Preparing your Family to Celebrate Christmas

Advent is the season leading up to the birth of Jesus. It’s meant to be
a time of preparation, as we get ready to celebrate Jesus’ coming to our
world, and welcome Him again to our hearts. There are a variety of advent traditions…lighting advent candles, advent calendars, Elf on the Shelf, and so on. Our family has taken a traditional advent calendar with little doors for each day in December and put candy and a Bible verse in each day. Each evening we take turns reading the Scripture verse and passing out the chocolates. This is a fun tradition that has developed over the years to include tossing the candy toward each family member and lots of giggles and many questions and contemplative thoughts as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ. I am a firm believer in having fun with kids as much as possible. We have fun with school work, fun with chores, and fun as we learn about Jesus. My encouragement to you is to develop a family advent tradition that balances truth and silliness!! Take a look at your current tradition. Is it really fun but not focused on Jesus? Keep the fun, add a focus on Christ. Is your current tradition focused on Jesus but not very fun? Add a little bit of fun as you prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Here are some sections of Scripture that would work great for a weekly devotional. Read through the Bible verses. Ask some questions to ensure understanding. Reflect on what it means to each family member.

1. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
2. Matthew 1:18-24
3. Luke 1:26-33
4. Luke 2:1-14
5. Matthew 2:1-12
Below are our daily verses for our advent calendar. Feel free to copy and past into a word document and use for your own traditions if you’re looking for ideas.
Please share your ideas for advent traditions in your family.

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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 December 1
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Luke 1:26-27 December 2
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Luke 1:28-29 December 3
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Luke 1:30-33 December 4
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:34-37 December 5
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:38 December 6
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:18-19 December 7
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Matthew 1:20-21 December 8
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:22-23 December 9
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:24-25 December 10
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Luke 2:1-3 December 11
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
Luke 2:4-5 December 12
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Luke 2:6-7 December 13
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:8-9 December 14
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Luke 2:10-12 December 15
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:13-14 December 16
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:15-16 December 17
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Luke 2:17-18 December 18
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Luke 2:19-21 December 19
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Matthew 2:1-2 December 20
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:3-6 December 21
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:7-8 December 22
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Matthew 2:9-10 December 23
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
Matthew 2:11-12 December 24
11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

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SPORTS FIELD = MISSION FIELD

steph and owenAs I head out the door I leave some instructions. “Make sure your rooms are clean.” “Play nicely with each other.” “Do not use the stove.” As my kids step out of the car on the school campus I have some instructions. “Don’t forget how much I love you.” “Be a good friend.” Remember who you are and who you belong to.” “Watch out for that mud puddle.” These are some great commissions. When Jesus left the earth he left The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 states, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As we take this great commission and live it out in real life, it takes on a variety of forms. Let’s not get stuck on the word “go” and assume that we need to take a big trip or go far away in order to fulfill this instruction. Surely, international missions are a part of this. However, “all nations” includes the one you live in!! The way I am called to live my life and lead my kids to live is to fully embrace the fact that where we live our life is our mission field. Where do I live my life? Well, I am a mom to 3 kids and I am a pastor at a church. My role at the church is in the area of Family Ministries. Therefore, families are my mission field. My role with my kids places me at two different schools as they are currently in 5th, 7th and 9th grades. My mission field includes public schools, sport fields, grocery stores, an orthodontist office and my own home as I have kids and families continually revolving through our doors. Where is your mission field? Remember, your mission field is where you live your life, where you spend most of your time.
The mission field that I would like to look at today is the soccer field. When I say soccer field, translate that to foot ball, cheer leading, baseball, dance studios, swimming pools or wherever it happens that you spend a lot of time. A little less than a year ago I wrote a post entitled “Sports vs. Church.” http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2013/11/22/sports-vs-church/. I had been writing my little blog for a couple of years and had an audience of about 30 people. Sometimes I would get likes and comments on articles, honestly mostly from my mom and my best friends. This particular post hit a nerve! It has been read by over 750,000 people and received over 1,000 comments. These comments ranged from people who completely agree with my position that we need to protect our kids’ commitment to the church community and prioritize worship over a sports commitment to people who vehemently disagreed that church had any value whatsoever.
One point that was made in the comments repeatedly was that we could have “church” on the soccer field. This would be a great opportunity to reach out to those who don’t yet know Jesus by being a part of a sport community. While I stand my ground that being a part of a church community in a consistent manner is important for the growth of disciples(followers of Jesus) of any age and vitally important for the development of kids and youth, I also completely embrace the notion that we should “be the church” in the sports world. You can do both. You can prioritize connecting with your church family once or twice a week and still have the rest of the week to connect with those who may not now Jesus yet through youth sports. Here’s a post that speaks to the importance of connecting to your church family while fulfilling the great commission: http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2014/02/14/332/.
What I have seen works the very best to lead others to Jesus, both in the Bible and in my life, is something called “relational evangelism.” This is the opposite of what many think of when they think about evangelism. When I hear the word evangelism, I instantly think of strangers telling other strangers about Jesus. This works for some people. What works for me is to build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus yet and live my life with them as friends. Through that friendship they can see the example of the way that God has worked and moved in my life and there are opportunities to share, invite and pray with your friends that will come up naturally as you go about normal life. Relational evangelism is slow and often hard to see progress…kind of like planting a garden. These friendships do not solely revolve around sharing Jesus. They are real friendships that involve fun, conversations and shared activities. Your life reflects Jesus naturally if your life is centered on the things of God. I do not go out on a hunt for friends who need Jesus. I put myself in environments where there are people who don’t know Jesus and allow time and space for relationships to naturally develop. That is how I “go” into all the nations.
Okay, so as for how to be missional on the sport field that you find yourself on. I have a few ideas that we have tried over the years. I’d love to hear some things that have worked for you.
SIT: Position your chair near people you don’t know and be open to starting a conversation. You may need to put down your phone or book so that you are available.
COACH: Volunteer to coach a team. You will get to know the families and kids on a whole different level. Full disclosure: My husband and I have never coached a team. We are not athletic people. To be honest, I don’t really know how to kick, throw, catch or hit a ball. I grew up doing gymnastics…no balls involved! While this is not a fit for all, it is an idea for some who may be wired or skilled to coach.
INVITE: Invite kids from the sport team to birthday parties, barbecues, or church events. Invite families to grab some ice cream after the game. Invite families to carpool or ride together to distant games. Relationships can be birthed on the field, but will develop in other environments.
LISTEN: Listen to your new friends to meet them where they are. Listen to God for promptings as to when to speak up and when to just listen.
There are some of my thoughts on how the sport field can be a mission field. What are your ideas?

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Equipping Families for purposeful routine for Your Church

As families are poised to launch into the school year with a new schedule and routine, the church at the same time is launching into a new season of ministry. Many new events launch in September around here. Our church really moves with the school calendar even for those without kids in school. As you are busily working to launch new ministries and programs in your church, I’d like to stop and think about how we can equip families to take advantage of this change in season to build in some routines that will help them grow closer to Jesus on purpose. I will speak for myself in the fact that I often get so busy during this season planning and preparing for all of the events that will be happening at the church that I often forget to think about what is going on in the homes. The Family Discipleship Path is all about the church and the families working together to guide children and youth toward adulthood with healthy relationships with God and their family.

Here are a few ideas that I’m working on:

Anchors: An anchor is something that you see or feel that reminds you of something that you learned. An anchor will help kids have something that will remind them of the lesson but not just to think about it but to do something in response to what they learned. Are there any anchors that you can send home?

Scripture Verses: I have had many families tell me that they want to read scripture with their kids and memorize verses as a family but they don’t know where to start. Can you send info to parents with some ideas of where to go in Scripture that will help to connect church and families together as they are focusing on the same truths?

Time: Families today are overscheduled!!! I know this is breaking news that you’re hearing for the first time…nope, just kidding. We know this, families are too busy. Family Discipleship is falling off of plates as we fill them up with everything else. Take a minute to make sure that you are not contributing to the over busyness of your families. Is there anything on the church calendar that could be replaced by times of Family Discipleship?

I’d love to hear some of your ideas. What are you doing in your church to equip families? What are some anchors you have used?portland2

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Taking Inventory for Your Church

rainforestA few years ago I attended a conference for Children’s Pastors. There was a concept that I had been taught before but really needed the reminder in that moment. As church leaders, we are not to add programming to our ministry areas just to add programming. We need to answer the questions, “Who is this for?” and “What’s the purpose?” Out of the answers to those questions would come the program. Many people start with the program and are disappointed when it’s not really reaching the people or the purpose that we feel we’re called to.

It was shortly after this conference that I took an inventory of our KIDS ministry. Along with a team of wise and passionate people we looked at everything we had to work with and everything we had to offer to the children in our church and our community. We determined for each area “who” it was reaching and “what” purpose it was fulfilling. From this inventory we discovered the areas that we needed to beef up and the areas we needed to pare down. From this inventory we discovered that the area of discipleship and growth needed some improvement and out of that discovery the Family Discipleship Path was birthed.

I would like to encourage you, as a church leader, to take an inventory of your resources in your church.

Who is it for?

  • Core Church Kids: Those who are here on Sunday morning most of the time. Their families are involved somewhere in the church in ministry or community.
  • Fringe Church Kids: Those who are here sometimes on Sunday mornings. Their families call your church their church home but they are not really involved.
  • Friends of Church Kids: Those who are here occasionally on Sunday mornings. They participate in annual events like VBS or Camps. Usually you don’t know their families because they are brought by a family in your church.
  • Not Yet Church Kids: Those in your community who do not yet know Jesus.

What is the Purpose?

At Risen King, our purpose statement is “to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ and to advance His Kingdom.” The purpose of anything we do will reflect back to this main purpose. We have also defined disciple as a 3-C disciple. These are the 3-C’s that we use.

  • Centered on Jesus- Is the purpose to worship Jesus? To learn more about Jesus? To become more like Jesus?
  • Cooperating with the Mission: Is the purpose to be a part of advancing the Kingdom of God either deeper or wider? Is the purpose to give back? To use times, talents, or treasures to serve?
  • Connected to friends- We cannot do this life alone. We are meant to live our lives connected to others who are going after the same thing. Is the purpose to get to know people better? To build connections with others?

The small step that we are going to take this week is to look at your ministry areas and take an inventory of “who” and “why.” Are there areas you need to increase or decrease? For me, this was a small step that led me on a two year journey. What’s it going to be for you? Please share your thoughts, ideas, or encouragements to others.

 

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Back to School = Back to Schedule

Oh, it’s Back to School season. This time of year for my family means so much more than just school starting again. It’s really a big change in our lives. We go from having lots of fun times, lots of down time, lots of family time and very little scheduled time into a rigorous schedule of school, sports, and meetings. It’s not only the beginning of school for the kids but also the beginning of several things for my husband and me. We launch small group and the start of a new Love and Logic class and a few other responsibilities that have been put on hold for the summer.

I love this time of year!!! I am craving a schedule, a rhythm, a routine. By the end of the school year last year, I was yearning to get out of my routine, to break our rhythm, and to have a more flexible schedule. It’s hard for me to fathompike place 2 how I love two opposite seasons. I believe what I desire is a change in season. When there’s a change in a season, there’s an opportunity to start afresh. There’s an opportunity to realign our priorities, a time to say “yes” and “no” on purpose.

There are a few actions that I want to put into my schedule on purpose in this new season. I am going to plan to be consistent. As we think about discipleship for our families, we must make a plan, we must make space, we must put it on the schedule, we must be purposeful…or family discipleship simply won’t happen.

Let’s look at some different ideas for the rhythm of our lives:

Daily

  • Morning:
    • On the drive to school- pray over our day
    • As you are getting ready for the day, pray on the armor of God—you can place strategic words or pictures in the bathroom for the kids (I’m working on some documents that I will post)
  • After School:
    • On the drive home from school, share what you were thankful for that happen in your day.
    • At dinner, speak encouraging words to each other.
      • “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
    • Read the Bible as part of the daily reading for school.
  • Before Bed:
    • Spend some time praying with your kids.
    • Listen to worship music as you’re winding down and preparing to go to sleep.

Weekly

  • Have a weekly memory verse that you’re whole family learns together.
  • Spend some time one night per week discussing what you learned at church on Sunday. It’s great to follow up on what the kids learned; it’s also wonderful for adults to share what they learned and how the teaching has landed in their life.
  • Take time as a family to go outside and enjoy God’s creation. While you’re out in nature spend some quiet time of prayer with Jesus. This will look different for each age group. Toddlers and Preschoolers: Thank you Jesus for……, Elementary and Youth can take some time by themselves to read their Bibles and journal.

Now, in all honesty, I just paused my writing and groaned with feelings of failure on my own part in my own family. This summer has been a time of busy fun and very little structured, purposeful discipleship. However, I’m going to beat myself up for a few minutes and then take action. I am going to implement my own advice this morning by posting some things in the kids’ bathroom. What are you going to do? I’d love to hear your ideas and how it has worked in your family.

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Taking Inventory for your Family

Our family, along with most other families, is getting ready to head Back to School. As we prepare to head portlandback to school, we need a slew of supplies. In past years, I have gone shopping for my kids and bought what it felt like we needed. However, I have often been frustrated to discover that I actually bought items that we didn’t need and I missed items that we desperately needed. So, this year I had my kids take an inventory. I’m still trying to decide if this was the most genius activity or the geekiest thing I’ve ever done. .. I’ll keep you posted.

I typed up and printed out a set of instructions and a list of clothing categories with a place for them to put a number. Their task was to go through their dresser and closet and get rid of anything that was too small, too worn, or just plain unwanted. Then, count what was left. I took their completed inventory and could easily see who needed what.

This practice revealed two important pieces of information:

  1. We discovered we actually had more than we thought we did.
  2. We discovered what we needed.

We have been discussing the Family Discipleship Path and looking at this journey that we’re on to guide the children in our lives to adulthood with a healthy relationship with God and their family. Let’s take a look at the tools we have packed away for this journey. Let’s take an inventory so that we know what we have and what we need.

First, go through all of your tools…books, blogs, magazines, Bibles, traditions, handouts, wise council, classes…..

  • Get rid of anything that your family has outgrown (at the same time, pack away and label items that are “too big”)
  • Get rid of anything that is worn out or stained- Are there traditions or practices that have been “overdone” and have lost their value?
  • Get rid of anything that is unwanted and simply doesn’t work for your family. There may be great ideas that work for your family that won’t work for mine. Great resources that worked for a season but just doesn’t make sense right now.

Next, evaluate what you have left. What area is a little sparse? Do you need to add some items to your tool kit that will prepare you for the journey? Are there some items in there that you forgot you even had or haven’t used in quite a while? Maybe it’s time to re-read that book, set up a lunch date with that person with wise council, or start up a practice that has been ignored.

Our small step for this week is to take a look at all of our resources. I believe you’ll discover that you are more prepared than you thought to guide these little people. May that give you encouragement and confidence. This will also give you a direction to “stock up” on some supplies that will be very useful in this next season.

Please share your discoveries!!

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Establishing Identity in Christ for your Family

When my oldest started 7th grade, one of her assignments on the first day of school was to fill out a “Get to Know Me” type questionnaire. A couple of questions that caused me to think a bit were, “What am I known for around school?” and “What do I want to be known for?” This is really asking, where does your identity lie? We can look back at the Breakfast Club for some helpful hints as to what people are known for in school….the athlete, the geek, the trouble maker, the beauty queen, the weirdo. A huge part of raising kids and guiding kids as they grown into adults is to help them to establish their identity. We can do this as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, leaders, neighbors, or any person who has any amount of influence in a child or youth’s life. I want my kids to know that their identity lies in Christ. They are who they are in relation to how much Jesus loves them. When the world looks at my girls, the desire is that they will be known by whom they belong to and that is Jesus Christ.

Identity begins with how we see ourselves and what we believe to be true of ourselves. The way to lay a foundation of confidence in which we are in Christ is to speak truth and have your children speak the truth and this will become what they believe and that will influence how they behave.

You are what you HEAR: Speak encouraging words to the children in your life beginning at birth. Speak praise about them to other people at times when they hear you. Fill your home with sounds that will remind your children of their identity in Christ. This comes in teaching, your words, and worship music.

You are what you SAY: Encourage your children to speak positively about themselves. In the movie “The Help,” the main character was a black woman who was a maid in a white home. Her name was Aibileen and much of her job was caring for the 3 year old little girl. This little girl’s mama spoke nothing but criticism and frustration to and about the child. Aibileen begins a habit of telling the little girl, “You are smart, you are kind, you are important” and having her repeat it back to her. This habit of hearing it and saying it will lead her to really believe it.

You are what you DO: Act like a child of Christ. Walk in his power, grace, love, and freedom.

Here are some phrases based in Scripture that you can begin to speak over the children in your life and have them speak back to you. There are some that will be more relevant than others depending on the age, stage and circumstances of the children. I found this helpful list on Joyce Meyer’s website, http://www.joycemeyer.org.

I’d love to hear how your children respond to these truths and any creative ways you have tried to encourage your children to hear them, say them, and act upon them. Here are a few to start with: 301276_10200111740294894_1297924620_n

I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17,18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues. I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17,18; Luke 10:17,19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9,10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

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