During this season of Advent our church lights one candle every Sunday and one center candle that is the Christ’s candle on Christmas Eve. Each candle has a meaning and our first candle this season is Hope. The following three weeks of advent we will light the peace, joy and love candles.

“Our world today so desperately hungers for hope, yet uncounted people have almost given up. There is despair and hopelessness on every hand. Let us be faithful in proclaiming the hope that is in Jesus.” -Billy Graham

A dear couple of friends of mine prayed this week for hope to come via a doctor’s appointment.  Unfortunately hope was not given.  Hope is not something that is easily wrapped up in a package and given to someone.  However, I wish I could do that for this couple.  I had hope that someone could take the pain away. Living in daily pain is a horrible distraction from living life to the fullest.  What can I do to bring hope to my friends?

Isaiah 40:31 - But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Sometimes the word hope here is substituted as “wait”.  Hope is waiting isn’t it? It’s in the definition of hope: A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

What do I tell them that will bring hope?

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Prayer always helps in a time of waiting. I will continue to pray for them and the wisdom of doctors to help them.  I will pray that they will have hope for a new solution.

Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Waiting for it with patience?!  How could I ever tell my sweet friends to do that? However, that is also the definition of hope isn’t it?   We wait patiently for the Lord to return.  We hope for His second coming!  We have hope because he promises a resurrection and eternal life. We wait for that day to come and look forward to it!

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Of course that is the answer: endure and be encouraged through scripture. To be covered in scripture is a beautiful thing. Prayed over with scripture and enjoying scripture in worship songs and hymns of praise.  I know my friends know Jesus and they never give up hope. This struggle is big but I am reassured they know God is bigger than this struggle.

Psalm 71:14 But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

Do you have hope this Christmas season? Let us know with a comment below or a message to the Women’s Ministry Team if you need an encouraging word from scripture or someone to pray for you.  I HOPE for each of you to be blessed with hope this Christmas season.  If you feel blessed with hope this season, please share an encouraging word in the comments to spread hope to all those who read this blog.  

By Susan Herold-Women’s Ministry 

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Come As You Are

Have you heard about the “Come As You Are” breakfast? It is going to be December 11th from 9:00-11:30am. We will have yummy food, great fellowship, time spent praying and in God’s word, and a chance to serve others through our partner ministry ReNew. Click on link to register (Come As You Are Breakfast)

ReNew is located downtown Glen Ellyn. They have an adorable shop storefront where they personally sell the beautifully crafted goods the refugee women (artisans) create and sew. In the back is their classroom and workroom where the women are taught English and other life skills as well as sewing classes where the women create their items to sell. Here is a little snapshot of their vision. Click on the link posted to find out more. 

“Re:new Project (Re:new) is a faith-based, Christian, nonprofit organization that serves refugee women resettled in and around Dupage County, Illinois. Re:new was founded in 2009 by a team of Christian women, for whom the mission of creating a space for refugee women to thrive represents a tangible way to serve refugees in response to biblical teachings to show God's love to those in need, such as the widow, sojourner, and oppressed (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Zechariah 7:9-10). In partnership with local churches, Re:new provides a space for community members to build relationships with refugee women, learn about the challenges refugees encounter in the resettlement process, and live out their faith and love for Jesus Christ by serving refugee women.”

We have been partnering with ReNew for about a year and have been able to come alongside them in small tangible ways of blessing the women. We have had the opportunity to write Valentine’s Day cards, give Mother’s Day gifts, and collect fabric for their artisans. The ministry is always looking for more volunteers to help with the storefront as well as interacting with the artisans. 

Come join us at the breakfast where we will be putting together Christmas gifts for the artisans. This is a fun way to bless them as we enter the season as well as ourselves as we spend time praying over them and writing cards of encouragement and affirmations from God’s word. 

This breakfast is designed to set aside time where we can sit and be in his presence. No pretenses, no feeling like you need to be something else. As it was said perfectly at the last Story Night by Marcia Jarrett, “I’m not perfect, but I’m KNOWN by God”. We are all known and seen by God, and he wants us to come to him...period...that’s it. He just wants us to come to him. So come to the breakfast rejoicing, broken, grieving, at peace, a hot mess, or totally put together. Just come as you are! Come comfy, and come ready to be refreshed by God’s truths as we enter the Christmas season.

“And he said, ‘my presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’... And the Lord said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name’”. -Exodus 33:14;17

Come as you are, and be known, and be in his presence.

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I'm Good, How Are You?

How are you? No really, HOW ARE YOU? How would you respond? If you were able to only use one word to describe how you are doing, what would that word be? Exhausted? Happy? Content? Anxious? Apathetic? When someone asks how I am doing, I often answer with the cliche, “Good! How are you?”. But in actuality I didn’t really answer the question. I didn’t give any sort of insight as to how I am really doing, and I responded so casually it made it seem like I don’t care about their answer back.

But here’s the deal, we SHOULD and often we really DO care about the answers that we receive and the ones we give. So how can we ensure that others know this and feel this? How can we move past the quick greetings into real friendships and meaningful conversations? 

I think in order to be able to do that with each other, we must first be able to do that with our relationship with God. Instead of the quick or casual answers, we must move towards intentional time and honest conversations with God. To recognize that he ALWAYS cares about our answer to, “How are you doing today?”. He wants us to come to him on the mountain tops, in the valleys, and the journeys in between. He wants us to express our deepest joys, greatest sorrows, days of mundane, and moments of absolute chaos. See, when we come to him in all of our humanness, he embraces us exactly where we are at and the feelings that we are surrounded by. 

I think about the story in 1 Samuel where David is anointed king by Samuel. Samuel sends word to Jesse to bring his sons before him so he can anoint the new king. Each son is brought before Samuel, and each time Samuel finds himself thinking, “Surely this must be the one”. He sees the strongest, the tallest, the most handsome, most intelligent, but all are dismissed by God. Why? Because the Lord sees the heart. “Do not look at his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” -1 Samuel 16:7 

Do we go to God only when we feel like we are “most put together”? Or when we feel like we are stuck in the “biggest trials”? What about the inbetween? Are we beginning to have God centered dialogue? God doesn’t care about the condition of our home, the status of our employment, or even the areas we are serving in. God cares about our heart. He sees our heart and he longs for it.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” -Psalm 139:23-24 

Psalm 139 is about recognizing the omniscience of God. He knows all, he sees all, he has orchestrated all. Don’t go to God feeling like you need to pull yourself together first, he doesn’t want that. Don’t go to God feeling like you need to stop the tears or hide the anxieties. God sees all, he loves us always. And truly, he is the only one to satisfy the longings and desires of our hearts. If we recognize that God has access to ALL of our being and therefore his words and truths permeate every aspect of our life, our answer to that question will truly be “GREAT!”.

So HOW ARE YOU today? Really, really, how are you?

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When the storm comes...

The kids and I had a discussion this week about the story of Jesus calming the storm in the bible. It was fun to hear their perspectives and what they thought about the situation. As I sat later during the day pondering the story and reading the passage in the bible (Matthew 8:23-27) it suddenly struck me, JESUS WAS SLEEPING. I’ve heard this story many times and have heard many sermons on it, but it struck me again, that JESUS WAS SLEEPING. Now this storm wasn’t a quiet little rain like we’ve had this week, or a few bolts of lightning. This storm was GREAT. It says that, “there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves”. I grew up on the lake and one activity we enjoyed doing was taking the canoe out. And of course, one activity we would like to do while out in the canoe was to swamp it to see if we could get it to either sink or have us fall out. Swamping a boat is HARD. It takes some serious wave action to get the waves up and over the side of the boat (and we had just a small canoe). So this storm was not a slight wind that was blowing, you can only imagine the chaos and fear that was rising because of this great storm.

And yet, Jesus was sleeping. In the middle of this chaos, and I’m assuming people yelling, running around, clambering to make sure the boat doesn’t sink, he is sleeping. Because he was completely tired and exhausted? Maybe. But I think even in his sleep Jesus was showing us, teaching us about who God is. How do we feel when “great storms” arise in our lives? How many nights do we lay there awake having thoughts swirling through our mind? It’s hard to get good “sleep” when we are being tossed around by a storm in this life. But Jesus knew the storm was just superficial, he knew that he could trust in the goodness and the will of God, he knew that this storm was just a part of the plan to reveal God’s glory and might. 

How can we get to a place where we are able to sleep during a great storm? Where we are able to sit at the table that has been prepared for us in the presence of our enemies? Colossians 2:6-7 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving”. I love the imperatives in this passage. Have you received Christ Jesus? Then WALK IN HIM. And this word for walk means to complete a full circle. It means from start to finish, we are revolving around Christ Jesus. Walking feels calm, feels like there’s time to converse, to talk, to really get to know each other. If we spend the time walking with Christ, we begin to dig deep and form our roots. My mom has a huge garden and we would spend each spring carefully planting vegetables, and we would harvest them in the fall. I always enjoyed pulling the carrots because it was so interesting to me to see how the carrot or root formed. There were some that formed DEEP in the ground and were difficult to pull up. This is how we should be when studying God’s word, intentionally digging deep to form our roots so that we aren’t upended by the winds and storms in this life. We aren’t washed away because our roots are dug deep into God’s truths. 

How can we become rooted? Established? We need to spend time with God, learning about him, growing in our wisdom, praying and conversing with him. We’ve been studying prayer on Tuesday evenings and this past week we talked about unceasing prayer. What does that mean? What does it look like? How do we do that? There’s a quote by Henry Nouwen that painted a great picture about unceasing prayer. “Although it is important and even indispensable for the spiritual life to set apart time for God and God alone, prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts- beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful- can be thought in the presence of God. Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue”

So as we purposefully dig our roots deep, as we desire and strive to constantly be aware of God’s presence, we will find ourselves being able to sleep more and more when life’s storms try to swamp our boat because we have assurance in where our hope lies.

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Fear Not... because God

Every little thing, gonna be alright. ...Right? Right? We are constantly looking for assurance to this question. According to Bob Marley’s famous song, we don’t have to worry about anything. Sounds familiar? That’s because those exact sentiments are woven throughout scripture. God tells Joshua “Do not fear and do not be dismayed”. God reassures Gideon that “I will be with you”, God calls Jeremiah “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you”, the angel calmed the women when they found the empty tomb, “Do not be afraid”.

And yet it can be easy to be overcome by fear, worry, and anxiety. Jesus specifically teaches, “Therefore I tell you, DO NOT BE ANXIOUS about your life. Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”. (Matthew 6) To really unpack Matthew 6 would take some time. But I love that Jesus doesn’t just sit us down and say, “hey, just don’t worry ok? It’s all taken care of”. He gives us intentional illustrations and specific instructions on how to avoid worry. 

First, he reminds us of our worth! That we are VALUED by God! We are chosen, holy, and dearly loved by God! When you value something, you care for it, you keep it safe, you keep it in tip top condition. That is how God sees us, we are his inheritance! He paid a heavy ransom to save us from darkness. We are VALUED and WORTHY in the eyes of God. 

Second, he reminds us of God’s omniscience and sovereignty. God KNOWS all and SEES all. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (v.32)”. There are no surprises for God, he isn’t taken aback, or scrambling to catch up. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and all has been planned and predestined by him. We are allowed, even encouraged to come boldly into the throneroom to worship, honor, and to present our requests before him. How can we enter so boldly? Because he already knows what’s on our hearts and minds. The answer may not be YES-right now, it may not even be YES, but the answer will always be good and perfect and in his timing.

Third, Jesus encourages us to fix our minds on what is truly important. And it isn’t earthly matters. This passage is following the reminder to store up our treasures in heaven, because everything here on earth is temporary and will fade. The treasures here on earth are tied to emotions, the treasures in heaven are tied to our hearts. Jesus is reminding us that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”. We have the honor and opportunity to be used to further God’s kingdom here on earth. We are called to spread the gospel and to make disciples. This should be our focus, where our heart is tied to. That will bring reward, and not the treasure chest full of shiny baubles but the gift of eternal salvation for others!

So Jesus isn’t telling us to not work, to not try, to not simply exist. He isn’t saying, “hey don’t worry because life will be perfect”. (We wish, right?) Jesus is reminding us of the power of God, of the goodness of God, of the love of God, of the compassion of God. He is reminding us that every trial that causes worry or fear will be used to glorify and honor God if we keep our focus on who will sustain us through it. He is reminding us that humble hearts acknowledge that we simply cannot do life on our own, and that we need to approach each day with confidence knowing that we will be provided enough for simply each day by the heavenly Father. 

He is reminding us that yes, “every little thing, gonna be alright”. 

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Radical Living

LIVING RADICALLY. Those are some big words to use. Especially in the climate where we are at. There are so many things that are pushing the boundaries of God’s truths. So what would it be like to live radically for God’s word? 

I was having a conversation with someone about the sermon on the mount and the words that Jesus was saying. That would’ve been RADICAL teaching for his time. At this point, the old mosaic law was still essential and all that the people knew and strove to obey. Now Jesus wasn’t coming to abolish the law, or even fight against it. He was there to fulfill the prophecies that were spoken about him. God sending Jesus to earth was to show His incredible mercy and grace and ultimate plan of salvation. At this point, the teachers and religious leaders were considered the wisest and most knowledgeable of God’s words. They were the ones who were doing the “saving”, going into the temple to make sacrifices on behalf of the people. And now here comes Jesus starting to preach that ANYONE can get into the kingdom on their own, for simply believing? That the meekest, the most humble, those are the ones raised up.  What a show that must've been. No wonder the leaders questioned, and even plotted against Jesus. They felt their security and their position threatened. Have you ever felt that? Have you ever become defensive towards someone that was simply speaking truths into your life? I know I have.

And yet, Jesus stood firm in God’s words. He didn’t let the “what abouts” or “what ifs” get in the way of God’s truths. He lived radically for God during his time on earth because he knew there was so much more. His work on the cross has brought everyone into the fold, no matter what we do, we are given salvation because of Jesus. 

My children and I were reading the passage about being the salt of the earth and light of the world. We had a great discussion that centered around what that means, and how we are to truly be the salt and the light. And sometimes, that will be hard, and challenging, and there will be people who will want to make your saltiness useless or hide your light. There were many during Jesus’ time that wanted to make him useless. They were more concerned about who he spent time with, how he taught, when he allowed children to come to him, even the places he stayed. 

So when the bible says to not be afraid, how do we live radically in freedom? When the bible says to cast all our cares, how do we live radically in peace? When the bible says to stand firm in trials, how do we live radically in steadfastness? When the bible says to not be angry, how do we radically bear with one another in all circumstances? When the bible says to maintain unity, how do we radically come together despite differing opinions?

How? Well, on our own, we cannot. It’s impossible. Those standards are unreachable without the help and promise of the Holy Spirit. When the pressures of this fallen world are bearing in on us, we can cry out to God and he will rescue us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”-Isaiah 41:10. At Tuesday night bible study we have been studying prayer and using the psalms. One theme that we have noticed threaded throughout is the promise of rescue and brought into wide open spaces. This is our God! “In my distress I called upon the Lord; he brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”-Psalm 18:6,19. Living radically means to live in communion with God. Living radically means to be his light in a dark world. Living radically means to give all the glory back to him. Living radically means to rely on his strength and not our own self-sufficiency. Living radically means to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul”.-Matthew 22:37

So build your house on his firm foundation. Study, pray, invest in your relationship with the one who will sustain you and provide all you need. Live radically for Him because his ways are good and perfect. This is our God!

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The Battle Belongs To...

I have had several conversations this week that have revolved around God’s word and the transition that is coming when the Bees move to Iowa. And let me tell you, they have been exciting! They have been full of hope, of looking forward, of gratitude for God’s provision and guidance, and full of faith and trust. Yes, there has been great sadness, but grief and joy can coexist! 

After the meeting last Sunday, I found myself praying and asking God to reveal to the women of MCF their great WORTH and giftedness. I know sometimes it’s hard to figure out where we fit in and how we can aid in this transition that is coming. It’s easy to get distracted by the negative, the anxiety, and overwhelming list of things that have to get done. But God… in his goodness WILL provide what we need! I have always liked the saying, “God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called”. And that is where we are at. Whether we recognize the calling or not, we are all being called to stand firm in the faith, to walk worthy in a manner pleasing to the Lord, to link arms with one another and continue on- even without Pastor Andrew and Eryn. Why? Because that is what we are COMMANDED to do! How? Only through coming together unifying the body of Christ. The best thing? All we have to do is maintain unity, it’s not something we have to create or come up with all on our own. It’s already there. As Drew preached on Sunday, it has already been perfected and intimately designed by the Trinity. So we show grace to each other, mercy, eager to help and serve each other, bearing with one another, and as Walt said Sunday, “being willing to ASK for help and to receive it once given”. Can we do this? ABSOLUTELY!

I talked about how our story matters for the women’s retreat this year and I feel that it is the same for church! This is part of MCF’s story! And all of it matters and will be used by God! However, we need to remember that there is a battle raging. The enemy also wants to use this story to kill, to steal joy, and to destroy hope. So we need to be willing to step into this fight and refuse the enemy any rights to this story. There is so much unknown, but only to us, it is KNOWN by God! He sees, he knows, and he will reveal next steps, and the right person in his timing.

I think about the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall. It seemed like a daunting and near impossible task- and would’ve been if not all the people came together and worked as one team. It wasn’t easy, and didn’t go without opposition. In fact, one of the best parts of that story is where it says that some fought, some built, and some even built with their one hand and held a sword in their other hand fighting. But the ABSOLUTE best is when Nehemiah reminds the people, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight…”

YES! The Lord IS great and awesome and is going to do mighty things through Uncommon Church in Iowa AND Meadows Christian Fellowship in Rolling Meadows. 

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This past weekend I was able to spend some time in Nashville with friends. While we were there, we had the privilege and fun of seeing The Rolling Stones in concert. Now, some of you may be impressed and some could care less, but I was thinking about a word as I was watching this timeless rock band jam away on stage. LEGENDARY. Whether you are a super fan or not, no one could argue against the fact that they are LEGENDARY. They are widely known across the world, their music spans decades, and reaches the young and the old. 

There aren’t many people that we can truly call LEGENDARY, who have stood the test of time, who have remained faithful to their art, who have created a name for themselves that will stand LONG after they are gone. But I think, if that word existed when Jesus was walking on earth, he would’ve been called LEGENDARY.

Jesus stood up for the lowly, he recognized the ones who were shamed, he loved those who were persecuted, and stood firm against trial. Jesus. Is. LEGENDARY. His name spread throughout the regions, and to this day, it is cried out all over the world. He was praised by thousands and followed by endless crowds. People thought he was “THE KING” who would rescue them from Roman rule. 

And yet, this legendary man, this guy who did things that were utterly amazing, knew there was so much more to his time here on earth than the crowds and the accolades. He IS legendary,  but not simply because of his name, but because of his work on the cross. He is legendary because his power of the cross has spanned not just decades, but centuries, in fact, for all eternity. Jesus faced death because he knew THAT was what was the most important part of his time here on earth. He taught others, he healed others, he prayed for others, but most of all, he rescued EVERYONE. 

So as I stood there watching the band play, I was reminded through this strange avenue to be grateful for the one true legend who walked this earth in order to give us hope, salvation, and eternity with him.

And Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

-John 14:6

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God's Words Are Never Cliche

Writer’s block. That’s what I’m dealing with as I am sitting here thinking about what I want to write to you ladies. And truthfully, everything I start writing sounds too cliche, a “been there done that” situation. 

So, I’m not going to write anything. Instead, I’m going to simply write the BEST words that are out there and pray them over all of you. And I’m going to tell you, you are LOVED, you are CHOSEN, you are HOLY, you are a DAUGHTER of THE KING, you are BLESSED, you are CHERISHED, you are FORGIVEN.

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made”

~Psalm 145:8-9

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

~Ephesians 1:17

“So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy.”

~Colossians 1:10-11

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

~Romans 5:3-5

by Cindy Goding

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Falling Short

This month I did a running challenge with a friend. The plan was to run 75 miles in the month of September. Today is the last day of September and I am only at 71 miles. Now, 71 miles is a personal best. I have never run 71 miles in a month before, so I could feel pretty good about that. The problem is, it falls short of my goal.

This morning when I was doing my last run, realizing there was just no way that I could run far enough to make my goal, I was thinking of the things that kept me from meeting my goal. There were unexpected days of busyness. There were some days when I was just too sore from a previous long run, or doing other hard physical labor (you guys, fixing up a house is HARD!). Other times, my schedule just didn't allow time for a run. All the reasons add up to one thing, I just fell short.

Before anyone thinks that I am beating myself up too much over something as trivial as a running goal, don't worry- I can get over it. But the more I thought about it, it felt like an important metaphor for something far more important than running. I was reminded of another place where I have fallen short. Immensely so.

Romans 3:22b-25a

 For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

This verse tells us that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. We were all born sinners. No matter how much we may set goals to be our best selves, we fall short. Our human nature was set against any desire for goodness before we even had a chance to set such goals. Even at our best, we can not be perfect. And in order to not be a sinner, we must be perfect and holy even as God is holy. Anything less than perfection is falling short of the glory of God.

But praise be to God! There is far more to those verses than condemnation. We all fall short, but we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! We are no longer condemned. We don't need to beat ourselves up. We don't need to prove anything. We are sinners, yes, and we have fallen short of God's standard, but by the grace of God, we are forgiven, set apart, chosen by God. We are clothed in Christ's righteousness. We don't need to worry about falling short. His grace and mercy will never fall short- praise be to God!

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.

II John 3

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