.

 

Music:

Give Me a Clean Heart – Greater Mount Calvary Church Choir

 

Prayer Focus:

What do we choose to give to the empire?  What do we give back to God?

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 79

 

Day 79 – March 16, 2020  

Read:

Psalm 86:8-13

I received a really great question, and a suggestion.  A blog reader wrote asking why the Psalms are included in the Narrative Lectionary.  Here’s a brief introduction:

The Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. On the Sundays from September through May each year the texts follow the sweep of the biblical story, from Creation through the early Christian church.

The texts show the breadth and variety of voices within Scripture. They invite people to hear the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the prophets, Jesus, and Paul. Listening to the many different voices within Scripture enriches preaching and the life of faith.[1]

 

Every Sunday the main reading will come from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) or the New Testament.  Along with that primary reading, there is a secondary reading, usually a Psalm.  The readings from the Psalm are meant to supplement what we are reading.  Psalms are also important because they are the prayers that Jesus would have memorized and prayed.  He often quoted Psalms in his teaching and his stories. 

 

Along with the question, came a suggestion that we do a series on the Psalms. I love that idea and will get a four-week sermon series on the Psalms planned.  There are many types of Psalms including:

  • Lament
  • Hymns of Praise
  • Thanksgiving
  • Wisdom
  • Royal

For today, here is the reading of the day, which is a selection of Psalm 86 from my favorite Psalmist – Nan Merrill. 

No one is like You, O Mighty One,

all of creation belongs to You.

All the nations are under your authority

and, one day,

they will acknowledge and reverence You;

they will give praise to your Sacred Name.

For You are great; we are awed by the

wonders of your world,

You alone are the Most High.

 

Teach me your ways, Mighty Counselor,

that I may walk in truth;

write my name upon your Heart.

I give You thanks, O Beloved,

with my whole being;

O, that I might radiate your Light

forever!

Great is your steadfast Love toward

those who call upon You;

You deliver their souls from

the depths of despair.[2]

 

 

 

 

Music:

Search My Heart – Houston

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

 

Prayer Focus:

Health care workers, first responders, child-care providers, food shelf operators and all who are working together for the good of the community during this Covid 19 crisis.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_faqs.aspx

 

[2] Merrill, Nan C. Psalms for Praying: an Invitation to Wholeness. New York: Continuum, 2008.

 


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Running with Mark 78

 

 

Day Seventy– Eight – March 15, 2020  

 

Read:

Mark 12:1-17.   This story takes place on Tuesday of Holy Week. 

On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly , O daughter of Zion!  Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and riding on a donkey” said the Old Testament prophet Zechariah.  (ZE 9:9)
 

On Monday Jesus went to the temple.  There he saw the moneychangers taking advantage of people, gouging faithful pilgrims who had come to worship.  Jesus became angry and turned over the tables of the money changers.

 

On Tuesday he returned to the temple to teach.  The Chief Priests and the Elders questioned his authority.  Jesus answered their accusation by telling them the parable you read in Mark 12:1-12. 

Montreal, Canada – May 8, 2019: Sun Life Building, erected in 1913 – 1931, had the largest square footage in the British Empire at the time.

In his telling of the parable of the Tenants, Jesus uses Scripture, and it is Scripture that the Chief Priests, Elders and all faithful Jews would have known well.  He starts out with “A man planted a vineyard” which comes from the book of Isaiah 5:1-6.

 
As you read the parable, imagine being the religious leaders. 
What would they have heard? 
Who was the landowner?
Who were the tenants? 
Who were the servants who were sent to retrieve the fruit of the harvest,  but were beaten and killed? 
Who is the son whom the landowner thinks they will respect? 

Jesus asks them, “What will the vineyard owner do?”  He will come and destroy the tenants.  The religious leaders knew the parable was directed at them.

 

It’s important to know that this passage is aimed not at the faithful body of Judaism, it is aimed at the religious leaders.  Sadly, this parable is sometimes used to make broad anti-semitic pronouncements on all Jewish people.

 

What learnings do you take from this parable?

 

Music:

Christ is Made the Sure Foundation

Cornerstone by Hillsong

 

 

Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about times when you have been hypocritical.     

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 77

 

Day Seventy– Seven – March 14, 2020  

 

Read:

Mark 11:27-33 New Revised Standard Version

The chief priest, the scribes and the elders are trying to pin Jesus down.  They are looking for a reason to call him out as a false prophet, a false Messiah.  In today’s reading they question his authority.  Where did it come from? 

 

Authority.  It is important.  The internet if flooded with news reports from a million different sources.  If it is a source I do not recognize, I question the authority of the article.  During election season, questioning the authority of a statement or report is a good thing because of the danger of bots, trolls and cyber-attacks. 

 

Social media is flooded with links to sites that guarantee quick weight loss, or new ways to cure disease.  It’s difficult to know what is truly a new medical advancement, and which is somebody out to make money off of hurting, scared people.

 

True Authority

This morning I was listening to a show on MPR with some horticulturists from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.  They were giving advice on how to cultivate bee-friendly lawns.  They answered questions about keeping rabbits and deer away from your gardens.  Callers phoned in with their questions and the authorities answered them.  I found that I did trust these authorities.  Why?  In part because of their credentials and training, but more than that, I trusted them because they lived in Minnesota.  They understood our unique gardening challenges.  They knew the diseases our plants get, the bugs that eat them, and the challenge of weather.

 

Jesus has authority in my life because he was like those extension service agents.  He came to live here among us.  He knows our struggles, our sins, our diseases, our hopes and our fears.  Because of the incarnation, I trust in Jesus’ authority to forgive sin, to heal, to teach, to

 

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

 

Music:

All Yours – Chris Tomlin

Greater Than Great – Tommy Walker  Check out the amazing piano on this song!

 

 

Prayer Focus:

What authority does God have in my life?

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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