Mothers and Daughters

My son-in-law called me a few months ago and asked me if I could help him out with something. He had booked a flight and a hotel room for Amber and himself at Pensacola Beach for the first few days of October. It was his birthday gift to her (which he has done for the last several years). They go and enjoy some relaxation on the beach and enjoy the beauty of the ocean and some of their favorite restaurants.

He had, however, failed to check his calendar before he booked this trip. When he did check it, he was booked for a gospel meeting for those same days. So, he called me and asked if I could help him out by taking his place on the trip with Amber. I thought about it for a nanosecond and said, “YES!” Luckily when I checked my calendar after agreeing to go, I had those days free.

We took that trip last week, and there aren’t enough words to tell you how much I enjoyed having that time with my daughter. As I was packing for the trip, I began trying to remember the last time we had been able to spend some time together – just the two of us – and really have time to talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. It had been way too long!

I thought about some important things about this mother/daughter relationship that I hope will help those who may be reading this – young or older.

  • She is my best girl friend and I am hers – at this point in time. It has been that way for lots of years. However, it was not that way when she was growing up. We had a warm and loving relationship, but I was not her best friend – I was her parent, her mother. I was teaching and training and disciplining her so she would be prepared for her role as a wife and mother. She had lots of friends, but at that point in time she needed a mother, not another friend.
  • Communication is so vitally important in the mother/daughter relationship. It is important in any relationship, but in this particular case who can explain womanhood to a girl better than her mother? Open lines of communication help your children know that they always have someone they can turn to, even if the topic of conversation is going to be hard to handle. If you are texting, or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, and your child wants to talk to you…(please hear me on this) PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE AND LISTEN EYEBALL TO EYEBALL TO YOUR CHILD! Girls need to feel free to talk to their mothers. The daughter who can talk to you when she is young and knows that you will take time to really listen, will still be talking to you and asking for your advice when she is older.
  • Time goes by way too quickly. I know some young mothers right now who are so busy taking care of little ones and it may seem to them like they will always be there with you needing help. Trust me, the day will come when they will be out on their own – and it comes all too soon. Cherish the time you have now. Use it to wisely establish a relationship with your child that will never be severed.
  • The Bible doesn’t give us very many examples of mother/daughter relationships, and some of the examples are not very pleasant to read about. Just one example of this is Herodias and her daughter who was prompted by her mother to dance before men and ask for the head of John the Baptist. (Matt. 14)

However, we do read of other mother/daughter relationships: Jochebed and Miriam (the mother and sister of Moses) who worked together to save the life of baby Moses, Naomi and Ruth (a mother and daughter-in-law) who stuck together through some very difficult times, and then we read about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. When the scriptures tell us that “her children rise up and called her blessed,” I feel sure that she was blessed with sons and daughters. She displays the type of training for her children that would lead to a lasting relationship with them.

I loved my time with my daughter – my friend. We didn’t do anything special other than just spend time talking about all sorts of things – some serious and some not so serious. We enjoyed each other’s company and made a pact to try and do more of this very thing. We are both busy women, but we will be looking for more opportunities to be together. 

I’m praying that you mothers who read this (and you fathers with sons) will realize that time spent with your children, whether while they are young or when they are grown, is one of life’s greatest blessings. Fit it into your busy schedule and enjoy some quality time. 

Thank you, Jeremiah, for this wonderful time with my daughter.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  Psalm 127:3


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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

Some Thoughts on God’s Thoughts (or, A Study of Isaiah 55:6-9)

The book of Isaiah contains many memorable and powerful passages. From the imagery of sin being like scarlet, yet God making them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) to the prophecy of the “suffering Servant” (chapter 53), the book is filled with treasures.

One of those that is often quoted is found in Isaiah 55:8-9, where Isaiah declared,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I can’t even count how many times I have heard that passage used to speak about how God sees the big picture and how it describes the perfect knowledge of the Lord.

Oh, and I’ve used it that way many, many times myself.

And, most certainly, those things are true. God’s knowledge is perfect, and God is not time-bound, so He does see all things at the same time.

But, is that what Isaiah was saying in this context? Maybe not.

Why do I say that? Because of the previous two verses, where we read these words:

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (emphasis added)

Did you notice the reference in that quotation to the “thoughts” of “the unrighteous man?” And, then, verse 8 begins with the word “for.” In other words, this is all one context.

So, what Isaiah is speaking about when he says that the thoughts of God are not our thoughts is not necessarily the all-knowing nature of God, but, rather, the holiness of God. He does not think unrighteous, impure, unholy thoughts.

If I am correct about that, then it fits with the rest of Isaiah’s book beautifully. Often in this lengthy book, God is referred to beautifully as “the Holy One of Israel” (1:4; 5:19; 10:20; 30:11-12; et.al.). It is in Isaiah that we have the angels calling out to the Lord, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (6:3). And Isaiah constantly was calling the people of God to repent of sin and live holy lives again before Jehovah.

Yes, we should stand in awe of God for His infinite knowledge. He knows more than we do and He does see all time constantly. But Isaiah 55:8-9 is a call to us for something other than that. It is a reminder to us that God never thinks an unrighteous thought. He is holy, and it should be our constant prayer to be holy in all our thinking, as well.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

A Five-Straw Salute

As the son and son-in-law of men who served in one of the branches of our nation’s armed forces, I remember well the twenty-one-gun salute that took place at the committal service for each of them. As a preacher, I have been with countless families as one of their loved ones is laid to rest in this manner. 

That salute and the playing of “Taps” that follows is a very emotional time. I cannot remember a time when tears were not shed because a very special person was remembered in a very special way.

I did not serve in the military.  Although I was at the “prime age” to be involved in the “conflict” in Vietnam, the military decided that they did not want a guy who had torn a knee up in a high school football game.

I was thinking the other day about an appropriate “salute” when it comes time for my graveside service. I think I have an idea.

You see, I’ve taught each of our five grandchildren the fine art of tearing the end off of the paper or plastic that restaurants normally use to put straws in. Once the end is torn off, you can merely remove the rest of the paper or plastic and use the straw. That’s the way boring people do it. 

The grandkids and I have our own way of doing this. It is a lot more fun. You can put the exposed straw into your mouth and “shoot” the remaining paper off. It is even more fun if you can hit an unsuspecting target (hopefully at your own table). 

Grammy may roll her eyes and parents may shake their heads, but Grampy and the grandkids get a kick out of this. At least most of the grandkids do. I think that our sixteen-year-old may be getting a little too “sophisticated” for this, but he’ll get over that someday.

I can see it now! After all of the right words have been said at the cemetery, the straws come out and Grampy gets a five-straw salute! Maybe, instead of tears, Grampy will make the grandkids smile one more time. 

It may not seem like it, but I am actually discussing something serious here. I never really knew my grandparents. Three of them had already passed from this life before I was born and I only saw my maternal grandfather a few times. He passed away when I was very young.

I have no memories of any of my grandparents. I don’t what they sounded like. I don’t what kind of (if any) sense of humor they had. I don’t know what their likes and dislikes were. I don’t know what is like to remember stories told by a grandparent. I’m not even sure where two of them are buried.

The Lord has allowed me to spend time with my grandchildren and to establish a relationship with them. Nobody knows how special that is to me. Nobody knows how much I wish I could spend more time with each of them. Nobody knows how often I think of them and pray for them.

Both of our children and their families live some distance from us. It takes some effort to be able to spend time together. I value any time we can work all of that out.

Those times are not merely a time for fun and foolishness. The fun and foolishness are just a part of a much bigger picture. Those times, along with the serious times, the sad times, and many other types of times are important opportunities. They are opportunities to do what my mother-in-law used to say we were doing when she was with us and our children. I can still hear “Grandma Ruthie” saying, “We’re making memories, aren’t we?”

That statement sums up a lot of what I think families are all about. Families make memories. Families establish legacies and carry them on. 

You and your family have your own traditions. You have your own “inside jokes.” You may even have your own weird uncle or goofy Grampy. Your family may not shoot straws in a restaurant, but you do something that people who are not a part of your family do not understand and can never really be a part of.

Your family (like mine) is unique. There is not another family anywhere exactly like yours. 

Do what you can to let each member know how special he or she is to you. There aren’t many investments you can make that would be better than to invest time making memories with your family. 

Who knows? You may be repaid with your own special salute someday!


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Do Your Part

Today, I want to offer a word of encouragement for those who sometimes feel as if they aren’t doing enough for the Lord. It might be that their health no longer allows them to do what they used to do. It could be a young mother who admires the older ladies of her congregation and yet feels guilt that she can’t do as much. Please read the following and know that whatever the task God has given you to do, it is the right one.

I asked the Lord, “What shall I do?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”

I quickly replied, “Oh no, not that.
“Why no one would ever see.
“No matter how well my work was done;
“Not that little place for me.”

The word He spoke, It was not stern,
He answered me tenderly;
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
“Are you working for them or me?
“Nazareth was a little place, and so was Galilee.”

~ unknown

1 Corinthians 12:4-7:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit
for the common good.”

Do your part!


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

You Will Never Out-Dream God

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” –Walt Disney

Congregations sometimes struggle with planning for the future. While there are many reasons for that, a number of those reasons come down to one factor: fear.

We are afraid we don’t have enough money.

We are afraid we won’t grow.

We are afraid that, even though this change has nothing to do with Scripture, people simply will not accept change.

So, we sit back and keep doing what we are doing. Or we make some plans, but they are not challenging in the least.

Of course, we must have a sense of realism, but may I remind us all today that there is no way we could ever out-dream God? Paul wrote of God that He “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). My paraphrase of that? Whatever your biggest dreams are, they aren’t close to what God can accomplish!

Don’t believe me?

The dream of Jesus was that literally every person on earth would hear of Him, and when He said that, it was addressed to a grand total of 12 people (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Spirit-inspired vision of a congregation is that every member “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). A congregation isn’t what God dreams of until each member looks just like Jesus!

Christ desired that His people be so unified that people would see the resemblance of the Father and the Son in all His people (John 17:21). Perfect unity for all believers is the dream.

The point is this: when someone puts forward an idea that seems too out-there or too difficult, it is so often just shot down by those who are frightened by the prospect of something that audacious.

But whatever dreams we have, they have never been as large as those of our heavenly Father, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). If you and the congregation where you attend are not dreaming dreams that big, you just aren’t dreaming big enough.

Or, maybe, your view of God isn’t big enough.

It’s time we tried to dream like He does, and it’s time we started trusting that He will bless our efforts in His name, no matter how large they may be.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Why Is There Such Evil in the World?

The tragedy in Las Vegas this weekend has once again reminded us of the state of our world. So much evil exists, and so much innocent loss of life happens for no reason. One thing that I see people doing with every new difficult episode – is this continuous attempt to be able to wrap their minds around why all of these things are happening.

Why is our country so divided? Why so much hatred and strife? Why all the mass shootings across the globe? Why the constant threats of war and terror? Why does God allow for the world to continue with all that is going on?

I want to tell you that there is no easy answer. We can’t blame anyone or any movement in particular. Taking sides morally, religiously, or politically is not going to provide you with the peace you are seeking. As long as we are in the world we are going to experience tribulation, and only through Jesus, who has overcome, can we overcome (John 16:33).

Evil exists because of what happened in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17). Satan came with evil intentions and he deceived the human race. His deception brought sin and death to the universe (Rom. 6:23). There is never going to be a time as long as the earth remains where evil won’t dominate our world. John wrote, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). He simply was pointing out that God’s people are in the minority while Satan is deceiving and having success with the majority.

So why did this happen in Las Vegas? Why does anything evil in our world happen? We need to stop blaming a group or a cause or a sickness and we need to realize that the reason has everything to do with the devil and with us.

While it is difficult sometimes to understand how God allows for the pain and suffering, perhaps the words from Jeremiah best explain the reason why such evil persists. He was addressing a people who were supposed to belong to God but who had rejected Him and thus were met with the consequences of that choice – “Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” (Jeremiah 4:18).

I see and hear people broken hearted about all of this evil and I feel what they feel. To be honest, all I care about right now is the state of the people who hurt. Natural disasters happen and people die. Politics and war occur and hatred persists and people are the collateral damage. Terror strikes and innocent individuals are murdered in senseless fashion. How should we respond? We begin by realizing it’s about the people who are hurting and not about the cause.

I think each person needs to stop and pray. Each person needs to repent and turn to God. Each person needs to forgive the ones who cause them pain and not retaliate. Each person needs to love God more and the human race more. Each person needs to have compassion for and assist those who are hurting. Each person needs to follow the higher will and rule of the Creator rather than their own selfish, mistaken, human will.

I believe we are all very tired. We are just so very tired of waking up in a world of hatred and evil and sin and death. So if we do wake up tomorrow, let’s decide that we are going to be a part of the solution. Let’s love each other. Let’s share our possessions and gifts and accept one another and seek to work on ourselves. Let’s find a place in our heart to be kind in the midst of all of the hate.

If we don’t wake up tomorrow, let us live in such a way today that heaven will most surely be on the horizon. Our hope is not here. Our hope is in the One who came to deliver us from the world of sin and death. All of this evil reminds us that this world is NOT our home because Jesus is preparing something that is far better. And we anticipate His return with joy exceeding and full of glory.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

“What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate”

Those of us of a certain age may remember that line from the movie Cool Hand Luke. I’m wondering, though, if it is not more than a memorable line from a movie. I’m wondering if a failure to communicate may be at the heart of many of the marital (and family) problems today.

A few years ago, I wrote a book about families entitled God Give Us Christian Homes. I chose the line from the movie as the title of this post as the title of one of the chapters in the book. 

One part of that chapter dealt with what I consider to be some barriers and/or roadblocks as we try to communicate with one another. What follows below is a sort of CliffsNotes version of that part of the chapter. Each of these is fleshed out more in the book, but, perhaps, this will give you an idea about what I see as some real problems in communication. Along with that, I’ve included from that chapter some suggestions I made that might help us to communicate better.

The barriers and/or roadblocks I wrote about were:

DUSTING OFF YOUR CRYSTAL BALL

A real barrier to communication is erected when one person thinks he or she knows what the other person is thinking, what they are going to say before it is ever said, and/or their emotions. It is hard to tell somebody something when they’ve already decided for themselves what you have to say and have, in fact, already begun to work on a response.

PLAYING DODGEBALL

The woman that Jesus met at the well in Samaria was a great dodgeball player. As you read the account of the conversation that Jesus had with her, it is easy to observe all of the efforts she made to change the subject and, in fact, to try to put Jesus on the defensive (cf. John 4).

Dodgeball is still being played and it is not confined to grade school physical education classes. Husbands, wives, parents, children, and all members of any family often try this tactic to keep from really engaging in conversation. 

BEING AN HISTORIAN

You may have heard about the fellow who was complaining about his wife becoming historical every time there was a disagreement. His friend tried to correct him by saying, “Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No,” the man replied, “I mean historical. She brings up everything I’ve ever done wrong in the past!”

Communication will never be what it can be when one or more of the parties involved insist on being “historical.” The situation at the time is what needs to be dealt with. 

LIGHTING THE FUSE

Most of us, especially in family situations, know what issues, words, and/or ideas to avoid. How many conversations have been destroyed because somebody refused to resist the temptation to light the fuse on a firecracker we know will go off?

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt…”  (Col. 4:6). This admonition leaves little room for something that we know will ignite a situation.

“IT AIN’T ME, BABE”

Sonny and Cher weren’t the only ones to use those words.  At least, they weren’t the only ones to have that idea. 

The blame game has destroyed many conversations and relationships and needs to be avoided.  This game has been around for a long time, hasn’t it?  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve (and God) and Eve blamed the serpent. 

***

The suggestions I presented that, hopefully, will help families to communicate better were:

2 ARE MORE THAN 1

Now that you know that I am a real math expert, let me explain what I mean by that. The thought is certainly not original with me that God gave us two ears and one mouth. Maybe He was trying to tell us something.

Far too many people think they are communicating only when they are talking. This is far from the truth. Good communication will involve listening as well; maybe a lot more listening than talking.

Repeatedly, during His earthly ministry, Jesus told the Jews, “You say…” (cf. Matt. 15:5, 16:2, etc.). To be sure, He was usually in the process of correcting some of their misunderstandings or misinterpretation of scripture. At the same time, though, He let them know He had been listening to what they had been saying.

THE EYES HAVE IT

In some meetings where votes are taken, the ayes have it. In communication, often the eyes have it.

Those who are experts in the field of communication inform us that we listen as much with our eyes as we do with our ears. Whether it is family members or others we are talking about, we need to look at them when they are speaking to us and when we are speaking to them.

HONESTY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BRUTAL

“Let me be brutally honest.”   

That sentence usually precedes something that is very unpleasant. Hurt feelings, broken hearts, and/or broken relationships have been some of the results of somebody being “brutally honest.”

The Bible informs us that we are to be about “…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15, emphasis added). How we say something can have as great an impact as what we say. 

REPLACE THE TUBE & THE TABLET WITH THE TABLE

Modern families eat on the run and often eat separately. If, on a rare evening, all of the family members find themselves at home, they might be found eating while watching television or fiddling with some electronic device.

There is a real need in our society to use the dinner table for something other than a nice piece of furniture to be admired. There is a need for the family to sit as a unit around the table with no distractions and share their days and their lives.

Some of the best memories I have of the house in which I was reared and, then later, of the houses in which our children were reared involve eating together. The food was always good, but one can get at least a decent meal at a lot of places.

What is memorable and now missed is that our children are no longer at home and my parents have passed away is the time we had as a family to share more than a meal. We got to share in each other’s lives.

***

So; there you have it. At least you have some of what I suggested in that chapter. Maybe you have some things you would add to these ideas.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

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Episode 90: No Excuses! Spiritual Outings, and More! [Podcast]

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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah discuss how we need to avoid excuses in following God’s commands, how we should take our family on spiritual outings, and several things going on in our lives. We hope you enjoy the program and check out the links below.

Links

There are No Excuses” (Perspectives of a Bondservant)

Training Kids to Love God’s Word” (Come Fill Your Cup)

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With One Voice

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)

In high school, my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Dowdy. She has some pretty good stories she could tell you about my class, including one concerning a viewing of Romeo and Juliet our freshman year. I was blessed to have her again for College Prep English my senior year, and several assignments from that year made a lasting impression on me. There is one that I remember because of my failure.

We were to pick a single word and write a paper detailing that word’s history and usage, including if it was used in the Bible. Being the very clever and creative teenager that I was, I tried to pick an original word that no one else would even consider. My word was “harmony.” While I don’t recall the exact wording, I may never forget Mrs. Dowdy’s ingenious review of my paper, referencing its ironic lack of harmony.

Harmony is precious to me. Few things bring me more deep-seated joy than a well-rounded, full chord of beautiful music, particularly vocal music. From the deepest bass to the highest soprano, the chord is only complete with all of the intervals in between represented.

Perhaps that is why a recent explanation of 2 Peter 1:5-7 was so satisfying to me. Many people refer to this as the “add to” passage. I have heard many discussions about whether these aspects of character are stepping stones, or maybe links in a chain, or even sequential qualities, reaching its fullness in love. None of those have ever “rung true” with me but a recent explanation did.

I know I am biased about the speaker and the source she revealed (my mom, who referenced my dad) but when she said this, 2 Peter 1:5-7 finally made the most sense to me. She said these qualities – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – are to harmonize together, much like the notes of a well-developed chord of music. I immediately got a picture of a skilled maestro gesturing to each section of the orchestra to swell and fill in the chord in perfect harmony. All are equally important and yet unique. Each fills the precise need of the whole in order for it to be at its best.

With that in mind, read the following words from Romans 15:5-6: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [emphasis added]

May we all live in harmony – with God, with each other, and with ourselves – to the glory of God.


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

Photo background credit: Southern Arkansas University on Creative Commons

The Unspoken Rule about Church Programs (That People Want Spoken!)

Call them “programs.” Call them “ministries.” Call them “opportunities to serve.”

Whatever you call them, every congregation has them. They are necessary to organize the work, so that people can serve in various capacities and use their talents to the glory of God under the oversight of the local eldership.

However, there is one problem with the myriad of programs and ministries that most congregations struggle with. Either they struggle in the planning phrase, or they struggle in the communication phase.

What is it?

People do not know which programs are for the whole congregation and which are for certain groups.

I can already hear the pushback. “We said this was just for those who were able to come.” Or, “We announced that this was for our senior saints.”

You may have, but here’s the deal: did you act like it?

In other words, you may have announced that this work night was just for those who could come, but when only a handful showed up, did you talk about how few came?

You may have announced that this event was for the senior saints, but when some of a certain age did not come, were you upset (even though you never defined what a “senior saint” was)?

Do you see?

Congregations need to be clear! There are certain events that should be, as much as possible, congregation-wide. And it should be clearly communicated that all members are expected to be present. Personally, I would advise that this not be every single event, but that there should be a few of these scattered throughout the year.

On the other hand, if an event is for a certain age group, or only for those who signed up, or for those who agreed to be on a ministry team, then encourage those people to come and make it clear that they are encouraged to come. And then? Do not hammer away at the whole congregation for not “supporting” some event! It wasn’t for everyone, after all.

But all this must be fleshed out ahead of time and then must be communicated clearly. In the planning stages of an event, ministry, or program, who is this really for? Is this a congregation-wide activity? If so, how are we going to make that known? Or, is this just for a certain group? If so, who? How are we going to make that clearly known?

And, once the event has happened, how are we going to evaluate? Are we going to remember who this was for and be consistent, or are we going to make it seem–after the fact–that everything is really for everyone?

Let’s just state the obvious: one of those is a good idea and the other is not!


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn