The Heart of God

This is where we live.  This chapter is all about today.  Not about what He did 2000 years ago. Not what we accepted when we came to Christ, but how we live in Christ today.  Because, obviously, He did not take us home when we said, “I do”.  So He expects some things out of us during this period of sanctification, during our period of Kiddushin, He expects some things out of us. 

This is where we are and so it is a matter of upmost importance.  This is the very heart of God for His wife, for His people, for His temple today.  I want to start by looking at a passage out of Ezekiel 37:15-28:

“The word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, `Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, `Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’  Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.  When your countrymen ask you, `Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph–which is in Ephraim’s hand–and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’  Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone.  I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  `My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.  They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.  I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”(NIV)

The nations will know.  I will make the two one, I will make a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant with them.  This is what I believe is the very heart of God, oneness with His people.  He wants to be our God and for us to be His people and He accomplishes that through the marriage of His Son to His people. 

As we start to look in the New Testament and our early church history, we see that the church was first thought of as a Jewish sect.  That’s what we were.  Most believers in that early first century were Jewish, they were Jews who recognized their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, their King Jesus the Messiah.  So in that first century as Gentile believers started coming into the nation there had to be discussion about Jew and Gentile and so that is where we are going to start. 

Ephesians 2:11-19 says, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”(NIV)

Members of God’s people, of God’s household.  Church hear me, the word ‘church’, the Greek word for ‘church’ in the Greek Septuegant, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used in talking about the congregation of Israel.  It is not exclusively a New Testament term.  The church is the congregation or assembly of Israel.  God seeks to make all His children, whether Jew or Gentile, one.  That is His purpose, to create in Himself one man out of the two.

I want to say very clearly at this point, I know there is a lot of talk out there in theological circles about replacement theology, which says that the church replaces Israel.  That is NOT what I am talking about.  I want to make that very, very clear.  The church did not replace Israel.  We have the awesome privilege of being brought into citizenship in Israel and to share in their covenant promises. 

Romans 9:6b states, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”(NIV)  What Paul means by that is that just because one has the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not make them a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel.  Because only in Christ, only in Messiah, does that happen.  Even Jews must recognize their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, they must recognize their Messiah.

Romans 10:11-13 reiterates this, “As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””(NIV)  He takes the two and makes them one.  Remember we are talking about the heart of God and what God desires for His own people.  This is God’s desire for us as we live out this life of following Him and awaiting Him.

We then find in Romans 11:12 & 15-21 & 23-26a, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!… For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,  do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either…. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!  I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved”.

All Israel, the holy assembly of God’s people whether Jew or Gentile will be saved.  The heart of God, oneness among His people.  We have to be careful, the church has become awefully Gentile in the last 2000 years.  True?  True!  But we must not forget our roots, remember it was already mentioned that in the first century we were Jewish.  The church was Jewish.  The Apostles kept going to the Temple, they continued to celebrate the Feasts.  However as we became more and more Gentile we lost connection to the root.  We must remember and not stand on arrogance that we are the Church.  But remember that we stand on a root and they are our root and one day those branches that were broken off will be grafted back in.  You see there are not two trees of the church and Israel.  There is but one tree.  And we will all stand together in that oneness and in His covenant of  peace before God Almighty and marry His Son, those who have called on the Name of the LORD.   

Later in that Romans 11 in verses 30-32 we find, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”(NIV)  Jew, Gentile it doesn’t matter.  We all broke the first covenant.  We are all in need of a new covenant, every one of us.

A Citizen of Israel,

Vicky

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Unity in the Home Part 2

I want to first apologize for it being so long since I have written.  We have been getting used to the new school year and then on top of it all we began to have computer issues.  However, it did give me time to really think about this post.  I am going to be discussing things in ways I have never really thought of them before and so for the extra time I am thankful.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

5Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.(HCSB)

Let’s begin with the children.  This command to the children is really a repeat of the fifth commandment that tells children to honor their father and their mother.  That is what it is referring back to when it talks about being the first commandment with promise.  In honoring them they are to obey, paying careful attention to them as they would the Lord and in doing so they are honoring the Lord who gave the command.


Then the fathers are to be careful in how they treat their children.  Notice they are not given permission to do as they please to their children.  They too are given instructions on how to bring up their children.  They are to bring them up to love and obey the Lord, training them and instructing them in the ways of the Lord.  This is a heavy task and one that bears total responsibility and purposefulness.  Fathers cannot do this half-heartedly, it must be with the whole heart and with precise direction – toward the Lord.

Remember we are talking about unity in the home.  If the Father or the children do not get their parts correct their is a break down in that unity.  A father needs his children to obey him and to honor him and their mother.  The children need to be loved and understood.  They are not yet adults and do not do things the way an adult would.  They also do not have the understanding of an adult yet long to be understood by their fathers.  This is to be done with compassion and joy as they watch their children grow in the love and instruction of the Lord.

Here is where the mystery hits this passage.  Scripture talks about us being the adopted children of God.  As His children we are to obey Him without question, He is our Father.  The Father looks on us with compassion as Jesus did the crowds.  He understands us and knows how hard it is to avoid sin.  As Hebrews 2 tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.  You see He also knows the way to avoid the sin and if we are close to the Father, listening and obeying the Father, He will guide us through the temptation so that we can escape its grasp.  This relationship is all important if we even hope to say no to sin.  It works in unity, perfect unity.  We are the children listening, obeying and thinking the world of our Father, standing in awe of Him and He is the loving Father beaming down in love and delight in His children.

As for the slaves and the masters I have often heard this passage preached from the perspective of employee and employer.  I do not think this is accurate and here is why.  This is not an example of an interpersonal relationship outside the home, but one within it.  The home is the entire focus of these three examples in Ephesians.  In Paul’s day slaves in the home were a reality and one that contributed to the unity of the home.  Therefore it had to be dealt with as part of his conversation.  He was not attempting to address the rightness or wrongness of slavery, but the behavior of both masters and slaves who have become voluntary slaves of Christ, knowing that how they act reflected on their Savior.  Paul was effective in reaching both slaves and masters with the Good News of Freedom in Christ.

Slaves were to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord.  They were to do this in love for their master, not resentment.  The Lord sees the heart and holds even the servant responsible for his own motives and attitude in his work.  Slaves were an important part of many homes.  If they did not do their work in a timely manner and well the home was not a good place to be.  It reminds me of Joseph when he was the slave of Potipher in Egypt.  God blessed the household of Potipher because of the efforts of Joseph who loved Him.

Likewise, masters are to deal with their slaves with respect as another human being.  They are to treat them fair, knowing that they too have a Master in Heaven who is watching them.  Yes, watching even the way they treat their slaves.  Masters are not to leave or desert their slaves, they are part of their family, and thus, the masters are responsible for their care (keeping in mind the status of a slave was often the result of debts).  This is the true meaning when it says, “without threatening them”, the threat is the threat to leave them alone.  God holds each of us responsible for how we treat each other no matter our station in life.  In Christ we are all brothers and sisters called to love and serve one another.

Now for the mystery within this example.  We are the servants of God called to follow His commands.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.”  You see He is the Master.  He is our Lord.  He has every right to give the commands and we have no right to disobey them.  As for His part, in love He has promised never to leave us or forsake us as a good master, our good shepherd, would. 

Yes, Jesus does calls us His friends as well, but that does not negate our role as servants.  Paul calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord, a servant by choice, following the commands of His Master.  Let us never forget that Lord means Master.  So when we call God our Lord and Savior we are really calling Him our Master and Savior and declaring ourselves His bond-servant bound to obey His commands.

God desires unity in every part of the relationship He has with us.  Unity between the Bridegroom and Bride, between the Father and His Children, between the Master and His Bond-Servants.  Is not our God awesome in what He desires with us?  Truly His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.

Let us obey our Bridegroom, Father and Master as we love one another.

Vicky

Forward in Love

Ephesians 4:7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says:
When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people.
9 But what does “He ascended ” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.(HCSB)

It was the Messiah who gave the duties of being an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher.  He did not give them just because He felt like it, but for a very specific purpose.  The One seeks for His people to be one.  Do not miss that.

On a corner of one of our seminary buildings was verses 11 and 12 and it always bugged me because it stopped there.  But Scripture does not stop there.  These duties are assigned so that the saints can properly do ministry in such a way that grows the body up.  You see, ministry can be done in such a way where the body does not grow up and it stays an infant.  So, the question is, what does it look like when the body of Christ is grown up?

Verse 13 gives the answer to that question.  You see, we are headed in a specific direction, not meandering aimlessly around on our own.  With the help of the Spirit and those God equipped to lead the body the church is supposed to come to a place where they reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son. 

This part is very important, this unity is in doctrine.  This is the area we like to ignore, but according to this passage we cannot.  We must have unity in how we live for Him and in our doctrine.  We cannot have unity in one and not the other and expect the world to see the Light of Truth in our lives.  That is why so much of this book is given to this subject of oneness and unity.

I have often wondered how it is that so many people inside the church want to insist that there can be unity of the body and not unity of doctrine.  It has also amazed me that no one really seems determined, within orthodox Christianity, to sit down together and pray together and pour through Scripture together until unity becomes reality. 

You know, do the hard work our founders here in The United States did when they shut themselves up in a room, prayed, searched the Scriptures and talked together coming out of that hall with the Constitution.  Where are those in the faith willing to do that?

The issue to my past wonderings may be found in the next phrase in verse 13, “growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness”.  This can also be translated this way, “into a complete man with a maturity measured by Christ’s completion.”  Look at that again, it says, “a complete man”.  Does this remind you of anything already talked about in the book.

Back in chapter two Paul talks about the Messiah taking the two, the Jew and the Gentile, to make one man.  You see we are not complete without each other.  Up until recently in history the Jews were not coming into the faith of the Son of God in very large numbers.  However, that is changing and with them we are seeing a resurgence of understanding in the faith. 

Could it be that they had to be grafted back into there own tree before we who are in the faith could sit down and really seek unity, complete unity.  Did they need to be at the table?  I believe so.  Why?  Because they hold the key to so much that the Gentile church had left behind long ago and frankly no longer made much sense to us.  That is why some could think it O.K. to abandon the Old Testament.  But it is not O.K., we need each other.

I have often said that Yeshua/Jesus does not want a dysfunctional Bride, yet that is what we have been giving Him for quite some time.  No, He seeks oneness, complete unity (John 17) for His Bride.  The pieces are in place and we can learn from one another again.  Jew and Gentile are no longer separate, but in Christ have become one man, a complete and mature man.

This is why we will not be tossed to and fro by the waves that sail our way.  As one, knowing our faith and standing firm up against one another, the waves break on us instead of us breaking on them.  False teaching does not stand a chance when the body stands together as one.

No, we speak the truth in love instead of following after false teaching and saying it’s O.K. to do so.  We follow the one who is the One.  We grow to be like Him who is our head.  We grow by each one of us doing our assigned duty in love.

We have been given our marching orders and they are to stand up against one another in love and not to allow any false teaching in. 

We must act and think as one, a properly trained military unit.  We are His body.  He is the head, the commander of the unit.  No unit can do anything without the commands of it’s commander.  And no unit will succeed when it disobeys its commanders explicit instructions.  That is what we have, explicit instructions, commands, to follow.  It is up to us to do the following.  That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me”.

In the weeks ahead I hope to create a page on this website where we can come together in love to discuss our differences and learn from each other as we hear each others hearts. 

It will be a place where we can be honest about what we think we understand, but at the same time are willing to hear from others who disagree with us. 

It will be a place, not to win an argument, but a place to follow the leading of the Spirit. 

Please invite people to come and join us here at Esther’s Legacy, people from different orthodox Christian backgrounds. 

We need each other.  The Gentile Christian needs the Messianic Jew and the Messianic Jew needs the Gentile Christian.  Lest we forget, the different Gentile denominations need each other too.

Forward in Love,

Vicky

Hold The Line

Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)

Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”. 

That is what he means by the “therefore”.  To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord.  He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.

This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling.  And who called them? 

The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life. 

Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy? 

Absolutely not.  Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less.  It will take the Spirit filled life. 

I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.

Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh.  This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind. 

This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God.  This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.

Our next word is “gentleness “.  It is really the word “meekness”.  Unfortunately we do not really understand this word. 

It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control.  Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others. 

Jesus is our greatest example of this.  He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father.  This is what this word is calling us to be.

Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand.  This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs. 

This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified.  It is being longsuffering in action.  Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.

Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”?  Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here. 

He talks about accepting or bearing with one another.  However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another. 

Are you getting the picture?  We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love. 

Now here is the idea.  The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line.  Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.

I want to take the next phrase together. 

It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”.  The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed. 

O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort?  We are keeping. 

The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.  

We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit.  We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.

Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course. 

It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us. 

No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit. 

We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it. 

We do not think lowly of ourselves.  We do not restrain our power or rights.  We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love. 

We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace.  We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.

We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it.  We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations.  This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.

We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book.  Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.

Church… you must hold the line, hold fast.  You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence. 

Let us live the mystery in such a time as this.

Vicky

The Mystery

I learned something very valuable this past week.  Do not start a major endeavor, such as this blog, right before a big week.  This past week was Vacation Bible School week for us.  I did not write last week, and as a result God changed my direction a little.


I found myself in the book of Ephesians.  It has many of the themes we will be dealing with in this blog, and God made it clear to me that that is really where we need to start.  I remember what my speech teacher in school used to tell us, “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them”.  Ephesians is going to stand as this blogs equivalent to “tell them what you are going to tell them”.


Let’s get started.


EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.


After Paul’s introduction, he begins offering praise to the Father and Jesus Christ and says that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms.  Then he goes on to describe those blessings.  Being chosen to be holy and blameless in His sight.  Let that one sink in a little.  We were not just chosen, but chosen with an end result in mind, being holy and blameless.  What does that look like?  That is just what this blog will be discussing and what Ephesians does such a good job at fleshing out.


He adopted us as sons through Jesus Christ according to His pleasure and will.  He gave us His grace, redemption and the forgiveness of sins.  Then He made known to us the “mystery” of His will according to His good pleasure.  It is this “mystery” that is the focal point of Ephesians and what we will spend our time on this blog exploring.  What is that mystery?  Look down a little further to the second part of verse 10.  That mystery is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  To bring us together — make us One in Christ and with Christ.  And notice when this will take place.  When the times will have reached their fulfillment.


Some of you might have found it frustrating that I did not mention “before the creation of the world” and “predestined” from earlier verses.  These are connected to our being chosen and adopted.  Just as the fulfillment of time has to do with the mystery, God does things in His time and in His time things often find a fulfillment in the heavenly realms before they work themselves out in the earthly realm.  Bringing all things together under Christ found it’s spiritual fulfillment in the heavenly realms when Jesus died and rose again, however, I believe we are even now seeing the earthly fulfillment of this heavenly reality.  God is bringing those who place there faith in Jesus Christ together as one under Christ.  In other words, He is making us holy and blameless in His sight – a spotless bride.


Have an awesome evening in the Lord!


Vicky