• Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

  • Pray without ceasing. Give thanks always.

  • Let your light so shine.

  • The future is as bright as God’s promises.

  • His joy. Our strength.

Anchor

User-friendly devotionals with audio

  • Present in Every Place

    By Jewel Roque

    Jacob is a Bible character who brings to mind images of cheating and deceiving. The very name means “supplanter,”1 and that’s what he did to get what he perceived would be the best out of life.2

    Jacob’s smooth talking and timely cooking deceptively earned him the birthright of a firstborn son. Following his mother’s advice and dressing up like his brother got him the special blessing usually only given to the first son:

    “God will bless you, my son, with dew from heaven and with fertile fields, rich with grain and grapes. Nations will be your servants and bow down to you. You will rule over your brothers, and they will kneel at your feet. Anyone who curses you will be cursed; anyone who blesses you will be blessed.”3

    Looks like Jacob is all set. He got the birthright. He got the blessing.

    However, things didn’t turn out quite the way he expected. Within a short time of receiving his blessing, he was essentially an outcast, escaping for his very survival, his brother breathing out threats of hatred and revenge. He left for a land he’d never been to—the home of his mother’s relatives, not knowing what awaitedhim there. All the unexpected difficulties he was facing must have come together to form a gigantic question mark in his mind as he headed out alone.

    He stopped to rest for the night—the clothes he wore his only cover, a stone his pillow, the ground his bed. He fell asleep in weariness of body and emptiness of soul.

    And there he dreamt of a ladder that stretched all the way to heaven. Of angels ascending and descending to and from the presence of the Lord. God then speaks and gives Jacob a promise:

    “I am the LORD God who was worshiped by Abraham and Isaac. I will give to you and your family the land on which you are now sleeping. Your descendants will spread over the earth in all directions and will become as numerous as the specks of dust. Your family will be a blessing to all people. Wherever you go, I will watch over you, then later I will bring you back to this land. I won’t leave you—I will do all I have promised.”4

    When Jacob awakes, he says, “The Lord is in this place, and I didn’t even know it.”5

    The beautiful truth that we often fail to see is that the Lord is in every place. In every difficult experience. In every trying relationship. In every hard-to-understand individual. In every lonely place. In every tear we shed.

    He is there, reaching out, making Himself known through His expressions of love. A hopeful thought. An encouraging dream. A motivational word. A heart-warming hug. An unexpected friendship.

    In every moment that we find hope, and in each instance we feel grace, Christ is there saying, “I am with you in this place, and you are not alone.”

    Like Jacob, we might have done something that causes us to fear that we’ve fallen from grace, or that a dark spot is etched on our eternal record. But if you open your heart to His Word, you’ll find that Jesus is right there, whispering to your heart that there is a time to every purpose and season under heaven—even the difficult ones.6

    After all, He, whose essence is love, is the one who is present at every moment of your life. He is with you always, even to the end of the age, promising to bring life to every perceived death and bringing forth rainbows through the storm clouds.

    After hearing God’s promise, Jacob took his stone-pillow and set it up as a sort of altar. He then made a vow of his own, back to the Lord:

    “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”7

    It sounds like he wasn’t fully convinced, even after his vision of heavenly things. Aren’t we like that sometimes? We receive a promise or an answer to prayer, we see a miracle, or something turns out just the way we had hoped, and yet we’re still not quite sure that God has it all figured out from beginning to end.

    The amazing thing is, He takes us where we’re at and continually encourages us to follow, to increase our faith by keeping our eyes on Him and following Him step by step. As we do so, we discover that He does make good on His promises. We will be able to say, with Joshua, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”8

    After Jacob had lived and worked for his uncle Laban for twenty years, he began the journey back to his father’s house. Jacob can almost picture the look on his father’s face, his joy in having him home again. But what of his brother?

    Esau had vowed to kill him and clearly had wanted him dead. Had the two decades done anything to assuage his promise of vengeance? Suddenly, the future had never looked so uncertain, especially when after sending word to Esau of his return, Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him … with 400 men!

    Jacob prays: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”9

    He reminds God of the promises He had made; but, fearing that those promises might not be enough, he makes plans. He prepares a gift for his brother, Esau: 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 female camels with their young, 50 cows, and 30 donkeys. Jacob sends these flocks, with their caretakers, in the direction of his quickly approaching brother, hoping that perhaps these gifts will suffice to appease Esau and keep him from doing them harm. Then Jacob sends his wives and sons and all his belongings across the stream of Jabbok. Now he’s alone, fearful, and realizes that there is nothing more he can do to plan and prepare and work things out.

    He begins to wrestle with God once more, and this time, it wasn’t just in prayer. The Bible tells us “a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” It wasn’t just a man. And Jacob refuses to let go, and even when his hip is wrenched out of its socket, he holds on tightly. The figure commands, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” Jacob’s answer? “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”10

    Twenty years earlier, Jacob received the blessing he had so long sought … through deception and lies. This time, he received the blessing he sought through holding on until morning, through wrestling past the point of exhaustion, through refusing to let go. Jacob not only received the blessing, but his name was changed to Israel—“a prince of God.”11 But it wasn’t an easy victory, and Jacob limped for the rest of his life.

    For so long, his life had been about calculating his next move, making decisions that would position him to come out on top. But this time, it had to be about clinging, holding on, even wrestling—not with man, but with God—and coming to realize that there’s only one way to win a decisive victory.—Through the power and blessings of God, which come only in His time and in His way.

    There’s no way of knowing Jacob’s mindset that night, but his life was never the same again. Perhaps that dislocated hip served as a reminder, for the rest of his life, of that strange and mysterious night. And no doubt it was another step on the road to faith in the God who always kept His promise to be with him every step of the way.

    I would venture to say that we all to some extent have that part of our nature that wants to have everything figured out. We want to be assured somehow that everything will work out as we hope and plan and dream for our future. However, God doesn’t work that way.

    We may wrestle with God, trying to convince Him of our plans and how we think things should work. But it’s only when our strength wanes and our arguments prove vain, at the dawning of a new morning, that we finally come to the realization that it’s not our plans that will come to fruition. It’s not our dreams that will glide beautifully across a golden sea. It’s not our strategies that will win the victory.

    It’s all about Him and the plans He has for our lives—the one whose promise never falters, no matter how grave the circumstances might appear to be. When He says, “Wherever you go, I will watch over you. I won’t leave you—I will do all I have promised,”12 we need to just trust, believe, and hold on to His promises.

    And God’s eternal promises and His plans for our future are better than our own plans any day.13


    2 Genesis 27:26.

    3 Genesis 27:28–29 CEV.

    4 Genesis 28:13–15 CEV.

    5 Genesis 28:16.

    6 Ecclesiastes 3:1.

    7 Genesis 28:20–22 NIV.

    8 Joshua 23:14 NIV.

    9 Genesis 32:9–12 NIV.

    10 Genesis 32:24, 26.

    11 Genesis 32:28.

    12 Genesis 28:15 NIV.

    13 Adapted from Just1Thing podcasts.

  • Jun 11 The Shepherd Psalm
  • Jun 8 The God Who Sees Me
  • Jun 7 Divine Guidance
  • Jun 4 The Joy of Jesus
  • Jun 2 Finding Peace in a Chaotic World
  • Jun 1 Decision-Making Blues
  • May 28 Growing My Faith in the Face of Death
  • May 25 Clothed with Christ
  • May 24 Raising Our Sails
   

Directors’ Corner

News, writings and thoughts from TFI Directors

  • Jesus—His Life and Message: John 14: The Helper

    John chapter 14, which we started going over in the previous article, continues with Jesus speaking to His disciples just prior to His arrest and trial. Earlier, He had spoken to them about believing in Him. He had also given the disciples a wonderful promise:

    Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.1

    While Jesus continued instructing His disciples, He changed the topic in verse 15 as He began to speak to them about the Holy Spirit.

    If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.2

    Jesus began this short segment with an “If” clause: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.3 He reminded His disciples that if they truly loved Him, their love would be shown by their keeping His commandments. He makes this point again in verse 21. His language echoes the language of the Old Testament, where God speaks of showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.4

    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.…5

    Soon, Jesus would no longer be physically with the disciples, but in His place, the Father was going to send another Helper who would remain with them permanently. In this translation (ESV, and also NAS and NAU), it says that the Father will send a Helper; other translations refer to a Comforter (KJV), Counselor (NIV, CSB), or Advocate (NLT, TNIV). The Helper will be with believers forever; the Holy Spirit will not be taken away.

    Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.6

    The Advocate is now referred to as the “Spirit of truth.” This is interesting, as Jesus had just described Himself as “the truth,” and earlier in this Gospel we read that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”7 Truth is connected to the Trinity.

    Jesus then contrasted the attitude of the world with that of the disciples when it comes to their attitude toward the Spirit. The world neither sees, meaning that they do not perceive, nor can they accept the Spirit. They are unaware of the Spirit’s activities, presence, or existence, and therefore they don’t enter into relationship with the Holy Spirit. However, believers do know the Holy Spirit because the Spirit dwells within them.

    Jesus went on to speak of the way He would manifest Himself to His disciples.

    I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.8

    Three times in this Gospel Jesus has spoken about going away from His disciples.9 Earlier in this chapter, He stated that after going away He would return. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.10 In that instance, His coming again is understood to be referring to His second coming. However, in this instance, when Jesus says the world will see me no more, but you will see me, He is speaking about His resurrection, His rising from the dead. Though He would die, He would also rise from the dead and once again physically be with His disciples.

    In saying yet a little while, Jesus indicated that He was not referring to events in the far future, but rather was speaking about what was to happen soon. After His soon-coming crucifixion, the world would see Him no more. However, in that day, after His resurrection, His disciples would see Him. In the book of Acts we are told that after Jesus rose from the dead, He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.11

    Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the guarantee that His disciples (and all future believers) would not be overcome by death. Because I live, you also will live. Since Jesus rose from the dead, all believers will live forever—a point that Jesus made earlier in this Gospel. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.12

    When saying, In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you, Jesus was referring to the literal day of His resurrection. Once the disciples saw the risen Jesus, and had spent 40 days with Him, they would understand more fully about Christ’s indwelling in the Father and the mutual indwelling of Christ and believers. Jesus was in His Father and the disciples were in Jesus as He was in them.

    Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.13

    Those who make Jesus’ commands their own, who take them into their hearts and souls, are the ones who love Him. He speaks not only of “having” the commandments but also of “keeping” them. This points to the importance of obeying Jesus’ teachings and making them part of our daily lives. Those who do are those who love Him, and those who love Him are loved by the Father. It is to these that Jesus says He will manifest Himself. He doesn’t explain this further, but makes the point that in some way He will manifest Himself to those who love Him.

    Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”14

    According to two lists of the disciples (Luke 6:14–17 and Acts 1:13), this Judas is referred to as the son of James. Some commentators say that he may be the same person as Thaddeus, who is mentioned in other lists of the apostles.15 This Judas asked a question that was probably on the minds of the others. He wanted to know what it meant that Jesus would manifest Himself to the disciples but not to the world. Judas likely had standard Jewish thinking in that he expected the Messiah to show his glory in the eyes of all the people, and it was sounding like something had changed.

    Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”16

    Earlier Jesus made the point that real love is expressed in deeds.

    If you love me, you will keep my commandments.17

    Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.18

    Those who love Jesus will keep His word, meaning that they obey His word in their daily lives, rather than just having knowledge of His word. He also stated that those who love Him and keep His word will be loved by the Father, and that both the Father and the Son will make our home with him. Such a home is not a temporary place to lodge, but a permanent dwelling. Jesus was saying that believers will experience the presence of God in their lives.

    Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.19 

    Jesus also pointed out the reverse or negative side. Those who don’t love Jesus will not keep His words, His teaching. This Gospel views love as something practical rather than as something emotional. Love involves obedience. Jesus stresses that His words, the things He teaches, are not His own but are the Father’s. He has said this several times throughout this Gospel.

    My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.20

    I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.21

    I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.22

    The Son, who was sent by the Father, delivers the Father’s message.

    (To be continued.)


    Note

    Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


    General Bibliography

    Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

    Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

    Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

    Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.

    Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.

    Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

    Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

    Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.

    Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.

    Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Brill Academic, 1999.

    Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.

    Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

    Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

    Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

    Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

    Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.

    Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

    France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

    Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

    Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

    Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

    Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

    Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

    Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.

    Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

    Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

    Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

    Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

    Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

    Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

    Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.

    Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.

    Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.

    McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

    Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

    Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

    Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

    Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

    Morris, Leon. Luke. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

    Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1960.

    Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

    Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

    Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.

    Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

    Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

    Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

    Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

    Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

    Stein, Robert H. The New American Commentary: Luke. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992.

    Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

    Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

    Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

    Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

    Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.

    Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

    Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

    Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

    Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

    Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

    Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

    Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.


    1 John 14:13–14.

    2 John 14:15–17.

    3 John 14:15.

    4 Exodus 20:6.

    5 John 14:16.

    6 John 14:17.

    7 John 4:23–24.

    8 John 14:18–20.

    9 John 13:33, 36; 14:2–4.

    10 John 14:3.

    11 Acts 1:3.

    12 John 6:57.

    13 John 14:21.

    14 John 14:22.

    15 Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18.

    16 John 14:23.

    17 John 14:15.

    18 John 14:21.

    19 John 14:24.

    20 John 7:16.

    21 John 8:28.

    22 John 12:49.

     

  • Jun 8 Jesus—His Life and Message: John 14: The Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Jun 1 Jesus—His Life and Message: Washing the Disciples’ Feet (Part 3)
  • May 25 Jesus—His Life and Message: Washing the Disciples' Feet (Part 2)
  • May 18 Jesus—His Life and Message: Washing the Disciples' Feet (Part 1)
  • May 11 Signs of the Times and Current Events
  • May 4 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Passover
  • Apr 20 Jesus—His Life and Message: Moving Toward His Passion and Death
  • Apr 13 Jesus—His Life and Message: The End of His Public Ministry
  • Apr 10 The Way He Sees You
   

Beliefs

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  • Our fundamental beliefs are generally in accordance with those held by Christians the world over; we also embrace some untraditional doctrines. Our application of the foundation principle of God’s Law of Love that Jesus taught—to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which He said fulfills “all the law and the prophets”—is a defining feature of our lives and our faith.

Mission

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  • The primary goal of the Family International is to improve the quality of life of others by sharing the life-giving message of love, hope, and salvation found in God’s Word. We believe that God's love—applied on a practical level to our daily lives—is the key to resolving many of society's problems, even in the complex and fast-paced world of today. Through imparting the hope and guidance found in the Bible’s teachings, we believe that we can work toward building a better world—changing the world, one heart at a time.

Values

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  • Diversity and innovation

    In ministry and mission service, creativity and personal initiative are highly valued. When God guides, and we take action to follow Him, anything is possible.

About TFI

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Latest Series

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Jesus—His Life and Message
Bedrock principles from the Gospels on which to build our lives.
Living Christianity
Applying the teachings of the Bible to our daily lives and decisions.
More Like Jesus
The development of Christlikeness in our lives.
Life Balance Check
Cultivating and nurturing a healthy, balanced life.

June 2021

Activated

Change your life — Change your world!