Tag Archives: Serving God

Sermon – The Brevity of Life

The last two days have been difficult for my family. First we learned of the hit-and-run death of the oldest daughter of some friends of our in Georgia. Then, we were very nearly in a life-altering accident on the way home from my brother’s house that night. Last night, we learned that my cousin died yesterday morning of a massive heart attack. He was 49. My sermon on Sunday morning changed at about midnight Saturday night after the first two events. The audio below is of yesterday’s sermon on “The Brevity of Life.” Please take the time to listen to it.

If you are not right in your relationship with God (whether it be because you have never obeyed the Gospel or you have not been living the life a Christian should) and there is anything I can do to help, or you are unsure what God wants you to do to be right with him… please let me know.

Thanks and God Bless.

Adam

 

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What Jesus said about Titles

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:5-12, ESV)

In speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus talks about their desire for the praise of men and for differentiation between them and others. It is true that men love titles. They especially love titles that they feel bestow upon them prestige and honor beyond others. Therefore, men put forth great effort to receive such titles.

However, among the servants of Christ there are to be no such titles. There are no levels of Christianity, only descriptions of responsibilities. Unfortunately some crave titles, even while claiming to serve God, as a means of separating themselves from others. Some who have earned Ph.D.’s would rather that be known than their own first name. Some have tried to turn such terms as “shepherd,” “deacon,” or “minister” into titles of prestige instead of descriptions of service and responsibility. In the religious world around us, title is of great importance. Such titles as Father, Reverend, Pastor, and the like seek to lift those individuals up above everyone else. Such should not be so.

The Christian is the servant of Christ – no more, no less. Even the terms “brother” and “sister” were never intended to be titles, they are reminders of the relationship we have with one another in Christ. Paul considered himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (the term “apostle” meaning, “one sent” or “messenger”), not the Apostle Paul. There is a vast difference in the two declarations. One is a description, the other a title.

We must always remember who rules over us, it is God, not men. As men, we serve one another with humility and thanksgiving in our service to God. May we not seek after titles, earthly honors, or distinctions; but faithful service to God that brings to the world recognition of his grace, love, and mercy toward us.

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The Christian’s Battle Commands

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NKJV)

As Paul closes this letter to the Corinthians he gives them a series of final thoughts. The words found in these two verses are as deep as they are powerful. If we are to follow through to the end in our Christianity we must keep these two verses in our heart.

The first verse is a series of battle commands. The types of commands that have been offered by commanders on the field for centuries. Consider them for a moment:
“Watch” – Be watchful, for the enemy may present himself at any time.
“Stand fast” – Do not run or hide. Hold the line in the time of battle when the enemy comes at you.
“Be brave” – Literally “Show yourself to be a man.” Do not falter in the field. See the fight through to the end.
“Be strong” – In the sense that it is used here it means: give it everything you’ve got. Leave nothing in reserve.
If we are to fulfill our duties as Christians we must be watchful, stand firm in the faith of God’s Word, be brave without wavering from truth, and use everything we have in the service of God.

However, there is one other thing Paul says to these Corinthians: “Let all that you do be done with love.” We can stand for truth, fight the enemy, and win the battle – but lose the war if we do not have love in our hearts for the souls of others. Love must be a part of our stance for truth, and it must be seen in all that we say and do. Love does not require us to compromise, nor does it insist upon weakness. In fact, true love requires truth, honesty, integrity, and strength.

Let us always be mindful of Paul’s commands as we seek to live our lives as Christians. Let us never waver in standing for truth, but let us also never leave any doubt of our love for others and our desire to save souls.

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The Need for Strength and Courage

“Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest have good success whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed: for Jehovah thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:6-9, ASV)

As Joshua takes over Moses’ position as leader of the Israelite people, the Lord speaks to him with an introduction of what will be expected of him. As he speaks, he tells Joshua two things that are absolutely necessary for him to succeed as the leader of Israel: strength and courage.

Yet, God is not talking about strength and courage in battle, he is talking about something far more fundamental. God says he needs these attributes when it comes to keeping the Law. There will constantly be temptations to turn to the right or left hand, away from the laws of God, it will take both elements, and a meditation on the laws of God, for Joshua to overcome.

It does not matter in what age of time a man resides, it is never easy to keep the Law of God. Keeping God’s Word is never popular and there are always people and emotions pulling us in other directions, tempting us to make decisions contrary to the will of God. Only with strength, courage, and a reliance upon God can we fulfill all God desires in leading us.

Be strong, and very courageous.

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Is the Lord’s Church an Army or a Militia?

The New Testament is rife with references and parallels to the Lord’s church and a military organization. Without a doubt there are many similarities that can be shown in this area, the same as there are similarities to families, businesses, and many other areas of parallel.

There are many different ways by which we today reference the Lord’s church in comparison to the military. Whether it is the lesson of the Christian armor in Ephesians 6, or the children’s song: “I’m in the Lord’s Army,” the recognition that we are in a spiritual fight for survival is realized.

However, allow me to interject a question for a moment that I believe has some validity. Within this parallel of the church and a military organization needs to be the recognition that there are many different kinds of military groups. In consideration of that fact, is the Lord’s church intended to be an army, or a militia?

You see, there is a very distinct difference between the two types. I speak of a militia in the traditional sense, which is that of “citizen soldiers.” These people are ones who go about their everyday lives until a danger or threat comes; then taking up their arms, they fight the threat. Once the threat has ceased, they return home until the next threat is posed. Historically, this is the way the army of Israel fought, it’s principles are also found rooted in American history with such groups as the Minutemen during the revolutionary war.

On the other hand you have a standing army. Whereas militias only come together when there is a threat, the army is a continuous fighting force. They train, prepare, and drill without ceasing because it is never known when the fight will arise or from what direction it may come. An army is never off-duty, but with each passing day it works with vigilance to defeat the enemy and defend its territory.

So, which is the church intended to be? There are some who seem to believe that God intended the church to be a militia. They are more than willing to rise up against the “great threats” that attack. They will defend with conviction against social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the like; they will be ready at a moment’s notice to fight instrumental music and the woman’s leadership role in the church. However, when the “big battles” are done they sink back in their holes and wait for the next one to arrive.

The problem is militias are notoriously ill-trained. They know how to fight (or believe they do) a few distinctive enemies with a few specific tactics, but facing a better trained force, or a change in tactics, they melt away because of their lack of preparation and experience. When the fight is not engaged, they are not concerned with the details, they want to simply continue with their lives as though nothing has happened. This is not the desired role of the Lord’s church.

The Lord’s church is to be diligent, vigilant, always alert and aware, always training and preparing, continuously engaged in the fight with evil. We are to be diligent in our approach and utilization of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15); we are to be watchful at all times for the lures of Satan (1 Pet. 5:8); and we are to recognize that the fight in which we are engaged is not a series of minor skirmishes, but a continuing battle for the souls of men. Therefore, the calls are uttered to: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). There are no reserves in the Lord’s Army, there are no baggage carriers, all are needed on the front lines; trained and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).

Friends, the Lord’s church is an army, not a militia. If we are treating it as a part-time group molded for defense and protection from the greatest enemies, we need to stop. Understanding our role as such will doom us to failure and will cause the church to eventually be overrun by its enemies. Instead, we must be those who are constantly training, through study and practice, to wield the tools of Scripture, faith, and obedience with equal measures of love and vigilance. Only in doing so can we be the people the Father seeks (John 4:23-24); the people Christ leads (Eph. 1:22-23; 6:10-18); and the people our brethren need (Phi. 1:27-28).

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The Wait Staff of the Lord

In the restaurant industry it is generally recognized that there are three main necessities to being successful: food quality, price, and service quality. All three of these are of great importance and a failure in any of them can be fatal to a business. If the price is good and the service is good, but the food is lousy, people will not come. If one tries to price their food in rural Mississippi the way they would in a major city, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Equally true is the fact that the food can be great, the price comfortable, but the waiters and waitresses be so poor in the quality of their service that people will not return.

Within the church there is the same dynamic necessary for success within each congregation. Fortunately, the first two elements are controlled by the Father and are already set to perfection. The food of the Word of God, and its ability to strengthen and sustain our lives is of a quality no other source in the world can provide. It allows a person to become complete (2 Tim. 3:17), and equips him for everything life can throw his way (2 Pet. 1:3).

The price of this spiritual feast is unequalled, for it is free. You do not have to have a certain amount of cash, possessions, or a particular social status in order to have access to this bountiful meal. Though such a meal will certainly change everything in your life (Phi. 3:4-8), the price of admission to have access to that meal is non-existent. It has already been off-set by the blood of Christ if we are willing to accept it and obey it.

That brings us to the third category, the part that relies on us: the service quality. As Christians, we are the servants of Christ. We are the ones responsible for making that food of life available and delivering it to those who are willing to accept it. However, the manner by which we serve is just as important as the meal we are presenting. People will not receive our service with joy if we insist upon throwing it in their face instead of placing it before them to consider and accept. Nor will those being served be excited to return if the wait staff is constantly fighting and bickering with one another.

Good restaurants know the importance of a smile and a welcome; but when someone comes to them and is forced to find their own seat, is ignored when seeking information, and is greeted as a nuisance instead of a guest, there is a problem and in all likelihood that customer has been lost. The same holds true with the church. When we seek to dispense the greatest meal one could ever eat, but we ignore those who come to hear, treat them as a nuisance (especially if they get “our seat”), or otherwise look down upon them, they will give us an “F” for our service and rightfully so.

As servants of Christ we have a duty to perform (Luke 17:7-10). We should not be sitting around looking for recognition or waiting to see who is going to be lauded as “employee of the month.” Instead, our job is serve with honesty, humility, love, compassion, and the desire to feed lost souls. If we are willing to do so, the message of the Lord will be successful and people will continue to come desiring the feast that is God’s Word. If we fail to do so, we can expect to be found as a wicked and lazy servant, not a good and faithful one (Mat. 25:14-30). How is our service as the wait staff of the Lord?

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I Thank God For You Always

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”(Phi. 1:3-5).

There are certain people in life who make a definitive impact that is far superior to others. It does not mean that they are better, or that you love them more than others, but they have done things in your life that taught you something useful in a more vivid way than anyone else. Paul was one who was constantly telling those to whom he wrote of his thoughts and remembrances of them and how they impacted his life. Unfortunately, we often leave those feelings unsaid until the individual to whom they apply is gone from this life. Let me encourage you to not make that mistake. Many good, godly servants have never known the fruits they have born in the lives of others because they were never told; but it does not have to be such.

Therefore, I would like to briefly use Paul’s example to mention three men who have made a distinct impact on my spiritual life, who I thank God constantly that they were a part of my life, and who I pray regularly for their continued well-being. I will not use their full names, they will know who they are, but maybe their examples will encourage you as well.

I thank God for my father. The man who has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life is the one I spent the first 18 years of my life watching and have tried, in some small measure, to spend the last 11 years emulating. Believe it or not, for a preacher my father is a man of few words, but the lessons he taught me through his actions have always spoken volumes. I saw in my father a commitment to always making the right decision, even if it was not the easy one; his love for the truth above popularity and job security. The times where he did not get angry when most would have (and probably would have excused him for doing so); the love and excitement that my father instilled in me for God’s Word, because I saw it in his eyes and in his teaching. I thank God every day for my father, and I pray that my children will see in their father the same things that I have seen in mine. God bless you mom and dad.

I thank God for Charles. I met Charles a number of years ago and he has made a lasting impact on my life like few others. Charles is a quiet, unassuming man who taught me a great deal about being a humble servant. Charles helped people on many occasions and they never knew it was him. He was never one who desired the spotlight, nor was he one who cared whether he was recognized for his deeds. The way that he fulfilled the principles of Matthew 6:1-18 have remained in my mind throughout the years. On the occasions he helped me and my family (and they were many) he would never accept anything in return, but his response was always, “The way that you thank me is that when you see someone else in need and you have the ability to help them: do it.” I have tried to fulfill that sentiment in my life and to use it as a motivator in my work proclaiming the Gospel. I haven’t been in touch with Charles as much as I’d have liked over the last few years, but he is constantly in my prayers and the thanks for the lessons of charitableness and humility I learned from him will last a lifetime.

I thank God for Joey. There are some people that you meet in life that have an impact in so many ways it is hard to elaborate on them all. In the time that we have been here in Mississippi, there are many people that we love, lean on, and give thanks for daily: but in my life personally there is none that I am more thankful for than Joey. Joey has taught me far more than I will probably ever be able to teach him. He has taught me, through his life and actions, the preciousness of the blood of Christ in a more vivid way than anyone else. He has enhanced my ability to appreciate the mercy and grace of God in a way few others could. In the means by which we got to this day and time, there could not have been two more different roads than the ones Joey and I have travelled; but now we travel the same road as brothers and I am thankful every day for the relationship with Joey that has made me a better Christian and, I think, a better preacher because of it.

These words are not sufficient to say what is in my heart for each of these men, but God knows and I hope that this communicates a small sense of understanding as to the impact on my spiritual life each of these men has had. There are many others whose love and friendship I cherish deeply and whose service to Christ is above reproach and encouraging in the greatest of ways, but there are always some that stand out in the crowd. I believe that with each Christian, there are those they could look to and say the same thing. We are one body and as parts of the same body we rely on one another for comfort, strength, encouragement, and love in Christ.

Let me issue you a challenge today: take the time to tell three of the people that have made an impact in your life that they have done so. It is not to puff them up with pride, or to make them feel greater than others, but to thank them for their godly influence and let them know that their labors are not in vain. Send them a note on facebook, an e-mail, a card, or if they are already gone from this life: remember them, acknowledge them in your heart, and thank God for the time you had with them. May God bless you as you serve him.

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Why do We Serve God?

This morning, my two oldest sons (ages 5 and 3) began having a tiff. It had not yet translated into a full-blown war, and I wanted to squelch it while it was still in its primary stages. My boys love the computer and are enamored with every facet of it. So on top of the rebuke they received was a warning that if this back and forth continued there would be no computer privileges offered today.

Though that warning seemed to sink in rather quickly, what happened a short time later set another thought whirling into my mind. A little while after my rebuke, I was preparing to leave for the office. As I left I admonished my sons to be good and helpful for their mother today (as I do almost every morning), then my oldest son piped up with a statement akin to: “Because otherwise we will not get any computer time today.”

That statement stopped me in my tracks. I sat down for a few moments and spoke to my boys about the reasons we do things. I do not want my boys to be good so they can have privileges; I want my sons to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, because they love their mother, and because they love God; regardless of whether any reward comes of it.

As I was talking to my sons about this, the impact of my statements was drawing my mind into another train of thought. In the same manner that I do not want my sons’ actions to be based upon the rewards of good conduct, so also in a spiritual sense should my actions not be based upon what God is going to give me.

Many times we use as bait the rewards of God in our desire to see people obey him. However, even though God has promised the offered rewards to the faithful, it should not be our greed for those rewards that determines our actions. We (and with that I include myself) often make the choice of discipleship a question of which “rewards” one desires, the physical ones that last for a time or the spiritual ones that last for eternity.

My service to God should not be based upon who is offering the most goodies. It should not be determined by whether or not God is going to bless me with riches or poverty, whether he offers me recognition with physical honor or dishonor, whether he blesses me with health or hardship. My service to God should be predicated upon one question: “Is it the right thing to do?”

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When I understand all that God through Jesus has done for me (Phi. 2:5-11); when I comprehend the lengths to which God has gone from the foundations of the world to see to it I have the opportunity to remove my sins and be pure and holy (Eph. 3:7-11); when I recognize the truth and goodness extended to me by God through his word for my benefit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Then the decision before me should not be based upon the rewards for obedience, but on whether I love God enough to put my trust in him; whether serving God is the right and just response for all that has been done on my behalf; whether God has earned my service and loyalty, not through his offered rewards, but by his wondrous deeds.

Sometimes we get too caught up in the greed-based observations of what the rewards will be for service to God. It does not mean that we should not look forward to those rewards, nor should we show a lack of appreciation for their proffering by the Creator. Nevertheless, the rewards received should be a by-product of faithful service, not the motivator for it.

As we live our lives in service to him, let us always keep our motivations in perspective. We serve him because we love him, because he has earned our service and loyalty with his actions, and because it is good and right in every respect. Additionally, let us be thankful for the rewards he has offered to his children; for though their offering is not the main thing, it is yet another example of the love and care that God has for his children and with thanksgiving we find pleasure and peace in those promises.

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5 Ways to Depress Your Preacher

Any preacher who has been working at the profession for long has had to endure the frustrations and depressions of the job. It is not that the preacher does not love the Lord, the job that he does, or the responsibilities he has; it is simply that the job is a high stress, high pressure profession that most, who have never had to bear the responsibilities entailed, cannot fully understand. That being said, sometimes the frustrations and depressions are caused because of the actions of those upon whom the preacher relies: the members of the congregation with which he works. Consider 5 ways to depress your preacher.

Come to Bible class without preparation

Preachers and Bible class teachers in general work diligently to prepare lessons that will benefit, strengthen, encourage, and uplift the hearer. Therefore, it is very difficult when those listening do not seem to care about the study of God’s Word enough to prepare and be attentive to what is presented. It is especially frustrating when the class is doing an expository study of a book of Scripture and nobody in the class but the teacher has taken the time to read the section of Scripture they know will be studied.

Our children have homework and assignments throughout their years in school that require preparation and work. If they do not accomplish the necessary work they are unprepared for their classes and their grades reflect their shortcomings. Unfortunately, many adults believe that once they have completed their schooling, there should be nothing that requires their preparation and attention to the level of “homework” any longer. But Christians are to be those who love God’s Word, study it, and prepare themselves to discuss it (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11). Nothing is harder on a teacher than the belief that the hearer is not as interested and passionate about the Greatest of all Books as he is. When the adults in the congregation approach their Bible classes with anticipation, preparation, and consideration it makes the entire process more beneficial; additionally, it strengthens not just the hearer, but the teacher as well.

Request things of the preacher you will not do yourself

Preachers come to work with congregations of the Lord’s people, not for them. When a preacher is hired, it does not thereby alleviate the responsibilities the rest of the congregation have to love and serve one another, and proclaim the Gospel to the lost.

It is often depressing for preachers to have members, and even elders at times, come to the preacher desiring him to work in a particular area where they are not willing to assist. It may be a question of doing more visiting, working at the local nursing homes, starting programs for the congregation, or any number of other things. The preacher is often willing to help in these areas and has no problem with reaching out by many different mediums, but the preacher needs help. Preachers need those who are not just willing to tell them what needs to be done, but are willing to volunteer to help them do it. One of the fastest ways to burn out a preacher is for the congregation to expect the preacher to do everything while they set back in their pews and wonder why he is not doing more. It requires the work of the whole body to function effectively (Eph. 4:16).

Continuously remark about how much better another preacher is

All preachers are not created equal, and it is understood that there are some bad preachers out there, but there are also many good preachers and all of them have strengths and weaknesses. Some preachers are excellent teachers, but not fiery presenters from the pulpit. Some are great writers, while others work wonderfully on radio and television. Some are excellent speakers in Gospel meetings and on lectureships, while others thrive in the week to week service of the congregation. This does not make any of these various preachers better than the rest, it simply shows that each has a different skill set that can be used to the glory of God.

If you were to ask most preachers, they know their limitations and weaknesses, and will readily tell you what they are. This does not mean they are unwilling to work in areas where they are not as proficient, but that they recognize they may not be able to do the job as well as another preacher.

That being said, it is sometimes easy for members to focus on their preacher’s weaknesses instead of his strengths. Many have been the times I have heard members speak to a visiting preacher about how they wished he was always there to speak, when all the while the full-time preacher is standing there hearing every word. Whether the member realizes it or not, he is telling the preacher his talents, time, and desire are not on an equal plane in that member’s perception with the other preacher. Such is very hurtful when the preacher spends hours each week working to the best of his ability to teach, preach, and assist as many as he can – only to find his efforts are rejected and unappreciated because others can perform one aspect of the job more pleasantly than he.

Become angry at the preacher for preaching the truth

There is no preacher I know who relishes preaching those hard sermons; the ones that he knows the congregation needs and with which they struggle. The ones that require people to reconsider what they have believed and thought all of their lives to be true, only to learn it is not.  Yet, the preacher is under obligation to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and therefore cannot ignore topics and passages of Scripture just because they could cause problems or be misunderstood.

Consequently, the task is made many times more difficult when the preacher does not have confidence that the people will accept God’s Word as it has been presented, but will instead become angry, discontented, or outright belligerent toward the servant of God. Such an attitude shows the desire for someone to itch the ears of the hearer (2 Tim. 4:3) not hear the word of God.

The greatest encouragement a preacher can receive is the thanks and appreciation of God’s people when he stands for what is right on topics that are not popular. If you love God’s Word and the man that presents it, be sure to show appreciation for him and his work, take the things presented and apply them to your life as God commands.

Leave him as an outsider in the congregation

Most members do not understand how difficult it is for a preacher to work in a congregation. More times than not the people in the congregation have known each other for far longer than the preacher, have relatives in the congregation while the preacher does not and already have lives established while the preacher has to begin again. Therefore, the preacher and his family have a great need to be accepted as a part of the congregational family for the work to truly prosper.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Many times members are wary and standoffish toward the preacher. The preacher is supposed to visit, but is never invited over for a meal. He is supposed to get to know everyone in the congregation, but is never invited to participate in anything members of the congregation do for recreation and fun. He is supposed to be able to reach into the hearts of every individual to better their lives, but they will not open up their hearts to him and allow him to build friendships and relationships with those among whom he should be closest. This becomes one of the greatest hurdles for preachers to overcome and has caused more sleepless nights for preachers than many other things; for the preacher can only minister to people to the degree he knows their needs. If you want to increase the effectiveness of the preacher in the congregation, open the doors of family and friendship and help him strengthen the congregation from the inside out, instead of having to do it from the outside in.

I am convinced that most members do not intentionally hurt and make more difficult the work of the preacher; but that they simply do not know the impact their actions, and inactions, have on the life, mindset, and focus of the preacher on a daily basis. Any preacher who is worth his salt is always trying to find ways to help and strengthen those around him; to find ways to proclaim the Gospel to any and all who will listen; and to work that he, his family, and those around him will all spend eternity in Heaven. But no preacher can do it alone. He needs help, encouragement, love, and compassion as much as any other man. He is not perfect, but he is constantly striving to serve God and to cause others to do the same. May God bless the preacher, as well as the elders and members who aid, strengthen, and enhance the work he does.

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