Thank You! Thank You, Very Much!

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Thank You! Thank You, Very Much!

Give thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ”
-Ephesians 5:20-

Elvis Presley, the king of Rock and Roll would often say to his audience as they applauded his great talent, “Thank ya! Thank ya, very much!” I believe the greatest virtue a person can have, and demonstrate, is that of thankfulness. When somebody does something for us, whether it’s giving us a compliment, holding open a door, or helping us with a situation at work, most of us have no problem saying, “Thank you.” And so we should. But . . . is that all there is to thankfulness?

In just a few days people all across America will be celebrating what has come to be known as—Thanksgiving Day, a day to give thanks. But . . . what are we thankful for? Are we to be thankful for our possessions, for our jobs, for our health; or are we to look past these things to something of far greater value?

Sadly, many people today look at Thanksgiving Day as nothing more than a . . . . . . .

day to watch football, drink, eat a big turkey dinner, and settle down for a nap. While these things are not intrinsically bad, they do tend to distract us from the real purpose for this day. Unfortunately, many people today are missing the point of our founding fathers’ thankfulness. You see, our founding fathers’ looked past their circumstances and focused on where their blessing had come from. They focused their thankfulness on their loving and caring Creator, and praised our Benefactor for blessing this great country far and above what we deserve.

Tragically, on Thanksgiving Day the last thing many people think about is that of giving thanks to God. We should never forget the real reason Thanksgiving was set aside; to thank God for all He has done for us, both personally and as a nation. We should never forget that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from Almighty God. Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day we should be giving thanks to God.

So how do we, as a people, and, regrettably, as a nation, become unthankful? Ingratitude is a great contributor to this problem. I recently read of a wife, who was standing at the front door of her parent’s house after a Thanksgiving dinner, ready to go home. Her four children stood at her side and her arms were full of coats. Her husband, coming down the stairs, asked why she was standing there. Handing him the coats, she replied, “This time, you put the children’s coats on and I’ll go honk the horn.” Taking people for granted, taking God for granted, can cause our hearts to turn cold and indifferent. And a cold and indifferent heart is an unthankful heart.

My point is this: We are never to take others for granted. Husbands and wives, always show your spouse how thankful you are for them. Parents, never pass up the opportunity to show your children how thankful you are for them. Children, let your parents know how thankful you are for them. We should always take notice of what others do for us; let them know that their efforts are appreciated and that you are thankful for them. But most importantly, we should always thank God for everything He has done for us.

When you stop and think about it, our whole life is to be one big—Thank You. It should be a living expression of our gratitude to God for His goodness. Sadly, many of us take God for granted; and when we take God for granted, we no longer take Him seriously. Let us diligently search out daily all the things that we should be thankful for, all the things that God continuously provides for us, and never pass up the opportunity to tell Him, “Thank You! Thank You, very much!”

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”
-Psalms 107:1-

May we always have a thankful heart,

Chaplain Steve

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God’s Presence

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

God’s Presence

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the Inn”
-Luke 2:7-

Can you believe that Christmas is almost upon us once again? It’s just a few days away. Many people get very excited about this day because of the anticipation of receiving presents from family and friends. They can’t wait to open their gifts that will eventually wear out and be tossed out. Their anticipated excitement lasts but a short time, and can only be replaced with something that brings a greater excitement. The reality of Christmas is this: Christmas isn’t about presents, it’s about presence—God’s presence, “Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

At the time of Christ’s birth, we read that there was no room for Him in the Inn. Here was God, the Creator of the universe becoming a fetus, eventually being born a baby, having to wear diapers and be fed by Mary and Joseph. As He entered the world, He was born outside in the cold of night, while others were sleeping cozily indoors. At the moment of His entrance to this earth, very few people knew what was taking place. No trumpets were being sounded; no praises were being offered. Instead, all was quiet. Immanuel had arrived! God was entering the world as a baby, and nobody was even aware . . . . . .

And where does the Bible tell us He was born? In a stable! It’s been said of His birth that He passed right by the mansions, thrones, and riches of this world, being born on the floor of a stable, a place where the stench of animal dung spewed the night air. He was then laid in a feeding troth that the animals used. Nobody had room for Him or time for Him! People were all too busy with the hustle and bustle of life. They were too wrapped up in themselves, while the Savior of the world was wrapped up in swaddling clothes. Mankind was unwilling to make room for Him at His birth. Yet, 33 years later, mankind was more than willing to make room for Him on a cross, at His death. Times haven’t changed much since then. Today, if one were to search for God in our country, he would be hard pressed in finding Him.

I’m reminded of the story of two women who were viewing a display of Christmas gifts in a department store window. In the center of all the gifts was a Nativity scene with the baby Jesus. One lady remarked to the other, “I suppose those religious fanatics are going to try cramming Christ into Christmas and spoil all our fun.” Many people actually take offense when you attempt to bring Jesus into Christmas. They want nothing to do with Him. Thus we now have holiday trees, instead of Christmas trees. Thus we’re now told to use the politically correct term “Happy Holidays”, instead of “Merry Christmas”. Nonsense!

In our eyes, God should never have been born outside, in a stable. It just isn’t right! Our thinking is, “Wait a minute! He’s God! He should have the best of accommodations.” Though His place of birth was not inside a building, like we think it should have been, we need to remember that God didn’t come to earth to fill a building. He came to earth to fill a heart. Until we invite Christ, the Guest of honor of Christmas into our lives, we will never experience and enjoy Christmas the way God intended. Let His presence fill your heart today, that you might fill His kingdom forever.

“. . . but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
—Romans 6:23—

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas,

Chaplain Steve

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Pull, Don’t Push

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Pull, Don’t Push

If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve”
—Joshua 24:15—

While attempting to get into my car, I could not, for the sake of me, get my door open. I peered down at the lock and was able to see that the door was in the unlocked position, and yet, I could not pull it open. I exerted such force and energy to open the door, that my left arm is now 3″ longer than my right. I became concerned about my own abilities, wondering if I was losing my strength. I hadn’t had a pizza that day, so I knew I wasn’t overdosing on pepperoni! Could I not even open a silly car door!

After a few moments, I realized who the silly one was, as I was able to determine exactly why the door would not open. I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to laugh or have me committed. You see, as I had my left hand on the door handle, I also had my right hand resting against the top of the door. Thus, while pulling on the handle, I was also pushing on the door. When I told my wife what I had done, she simply replied, “Dear, you’re not losing your strength. You’re losing your mind!” Hey! You promised not to laugh! You’ll be my age one of these days.

I share this humiliating story with you because it reminds me of our spiritual service to the Lord. As much as we want to serve the Lord, we quite often find our self pulling and pushing at the same time.

In other words, we tend to struggle against ourselves. With the one hand, we have an excitement to serve the Lord, and with the other hand we start coming up with excuses for why we aren’t serving the Lord. With the one hand, we ask God to open the door for us so that we can serve Him, and with the other hand we push against it to keep it closed.

While God wants to open the door for us to serve Him, we often look for an excuse to close it. While God truly wants to bless us with the opportunity to serve, we quite often won’t allow ourselves to receive His blessing. The best counsel I can give to the “excuse making” person is this—”If you have an excuse, don’t use it.”

When Moses was told to go and bring God’s people out of Egypt, he said, “Lord, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” When Jeremiah was appointed a prophet to the nations, he said to the Lord, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” God was pulling the door open for these men to serve, and they were attempting to push it closed it with an excuse. Nonetheless, the Lord responded to these men’s excuses with words of encouragement, “I will certainly be with you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you to deliver you.”

My point is this: when God opens the door, don’t push it closed. Instead, take that step of faith and walk through it, and see the amazing things the Lord will do as you minister to others.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”
—Joshua 24:15—

Pull, don’t push,

Chaplain Steve

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He is Risen

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

He is Risen

“He is not here; for HE IS RISEN”
-Matthew 28:6-

Someone once said, “Life is a bad joke, that isn’t even funny, and the only way you get out of it is by dying.” What a sad commentary on life’s existence, and yet there are many people who hold to that belief. The Bible says there is more to life than death; there is life beyond this life. I believe the most encouraging words ever written or spoken are given to us by an angel, “He is risen.” Otherwise, there would be no hope at the moment of death.

The weekend of the Christ’s death, burial and resurrection reveal to us the three most important days in all of history; Dark Friday, Dreary Saturday, and Decisive Sunday. If not for these three days, the world would continue to be in a state of hopelessness.

That Friday afternoon when Jesus died was a very dark time in history, as the darkness of man’s sin showed itself in the worst way, as God’s creation crucified their Creator. Yet, in the eyes of God, it was a very Good Friday, for He knew that His Son was reconciling the world back to God as He freely laid down His life (John 3:17, 10:17-18). It wasn’t nails holding Jesus to the cross; it was l-o-v-e (Romans 5:8).

As the Dark Friday cries of the people, “Crucify Him!” came to an end. Dreary Saturday was on the horizon. Though it arrived quietly, I am certain it had to have been a day filled with emotions of every kind. Many of Jesus’ followers were in mourning. His mother, Mary, was in great grief. Some of the disciples began to wonder if Christ was truly the Messiah, as their faith began to turn to fear. The Roman soldiers involved with His death might have been eating and drinking, in order to erase the memory of Friday from their minds. I can only wonder what the priest had to have thought when they entered the Temple and discovered the veil ripped down the middle. Perhaps they tried to offer their own Passover lamb on the altar, all the while knowing, but denying, that the true Lamb of God was lying in a borrowed tomb, sealed with a stone and being guarded by soldiers they had placed there.

Saturday was a day of hopelessness for many people. Their hope of life beyond the grave was dead, and buried in a tomb. Would things remain hopeless, or would hope come alive. In just a few hours Dreary Saturday would soon turn to Decisive Sunday. For many people, Sunday would be just another day; “business as usual.” For others it would be a day that would change their lives forever; a day of celebration as Christ rose from the grave.

The empty tomb speaks loudly to us today. It says “He is alive!” It says “His promises are true!” It says “His power is intact!” It says “the enemy (death) is defeated!” Death was not able to hold Christ down (Revelations 1:18). The stone and soldiers were unable to hold Christ down. The devil was unable to hold Christ down.

It was a very Dark Friday that the Lord died on. It was a very Dreary Saturday as many people wondered whether or not God was dead. It was a very Decisive Sunday when the grave gave in to the promise of God, as the tomb was found empty. Jesus is alive! Jesus proved once and for all that He is truly the Savior of the world.

“Because I live, you will also live”
-John 14:19-

Have a blessed Resurrection Day,

Chaplain Steve

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Tears in a Bottle

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Tears in a Bottle

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”
—Matthew 5:4—

While on the scene of a traffic collision, I noticed a young child being held by a police officer. As I observed this picture, the frightened child began to cry. Her tears were slowly flowing down her smooth cheeks and onto the shoulder of the police officer’s uniform leaving four very noticeable tears.

As I was touched and moved by the scene, I was reminded of words of David, when he said in Psalms 56, that God will gather our tears in His bottle. What a very intimate statement that is. God is so in love with us, and so concerned with you and I, that He sees every one of our tears, gathers them, and bottles them. He can truly sympathize with us. He literally feels our pain. He is indeed our Comforter.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:2-3). John Henry Jowett said it this way, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.” God’s comfort is never given to us; it is always loaned. God expects us to share it with others.

As I watched the officer tenderly holding that child, she didn’t appear to say much with her mouth. However, she spoke loudly with her hugging arms, and her shoulder to cry on. This child was filled with sadness, but God, working through this police officer, was bringing comfort.

What about us? Are we extending our arms and our shoulder to those who are hurting, or have we been avoiding such opportunity? Let’s never be afraid to make ourselves available to others, because as we do, we’ll be a comfort and blessing to them, and they’ll be a comfort and blessing to us.

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing”
—1 Thessalonians 5:11—

Be willing to be a comforter,

Chaplain Steve

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Out of Uniform

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Out of Uniform

“Is this the same man . . .”
-John 9:8-

In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, we read the story of Jesus encountering a man who had been blind since birth. As Jesus often did, He chose to heal this man of his physical infirmity, his blindness. The Bible goes on to say that after his healing, his neighbors, who once knew him, and those who had previously seen him blind, were unable to recognize him. The man they had known was a blind man. This man could now see. Soon they began asking each other, “Is this the same man . . .?” Some said he was. Others said—No. The man kept telling the people, “I am the same man” . . . . . . . . . . .

The other day, while I was walking about, I walked by a Riverside firefighter, whom I have met, and whom I have spoken to on more than one occasion. The strange thing was, when I saw him, I almost walked right by him because I didn’t recognize him. I didn’t recognize him because he was out of uniform. I had always seen him in a fire department uniform. I had never seen him or spoken to him, otherwise. I knew him by his first name when I saw him in uniform. Yet, out of uniform, he appeared as a stranger to me. At first glance, I wasn’t sure if he was the same man.

This experience caused me to begin thinking about my own life. I began to ask myself—How do people see me? Am I the same person in uniform as I am out of uniform? In other words, am I the same person in the fire stations or police cars as I am away from them? Am I the same person in my home as I am in the church? Do people recognize me as a Christian, no matter where I am? Or do they ask themselves, “Is this the same man?”

My point is this: as Christians, we are to be the same man, the same woman, in uniform and out. No matter where we are, no matter what we’re doing, we are to live a life, so that people will always be able to say, “He is the same man.”

“I am the same man”
-John 9:9-

Stay in your spiritual uniform,

Chaplain Steve

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Thanksgiving 2010

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Thanksgiving 2010

“O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever”
—Psalms 30:12—

Soon, people all across America will be celebrating what has come to be known as Thanksgiving Day. This special day began in the 1600’s after the Pilgrims of the Mayflower settled in Massachusetts Bay. There they gathered together and gave thanks to God for His divine goodness. We, as a nation, have celebrated it ever since. Yet, how many people truly stop and give thanks to God as they should.

Giving thanks to God is something that we should always be doing. Every day is to be a Thanksgiving Day. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:20 to, “give thanks always for all things to God . . .” Do we?

Just as an evergreen tree is always green, despite the changes in the weather, our lives should be no different. Our lives are to be characterized by an enduring thankfulness, unaffected by the changes around us. When work is not going well, or the home-front is strenuous, we’re still to give thanks to God. Regardless of the things that surround us, whether during the heat of difficulty, or the chill of adversity, we should be standing evergreen, always thankful to God. Think about it. Anyone can be thankful for the sunshine, but it takes God in our lives to be thankful for the storms.

I’m reminded of the story in the gospel of Luke, chapter 17 where ten men who had leprosy were healed by Christ. The sad part of the story is, only one man out of the ten returned to the Lord to thank Him. He “fell down on his face, at His feet, giving Him thanks” (Luke 17:16). So, are you and I more like the nine lepers who accepted the gift from Jesus, but refused to give Him thanks? Or are we like the one who returned to Him to say—Thank you?

Though God loves to bless us, we are never to take His blessings for granted, because when we do, that’s when we fail to thank Him. Let us each always be like the one man who returned to the Lord. Let us each with a loud voice glorify God, falling on our face at His feet, and give Him thanks for all He has done for us.

I just got a brainstorm of an idea. Instead of there being only one Thanksgiving Day each year, how about we have one Complaining Day each year, getting all our gripes out of the way, and then spend the next 364 days giving thanks to God.

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” —1 Thessalonians 5:18

God bless you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving,

Chaplain Steve

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Christmas Message: A Time to Reflect

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Christmas Message: A Time to Reflect

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope”
—Jeremiah 29:11—

Recently my wife and I were at the Mission Inn for the Festival of Lights. After enjoying a nice dinner, we stood outside with thousands of people as the countdown began for the turning on of the three and a half million lights that would light up the Inn. This was immediately followed by a spectacular fireworks display. People around us were in awe! Children were exuberant! As we walked down Main Street with its trees all lit up, people were standing in line everywhere waiting to do some creative dining and/or unique shopping. Others were filling their bellies with hotdogs or kettle corn. The outdoor ice-skating rink was filled with youngsters slipping and sliding, having a blast, while the older generation was enjoying listening to a chorus singing Christmas songs. Families and friends seemed to be having a great time together. It was a very joyful evening for my wife and I. In fact, the entire event was filled with life.

When it came time to leave later in the evening, I decided to drive by Fairmont Park. I wanted to show my wife the location where Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio was shot and killed while on duty. Not too far from where Ryan died was a Memorial site that people had set up in his memory. At the site was a telephone pole with Ryan’s picture stapled to it, as well as notes people had written. On the ground below were a good number of lighted candles, along with many flowers that were now beginning to wilt and die.

I began to reflect upon where my wife and I had just come from and where we were now. I reflected on the “past” and on the “present.” I thought about the Mission Inn, all lit up, surrounded by thousands of people with Christmas excitement and anticipation, and then my mind was brought back to a telephone pole with flowers and a few candles; my wife and I, the only ones in attendance. We had come from a place filled with life to a place that reminded us of the brevity of life. I began thinking of the people over at the Inn, who were enjoying a great meal together; and was then struck with the reality that Ryan’s precious family would have an empty chair at the Christmas table this year. Yet, I am also very much aware that Ryan’s family is not the only family that has been impacted by death. Families everywhere will have one less chair; a place once filled by a special person seated at the table this Christmas.

I’m mindful of the Christmas song, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, written in the mid-18th century. The first chorus says, “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember, Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy.” It’s a beautiful and truthful song, but the reality is—This Christmas season and every Christmas season is a season of comfort and joy for many, but, it is also a season of sadness and sorrow for many others.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, let us remember that Christ came to offer comfort to the brokenhearted, along with joy and hope to the lonely. In just a couple of weeks, people all around the world will be looking forward to celebrating Christmas. Some will not. If life has been going well for you; if you have been experiencing God’s comfort and joy, I am happy for you. However, I encourage all of us this Christmas season to be mindful and aware of people in need of God’s comfort and joy, and let’s do all what we can to share it with them. The best way we can do that is by letting them know they are never alone, and that God is always there to fill not only that empty chair, but that empty heart.

“And they shall call His name, Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’”
—Matthew 1:23—

Merry Christmas,

Chaplain Steve

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Great is Your Reward

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Great is Your Reward

“Be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded”
—2 Chronicles 15:7—

Recently the 83rd annual Academy Awards Ceremony was held at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Actors and other film production personnel came together in hopes of receiving a “soon to be forgotten” accolade and the granddaddy of all rewards—the Oscar; a reward that loudly proclaims to the whole world that the receiver is the very best at what they do.

People across the country were sitting in their living rooms, munching on popcorn, and watching in rapture, as the glamorously rich and famous celebrities exited their limousines to begin their “look at me, aren’t I beautiful” walk down the fabled red carpet, as they vied to attract the attention of a reporter.

As they finished showing off their adored, yet, soon to be aged, bodies, they entered the theater and took their seats. Each held on to the hope that they would be named the best in their field; each hoped they would have the opportunity to stand before their peers and say, “I want to thank the Academy for . . .” (blah, blah, blah); and each hoped they would return home with a trophy that, unfortunately, will sooner or later become a fancy dust magnet, sitting on a shelf.

In many respects, we are not all that different from those who hoped to receive the Oscar. Each of us desire to know that we are appreciated for what we do, whether we’re a police officer, a firefighter, husband, wife, etc. There is nothing wrong with being told we are doing a good job and that we are appreciated. There is nothing wrong with receiving an award or reward in recognition for the work that we do. But, that doesn’t always happen; we’re not always recognized and rewarded for all of our hard work we do.

In light of the above, I exhort you to not let the lack of recognition and rewards stop you from doing your very best in life. Remember, our “best” is not done for the sake of an award, but rather for the sake of the Lord (Colossians 3:22). If you’ve been feeling discouraged lately, as though your hard efforts are going unrewarded here on earth, remember the best rewards are not in this life, but in the life to come. The Lord knows of our good work and will reward us in His own time. And, unlike the Oscars recently given out, His reward will never gather dust.

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven”
—Matthew 5:12—

Our reward is yet to come,

Chaplain Steve

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Palm Sunday

Written by Ken. Posted in Devotions

Palm Sunday

“. . . Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”
—Luke 19:37-38—

Something that man, throughout the ages, has loved to experience is the praise and applause of his fellowman. We love to be recognized and rewarded for what we do. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be. Sadly, some people will do whatever they have to—right or wrong—in order to receive recognition.

Often times we read of organizations taking a poll on an individual in order to determine his or her approval rating. They’ll ask 100 people to answer questions on behalf of the rest of the population. If only 36% of the people approve of what he’s doing, then obviously, he must be wrong in what he is doing. With all due respect, may I say, “Approval ratings mean next to nothing.” I believe we can learn that truth in the life of Jesus.

Today is Palm Sunday. It is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, while on His way to Calvary. The people, excited and hoping that He would become their King began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). We can say that Jesus’ approval rating was quite high on that day. However, as people came to learn that Jesus would not become their King the way they had hoped, many of them would no longer be shouting words of praise. Instead, in just five days, many of these same people would be shouting words of death, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Answer: He stayed the course (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus didn’t change. He came into Jerusalem with the specific purpose of going to Calvary. He came to do the Fathers will. He would let nothing stop Him from doing what He knew needed to be done. He would not let the Roman government stop Him. He would not let the religious leaders stop Him. He would not let the applause of the people stop Him. Jesus didn’t care what mankind thought. He only cared about what His Father thought. What about us?

Let us all continue to do our work, whether in the public sector or private sector, to the best of our ability and for the glory of God. Let us not do it for the applause of man, but rather, for the applause of God. It’s been said, “Leaders act on conviction, performers act on applause.” Jesus wasn’t some Hollywood Oscar nominee acting for the applause of man. His applause would come later as He ascended to heaven. The same is true for you and I.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”
—Colossians 3:23—

On earth the applause will never last, but in heaven the applause will never stop,

Chaplain Steve

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