My Greatest Heartache in Ministry

 

Africa Camp 1

For the past two weeks I have savored the awesome blessing of spending the first half of the month of July in Africa serving the Lord, seeing souls saved, and ministering together with dear brothers and sisters in Christ through the ministry of The Wilds Camps Abroad!  This trip to South Africa and Malawi was a definite “get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone” trip.  Although I had made other mission trips, I had never visited a third-world country.

Since coming home, I have intentionally entered in my journal my “take-aways” from this journey.  One in particular stands out to me above all others.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I must say that before this trip, I had prayed, but I had not prayed so fervently, so frequently, so specifically, and as trustingly as I did while in Africa.

Without reservation, all that we experienced by the hand of the Lord was absolutely in direct response to prayer!  We watched God answer in so many ways, and we had a “front-row seat” to watch it happen for His glory and our good!!

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For instance, without going into great detail, after three days of training the nationals how to operate a teen camp, the first day arrived with great anticipation but a bit of fear of the unknown.  It’s 8:00 a.m.  Where are the campers? We looked out in the yard of the mission compound to see only one teen camper.  You read that correctly . . . one teen camper.  Undaunted but not knowing how to gather more teens, Dan, our leader make the absolute best decision.  He looked at all of the workers and said, “Let’s gather in small groups and PRAY for GOD to bring in campers.”  That’s exactly what we did.

As our group cried out to God for a manifestation of Jeremiah 33:3, for God to surprise us, He did exactly as He promised!

Within 30 minutes or less, the gates to the mission compound opened and a pick-up truck laden with a bunch of eager teens entered the grounds.  Moments later, the scene was replayed.  Eventually, we had 88 teens to begin our first day of camp!!  We saw God at work!! What a time of praise we had as we then saw some of those precious souls hear the gospel and respond to the call of salvation!!

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You may be puzzled as to why I have entitled my post “My Greatest Heartache in Ministry” when the past few paragraphs have been about God’s amazing work in my heart and the lives of others.  Quite frankly, I will say that my greatest heartache in ministry is the lack of prayer among God’s people . . . me included.

I’ve seen folks get up way early to be at church to go on some church fellowship trip.  I’ve seen believers pack out an auditorium or outdoor arena to hear their favorite singer or group and sometimes pay a hefty price for the ticket (Oh, and drive two hours to get there.) I’ve seen church members not miss a business meeting so they could vote their way.  And on and on I could go, but ask a group of believers to attend a prayer meeting, a prayer advance, or even pray, and . . . well, you know the rest of the story.

When are we as believers who have the very ear of our Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God (Psalm 34:17), the blood-bought invitation by our Righteous Advocate and Great High Priest to enter into the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16: 1 John 2:1-2), and the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8:26), when are we going to make prayer a blessed, expectant, humble, dependent, relational priority of our lives?

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Motion Songs, Scripture Memory & Joy-Filled Believers

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Last night in prayer meeting, we shared in a family-friendly service.  After singing a couple of gospel songs, one by request, we had the kids up front leading the singing of some good, old children’s songs, two of which had motions.  It was fun to look back at the adults who were doing the motions as well, especially on singing “Only a Boy Named David.”

After singing “Boys and Girls for Jesus” we took prayer requests for the unsaved.  How precious to hear these children and adults mention their loved ones, friends, and neighbors’ names.  We then broke up into small groups with adults and children praying out loud for the lost.  How sweet to hold a 4 year old boy in my lap as he prayed in his own precious way, and it was not a short prayer either.

When we gathered back together, we sang the old gospel song, “I Love to Tell the Story.”

I’ve challenged our congregation to memorize Ephesians 4:1-16 over the next two months.  Hence, we then worked on 4:1-3 as a family or in small groups.  The drill was to say 4:1-3 five times aloud in unison as a group.  Then, one person in each group would take the lead in saying the passage leaving out words for the rest of the group to fill in.  This was a blast!  The laughter and joy of memorizing Scripture was so cool!  Then some of folks stood and recited 4:1-3 which was followed by encouraging applause.

We then took Ephesians 4:1 and broke it down word-for-word learning the meaning and the application.  How cool to watch everyone search through Ephesians 1-3 to find what Paul meant when he said in 4:1 to walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.  The kids did a great job with their answers straight from Scripture.

What a precious time we had as a church family in community last night.

The ice cream treat with my wife and the sunset afterwards was an added blessing, too!

From a pastor’s heart,

Dale

How To Overcome Dull, Lifeless Prayer

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Read carefully Paul’s words in reference to the church at Philippi:  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5).

Look at those words, making my prayer with joy.  Is prayer a joy in your life?  Do you have a joy-filled time praying?  In others words, is praying a happy time for you?  Is it a time of rejoicing, praise, thanksgiving, and sweet communion with your Heavenly Father?

If you pray in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20), you will be praying with joy because it is a fruit of the Spirit.

For many, prayer is a burden, a drudgery, and/or a duty.  May I encourage you today to find a place to meet with God and enjoy His presence?

  • Praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for how He has shown His character to you through answered prayer. (Psalm 145:3)
  • Thank Him for what He taught you in His Word. (Psalm 19:7-11)
  • Rejoice in a promise that He has shown you; that you can hang onto today. (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Sing to Him. (Psalm 96:1)
  • Raise your hands in adoration and submission to Him. (1 Timothy 2:8)
  • Thank God in advance for how He is going to answer prayer, save souls, lead you through the day, give wisdom and grace,

I believe if you will make prayer with joy this morning, it will set your day to be one of joy and blessing.  Try it!  (Philippians 4:4-7)

Advance

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There are many words to describe the various aspects of our Christian experience that is our daily walk with Christ in relationship with our Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some of those descriptive terms include putting off and putting on, retreat and rest, keep on keeping on, press toward the mark, be zealous, and many others.

Last week I saw the word advance come to life.  A group of ladies from our church attended a conference in Roanoke, Virginia, known as Ladies Prayer Advance.  The gathering began on Thursday at 1:30 with a general session which included singing, prayer groups, more singing, and powerful preaching from the Word of God.  This was followed by workshops and then a supper break.

The evening service began at 7:00 p.m. with singing, prayer, choir ministry, and the preached Word.  The first evening session is followed up by one of the most important events of the conference, prayer meetings.  Ladies gather with their group and follow the prayer prompt of what is known as CPR, Confession, Praise, and Requests.  As they go around their circle in at least three rounds of prayer, the Holy Spirit moves in, hearts are convicted and broken.  Honest and transparency abounds.  The conference really begins here.  Prayer meetings have been known to last all night.

My wife returned to her room somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Needless to say, when the Prayer Advance began again the next morning at 9:00, there were some tired ladies.  Instead of listening to their fatigue, they pressed on through a whole day of preaching and workshops followed by another service after supper and more prayer time.  Before lunch is one of the great highlights of Friday’s events called Sweet Hour of Prayer where you find a quiet place and pray for one hour.

Then Saturday morning rolls around with an 8:30 start for a workshop and then the final session at 10:00.

I have attended several Men’s Prayer Advances and have been the van driver for the past two Ladies Prayer Advances, and the same thing happens every time.  By the time the Friday night service rolls around, the conference participants are pumped, excited, expectant, full of praise, clean before the Lord and walking close to their God.

This same spirit escalates into the Saturday morning final session, and my friend, I will tell you, it is a bit of heaven on earth!!!

Why does it happen this way?  One word describes it . . . Advance!  Although our earthly bodies through fatigue, excuses, fears, laziness, and unconfessed sin calls us to slow down, quit, go take a nap or various other backward responses, the grace of God through praise, prayer, and preaching causes you to advance.  As each session and workshop moves along, the ladies are moving closer to the Lord! They are advancing!  And of course, that is the way it is supposed to be as we read in James 4:6-8, But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I promise you, no believer has ever regretted drawing closer to God, advancing toward God and the things of God.

Yes, there are times when we need to retreat and rest, but advance should be a term to describe our relationship with God on a daily basis.  Grace is sufficient even when we are tired, tempted, and tested.

There’s a song we sing in our church that describes what I’ve tried to convey in this blog post.  Listen to it and . . . ADVANCE!

I Run to Christ

(Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

Copyright © 2010 ChurchWorksMedia.com. All rights reserved.

Lord, Bless My Children or Philippians 4:8

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Have you ever listened to yourself pray?

Do you say the same prayer phrases over and over again?

Has prayer become dull, boring and a duty?

What are you praying for your children or grandchildren?

There is a huge difference in praying, “Lord, bless my children.  Help them to have a good day,” and praying Philippians 4:8 for your children.  For instance . . .

“Lord, help my children today to think what is true and live what is true.  May truth guide their every step.  May the Word of God come readily to their mind when they are tempted to do wrong or need encouragement to do right.  May they commune in prayer with You, Jesus, Who is the Truth.  And, Lord, may my children today be truth tellers, speaking the truth and sharing the truth.”

When you pray Scripture, you are praying in the will of God (1 John 5:14-15), your praying comes alive (Hebrews 4:12), and you move from tired, old prayer cliques and empty phrases (vain repetition, Matthew 6:7) to prayer that comes alive (Hebrews 4:12)!

I would challenge you to take your daily prayer list and place Scripture references beside each one.  Then, pray that Scripture from a sincere heart of genuine relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.  Pray expectantly!  Cry out to the Lord in believing prayer because it is based upon the eternal words of God!

For additional help: 31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children

On the Same Page Together

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Yesterday I received my daily email from All-Pro Dad, and the post for Wednesday was entitled, 4 Areas You and Your Wife Need to Be on the Same Page

The four areas are:

  1. Touching throughout the day.
  2. Spending money wisely.
  3. Making big decisions together.
  4. Having an Open-Heart policy.

BONUS: Closing the day in prayer

These four things are spot-on, but what caught my attention was the title of the article and the bonus.  They describe the real need of every marriage.

The page that every marriage should work from each day is a page from God’s Word.

The bonus in every marriage, every day is prayer!

You see, God, the Creator of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18-25), is also the Author of God’s Word.  Therefore, for a husband and wife to be blessed and have an honorable marriage, they will work off the same page . . . the page(s) of God’s Word.

Since God is righteous (Psalm 145:17), then all His ways, counsel, direction, and wisdom is right.  You want to know what’s right for your marriage, then both of you work off the same page, God’s Word!

Husband and wives should read the Word together, share with each other what God teaches you each day-by-day from the Word, faithfully attend a Bible teaching and preaching church, be exposed to biblical preaching via podcasts or radio, attend camps and conferences where you can learn the Word together, and live your lives in accordance to God’s right path (Joshua 1:8-9; Psalm 1:1-6; 19:7-14).

Proverbs 14:11 reminds us, There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  Since marriage is the union of two selfish individuals whose way seems always best to themselves, it is most wise to walk in the counsel of God’s righteous Word.

The power and place of God’s Word is on display in Psalm 119.  Here’s an action plan. How about each day, you and your spouse read one eight-verse section from Psalm 119.  Take turns reading each verse out loud and stopping after each verse to listen to God and share with each other how that verse applies to your life and marriage.  Then jot down in a journal your thoughts, biblical plans, and the righteous path God has revealed to you as you read, discuss and meditate on the Word.

Finally, enjoy the BONUS—pray together.  Don’t just wait until the end of the day.  Find yourselves praying for and with each other throughout the day and night.  The absolute best place to go with your spouse is to the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Now, that’s really working off the same page!!

A Touch of Heaven

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It is now 355 days away, and yes, I am counting, until we gather again for the Friday evening session of Men’s Prayer Advance!  Every year, I must say that it is a “little bit of heaven on earth.”  There is a genuine spirit of expectancy; a passion to worship in song, prayer and praise; a longing to hear the Word preached again; and an unparalleled unity among men before the Throne of God!

How is it that over 600 men gathered in one auditorium are singing with all their heart and voice, even if they have no musical ability?  How is it that these men are uninhibited in their expressions of love for God and surrender to God?  How is that men are willing to clap and/or raise their hands in praise, shout for joy, and even move to the altar in conviction even during a sermon, pray with such honesty and transparency, and not be ashamed to confess Christ before their peers?

I believe the answer is found in Exodus 14:30-31, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. 

And then note their response to the Lord’s working as recorded in Exodus 15:1-3 and following,

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The Lord is my strength and my song,

    and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

    the Lord is his name.

The Children of Israel had been exposed to the character and works of God!  They saw, listened, believed and then worshiped!

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The Friday night service is a touch of heaven because we arrive on Thursday afternoon in need of a touch from God, a heart-change.  From the very first general session until Friday night, we are exposed to powerful, convicting preaching; many times of prayer with another man or in groups; CPR prayer (confession, praise, requests) in our Thursday half-night of prayer; Sweet Hour of Prayer on Friday mid-morning; breakout sessions that deal with men’s heart issues; and music that magnifies Christ, glorifies God, and lifts the soul!

So, when Friday night rolls around, you have over 600 men who are ready to worship because as we heard this year, “we are not cleaner, we are CLEAN” before the Lord!

You know, Sunday services at church, for instance, should be times of awesome worship, too, if we are being exposed every day to the Word and broken in prayer!  When you have a daily fresh encounter with God Who is your Holy, Loving, Just, Righteous, Awesome, Transcendent Heavenly Father, it will affect your worship!  And as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, worship is 24-7 . . . not just on Sundays or Men’s Prayer Advance.

So, are you giving God Exodus 15 kind of praise today?

Are your co-workers experiencing salt and light (Matthew 5:14-15) and seeing Matthew 5:16 fulfilled in their lives because you have been exposed to the Son?

Will today in your home before your family and next Sunday at your church be a touch of heaven because you are clean?

As we were so challenged this year, we must “keep the clay wet” (Jeremiah 18:6); “shut the door” (Matthew 6:5-15); and “stay in faith” (Hebrews 11:6).

(If you want to watch the services, check out this site as well as the other links: Thursday NIght Service 1.26.17)

How’s the View?

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Hiking has always been in my blood!  I remember as a six-grader hiking up East River Mountain, Bluefield, WV, on Christmas Day with a foot or more of snow on the ground!  Wow!  I have never forgotten the views, the beauty of the sparkling snow, and the fun of just hiking with family.

Something that beckons me to climb a mountain is to reach the summit.  Why?  Because I am so intrigued by the view, and I want to know what it looks like on the other side.

 

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One of the many blessings of traveling to Israel was mounting the summit of the Arbel Cliffs.  What an awesome view overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  During the early ministry of Jesus, which took place on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, Scripture mentions that He departed into the mountain to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12).  We cannot be certain that the Arbel Cliffs was that mountain, but it sure could have been since it is situated between Tiberius and Capernaum.

Praying takes me to the summit.  There is no higher throne of authority than the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

From that summit, I see all things around me through the eyes and wisdom of God.  There, I am taken above my worries, fears, anxieties, questions, doubts, temptations, Satan, old sin nature, and needs.

At the summit of prayer is that quiet place above the noise and distractions below.  There I feel like I could soar like the eagles.

There at the summit, I can see the attributes and character of God, the person of Christ, and the enabling help of the Spirit who draws me to prayer.

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The Psalmist David knew about that summit when he said, From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2).

And when he (Jesus) had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

How’s your view this morning, this afternoon, and this evening?

Living Well in 2017

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“The Christian life starts with the promises of God. He makes claims about Himself and gives us promises about our salvation and our future. Then, having trusted in those promises, we respond in faith and obedience to God’s commands.” (Kevin De Young)

There are over 7,000 promises in the Word of God.  One of the most well-known involves prayer.  Let’s sink our tap-roots into Jeremiah 33:3 for a moment and note with me four promise words from this passage:  Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

COMMAND

Call to me – “to cry out, call aloud, literally to roar”

Here is the promise of an invitation in the form of a command.  God knows exactly what we need for life, and He does not leave us wondering. At the very root of prayer and our great need is simply crying out to God.

Believers who really believe in the promises of God, who walk by faith, are not fearful to cry out to God!

Psalm 4:3             But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call to Him.

 CONFIDENCE

I will answer you – “to heed, to pay attention, to give answer”

Here is the promise that God will answer you.  He gives us His undivided attention every time we cry out to Him.  His answers are always best, even when there is delay or a no.

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

CHARACTER

I will show you great things

Show – to make conspicuous something that was previously unknown

Great – in importance, as here, God Himself

Here is the promise that when we pray, God will reveal Himself to us.  God operates totally and consistently based upon Who He is.  Study through the Old Testament and see how He revealed Himself to Abraham, for instance, via His names and His attributes.  The great things in prayer are not first of all His answers but the revelation of Who He is.

In response to Jeremiah’s prayer recorded in chapter 32, God responds in verses 26-27, Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

So, when you pray, look for Who God is, then watch His hand.

CLEAR

I will show you mighty things

Here’s the promise of God taking you into the secret place of His counsel, the intimacy of His fellowship, into the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

This word mighty refers to “hidden, inaccessible” things.  It pictures an impregnable city protected by high walls.  When you pray, God takes you behind all the ‘stuff of this world,” all the circumstances of your life, things you do not understand, and He brings you into the secret place of His grace, His wisdom, His love, His mercy, His power, His resources, His faithfulness, and on and on and on.

No one can touch the mighty things of God; they are inaccessible.  You have access to them by the work of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Romans 5:1-3; Ephesians 2:18-19; 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-23).

 

The strongest believers are those on their knees surrendered and believing the promises of God.  That’s living well in 2017.

Wise is he in the day of trouble who knows his true source of strength and who fails not to pray. (E.M. Bounds)

Christmas In the Past; Life in the Present

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The build-up and anticipation of Christmas is unequaled in our country!  As is often said, “The preparation for Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year.”  Indeed, Christmas is a very special holiday and one that many folks prepare for throughout the whole year.  But, what about the days after?  Is there a let-down?  After all the planning and performing of cantatas as well as children’s plays, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing for company and meals,  taking family photos, and  celebrating firsts (marriage, children, house, job), is all over, how will you handle the days and the weeks after?

  1. Begin today in God’s Word reading it with the same passion as you did all the “Christmas passages.” Memorize other portions of the Word of God with the same fervor as you did to memorize Luke 2:1-20.  Read books about the life of Christ beyond the cradle with the same zeal as you did all the Christmas books.  Read them to your children, and make Christ’s life BIG to them every day!!
  2. Live with a daily anticipation of the next biggest day of your life as a believer—the Rapture & the Bema (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 12 Corinthians 5:10).
  3. Enjoy singing songs of praise and worship to our God all the other months of the year with gusto and joy on your face as you did the carols of this season (Psalm 96:1-9).
  4. Be a giver today as you were on Christmas (Acts 20:35).
  5. Open up your home for family and guests today and into next year (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
  6. Walk in the same grace today that was sufficient yesterday as you dealt with the “tug in your heart” over that special person that was not here this Christmas season (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  7. Be as energetic today about the gospel as you have been prior to December 25 (Philippians 1:27).

2 Peter 1:3-8

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Photo:  Steven Lawson)