Guilty As Charged

Devotional February 23… Paul Tripp / A Daily Gospel Devotional

Why do we say we place our hope in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet practically asked the law to do what only Grace can accomplish?

It’s done every day in Christian homes around the world. Well-meaning parents, zealous to see their children doing what is right, ask the law to do in the lives of their children would only Grace can accomplish. They think that if they have the right set of rules, the right threat of punishment, and consistent enforcement, the children will be OK. In ways these parents fail to understand, they have reduced parenting to being a law giver, a prosecutor, a jury, and a jailer. They think their job is to do anything they can to shape, control, and regulate the behavior of their children. And in their zeal to control behavior, they look to the tools of the threat… I’ll make you afraid enough that you’ll never do that again / manipulation… I’ll find something you really want and tell you that I’ll give it to you if you obey / and guilt… I’ll make you feel so bad, so ashamed, that you will decide to not do this again.

This way of thinking denies two significant things that the Bible tells us. The first is that before sin is a matter of behavior, it is always a matter of the heart. We sin because we are sinners. For example, anger is always an issue of the heart before it is an act of physical aggression. This is important to recognize because no human being has the power to change the heart of another human being. The second is that if threats, manipulation, and guilt could create lasting change in the life of another person, Jesus would not have had to come. So this way of thinking denies the gospel that we say we hold dear. It really does ask the law to do what only God in amazing Grace is able to accomplish. If you deny the gospel at street level, you will attempt to create by human means what only God can create by powerful grace, and it will never lead you anywhere good.

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us to our own power to change. He meets us with transforming Grace and calls us to be tools of that grace in his redemptive hands. He lifts the burden of change off our shoulders and never calls us to do what only he can do. So we expose our children to God’s law and faithfully exercise authority while we seek to be tools of heart change in the hands of a God who’s grace is greater than all the sin we’re grappling with….

Alpha and Omega…

He (Jesus) was…
John 1 (NLT) “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

He came…
Matthew 1:18 (NLT) “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

He lived a perfect, sinless life…
1 Peter 1:18-20 (NLT) “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.”

He was crucified and buried…
Matthew 20:18-20 (NLT) “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

He arose…
Romans 1:3-5 (NLT) “The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

He ascended…
Hebrews 4:15-15 (NIV) “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
He is making intercession for us…
Romans 8:34 (NIV) “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

He’s coming back…
Revelation 1:7-8 (NIV) “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Conviction…

This morning I listened to Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of 1st Baptist in Atlanta. He spoke on Daniel 3:8-18. In these verses, we see the courage of 3 young Jewish boys who would not bow to the culture of the day, even at the threat of death. Their courage was fueled by their faith.

Stanley said that the #1 reason our nation is in decline is because it is collapsing morally… we lack conviction as a nation. We will believe anything and do anything to conform to our culture. Our leaders have abandoned faith and conviction… they have led us astray. These 3 boys, however, did not lack conviction and would not bow to the culture of their day. They would not compromise their faith or character. And, because of their stand for truth and how they responded to persecution, they eventually turned the heart of the king.

Today, we face some of the same challenges… the culture of our day has turned “south” and demands our allegiance and acceptance. Christianity is ridiculed and belittled at every turn. Will we have the same courage and character as these 3 young Jewish boys? Or will we capitulate to a corrupt government and culture that demands our acceptance and worship? A culture that is offended by Jesus.

Jesus told us in John Chapter 15… 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

He also tells us our response in Matthew Chapter 5… 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven…

… 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

The result of the courage of the 3 boys in Daniel Chapter 3… “28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God…  for no other god can save in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

May we today have the same courage and conviction!

Living Water

Jeremiah 2:13

13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Periodically I will watch the news. Almost every time I do so, I flip the channel and say in disgust that I won’t watch again for a while. It can become depressing. It is disheartening to see the downward spiral we are in. To see how we as a nation have come to call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20-21). ABC or ESPN do not hold forth the truth. They are not the authority on which I need to base my beliefs. Their opinions are often times flawed and lead us astray if we allow. However, I always need to remember that there is hope. Hope in Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have become a nation that glorifies sin. We have shut our ears to the TRUTH and have chosen our own path. We have become wise in our own eyes. This however, is not without consequences. And, we can’t always blame it on the unbelieving. We are guilty too.

Jeremiah 2:13 is directed at God’s people. A people who have forsaken Him. They have rejected the living water and dug their own cisterns. And, Jeremiah tells us that these cannot hold up, they are empty, they cannot endure.

Some people define sin as “missing the mark” – just as an arrow misses the bull’s-eye on a target. Others define sin as “falling short” – of God’s perfect will. God desires that we live in perfect wholeness and follow his commandments. When we fail to do so, that is sin.

Still others define sin as “trespassing” – God defines certain areas of behavior as off-limits and when we trespass into these areas we become subject to penalty.

However, another definition of sin comes from Jeremiah 2:13… “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns… broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Cisterns are reservoirs dug into the earth, usually out of solid rock, designed to hold water. A fountain on the other hand, is an artesian spring, bubbling up from the earth with an unending supply of fresh, pure water. But instead of choosing God’s living water, too often we choose to build our own cisterns. To build is an act of the will. When we choose our way over God’s, we reject the artesian spring for a well of our own creation. And, the Lord notes with sadness but certainty, “it doesn’t work. It can’t. It’s broken.”

Jesus once told a Samaritan woman by the well of Sychar, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10). In this way, Jesus used the same word picture developed in Jeremiah to describe Himself. Jesus has life to give, eternal and freely offered. His forgiveness, and the eternal life associated with it, is a fountain from which we can freely draw forever, whenever we like.

We have a choice. We can dig and dig… make cistern after cistern, and strive and struggle all we want – but it will never bring us fulfillment or forgiveness. OR, we can choose God’s way.

Only God’s forgiveness, granted God’s way, brings the results we need. Any time we attempt to meet our own needs or accomplish anything without God, we sin and set ourselves up for failure. We build broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

So, why not rather go to the fountain and drink till we are full? … Charles Stanley (Life Principle Bible)

We as a nation have rejected the Living Water (Jesus)… I pray for us to come to our senses and return to Him who freely gives. He offers forgiveness, not condemnation.

Click on these links…

Video Clip… Living Water

Living Water (song)

Change Your Beliefs

Proverbs 23:7… “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

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My favorite Bible verse! Applies to every aspect of life. What we think determines what we do, why we do it, and how we approach doing it.

Many of us live lives of contradiction. One the one hand, we claim to believe God is all powerful, that nothing is impossible for Him. For example, we believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again. We believe he can save us from our sins. But when we get down to the nitty-gritty of our personal lives, we don’t believe God can or will do anything great in us.

Can you relate?

  • God said, “I am the LORD who heals you.”
  • Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”
  • Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
  • Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
  • Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
  • Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

The Bible clearly states that we have the same power working in us that Christ had. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” (Romans 8:11). If that’s true, why do we believe God can do so little in our lives?

We previously explored our God-given dreams and set goals based on those dreams. The next step is to believe that, with God’s help, we can see those dreams fulfilled, far beyond anything we can imagine.

God put everything and everyone around us to help us become what He wants us to be. God is working in every circumstance we face and through every person we encounter, and His purpose is to bring about good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (‘Romans 8:28). We often apply this verse to trials or tragedies, but if you read it closely, you will notice it says “all things.”

There is an old adage that states, “You aren’t what you think you are, but what you think, you are.

There is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in our mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking. What you believe shapes how you perceive the world around you.

  • Change your beliefs… it is a choice
  • Make sure your words and actions match your beliefs

If you don’t believe you can change something in our life, then you won’t even try. But when your beliefs change, so does your behavior and expectations.

Write a wrong belief that has been holding you back. Then, next to it, write a new belief to replace the old belief…IMG_3001

Transform Your Dreams into Goals

IF YOU DO THIS…

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THIS MAY HAPPEN…

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You have a God-given dream. Now what are you going to do to make it come to pass? A good place to START is with goal setting.

At the mention of this, many of you are rolling your eyes right now. You may even be considering clicking the button to end this blog and move on with your day. If you feel like that, you are in good company. Goal setting is a topic that has been beat to death. We have heard so much about it that we have become oblivious to it. Every time we hear it mentioned, we tend to dismiss it. AND that’s the problem!

In his best selling book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells about a Harvard Business School study conducted between 1979 and 1989. In this study, members of the 1979 graduating class of the Harvard MBA program were asked if they had written down clear goals and made plans to accomplish them. Ten years later, the school conducted a follow up survey of those same graduates. The results were significant…

They found out that only 3 percent of the graduates had written down their goals and with clear plans to achieve those goals. 84 percent did not. 13 percent had set goals, but did not write them down or have clear plans.

In 1989, they re-interviewed those graduates and the finding were staggering. The 13 percent who had set some goals were earning twice as much as the 84 percent who had not set any goals. Furthermore, another incredible fact emerged: The 3 percent who had set clear WRITTEN-DOWN goals and a clear plan to achieve them, were earning more the the 97 percent of all the graduates combined!

For you see, this is a principle of life… what you focus on increases.

If you want a closer walk with God, you need to spend more time with him. If you want a better family life, you should plan to spend time with family. If you want a strong career, you must focus your attention on whatever is essential to your career success.

Whatever your dreams are, if you want to achieve them, you must focus on what it’s going to take to make them a reality. Your goals must be realistic and match up with the results you want to achieve.

Take a moment to consider the following statement (written-down) by the apostle Paul, an early church leader who wrote nearly half of the New Testament. In a letter to a church, he wrote, “One thing I do, forgetting what is behind, I press on toward the GOAL to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14

Is it any wonder this guy won almost half of the known world to Christ? Keep in mind that he did not have email, text messaging, a computer, television ministry, or mass printing. What he did have was a CLEAR GOAL… to win everyone he could to Christ.

Paul had a clearly defined goal, and so should we. But we don’t want to just set goals for the sake of setting goals. We want our goals to work in conjunction with our God-given dreams, just as Paul did. How do we do that? An Old Testament writer (Joel) points us in the right direction.

Joel’s short book in the OT speaks of how God is the giver of dreams… “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young meant will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants – men and women alike.” Joel 2:28-29

As you begin to think about transforming your dreams into goals, take note of a 4-step process found in the book of Joel.

#1… First look at what God has already done in your life. Joel 2:28

#2… Expect God to stir in you powerfully. Joel 2:28 – “I will pour out my spirit on all people.”

#3… Speak your dream aloud. Joel 2:28 – “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”

#4… Visualize your dream as if it is already a reality. “Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions.”… there is also an old psychological truth or statement – “if you can see it, you can do it.”

Ephesians 3:20 tells us this… “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all that we can think or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us…” No matter how much you can imagine, God can do immeasurably more. You may be limited, He is not.

Paint a mental picture of what your dream looks like. Make sure it is vivid and detailed. Then WRITE it down. Why? Because writing it down makes it concrete. It becomes solid and tangible, not just an idea in your head but something you can hold before your eyes. Read over your dream EVERY day and thank God for it. You now have a reason to get up in the morning. Now you have a purpose.

5  Steps to Transform Your Dream Into Goals

#1… Be Specific

#2… Make Your Goals Measurable

#3… Set Deadlines

#4… Schedule Your Goals

#5… Create a To-Do List

Once you’ve done this… DON’T QUIT.

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Think Big… Then Think Bigger

I have observed that most people think small. They are afraid to think big. They settle for so much less in life than they are capable of achieving.

I heard this story several years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It is a story about a baseball player by the name of Johnny Bench who is arguably the best catcher in MLB history. (If you never heard of Johnny Bench, look him up).

I heard Bench tell this story at his induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. It goes like this…

What an awesome testimony of someone who had a dream, a BIG dream and believed he would achieve it. And did! You can do the same!

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth… the LORD God Almighty is his name” (Amos 4:13).

How awesome is that? The God who created the heavens, the earth, and the seas also gave you your dreams. The God who set the mountains in place, placed desires in your heart! The size of your dreams matter to him.

Unfortunately, most of us tend to downsize our dreams so that we have a better chance of achieving them. The problem is that when we shrink our dreams down to something doable, we weaken them. They will be less intimidating, but also less inspiring. God wants our dreams to fill us with enthusiasm, to motivate us to get out of bed in the morning. God wants to give us dreams greater than ourselves.

What does that kind of dream look like? It will be so big that when you think about it, you’ll want to laugh out loud.

You can find people with these God-given, laugh out loud dreams throughout the Bible. One is Abraham. God spoke to him in his old age and told him that he would be the father of a great nation. That posed a major problem for Abraham because he was childless. On top of that, he was pushing 100 years old. To make matters worse, his wife was 90 and had never been able to have children.

Abraham laughed at this thought! “But he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I became a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘ And haw can Sarah have a baby when she is 90?” (Genesis 17:17 NLT).

One chapter later, we read at Sarah laughed at this thought as well.

This dream was so outlandish, so crazy, that if it came true, God would certainly receive all the glory. There was no way that Abraham and Sarah could fulfill this dream themselves. And, that was the whole point!

God wants to take you from laughing at your dream to actually believing it’s possible. Consider how big your dream really is and hear the words God spoke to Abraham…“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Five Questions to Help You Think Bigger (write your answers)

1. If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?

2. If you had all the time in the world, what would you do?

3. If you could talk to the most successful person in your field of interest (dead or alive), what do you suppose his advice to you would be?

4. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt for God?

5. What do you secretly want that you are too embarrassed to tell anyone about?

 

Is My Dream from God?

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You may be asking this question… Why have I committed to blog this information? Well, I have for two reasons… 1) to help someone out there who may be struggling with low self esteem, discouragement, unrealized potential. Someone who may have once had a dream, but quit the pursuit. Someone who thinks “they can’t.” You see, in 30+ years of coaching, teaching, leading… I have seen so many people / players who had no chance of reaching their potential because of how they thought. As one of my favorite mentors (Zig Ziglar) said, “they had stinking thinking.” And, 2) for me. I need constant reminders and encouragement to pursue my dreams. I have a few in my head, but have not acted on them. They are just there, floating around.So, I hope as we head down this road together, we can help each other. I want and need your input and interaction. I welcome your comments and thoughts. Maybe you have a word for me. I hope you will commit 2-3 weeks of your time to join me in this quest. At the end of each chapter, we will answer a few brief questions to help us solidify our thoughts. Maybe even make some much needed adjustments to how we think or what we believe is possible.

Today’s blog is… Is My Dream from God? Why is the answer to this question important? I belief it is, because unless it is from God, it has little value for the Kingdom… or for us. And, because only God-given dreams can ultimately fulfill that longing we have deep down inside. So, here we go with some key thoughts from Today is the Day.

Note: Words in italics are directly from the book, words not in italics are mine…

We all have dreams. Some of them are merely whims, while others are burning needs we must fulfill… Maybe you feel frustrated that life is passing you by. Or perhaps well-meaning people are throwing cold water on your dreams. Whatever your desires, I believe they are there for a reason. More than that, I believe if you have dreams, God has pre-wired you for them.

What do I mean by that? paraphrased… God has been at work in your life from the beginning. He gave you certain circumstances and background. He made you part of a particular family in a specific location. He brought various people into your life and who crossed your path. He gave you the desire that is in your heart.

The book of Psalms tells us, “take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4). That means YOUR heart. Not your mother’s or your father’s heart. Not your high school guidance counselor’s heart… but YOUR heart.

What has God put on your heart? If you were free to dream and do whatever your heart desires, what would you do? Or we can say it like this… what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” How you answer this question is a good indication of how you have been pre-wired.

There are 8 clues as to whether your desire is just a selfish whim or if it’s really something that God wants you to pursue…

1) A God-Given Dream Will Be Powerful and Persistent… it is “sticky.” (it won’t go away). A dream that is only a neat idea will fade.

2) A God-Given Dream Will Solve Problems for Others… God has wired us to solve problems for someone else. (A Biblical example is Nehemiah) God designed us to serve others.

3) A God-Given Dream Will Include a Burden for People… When you are thinking about your dream, the question isn’t always, “what do you want to do or become/” Often the question is, “If you could do this or become that, who could you help in the process?” 

4) A God-Given Dream Will Involve Access… If God can design the world and make you and me, don’t you think He is smart enough to put us in close proximity to the things and people we need to learn to make our dreams a reality? God has been preparing you in advance.

5) A God-Given Dream Will Help God’s Work in the World… Maybe you have a hard time seeing how your dream goes beyond improving your own life. Ask yourself this, “if I succeed at  this, will I have more influence or affluence to be able to do more for God?”

6) A God-Given dream Will Grow from Your Abilities and Talents… God gave you abilities and talents. He will not ask you to do something he has not equipped you to do. Focus on your strengths. Nehemiah did… but he also relied on others to complete the work.

7) A God-Given Dream May Grow Out of Adversity… If you feel frustrated with your current situation, perhaps that frustration is there not to paralyze you but to drive you to action. A Biblical example is David. His adversity prepared and drove him to be King. What are you struggling with? What difficulties weigh you down right now? Consider them carefully, because they may be the seeds of your God-given dream.

8) A God-Given Dream May Seem Crazy or Arrogant (to others)… I am a firm believer in humility; however, we often confuse humility with passivity. Humility isn’t about sitting back and doing nothing. Humility is about recognizing your limits and knowing that everything comes from God. Arrogance or pride is an attitude of superiority. It says, “I don’t need God. I can do this myself.”

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and write down your dreams…

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Today is THE Day

ImageI am reading a book titled TODAY IS THE DAY. I discovered it one day last week at a local Christian Book Store. I did not intentionally search for it, but saw it on the shelf while waiting on Joanne to finish finding what she was looking for. As I stood there gazing at the cover and title, I could not help but think about the passion I have for the power of thought. This passion guided me during my coaching days and continues to do so. And, it is aligned with my favorite Bible verse… Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

After staring off into space for a few minutes, thinking about all that was flooding my brain, I walked over and picked up the book. As I read the chapter titles, I was captivated by the possibilities of another confirmation of my passion for the positive, for right thinking, for filling me and my family with good. SO, I bought it.

As I have begun reading, I feel led to share the contents along with some of my insights into this often neglected and often untapped principle of life. And, it is not just a life principle, it is the foundation of Biblical teaching. It is the very heart of God, ready to illuminate our path, propel us through life, protect us in adversity, overwhelm us with hope, make us stand on our feet again after failure, and allow us to rise to the top, not sink to the bottom.

In the Introduction, the author begins with two provocative questions… First, if you could do anything, what would it be? In other words, what is your purpose in life, your dream? Second, what are you doing to fulfill that purpose, that dream?

Unfortunately, many of us never do anything to see our dreams, the purpose in our heart, realized. We coast through life, wishing things were different but never doing anything to change. We toss out excuses like… I don’t have enough time. Not enough money. I’ve tried and failed… Eventually, we give in to discouragement and convince ourselves that nothing in our lives will ever change. Sound familiar? 

Both human history and Scripture show that you are capable of having a life that consists of much more than you can currently dream or imagine.

I hope you will join me over the next few weeks as we explore this principle that can transform our lives. Follow my blog for more to come…

SO, LET TODAY BE THE DAY YOU CHOOSE TO CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY OF YOUR LIFE…

Listen to this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_mKZpf3gPg