Archive for January, 2013

Something Short

At our church, we have been on a 21 day fast. We are in the last week presently. I can say that this has been one of the most fulfilling fasts that I have ever embarked on, partly because this time for some reason, I have been able to remain focused. I was looking forward to this fast before it even began. I believe that there is something marvelous happening in my life and in the lives of others throughout my church, and churches around the world. There are so many who are fasting right now. I think it’s completely fabulous to see so many starting the year off on a sacrificial note. Over the course of this fast, I think that God has been impressing upon me the benefits of a positive, faith filled life. Even though our struggles have really been hard, for the most part I haven’t been able to dwell on them. Instead, I’ve focused more on God’s goodness. Sure, there have been times where I’ve wanted to condemn myself for sins of the past that have been forgiven for, but God has really been faithful during this time.

Last night though, seems like all at once I felt the weight of everything that has been happening just land on my shoulders. I felt worry, anxiety, fear. I understand that this is a natural happening, and I have been praying since last night and into today, because I refuse to give in. I serve a good God, and my spirit realizes that everything happens for a divine purpose. God is building ministry into my wife and me. And while my mind continues to toss around “what if” statements, I know that God’s rest is here for me to walk in. I know that His peace is here for me to clothe myself in. That hope hakes all the difference in the world.

So why this post? I don’t know. I just think that sometimes it’s good to encourage others by what you are going through. Sometimes it is hard to keep a “God centered” view on life in the middle of the storm, but God will choose to redeem us FROM the struggle, or He will redeem us THROUGH the struggle. It’s our job to learn to praise him WHILE we struggle. If we ask, the Holy Spirit will help us remain focused. It is that focus on Him, that can translate into overcoming faith, regardless of the trial or tribulation.

So, stay hopeful. Receive His rest and His peace. That is my prayer for you today.

Be blessed!

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Breaking New Ground: Let’s Talk About ‘Fight Club’

At our church, the new series is entitled “Breaking New Ground”. It is a series that I believe is a good jump start for the year, and could be a harbinger of things to come in our lives if we pay attention. God IS wanting us to break new ground. Doing the same old things and hoping for different results is crazy. Thing is, breaking new ground can be a very difficult thing for us to do. I was thinking about this while watching a movie and hearing a bible verse quote last  night. The verse referenced Jacob and how he fought with God and left with a blessing and a dislocated hip.  Here is the scripture from Genesis 32:24-27

“After about midnight A Man appeared out of nowhere as if to attach Jacob. Jacob fought Him off because HE did not want to die in his sins before making peace with his brother. The two of them wrestled and fought for hours until just before daybreak. When the Stranger saw that Jacob would not let Him go, He reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, and instantly it was out of joint. Then Jacob knew that he had been contending with Someone with more than human power. So Jacob clung to Him and pleaded for mercy. The Stranger said, ‘Let me go, because it will soon be daybreak.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let go until you assure me of forgiveness for what I have done to my brother and promise to bless me when I meet him, so he’ll forgive me too.’ The Man asked, ‘What is your name?’ He answered, ‘Jacob!’ The Man declared, ‘I’m changing your name. You’ll no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have wrestled with me, and I will give you the assurance of forgiveness and the blessing for which you have struggled.’

You’ve heard this story before. You’ve heard it preached before. I know you have, cause I have too! While it’s not been numerous, I have heard the story. Usually it comes from the slant of holding on to God until He blesses us, but now I think there is something new to me that God is trying to show me. And Pastor Gene, if you’re reading this, I hope I’m not taking one of your sermon topics for the new series!

Breaking new ground can be really difficult. We are creatures of habit, and as such, we tend to repeat the same things in the same way. As a result, we find ourselves in ruts without the vision to see our way out. Jacob was no different. His very name meant “One who deceives”. I think he lived up to that name, even as he tried to change. I think that God had been dealing with Jacob as he lived with Laban for all of those years, so that leading up to this time, Jacob was ready for something new to happen in his life. He realized that his newness of life could not truly begin until Esau forgave him for his taking the birthright that was Esau’s by law. Jacob had been in isolation, basically, for years. And this brings us to this chapter in Genesis. As I’m understanding it now, I believe that in breaking new ground in our lives, sometimes we will have to fight for the ground that we intend to conquer. Joshua and the Israelites had to overcome the land of Canaan, before they could begin to settle in it and break new ground for their own crops and lives. Moses had to fight with his own insecurities before God could move him to Egypt to bring the Israelites out. There is this element of fighting that we see throughout scripture. Whether it is physical fighting or spiritual fighting, we must contend.

And so, when God appears and Jacob begins to fight with Him, this is Jacob taking ownership of his life, and fighting for his destiny. Can you imagine this scene? Jacob wrestling with God? Holding on for dear life? Perhaps even getting some punches in over the course of the encounter? I can imagine Go being pleased. He could see a man who was willing to go beyond and do anything in his human power to change, and be a new creation. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why God changed His name, and gave him a new future. He was willing to fight for the right to break new ground in his life.

See, the newness in our lives is not always easy to come by. There will often be obstacles that we will have to overcome to truly see the new things. The comforting thing here is that we have God on our side, and He has promised to never leave us. He won’t forsake us. Even more, He will give us the strength to fight. In many instances, God even fought and won the battle  without the Israelites lifting a finger except to praise Him after everything was over. We should be prepared and willing to do whatever it takes to allow the change in us that God desires to bring about.

So, I guess the questions is, “are you ready? Are you willing? Will you fight?” I’m learning more and more that the Kingdom of God is no place for wimps, those who are unwilling to take a stand, unwilling to pick up a sword, unwilling to fight. If  you are willing to fight as Jacob fought, with the same desperation and determination, then prepare yourself. You are about to break new ground!

Until next time, be blessed!

 

Just a Blurt

There are some times when God blesses with such expediency that it sends shock waves through your system. Times when we see the results of Him moving with such precision that it is astounding to us. I just want to say this morning that God can touch any of us at any time that He pleases. His arms are not too short, neither are his ears deaf, his eyes short sighted. His plans are fool proof. His goals are recession proof. His dreams for us are failure proof. And while our faith will never be perfect, all it takes is just a little for God to move mountains on our behalf.

Yesterday evening at prayer, my wife and I really took the opportunity to pour out our hearts to God. We lifted everything up to Him, praying for whatever came to mind, and whatever cause came to mind. We prayed for the Kingdom of God to be born anew in our hearts, that the passion and fire for God that we knew once in our first conversion would never be stifled again. We prayed for those who had blessed us, and those that we will be able to bless in the future. We prayed that this year of shifts and changes, this year of tests and trials in the hearts of Christians would be so beneficial that Satan would be fearful even now of results yet to come forth. Friends, there is something so powerful in the works, but it begins in our hearts and minds. It begins in our spirits. As we strive connection with God and our fellow Christians, the things that we will see happen in this calendar year will have ramifications throughout the rest of our lives. I realize this sounds so vague, and I’m no prophet, but I just feel in my heart that God will astound us this year, and because of this, we will go forth and conquer new ground at a frantic pace.  So, I just want to encourage you. Stand firm. Speak life. Stay close to God. Don’t despise the things of God, no matter how insignificant they might seem to us. Esteem what He esteems as important. When you fail, get back up and look ahead, not behind. Don’t spend so much time focusing on what was lost that you can not see what has been gained. Seek after wisdom. She is readily available. She stands in the middle of the streets, calling out to us with a frantic voice. Seek understanding.

I know that this is a different kind of post, especially from me. I just have this overwhelming feeling, this sensation, that what God is working in the spiritual realm is going to shake this earth to it’s core once again. And I pray that we would be ready, a people centered in His will, kneeling patiently, waiting to submit to His every whim. God is so good to us, friends. His love endures forever. Give thanks, and know His power.

 

Be blessed.

Optimist? Faith Filled? Apple? Orange?

I was thinking today about an issue that my wife and I are having at the moment. One thing that I have noticed during our church’s fast, is that I have become more positive. I’m choosing to see the vein of silver in dire situations. But the question came to mind of is being positive being in faith? or more directly, because I believe that things will work out, am I believing that God will make them so?

What I have noticed, is that being positive is not exactly having faith. Many times, I think we cancel out our faith by making statements , which mightbe faith statements by themselves, that give God a way out in case things don’t work out. Take this example:

God will work this out. He will provide the money that we need by the date.

Now, this is fine by itself, but watch this…

God will work this out. He will provide the money that we need by the date, BUT even if things don’t work out, God will provide another way to our goal.

Now, I’m not saying that is wrong or right, but I’m thinking about a few instances in the Bible. When Abraham was lead to take Isaac up to the mountain to sacrifice Him, He did so with the faith that God would not take Isaac, but even if He did, He had the power to raise him up again. So, that seems to fall in with my example. But also notice that when Caleb and Joshua came back with their report on the promised land, they said that they believed the Israelites were well able to take the land. There was no if, no and, or but about it. It was a definitive statement, based on faith in what God had already done, and what they believed Him to continue to do for them.

So, which is it? Do we believe and make our positive, faith filled confessions and add an out clause in the event that our faith falls through? Or do we just believe with no safety net and speak as Joshua and Caleb did following their spy trip into Canaan?

I don’t have a real answer for you. I’m leaning toward the faith without a safety net option, but that is the difficult one. Putting completely out of your mind what might happen if nothing happens. Trusting God’s will to be done.

What I do know is that having faith can make you a positive person, and I want to be a faith filled Christian living without a safety net. I hope I’m progressing to that point. You’ll have to search your own heart to see where  you fall on the spectrum. May we all pray that we can be as Jesus was and is…faithful, and faith filled.

Til next time, be blessed.

 

The Test in “Yes”

I’ve been trying to write this blog since the end of last year. I don’t know if it will be long or short. It may just be an incoherent bundle of babbling, blithering, and bothersome chit chat. Or it might make sense to someone. I’m hoping that it is the latter.

I don’t know when it happened, or how it happened, but at some point I started to believe that when we told God yes, He responded immediately with all of the good things that He had to withhold while one was still saying no to His will for life. Even after reading the Bible for my whole life, and knowing the stories about some of the people that we admire, somehow my thinking was skewed into thinking that my yes equaled God’s response. And by respoinse, I mean all of the good things, no negative feelings, no hurts, etc. How did I become so misguided? I have no idea, because there is definitely a test that comes after every yes that we give to God. I’ve written here about my callings. God has called me to Pastor and to  be a teacher. I’ve also written here about the journey that we have been on over the last year and a half. But maybe, I can be more specific about the test in my own yes.

When I left my job in Human Resources to go back to school, things had become apparent that God no longer wanted me in that field. My jobs over the past 3 years had all followed a similar pattern, and when my hard head finally gave in, the the writing was all over the wall. I thought that because I had said yes to teaching, God would immediately provide a job for me. There is no way that God would allow my family to struggle, because I was following Him, right? Hahahaha! I was sooo misguided. Our first 6months were just dandy. We were so excited. We even purchased a new vehicle, one that was badly needed. By the end of that year, I didn’t have a teaching job, but had a pretty good part time job, and I was still hopeful. No hope dashed. The new year came, and along with it, struggles. Now, when I say struggles, I mean struggles of every kind. Crises of confidence, questioning of my “manhood”, because I was no longer able to support my family financially. I felt like a housewife, and while there is nothing wrong with a housewife or house husband, that was not my role. It’s the antithesis of who I am. Alongside the personal struggles, financial struggles appeared posthaste. Last year was the absolute worse year finances wise that we have ever had. Everything that we touched turned to ashes. And all of the while, I’m asking God what is going on. Instead of roses and sunshine, our lives had degraded to dead plants and scorched earth. The end of the year was no better. It was just a really hard year. There were times where I retreated inside of myself, times when I just couldn’t pray or read my Bible. My relationship with God suffered, and I’m just being real here. In some fashion, I blamed God, but I blamed myself even more for failing to take care of us after I told HIM that I would do His will. Well, last year personally was a microcosm of my life since I accepted God’s call to preach too. In that area, there was really no movement either. When you get to the point that you begin to question your usefulness to God, then you are in a seriously bad place. That was me.

The struggles have continued. Car repossession, down to one vehicle, every month is a struggle to know how we will pay for rent to keep a roof over our heads. Yes, it’s a test. But, isn’t that what we see in the Bible? It’s amazing to me how we can become jaded to the truth of the Gospel, because we only choose to focus on one or two aspects of God, not His entirety. It can happen easily if we do not guard our hearts.

And I can see it now. Even as I look back, I see God working in us. The last year had so many highlights. God blessed us with one of the most beautiful babies ever! He blessed us with a vehicle, so that we at least have one now. The kindness of people has continually amazed us, even while we face rejection from business after business. So when I get on here and blog about the goodness of God, please believe me that I am experiencing that goodness, even during these tests. God has spoken to us clearly, revealing vague plans for our futures, but enough to restore the hope that we do serve a purpose in His body.

I guess I write all of this to say that we read the Bible, and we know the scriptures. But how do we know when we really “know” the Scriptures? Is it when we can recite them robotically on cue in every circumstance? Or is it more when we know the scripture because we have LIVED the scripture? Is it when we can turn to specific verses in the Bible and then expound upon them with great and lavish language and theological expertise? Or is it when we can read a Scripture and feel the love of God behind it? Perhaps one of the great results of this testing in our lives is that there are times when I read my Bible, and I can say to myself ,”I have SEEN this for myself. I KNOW it’s true!” When I praise God through my heaviness and despair, I feel God putting a new garment on me. So I don’t have to rely on a theoretical and theological knowledge. I have personal knowledge that God provides at His whim. The hard times continue. The struggles continue. But God is right here with us. I see it clearly. I’m living His words when He says that He will never forsake us.

There is a test that comes along with telling God yes. For some of you reading this, the test hasn’t been extreme. for some of you, it’s been way worse than my own. The overriding factor here is that even in the midst of the test, God has not rejected you because you told Him yes. He is preparing you to be of optimal use to Him in the will that He has for your life. The test is a preparation before the release. So, wherever you find yourself, trust Him. Even when it’s hard to even say His name, trust Him. Even when your tears burn hotly against your cheek as shame and regret run wild in your head, trust Him. He IS God, and He IS good. That will never change.

Maybe you think I’m just a loser. If me being a loser causes God to prepare me even more, then I welcome the title. But I would rather think of myself as a work in progress. God has a plan for my life and yours too. I think I’d like to pray now

God,

We don’t always understand what you are doing. We don’t always understand why things get worse in our lives before they get better. All we can see with our limited human eyes is the suffering that we feel, and how much it hurts us just to live some days. But God, I pray right now that as we cry because of the pain, hold our hands. When we question you because our faith is almost gone, help our unbelief. Help us to know you apart from book knowledge, and become real to us. Become the most real aspect of our lives. God, the test hurts. It really, really hurts, but it is necessary. So God, test us until you deem us ready to walk in the purpose that we have told you “yes” to. We submit and surrender completely to you, and believe that you are here with us. We love You, Lord, and we worship Your majesty.

Amen.

Be encouraged, and be blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Already There!!!

Isaiah 61:3- “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison door to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..”

 

Luke 4:16-22-“So He cane to Nazareth where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him and marveled at the gracious words, which proceeded out of His mouth. “

 

Jesus told his disciples that the works that He did while He was with them would be the same works and greater that they would do by the power of the Holy Spirit if they believed. Keep that in mind in light of the two verses above. I’m one of those people who believe everything that the Bible says. I believe everything that Jesus says. Thus, I believe Him when He says that we will do greater things. Now, that implies that we already have found favor with God. It implies that we already are anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit if we have received Him.

 

I think we waste so much time praying and asking God for the very thing that He has already given us. We ask for favor. We pray for anointing. Double portions of anointing. We pray for more power. I believe that God has equipped us with all of the favor, anointing, and power that we need to ruin every one of Satan’s schemes. When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and took that scroll from the attendant, he searched for that specific prophecy to read. It was not by accident. By the same token, I believe that it is no accident that this is found in 2 places in the Bible. Jesus fulfilled that prophecy many times over, but I believe that those words are still active until Jesus comes back again. So, what does that mean?

 

It means that you and I have been anointed by the Spirit of God to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to proclaim liberty to the oppressed, etc. Don’t believe me? In Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples, he tells them to go into all of the world and preach the gospel, and as they went forth preaching and baptizing, signs would follow them. They would cast out demons, heal the sick, be bitten by snakes and not poisoned. Basically, he summarized the same prophecy from Isaiah that He astounded the synagogue dwellers with. He put it into their hands. They didn’t have to pray for it. As soon as they were filled by the Spirit, they went right fulfilling the work that they had been charged to do.  Nowhere do we read after that, that they spent time asking for more power or for more anointing. They just did the work, and as they did the work, the power, favor, and anointing came out of them.  Sure, they waited on the Spirit to direct them, but they were forward thinking and forward moving, intent on accomplishing everything that they could while there was still breath in their lungs!

 

I used to spend so much time on my knees, begging God for favor and anointing to change the world for Him. Standing in prayer lines to receive a prayer from the Pastor that would somehow change my life and make me a superhero for God. Maybe some of you have done it as well.  I’ve seen people on television charging money for items that are sure to “unlock God’s power in your life, or reveal God’s destiny for your life.” Ugh, it makes me sick to my stomach. As the magician in Acts learned, you can not purchase the Spirit of God. All you need is to receive the Spirit of God and allow Him to do His perfect work in your life.  While I was listening to a song yesterday, God hit me so hard with the fact that it’s already in us. It’s in us. Favor is in us. Grace is within us. Anointing is within us. Love is within us. And all of this is made possible because the Spirit of God is within us. So, all we have to do it just get to work! Do the work, and the power will show itself. Do the work, and the gifts will follow.

 

Man, this just makes me excited. Let’s get busy!

From Dried up to “Lifed” Up

Happy New Year folks! I hope all of you had a great holiday break. I’ve been away for a while, I know, but I’m not really one of those bloggers who will blog for the sake of blogging. I have to have some kind of thought, as well the right way to say it. So, I’ve been away. And while I’ve had thoughts, I don’t feel like I have had the proper words to express those thoughts. So I prayed that God would release me when He was ready for me to start up again. I think He has released me. Lol. So here we go.

 

Ezekiel 37. We know it. It’s been preached to us. It’s been preached AT us. We have sang songs about those dry bones and how they don’t walk around. We sing about how Ezekiel saw the wheel waaaaaaaaay up in the middle of the air. I’ve read this chapter many times myself. Honestly, I love the book of Ezekiel. The ways in which God speaks to him just really get to me. The physical ways that God shows him spiritual visions is just astonishing to me. Yesterday, I was on Facebook and saw where a friend of mine said “Ezekiel 37 has just changed my life!” Well, of course I liked that status.  Then I felt compelled to go back and read the chapter again. As I read it once, then twice, then a third time, God showed me something.  I think it’s pretty awesome, so I want to share it with you as well.

 

Like I said, we know the story. God grabs Ezekiel and takes him down into the middle of a valley with dried bones scattered all over the place. These bones were all that remained of a once fierce fighting force. God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live. Ezekiel says that only God knew. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and they come together. Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind, and the bodies live. Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the living bodies.

 

Now get this. God is so creative in the way that he constructs and builds, rebuilds, etc. In this chapter, I believe that God shows us how he rebuilds us when we feel that we are dead and gone spiritually.  We all have those moments. I went through it towards the end of last year. Sometimes life just gets so hard that we feel as if we are going through the motions, headed towards an early grave. When we are robbed of our hope, we become like those dried bones in that valley. There is evidence that we lived, but just barely. God does three things here though, that we would do well to remember.

 

First, in verses 5-6, God tells Ezekiel to speak to the dried bones that He will attach sinews and put meat on the bones, cover them with skin. The Bible says that there was a rustling and a great sound as the bones rattled and came together, then tendons and sinews formed, and finally skin covered the bodies. Notice here that God speaks to the form and structure of the bodies. Now, think about a building. Construction workers recognize the importance of a firm foundation. The form and structure of the building has to be sure and secure. Doesn’t the Bible say that unless the Lord builds a house, they labor in vain who build it? Here, we see it clearly, that God places a great importance on the form and structure, the foundation of the man. It would have done no good for God to speak life over bones that were still separated and scattered about. God established a foundation, and causes the bodies to reform.  Also notice that God has Ezekiel speak to the bones as “you”, and not a bunch of its. God sees our final product before our beginning. No matter where you are, or how entrenched in sin you may be at this very moment, God sees your finish, and HE is working to get you to that desired ending in Him.

 

Next, God has Ezekiel speak to the 4 winds that they may give breath to the lifeless bodies. Essentially, God causes them to live. Whereas they had once been lifeless works puppets, God causes them to become living, breathing men. And the Bible even says that once they received this breath, they stood up on their feet, a huge army.  So first, God spoke to the foundation, and now God has activated the life that He intended for them to have. Once they received God’s breath, they became an army. They were raring to go, to fight. Yet, they stood still. Why is that? They had nothing to fight for.

 

Verse 11 says, “….Listen to what they are saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope if gone, there’s nothing left of us.’”

 

Though God had done an amazing work in them, bringing them back to life, they still had the mentality of dead men.  In their minds, they were nothing more than those dried bones that had once been scattered here and there. Though God had breathed new life into them, they had not yet received His vision. They had been reformed, they had been activated, but they had no vision. Without vision, they could not see themselves as God saw them. Thus, though they were a mighty army, their effectiveness was as if they were fighting with sticks and stones, rather than swords and shields. Isn’t that what happens to us? When we fail to see ourselves in the light that God sees us, we lose all of our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. And this is NOT what God wants, but we lose sight of God when we focus on our problems and shift our sight away from His goodness. We forget about His love when we can only see our loss. We forget about His grace when we only consider our failure. In truth, we walk in a condemnation of our own doing.  Even as Satan is called the accuser of the brethren, I think that we do his job too well for him. All he has to do is sit back and just monitor our thoughts. We become filled with such utter disregard for our own lives, throwing away the sacrifice that Christ made for us, because He loves us. On Twitter yesterday, I saw a tweet that said that Christ knew that we would be difficult to love, but He sacrificed Himself for us anyway. Family, we don’t make it easy for God to love us, but He loves us easily because He IS Love!

 

So, God hears the moans of the fighting force. He then has Ezekiel to speak to those men with a vision of the future that God has planned for them. See, it doesn’t matter how reformed we are. It doesn’t matter how much power and activation we feel that God has placed within us. If we don’t have a vision from God that we are pressing towards, we might as well just be dried bones. It is the vision that gives us hope. It is the vision which stamps on our lives that God is forming us for a purpose.

 

It is God, all God, only God, but God. God is the One who rebuilds us from the ashes of our sin. God breathes new life into us, His Holy Spirit. God gives us a vision for the dreams that He has for our lives. And what God did in that vision in the valley for Ezekiel, He desperately wants to do in our lives today. Yes, that vision was for Israel, but for us as well. If we will allow Him to do His work in us, we will become a fresh fighting force, representing the Kingdom in all of its grace, love, and power. We will be able to pull down strongholds and take back land that has been conquered in lives by Satan. It’s our ordained purpose. It’s how God sees us. It’s what God created in us.

 

So, there it is. I hope that this blesses you, and I pray that I laid it out in a fashion that God will be pleased with. It’s exciting to me.

 

Until next time, be blessed!