Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #23

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Dear Son, Carpe Diem!

It was my freshman year in college. I sat in a theater with a small group of friends and watched Dead Poets Society. It is one of the greatest movies of all time, but one scene burned into my brain. On the first day of class, Mr. Keating led a group of high school students into the hall and expounded the philosophy of Carpe Diem…. to seize the day. The concept jolted my senses.

As you prepare for the rest of your life, do not miss your life.

Kindergarten prepared you for elementary. Elementary prepared you for middle school. Middle school prepared you for high school. High school prepared you for college. It can feel as if you are constantly preparing for the next step. As if someday in the near future – you will arrive – you will be prepared to finally live and make a contribution.

As you prepare, do not miss the great and small opportunities that are part of this day. Pay attention and participate in what is going on around you. Yes, grab hold of big opportunities, but don’t miss the small ones. Most of life seems insignificant, but it is in the small things that we build relationships and skills.

Do not miss this season of your life. Do not miss today’s challenges and rewards. Make the most of this season – it will soon be a memory. I leave you with the wise words of Solomon:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #22

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Dear Son,
Do not grow weary in doing good.

Eighty seven faces stared at us as we stepped off the boat onto the muddy Amazon shore. The village chief stepped forward and said, “Welcome” in timid, broken English. Thus began our fifth and final day on our medical mission trip down the Amazon River in Peru.

It was the summer before your fifth grade year, and your first trip out of the country. Your assignment was to play soccer with the village children. My assignment was to do whatever was needed.

I went with grand visions of how I was going rescue the people. I pictured myself as Billy Graham speaking and the whole village giving up their pagan ways. I pictured myself as the Crocodile Hunter jumping on the back of a hungry crocodile just in time to stop it from chomping one of the sick children being cared for by one of our nurses. Then I would say, “I’m no hero…I just did what anyone would have done.”

Back to reality. Each day the group leader gave out assignments. On the first day he read my name and said, “You will be working in the Servants Station.” That sounded good and christian to me. Then I found out that my job was to wash feet…all day long.

I was ready to wash feet. If it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for me. I thought it was a good starting point and I would work my way up.peru2

Day 2 – “Mike Thomas you are assigned to the Servants Station.”
Day 3 – “Mike Thomas…Servants Station.”
Day 4 – “Mike Thomas…Servants Station.”

We reached day 5 and I was growing weary of washing feet. I have nothing against feet, but most of them had never worn shoes so they were pretty dirty. “Mike Thomas you are assigned to the Servants Station,” said the group leader for the final time. About three hours into it, I had enough. I felt like I had wasted the entire week. I had not saved any souls or rescued any children. I left the Servants Station and took a walk to try to find something amazing to do before we left. Surely God had something great for me to do.

As I walked around the small village, I watched a man have an infected tooth pulled. I saw a young boy take a pill to protect him from malaria. I saw an elderly lady put on glassed and see clearly for the first time in her life, and she just laughed. I saw you running and playing soccer with a group of boys.

I made my way back to the Servants Station. It took me by surprise to see that we had the longest line. I saw the smiling face of a small girl as she walked away with clean feet and a new pair of flip-flops. The smiling face of someone who felt truly cared for. It hit me hard right in the middle of the chest – I was a part of something bigger than me. I just had to take a few steps back to see the big picture.

No matter how hard your task may be – do not grow weary.
No matter how long it takes – do not grow weary.
When it seems you will not make it – do not grow weary.
When it seems like no one is noticing – do not grow weary.

“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #21

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Dear Son, The war is won, but the battle rages on.

It was Friday afternoon, and the weight was almost too much. The mockers were mocking. The followers were scattering.  The underworld was jeering and cheering.

“It is finished!” shouted Jesus as he gave up His spirit.
A shout that changed everything.
A shout of victory in the midst of defeat.
A shout of triumph in the tragedy.
A shout that announced the war is won.
Death is dead and sin is shattered.
God’s kingdom will reign forevermore.

May you find comfort and confidence in the fact that the war is won, but may you not grow complacent or callous because the battle rages on – the battle for your mind, heart and community.

Be vigilant to protect your mind and heart. In Romans 7:21- 25, the apostle Paul shares his inner struggle between good and evil. He final concludes, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul goes on to offer a solution to this inner struggle in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The renewal of your mind is a life-long endeavor. Make it your practice and your goal to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul.

There is also a battle for our community – both local and international. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. Our very presence preserves and lights the way.  May you not loose your flavor or grow dim.

We must engage those who wish to bring our community down. The engagement must be in love but not innocuous or inaudible. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:4-5

In Ephesians 6, Paul shares this advice as if he were a General sending word to the front lines, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

May God be with you as you engage in the battle.
May He protect your heart and mind.
May He hold you up as you stand.
May He guide your steps as you extend His Kingdom.
May you be able to join Paul in saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The war is won, but the battle rages on.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #18

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Dear Son, With great power comes great responsibility.

It was 2002. You were seven years old, and we went to watch Spider-Man in the big theater on Cason Lane. You were a Batman fan, but you compromised. It was the first non-cartoon we went to, so it was a big deal.

Spider-Man did not disappoint. The movie was filled with special effects, menacing villains, and heart-pounding battles. Everything you would want for your first live-action hero movie.

But the one scene burned into my brain was a quiet scene at the end. Spiderman was leaving a graveside funeral (he was not in his costume). As he walked away, he remembered these words of wisdom from his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The origin of the quote has been attributed to Voltaire, FDR, Stan Lee, and others. But I fall in the camp of those who ascribe it to Jesus.

In the middle of a large crowd of followers, Jesus pulled his small group of disciples aside and shared a few parables and these words, “To whom much is given, from him much is required.” Luke 12:48

You have been given much: ability, training, love, opportunity, friendship, travel, leadership – so – much is required.

Do not view this as a burden or stress. It is a wide-open opportunity for the rest of your life. Paul expresses this in one of his letters to the early church, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #17

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Dear Son, God will make a way where there is no way.

It was the second week of August. My junior year at Liberty University was starting in two days, and I did not have the money to return.

I applied for financial aid, interviewed for an RA position, and worked all summer. But it was not enough. I exhausted all my resources, strategies and strength. I gave up hope of returning to Liberty… but then God stepped in.

It was Saturday evening when my dad received the phone call from David Graham, an old college friend and pastor. My dad had not heard from him in years.
“Do you know any students who would be interested in attending Liberty University this fall?” he asked.
“I know one,” answered my dad.
“Well I have a member in our church who would like to provide a full scholarship to one student this year, and you came to my mind,” said Mr. Graham.

My dad told his friend about my situation, and Mr. Graham said to pack my bags and everything would be taken care of. I packed that night and left town the next morning on the 16-hour drive from West Palm Beach to Lynchburg, Virginia.

When I approached the desk in the Business Office on Monday morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mrs. Tomlin took out my file and looked inside. “It looks like everything is taken care of. You can check into your dorm and head to class,” said Mrs. Tomlin with a smile. “It also says the donor wishes to remain anonymous.”

I never found out the name of the donor, but I know Who made a way where there was no way.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”   Genesis 18:14

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #16

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Dear Son, You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose Wisely.

The next 5 years of your life are critical in the development of your character, relationships, and reputation.  The people you spend time with will play a major role.

I have been blessed with great friends and associates throughout my life. During my high school and college years, God provided protection and guidance through a group of friends and roommates. A few names come to mind: John, Jud, Herbert, Scott, Ward, Bob and Jeff. I would not be who I am today without their influence.

C. S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” Surround yourself with people who build you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend,” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT).

The Bible has much to say about the people that we spend time with. Here are a few verses to help you choose wisely:

  • “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.”  Psalm 1:1 (NIV)
  • “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”  Proverbs 13:20 (MSG)
  • “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”  Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV)
  • “Bad company corrupts good character.”  1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLV)

I am not saying that we should never associate with people that are not of the highest character (please excuse the triple negative). I am saying we must be cautious of the amount of time spent and the level of connection shared. I love George Washington’s advice, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

Who are the 5 people you are spending the most time with? Is it a wise investment?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #15

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Dear Son, Your reputation is priceless. Protect it!
Love, Dad

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  Proverbs 22:1 (NKJV)

Your reputation and name are inseparable. A short list of names demonstrates this fact, both good and bad: Ronald Reagan, Anthony Weiner, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Paula Dean, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, and Jesus. Each name conjures images of either a sterling or tarnished reputation.

A reputation takes a lifetime to build, but it can be destroyed in seconds. Therefore, you must protect it with vigilance. In recent years, one’s reputation is growing more difficult to protect due to two factors: increasing temptations and social media. You are not only being bombarded by an increasing assortment and access to temptations, it is also easier to get caught and published for the world to see for all digital eternity.

Reputation Protection Plan

  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Be careful where you are. If you find yourself in a compromising situation, look for the escape and go. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
  • Be careful what you are looking at and filling your mind with. Images lead to thoughts and thoughts can lead to actions.

If you fall, seek the forgiveness of God and any others involved. Remember, God will forgive, but people will find it difficult to forget.

If you damage your reputation, repair it with humility and diligence.

What do you want people to think when they hear your name?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #14

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Dear Son,
“Thank You” are two of the most powerful words you can say.
Love, Dad

“Say thank you,” were words your heard from your mother and I many times while you were growing up. We were especially vigilant around Christmas and Birthdays. We reminded you several times before we arrived at the gift exchange. You ripped open the colorful paper, full of anticipation to see what amazing wonders awaited, only to be greeted by a 3-pack of underwear. We gave you the look. You took a deep breath and somewhat convincingly said, ‘Thank you.”

Saying “Thank You” is not always natural or easy – but it is always powerful. Showing gratitude has a deep impact on the receiver of the “Thank You”. They feel appreciated, loved, respected – and they will be twice as likely to continue the activity that prompted the “Thank You”. Being grateful is also very beneficial to your own health and well being. Psychological studies have demonstrated this “Gratitude Effect”.  Click here to watch an enlightening video by Derek Halpern about the power of “Thank You”

pt thank youHere is a super powerful secret:  “Thank You” notes are like a “Thank You” on steroids with lasers strapped to its back. It is a vanishing art that will not go unnoticed. In fact, I have a “Thank You” note you gave me on a special shelf in my office.

Thank God
Also remember to thank God for all of the blessings in your life. God is the true source. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” James 1:17(NIV)

What would today look like if you only had what you thanked God for yesterday?

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #13

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Dear Son,
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do…find it.

I did not discover this secret to success in a business class or book. I discovered it in a funeral home.

I had the privilege to work and live in a funeral home the summer after graduating from college. I mowed the grass, greeted people and moved a few dead bodies (that may sound cold, but so were the bodies). I had low expectations for the job. I was just killing time until I found my career. I was wrong. I had much to learn, and the funeral home was a great place to do it.

I did what I was told  – nothing more – nothing less.
“Cut the grass.” I cut the grass then waited.
“Blow off the sidewalks.” I blew them spotless then sat down and waited.
“Help me move this body.” I moved the body, washed my hands, then waited.
I was dong my job and feeling good about myself.

After a couple weeks, the funeral director came to me and said, “You are wearing me out.” I was shocked. I was a college graduate and was doing everything they asked, how could there be a problem. He continued, “I am tired of having to find stuff for you to do all day. You need to look around…walk around…there is stuff that needs to be done everywhere.”

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. In all my years of working in restaurants and going to school, no one shared this amazing wisdom with me. I put it into practice, and it has given me great advantages over those that sit around and wait to be told what to do.

Do what you are told to do with excellence – plus look around and find things that need to be done. You will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded with greater opportunities.

One side note: when you find something to do, make sure to let them know and get approval before you do it.

“Take a lesson from the ant, you who love leisure and ease.
Observe how it works, and dare to be just as wise. 
It has no boss, no one laying down the law or telling it what to do,
Yet it gathers its food through summer and takes what it needs from the harvest.”
Proverbs 6:6-8 (The Voice)

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10-Minute Bible Storyline

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God spoke all things into existence: light, water, sky, land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, animals, and humans. God made it all, and it was good.

God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and gave them responsibility over all created things. God gave them one rule: do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit.

Paradise was lost as sin and death entered the world.  God’s children no longer had a perfect relationship with their Creator, but God showed grace and love in the midst of judgment. God made a promise of a future rescuer who would come and crush the head of evil.

Adam and Eve had children. One of their sons, Cain, continued the downward spiral of sin by murdering his brother Abel. Over time, people began to multiply and spread across the earth. The only problem was as people multiplied, so did sin and evil.

God decided the earth needed a fresh start. He would send a flood to wipe out all living creatures, but God chose Noah, the only righteous man, to build a large boat to rescue his family and a pair of all the animals and birds. God protected them through the flood and showed His grace and love by making a covenant (promise) with Noah and all future living creatures not to destroy the earth by flood.

People and the land began to grow and flourish again. Humanity started to forget about God and trust in themselves. Many people gathered in a city named Babel and constructed a tower to bring glory to themselves. God confused their languages and caused them to scatter and spread across the earth.

The time came for God to build a nation. God wanted a group of people to show His love and power to all the inhabitants of the earth. God made His choice and it started with an unlikely couple named Abraham and Sarah. God promised to give them many decedents, land, and to bless the world through them. God fulfilled His covenant and started to build His nation through Abraham’s son, Isaac.

The nation grew as Isaac and his wife Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau. They were not the kindest of brothers, and Jacob tricked his brother into selling his favored birthright for a bowl of soup. Jacob went on to trick his father, Isaac, into giving him his final blessing. Regardless of these poor choices, God showed favor on Jacob and continued His covenant made with Abraham. Jacob had 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel. One of these sons was Joseph.

Through the cruelty of his brothers and the blessing of God, Joseph was brought into a position of power in Egypt to rescue his family. God brought His people to safety and provision in Egypt, but things did not continue to go well for the people of Israel after Joseph died.

The people of Israel spent 400 years of hard slavery in Egypt. God heard their cries and sent a reluctant prince named Moses to the rescue. Moses confronted the Egyptian Pharaoh and demanded that he let the people go. God sent a series of plagues leading to their release.

God guided and protected His people through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. God gave commandments and taught His people how to worship Him through a series of instructions and the building of a Tabernacle. God led the people with a cloud by day and fire by night to begin the journey to claim the Promised Land.

Moses sent spies into the Promised Land (Canaan). Most of the spies said the land was amazing and fruitful but the people would be impossible to defeat. The people became fearful and did not trust that God could bring them the victory. God grew weary of their lack of faith and complaining and said they would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Only the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, would enter the Promised Land with the children. Even Moses lost the right to enter the Promised Land because he failed to give God the proper credit for providing water in the wilderness.

After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader, and led the Israelites to take the Promised Land. This was not an easy task, but God was with them. Israel was faithful to God under the leadership of Joshua.

Following the death of Joshua and his fellow leaders, Israel became rebellious against God. They served idols and lived lives of sin. God stopped protecting them, and they fell into the hands of their enemies. They were not able to conquer the entire Promised Land.

In the midst of this judgment, God showed grace and love and empowered judges to free His people from the oppressive enemy. These judges included Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Eli and Samuel.

The time of the judges over Israel came to an end. The final judge of Israel was Samuel. Samuel called the people back to God and to defeat the Philistines. The Israelites lost the battle and lost the Ark of God. This was devastating to the people of God.

The people of Israel demanded that they have a king to lead them like the nations around them. God was disappointed by this rejection of His leadership but honored their request. The first king, Saul, started well but stopped following and trusting God.

David was Israel’s second king. He was a mighty warrior and poet with a true heart for God. David united the people and established the capitol city in Jerusalem. Even though David made some bad decisions, he was humble and returned to God.

Because of David’s faithfulness, God continued the line of kings with David’s son, Solomon. God visited Solomon in a dream and offered him anything he wanted. Solomon requested wisdom to lead the people. God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom, and Solomon was respected as the wisest man. Solomon built a magnificent temple for God. Israel experienced a golden age a peace and prosperity during the reign of Solomon.

Later in life, Solomon married foreign wives, turned from God, and followed foreign gods. After Solomon’s death, Israel was torn into two kingdoms. A series of bad kings led the people of Israel far from God.

God sent messengers (prophets) including Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea to warn His people and try to bring them back to God. The Israelites continued to rebel against God and the kingdoms fell. God’s people again became slaves and exiles in foreign lands.

God was faithful to His people through the time of Exile. God told His people, through messengers including Isaiah and Jeremiah, of His love and promised that they would return to the Promised Land. As the messengers predicted, Babylon fell, and Cyrus, king of Persia, proclaimed that the Israelites could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Isaiah also told of a great Messiah (King) that would set them free.

Haggai and Zechariah helped lead many of the Israelites back and encouraged them through the difficult and dangerous rebuilding project. Ezra led another group of Israelites back to Jerusalem and called the people to follow God. Nehemiah then returned with a group with the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. This was a dangerous task because surrounding nations were determined to keep them from completing the project.

The temple and the wall were completed, but the people were still not focused on God. Ezra decided that the best way to bring back the worship of God was to read the Book of the Law to all of the people. The people listened and returned to God.

The people of God continued to go through political and moral unrest. They waited in great expectation for the promised Messiah to come and rescue them. In God’s perfect timing, this promise was fulfilled.

God was changing everything. God with us. He would no longer visit through dreams, visions and pillars of smoke. God would walk with His people. He would teach them face-to-face. He would touch them and heal their sickness and pain. He would set them free from sin and shame.

In the beginning, God spoke the universe into existence with a word. Now God was speaking complete salvation into existence through the Word, Jesus the Son of the living God.

God changed everything through the miraculous birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary fulfilled many of the amazing details predicted in the past by God’s messengers. God sent the Messiah into the world on a mission to bring final and complete salvation to all who believe and place their faith in Him.

Jesus started His mission as he walked the streets of Israel. Now the people walked and talked with God through Jesus. Now the people learned how to live as they listened to Jesus’ teaching and watched Him relate to those around Him. Now they were being set free from sickness, pain and evil influences in their lives. Jesus chose 12 of His followers to be apostles: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas.

Jesus’ time of teaching and walking with His followers on earth was ending. It was time for Jesus to complete God’s mission and become the sacrifice that would cover and forgive the sins of all who believe and have faith in Him. Jesus was betrayed, crucified, and buried in a tomb. On the third day Jesus was raised to life. Jesus visited his followers and other people before ascending to heaven.

Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection were the rescue plan God lovingly crafted before the world was created. We see God’s amazing love, judgment and grace demonstrated in this supreme sacrificial act.

Jesus may have left His followers on earth, but He was not going to leave them alone. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. Now God, through the Holy Spirit, would be with every follower of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would bring comfort, knowledge and power to help the early Christians spread the Good News of Jesus. The task of spreading the Good News to the whole world would not be easy. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the mission began.

Peter, Paul and most of the other apostles were killed for their beliefs and preaching about Jesus. One of the last remaining disciples was John. He was held prisoner on the island of Patmos. While there, God gave him an amazing vision of Jesus and revelation of things to come.

It was revealed that God will pour out a final judgment on the world. The world will follow an evil beast and false prophet empowered by Satan. Jesus will then return to earth to conquer the beast and Satan. God will hold the Great White Throne of judgment and throw Satan, the beast, the false prophet and all those not written in the Book of Life into the lake of fire.

Then God will make an amazing new heaven and new earth for His people. There will be no more sickness, tears or death. God will reign with His people forever.

Now it is your turn to take part in the story of God and His people. The same God that did all these amazing things is alive and active today. What will your story be?

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