Praise and Worship

Meditating on Psalm 150.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

2 Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

In our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, we were taught not only to praise and worship God every morning and evening, but through every circumstance, be it celebration or grief, sickness or healing, battle or victory. In prayer and fasting, praise strengthens the flesh and spirit. Through any sickness in our home, praise terrifies the enemy and it flees. My husband and I sing praises until a sick child goes to sleep. Praise defeats Satan’s schemes, for he can’t stand true worship of God. When the powerful, holy presence of the Lord descends, no work of the devil can prosper. There is only victory.

 But there was a time that I was too weak and sick I couldn’t sing a single stanza of praise. This depressed me, so I compensated it with more reading and meditating on the Word. God was faithful to honor my offering. While reading His Word, I would feel His touch and tears would stream down my face. I’d found that soaking ourselves in the Word ushers in His holy presence, too.

But having said that, singing praises with all our beings is the best WAY to feel the presence of the living, breathing, all-powerful God. I know there are Christians who sometimes dither in approaching the throne of grace because of their failings and shortcomings. The feeling of unworthiness bars them. I go through those, too, sometimes. But I’m slowly understanding the Savior’s heart for me, and that is – He wants that I approach Him however messed-up I am or however I’ve messed things up. I’m learning that when we withdraw from Him because of feelings of shame or unworthiness, it is really pride that is prodding us. But if we humbly present ourselves to Him, bowing down before Him with our repentant hearts and tears – He will not turn us away.

Though wounded and bruised because of our own stumblings and failings, because of hurts brought by dashed hopes, unkept promises, prolonged suffering, unanswered prayers – we sing, we seek, we invite Him into our lives. And He will surely come. He will touch our hurting places and heal them. He’ll heal our spirits, even our bones and flesh.

So never give up on praise. Our souls thrive in worship. It feeds on worship of the living God. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

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Delight in the Savior King

Meditating on Psalm 149.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. (vv. 2-4)

So, the past days saw me going back to the mount where the Lord had delivered His popular sermon. For days I had tarried there, hoping to meet Him, to have the chance to fling myself at His sandalled feet and touch Him. But, He wasn’t there. I only saw rocks and patches of grass amidst the dust. And His light, His glorious light that shone upon it. The mountains echoed His eternal words and I strained to listen.

But that hadn’t been enough. So, what do I really want? Maybe to wrap my arms around my Savior. How many times had I wished that? But in praise and worship, He met me. I have failings and shortcomings, but I wormed my way toward His presence through songs that came from my hungering places. Without self-condemnation, I presented myself to Him through my humble songs of praise that were more of soulful prayers. And I felt Him. He touched me and the tears streamed down. His is the love that I crave for. Always will be.

Why do we not rejoice in the Lord? He is the source of our joy, our peace, our hope. He is our greatest love. Why do we not come to Him – in our lack, in our need, in our weakness? For the Lord takes pleasure in His people. He takes pleasure in me and in you, for He has redeemed us by His own blood. Don’t let the enemy’s lies and mocking whispers bar you from approaching the throne of grace. Delight in your Savior King for He takes pleasure in it.

Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth… (vv. 5-6)

Make all effort to discern your listlessness, your discontent, your sorrow, your emptiness. Your hunger. It maybe that your soul is parched for the living God, the precious Savior, the Lover of our souls.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Praise, Glorious Praise!

Meditating on Psalm 148.

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
2 Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise the Lord from the earth…

Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
12 Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children. (vv. 1,2,7,11,12)

Psalm 148 cries out to all of creation to praise God. Nothing and no one is exempted. From the heavenly bodies to creatures of the deep and every living thing in between – all must praise God. “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. 150:6).

Our powerful, glorious praise flings heaven’s doors wide open. It ushers in miracles beyond our wildest dreams – healings, lives changed, deliverances. It brings on God’s mighty acts and wondrous works: overwhelming victories in battle, great walls toppling down, earthquakes that open prison cells and unlock shackles, foul spirits fleeing.

The holy presence of God descends in heartfelt praise. And when it does, we will know peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable and full of glory, hope that never dies, and a love — yes, a love that soothes all our broken places and covers all our lack!

So, praise God in the dark valley and on top of the mountain. Praise Him in the tedious climb and when you think you have no more strength left – you still have breath in your nostrils. Praise Him in the peals of rich laughter; praise Him in the midst of river of tears.

Praise God with your whole being, everyday that He brings. “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps. 118:24). Praise Him and do not cease, lest the stones will cry out!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven. (v. 13)

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Healer of Hearts

Meditating on Psalm 147.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises on the harp to our God,
8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who prepares rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9 He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens that cry. (vv. 7-9)

In this psalm, the psalmist once again praises the glory, grace, and goodness of God. There are many things going on in this psalm, but I’d like us to bring our focus on this:

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (v. 3)

This has been our running theme in recent posts – how that the Lord weaves a beautiful love story in our lives if only we give ourselves wholly to Him. The above verse gave a name to my story. Before I gave my life to Jesus, broken in body, heart, and spirit, I never thought that He alone could heal my brokenness and bind up my gaping wounds. The devil is way too cruel to leave you with a flimsy thread of hope of ever mending, once you ventured anywhere near his lair. Like living a life of adultery. You become his. That’s exactly how he left me – helplessly clinging to the thin thread that connected me to whatever was left of my life.

Then Jesus came, with His power, light, and love. I thought I only sought Him for forgiveness of my sins so I could die at peace with God. But there was also hope that maybe He’d be merciful enough to heal my body, too. But He did much more than anything I had hoped for. His grace abounded to me. “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). He redeemed my soul, cleansed me from the sin of my dark past, restored my family, healed our broken hearts and bound up our wounds.

He can easily do those things in just one stroke of His powerful hand. “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly” (v. 15). And yet, there are still many who don’t want to be anywhere near Him. They insist on seeking cure for their ailments elsewhere, not knowing that it’s probably their souls that were sick and suffering and need healing.

My prayer for the broken is this: That the Savior Jesus Christ be their Redeemer, Healer, Restorer. That He will reign in their hearts and minds and be their Lord and King.

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Trust that Strengthens

Meditating on Psalm 146.

Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. (v. 2)

It feels good to be reminded that if there’s anything that we should be doing the rest of our lives, that would be to praise and worship God with our whole beings. For those who have tasted and seen the steadfast goodness of the Lord, this will be an easy task. I believe miracles only happen when we put our complete trust in God. When we give up all control and trust in man and believe without a shadow of doubt that God will come through for us when we put all our trust in Him – He will then show Himself strong and will begin to work on our behalf. It is from this place that miracles are bred. On the other hand, unbelief keeps us away from them.

Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Mat. 13:58)

It is naturally scary for mere humans like us to put our trust in the One who is invisible. Our inclination is to trust man and thing which we can both see and feel. But I have experienced that it is in the place of greatest need and danger, when we are completely helpless and vulnerable, that complete trust in God can spring up. I know that most people would rather go from one specialist to another and be subjected to invasive medical interventions just to obtain cure and healing from their diseases. As long as they have money to spend on these expensive doctors and procedures, their trust lies on them. But what of the poor who have nothing but are rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who see the miracles of God in their lives? I’ve proven this to be true in Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry which is replete of God’s miracles.

Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish. (vv. 3-4)

The one who wrote Psalm 146 was one who had the wisdom to know and believe in the God who is all-powerful. Thus, he had both witnessed and experienced the wondrous works of God without the help of man or his inventions.

Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.

8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow; (vv. 7-9)

Read again the above verses. He does all these, and yet, we still find ourselves doubting, or feeling weak and helpless or even miserable and hopeless. We still get to question His love for us. But what if we reverse it and think that it is our unbelief and distrust of Him that hinder Him from working mightily and marvellously in our lives? Only believe.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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The Exquisite Workings of Love {The Testimony of Bro. Billy Dela Fuente}

Meditating on Psalm 145.

I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable. (vv. 1-3)

Now, we know that God is the source of love – pure, powerful, undying. God is love (1 John 4:8). He weaves bittersweet, yet, beautiful stories out of our lives. Psalm 145 is definitely a beautiful psalm that merits a story that will tug at our heartstrings. I read the psalm and I couldn’t help but put it side by side with the testimony I heard recently in our Church.

Psalm 145 extols the splendor of God’s majesty, His wondrous works and awesome acts, His greatness and goodness, compassion and mercy! How do we make this psalm become alive so that we can experience – hear, feel, taste – it to the full? I have a story for you.

I have written about Brother J before on this blog (I didn’t take the time to locate it – sorry!). The reason I can’t use his real name is because, his parents were advised not to divulge personal information about him while the case is on-going, except for the testimonies his father shares in church. To give you a brief background: Brother J surrendered his life to the Lord in his youth. Though he was the only one saved in the family, this didn’t deter him to serve the Lord fervently. He shared the Gospel to his father but he was only laughed at. His father was fiercely religious in the traditional way, bowing and praying before graven images.

Brother J wanted to help his family financially, so he applied for work abroad through an agency. He believed that the Lord would guide and protect him especially that he was young and innocent in the ways of the world. To make the story short, Brother J was hired to work in a factory in China. The day he would leave for China, he was instructed by the agency to fly to Singapore first, meet someone there, then proceed to China. As innocent and unsuspecting Brother J was, he met with the man in Singapore, received the parcel given him, then flew to China. At the airport there, he was at once handcuffed and whisked away to prison. He was accused of being a drug mule.

It’s been 5 years since that happened. His parents have long received the Lord Jesus Christ and been serving Him faithfully, often offering prayers and fasting. The father, Bro. Billy, has joined the Adults Choir. Every time he testifies, I cry. I cry for his son who’s languishing in jail in China. And I pray for him, too. Brother J’s original sentence was life. He didn’t waver in his faith in God. He praised, worshiped, and prayed. He requested for a Holy Bible and in the darkness of the prison, shared the Gospel to his fellow inmates. Even those who oversee the prisons took to him. The next time he was evaluated, his sentence was reduced to 26 years, then 18, then 14, and now 12. He’ll be evaluated again soon and the ardent prayer of the parents and the Church is for him to be freed already.

The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
16 You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing. (vv. 14-16)

Just recently, Brother J’s parents traveled to China to visit him. They were allowed by the Chinese Embassy at last. From Manila to China, Bro. Billy did nothing but pray and weep that they’d be able to touch and embrace their beloved son. They were told by the officials in the embassy that they could only see him through a thick glass and talk to him via telephone. But Bro. Billy was praying for a miracle. He wanted to embrace his son who was painfully missed.

Even when they were ushered into the receiving room, Bro. Billy didn’t stop praying and crying until his voice was hoarse and his eyes were red and puffy. While bowed down in his seat, someone put a hand on his stooped shoulders. When he looked up, he couldn’t believe his eyes! His beloved son was standing before him with his open arms. Hallelujah!

The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them. (vv. 17-19)

Brother J’s fervent love for Jesus Christ sees him through his hardest trial. It is actually Jesus’ love working powerfully in him. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

The Lord preserves all who love Him… (v. 20)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Vantage Point

Meditating on Psalm 144:

Blessed be the Lord my Rock…
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge… (vv. 1-2)

David begins this psalm, like most of the others he’d written, with praise. He had experienced first-hand God’s mighty deliverance over and over again as he went to battle against his foes. From the very first day that he stepped on the battleground to take on Goliath, without armor and shield but only his sling – he had trusted fully in the living God. He had seen how God gave him strength to kill the wolves and bears that attacked the flock he tended with only his bare hands. His faith in God enabled him to convert those episodes of victory on the hills to the battlefield, toppling kings and princes of the heathen nations in his wake.

Surely, if we allow God in all areas of our lives – marriage, family, motherhood, work, etc. – He will show Himself mighty to us, too. If we run to Him, bearing our problems, broken hearts, sick bodies, unquiet minds, and all our other urgent petitions – He will also become to us a refuge, a strong tower, a mighty fortress, our deliverer, healer, shield, problem-solver, provider. He will become to us our everything as David had made Him his.

Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow. (vv. 3-4)

Because of the Lord Almighty’s wondrous work in David’s life, he couldn’t help but marvel, “What is man that you’re mindful of him?” Because of the mighty deeds of the Lord in his life that were magnified many times over, David saw himself as small, a mere mortal. Though a mighty warrior, he possessed the heart of a humble servant and took the posture of complete humility before God. From this vantage point, he was able to see the highness, the majesty, the excellency of God as against his humanity.

This passage got me to thinking: It is because of where we have put ourselves that sometimes our vantage points propel us to demand of God, put the blame on Him when things don’t go our way, or even accuse Him when bad things happen. I know there are people who treat God as if He owed them anything! I think this is a most unfortunate place to be: to think that God only exists to wait on us at our beck and call. But if we shift our positions and take that low place, we will be able to see and appreciate what God is really doing in our lives. That He is actually at work for all of us, for all of humanity, 24/7.

If we have allowed Him into our lives and walk with Him everyday, we will be in that position to praise and glorify Him and be in awe of His salvation, deliverance, healing, and miracles. And you know what? We will know what David had known all along:

Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (v. 15)

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Hope for Undeserved Grace

Meditating on Psalm 143.

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous. (vv. 1-2)

If you asked me what my most favorite psalms were, I would readily answer, “Psalms 91 and 23”. But you know what? I found out that meditating on each of the psalms brings us different blessings, each unique and beautiful and powerful in its own right. Such is Psalm 143. Each of the stanzas seems to speak of different themes, but all in all, they are prayers of a man who knew his God intimately, had an intimate relationship with Him, and knew his own frailty and need for grace. Psalm 143 is a collection of short prayers of a man who hoped and clung on the grace and mercy of God. And I know that in times of my great weakness and need, I had prayed them, too, in varying words and purposes, but the intensity was pretty much the same.

Psalm 143 is a plea for underserved grace. For it is always really that: the grace bestowed on us every waking moment by the Father is undeserved. For how can we receive healing for our broken hearts and bodies if He demands first our perfection? No. Our wholeness always comes from Jesus’ perfect love not ours. “…By His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53;5); “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). If He entered into judgment with us, what would become of us? What would we receive from Him as answer to our most earnest prayers? But God, in His unfailing love and faithfulness, receives our prayers and answers them, when we come before Him in humble acknowledgement of our weaknesses and imperfections. It’s all His grace.

I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

7 Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. (vv. 6-7)

Have you longed for Jesus’ like that? Yearned for Him and needed Him so much you actually reached out your hand before you, not seeing Him, yet believing that He’s always near, near enough to feel His comforting presence. Near enough to expect Him to take your proffered hand. I have. And I believe that we should always have that fervent love for Him.

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You. (v. 8)

Psalm 143 is a reminder to not go ahead of God’s plan for us and pursue our own plans without acknowledging Him first or knowing His will. But it’s wisdom to seek His face and lovingkindness in the morning and surrender ourselves to His leading. Always to His leading. For that is the only way to life eternal.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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When You’re All Alone in Your Pain

Meditating on Psalm 142.

Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul. (v. 4)

We have David weeping and crying out to the Lord again. Alone in the cave he resorted to, fleeing his enemies, he lamented his predicament. He felt so all alone, deserted, bereft of someone, anyone, who could comfort his soul. Except the Lord. When David found himself in the isolated island of loneliness, fear, and uncertainty, he cried out to God. He knew that in Him, he was never really alone.

I cried out to You, O Lord:
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living. (v. 5)

Have you been in that place? A dark, damp, musty cave where there was no escaping? The jagged walls are hostile, cold, and wet. Creepy creatures seem to lurk in the dark nooks waiting to make their attack. Well, you may not find yourself in a real cave like that, but still, you feel alone and scared and the world around you seems not to care, or cold and hostile even.

I have been in that horrifying place. When sin and guilt morphed into a full-blown monster and attacked my mind, I was like a trembling leaf petrified to the core. I went out but the demons of fear followed me. They were in the restaurant where I ate, or in the mall, or in the corridors of the hospital where I walked with shaky legs, or in the doctors’ clinics that smelled of antiseptic. Or in the dimly-lit room of the psychiatrist (now, that was like a cave minus the stalactites and stalagmites). The people around me and in the other tables talked and laughed like I wasn’t unraveling and crumbling inside. To be sitting there, feeling like a whirlwind is swallowing you up into the depths, and yet, they don’t know – is a pure chilling feeling. That is what it feels to be isolated, deserted.

The people who try to help cannot really do it. They cannot reach that far or that deep. No doctors, no therapists, no friends, no family – yes, just like David – can reach out to save the drowning. Only Jesus. I have been in that place and have found out that only Jesus can reach out that far and deep and dangerous. Only He has the unequalled power and the intensity of unconditional love to save and deliver. He gained it from His death on the cross – our redemption and salvation, our healing, our deliverance from the dark cave, the whirlwind, the dimly-lit psychiatrist’s office, and the demons. All the things that ever imprisoned us.

There is nothing that His grace cannot reach and His love cannot cover. He fills all things and He’s in all things.

 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Eph. 4:9-10 NIV

When you think you’re all alone in your fear and pain, you’re never really alone. Run to Jesus. He is our refuge, our portion in the land of the living. He will deal bountifully with us.

Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me. (v. 7)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Let Jesus’ Love Flow

Meditating on Psalm 141.

Lord, I cry out to You;
Make haste to me!
Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (vv. 1-2)

David is imploring the Lord to receive his prayers as the sweet-smelling fragrance of a pleasing sacrifice wafting to the King’s throne. Then he goes on to ask the Lord to preserve him from all wicked works. For David knows that the prayers of the righteous are heard and received by God. In another psalm, he says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry” (Ps. 34:15).

We pray for a myriad of reasons and in many different ways and situations. Sometimes, we pray in heaviness of heart, not only because of our troubles bearing down on us, but because God seems far. He seems to us as if He’s indifferent to our difficulties and sufferings. We wrestle with Him for His attention, favor, and blessings. And in the midst of the struggle, we may feel defeated and retreat with a heavy heart, feeling disappointed and sad. Often, we may not know it, but the Holy Spirit will come and shed light on what is really happening in our hearts. Last night, I had one of those “visitations”.

As I lay in bed, a still small voice whispered to my ear that I must know and believe, and receive the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Period. That His love for me will never change no matter the circumstances. That He loves me completely and eternally no matter how I think and feel otherwise. Wow, that’s a breath of fresh inspiration! I thought to myself as I closed my eyes and prayed (I didn’t want to close the door that the Holy Spirit opened).

You are good to me, my Lord Jesus!
Your love for me will never die;
You love me completely now ’til eternity.
You just love me and want to do me good!
No more doubts about that!
So, I will always run to You,
Whatever time of day or night.
You are always waiting for me with wide-open arms;
You are always delighted to receive me with your ready embrace.
I will run to You, no matter what lies the enemy whispers to me.

Sometimes, the best prayer we can offer as a sweet-smelling sacrifice that God can savor is our full acceptance of His love and goodness in our lives, not regarding the troubles we are in. The apostle Paul beseeches us, “I desire therefore that the men [and women] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8, annotation mine). Lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting and let the pure love of Jesus flow to us and bathe us in its fullness. That is the best favor we can give ourselves today!

But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord;
In You I take refuge;
Do not leave my soul destitute. (v. 8)

(Photo courtesy of my friend Des Rivero-Lamb).

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Journey with Jesus,