The Family

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Col. 3:18-4:1

We should be extremely wary of the flesh, especially in relation to our families. You notice in this scripture that Paul is not talking about relationships within the church, but within the family. And here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that even a servant is a part of the family.

The reason for this need for vigilance is because it is the easiest thing for us to cast ourselves into a mould, where things become ‘normalised’ and we are no longer running the race we have been called to. The whole concept of salvation, including our relationships, is a daily race, and a gritty one. It is a race of the Spirit vs the flesh. But it is with the family that God is most concerned and it is with the family that this race must begin.

My son is a slow learner, and much of the time (at least, according to my estimations) he does things contrary to the instructions I give him.  I am well aware that there was some delay during his delivery and this was what caused his condition. But this knowledge does nothing to calm my high-strung calibre and much of the time, the things that my son does have me clawing up the wall, literally.

And so it was that one day I was watering my garden and I asked him to carefully move the hose for me between the young plants. Instead of picking the part of the hose I had shown him, he picked the wrong one and in the process he ended up breaking one or two of my precious plants.

To talk of a sonic boom here would hardly do credit to the bellow I let out. If you ever saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”, well, the Beast’s roars there are a downgraded version of what occurred that afternoon. My son stood still as I went on the warpath and blasted him into Neverland.

But the Lord is good and I thank Him for His mercy towards me. After my son had left the crime scene, the Lord quietly came to me and showed me the rot that was in my heart. As I lay on my bed that the evening, I called my son.

“Joe”, I said, “I want you to forgive me for what I did to you this evening. I am truly sorry and please know that I love you.”

I was sorely tempted to add, “But please, please try harder at doing things right”; but with all the effort I had I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Notice the Bible says, both in Colossians above and in Ephesians 6:4, that fathers should not provoke their children to anger. The Bible here is not talking of the small children that we in our selfishness are wont to spoil. Rather, when children reach a certain age, when they are in their teens, it is the time that their independence begins to assert itself, and it is here that parents need to be very careful to not to stamp out that independence. It is this independence, nurtured in the love of God, that will lead your child on to maturity.

There are any number of scenarios with regard to our lack of vigilance. It is the easiest thing, for example, for the wife or husband to enter into an adulterous relationship with another person, not for any other reason than that they have not been vigilant in their relationship to their spouse. But it requires a daily death to the flesh for that relationship to stay renewed in the Spirit.

The same goes for every other relationship within the family. The parents need to die for their children; and the children, likewise, for their parents. The servant needs the death of the cross to work in him for him to serve his master as he would serve Christ; likewise, the man and woman of the house towards their servant. If the work of the cross is not in them, they can easily look down on or mistreat their servants.

It is the easiest thing for the pastor to run about pastoring everyone else except his family. He never spends time with his wife or children! It is no wonder, therefore, that many pastors today stand accused of having adulterous affairs with other women, because they were unable to pay the price needed to take time with their wives.

It is the easiest thing for the mother to be busy, oh! inviting over and welcoming all those beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – but never having a thought for her children. And the children become rebellious and she wonders why!

It is the easiest thing, as I said, for us to allow the flesh in its various forms to take over control of our families. It is the easiest thing for us to become selfish and to look only to our own interests: the father, to his own pride; the child, his/her own independence, etc. But the Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 says:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”

It talks about the devil there, but it might as well be talking of our flesh. The flesh is always lying in wait for us, ready at any moment to step in and take control the minute we lose our vigilance. That is why we need to be very vigilant in our relations with our family members.

The church setting is meant to overflow with the love and selfless sacrifice of Christ. And it has to begin with the family. As one of my friends used to say, you cannot jump to No.2 before you are done with No.1. The family is the Number One place where we are required to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ.

[My family. The highest responsibility I have is both to my wife and children, to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Eph. 6:4]

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A Cup Of Cold Water!

41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.

42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:41-42

Many of my posts originate from my dealings with people, and especially my family. So it was that the other day I was doing a certain chore when my daughter Keren came out to help.

We hadn’t gone too far when I began berating her for not doing the job as I wanted it done. Now, don’t mistake it here: I firmly believe in rebuking and disciplining a child, and that as parents we should teach our kids to do things correctly. But on this particular day, it was not about correction: it was about thanklessness – thanklessness on my part.

My daughter had come out to help, with a good heart and, in any case, the job was pretty straightforward and mundane; no professionalism was required. But I had this hawkish look about me and the minute she made a mistake, I ‘jumped’ her.

A moment of awkward silence passed after I had scolded her. The very next instance we both burst out laughing uncontrollably. The same thought hit us simultaneously (Keren and I are always on the same telepathic wavelength).

It had suddenly occurred to us that I had been hit by the ‘ingrate’ bug – again. The ‘ingrate’ bug is a bug that we have so named in our family because once this bug bites you, you can find no good thing in other people. Nothing to thank them for, no matter the good they have done for you. This is a bug that regularly rears its ugly head in my family, attacking one or the other of the members of my family. Normally, this bug’s attack ends with a good laugh for everyone, but sometimes the situation is serious enough to require pastoral intervention! I happen to be the pastor in the house, so I solve all the cases. But sometimes the bug bites me also, and in those moments when I am bitten, I allow only my kids to referee. My wife knows too many things about me and, in any case, given the opportunity, she tends to spill more beans than are needed. So whenever I am in the wrong, I make sure she does not get the opportunity to talk.

Of course, it is impossible to prevent an express train like my wife to absolutely not to talk, so I have designed small defence (read survival) tactics to make sure I remain safe. Like, I allow her to talk for about 30 seconds then I ‘humbly’ interject with a very holy-sounding, “Yes, Joe… you wanted to say something??”

Joe, by the way, is always on my side. And once he begins talking, there is no stopping him. Case closed.

Anyways, the other day with me and Keren, it was a light one, no pastoral intervention needed, and we ended up laughing and laughing. After the laughter, there was only silence as we continued with our work. During the silence, I began thinking about God. It was then that the above scripture came forcefully into my spirit. I had never seen this scripture the way I saw it that day: that God will thank, or reward us for giving so much as a “cup of cold water only” to one of his servants! The heart of God that I saw here shook me. It was an impossibly thankful heart.

In Africa, many households, particularly in the rural villages, are dirt-poor. Sometimes there is not even food for the family, and sometimes there can be nothing to give to a visitor. But a cup of cold water is mandatory whenever a visitor enters a household. It is considered the least that the host can do.

And this, the least of all our efforts, the Bible says, God will reward.

What a heart! What a rich heart God has! This God, He is so rich, rich in grace. He can stoop so low as to consider a cup of cold water as something of worth in His sight! But nothing is too small with God. The smallest thing that we do is written into God’s account books.

That speaks of the greatness of God. There is no greater man than he who can stoop to consider and appreciate the small things. In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” Rom. 12:16

The apostle urges us to “condescend to men of low estate.”

That is not Paul speaking there; it is God Himself. If God through the Apostle Paul tells us to “condescend to men of low estate”, then it must mean that He also condescends to men of low estate.

But do you know how difficult it is for a raw human being to condescend to a man of low estate? It is very difficult. Very difficult. The lower a person is in the social ladder, the more difficult it is for men to appreciate them. Society can clap for an important man for simply flashing a smile; but they will conveniently ignore it when a man of humble stature saves a life!

But God… God not only condescends to men of low estate, but He is also able to be thankful for the smallest thing that we do for the sake of Christ. Imagine God rewarding someone for giving a cup of cold water to one of His servants. A cup of cold water, only? Yes, literally.

Such humility and sensitivity is unfathomable. Among the many praise-worthy qualities of God, therefore, is that He is an extremely humble, thankful and appreciative God. Now, that’s grace!!

How about us? Do we have the grace to thank and appreciate our brethren – and our family members – for even the smallest favor that they do for us? Are we able to bypass the mistakes and failures and instead focus on the effort that someone has put in out of love?

And – the most important question of all – do we have the grace to thank God for all that He has done and continues to do on our behalf? Do we continually take time to contemplate and thank God for our salvation?

May we learn to be thankful!!

[Below: Today I wish to share this beautiful song with you, my readers, “Were It Not For Grace”]

The Apostolic and Prophetic Ministries

The father figure is God’s greatest creation. There is no bigger tragedy than for a child to grow up without a father. I know people who will point to so-and-so to try to prove that you can achieve so much without being raised by a father, but I am not talking about achievements here.

Whatever way one looks at it, God certainly had a purpose in putting a man in the house. A father in the house carries authority. That is what he was created for above everything else. And authority brings order.

To be honest, I personally cannot claim to have accomplished even half of what I know I need to accomplish in my house. I cannot even claim to be half the idea of what some people regard as a man (After these two submissions, I am sure my enemies can now sleep in peace).

But one thing I have stone-cold accomplished in life is that my children know that there is a father in the house. Of that I have no doubt. They know the meaning of authority in our house. There are times I have gone to extremes, sure, but it has served in them knowing that there is something called authority in our house.

My wife can scale Mt. Everest and come back, but she can do nothing when it comes to authority in the house. That is my office and even if I am not there she cannot usurp it.

I have been away from home many times and there are times when my wife thought she could “control” our teenage kids. But every time she would try such a stunt, it always back-fired, and she had to call me from wherever I was, even when I was far away in a neighboring country. And all the kids needed to hear was my voice – and order would return to that house.

I am not saying they became angels or anything. Nor am I saying that my children will succeed in life because of that. But my children have always known there is a father in the house. And that has always brought order back to that house even in the worst of situations. If my children refused for me to chastise them, they would become bastards. The Bible says so in Hebrews 12:8.

Today people fear the term “order”. But it is a spiritual term.

(It is in connection to these issues that the Bible says that every woman must be under the authority of a man, and that every man must be under the authority of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Anything outside this order is unbiblical.

That is why also there can be no woman in the five-fold ministry because these are ministries of authority within the church. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

A woman can minister in many other areas within the Body of Christ, but not in the five-fold ministry.)

A lack of a father in the church has brought about all the chaos and disorder that we are witnessing in the church today.

And the Apostle Paul, speaking with regard to the ministry of the apostle, he writes the Corinthians, “14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Cor. 4:14-15

Paul was telling the Corinthians that he was their father. He had begotten them in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the cross (1 Cor. 2:2). He had preached the singular gospel – the gospel that tells you to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ – that only could produce mature sons and daughters in the Spirit.  As a result, they were now his bona fide “sons” – but sons of God’s Kingdom also because Paul was under the authority of Christ.

Paul therefore could “shame” them if it came to that, as he does in 1 Cor. 6:5 and elsewhere, he could warn them; indeed, he could do anything with them to bring order into their lives.

No other ministry can beget sons in the gospel of Jesus Christ except the ministry of the apostle. He alone has been put by God in the church to bring the revelation of the cross in the church. All other ministry are dependent on this ministry together with the ministry of the prophet. Upon these two ministries is the church built (Eph. 2:20). People may beget many other things, I don’t know; but the Bible makes it clear that it is only the ministry of the apostle that can beget sons in the gospel.

Indeed a lack of this ministry within the church, or a lack of submission to it, has brought about so much destruction to the church of Jesus Christ.

I doubt any book exiting would suffice to list all the different things that are going all wrong with the church today. Every one of us is a witness of at least something that is wrong with the church.

The root of this problem is that there is no father in the house. There is no man in the house to bring order.

That is why, if you look carefully particularly on many Christian TV channels, you will find many young preachers today. (In Africa nearly all of them dress the same way). You will find these young men saying and doing the most abominable things in their “churches”; and if you follow them up they will tell you they have their own independent “ministries”.

They have no one they are subject to. They do not know anything about authority, nor submission.

But with the early church, if you saw a young man preaching or pastoring a church, he always had a father behind him. The Bible is replete with these examples. We find Timothy and Titus, for example, and many others.

You wouldn’t have found these young preachers telling their congregations to eat grass, for example, or to bring in all their money so they could live like kings.

No; these were young men (notice, not women) who had been raised the hard way. There was no spiritual frivolousness about their lives. They had a father, and there was order in their lives.

It is high time that the church woke up and acknowledged that it desperately needs the five-fold ministry, and to allow the ministry of apostle and prophet to have their true place in church – that there may be order and growth in the Body of Christ.

As long as this blog exists, it will be dedicated to bringing out the singular apostolic revelation that Christ bequeathed the church, and which the Apostle Paul so ably set forth in his writings and without which there is no true church.

[Below: the twin ministries of the apostle and prophet are the foundation of the true church]

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The Price of Following Jesus/‘Worldly Correctness’/“Who is my mother, or my brethren?”

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:57-62)

I was first drawn to this scripture by the phrase, “Let the dead bury their dead…” I wondered so much why Jesus would call a grieving family “the dead”.

But before we discuss that, let us see what Jesus said to the first man, the man who told Him, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest”.

Jesus told this man, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

That is incredible, to say the least. The Son of the Most High God had nowhere to lay His head? while even foxes and birds have somewhere to lay down and sleep?! The Kingdom of God is a worldly paradox. That is why Jesus’ words cannot marry with the “Money, come to me now!” gospel or lifestyle that worldly preachers try to propagate today (see the clip in my post “Prosperity Gospel vs Suffering for Christ”). Suffering is the price for following Christ.

Jesus was here telling the man the price to pay for following Him. He was to expect to gain nothing of this world.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

The Apostle Paul knew the price. In his writings, he puts it this way, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).

At least, now, we know the price. It is to lose all.

Let us get back to Jesus and the man who wanted to first go bury his father then come follow Jesus. Jesus told the man, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

In African society we highly revere a family that has undergone a death, and we would hardly use such words as Jesus used here in a situation where a family is grieving, even in our imagination. But here Jesus tells a man who wants to go bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

I will tell you one thing: a man who has nowhere to lay down his head can talk a little differently than a man who owns a private jet. He has that luxury because he has nothing to lose. Jesus certainly made full use of that advantage.

But why, pray, would Jesus call this grieving family “the dead”? Was He irreverent?

No, Jesus was neither being irreverent, nor was He callous. I am sure that He loved this family very much, and it is inconceivable that their grief would not have touched His tender heart. But Jesus always stayed in the context of the heavenly Kingdom, and here He was stating a very important fact concerning what He came to do in the world. Jesus came to bring eternal life into the world. The Word of God teaches that anyone who has not received Jesus into their lives is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3).

In the natural, there is only one thing that we can do with a dead person: bury them. Once someone is well and truly dead, all we can do is bury them, to rise no more.

But – thank God! – in the Kingdom of God, we have another option. We can choose to bring resurrection life to people through preaching the gospel. Jesus opted to work with this option: preach the Kingdom of God and bring resurrection life to the people of God.

You can’t be callous with a dead person. In fact, you can rattle them until their teeth fall off if it will bring them back to life again. The people that Jesus was referring to (this man’s family) were spiritually dead. If He truly loved them, there was only one thing He could do for them: give them eternal life! That is why He told this man, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

What a glorious combination!

Today the modern world has coined a phrase: ‘political correctness’. Many in the world today believe that ‘political correctness’ among worldly leaders is killing civilization as we know it. In the spiritual world, we have an equivalent, though probably unspoken term: ‘worldly correctness’. ‘Worldly correctness’ means we do not want to step on people’s toes with the gospel because we feel we will offend them. I am sure that this attitude on our part will send a lot of people to hell.

A Muslim friend of mine told me that as long as I did not mention Jesus in my discussions with him concerning religion, he would listen to me. I told him, “Whatever I have to tell you begins and ends with Jesus”.

Jesus was not ‘worldly correct’. Jesus had only one aim: to be ‘heavenly correct’. He talked and lived the only life that really matters: the eternal heavenly life. When Jesus therefore told the man “Let the dead bury their dead”, He was stating a spiritual reality of the life that He came to live.

We expend an inordinately large amount of energy and time trying to please and to fit in with the world. But that is not love. Smiling is good, but we cannot smile and expect to save the world. The same goes for intellectual arguments and counter-arguments. If we truly love the world, the only thing of worth that we can give them is to solidly preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus tells this man, “Go thou and preach the kingdom of God”.

Only the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ can bring true life to people.

Let us have one last glance at this scripture.

If there are “the dead” in this world, then there are also the living. This refers to the church. In this context, I believe  also that Jesus was telling this man to appreciate the church, more than his worldly flesh and blood kith and kin. He was laying upon him the importance of the church vis-à-vis his flesh and blood relations.

This aspect is a challenge to many people in church. Many do not know where to draw the line between their worldly relations and the church.

But Jesus did not have any uncertainties, hesitations or misgivings in this regard. He knew exactly where to draw the line. When His mother and brethren came to fetch Him, the Bible says, “33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” Mk. 3:33-35.

That’s pretty tough to swallow. We are called upon to love and care for our own flesh and blood, and even the world in general. But we ought to know where our true inheritance lies. It lies in the church, which is the true Body of Christ. True spiritual brethren are our spiritual inheritance. The church is our “portion”. That is why our true value with God is connected to how much we value His church, the brethren.

Our worldly relationships with our worldly kin should be whittled down to the bare minimum. (In the Spirit, of course, we will be working overtime to get them saved!)

But on the contrary, we should love and devote ourselves to the church with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Jesus set the example for us.

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[Photo credit: Carol Lanthier]

A Sad Occurrence

Those of my readers who read my post, “Not A Spot of Unforgiveness” were most likely captivated by the captioned picture of the girl with a stunning gaze that I put at the end of the post. Well, I just received news that one of this dear girl’s elder male siblings passed away.

The members of this family are members of our church in Musoma, and they are an extremely lovely family. I had visited with them and I was struck by the distance they have to walk to come to church. But they never miss a service, even the mid-week ones. This is one family that has taught me that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mat. 11:12).

This family has always been on my heart, and after hearing the sad news I knew I had to pay tribute to the little boy who went to be with the Lord (for he died in the Lord), and to this very courageous family.

May the Lord remember them! May He bless them! May His face shine upon them evermore!

[Below: A few pictures of this very special family]

Here, the mother and two of her children (there are 3 more, one of whom has gone to be with the Lord)

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The road leading from their home to distant church… but they never miss a service!

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Hello!

Yesterday I had dropped to see my family down in Dar es Salaam and in the evening some wonderful young men from the church came visiting. My family prepared a most delicious meal for them…

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We had the most raucous get-together ever, and after they had eaten…

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We happily bade them farewell.

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True Love – Part 1

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned 1 Timothy 1:5

I had been mulling for three days over whether to write a post based on this scripture, but it was finally decided for me today by my daughter, Keren. Keren, incidentally, will be celebrating her 18th birthday tomorrow, the 4th of June, and I find it so fitting and exciting that just when my family is celebrating this very important milestone in my daughter’s life, I should be writing a post on something that she has directly contributed to.

Many of my readers are not aware, of course, but right now I am overseeing a small church that we started some 5 months ago in a remote town called Singida. The place is so rural that, for the first time since my childhood years, I have been hearing hyenas howling in the night, and that in the very hills that I sometimes go for my quiet time during the daytime.

Those hyenas have put a whole new perspective to the prospects of some night vigils I had planned on spending in those hills! But probably one day I still will.

And it is not only that, but you can walk a few hundred metres out of town and suddenly you could well be deep in the Kalahari!

But the people here are extremely lovable. I have in my church here the most wonderful people that I have ever met. People naturally ask me how many people there are in my church. I tell them we are over ten thousand. This is because you cannot quantify a heart, and I have met people whose hearts are worth more than any number of people!

Two of my four denominational leaders also come from this region and, while considering it an unparalleled privilege that these great men of God should choose me to come and oversee their home turf church, this fact also testifies to a widely-held belief in our country that this region has the most God-loving people in our country. Many, though, have turned to Islam and there are villages where the entire population is Muslim.

Singida is some 700 km from Dar es Salaam, where my family lives. Now, that’s no mean distance, and it is not like I can drop down to ‘DSM’ every weekend to see my family. Nonetheless, we do keep in touch through phone calls and the occasional trip to see them.

This morning I woke up and, as I regularly do, I called Keren on the phone and we had a long chat punctuated with jokes, jabs and guffaws peculiar only to members of my family (These are things that would turn everyone else off, so don’t ask about any of it!)

Later on she wrote me a message. It said, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love… Love you Daddy!”

Now, Keren is quite proficient in the English language and I had no reason to doubt that she could pull off a sentence like that. But, although she and I speak “Bible” quite a lot, I had never experienced her go to such depths of spiritual expression. In fact, even though she and I are pretty close, I am more than a little disappointed with her level of “spirituality”. Just last Sunday I called her at 7:30 a.m. and she was still in bed! She has never missed church, thank God, but invariably it appears every church service she has attended she has had to be ‘reminded’ to prepare to go! That is not the case with Joe, her younger brother, who loves the Lord with profound enthusiasm.

(But, to be fair, Keren has one of the biggest hearts that I have ever seen).

So when I received this message from Keren this morning, I was not a little surprised – and very touched. I immediately knew then that I had to write this post which, as I said, I had had it on my heart for some days to do, but I was undecided whether to or not.

It is a milestone post, celebrating my daughter Keren’s 18th birthday. Love you, too, girl! And a happy birthday!

[Below: Keren at 18]

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