Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 4 of 4: Be the Blessing
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/15/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels, saints, siblings in Christ are praying for us and cheering us on in the faith as we make our way to be more and more like Jesus, as we make our way to heaven. The devil and demons are working hard to distract us and tempt us so we fall off the path.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the Beatitudes, step by step, one after another. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

(I got a stunt double to climb the ladder for me this week! One step for each Beatitude.)

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

This is the first half of the Beatitudes. It seems the first two Beatitudes and the third and 4th Beatitudes are paired. The fifth and sixth are also paired, as are the seventh and eighth. (Like taking two steps at a time.)

First two are paired in recognizing our need of God. I recognize I am poor in spirit. I recognize I am a spiritual beggar. I cannot save myself. I am in need of salvation and God provides it. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn. As I begin to look at myself I get honest with my sin, my shame, my guilt, my mistakes. I get honest with the mess I’m in and recognize I need forgiveness. I need new life. The first two Beatitudes are about recognizing our need.

The second two Beatitudes are about recognizing our strengths. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I recognize I am strong and I have gifts. I place it under the authority and discipline of God.

I recognize I have the Holy Spirit living in me, I have hungers, thirsts, passion, fire, appetites. I ask God to focus all of that good energy into righteousness- right relationship with God, with others, between others, with myself, and with creation. God focus that good energy so I don’t use it in ways that are weapons, in ways that don’t last, in ways that are false.

The first two steps are about bowing in humility to God. The next two steps are about standing in the truth of who God made me.

In the first two steps, I recognize I am dust and ashes. In the next two steps, I claim I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

The first four Beatitudes prepare us for the last four Beatitudes. There’s a great deal of internal work going on in the first four Beatitudes. The higher we climb, the more external this blessing becomes, the more action-oriented.

The first 4 prepare us so we’re in the right soul place to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world. I am named blessed so that I can be a blessing. 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I remember back all the way to the first step when I needed mercy. In fact, there isn’t a time when I don’t need mercy. The Beatitude checks all the passion, fire, hungering and thirst strength to make sure I am not using it as a weapon. I am using it in a merciful way.

God is all-powerful. God is strong to save. Does God wield that as a weapon? No. God wields God’s power mercy-fully.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Checks our motivation. Is my motivation to have Jesus sitting on the throne of my heart, to see the world as Jesus sees it? (How’s the view from up there?

God, I want to want what you want. I want your motivation to be my motivation. “Pure in heart” is about having an undivided heart. A divided heart has one foot with Jesus and one for our selves. It’s like having two people trying to sit on the throne at the same time. It’s not going to happen.

If we’re really honest we can’t multitask. We can’t do two things at the same time with any kind of skill or accomplishment. We can’t serve 2 masters.

Do I want to build myself up or am I building up others, building the Kingdom? Jesus, I want to see you and join you and glorify you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. As we step out in faith to be a blessing to others, we begin to see Jesus in the folks we are with. We see God right here, right now.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
How often do we pray for peace? We want peace of mind and heart, in our family, safety, security, calm, comfort.

Jesus is Jewish. When he’s thinking about peace he’s thinking about Shalom. Shalom is about the well-being of all creation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the right relationship of everything.

When I do this, folks will see Jesus in me and say, “that must be a child of God.”

The well-being of persons, the earth, systems so they are just and fair, governments so they have the best interest of all people. It’s big picture. The higher we go, the more we can see.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end, they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is raising us up to be prophets. Jesus is raising us up to be like him in his power to heal and to be ready for the persecution when it comes.

There’s a long history of persecution and harassment for God’s children. Placing our trust in Christ and living a life that looks more and more like his stirs things up.

When you start practicing mercy, peacemaking, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, your life is going to look different and people are going to notice. Not all of that notice is going to be positive. This Beatitude is honest enough to admit it.

We climb the ladder of the Beatitudes. It’s all leading up to so loving Jesus and desiring to follow him, that I will risk persecution. The higher you go on the ladder, the more risk there is.

Closer and closer to Jesus. I want to see thinks as you see them. I want to do things as you do them. Closer and closer to heaven- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In order to get to heaven, you have to die. In order to be fully a part of heaven on earth, you have to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ. 

The higher we climb, the more we die to self.

  • Blessed are the Poor in Spirit- God, help me to die to trying to save myself and doing things in my own strength.
  • Blessed are those who Mourn- God, help me to die to sin and self-centeredness.
  • Blessed are the Meek- God, help me die to unbridled strength. I never want my power, talents, and strength to be used as a weapon.
  • Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness- God help me die to division, to prejudice, anything which keeps apart from one another.
  • Blessed are the Merciful- God, help me to die to revenge, resentment, and payback.
  • Blessed are the Pure in Heart- God, help me to die to trying to serve two masters. Be the leader of my life. Sit on the throne of my heart. Give me an undivided heart, a heart after your own heart.
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers- God, help me to die to evil, injustice, oppression. Help me to die to violence and hate. Help me to die to me and mine, us and them, because in your kingdom it is only us.
  • Blessed are the Persecuted- God, help me to die to approval, popularity, and safety. Help me to die to hiding my faith and risk aversion. God make me courageous in wherever you would lead me.

The main symbol of Christianity isn’t the star of Bethlehem or the empty tomb. It’s the cross- an instrument of injustice and mocking and torture and death.

If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian, fully alive in Christ. Christian literally means “a little Christ.” Everything that goes along with following Jesus. If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a Christ. Be the blessing.

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Be the Beatitude, Be the Blessing © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Ladder of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 3 of 4: The Ladder of the Beatitudes
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/8/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Yes, this message was preached while climbing a ladder. 🙂

The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest was inspired by a beautiful, sacred painting from the late 1100s entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

It’s a painting of monks climbing a ladder towards Jesus in Heaven, illustrating the journey of faith.

The angels are cheering and praying for them in the top left corner. The faithful are cheering and praying for them in the bottom right corner.

You’ll also see shadowy demons trying to pull them and tempt them so they will off the ladder. At the bottom is the face of the devil- big, blue, cold, eating one of the monks who’s fallen.

Jim Forest sees this painting and thinks- that ladder is like the Beatitudes. We climb the beatitudes, one after another, and it brings us closer and closer to being like Jesus, seeing things like Jesus, and following him in his saving work. The Beatitudes are the natural progression of a faithful life.

Step 1: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

  • There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
  • I come to God as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
  • I recognize my need and turn to Jesus. “Jesus, I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I place my trust in you as my Lord and Savior.”
  • When I do, I receive the gift of salvation and the Kingdom. I’m now an heir, a child of the King.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • You’ve got to earn your salvation. Get good to get God.
  • If I believe this, I misstep. I’m not even on the ladder.
  • Truth- Jesus save me. I cannot save myself.

Step 2: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

  • I stop trying to save myself and take a good look at myself
  • I get honest about what a mess I am
  • I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices, things said and done, things left unsaid and undone. How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
  • I mourn and I surrender the burden of my guilt to God.
  • I confess and I receive forgiveness.
  • “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
  • The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Mourning means to keep beating myself up over my sins and mistakes. I must continue to carry that guilt and shame like a cross.
  • Truth- Jesus took the beatings and carried the cross so I wouldn’t have to.

Step 3: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

  • Meekness is strength under authority
  • I recognize I am powerful. I am strong, talented, resourced. I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I have a calling upon my life. God empowers me and gifts me in order to live out this call.
  • I recognize this and own it and place all my strength under Christ’s authority. “All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not.”
  • Jesus says, “You are ready to join me in the great adventure of going out and saving the world because you are now meek.”
  • That’s what it means to inherit the earth. We join Jesus in saving and blessing, in being generous and kind and light.

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Meekness is about being in control, never take a risk, institutionalized, quiet, timid, shy, passive, a wimp, a doormat
  • Truth- Jesus says, “Let’s go! It’s an adventure out there!”

The higher I get, the stronger I hold on to the ladder! We start climbing the ladder and things start looking different. We’re getting closer to Jesus and closer to heaven. We’re getting a new perspective and we realize we can’t do this without Jesus and so we hold on really tight. 

Step 4: Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  • Hunger and Thirst = Appetite, Longing, Craving
  • This is the beatitude of passion. The beatitude of fire. The overwhelming longing that life should be on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Jesus Christ doesn’t say
    • Blessed are those who think it would be a good idea if we all got along
    • Blessed are those who have a heart for peace in our world
    • Blessed are those who think righteousness is a good idea
  • Hungering and thirsting for righteousness– a right relationship with God, with others, between others, with ourselves, with creation
  • Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    • people who want what is right as urgently as a person in the desert wants a glass of water, as a child in a refugee camp cries desperately for a crust of bread.
    • When we hunger and thirst for the things of God, we are filled

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Something else will fill us. We are fooled and cheated by Unworthy Appetites. We pour all our passion into something that doesn’t last, doesn’t satisfy, and doesn’t fill us

FALSEHOOD WHICH MAKES US FALL:

  • Our passion and fire for righteousness gets twisted, becomes destructive. We fight fire with fire.
  • We start trying to fix people and force people to do what we believe is right.
  • That’s how you get the Crusades, Jihad, Spanish Inquisition, people burning each other at the stake. None of this is of God.

That’s why we have step 5: Blessed are merciful, for they will receive mercy

  • When I was hurting people what did I need most in the world in order to change? I needed mercy.
  • We remember where we’ve been. We remember our spiritual poverty and our need for forgiveness and grace. We remember we needed mercy and that’s exactly what God gave us.
  • I received mercy. I know what it can do. I am now mercy-full and can pass it along to others.

What do you hunger and thirst for?  

Where is God calling you to not only spread righteousness with your passion and your joy but also spread mercy with your openness and your grace and your peace?

We remember we’re spiritual beggars. We’ve found some bread. Won’t you come for the bread, too? It’s all about invitation. Won’t you come and sit with me? Won’t you come and walk with me? Won’t you come to see what I have seen?

Prayer– God we thank you for the fire of the Holy Spirit which gives us passion, grace, and a calling upon our life. God, we thank you for mercy which keeps things in perspective so we don’t hurt people while we’re trying to help them. God, fill us with hungering and thirsting and God fill us with mercy, that we may be fully yours and join you in this great adventure of saving the world. We need you Jesus and we love you. We pray that everything we do gives you honor and glory and draws people close to you. Amen.

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The Ladder of the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Blessed are the Meek, a Sermon from The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

Sermon Series beatitudes 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: The Beatitudes, God’s Surprising Blessing
Message 2 of 4: Blessed are the Meek
Scripture:  Matthew 5:1-5
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 9/1/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 5:1-5
The beginning of the Beatitudes at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Jim’s Ride from The Man from Snowy River
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Man from Snowy River. In this movie, a rich Australian rancher buys a prize Arabian stallion. One day the stallion escapes and joins a mob of wild horses. The rancher rounds up as many hands as possible and the chase begins- thundering hooves shake the majestic Australian hills. Faster and faster they race until the mob bolts down a steep embankment. Let’s see what happens next…

The trained horses and riders will not follow the mob down the steep embankment. They stop. They know better. They call it a day.

Suddenly, one horse and rider blazes past the group and down the hill after the mob. (It’s one of the most exciting horse sequences ever filmed.) It’s our hero- Jim Craig.

He and his horse are not afraid. They move as one, a powerful team. They are strong. All watch amazed at what they can do together. The chase continues and in the end, Jim brings in all the wild horses.

How would you describe Jim and his horse?
They are one, synced, inseparable
Fearless, beautiful, strong

Man from snowy river jim horse

Together, Jim and his horse are a perfect example of meekness.

When you hear the word meek what comes to mind:
Quiet, shy, timid
Passive, Wimp, Doormat

We’ve lost the actual definition of the word “meek” and we must reclaim it. In Greek word for “meek,” praus, is used to describe a wild animal whose power was now disciplined for work, strength under authority.

We know we are at our best when we are disciplined and accountable:
You work with a coach and your game improves
There’s a reason why Weight Watchers and AA and Disciple Bible Study works
The structure makes us stronger- it’s a gift
We’re stronger together

The Natural Progression of the Beatitudes at work in a life

Blessed are the poor in spirit  
There’s nothing I can say or do or give to earn my salvation
I come as a spiritual beggar, I have nothing to offer God
I am in need of forgiveness and salvation. I know what I need.
I place my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I receive the Kingdom
I’m now an heir, a child of the King

Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn  
I stop trying to save myself
I take a good look at myself
I get honest about what a mess I am
I mourn my mess- my sin, my poor choices
Things said and done, and left unsaid and undone
How I’ve hurt myself, others, God.
I mourn. I surrender my burden to God.
I confess. I receive forgiveness.
The burden of my guilt is lifted and I’m comforted

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek  
Yes I am a spiritual beggar
Yes I am honest about my sin and need of forgiveness

If we stopped at this point, it would make sense to claim we are wimps and doormats. But if we stop here, we wouldn’t have the whole truth.

We must also recognize we are powerful
I am strong, gifted, talented, resourced

I place everything I have and everything I receive from the Holy Spirit, all my strength, under God’s authority. All that I am and all that I have I give to you and to your service. You are God and I am not. You be Jim, I’ll be the horse.

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Snowy River Metaphors
Before we place our trust in Jesus we’re like the mob of horses- wild, rebellious, destructive, undisciplined. For some of us, we look wild and do wild things. For others, we may not look that way on the outside, but that’s what’s going on on the inside. We are unsettled, anxious, struggling.

After we place our trust in Jesus we grow to be like Jim and his horse. Strength under authority. One with God. Moving in concert with God. All of a sudden there’s direction to this power, direction to this talent.

We are more than we are by ourselves because we are one with God. We begin to understand we can be courageous, we can risk for the glory of God and the common good.

The last thing Jesus wants is for you to start following him and you become like the ranch horses- too safe, too careful, too tame, whipped, broken, timid, institutionalized.

That’s not meekness. That’s not who we really are.

All this talk of poverty of spirit and mourning our sin might make us think being a Christian is about being a wimp- passive, timid, doormat.

No! God is calling us to a life of adventure. We recognize we cannot save ourselves. We recognize we can hurt others and hurt ourselves. We place our strength under the authority of Jesus and now we are ready to join Jesus in the adventure of saving the world.

We’re in the right heart space to do it.

We’re ready to go where Jesus leads, in the way Jesus leads
Loving our enemies
Welcoming the outsider
Ending prejudice and oppression
Speaking the truth in love            ‘
Generous, sacrificial, joyful,
Compassionate, empathetic,
Powerful, and humble

We are now ready to be meek

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said:
The meek love their God so much that they desire to obey even the least command that he gives, simply out of love to him. The meek in spirit are like a photographer’s sensitive plates, and as the Word of God passes before them, they desire to have its image imprinted upon their hearts.

Where are you strong and powerful? How are you bringing that strength under God’s authority and leading? So you may be one and join Jesus in the great adventure of the saving of the world.

The message ends with the prayer before Holy Communion.

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Beatitudes Sermon, Blessed are the Meek © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for True Strength (Ephesians 6)

armor of God graphicEphesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Lord, you call us to mighty works
To leading
Speaking truth to power
Ending oppression and corruption
Sharing your Word
Helping others find you
Healing the sick
Caring for the poor, the orphan, the stranger
Praying without ceasing
Building your kingdom on earth

Lord, you said that in this world we will have trouble,
but take courage, I have overcome the world

Fill us with courage
Fill us with wisdom
Fill us with humility for this great work
Your work

We try to do things in our own strength
Our financial security
Our connections
Our achievements
Our expertise
Our stiff upper lip and bootstraps and big girl pants

We head into battle wearing our own armor
Or trying to borrow someone else’s

We fall victim to human ways
And the ways of our Enemy

Forgive us
Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us

Clothe us in your armor
Your armor alone
Clothe us in your truth
Clothe us in your righteousness
Clothe us in your Gospel of Peace
Your faith
Your salvation
Your Word
Your powerful Presence

That we may stand
That we may stand and withstand
That we may stand and withstand and stand firm
Strong in you and the strength of your power
For your power is made perfect in our weakness
In our vulnerability
In us claiming our need of you

For the victory and glory are yours,
Now
Forever
Hallelujah!

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This prayer was inspired by by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

A Prayer for True Strength © 2018, updated 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer for True Strength, Based on Ephesians 6

armor of God graphicFinally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. – Ephesians 6:10-11

Lord, you call us to mighty works
Sharing your Word
Helping others find you
To leading
Healing the sick
Caring for the poor, the orphan, the stranger
Speaking truth to power
Praying without ceasing
Building your kingdom on earth

Lord, you have said that in this world we will have trouble,
but take courage, I have overcome the world

We try to do things in our own strength
Our financial security
Our connections
Our achievements
Our expertise
Our stiff upper lip and bootstraps and big girl pants

We head into battle wearing our own armor
Or trying to borrow someone else’s

We fall victim to human ways
And the ways of our Enemy

Forgive us
Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us

Clothe us in your armor
Your armor alone
Clothe us in your truth
Clothe us in your righteousness
Clothe us in your Gospel of Peace
Your faith
Your salvation
Your Word
Your powerful Presence

That we may stand
That we may stand and withstand
That we may stand and withstand and stand firm
Strong in you and the strength of your power
For your power is made perfect in our weakness
In our vulnerability
In us claiming our need of you

For the victory and glory are yours,
Nothing can separate us from you
Not now
Not forever
Hallelujah!
Amen

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A Prayer for True Strength © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: Steadfast in Your Strength (Ephesians 6:10)

be strong in the lord ephesians 6-10Ephesians 6:10
Be strong in the Lord
and in the strength of his might.

Lord God of Heaven and Earth
I am strong when I stand in Your strength

Help me to live that truth
Reveal it’s fullness
So that I may know that I know that I know
Down in my bones
One with my being
Re-member me
Steadfast in Your strength

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Steadfast in Your Strength by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer: God, my strength (Psalm 59:17)

Psalm 59_17Psalm 59:17
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
For you, O God, are my Fortress,
The God who shows me steadfast love.

Holy One, you are my strength.

Your love for me and your grace toward me never wavers,
even when my faith and my obedience do
Forgive me my many failures to trust you

Teach me to rely on you
to seek you
to listen for you and follow through

Grow in me great truth
great grace
great hope
that I may share what has found me

In the sharing bring a great harvest of repentance and deliverance
In the sharing bring salvation and your kingdom come
In the sharing bring honor and praise to your name alone
Father… Son… Spirit…
Amen

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God, my Strength by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.