IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

wavesandlighthouse

“GOD is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

Many people say they don’t like change.  Well, let me tell you, life is all about change.  I’m used to change.  I grew up moving from place to place due to my father being a pastor.  So, every few years, we’d pack up our stuff and move to another town/community where my dad was called to pastor at a particular church.  I learned to adapt to change.  Some change is good and some not good, but one thing is for certain, there will always be change.

Those who don’t like change are comfortable with the familiar.  But, those who don’t mind change, see it as a growing experience.  Some change happens over an extended period of time.  In cases like that, it makes it easier to handle.  In other cases, change comes suddenly; without warning.  It’s those types of changes that bothers people.  They’re hit between the eyes with the unexpected detour.  They were going down the path of life with certain goals in mind and never giving thought to “what if”, and then suddenly, it all changes.  We all do it.  It’s easy to get in a set routine and live our life as if we’re promised our next breath.  But, that is never a promise we’re given.

My family had to deal with the death of two loved ones in the same week last month.  But, there was a difference in the two.  One was my mom.  She spent a little over a month going from hospital, to rehab, back to the hospital, until she was eventually sent home under hospice care.  We knew once she went home that there was going to be a future change.  A change in family gatherings.  A change in how things would be at home when we went to visit after she passed.  We, in our minds, began to prepare for that change.  We were given time to grieve even though she was still with us.

The second was my brother-in-law.  He was killed in a car accident four days before my mom passed.  We had his funeral on a Friday and mom passed the next day.  Life for my sister and their five kids changed in the blink of an eye.  Life for his parents and his sisters changed in the blink of an eye, too.  It’s times like this that remind us that we need to appreciate our family and loved ones.

And change isn’t just about the passing of someone we love.  It could be the sudden loss of a job.  One day you do life as normal and the next day you’re wondering “How am I going to pay the bills?”  Or, it could be the loss of your house due to fire or natural disaster.  One day you have a nice warm bed with a roof over your head.  The next day you’re living in a hotel or with family because you’re house is gone.  Or, it could be the dreaded cancer diagnosis or a sudden heart attack.  You’re going through life as usual, now you’re faced with the reality that you are now fighting for your life and wondering if/how you’re going to make it through.  Or, you come home to have your spouse say, “I don’t love you anymore.  I want a divorce.”  What do you do now?

It’s in these “blink of an eye” moments that we need to have a refuge to run to.  We may think we can handle whatever comes our way, but when the rubber meets the road, when that moment finally hits, we find out that we’re not as strong as we think we are.  Those who have their hope and trust in God and have experienced those “blink of an eye” moments have found unexplained peace and comfort that only He can give.  I’m not saying we don’t express emotions.  I’ve lost jobs before and went home crying wondering how I was going to pay my bills with no income.  And we all have grieved the loss of friends and family because we feel the pain of their absence.  Yes, we still feel and express emotions of pain and loss, that’s just human nature.  But, in the midst of those times of crying and feelings of grief, God, like a mother bird sheltering her babies from the storm with her wings, will cover us with His peace and comfort.  It’s His strength that carried us through those times that our life had changed “in the blink of an eye”.  So, when we find that life has suddenly changed, we mustn’t think “How am I going to fix this?” or “How can I get through this?”, it’s not for us to fix or to handle on our own.  God never intended for us to handle life on our own.  He wants us to depend upon Him to guide us through the storms of life.  And He will.  He won’t abandon His children when we most need Him.  We just have to stop looking inside of ourselves for the strength because we don’t have it.  It is only by His strength we are able to endure the storms of life.

 

 

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ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 3

salvation

In these blogs I have been discussing the Doctrine of Election.  People have many objections to the Doctrine of Election–“man was born with free will and salvation is their choice” or “if God already knows who will be saved, then there’s no reason to evangelize.”  Another question people may ask is, “Well if God has already chosen those who will be saved, then doesn’t that mean that they are saved against their will?”  No!!!  God is not going to drag people into His Kingdom kicking and screaming.  But I do believe that when the Holy Spirit begins to draw and convict people of their sin, I believe that He also conforms their will to God’s.  Their desires change.  Instead of being satisfied with living in the state of their sin, they realize how unsatisfying and empty that life is, and they desire to give their life to Christ because only He can satisfy and give them eternal life.  That’s not to say that life will be problem-free and everything goes their way, but it means that no matter what life throws at them, they have immeasurable peace through Christ and that they can depend on Him in all things.  What about those who reject Christ?  Why do they reject Him?  They reject Christ because their minds have not been opened to the truth of the Gospel.  There has been no drawing or conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds and to conform their will to God’s.  Because when you think about it, whose will is stronger, ours or God’s?  God, in His Sovereignty, has chosen whom He will save.  Look back at Acts 13:48 where it says “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”.  What God has predestined from before the foundation of the world, will come to pass.
There is a term used in the Bible, “born-again”.  This means that a person is re-born spiritually.  When we are born into this world physically, we are spiritually dead.  We come into this world sinners.  But God made a way for us to be “born again” spiritually and that is through the death of Christ on the cross and His gift of salvation.  How many of us were given a choice as to what family we’re born into?  None.  We didn’t pick who our parents would be.  Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”   In cases of adoption, the child isn’t the one who chooses the parents, the parents choose the child, just as in the case of natural birth, we didn’t choose who our parents would be.  This is the same with spiritual birth and adoption.  There are countless people who are walking around  professing to be Christians, but I believe they are not.  They’ve been sold a bill of goods.  They’ve been told “just walk the aisle, say this prayer, sign this card, get baptized and you are saved.”  I don’t think this is done intentionally, but I believe many have bought into the teaching that all it takes is to say a little prayer, get baptized, and they’re safe.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” There will be a lot of sad people who will stand before God and realize that they were never saved.
I guess after reading these three blogs, people would label me a Calvinist.  But my intention isn’t to gain a label.  The only label I want is that of Christian.  My intention is to study and dig and learn what the Scriptures say.  And I believe that it is the duty of every Christian to interpret and understand the Scriptures correctly!!!  I don’t want to be labeled a Calvinist but I guess that will happen whether I want it to or not.  All I want is to know and understand the Scriptures the way they were intended.  People will disagree with what was said here, but they aren’t disagreeing with me, they’re disagreeing with Scripture.  And I hope that this will begin to stir up questions in their minds and cause them to look closer and deeper at what the Bible says.  I heard a saying once, “Question everything”.  In this particular instance, don’t question Scripture, but question what you’ve been taught and see if it lines up with Scripture.

INTELLECT vs. EMOTIONALISM

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As a Christian woman I am offended by the so-called women’s Bible studies and teachers that are available to us.  The landscape is littered with many women’s teachers whose studies and conferences are geared toward our emotions and not our intellect.  I realize that we are the more emotional gender, but to ignore our intellect is just downright offensive.  It’s as if they’re saying we’re not smart enough to understand theology.

In the past I went through a few Beth Moore studies and conferences, and each time, I came away thinking something was wrong with me because I got nothing out of them.  Her worship services were emotionally charged and her studies didn’t explain biblical text at all.  She found a way to make the stories and scriptures about us.  I don’t do emotional fluff.  I’m not saying I’m not an emotional person.  I can get pretty emotional at times.  But when it comes to studying the Bible, I don’t want emotional fluff.  I don’t want someone to tell me what THEY think the scripture means about us.  I want to know what GOD meant when He gave us His Word.  That is why I got nothing out of Beth Moore.  I went in wanting to learn the truth of God’s Word but instead got emotional goo.  Once we know and understand what scripture teaches, once we understand why God did what He did, and why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins, then we can respond with the proper emotion.

The number of true women’s Bible teachers are very small.  Two that come to mind are Nancy Guthrie (http://www.nancyguthrie.com/) and Susan Heck (http://www.withthemaster.com/).  These two women go through the Bible and explain what the verses mean (God’s interpretation), not what they think they mean.  If you’re interested in their studies, they both have podcasts you can listen to.  Nancy’s is “Help Me Teach The Bible” and Susan’s is “With The Master”.  No emotional goo, just straight up Bible study.

So, I’ll pass on the ladies conferences.  If I want emotional, I’ll find some chick flick to watch.  When it comes to Bible studies, I prefer those that challenge me to increase my knowledge of the Bible.  Give me the Greek and Hebrew words and what they mean so that I can understand it better.  You can keep the Kleenex.

SPIRITUAL ADULTERY

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In the book of Hosea, we read how God commanded the prophet, Hosea, to take the prostitute, Gomer, to be his wife.  I’m sure Hosea had some questions as to the validity of this request.  But, he did as God commanded and married Gomer.  She bore him 3 children and after a time, she left Hosea and began prostituting herself.  After a period of time, God told Hosea to go find Gomer, and buy her back and take her home.  Many use this story of Hosea and Gomer to talk about faithfulness in marriage, but God used this story to show how Israel (represented by Gomer) had been unfaithful to God (represented by Hosea) and how God was going to redeem Israel (through the death of Jesus Christ).  Ironically, the origin of the name Hosea comes from the same name that Joshua comes from and both of those mean, “Savior” or “Salvation”.

When we hear the term “adultery”, our minds automatically think of one spouse cheating on another.  But, just as the story of Hosea reveals, there is another kind of adultery and that is spiritual adultery.  Every single one of us has committed some form of spiritual adultery.  Remember how it used to be when you first came to know Christ?  You read your Bible, you prayed, you were at church every time the doors opened.  But, somewhere along the way, something caught your attention away from all that.  At one time, you couldn’t get enough of God’s Word.  Now, your Bible is gathering dust on your nightstand or you tossed it in the backseat of your car and hasn’t been touched in weeks or months.  You can’t even remember the last time you prayed.  And now attending church is just one more thing to check off your weekly list instead of something you feel privileged to do.  We have all done it.  Why is that?  Because we are like Gomer.  We are unfaithful.  It doesn’t matter what it is that draws us away from God, the root problem is self-centeredness.  Just as Gomer thought she could do better than Hosea and went out looking to satisfy her needs through other men, we, too, go out looking for something other than God to satisfy us.  It could be a job.  It could be a hobby.  Sometimes, it’s just ourselves that we’re worshipping.  We’d rather live our lives the way WE want to instead of how God wants us to.  We have made ourselves to be an idol and are living in spiritual adultery.

But, thankfully, because we belong to God, He will only let us hang out so long in that state and He will bring us back to Himself.  We may have to hit rock bottom before we realize that the idol of our own making was leaving us unfulfilled and wanting, and that God, who redeemed us through His Son Jesus, is all we need.  God is and will always be faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are to Him.

CARTOON CHRISTIANITY

Looneytunes

I’ll probably get hate mail for this but it’s just the way I feel.  I cannot stand seeing Christian quotes and Facebook memes using cartoon characters.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but as I’ve gotten older and a bit deeper in my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, doctrine, and theology, I see them as juvenile, foolish, and very irreverent.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no “stick in the mud”.  I don’t mind passing some time away watching the old Looney Tunes or Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Heck, it’s what I grew up on!  My favorite comic strips are Peanuts, B.C., Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and the old Bloom County.  They’re entertaining.  But, when I see cartoon characters being used to spread the gospel, it just rubs me the wrong way.  God is no cartoon character (although atheists would disagree).  He’s the Almighty Creator of the universe.  He deserves our upmost reverence in how we live and how we worship Him.  To me, it belittles God when we reduce His message of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness down to a cartoon character.

But, that’s just me.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT GRACE?

grace

GRACE–the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

PATIENCE–the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset or angry

Over the years since the gospel has become more man-centered, we have seen the slow, painful demise of showing grace to those around us.  It’s everywhere.  “It’s all about me!!”  Or, “How dare he be late.  Doesn’t he know how valuable my time is?”  Driving a car?  Oh boy, talk about your lack of patience and grace!!  Oh sure, we talk about the grace that God showed us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We’re ALL about that grace!  Why wouldn’t we be?  I mean, there we were, filthy, vile, wretched sinners, but God, because of His love for us, sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment for our sins.  We did not deserve one ounce of that grace.  Not one.  But yet, we are so thankful that He did that instead of leaving us where we were.

Sadly, we aren’t so quick to show grace to our fellow believers.  I know how I used to be.  Very low on patience and just as low on grace.  I think those two go hand in hand.  If we’re low on patience, we certainly can’t be gracious.  And I still have those moments where I’m not practicing either one.  Believers should be the poster children of patience and grace, but sometimes, I think we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to extend those to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Are our needs, wants, and desires that much more important that those around us should cater to them instead of remembering that we, too, aren’t any better than they are?  Is our time that much more valuable than theirs?  Do we think we are more deserving of God’s grace than they are?  We tend to make excuses and justify our lack of patience and grace.  We point out how that “stupid driver cut us off!”  We get frustrated when people don’t seem to do things our way.  “Yeah, but……”  Yeah, but, nothing.  Again…..NONE of us deserved the free grace God gave us but He gave it anyway.  We are to follow Christ’s example in how we treat our fellow believers even if we think they don’t deserve it.

If God saw fit in His love to extend to us and our other brothers and sisters in Christ free grace through Jesus Christ, why are we less willing to show grace to each other?  Do we think so much more highly of ourselves that they aren’t worthy of our grace?  We sure love and appreciate the grace God showed to us, but to have to show it to our fellow Christians??  Well, that’s just asking a little too much……according to some people.  If we take our focus off ourselves and onto Christ, we would find it easier to be gracious and kind and patient.

CHRISTIANITY LOSING ITS MEANING?

set apart

 

We all read or heard the news of the man who went on Facebook Live and shot an elderly man in cold blood just because he was upset over circumstances in his life.  The man he murdered wasn’t anyone he knew.  He picked him out at random and decided to end his life just because.  Then we heard the news a couple days later of how he turned the gun on himself when the cops finally caught up with him.  His mother was quoted as saying that her son was “a good Christian person……he just snapped….”.  Now, I’m not here to judge this man’s salvation.  The Bible plainly states that it’s not for us to say if someone is a Christian or not.  Only God knows a person’s heart.  But, when I read his mother’s comments, I just had to ask myself, “Really?  Was he TRULY a Christian?  Because it seems to me that his actions and the motivations for his actions don’t reveal someone who would profess to be a Christian.”

There was a time many, many, MANY years ago when you could tell the difference between those who were truly Christians and those who weren’t.  I know as Christians we still sin.  We still battle our sinful flesh on a daily basis.  We will still do things that go against what we claim to be.  But, it seems in recent decades that people have lowered the standard of what it means to be a Christian.  I live in what is known as the Bible Belt, but in all honesty, I don’t think many churches these days in this region truly know and understand what being a Christian is all about.  1 Peter 2:9 says that Christians are a “chosen generation”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and “a people for His own possession.”  The KJV uses the phrase “a peculiar people” for the last one.  When the Bible uses the word “holy”, it means that we are SET APART.  It’s important to note that if YOU say you’re a Christian, then YOUR actions and how YOU live your life will be drastically different from those who aren’t.

These days, people like to THINK they’re Christian because they (a) joined a church and got their names on a church roll, (b) went to church as a child with grandma and grandpa, and, by golly, if mawmaw and pawpaw are Christians, then they are, too, (c) attend the local church on Christmas and Easter, or (d) they think, “I’m a red blooded American patriot and because America is a Christian nation, then that makes me a Christian, too!!”  And come political season….oh my goodness…..everyone running for a Republican office is suddenly a “Christian”!!  And church people eat that stuff UP!!!  “Oh, he/she says they’re a Christian so let’s vote for them.”  I know of a politician who was told to never step foot in church again if the only time he’s going to show up is during election time.  As far as I know, he had NO use for the church until it was time to try to get re-elected to his office.  To me, he was only making a showing for the Christians, but never identified as one until he needed to be one.

People……America may have started out as a Christian nation, but being an American doesn’t make you a Christian!!  Christianity started centuries before America was even a nation!  Christianity isn’t about which political party you vote for.  It’s not about making sure your name appears on the membership roll of the church two blocks down from your house.  It’s not showing up for the Christmas and Easter services like it’s some sort of thing you check off your list.  Being a Christian means that God, through His Holy Spirit, has regenerated you.  Regeneration means to be “born again”.  It means that God has taken your stone cold, hard heart and replaced it with a heart that now desires the things of God.  It’s living and acting in such a way that sets you apart from the world.  And the ONLY way that can happen is when God saves you.

The bar has been set low as far as Christianity is concerned.  Now days, the church proclaims a person a Christian just because they walked an aisle, signed a card, and got dunked in the baptistery.  Sadly, many of those who did that never darken the door of the church again because the church has told them that was all they needed to do.  Now we have “Christians” running around our country who were never really converted because they’re basing their salvation on something THEY did, and not on whether God has regenerated them.  Trust me on this.  I used to be one of them until God truly regenerated me.  I based my salvation on the fact I walked the aisle and got baptized when in actuality God had not changed my heart.

America really doesn’t understand what being a Christian means.  It’s sad to say, but it’s gotten to the point where other countries know and understand what Christianity is and are sending missionaries to us because we have gone so far off the path.  We have truly lost the meaning of what Christianity really is.

DOING BATTLE OR GIVING UP?

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The Christian life is not easy.  Contrary to what some popular television preachers preach to their congregations and those who watch them on the idiot box each week, being a Christian doesn’t mean life will be all roses and rainbows.

While it’s true that we don’t have a long list of rules to abide by, there are things we must do to help us grow and mature as Christians.  Our adversary, the devil, knows this and he will do what ever it takes to keep us from doing those things, thus, keeping us from growing and maturing in our faith.

I struggle with Bible reading and praying.  I can sit at my desk with earphones in my ears listening to different sermons while I’m working with no problem, but to sit down and try to read the Bible?  I would be asleep in no time.  Praying is hard, too.  It’s not that I don’t pray at all.  If/when a need arises for me or someone else, I can say a quick prayer, but to be a person who has a set time to do some serious praying?  My mind would so easily drift off to something else and I’d lose concentration on the task at hand.  And, many times, there’s just things I put ahead of my Bible reading and praying.  I know there’s no excuse and I need to remedy this situation.

The devil loves to make us useless.  He loves it when people give up.  He can put some kind of trial or adversity in our path and cause us throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do it anymore.  I give up.”  That is what his goal for us is.  When he sees that we no longer struggle to stay in the fight, he wins.  The Bible says we are to put on the whole armor of God.  Putting armor on doesn’t mean we’ll be taking a leisurely stroll through a pretty garden.  Putting on the armor means we are preparing to do battle every day.  We battle against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.  Forces that are working hard to keep us weak and useless so that we throw down our weapons and say, “I give up.”

What forces are you dealing with?  Are they the forces that seek to fill your head with lies that tell you that God can’t use you due to your past sins?  Are they forces that tell you that because you don’t read the Bible enough, or pray enough, or because you can’t understand what God’s Word says sometimes, then doing these things are useless?  Are they forces that tell you “You’re just too busy to have time for reading and praying”?

We must stay in the battle.  We must keep fighting.  If we lay our weapons down, we’re saying to the devil, “You win.”

 

PASSOVER

Passover

 

In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells us the story of how God delivered the Hebrew children out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  God, through his servant Moses, showed Pharaoh His power by sending many plagues–frogs, locusts, turning water into blood, darkness–just to name a few.  Each time, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to release the Hebrews so that they could go out and serve God in the wilderness.  The tenth and last plague was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.  God told Moses that He would send the Angel of Death and kill the first born of every living being, human and animal.  This was God pouring out His wrath upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
God also told Moses what to do to prevent the Angel of Death from killing any of the Hebrews.  They were to take a male lamb that was a year old and without any imperfections, and bring it into their home.  The lamb was to live with the family for four days.  After four days, they were to kill the lamb, take it’s blood and cover the 2 door posts and the lintel of the house in which the Passover meal would be eaten.  Then they would cook the meat and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This meal would be observed every year after that.
In the middle of the night, the Angel of Death swept through the land of Egypt killing the first born of every household that was not covered by the blood of the lamb.  When the Angel saw the blood covering the lintel and door posts, he passed over that house, thus giving this meal the name Passover.  Those who were covered by the blood were spared.
This event was a shadow of what Christ would do for those who are born again.  Jesus, the only Begotten Son, came to earth to be the Sacrificial Lamb because He was without imperfection (sinless).  He voluntarily went to the cross to die for our sins.  His shed blood covered over our sins so that we would not taste spiritual death.  Just as when the Angel saw the blood on the lintel and door posts and passed over, God looks upon us and sees the blood of Jesus and we are saved from His wrath.
The beauty of the Old Testament is that we can see the foreshadowing of Christ and what He did on the cross.  Because He was the ultimate sacrifice, He paid the debt for sin ONCE and FOR ALL which means we no longer needed to sacrifice every year.  His sacrifice saves us from God’s wrath.

Loved Before The Dawn of Time

This is a line in a song by Stuart Townend by the same name, also known as “Salvation’s Song”.  It is one of my all time favorites by him.  Sadly, there are not many GOOD worship/hymn song writers anymore.  There’s just too many 7/11 songs out there (same 7 words repeated 11 times…..it’s an exaggeration, but you get the gyst).  Anyway, I used this title as the point of this blog post.

Many in Protestant mainstream churches, I believe, do NOT fully understand or comprehend God’s love for them and His Elect.  Many a pastor have taught to his congregation, “if you do this, then God will save you.”  This type of thinking gives people the impression that WE have to do something in order for God to open up His arms and accept us as His children.  But that is sooooooooo far out in left field from what the Bible teaches.  Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”  Those are two AMAZING verses.  I mean, you can almost sum up the totality of the gospel with them.

First, it states that BEFORE the foundation of the world…..BEFORE God even spoke creation into existence, he had already chosen those whom He would save.  Before he said, “Let there be light”, He already KNEW whom He would save.  But for Him to do that, there had to be LOVE.  In the last part it says, “In love, He predestined us….”.  So, before the first star was ever hung in space, He already loved us.  Isn’t that awesome??

And why is this awesome?  Because not one of us had to do ANYTHING to deserve that love.  Why?  Because we weren’t BORN yet!!  God knew that there would be no way that we could live up to HIS standards of perfection so, because of His love, He came to earth as a man (Jesus Christ), and offered HIMSELF as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Why was He the ultimate sacrifice?  Traditional OT law stated that the sin sacrifice was to be a perfect, unblemished lamb.  No spots.  No diseases.  No defects.  So, because God is perfect, it is only natural that He would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

The other important thing to note is that not only did we NOT have to do anything to gain or earn His love (because He loved us before we were born), but we can’t do anything to make Him love us any less!!  We’re going to sin…..EVERYDAY!  But as God’s Elect, because we are covered in Christ’s righteousness; because He has wiped our slate clean, nothing we do or say will change His love for us.

NOTE:  THIS DOES NOT GIVE US LICENSE TO SIN WILLFULLY!!

The point of my post is this……who we are will NEVER change God’s love for us because we were loved before the first galaxy was created.  We will fail Him, that’s a given.  But, His love will NEVER fail us.  Ever!