Have A Right Priority in Your Life

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14 (KJV).

“A garden requires constant weeding and caring, if it is to be guarded against weeds and nettles – and so does the human soul.” This is the testimony of a mature Christian towards the close of a rich and full life. Thirty years had passed since Paul’s conversion. During those years God had used him to establish many churches, mightily attesting his ministry with signs and miracles. From the first Paul had spent himself unstintingly in the work of the gospel, travelling constantly and undergoing great hardships. He had come to know the reality of victory over sin as he grew in likeness to his Lord. And among his many joys he had had one unique experience of being, as he put it, lifted up into the third heaven to receive remarkable revelations of spiritual truth.

Yet at the end of all this, he states that he still has not attained to all that God had purposed for his life. Here is one of the greatest Christians of all time saying towards the end of his life that he still needs to press on to the goal. To most believers, alas, salvation begins and ends with the new birth and its assured escape from Divine judgement. Not so for the apostle, nor indeed for anyone else who seeks like him to be a true disciple of Christ. Here in this passage he declares his firm belief that Christ had laid hold of him with a purpose. He, in return, was determined to lay hold of that purpose at any cost. This is a tremendous and solemn truth, that when the Lord lays hold of us at conversion, it is with a purpose extending far, far beyond just the saving of our souls out of hell fire and into heaven. If so mature a man as the apostle Paul had to say at the end of thirty years of untiring Christian service that he had not yet attained, but had still to strive to fulfil all of God’s purpose for his life, what a vast thing that purpose must be.

Paul goes even further in this passage. To him everything that the world considers as precious is worthless rubbish, when compared to this supreme objective of grasping the purpose of God and fulfilling it. He considers this a prize worth the giving up of everything in the world (verse 14). When we look around us and see believers coveting worldly possessions and clinging to material things, giving these a greater place in their lives than the things of God, we are forced to conclude that their Christianity is very far removed from Paul’s.

It is a mark of spiritual infancy to think of salvation only in terms of an insurance policy to escape the flames of Hell. When we mature spiritually, we realize that God has saved us in order that we might walk each day in the pathway that He has already planned for each one of us from eternity (Ephesians 2:10). That pathway was what Paul called God’s purpose for his life. If we are satisfied with having received His grace but are uncommitted to fulfilling His will for our lives, then no matter how thoroughly evangelical we may be, we shall go through life without accomplishing anything of lasting value to God. Of course the Devil’s first aim is by one means or another to blind people to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, thus preventing them from being saved (2 Corinthians 4:4). But if he does not succeed there, then his next aim is to blind that new believer to the fact that God has a very definite plan for him. To a large extent he has succeeded here. There are thousands of true believers who never seek the will of God with any degree of earnestness, even in major decisions that they make in their lives.

The Christian life is depicted in this passage in Philippians chapter 3, as one in which we have to be continually pressing on. No degree of spiritual maturity attainable on earth will ever absolve us from this need of constant urgency. It is because many believers have neglected this lesson that they have no living testimony. Their only testimony relates to an experience in the distant past when on a blessed day they perhaps raised their hand or signed a decision-card in some evangelistic meeting. That was wonderful, but nothing has happened since! Proverbs 24:30-34 with its picture of a garden gone to waste, describes the condition of the man who relaxes after his salvation. A garden requires constantweeding and caring, if it is to be guarded against weeds and nettles – and so does the human soul.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at cfcindia.com / Photo by Markus Winkler at Pexels

8 Signs Your Christianity Is Too Comfortable

In many parts of the world today, it can be easy to live a comfortable life as a Christian. Certainly where I live—in Orange County, California—this is the case. But is that a good thing?

I’d like to suggest that the Christian faith is inherently uncomfortable. To be a disciple of Jesus is to deny oneself (Matt. 16:24), to take up a cross (Luke 14:27), to be subject to persecution (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12), to give up the creature comforts of home (Luke 9:58), to forsake the priority of family (Luke 9:59–62; 14:26), to be willing to give up all material possessions (Matt. 19:21; Luke 14:33), to be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). And this is just the beginning.

C. S. Lewis once said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

But comfort-seeking is our default mode in a consumerist society, so we often find ourselves in “comfortable Christianity” without even knowing it. What are some indicators that our Christianity has become too cozy, more like a pleasant bottle of port than the uncomfortable, sharpening faith the New Testament envisions? 

Here are eight signs that your Christianity might be too comfortable:

1. There’s absolutely no friction between your Christianity and your partisan politics.

If you’re all-in with one political party and never feel any tension whatsoever with your Christian faith, it probably means your faith is too comfortable. Whether you’re a lifelong Democrat or a diehard Republican, a robust Christian faith should create dissonance with politics at various points.

A faith that aligns perfectly with one political party is suspiciously convenient and lacks prophetic witness.

A faith that aligns perfectly with one political party is suspiciously convenient and lacks prophetic witness.

2. There are no paradoxes, tensions, or unresolved questions.

If you never ponder or wrestle with the mind-boggling tenets of Christian theology (e.g., the Trinity, the incarnation, God’s sovereignty coexisting with human action, the Holy Spirit’s presence, to name just a few), your faith is probably too comfortable.

A healthy, uncomfortable faith constantly rocks you, prods you, and blows your mind. It’s a faith that leaves you restless to want to know more, not satisfied you’ve grasped all there is to grasp about God.

3. Your friends and coworkers are surprised to learn you’re a churchgoing Christian.

A sure sign your faith is too comfortable is if nothing in your life sets you apart as a Jesus follower, to the point that even those who know you well can’t tell you’re a Christian.

A comfortable Christian is one who easily blends in, looking and talking and acting just like his or her lost neighbors.

4. You never think about or even remember the Sunday sermon on Monday.

If Sunday sermons at your church are so forgettable (or you’re so disengaged) that you rarely recall them after you leave church, your Christianity is probably too comfortable.

Biblical preaching shouldn’t leave us apathetic or unchallenged. The Word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

5. No one at your church ever annoys you.

If you go to church with people who are always easy to talk to, always fun to be around, and always closely aligned with your opinions, tastes, and preferences, your Christianity is too comfortable.

One of the glorious things about the gospel is that it creates a new community out of disparate types of people who, in many cases, wouldn’t otherwise choose to spend time together.

6. You never feel challenged, only affirmed.

If your Christian faith never confronts your idols and challenges your sinful habits—but only ever affirms you as you are—this is a sure sign of a too-comfortable faith.

Healthy faith doesn’t just celebrate you as you are, but relentlessly molds and refines you into the likeness of Christ.

Healthy faith doesn’t just celebrate you as you are but relentlessly molds and refines you into the likeness of Christ, which is a beautiful but necessarily uncomfortable process.

7. You’ve never had to have a ‘truth-in-love’ conversation with a fellow Christian.

It’s always more comfortable to just “live and let live” when there’s an offense or sin that needs to be called out. It’s more comfortable to just shrug when we see others in our community making unhealthy decisions.

But this isn’t true Christian love.

Love isn’t opposed to truth, and if your faith doesn’t include the capacity to speak hard truths in love, it’s too comfortable. 

8. No one in your church could comment on any area of growth they’ve seen in you.

To believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe in change. Though not always linear, the Christian life should be marked by growth, forward momentum, and change for the better.

If you’re a Christian who’s grown so little that no one in your church could identify any area of improvement, your faith is too comfortable. 

Why is it important that we avoid falling into comfortable Christianity? Because comfortable Christianity is far from the costly, inconvenient, idol-crushing, cross-shaped path for disciples of Jesus. Comfortable Christianity has little prophetic to say to a comfortable, consumerist world. Comfortable Christianity has little urgency in mission and little aptitude for growth.

Uncomfortable Christianity, however, leads to life and transformation. It leads us to rely on God and not on ourselves; to serve rather than be served; to live lives marked by sacrifice. It leads us to do hard things, to embrace hard truths, to do life with hard people for the sake and glory of the One who did the hardest thing. It may be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it. On the other side of discomfort is delight in Christ.

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**Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Brett McCracken’s new book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, and is published in partnership with Crossway / Photo Francesco Ungaro at Pexels

Power with God and Power with Men

It is written in Genesis 32:29 that “God blessed Jacob there”. The word “bless” is perhaps the most frequently used word in the prayers of Christians; but few understand its real meaning.

What is blessing? What was the blessing Jacob got? It is described in verse 28 as “power with God and power with men”. This is the blessing that we all need and that we should be seeking for. And this alone can make the sun to rise upon our lives. Nothing less than this is what God desires to give His people.

Jesus referred to this blessing when He asked His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. He said, “When the Holy Spirit is come upon you, you shall receive power” (Acts 1:8) – power with God and power with men. Jacobs would be transformed by the Spirit’s power into Israels. This was what made the sun to rise upon Peter’s life and upon the lives of the other disciples that day in the upper room at Jerusalem.

And this alone can provide the answer to the crookedness of our self-life. It is not a question of reformation or of good resolutions or even of our determination. It is a question of the Holy Spirit possessing us fully and governing and ruling our lives.

But where does the Spirit lead us? Always to the cross. It is only when we are crucified, that Christ can live in us in His fullness. It was when Jesus was baptized, buried under the waters – symbolically accepting death to Himself – that the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Matt. 3:16). It was when Jacob was broken, that he was blessed. It was only after Moses’ self-confidence had been shattered through 40 years of looking after sheep, that he was ready to deliver Israel. The rock had to be smitten before the living waters could flow. The Israelites had to go through the River Jordan (symbolizing death and burial) before they could enter Canaan (symbolizing life in the fullness of the Spirit). Gideon’s army had to break their pitchers before the light inside was visible. The alabaster vial had to be broken before the odor of the ointment could fill the house. Peter’s boastful self-confidence had to be shattered before he was ready for Pentecost. We find this truth throughout Scripture.

It would be dangerous for God to empower an unbroken man. It would be like giving a sharp knife to a 6-month-old baby, or like handling 20,000 volts of electricity without proper insulation. God is careful. He does not give the power of His Spirit to those in whom ‘self’ is still unbroken. And He removes His power from a man when he ceases to be broken.

Jacob was now blessed by God Himself. Earlier, Isaac had laid his hands on Jacob and blessed him when Jacob brought him the venison (Gen. 27:23). But that had brought no change in Jacob’s life. The real blessing came at Peniel. And this is the lesson we need to learn too. No man can ever give us this blessing. A man – even a saintly man like Isaac – may lay his empty hands on our empty heads and pray for us. Yet, we may get nothing. Only God can really empower us. When Isaac put his hands on Jacob’s head, the sun merely set on Jacob’s life. But when God blessed him, the sun rose! Power belongs to God and He is the only one who can ever give it to us.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at cfcindia.com / Arnie Chou at Pexels

5 Ways To Be A Godly Woman

Being a woman of bold faith is what we have been called to. Boldness is not a personality trait. Boldness is acting by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take risks for the sake of the gospel to the glory of God. ~ Heather Riggleman

“You will be a woman of bold faith who empowers and encourages those around you.”

This was declared over me after I handed my life over to Jesus. I was barely toddling in my walk with God, yet others could see the calling and purpose He already had for me.

What Does it Mean to Be a Godly Woman?

But what does it mean to be a godly woman? Becoming a woman of faith is not about perfectly checked church attendance, being the most modestly dress, how much you volunteer, having the best snacks for life groups, or having all the answers in Bible study.

A bold woman of faith has real, bold, Jesus-glorifying, heart-wrenching, deep-in-the-trenches, and fight for God’s truths in the midst of the lies, kind of belief.

John Piper says it best, “The deepest root of Christian womanhood is hope in God,” and “this hope in God yields fearlessness.”

However, becoming her means embodying a warrior willing to bleed for her cause. Becoming a godly woman is digging-your-heels in the dirt when your marriage falls apart, when your child rebels, when your career gets decimated, or when everyone follows tradition without question or when your health fails.

Why? Because we have a very real enemy whose goal is to destroy us. Why was Satan so anxious to have access to us?

Because clearly, Satan was listening when Jesus declared: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

We are the keys to God’s kingdom! We are the keys to help others unlock their faith. We are the keys to our home and our community.

Our enemy wants to knock us down — blow by blow until we are so bloodied and wounded in our hearts and minds that we lose sight of Jesus.

He wants us so focused on the mess, the hurt, and pain that we forget God’s promises of who we really are: Heiresses to His Kingdom. And the “brutiful” (beautiful and brutal) truth behind this: you will then help others through the sifting.

A godly woman isn’t something that just happens without the “becoming.” Look at our savior:

  • It’s what Jesus did
  • He helped others through the sifting
  • He demonstrated the process of becoming
  • He was the light of God in a world that didn’t even want Him
  • Like Jesus — bold women of faith lead others to God 

The word “godly” in the Bible means pious or holy. This means we are set apart from all others. Holiness is achieved when we are made new creations in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Born again Christian women are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.

In Him, we produce godliness that molds and shapes us into the image of Christ. A godly woman controls her thoughts and takes them captive, making them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). She also controls her tongue and uses her words to encourage and build up others.

Godly women inspire change. They question tradition for tradition’s sake. They lift up other women gunned down in the trenches.

They impact their community. Their table always has room for one more. They friend the unwanted. They love the rejected.

They speak for those who do not have a voice. They change the world right where they are at all the while keeping their hearts and minds focused on Christ.

Becoming a godly woman means stepping into your God-given leadership. Let God’s voice speak louder than all the others. Here are a few ways to be a godly woman within God’s parameters for us.

Five Ways to be a Godly Woman

1. Always stay in God’s Word. Know what the Bible says. Study it. Read it every day. Understand what scriptures say within context. God’s Word is our go-to source for wisdom, encouragement, and nourishment.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

2. Pray. Ask God to use your gifts, your personality, and your community to further his kingdom. Ask God to reveal to you the things that matter to Him.

Take all of your hurts, worries, dreams, and petitions to God! Ephesians 6:18 is our battle call, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known”(Jeremiah 33:3).

3. Know the things that matter. Hold firm to the beliefs that God has placed heavily on your heart. When you make a stand for these issues, make sure you know why God stands for them too.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

4. Speak with gentleness. Always remember who you represent every time you open your mouth to voice an opinion or idea. And always, always speak with love. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

5. Respect authority. All authority comes from God and He calls us to respect those He places in authority over us. This includes husbands, fathers, pastors, elders, and other leaders.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything(Ephesians 5:22-24).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1).

Yet, John Piper once said, “The deepest root of Christian womanhood is hope in God,” and “this hope in God yields fearlessness.”

Becoming a fearless, bold woman of God didn’t happen overnight. Those two years of lost time were spent on my knees in prayer for our hearts and health.

What seemed like wasted time was actually the refining fires that created a boldness for believing God’s truth and promises for my family.

And the more I spent time with him, the more he began to send others in need of a good dose of Jesus’ strong courage my way.

Each of us has causes that make us come alive, things that move us and make us eager to share our vision.

Each woman has a chance to embody what it means to be bold, brave, and fierce for the life she has given. Even though you are not Maya Angelou, Malala, Mother Teresa, or Mary — mother of Jesus, you are still changing the world one breath at a time.

Why? Because being a woman of bold faith is what we have been called to.

Boldness is not a personality trait. Boldness is acting by the power of the Holy Spirit, on an urgent conviction in the face of some threat.

A shy, soft-spoken, introverted, calm person can be bold at a time when a typically driven, outspoken, brash person shrinks back. A Bold Woman for God contains these ingredients.

Spirit-Empowered Courage, Conviction, and Urgency

Meaning — every woman must get uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel. A bold woman:

Seeks God every morning (Psalm 5:3).

Looks for one person to share the gospel at the grocery store, meetings, appointments, or the park (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Hosts without grumbling. Open your front door and add one more spot at the table (1 Peter 4:9).

Welcomes fellowship in difficult seasons — all seasons (Hebrews 10:24–25).

Adorns herself in His word through good works — not the latest trends (1 Timothy 2:9–10,4:7–8).

Takes time to disciple and discipline your children with grace and love (Titus 2:3–5; Hebrews 12:5–11).

Christian women, we have nothing to fear and nothing to lose. Let’s live like we have the greatest hope to offer the world.

Let’s get uncomfortable by hoping in God and not in what the world offers. Let’s not be conformed to the world in its apathy toward the things of God.

Let’s take risks for the sake of the gospel to the glory of God.

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** By Heather Riggleman at Christianity.com / Photo by Ellagrin at Shuttershock

Progressive Sanctification

Jesus told His apostles to teach others to obey all that He had commanded (Matthew 28:20). One who loves the Lord will first of all seek with all his heart to find out what those commandments are; and then he will seek to obey them (John 14:21).

Under the Law, God gave man commandments, but not the power to obey them. Why then did God give the Law? Only in order that man might discover that he’s unable to come up to God’s standards, and thus see his need of a Saviour and a Helper. “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24).But now God has made a new covenant with man. And He has given us, not only commandments, but also an Example in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated by His earthly life that it is possible for us to obey all of God’s commandments.

God has also promised under the new covenant to put His Laws into our minds and to write them upon our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). He does this through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The Holy Spirit is our Helper Who not only shows us what the will of God is, but also gives us a desire to do that will and grace to obey all of it too.

God is the One Who is going to sanctify us entirely (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We can’t do it on our own. We have to depend on Him – for He is the One Who works in us giving us both the desire as well as the ability to do His will. But we have to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12,13). We have to work out what God works in, for He hasn’t turned us into robots!

God cleanses us from the guilt of sin. But we are commanded to “cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). We have to do this, as and when we get light on any defilement within us. It is thus, as we “by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) that the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – will become more and more manifest in us. This is what it means to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Thus our path will become one of increasing light (Proverbs 4:18). This is the glorious way of sanctification that God has made for us.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author: cfcindia.com / Picture Creator: Mike Waters Copyright: © 2008 Michael D. Waters

Is Sex before Marriage a Sin?

That’s right, God meant for us to fully enjoy sex, (Check out Proverbs 5:19). Perhaps the best book of the Bible about the joys of sex is the Song of Songs as it reminds us sex is strictly for marriage.

God loves sex. He really LOVES sex. He created sex and declared it, “good.” I say this often to my children (teens and college-age), and much to their dismay, because I want them to understand the gift of sex but only in the confines of marriage. I want them to look forward to it but remain pure. 

I want them to understand the struggles they may face in this, “If it feels good, do it” culture. In fact, God tells us in the very first chapter of the Bible “to be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, have lots of sex and enjoy each other. 

The Blueprint of God’s Design for Sex

The Bible says, “From the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female’” (Genesis 1:27Mark 10:6-8 ESV). It goes on to declare, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Mark 10:6-8Genesis 2:24). 

Research suggests that a man’s oxytocin level increases following an act of sexual intimacy. A husband’s brain re-bonds with his spouse. And it’s not just chemicals that are being released; for a few moments, they are one.

Linda Savage writes about the mingling of spirits and bodies in sex in her recent article, “Spiritual Sex: Ecstatic Love Beyond the Physical,” she writes, 

… it is sexual energy that goes beyond physical sensations of pleasure and genital orgasms. It is not limited to genital stimulation and the release of tension through a quick and simple orgasm. When spiritual sex is consciously practiced, there is a quality of ‘mindfulness,’ which is heightened awareness and expanded consciousness. The more cosmic experiences utilizing sexual energy create ecstatic states. The essence of spiritual sex is enhanced awareness, extraordinary inspiration, and a sense of merging with the life force.

But as culture continues to influence the church more than the church influences the culture, many Christ-followers have adopted the world view of sex. Many assume sex before marriage isn’t a sin because where exactly does the Bible say, “Thou shalt not have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend, even if you think you’re going to marry him/her?” 

What Does the Bible Say about Sex Before Marriage?

Even though it is one of the clearest prohibitions in Christianity, one would be hard-pressed to find scripture on it. Many would refer to the Ten Commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” Exodus 20:14). But this passage is about having sex with another person’s spouse. 

Others might turn to the “sex chapter” in Leviticus 18 which lists every kind of perverse act that trashes the gift of sex such as bestiality, incest, threesomes, pornography, and other sexual sins. 

But, before you text your girlfriend the words, “Netflix and chill,” let’s trek to 1 Corinthians 7:2. It clearly states that sex before marriage is a part of the definition of sexual immorality. In fact, all Bible passages that condemn sexual immorality as being sinful also condemn sex before marriage! 

There are numerous scriptures that declare sex before marriage to be a sin (1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21Galatians 5:19Acts 15:20Ephesians 5:3Colossians 3:51 Thessalonians 4:3). Revelation 14:4 assumes that unmarried Christian men who desire to be faithful are not having sex.

Hebrews 13:4 considers sex outside of marriage to be immoral. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” And yes, for those of you wondering, oral sex is included in this definition.

Young people are told often, “Oral sex is not really sex.” This couldn’t be further from the truth: oral sex is sex and is meant to also be enjoyed within the confines of marriage. Please remember neither spouse should be forced or coerced into doing something he/she is not completely comfortable with. Oral sex is permissible within the confines of marriage but that’s a whole new article.

So, Is Sex Before Marriage Really Wrong?

The early chapters of the Bible were based on rules and commandments of the Jewish traditions. Sex before marriage was clearly condemned in Judaism, and the same goes for Christianity. This was the culture Jesus was raised in. These commandments and rules gave the blueprint for marriage. The words “sex outside of marriage” are never mentioned, however, it is implied that it is against God’s design. 

In fact, Adam wasn’t joined to Eve until God gave her away in the first marriage union of time. The same tradition goes for Noah, Shem, Abram, and Jacob. Everyone waits until they are united in marriage to have sexual relations. That’s because the other aspect of sex is to procreate. 

That’s right, God meant for us to fully enjoy sex, (Check out Proverbs 5:19). Perhaps the best book of the Bible about the joys of sex is the Song of Songs as it reminds us sex is strictly for marriage. However, there is one example of the condemnation of sex before marriage of a soon-to-be wife who had sex outside of marriage in Deuteronomy 22:13-19.

It was such a precious manner that the husband had the right to divorce her if she was found not to be a virgin. Also, because of how this law could’ve been misconstrued, laws were put in place to protect the woman as well. She had the right to prove her virginity had been taken in the marriage bed. 

What Does This Mean?

The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves. Christians can mess up and receive God’s full forgiveness. But there is a stark difference between messing up and continuing to do so with the mindset, “I can always ask for forgiveness.” 

What matters is a fully repentant heart. Repentance isn’t just an attitude of the heart; it literally means to turn from the former life with a commitment to change for the better. We, as followers of Christ, must strive to live within the confines of his loving boundaries and celebrate the good gifts he’s given us — even if that means we have to wait until our wedding day.

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** By Heather Riggleman at Christianity.com / Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Getty / Envato

Resurrection Power

In 2 Kings 2:13-14, we read about Elisha dividing Jordan which is symbolic of a ministry of life that conquers and overcomes spiritual death. The waters of Jordan, in the Bible, are symbolic of death. And the parting of the waters is therefore symbolic of triumph over death. In the ministry of Elisha, we find him engaged again and again in bringing life out of death. In Jericho, he brought life into the barren land there (2 Kings 2:19-22). In Shunem, he brought life into the barren womb of a woman (2 Kings 4:8-17). Later, he brought life into a dead child (2 Kings 4: 18-37). He once brought life into a pot of deadly food (2 Kings 4: 38-41). He ministered life to a leprous general’s dying body too ( 2 Kings 5 : 1-14) Elisha’s power never faded away. Even after he was dead and buried and his body had disintegrated,when a dead man was thrown into his grave, the dead man arose!(2 Kings 13:20-21) This was Elisha’s ministry-bringing life out of death wherever he went. This was a direct result of his being anointed. This is the type of power that the anointing of the Holy Spirit brings-power to bring life out of death, resurrection power. This alone is the unmistakable evidence of the anointing. We read of this power often in the New Testament. Paul writing to the Ephesian Christians, says that his prayer for them is that they may know this power. He goes on to tell them that the greatest manifestation of God’s power was not in creation nor in the miracles recorded in the Bible, but in the raising of Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-23). Writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul tells them that his own desire is that he may know more of this resurrection power (Phil. 3:10).This, I am convinced, is the power that Jesus said His disciples would receive when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8) – resurrection power, the power to bring life out of spiritual death. And God desires to communicate this to us too.

This, brothers and sisters, is the mark of the anointing. Not some experience, not some utterance, but the power to bring spiritual life out of death wherever we go. Is our ministry accomplishing this? This is the acid test whether we have the anointing or not. Alas, so often Christians, instead of ministering life are ministering death. The heathen are so often driven away from the Lord instead of being drawn to Him, because of the bickering and quarrels, the lack of integrity and other un-Christlike habits that they see in the lives of those who profess to be born-again Christians. How we need to humble ourselves before God and ask for His forgiveness for bringing reproach upon His Name by our behaviour.

Let us not glory merely in the fact that we are “evangelicals.” If we are not careful, we can end up like the church in Sardis, having a name that we are alive but in reality being dead (Rev. 3:1). It is not enough that the creed we repeat and the statement of faith we sign are Scripturally sound. We may be able to sign the most fundamental statement of faith. So can the Devil! He knows the Bible well and so he is no modernist. He is a thorough fundamentalist as far as doctrines go! It is not much use therefore taking credit merely for our fundamentalism. Doctrines are important. God forbid that I should decry their value. But over and above doctrine, the thing that counts with God is whether we are ministering spiritual life or not.

The Apostle Paul could say that through God’s help, he was an able minister of the New Testament, ministering spiritual life (2 Cor. 3:5,6). He didn’t just boast that he was a fundamentalist. Neither did he merely talk of his experiences-either the Damascus Road one or the Straight Street one. No. He demonstrated the reality of his fundamental beliefs and of his spiritual experiences by constantly bringing life into situations of spiritual death.

In Paul’s life, as in Elisha’s, there was no fading away of the power. There was no losing of the anointing in later years, as seems to be the case with so many servants of God in our day. Paul and Elisha never came to a stage where all they could do was to glory in what God did in days of yore. They constantly lived in the present enjoyment of the anointing and of God’s power. Their spiritual strength instead of waning, waxed more and more. As their days, so was their strength. Their light shone brighter and brighter until the perfect day. What a blessed way to live! And yet this is the path that God desires all His children to walk in (Prov. 4:18).

Elisha lived in constant touch with God and this was why he was always able to bring life out of death wherever he went. And so people came to him with their problems and their needs. He didn’t have to go looking for a ministry. He didn’t have to go around asking people to sponsor him and to invite him. No. Opportunities for ministry came to him in abundance, without any fleshly efforts on his part.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at cfcindia.com / Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels by

Be Anointed With the Holy Spirit and Power

Acts 2 we find that when those 120 people waited for the Holy Spirit, they did not know how long they would have to wait, because Jesus never told them. If they knew it would be only ten days, it would have been easier for them to wait. When God keeps us waiting for something, He does not usually tell us how long we have to wait for an answer.

God wants us to live by faith, because that is the only way to grow spiritually – and waiting is one way by which our faith is strengthened. If we knew how long we had to wait, then there would be no faith there. It is only afterwards when we look back that we can say, “I had to wait for three days (or three years)” for that.

If you had gone to those waiting disciples and asked them, “How will you know when you have been baptised in the Holy Spirit?” – They would not have said that they would speak in tongues. They would have said that Jesus had told them that they would receive power. You may ask “How will I know that I have received this power?” God can assure us of that, just like He assured us that our sins were forgiven. The Holy Spirit, Who bears witness with our spirit that our sins have been forgiven will also bear witness that we have been endued with power. Ask God to give you the assurance for both these important matters. So they were waiting for power. But when they got power they also received the gift of speaking in unknown languages (tongues).

The tragedy today is that many who claim to have the gift of tongues do not seem to have any power. Tongues can be imitated, whereas power to overcome sin and to be a bold witness for Christ cannot be imitated.

Consider this illustration: You go to a shop to buy a computer (power). The shopkeeper tells you that a free CD (tongues) is also being offered with every computer. You didn’t go to the shop to buy a CD but a computer. But since the CD is being offered freely, you take both the computer and the CD. But now your friend sees your CD and goes to the same shop and pays for the computer but brings home only the free CD!! How foolish! That is a picture of those who received the gift of tongues but not the power.

We read that a noise and a wind filled the house where they were praying and tongues as of fire rested on everyone’s head. These were only the externals. The receiving of an anointing and power were the major events. The externals were different when Jesus was anointed. In His case, there was no wind or fire but a dove and a voice. But the power and anointing He received were the same as these apostles received. We all need to be “anointed with the Holy Spirit and power” as Jesus was (Acts 10:38).

The physical and emotional experiences may vary with each of us. If someone were to give you an expensive diamond as a gift, it wouldn’t make any difference if it came wrapped crudely in ordinary brown paper or in a shiny paper with fancy ribbons? It is the gift inside that is important. Only babies are taken up with the wrappings, the externals – the wind, the fire, the noise, the tingling sensations, etc. Adults are taken up with the gift – the anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit. When people testify about and glory in the wrapping in which they got the gift, you know that they are still baby-Christians.

The tongues of fire that sat on everyone’s heads indicated that the most important part of our body that God would be using in the new covenant age would be the tongue – a tongue set on fire by the Holy Spirit and under His total control all the time. This is also part of the symbolism of the gift of tongues. God wants to use your tongue to bless others with, not only if you are a preacher, but also in your ordinary conversations with people every day. But for this, you must let the Holy Spirit have full control of your speech, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2:14, we see one wonderful result of the Spirit indwelling all the apostles. We read here, “Peter stood up, backed by the other eleven” (MSG).

What Jesus could not accomplish in His entire lifetime is now accomplished at last: The twelve are all one body now. They did not compete to have the honour to preach. They supported Peter and were 100% behind him as he spoke. This is the greater work that Jesus had said they would do after the Spirit came – the Holy Spirit had baptised them into one body.

In 2:17, Peter said that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. All men and women could now have the Spirit poured out on them and they could prophesy. This was a privilege reserved only for kings and priests under the old covenant. But under the new covenant, all can receive the Spirit. We need to recognise what a tremendous honour this is.

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** Copyright – Zac Poonen. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author at CFC India.com / Photo by Jahoo Clouseau at Pexels

How to Get and Keep a Good Conscience

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)

Conscience gives you the ability to evaluate your own thoughts and desires, to discern what is right and wrong, and to distinguish between what is good and what is best. 

To help us get a handle on conscience and how it functions, I want you to think about an alarm clock. A good alarm clock does two things: It stays quiet when you should be asleep, and it makes a noise when you need to wake up! 

That’s how your conscience is supposed to work. When you are on the right path, a good conscience will be at peace (Colossians 3:15). But when you are tempted towards the wrong path, a good conscience will sound the alarm. The problem with the conscience is that, like every other part of your soul, it has been disordered by sin. 

Like an alarm clock, conscience can malfunction and stay silent when it should go off.

My Alarm Didn’t Go Off! 

The corrupt conscience 

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. (Titus 1:15) 

Acting against your conscience will bring a change in your inner life. It will change how your conscience functions. A corrupt conscience approves the wrong things. 

An easy way to see this is to picture a teenager using drugs for the first time. He knows that drugs are addictive and destructive, and his conscience tells him that taking them is wrong. But his friends are encouraging him to try them. He wants his friends to like him. So he over-rides his conscience.

In over-ruling his conscience, he diminishes its power. His conscience is weakened. It is less sensitive, and therefore less effective. Next time, the decision to take the drug will be much easier. If the boy repeats this choice again, the boy’s conscience changes. After a while he will feel that there is nothing wrong with what he is doing.

The important point to grasp here is that the conscience is corrupted whenever a person acts against it over time. When a person’s conscience is corrupted over time, it can become seared.

The seared conscience 

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2) 

In the ancient world, doctors would use a hot iron to cauterize a wound. It hardly bears thinking about what this must have been like before anesthetic, but if you had a wound and the bleeding could not be stopped, your best hope was the hot iron pressed on your flesh.

Once you recovered from the pain, you would discover that the bleeding had stopped, but you would also find that you had lost all feeling in the area that had been seared. The hot iron killed off the nerves so that you no longer had feeling where the iron had been applied. 

Paul says, “That’s how it is with some people’s conscience.” They have been “seared as with a hot iron” (Ephesians 4:19). Their conscience has lost all sensitivity. When that happens, a person can lie, cheat, or steal without their conscience raising any objection. They feel no guilt because their conscience is seared.

As he was on the road to Damascus, that’s exactly what Saul of Tarsus thought. Do you think he was worried about doing something wrong? The seared conscience calls evil “good” and good “evil” (Isaiah 5:20). 

How to Get and Keep a Good Conscience

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16) 

If a conscience has become corrupt, so that it is no longer functioning correctly, how can it become pure? If a conscience has become seared, it has become insensitive, like thick skin. How can it be made sensitive again? 

A good conscience is powered by the Spirit: If I take the batteries out of my alarm clock, it will not work. It is also set by the Word and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. 

A good conscience is powered by the Holy Spirit 

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8)

Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit. When he comes, when he begins working in your life, what you can expect is that he awakens your conscience. When the Holy Spirit comes, he wakens you up to reality. Jesus describes that reality in three ways—sin, righteousness, and judgment: 

The Holy Spirit convicts of guilt in regard to sin

The first work of the Holy Spirit is deeply disturbing—he activates your conscience. He brings you to a place where you see your own sin.

The Holy Spirit convicts of guilt in regard to righteousness

You don’t know what righteousness is until you know Jesus. When you get to know him, you see that his righteousness is so far beyond what you have at your best that you haven’t a hope of getting near him.

The Holy Spirit convicts of guilt in regard to judgment

The Holy Spirit convinces of sin and righteousness and judgment. A true Christian wants more of this, not less, because that is what authentic godliness is looking for.

It wants to know more of its own sin and more of God’s righteousness, so that it might embrace God’s mercy even more. 

A good conscience is set by the Word of God 

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11) 

If the alarm clock is to function, it has to be powered, but it also has to be set. A good conscience is powered by the Spirit and set by the Word. Hiding God’s Word in your heart will train your conscience to sound the alarm and keep you from sin. 

Are you, like David, hiding God’s word in your heart? Or is it just flitting across your brain? When You hide God’s Word in your heart that Word shapes and strengthens your conscience. And a good conscience is your best defense against sin and temptation.

A good conscience is cleansed by the blood of Christ 

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14) 

This is an amazing promise! Christ cleansing our consciences from acts that lead to death! 

How does he do it? By the blood of Christ, because on the cross he offered himself unblemished to God! He offered himself—his unblemished, perfect life—as a sacrifice to God for us on account of our sins. Therefore, he alone is able to cleanse our consciences through his blood. 

Your conscience may have been corrupted, even seared. Christ can make it good. That’s what redemption is all about. It is powered by the Spirit, set by the Word, and cleansed by the blood.

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*** By Colin Smith at Unlocking the Bible / Picture by Chandra Elancher

Don’t Despise Difficulty

One night, just before I went to bed, in my mind, I heard. “Don’t despise difficulty.”

In John 15:2 it says, “Every branch in Me that does NOT bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it…” Why does God do this? “… so that it (the branch-the Christian) may bear MORE fruit.
Vs.8 My Father is GLORIFIED by this, that you bear MUCH…fruit,.(not just a little, but MUCH fruit) and so prove to be My disciples.

To prune a tree, you must cut/remove specific branches or stems to BENEFIT the whole tree. The removal of dead, damaged diseased branches, HELP to PREVENT insect and decay organisms from entering the tree.

When God prunes me, ITS FOR MY BENEFIT! By the Holy Spirit He removes what is dead, damaged and diseased in my heart. When condescending words come from a co-worker, God can prune/cut off STEMS of pride, that are causing decay in your heart that says, how can you talk to me that way? I DESERVE RESPECT. IT’S FOR MY BENEFIT, when that big BILL comes. God can prune us to remove that disease of loving money, that UNREST you feel because your retirement fund has decreased.

God says, I’m pruning you, SO you CAN HAVE the BENEFIT of bearing MORE Fruit! Don’t despise the cuts, bear MUCH fruit! Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Much more love for one another (John 15:12) with people who are different than you, rejoicing ALWAYS, peace that surpasses understanding, an ABUNDANCE of patience DURING being tempted to be annoyed at someone, the law of kindness ALWAYS on your lips though you you’ve just been insulted, the goodness of God flowing out of your heart, faithfulness to God, the gentleness of Jesus to others, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit for self-control.

Do you want that? REALLY?

God is saying don’t despise the pruning, the cuts of difficulty. I’m doing great things in your life! And yes, you can enjoy a good meal, a nice trip and even good sleep, BUT that’s NOT the ABUNDANT life, God is calling us to! We SET ourselves up for discouragement, when we LIVE for ease, comfort and pleasure.
Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt.6:19-21
We have to be careful NOT treasure our pleasure.

I also have to be careful what I call a BLESSING or a BENEFIT in my life.

I’m NOT COMPLETELY there yet, BUT I’m believing God WILL bring me to a place where I can ALWAYS see His pruning in my life, as an ABSOLUTE BENEFIT TO HIM! Not ONLY what benefits me. (2 Cor.5:9)

Just like we take our bags of fruit home from Safeway or farmers market. We enjoy eating the fruit. Can God do that too? When He walks out to the garden of my life, can HE partake of the Fruit of His Spirit? (Gal.5:22-23) Can He take each fruit, out of the bag and say Ah…humility? Another bite, Ah…love, ah…self-control? Another bite…ah patience, how good it is too eat of My children’s fruitful lives! If God does not prune me, I CANNOT give HIM that fruit! I cannot make Him go…Ah!

John 15:1 My Father is the vinedresser. He prunes, trains, and cultivates. If the fruit is NOT coming out of my branch, it’s possible I’m NOT abiding in the Vine, Jesus. Am I KEEPING His word? Am I dried up? Maybe you just got pruned. And you’re thinking, I got nothing man. PERFECT Vs. 5 Apart from Him, you CAN DO NOTHING! Realizing how INCAPABLE we are and how ABLE He is, will help us depend on Jesus, the Vine. His grace is sufficient (2 Cor.12: 9).

Before fruit appears/grows, it must go through a process of unseen nourishment from the vine.
So it is with fruit in my heart for God. Fruit will come as I get nourishment from the Vine/Jesus. That means I remain in His love and obey His word. Not copying and pasting on the fruit of the Spirit with some dead work, selfish motive. No, if I keep/obey His word, I can prove to God in MY HEART, I’m a DISCIPLE of Jesus. Not prove to others, BUT to God first, who sees and knows all, in the deep secrets of my thoughts and desires. To prove my devotion and allegiance to Him IN the difficulty. (John 15:8) Then the fruit can grow and be GENUINE.

If we look at Luke 14:25-33, we can see some ways our devotion and allegiances WILL be tested as a disciple of Jesus. My love for GOD should be MUCH greater in comparison to my love for others and for myself. So much so, that my love for others and for myself, LOOKS like hate. This is tested in the CLOSEST relationships. Father, mother, wife, children, siblings and even our own life (vs.26). All these relationships can have disagreements. And when you have a strong disagreement, you can have difficulty.

Jesus said in the very next verse, 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
We face a choice to pick up our own INNER cross. We can decide to please others, please ourselves OR please Jesus. When we chose to please Jesus, it will cost us. It may cost us a “silent” treatment, disrespect, misunderstanding, others being angry with us and maybe even left alone or cut off. Yes, this can even happen in our OWN homes. (Luke 12:51-53).

In Phil. 2:1-11 We see the glory of Jesus, how He carried His cross. He humbled Himself His entire life, even to the point of death. Even in His own home, at least for a time, His brothers were not believing in Him ( John 7:5 ). They lived with Jesus and never saw Him sin even once! Yet they still mocked Him.
In Mark 3:21 says, “When His own people ( kinsmen-blood relatives ), heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” In other words, Jesus’ own family called Him crazy! These are just a few examples of what we can face if we live by Jesus’ standards. Jesus Himself said in:
Matt.10: 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Maybe it’s Jesus’ standard against the finances between you and your spouse. Maybe it’s Jesus’ standard in your wedding plans against your family’s standards for your wedding plans. Maybe it’s deciding what church to go to or continue to go to. Or even different opinions and thoughts about ministry in the church. Yes, even there we can find Jesus’ dividing sword of discipleship. If I can’t have a humble attitude and pick up my INNER cross IN my home, I certainly won’t be able to do it in God’s church.

God knows in these relationships we WILL be tested. We CAN carry our own cross, when we love Jesus MORE than our own families and our own life. And in so doing, we actually love them better. Whether others say so or not. If that happens because we’ve chosen to obey God, not man, He will honor us ( 1 Sam.2:30 ). And that is greater than ANY honor we can receive!

Jesus sums it up in Vs.33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
If we are holding onto these relationships at the cost of lowering Jesus’ standards to follow what they say, we cannot be His disciple.
Being a follower of Jesus, is not a matter of how many times we’ve read, studied or memorized the Bible. Not a matter of how many times we went to church, shared the word, gave a testimony, prayed or helped people. Yes, amen, we should do these things BUT it’s NOT what qualifies me to be a disciple of Jesus.

Though God may prune me in these relationships, I don’t have to fear
God DOESN’T prune us to be mean. John 15:4-10 says, He does this so we can remain in His love. And when we keep His word, that’s what happens. We remain in His love. He stays close to us and we to Him. And I NEVER lose out, though the pruning HURT.
We see in verse 11 Jesus asked, why have I said these things to you? To discourage you? No. I HAVE SAID THIS TO YOU, SO I CAN…. GIVE you MY JOY TO THE FULLEST!!!!

So, I’m believing God, that when I face difficulty and I’m getting pruned, I can ACTUALLY look forward to some Promises!
John 15: 8 When I bear fruit of the Holy Spirit, I WILL give Him glory. Verse 10 If I obey His word, I WILL abide in His love like Jesus did. And verse 11 When I do these things, I WILL get Jesus’ JOY…. to the FULLEST!
The Lord is so generous, He gives us His joy too when we are faithful to Him in difficulty.

If you are IN a tough spot now, remain in His love. Obey His word and believe God WILL fulfill His promises, even IN your difficulty!

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**By Paul Moore © Copyright – Paul Moore. No changes whatsoever are to be made to the content of the article without written permission from the author. https://nccf.com/ 

Picture by Pixabay at pexels