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The Manifestation of the Sons of God–The Hope for Immortality, Christ’s Return, and the “Strong Delusion”

Turn on the news and what do you see? Suicide bombings, children slaughtered, ethnic cleansing, civil wars, domestic violence–the results of hatred at every turn. The “perilous times” that the apostle Paul wrote about are upon us. The Savior said as much. “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And He promised that we could overcome also.

But what constitutes this overcoming the world? How did He overcome the world? We will find the answer in the power of His resurrection. This power spearheads the ultimate victory that He promised His followers. “You shall overcome also.”

You shall become like Me, He is promising. You shall walk with Me and be like Me in My immortal state. You shall receive an immortal spiritual body just like mine. John confirms this. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man who has this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3: 2-3). Our hope is to be like Him–immortal.

Let’s savor these words a moment. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” Christ is immortal, and so will we be when He shall appear. So when will that be?

When will Christ appear?

Christ Himself said that He will appear upon His return to earth “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24: 29). Which tribulation? It will be “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be” (24: 21). It will be so destructive that God will have to intervene and stop it before all mankind is wiped out. “But for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (v. 22). God’s precious elect, His sons and daughters, will evidently be in danger, for He cuts the tribulation short to spare them from collateral destruction.

Furthermore, during this great tribulation period, deception and delusion will permeate the earth through the teachings of the false Christs and false prophets. They will be so convincing that it will almost deceive God’s elect, who are obviously still here on earth. For they could not be deceived by Satan if they were already with God in heaven. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matt. 24: 24.

This is the environment of Christ’s return to earth. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven…and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send his angels…and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds…

It is a time of “great tribulation” in the earth. Christ returns at the end of this tribulation. In fact, His presence brings peace and tranquility to the earth.

And when He shall appear at this time, then “we shall be like Him.” His Spirit will be living in us fully. And this is our hope. We shall receive immortality and become just like Him–right here on earth. Not in the sky by and by. No. Right here. How can I be sure of that? Because He has promised in His word that He is coming back to earth, the same way He left earth!

Our hope is to receive immortality, thus escaping a certain physical death that stalks humans on this earth.

Our hope of everlasting life

Paul admonished the church of the Thessalonians to have this very hope of receiving a new immortal body. He mentions that if you are sorrowful because of brethren who have died, you are acting like you have no hope (I Thess. 4: 13). Hope of what? He speaks of Christ dying and rising from the dead. The same power that raised Him from the dead will give the dead in Christ a new body when He comes back to earth. Those who die or “sleep” in Jesus (Yahshua), “God will bring with Him” (v. 14).

God will be bringing with Him His saints who have died before His return to earth. Where will He be bringing them from? And to where? The answer is found in verse 16: He “shall descend from heaven with a shout.” He is coming from heaven to this earth, and the dead in Christ will be coming with Him.

Those of us who do not die before His return will not precede the Christians that have died. “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep” (v. 15). Precede them in what? Those of the elect who are still alive at His return will not go before the dead in Christ in getting their immortal, spiritual body (See I Cor. 15: 23). They will get theirs first, then we will receive our immortal bodies, and we will join them, “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (v. 17).

Rapture doctrine erroneously based on one verse

The rapture doctrine has been built upon one major verse: I Thessalonians 4: 17. Of course, “rapture” is not in the scriptures. A closer study of this passage reveals events quite differently than what those waiting for the “rapture” envision. They imagine that they will be conveniently whisked away from the “time of trouble,” the great tribulation period, that shall ravage the earth at the time of His return. They base this primarily on one verse.

But let us dig deep into it and see what it really says. First, He is coming back to this earth. When He gets into the atmosphere of this planet, the dead in Christ will receive a new immortal, spiritual body, rising up to meet Him.  Those of us who are still living will join them “in the clouds…in the air.”

So there is a “catching away,” a rising up into our atmosphere. “Clouds” and “air” are components of the very atmosphere that we mortals breathe as we stand here on earth. The dead in Christ will join Him upon His return, and then those alive in Him will be changed and “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ in the air.” Our change, when “this mortal shall put on immortality,” shall take place in the very atmosphere that we now breathe.

There will be air and clouds there. The Greek manuscripts are clear on this. Now take note of the next line in v. 17: “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This   part of the passage is never quoted. We will join up with Him in our atmosphere rising in our new spiritual bodies from the earth, and then we will come right back down onto terra firma! We will come back down to earth after that short ride because He is immediately coming back to earth. And we are coming back down to earth with Him, for we shall “ever be with Him.”

This is our hope–to be eternally with Christ

We will forever be with Him at this time–all of His people down through the ages and those of His who are alive when He returns. That is our hope! The first step that He will take will be right here on earth.

Paul continues to explain to the Thessalonians about how Christ’s return will be “as a thief in the night” to those who walk in darkness. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Those in spiritual darkness will not know when He is coming back, but the elect will know and not be overtaken. “You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness’ (I Thess. 5: 2-9).

God’s children will be changed into immortals and will not be taken in the “sudden destruction” coming upon all those in darkness. Paul says that at the time of end, the world system will be trying to induce an artificial man-made peace throughout the globe. They will say that everything is fine now. “Peace and safety” will be the talk of the land, but real peace will not reside in the hearts of the earth’s inhabitants. In reality, a godless darkness will cover the land.

Yet, this earth in all of its end time spiritual darkness will be the stage for man’s greatest disaster and greatest triumph. The New World Order and its enforced peace will crumble under the onslaught of God’s missiles, His heavenly bodies that will literally crash down onto this earth, wiping out whole civilizations. It will be a “time of trouble” never seen before on earth.

Rising out of the ashes

But, rising out of the wasteland will come striding God’s chosen ones, His elect, His sons and daughters, His ambassadors–the princes and princesses of God’s kingdom. They will have God fully formed in them. Nothing will harm them, for they are from another dimension–a heavenly one that has transcended earthly matter. They will no longer be of this earth. They will have been “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.”

This at once terrible and glorious day will come on the world as “a thief in the night.” Darkness will envelop the land, literally and spiritually. But, as Paul exhorts, you are “the children of light…we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (I Th 5: 4-5). The very fact that we have the Spirit within us, will make us where we can see the “thief” who operates out in the night of the world system. God’s elect will know. We will know by the signs of the times, for we will be “sober, armed with the armor of God, “the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” This “hope of salvation” is the hope of our deliverance  from the dusty tombs of our mortal earthy existence. This “hope of salvation” is the looking forward to us receiving our new spiritual body at His coming–whether we be dead or alive upon His return.

At the end of this present age, the earth, totally immersed in the evil world system, will be a crucible of wrath, bathed in fire and blood. Yet this earth’s most painful travail will with supreme irony give birth to the sons and daughters of the great Father Yahweh. They will be the first immortals to take up residence on this earth since Christ Himself did for 40 days after His resurrection. They will have His Spirit fully residing within, and they “will build the old waste places” (Isa. 61: 1-4). Paul and the Thessalonians looked forward to this day, our day. In fact, their spirit still looks forward to the day of Christ’s return, which will fulfill our hope–our hope for immortality.

 

 

 

 

 

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Patience–Enduring the “Sufferings of This Present Time”

As the sons and daughters of God, we are to add certain spiritual attributes of God’s “divine nature.”  This is how we become “partakers of His divine nature” (II Peter 1: 4-7).  This assures our inheritance as His sons and daughters. These attributes are added in sequence–in layers, if you will.  To our faith we add virtue, and then knowledge onto it.  Then we add temperance to that knowledge.  Then we add patience onto the temperance.

Patience.  Patience.  Oh, how we all need patience in this hurry-scurry world!  This world that careens through our conscious hours robs us of this important godly essence–patience.  The swirling, rushing pace of our 21st Century lives conspire against us in our search for truth.  Patience is needed to even read this simple article on patience.

For all that we see and hear is temporary.  We will be able to temper the appetites of our earthly bodies more easily when we realize how transitory–how utterly perishable our bodies are.  When we believe this and wholeheartedly acknowledge the need for God’s promise of our immortal house from heaven, we will more easily shift our focus from the temporary to the eternal.

The Next Step in Adding the Divine Nature

And that next step is adding patience to the temperance.  But in order to add patience, which is the ability to endure the sufferings of Christ, we must understand just what those sufferings are.  Paul speaks of them when he writes, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8: 18).  This “glory” is, of course, that destiny of God’s elect after they have grown spiritually to full maturity, which is the evidence of them partaking of the divine nature.

But those “sufferings” spoken of by the apostle is the sojourn we are experiencing in these mortal earthly bodies.  For “we have this treasure [of the Spirit] in earthen vessels” (II Cor. 4:7).  And that is the root of our current spiritual problem.  Our bodies are, alas, mere temporary bottles holding the water of the Spirit.

“This present time” in which these sufferings are being endured is our time now  in our earthly bodies.  Our perishable fragile mortal bodies will too soon return to dust.  Now is our time of waiting with long patience, trusting God will deliver us from the long sleep that awaits us, tucked in dust in the tomb of the earth.

Temporarily housed in our earthly tabernacles at “this present time,” we have a universal thirst that yearns to be quenched.  And that desire is to live on.  And whether cognizant of it or not, we are waiting in “earnest expectation…for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8: 19).

And so we who have a portion of His Spirit, for a dry season at present, find ourselves trapped in a shell that will die soon.  And so we wait for our forerunners, the sons of God to be unveiled first, for they are the firstfruits.  And so we are waiting for these offspring of the Almighty to come onto the scene.

For they will give His other children great hope when they are seen striding this earth–a hope that they, too, can be “delivered from the bondage of corruption,” which is the cruel slavery that our present mortal bodies inflict on us in our new spiritual journey.

Slaves to Our Own Mortality

Our earthly bodies are decaying as they grow older each day, and we are not free to ascend and descend at will.  We are on a timetable, slated to expire, most likely before the age of 80–whether we want to or not.  That’s slavery; that’s being in bondage to our own mortality.  That is the “bondage of corruption.”  In the earthly sense, we are slaves to our own decay and impending death.

In our youth we were not aware of this impending decay of our earthly body.  Hence, we thought ourselves invincible and immortal.  But as we get older and see our bodies deteriorate, we see that we become the slaves to our own bodily limitations.  We begin to admit that we cannot do what we once did.  Our age, brought on by the ravages of time, becomes our master and limits us and dictates to us what we can and cannot do.  This is the “bondage of corruption.”

Aging is the accumulation of many miles and years on the human body.  Aging is that onerous sign announcing our impending physical passing.  But this daily physical decay of our bodies does not work on our spirits.  We can take heart in this, that “though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4: 16).  And this renewing is the “partaking of the divine nature,” the adding to our faith of which we speak.

So why death?

And so we ask God, Why do we have to die?  Why give us a mortal body, God?  Why subject us to all this suffering?  The short answer: God created us “subject to vanity.”  He deliberately subjected us to mortality in hope that we would be delivered into immortality.  He made us to suffer this mortal existence in hope that we would seek Him, who is Life Himself, and in so doing find eternal life, which is the fulfillment of His promise to them who seek Him and love Him.

God has dangled death ever before us so that we would seek Him.  He reasoned that our looming demise would spur us to seek Him for answers to our dilemma.  Surely we would call on Him, the Giver of Life, to help us solve this problem of mortality if we were confronted with the sadness of first, the loss of loved ones and then, finally, ourselves.

God provided a law ingrained into the universe, as sure as gravity, that if we seek Him for the truth, we would find it.  “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you,” Christ promised (Matt. 7: 7).

And so, confronted by the sufferings of our mortal worries, we turn to God.  And His words resound through the ages to our hearts and tell us the answer to the riddle of our faint existence.  He tells us that He is the Fount from which the blessing of immortality flows.  And it starts with believing in the resurrection of His Son.  And latching onto that faith in Him begins our own new life, ending in the complete inheritance of a new spiritual body that will swallow up this old earthly one (I Cor. 15).

He seems to be saying, Surely when they see my Son arise from the dead, they will turn to Me in great hope that My resurrection power will one day raise them up as well.

His resurrection is our hope to escape the dusty tombs of death.  And yet, the sufferings continue.  And as He teaches us and helps us to endure all things, we add patience.  For patience is that part of God’s nature that endures.  It lasts.  And as we continue our sojourn in these earthly vessels, He grants to us patience by infusing us with experiences that helps us endure, that gives us rather things to endure.

Yes, “tribulation worketh patience” or “suffering produces endurance” (Rom. 5: 3).  Earthly wisdom shuns all sufferings.  The wisdom from above prescribes it.  That is why He allows us to suffer–so that we can become like Him.  For He planned those very steps of suffering for Himself, and if we want to be His sons and daughters, we must suffer with Him.  That’s a tough one.  That is why “few are chosen” (Matt. 22: 14).  Those chosen are the elect, and they will submit to the plan along with its sufferings, much like those chosen for our Special Forces endure the sufferings that the training entails.  It all comes with the territory.  To reign with Him we must suffer with Him (II Tim. 2: 12).   Kenneth Wayne Hancock

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Butterflies and Funeral Marches {short fiction}

     To just keep on living–that is the hope I hold on to every time we march in one of the company’s funeral processions.  I saw my face reflected in the side window of a sedan while we were marching last week, and it seemed to say, “On this another fateful day, I have hope.”

     The deaths come regularly.  Someone is always dying, and then we march.  I try to find something positive in it, but it is difficult.  Someone’s death does get your attention, I suppose; that’s one thing.  And it teaches you to not take life for granted; that’s something.  But then you start thinking, Who is going to be next?  But I never think it is going to be me because I have hope.

     Yes, you do have the formal funerals where the dead are put into the ground.  That’s bad enough, but it is the walking dead, the marching dead–that’s another matter.  They keep dying so very close to me, and I am thrust up against a wall of doubt, and I am tempted to believe that I am going to die just like they do.  My heart and mind are roughed up by this bully Death.  He storms into my life and steals dear acquaintances, and I, in shock, wander around asking myself, Why?  Why me?  Why now?  That’s when I think about sunshine warming up a moist green hillside–how the air quivers right before your eyes–and then the nausea subsides for the most part. 

     Hope.  I still got it, though.  I have this hope to live.  It is not a hope that is taught.  This hope in me is innate; it is a part of my very spirit inside.  It is as much a part of me as the ability to inhale air.  I want to live; I want to stay in this sometimes cruel and inhospitable environment, no matter what comes.  In fact, I secretly hope to live on–to prolong my time in this fleshy body.  Yes, to somehow cheat or conquer Death, to beat him at his own game–that is what I am after.

     I share all this with my wife.  I believe that she still understands me.  She, of course, doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t have to.  She just smiles at me all the time with those playful upturned lips.  I can count on that smile because it never changes.  It’s always there, believing me and helping me.  Her eyes, too.  They seem to wink knowingly at me as if to say, You are going to live on, my love.  And that reassures me and usually it is enough to get me through the night and on to the next day.

     Like this morning, before leaving for work, I pick her up and gently wipe the dust off and hold her to my chest and clutch her there and bring her up to my lips and softly kiss her mouth.  I never want to leave her.  Sometimes I even want to take her to work with me–just put her inside my jacket and zip her up close to my heart.  But I don’t because she would probably just get in  the way and be broken.  So I just set her back down by the candles.  She doesn’t mind being left alone at home.  She understands me.

     But my coworkers do not understand me.  They do not share my desires.  They are a strange lot to me, for they all in one accord tell me that I am much too optimistic.

     For instance, we are on lunch break last week, and as I am opening my turkey sandwich with mayo and leaf lettuce, Henry says to me, “What are you so happy about?”

     “Happy?  Why do you say that?”

     “You’re smiling like you know something we don’t.”

     “I am feeling pretty good today, now that you mention it.”

     “How could you feel good in this dump–this, this plastic sewer of a job site?”

     “At least we are working.  Some don’t have that privilege.”

     “Privilege?  You call this mind-numbing noise a privilege to work in?”

     “Henry, I have a life.  We would be destitute if I were not working.  Why do you work?”

     “Why do I work?  I’ll tell you why.  A man has to do something while he is waiting for his turn.  You know the old saying: Boredom and aggravation are Death’s herald.”        

     “So you are just biding your time until your time to go?”

     “Yes.  Isn’t everyone?”  Henry sits and stares at me vacantly.  He is not eating again.  I don’t know why he doesn’t eat.  Very rarely does he lunch with me.   He is so much like the others.  They are all thin and hollow-jowled.

     “No, not everyone.  I’m not,” I say to the black moons under his eyebrows.  I have learned that you’ve just got to look them in the eye and speak your mind.  They are not to be feared–only understood.  “I am not changing the subject, Henry, but are you eating at home?  You really need to eat something.”

     “I’m starving myself again.  I want it to come soon.  It is a miserable and lonely existence.”

     “You are selling yourself short.  Did you ever really live, Henry?  I mean, really breathe in the warm air of love and then clutch the hand of the golden-haired girl beside you and run through a green meadow in spring and chase yellow butterflies and fall down laughing at the baby blue sky smiling down on you, and then turn and  press your lips upon her moist hungry mouth and then melt and swirl as one back into eternity?”  I look in his eyes and night has fallen in them.  Empty streets wind their way down to the center of his darkness.

     “No, but then, no one has experienced that!  That is just some dream of yours, some wild idea of what life could be.  There is no such life.  There is only death.”

     “No, you are wrong, Henry.  And so are all of your buddies.  You just haven’t seen what I have seen that’s all.”

     “You haven’t seen that because it is no where to be seen!”  He is shouting now and getting up out of his chair.  “You are a liar!  There are no butterflies and grass and, and love, and pretty girls!  It’s all lies!”

     “No, Henry, you have believed the lie.  Life is good; life is sweet.  Life is to be lived and not squandered in nothingness.  You cannot negate truth with a lie.  Life is good.  That’s the truth.  Your misery is really the lie, for it does not exist in real life.”

     “No, the truth is that we are all miserable.  We are waiting to die.  Death is the only thing that we can count on.  And so I have nothing to smile about now.  There is no joy here.”  He pokes himself in the breastbone, and it yields a thumping sound. 

     “You are miserable because you believe that a pleasant life is impossible.  You have accepted death as the ultimate reality, when, in fact, it is an aberration, an interruption, a temporary detour.  You do not accept life today because you long for death.”

     Henry’s face is snarling now.  He lunges at me and grabs my neck and wraps his bony fingers around it.  He is an animal, fighting for…what?  He is shaking  my head in all directions now, and I see the faces of the others who begin to smile.  And I look at Henry’s face, and he is smiling now, too.  He is grinning and leering at me as the others begin to yell, “Get him, Henry!  Give it to him good!”

     And I can see my face flashing in his eyes.  I am a little blimp of light passing over the dark globes set in his sockets.  I can still hear the shouting, and then I see the Superintendent.  He comes in the door and shouts, “What’s going on in here?”

     At that, Henry loosens his grip on my neck.  He wheels around and stands at attention, and I hear Henry say to him, “I was trying to kill him, sir.”

     “So that’s what it was?  I thought so.  You were choking him all right.”  Henry backs up now and joins his coworkers on the far wall of the room.  The Superintendent walks over to me, looks at my neck, and asks, “Are you all right?”

     “Yes, I’m okay.”

     “I want you to report to my office immediately to fill out the necessary paper work.”

     “What kind of paper work, sir?” I ask.

     “It is strictly a formality.  He was trying to kill you, and that is obviously a capital offense.”

     “I don’t understand what you want me to do.”

     “Attempted murder is worthy of death, but the law states that you will have to put it into writing before the charges will stick.  After that, of course, Henry will get his funeral.”

     “No, sir, you have got it all wrong.  It’s not Henry’s fault.  It’s really all my fault.”

     “What do you mean?  I saw him myself with his fingers around your throat, and you’ve still got red marks on your neck.”

     “I know, but don’t blame him.  I was telling him about blue skies, butterflies, and girls, and it made him a little crazy.  He’s okay now.  I am willing to forget all about it.”

     “Suit yourself,” the Superintendent says, and then turns and yells, “Okay.  Let’s get back to work!”

     I look at Henry and the rest of the guys, and they are laughing and shaking his hand and patting him on the back.  He looks at me and says, “Are you ready to go and fill out the paperwork?”

     “There will be no paperwork today, Henry.”

     “What do you mean–no paperwork?  I need to have the papers in order, so that…”

     “I am not filling out the papers, Henry.  I am not pressing charges.”  I reach over and pat his right shoulder.  “It’s okay.  I forgive you.”

     He looks at me and moans, “Why?  What have you done to me?”

     I just smile.  I want to tell Henry that life is too precious, but there will be plenty of time for that later.

     I rub my neck.  That was close.  Death reached for me and almost got me.  And yet, I knew I would get through it.  I have this hope that I will live for a very long time–maybe even forever.      

Kenneth Wayne Hancock

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No Country for Old Men–Movie Review from a Christian Perspective

         A movie’s theme is the most important feature for me.  Now if you go for good acting, this movie has it.  Real life dialogue like you are there–it has it.  Stark reality with the characters caught in the clutches of naturalistic mayhem–it’s got it.  Cinematography depicting the barren, endless South Texas landscape and thus a symbol of the characters lives–impeccable.  You like suspense?  It literally moves your body around in your seat. 

     And I like all these aspects of the motion picture art.  But when the credits rolled, I found myself smothered by a cloud of hopelessness.  This picture could have been called No Hope for Any Man.

     For hopelessness is the theme and heart of this picture.  It shows how an average Joe played by Josh Brolin, a welder, gets sucked into the greedy world of drugs and money.  While hunting out in the wasteland for deer, He stumbles onto a drug deal gone bad.  Dead men, dead dogs, and dead pickup trucks lie strewn about on the desert floor, all riddled with bullets.  One truck is loaded with bricks of cocaine.  And then he finds another man with the suitcase full of bundles of hundreds–$2,000,000 to be exact.

     So he takes it and runs.  The drug syndicate bosses dispatch an absolute madman assassin after him, and you are left clutching the armrests of your chair as you begin to swim in the wake of the bloodletting that entails.

     Old Sheriff Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is overwhelmed by the dozens of murders in his jurisdiction.  He has spent his life keeping the peace.  Over coffee, he and another old lawman lament this new day of violence that has overtaken them.  They call it “the evil tide” that’s washing over America.  And their faces say it all.  “It’s hopeless.  The evil is flooding over our society like a scourge.  Where is God in all this?”

     In his despair, Tommy Lee Jones says at one point, “I thought that when I got old, God would come into my life, but He hasn’t.”  Those of an older time in America remember a more innocent day.  Now it has become no country for these old men. 

     And so it went.  The crazy bounty hunter murders at will unabated, symbolizing how evil in this country grows and no one or nothing can stop it.  He walks away scott-free, no one around, at the end of the picture. 

     But I’ve got news for the Coen brothers who wrote and directed this film.  There is hope.  All signs point to our King Jesus Christ returning to this earth in our lifetime.  And he will come back and terminate the evildoers and he will staunch the evil tide of this world system.  He will establish a government of true righteousness, justice, and judgement. 

     He will dry the tears from every eye; He will exalt His followers who have crucified their selfish hearts and walked with Him in a newness of life; He will hold and comfort all who mourn.  He will heal the afflicted; He’ll give “beauty for ashes,” for the evil will lie in ashes, and His sons and daughters shall shine as they sing His words:  “In the world you shall have tribulation.  But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  And by believing that He dwells and abides in us, we overcome the world, also (John 16:33; I John 5:4)                                                Kenneth Wayne Hancock

{If you have a moment, please make a comment below if this review was helpful}

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