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What to Pray For When You Don’t Know What to Pray For

man praying

I don’t know where I heard this, but one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given when it came to prayer is this: set a timer for five minutes and try to pray the entire time.

It shouldn’t really be that hard; after all, we sit in drive-thru lanes at fast food places for longer than that. But it feels hard sometimes, because we’re forced to search deep inside of our hearts and express things that we otherwise wouldn’t.

Trust me, it’d be much easier to just say what you want to say and move on with your life, but that produces shallow prayers that don’t really reach down to the core of your being.

So if you haven’t tried the five-minute prayer yet, try it. You’ll be surprised at what comes out of your mouth.

But five minutes can be a long time, and sometimes we find ourselves at a loss for words as to what to actually pray for. It’s not that you’re not thankful (you are), or that you don’t need anything (you do), or that you don’t have anything to say (always), but it’s because either you feel like you’ve said it all before, or you don’t know how to express whats on your heart.

If that describes you, here are a few things you can start with.

1. Reflect on His Majesty

You can’t go wrong with this one. When you’re struggling to think of what to pray for, just take a moment and dwell on the attributes of Jehovah: how grand He is, how powerful He is, how loving He is, and how merciful He is.

It’s a tactic employed often by the psalmists. In Psalm 145, David does nothing for 21 straight verses except praise God for who He is. If you read the psalm, what you’ll notice in addition to that is how David moves the focus from who God is to what He’s done for us.

And that’s the real power of God: that although He can do anything He wants, He chooses to love and show mercy towards mankind.

Reflect on that.

2. Ask for Wisdom

At the start of his life, Solomon was on a roll. He accumulated wealth, began several construction projects (including the Temple), and successfully decided the correct mother between two warring women.

But his noblest act? Asking for wisdom.

Ironically, Solomon shows incredible wisdom in asking for wisdom when God offered him his choice of anything he could want (1 Kings 3:5-9). Solomon knew that the key in managing an empire was in his ability to make the right choice for the long-term success of his nation.

And so can you. You may not be in charge of an entire kingdom, but you’re most likely in charge of a family, other people at work, or in some other position of leadership, big or small. If not, you’re at least in charge of your life, and you’ll need wisdom to help make the right decisions there too.

Ask for Wisdom.

3. Pray for Unity

This is one of those things that is easy in theory, but difficult in practice.

Right before Jesus’ crucifixion, as He’s either in the Garden or still in the Upper Room with His Apostles, He “lifts up His eyes to Heaven” (John 17:1) and prays for a few specific things, but the foremost on His mind towards the end of the prayer is very simple:

Unity.

Of all the things He could have prayed for – courage, love, an easy life, etc – Jesus prayed that His disciples the world over would dwell together in unity.

Of course, unity for unity’s sake is not real unity; real unity comes when we center our faith and our life around God’s Word (John 17:17). Only then can we find the rallying point that our souls depend on.

Pray that we will rally around God’s Word and not man-made doctrine.

4. Find Humility

Whether we realize it or not, all of us could use a dose of humility every once in a while.

I don’t mean getting the kind of humility that comes after getting destroyed by a nine-year-old in Wii Bowling, I’m talking about real humility – the kind that forces you to look deep inside of yourself and evaluate your shortcomings with an eye to fix them.

The old adage rings true: that which gets measured gets managed, and unless we’re truly measuring ourselves, there’s no way to fix those things that are wrong (2 Cor. 13:5).

Remember, the greatest king to ever sit on the throne of Israel went for nearly an entire year before acknowledging that he made a mistake with Bathsheba and Uriah, so if you think you’re an excellent judge of your own character, take a moment and do a full inventory of your life.

You might be right in your assessment of yourself, but the only way you’ll know is if you look at yourself honestly.

Pray that God would humble you so that you might be saved (1 Peter 5:5-6)

5. Forgive Others

I’m not a big fan of the phrase “forgive and forget,” because it’s almost impossible in our world to literally “forget” what people have done against us, but you understand the idea at least.

“Forgive and forget” is when we choose to move past what others have done in order to salvage a relationship that will hopefully grow past this. It’s a key factor in our own forgiveness, as Jesus laid out in the model prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).

Ergo, unless we forgive others, we can’t expect God to forgive us.

Unfortunately, some of us refuse to forgive because it gives us some sick sense of validation. If we can hold a grudge against others, that means someone owes us something. It gives us a sense of importance due to the obligation we dangle over other people’s heads.

That’s why, at least in part, it’s so hard to forgive other people. To forgive means to forget ourselves and work for the betterment of others – a hard pill to swallow for someone who has wronged us so dearly.

That’s why we need God’s help.

Ask for strength to forgive other people.

6. Opportunities to Serve

One thing I have found true in my own prayers is that if you ask God to open doors (1 Cor. 16:9), He will do it, and usually in the most unforeseen ways possible.

Chances are, there are people in your church or community right now that could desperately use your help, but like the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36), we pass right on by without paying a second thought. We’re either too wrapped up in our own world or we don’t recognize opportunity when we see it.

Ask God for opportunities to serve, and you’ll most likely find more than you know what to do with.

Your turn: What are some of your suggestions for things to pray for when you don’t know what to pray for?

This article was republished from http://www.coffeeandabible.com/2019/05/02/101-small-ways-to-share-the-gospel/ with permission from the author, Brady Cook. We are grateful to Brady for sharing it with us. Please visit his blog and check out his books on Amazon.

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101 Small Ways to Share the Gospel

people talking over a drink

Of all the things that are difficult in the life of a Christian, talking to someone else about the Gospel is probably one of the hardest. For most of us, we’re content to sit in our little church pews and sing some songs, while resisting the constant temptations that life tends to throw at us tends to take up the majority of our willpower.

Evangelism? That’s only for super Christians.

Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be that difficult. One of the greatest lies about sharing the Gospel with someone else is that you need a table, a flip-board, and a victim strapped to a kitchen chair. In reality, it can be as simple as one word or one glance at you reading your Bible that gets people’s motors running.

That’s why I compiled this list. Here are 101 of the best-yet-microscopic ways that we can teach others about Jesus. You’re not meant to do all of them; instead, pick one to focus on this week. Next week, pick a different one. Then, take one and change it up for the week after that. If nothing else, let these ideas serve as springboards for your own evangelism efforts.

And remember, our goal in evangelism is not to force the Gospel on people, but to simply tell them the Truth and help them understand it if possible. God asks us to simply try, not coerce.

  1. Read the Bible in public.
  2. Read the Bible in public with a friend.
  3. Read the Bible in public with a small group.
  4. Read the Bible in public with a stranger.
  5. Ask someone where they go to church.
  6. Invite them to church.
  7. Ask them questions about their church.
  8. Teach a Bible class.
  9. Distribute free Bibles at a garage sale, community event, etc.
  10. Mention God in casual conversation.
  11. Mention prayer in casual conversation.
  12. Mention a favorite verse in casual conversation.
  13. Hang Bible verses in your cubicle, classroom, etc.
  14. Listen to a sermon on full blast in your car so that other drivers notice and hopefully let you start a Bible study at a stoplight while everyone else sits behind you honking their horns.
  15. Go door to door.
  16. Volunteer at a hospital.
  17. Volunteer at a food bank; engage others in conversation.
  18. Start a blog.
  19. Start a youtube channel.
  20. Start a podcast.
  21. Give God the glory instead of the blame.
  22. Refuse to engage in unGodly activities. When they ask, explain why.
  23. Hand out a Biblical pamphlet or tract.
  24. Write out messages in sidewalk chalk.
  25. Support a preacher, either overseas or domestic, and share the Gospel indirectly.
  26. Write a letter.
  27. Make a Facebook post.
  28. Make an Instagram post.
  29. Start a Pinterest board and join groups.
  30. Be active in forums like Reddit, Tumblr, etc.
  31. Engage in the comments section of websites. The key word there is “engage,” not “argue with mercilessly.”
  32. Host a movie night with a Biblically-focused movie. Have an honest, open discussion and study about the themes.
  33. Offer a home Bible study.
  34. Lead a devotional.
  35. Include a Bible verse in your e-mail signature.
  36. Bring food to a neighbor in need and offer to pray with them.
  37. Pray with someone.
  38. Walk up to a stranger and ask if they’d like to study.
  39. Study the Gospel yourself. The more it’s on your mind, the more it’ll come out of your mouth.
  40. Share why you became a Christian.
  41. Ask someone why they became a Christian.
  42. Ask them what they did to be saved.
  43. Ask someone to help you share the Gospel.
  44. Pray for opportunities.
  45. Pray for helpers.
  46. Ask your preacher/elder/deacon for opportunities they know of.
  47. Listen for openings in conversations.
  48. Build relationships.
  49. Start a book club. The Chronicles of Narnia series, in particular, has lots of Christian themes and imagery worth discussing.
  50. Start a Bible reading challenge with your friends and family.
  51. Use a story (AKA a parable).
  52. Leave a Bible on the dashboard of your car.
  53. Focus on conversion, not baptism (although baptism is vital).
  54. Text someone a few verses or an invite to services.
  55. Refuse to gossip. If asked, explain why.
  56. Live the life of a Christian. People will be amazed.
  57. Sing a hymn casually.
  58. Tell them about Coffee and a Bible (hey, I had to).
  59. Pray before a meal in a restaurant.
  60. Evangelize to someone who tries to sell you something. At the very least, there’ll be one less solicitor on your doorstep.
  61. Share a sermon with someone.
  62. Actually talk to Mormon missionaries who show up at your house.
  63. Create a quick “Bible card” with key facts and a follow-up e-mail address for them to contact you later.
  64. Hand out five business cards for your church every single month to different people.
  65. Teach a class/devotional/sermon on evangelism. Make it a church-wide effort.
  66. Ask a deep question, such as “What do you think Heaven will be like?”
  67. Read the Bible to patients in a hospital.
  68. Visit a nursing home and spend time with the patients. The nurses and staff will notice.
  69. Host an atheist/Christian debate watch party.
  70. Livestream a Bible reading.
  71. Say “I’ll pray for you” instead of “I hope you feel better.”
  72. Download a Bible app on your phone and invite your friends to do the same via the Facebook sharing function.
  73. Buy a phone with prepaid minutes and set up a hotline for prayer and/or Bible study. Advertise in your local community.
  74. Minister to prisoners.
  75. Get active in a social issue that will allow you to share the Truth (i.e. anti-abortion walks, homeless shelters, etc).
  76. Excel in everything you do. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as to the Lord and not to man” (Colossians 3:23).
  77. Listen before speaking.
  78. Listen to people’s issues. Connect them with Scriptural solutions.
  79. Make family Bible studies a regular event. Don’t forget, the first people we should be reaching with the Gospel are our own children.
  80. Go into the “synagogues.” Find places where people are already active in religious conversations – like Paul did in Acts – and engage with them.
  81. Evangelism flows best when it flows through relationships. Find the people closest to you and be very honest and open about your desire to see them saved.
  82. Use an evangelistic tool. Flipcharts, though outdated, were effective for decades. Find a modern-day equivalent that can help you share the Gospel and employ it.
  83. Share Biblical articles on social media.
  84. Get out of your comfort zone. Be bold.
  85. Share a picture of nature and remark about God’s handiwork.
  86. Leave a Google review on your church’s page. Online reviews help others determine where they should worship.
  87. Create a Facebook event for your church and invite all of your friends to it.
  88. Start a public Bible study at Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, or anywhere you can find space. Use meetup.com to help others find out about it.
  89. Create a private Facebook group where you can have in-depth spiritual conversations. Encourage everyone to study and contribute.
  90. Leave a Bible tract at the gas pump.
  91. Send Bibles to hard-to-reach nations. Though the Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages, that doesn’t mean they’re reaching the people in those countries. Find a way to support more restricted nations financially.
  92. Take on leadership roles in your local church (public worship, teach Bible class, elder/deacon, etc).
  93. Carry a pocket Bible to read regularly.
  94. Respect where people are coming from.
  95. Ask about the differences between churches and their beliefs.
  96. Turn trite, regular greetings into opportunities to go deep. Instead of responding with “I’m fine,” when someone asks how you’re doing, say “I’m blessed,” or something similar.
  97. Try. Our goal is not to ram the Bible down people’s throats, but to share the Gospel and let them decide for themselves. Evangelism is a success if we simply tell.
  98. Smile.
  99. Start.
  100. Commit.
  101. Don’t quit.

What would you add/take away to this list? Let us know in the comments!

This article was republished from http://www.coffeeandabible.com/2019/05/02/101-small-ways-to-share-the-gospel/ with permission from the author, Brady Cook. We appreciate Brady sharing his writing and thoughts with us. Please give his blog a visit and check out his books on Amazon.

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Four People Who Will Destroy Your Church

inside of an empty church

Once upon a time, when I was a young(er) preacher, I remember talking to an older man who had served as an elder in a couple of different congregations in his lifetime. He had seen churches rise, he had seen some fall, but most stayed in that religious limbo of neither growing nor dying.

I complained to him about a few things that I had heard were going on in other congregations – how people were fighting, taking over, developing factions, etc – and he gave me a piece of advice that I still remember to this day.

He looked me square in the eye, and said slowly but seriously, “You know what Brady? The thing that some churches need is a few good funerals.”

I was aghast! How could anyone suggest such a radical solution to a problem like this! After all, these are people’s souls were talking about!  You can’t just give up on them!

Over time, as I’ve watched other congregations develop, I’ve begun to see the wisdom in his words, NOT that we need to encourage death, but that there are people that are so toxic and so destructive, that they will literally destroy your church from the inside out.

I don’t want these people to die and I don’t want them to go away, but there’s a very good reason that Paul advocated disfellowshipping in 1 Corinthians 5, as well as marking erring brethren in Romans 16:17-18: some people, if left unchecked, will eat your congregation up like a sumo wrestler in a buffet line.

And when we’re talking about people’s souls at stake – souls that could be lost by keeping someone like that inside the ranks – it becomes a matter of spiritual necessity that they are removed.

**Note: the purpose of disfellowship is not simply to remove them, but to remove them so they will better identify their ways and get back on track (1 Cor. 5:5). I wanted to make this point clear, lest anyone accuse me of being overly harsh.

One of the hardest parts of this process can be in identifying who these people are in the first place. Outside of a blatant sin, how can we know whether someone has the ability to destroy a congregation? And even if their actions are not worthy of disfellowship, it is still important to discern who these individuals are so we, or the elders, can correct them.

Here’s a list of the most common types of church-destroyers:

The Heretic

No surprise here; the person who stands up and spouts false doctrine needs to be handled immediately, without hesitation and without compromise, lest they persuade others to leave the faith entirely.

Paul rightly identified this spirit within Peter in Galatians 2, when he noticed that Peter only wanted to fellowship with the Gentiles when the Jews were gone – a hypocrisy that Acts 15 sought to correct. They were his brothers, after all, and the misguided religious judgment of a few Jewish yuppies should not have convinced him otherwise.

Paul pointed out the error of his way with one simple verse: “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2:14). Touché,Paul the Apostle.

The text is careful to point out the fact that Paul did this publicly, A.K.A., in front of everyone and their buddies. Why? Because such a public sin, which had the ability to lead people astray, needed to be handled in a way that let that same audience know that it was wrong.

Harsh? Probably.

But necessary? Absolutely.

Other, possibly more private sins, are governed by Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-20, with the escalation of witnesses and judgment dependent on how stubbornly resistant the offender is, but there’s no getting around it: if there’s sin in the camp, it needs to be dealt with immediately, lest it spread to others and affect the entire body (Joshua 7:10-13).

The Showboat

Ah yes, the one who just loves to have all the attention on themselves. This one isn’t hard to spot considering they’re usually front and center 24/7, and when they’re not in the spotlight, they’re busy tearing down the ones who are, while simultaneously talking about themselves, signing autographs, and hopping into their limo like a big shot.

Yeah, they’re not hard to spot at all.

Whenever something needs to be done, they are there. Whenever a spot in the public worship is vacant, they will absolutely step up. When a question is asked in class, they jump in front of twelve other people and shout them down, because after all, no one else’s opinions or comments matter nearly as much as theirs.

But keep in mind what the issue here is: the problem is NOT that they serve (that’s a great thing). The problem is NOT that they talk in class (also a great thing).

The problem is that their sole motivation for speaking and serving is to draw attention to themselves and how great they are. That’s it, that’s all they care about.

Nevermind the fact that other people might want to contribute in some way, the showboat is too busy reminding everyone that he’s the smartest person in the room, which means, by proxy, everyone else is not.

They’re the ones who “love the chief seats in the synagogue,” and they “love for other people to call them Rabbi” (Matt. 23:5-7), because, after all, isn’t the praise of men the same as the praise from God?

Hardly (Matt. 6:2516).

How does this person destroy a church? Simple: by treating the congregation as if it’s a one man show, they communicate to everyone else that they’re they only ones capable of righteousness. Pretty soon, people will start believing that about themselves, and they will simply fade into the distance.

These people are always up for a good fight, because their word matters most, sometimes even more than God’s (3 John 9-11).

They ostracize those that don’t agree with them, because the absolute worst thing that could happen is for someone else to have an equally valid viewpoint.

They want everyone in the church to know who’s in charge, which is them.

Ironic, considering they didn’t pay for it with their own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Complainer

Have you ever known someone that hated every single thing every other person ever did? They don’t care about finding solutions and they don’t care about other people’s issues, the only thing they care about is that the entire world notices how miserable they are.

It’s their identity, it’s who they are, and it almost seems like the more they complain, the more they will continue to complain, which they will, according to science.

Even worse, they feel like everything in this world is meant to serve them: the carpets need to match their tastes, the thermostat should be tailored to their comfort level, and if a sermon or class doesn’t seem applicable for whatever reason, well then they’re just gonna pack up shop and find someone who will preach what they like (Micah 2:11)!

But no matter how much of a complainer one person is, they have nothing on the multitudes in the wilderness during the Exodus. Nothing.

Imagine in your mind over two million people wandering around in the desert, complaining about this, complaining about that, complaining about everything. Nevermind the fact that God had just delivered them from slavery in Egypt using a series of supernatural plagues, parted a major water source for them to pass through, and annihilated the greatest army in the world to secure safe passage, they were upset because their breakfast was cold.

As humans, they had to eat, so God dropped food out of the sky for them (Exodus 16:4).

Not good enough.

They also had to drink, so God made water come out of a rock (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20

Still not good enough.

How do you please someone like that? You can’t, and you can’t please the complainer either. The preaching will never be good enough, the building will never be as beautiful, the elders will always be lazy, and the complainer will always be persecuted.

The one characteristic that every complainer I’ve ever met in my entire life has in common is a fundamental lack of interest/ability/foresight/whatever to do anything for his or herself. It is a trademark of the complainers that they are always, without fail, the ones doing the least amount of work and expecting the most in return.

It doesn’t matter that they’ve never once had people in their home, everyone else is not hospitable. It doesn’t matter that they’ve never talked to others, everyone else is unfriendly. It doesn’t matter that they’ve never led singing, brother So-and-So should never set foot in a pulpit ever again.

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes.

Murmuring destroyed the Israelites in the wilderness, and it will destroy your church if you let it.

The Matador

Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

A matador is the person who never speaks up, never argues, never contributes, and worst of all, never engages with the congregation that they are a part of. They simply stand to the side and shout a silent “Ole!” as the work passes right on by.

To be fair, some of this is innocent as much as it is destructive. Maybe the person doesn’t feel like they can help or have the resources to contribute much, but regardless, their presence (or lack thereof) is hardly noticed by the ones that they don’t speak to. It doesn’t mean they don’t love them, or are loved in return, but there’s just not much of a relationship to speak of.

A congregation of matadors will watch as the heretic’s teaching runs amok or as the showboat dominates every single situation, and will quietly slip out the side door so as not to “interfere.” They won’t necessarily do anything else to hurt the church, but they also won’t typically do anything to grow it as well.

They’re just kind of…….there.

It sounds harmless, but remember what Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, the ones who were “lukewarm”? He saw their bland state and vowed to “vomit” them out of His mouth because they were so distasteful to His palate (Rev. 3:16). Their state was one of complacency: they believed that they were fine the way they were, when in reality, they could not have been more wretched and miserable and blind and naked if they had tried.

Many brethren are like this. We don’t actively try to hurt the church, but we don’t try to improve it either. Instinctively, we think that the best thing we can do is sit on autopilot.

Jesus has a much different viewpoint. He lambasted the one-talent man in Matthew 25, not because he had so little, but because he refused to use what he had. By not engaging, he was working against his master’s cause (Matt. 12:30).

Christians are not supposed to live life on the sidelines. We are not supposed to sit by and watch as the events of the congregation, both good and bad, pass us by. We are called to throw our hat in the ring, to lace up the gloves, and spend fifteen rounds with the world, ducking temptation and jabbing at unGodliness using God’s Word.

We are called to be combatants, not spectators. A church full of the latter will almost certainly dwindle away, achieving nothing and losing everything.

It’s a sad way for a church to die, but unfortunately, it’s not the only one.

This article was republished from http://www.coffeeandabible.com/2017/10/29/four-people-will-destroy-church/ with permission from the author, Brady Cook. We appreciate Brady sharing his writing and thoughts with us. Please give his blog a visit and check out his books on Amazon (most of which are free).

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What Did Jesus Think About Judas?

An unmistakable evil, one that rocked the world to it’s very core. A crime so despicable it could be thought up by only the most envious and crooked mind. And while scholars have suggested that Judas’ motive for betraying Jesus was in part due to his misunderstanding of the Kingdom that Jesus was trying to set up, it makes no excuse for the fact that Judas not only betrayed his Lord, but his friend. This was the One by Whom he had seen miracles, heard the parables, and witnessed compassion in it’s truest sense for those the world had despised. But Judas’ relationship delved deeper than an ordinary disciple. Brought in to Jesus’ inner circle of companions known as the Twelve, Judas was privy to personal teachings of Jesus at all hours of the day and night, words which the outside world would not always be present to hear. Yet with this closeness came distrust, and a conflict of interests pushed Judas to do what the other Apostles were astonished to witness: betrayal.

Did Jesus know about it? From John 6:70, we understand that He did. Yet throughout the Scriptures, we can not see Him treating Judas any differently than the others, even knowing what he would eventually do. And even when that night came, Judas, armed with a Roman cohort (John 18:3), delivered his Friend into the hands of the gentiles by the greeting of a friend (Matthew 26:48-50), a gesture that showed his coldness of heart. Jesus’ response? Humility, solemnity, and sorrow for the one whom he had grown so close to. This was one of his own, a loved member of His most treasured group, but through his actions He knew they would be friends no longer (John 15:14).

The question then remains: How could Jesus feel sorry for Judas? This was the man that delivered Him to His death! But what Jesus understood is a lesson that we should all understand as well – hate the sin, love the sinner. Sin is of the devil, but the sinner has a soul, and one that we should treasure and cherish. To love the sinner is not to excuse what they are doing, but to make every effort to help make their souls right with God (do what’s in their best interest). It’s not unreasonable to say that even in the face of His accusers, Jesus desperately wished that Judas would repent of what he had done, and turn to Life (2 Peter 3:9). We must remember this in our own lives; to not be so consumed with hatred of our sin that we take the person down with it. They are human, but most importantly they are a lost soul, and we must have compassion on them to help restore them to a right relationship with God.

I recently read a message board for an entertainer that had died among several controversies of his personal life. Along these lines were the people that expressed sorrow, but also several who condemned him in BOLD CAPS for the things he had allegedly done. This anger and supposed hatred towards the individual seemed to insinuate that these people were actually happy that this person was gone. While this may be the knee-jerk reaction for many, we have to ask ourselves, are we happy a soul is lost for eternity? How did Jesus look at Judas? A lost soul that needed help, and His compassion for such a man is something that we should emulate in our own lives. Look to those that are out there, no matter how heinous or evil it may be, and see the soul on the inside that is screaming for help.

This article was republished from http://www.coffeeandabible.com/2017/10/20/jesus-think-judas/ with permission from the author, Brady Cook. We appreciate Brady sharing his writing and thoughts with us. Please give his blog a visit and check out his books on Amazon (most of which are free).