A Snippet On Love

When you choose to love, as in real love, you’re letting God teach you what love really is.

If you really seek His guidance on how to love like Him, He will not withhold it.

The easiest, detailed guideline on love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,

 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; […]

To choose to love is messy. Yet the Lord will teach you how to love one lesson, one attribute of love, at a time. Until you can’t grasp a certain attribute of love, God will not tire in teaching you what you need to learn.

And once you realize how it is to be the one who loves, a lover, you’ll appreciate the Ultimate Lover. His love is perfect.

To love another person — flaws, shortcomings, and all — is taxing. What more could it be for God who loves all humanity?

As I am learning how to love, God is teaching me about His attributes. As I am learning more about my heart, I am learning more about God’s love.

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Be Still — Obedience

Be Still — Obedience

Oftentimes when we’re faced with trials we pray and ask God, “Lord, what would be my next step?”

We expect answers like “do this”, or “speak about that, or “go there.” We anticipate that God will command us to do active actions. We ready ourselves to have a response to whatever we’re facing which requires our hands to do work. Hands on.

It’s easy to obey God’s command when we’re given a specific call to action. But how about when God tells us to “be still?” It’s different from being told to speak in front of a congregation or go serve in the mission field. We’re being told to stay put. “Be still” equals “hands off.”

Personally, I’ve been facing trials in almost every aspect of my life — work (I’m employed!), undergraduate thesis (yup, still working on earning that degree), family, relationships, and health (mental health to be exact). With the amount of the mountains I’m facing, I’d rather God command me to act on them head on. Yet, He has other plans.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Knowing my personality, being still is the last option on my list of how I’d resolve problems. I’m Headstrong Hannah — when things don’t go the way I think they should be, I take matters into my own hands. I would do something and not just stay put. So being told to “be still” is not the easiest for me.

Although my hands don’t get to do active work, “be still” is still a command. Being told to “be still” is a practice on obedience.

Would you still obey Him when what we’re told to do is to (in a way but not entirely) do nothing at all and wait on the Lord?

God told me through four different media to “be still.” I think that’s suffice proof that it’s what He wants me to do. A command is still a command, whether it is a call to action or a call to take a step back and let God be God. Honor God through trials. Look to Him. Dwell in His presence. Know that He is in control even when our life feels like it’s falling apart.

The waves and wind still know His name.

 

An Open Letter to Sen. Manny Pacquiao from Fellow Christians on the Marcos Burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Nagmamatyag

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Dear Senator Manny,

First, we would like to congratulate you on your victory against Jessie Vargas. Thank you for making our country proud by your achievements in boxing.

We write this letter to you as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Just like you, we believe in the power of the death and resurrection of Christ as the basis for living a new life and receiving forgiveness for our sins.

However, we are troubled by your recent statements regarding the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the LNMB, in which you appealed for the need to forgive and move on. Like you, we believe in the centrality of forgiveness in the Christian faith and life. Just as God has forgiven us, we certainly need to forgive others.

There are several reasons, however, why a blanket call for forgiveness is not appropriate in this case.

  • First, forgiveness presupposes that an offense has…

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From A Man Renewed

From A Man Renewed

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It was May 2015 when my Art Studies 141 class (Photography as Art) went on a 3-day photography trip to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. We visited a number of the provinces’ famous landmarks ranging from museums to food stops. One of the places we went to in Vigan, Ilocos Sur was the former Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail.

Aside from the old prison cells and their gates, the jail looked immaculate in contrast to its past. Near the main exit, the final passageway to the world beyond the prison walls, is a chalkboard. On it is a message written by a previous prisoner upon his release.

What struck me is the line “What I need therefore from the people around is their kind understanding and welcome acceptance of me to rejoin the main stream society…”

This man had paid for his wrongs in his time in jail. Will we, the people of mainstream society, still reject him and make his life an eternal prison even outside the prison walls?

In a sense, we are all wrongdoers. We all deserve a certain degree of punishment. The only difference we have from the people in jail is that we haven’t been caught, accused, or misidentified. Think about that before branding someone as worthy of death because they’re “salot/vermin”.

John 8:1-11 tells of the story of the woman caught in adultery. People were ready to stone her to death. Yet what did Jesus say to the crowd? Jesus said, ““Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” in verse 7. Everyone left but Jesus and the woman.

The story concludes in verses 10 and 11 with an exchange between Jesus and the woman.

Jesus: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Woman: “No one, sir”
Jesus: “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus knew of the woman’s sin. But what did he do? He gave her a chance to live a new life away from her sin, a chance to be reformed.

Who are we to deny that right to decide to live a reformed life?

The note ends with a short prayer which says, “and with a solemn prayer to God to grant me His graces — THAT I SHALL NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN.”

Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)

Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)

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All these pieces, broken and scattered

In mercy gathered, mended and whole

A Japanese practice exists where broken pottery is mended using lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The result of the repair highlights where the pieces were rejoined together and appear to be held in place by pure gold. In a way, the breakage enhanced the beauty of the original pottery piece. This Japanese practice is called kintsugi.

Kintsugi 金継ぎ  translated literally means “to repair with gold”. It’s also called as the “art of repairing broken things.” Widely believed to have originated in the late 15th century, the philosophy behind the technique is embracing the flawed or imperfect. By using lacquer infused with powdered precious metals, the repair done to the damage is emphasized rather than disguising or concealing it.

“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated…” – Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

This recognizes the flaw as part of the object’s history. Instead of seeing it as a rendering of uselessness, the flaw adds to the objects value and beauty. It adds meaning.

“…highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.” – Kwan, Pui Ying. “Exploring Japanese Art and Aesthetic as inspiration for emotionally durable design”

In the same way, we who have experienced brokenness are like pottery and ceramics that underwent kintsugi. We have failures, we have downfalls, we have missteps. We tend to see ourselves as worthless, useless, and disposable. Yet through God’s mercy and grace, we are made new.

He allows trials and pains to afflict us, not to punish us, but to refine our faith in Him. The grace and the love that He pours on us is the gold that mends us together. It is through our brokenness that God is seen, His love shines through.

Let our brokenness not be seen as our end of the line. Let it be seen as opportunities to let God freely work in us and on us. We are made more precious in our surrender. We are made more beautiful as we lay down our hurts to Him.

This is what is so amazing about grace. God overlooks our failures and our wretchedness and freely gives His love. All we need is to accept it. See ourselves through His eyes. We did not choose Him, in the first place. He chose us. Why? Love.

Run to Him for He will not jeer at our weaknesses. Run to Him and know love.

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”

Zechariah 13:9

Declaration of the Broken

Heartcry of the Broken

June 19, 2016

I was assigned to lead the worship team for that morning’s Sunday service. Beforehand, I’ve had a week to prepare my line-up. It was a week of praying and asking guidance of which songs God wants me to minister with to the congregation, songs that will lead people to worship and glorify Him. Here’s what God impressed me with:

  • Thank You, Lord – Israel Houghton (Covered Live in Asia)
  • In Jesus’ Name – Israel Houghton (Covered Live in Asia)
  • Leave Me Astounded – Planetshakers (Outback Worship)
  • All Honor – Ron Kenoly

Leading worship isn’t an easy task. It’s not just about getting onstage and making sure that you hit the right notes, sing the correct lyrics, or lose yourself to the rhythm. It’s more than just the musical aspect, it’s about glorifying God. It’s never about ourselves. The whole point of worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. It must be done in spirit and in truth.

So how can you worship in spirit and in truth if bad news suddenly breaks?

I notified the team about my line-up Monday in the week before my assignment. In my head, I imagined a joyous celebration of God’s faithfulness. My line-up was a reflection of what I feel for God – love and gratitude for everything. In the beginning of that week I was under the belief that I was going to be part of my university’s graduation. “Finally,” I thought, after a year of being delayed.

However, later that same week, my then thesis adviser and I spoke with each other. She told me that I will not be joining this year’s graduation. She still found faults in my thesis. After all the work I’ve put into it, it wasn’t still good enough for her. I was heartbroken. A year had passed and still it wasn’t the best. I imagined leading worship and declaring how God has been faithful with the promise of my graduation, what now?

The moment I received the bad news, I had second thoughts on whether I should still lead worship the coming Sunday. One of my best friends even asked if I’ll still push through with my line-up. Though a shaken, I told her yes.

Each song of in the line-up has a common or central message – letting go and letting God display His glory. To me it meant a declaration of dependence. God is good in the highest points of my life; He is still good even during my lowest.

Sunday morning came. It was also Father’s day. In my head, I was still regretting my failure to be part of this year’s graduates. It was supposed to be my wedding anniversary gift and Father’s day gift to my parents.Yet I know that God has a reason. With hands trembling, voice shaking, and unstoppable tears welling in my eyes, I stood front and center. “God, I’m letting go.”

I testified that I’m not doing well, that in honesty, I was in a place where some find it difficult to worship God. Yet I declared that His mercy endures forever and greater are His plans than ours. I am broken but God will shine through the cracks. My spirit is downtrodden but not incapable of worshiping Him. It was the most sincere and honest I’ve been while leading worship.

And God showed up.

No, it wasn’t a big miracle where I suddenly was included in the list of graduates. It was something greater. It was a spiritual breakthrough. For the first time in all the times I lead worship, people from the congregation saw visions and heard from God. It’s one of my heart’s desires – to feel God’s manifest presence.

Truly, it is better than what I earlier imagined.

Honor God and He will honor your desires. It’s not always in the ways we envisioned, not in the outcomes we perceived, but God remains sovereign in the end.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Jeremiah 33:3 (NASB)

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

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In the world’s eyes, I have all the reason to be angry with God. It’s acceptable if I were to just have an outburst and say, “God, why me? Why now? I’m already delayed by a year, why delay me again?!”


But I’m not angry with Him.

Yes, I don’t understand why certain things happen. I don’t have all the right answers. Isn’t that what faith is all about?

When I surrendered my life to Christ, I laid down all my plans and dreams. I said that I will not hold anything back from Him. He holds my every moment. A life of faith is an unconventional life. 

My journey to one of the prestigious schools in the Philippines and in it had always been a testament of faith. I got in University of the Philippines by faith – I never applied to other universities, only to UP. It was a long shot but I got in. We were struggling with our finances yet I was able to stay in school. Lots of times that it was grace and faith that sustained me. I trusted God then, why shouldn’t I trust Him now? After five years of showing His faithfulness, why should I falter?

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. Yet in those moments, I never doubted God. I doubted myself, but never God. He surrounded me with loving people who are there for me even in my stormiest days.

My trust is without borders. He’s taking me deeper than my feet could ever wander. He makes everything beautiful in its time.

Who Will You Choose?

Who Will You Choose?

Above is the link to an article I wrote for Saved.ph about the coming elections. I’ve shared it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts and realized that I haven’t put it up on my blog. Since it’s only about a day away ’til elections, I see it fit to be shared again. Click if you’d like to read it on Saved.ph website or read on below. 

The 2016 National Elections is fast approaching. By now, various campaign efforts through different media have become part of our daily lives – political ads during commercial breaks, candidates’ faces and names on public walls, campaign jingles blasting here and there. We even get to see and read things about these candidates from our own Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timelines.

With all we read and hear about the candidates – from highest praises to harsh criticisms – varying opinions confuse us and cloud our judgment on who we should vote for. As responsible citizens, we can’t just opt to pass up on practicing our freedom and right to choose our country’s leaders. As accountable Christians, it’s our duty to take part in helping to improve our nation.

So for the voting Christian, here are some tips and reminders for the coming elections:

#1 Verify everything you read and hear about the candidates

In today’s Internet age, information about public figures is not that hard to find. Bits and pieces about candidates are widespread throughout the web. Know how to differentiate factual claims over ones that are fabricated and untrue. Check if the source of the claim is credible and trustworthy. Remember, integrity in small scale echoes  integrity in bigger responsibilities.

#2 Research on their track record

Similar with the first tip, this one deals with what actually came from the candidate’s mouth. If the candidate promises of enforcing a certain project or act, check their record in the previous terms they serve in office in the same position or a different one. There are promises that can be made and promises that are made to be broken. We can’t hang on to every word a candidate and their supporters say. We need to think critically. The future of our country is impacted by our choices.

#3 Don’t be ignorant followers

We can get swayed by the tantalizing promises. We all want something to happen to our country. We all want change. Sometimes we let our fears and desire for instant solutions paralyze our decision making. We tend to cling to candidates’ words that we just end up going with the flow. It’s not bad to hear the opinions of others. However, let’s not vote for someone just because your family, your peers, friends, and church leaders say so. God equipped us with individual minds. Let’s not waste what God had given us. He made us intelligent beings. Take up your God-given responsibility and think critically.

#4 Choose someone who upholds the principles you believe

As Christians, we want to support someone who embodies what Jesus taught in his sermons – to love others, whether they’re enemies or friends. We preach that lives are valuable, that Jesus’ death and resurrection is for the salvation of life for anyone who believes. God put a high price on everyone’s life. We ought to respect and value lives the way He does. Let’s scrutinize what the candidates actually say. Do they respect the lives of others? Do they have high regard to the value of life? God allows reform and we should too. If a candidate has views on things that violate your biblical principles, it’s good to think about the pros and cons of supporting this candidate. Think and weigh out options.

#5 Remember that no government leader is a “one for all” solution to our nation’s problems

No candidate is a one-hit solution. No human is perfect. To heal our country takes the whole population to work together and pray together. We’ll never have a messianic president or leader in the country. We already have the Messiah who can calm our fears – Jesus.

Ptr. Daniel Fusco of Crossroads Community Church, in an article he wrote about the upcoming US elections, said that every candidate promises to “solve” our issues. They target our deepest desires and longings. However, we should keep in mind that no president, no politician can satisfy all our needs. We shouldn’t expect them to.

Let’s not put all the burden on our aspiring leaders. Let’s put more of the burden on ourselves. Leaders can only do so much. We can do more if we unite and do our part in healing our country. Take responsibility. The country is not just defined by the leader; it’s defined by its people.

#6 Choose to support someone who is repentant.

Choose someone who knows when he or she has committed wrong yet not hesitant to admit it and humble enough to extend apologies. A leader who embodies humility is a leader who will prioritize the needs of others above their selfish ambitions. Having the ability and sincerity to admit wrongdoing is a sign of humility. It shows that the leader acknowledges the value of their position – someone who was deemed trustworthy by a great number of people. Owning up to mistakes is showing respect to the decision a majority of people made him or her be a leader.

#7 Pray

God uses unexpected people to fulfill His will and purpose. Despite our judgment and preconceived notions on each of the candidates, God will put into office who He sees fit for the fulfillment of His will. Even in biblical times, God used a motley mix of people to make His will known. A number of well-known faithful servants of God came from unpleasant pasts — Jacob lied, Moses killed, David had an affair, and Paul persecuted and killed Jesus’ followers.

It doesn’t mean that we should overlook their past mistakes. However, we should remember that God is always moving. He will speak and reveal Himself through whichever situation. It’s our duty to listen to God. That’s why it’s important for us to listen and pray, drown out the noise of our own judgments and criticisms.

Pray for leaders who will have the heart of honoring God and the wisdom to lead a nation. Compassion and love will drive for change – the desire for better opportunities and improved lives for everyone in the country regardless of socioeconomic status

Pray that He will be glorified. Through whoever’s leadership we may be put under, we will rejoice.

And last but not the least…

#8 Vote with hope

Our country has so many ills that sometimes we lose sight of hope. We sometimes feel like we are beyond redemption. Take heart. God is still the same from the beginning of time to the end. Vote with a hope–not on empty promises from eloquent platform deliveries that beguiles innocence. Hope comes from the assurance of God’s promises that never fails, His promises that we can trust and know through prayer. It’s our duty to exercise our God-given authority through prayer and action.

Whatever the results of the elections may be, we should always remember that God is sovereign.

Delayed Milestones, Idolatry, and Trusting Without Borders

Earlier last month I visited the doctor’s clinic because I was not feeling well. It’s a stone’s throw away from where I live so walking was not a problem. The doctor has been my siblings’ and mine attending physician since we were infants (aside from another doctor who gave us our vaccinations). Naturally, most of my medical records are in the clinic’s archives. While waiting for my turn in the doctor’s office, I asked the secretary if I could take a look at them. I started from the recent ones then went my way up to my first ever doctor’s appointment as a baby. Some of the dates listed I recalled, and there are some dates not listed but I recall being sick (I might have gone to a different doctor). But there were two records that stood out. There were two doctor’s notes attached at the end. Both of the papers were already yellowing or browning. I tried my best to read what was written. I was surprised. The notes were written by a different doctor addressed to my doctor. The contents say that I have delayed milestones and that I might have had mild dystonia. I asked my mother about this and confirmed that as a baby, I started walking late. Actually, I was only able to start walking properly after sessions from a therapist. Apparently, mild dystonia means my leg muscles were not working right. It is treatable since I walk in a normal fashion and even took up ballet in my childhood. Although quite startling, it’s not the mild dystonia that stuck with me. It’s the phrase “delayed milestones”.

From early on, I’ve had delayed milestones. In context, it means physical milestones as to the growth and development of a child. Somehow, twenty years later, “delayed milestones” has a different meaning.

I was supposed to graduate from university this semester. However, I could not finish my thesis in time for the deadline. One could actually argue that I could still try and finish my thesis and say that there’s still the possibility of participating in the graduation ceremonies. Possible, yes. But do I want to? I’d get to that later.

Ever since the beginning of the school year I’ve been declaring that I’d be graduating by the end of the second semester. There had been many challenges but by God’s grace, I’d overcome them. To me, my thesis was just another piece of cake I could eat in one opening of my mouth, a puddle I could easily skip over. I thought, “God got me out of other impossibilities, what’s this one to fuss about?” The first semester had come and gone I was too proud. I had the sense of entitlement that God’s got my back. I hadn’t thought whether if it’s actually what God wants for me. By the start of the second semester, I was already having thoughts of the possibility of delaying my graduation.

There are so many factors leading to my delay. Obviously, God has other plans. Another delayed milestone. It doesn’t mean that I’m not excellent enough. It just means that I need to take a step back and breathe.

My head was in places. The image of me graduating in spite of just technically “winging” my thesis has become, hard to admit, an idol. With that mindset, I was relying on my abilities. To me, it was I who was great.Unintentionally, I wasn’t giving God enough credit.

Months passed from the beginning of the crucial semester. I had the choice to try to pursue and try to put my heart to it, or just accept defeat and graduate later than I projected. I decided to let go. There’s no use in trying to put my heart into something I’m dreading. I need a break and start again from somewhere. That was my back-up plan. It turns out, my plan B was God’s real plan after all. I was too stubborn to realize or to admit it.

I read somewhere that we should be careful with what we sing in praise and worship. I recall that the article was pertaining to Hillsong’s “Oceans”. (Read it here: Stop Singing Oceans). In the song, the bridge goes

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me” “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior”

One should not sing that song if he or she is not prepared, or if his or her idea of trusting God without borders is actually up until someone’s comfort zone. Nope. Trust without borders. Only God knows whether wherever He wants to lead you is inside or out of your comfort zone (most of the time, out). Right now, I am out of one of my borders, my comfort zones. It was in my comfort zone that I planned to graduate on time, take a few months off, then pursue whichever work I’d set my heart upon.

It was in my comfort zone where I made a short term timetable on what I should be doing. But because of a single event, everything has changed. I’ve been jarred from my schedule. It’s one of my pet peeves. Yet, who am I to complain to God? Right now, I could sing Oceans wholeheartedly and without hesitation. No buts, no what ifs, no what abouts. It’s just me and God. Although I know the minor steps I should take, the major ones are subject to what or where God directs me to. My trust is without borders.

Someday soon, I’d use this photo as my display photo on my social media accounts. I’d post it on instagram. But for now, it’ll be here to serve as a reminder of the greater things to come.

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Faithful

Faithful

God is so faithful that He even acknowledges our requests that are somewhat childish and shallow.

I’ve got my fair share of childish and shallow prayers. Quite a number of them have something to do with Valentine’s day. Yet even though there are far better things I could have prayed for, God did not make me feel that my concerns then were not worth paying attention to.

A few years back, I was a freshman in college. It was Valentine’s week and I was feeling upset because I wasn’t receiving any gifts or notes from anyone while my classmates were the opposite. I felt unappreciated. The fact that my family was  miles away – I was a student in UP Los Baños back then – only made me feel worse. I prayed to God, “Lord, I just want to feel that someone appreciates me. I want to receive a Valentine’s gift or token or whatever.” At that point, I didn’t have high hopes that someone would appear at the front of our boarding house’s gate with a bouquet of flowers and whatnot to be given to me.

I then attended youth service at Victory LB with my housemates. It was my home church away from home. Since it was the month of February, the series was about love entitled “Love Life”. Before the service ended, Pastor Jon said that the guys had something special for the girls. Lo and behold, the boys came up from the back carrying boxes of cupcakes. They gave it out to us girls. When I received mine, I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes. God answered my prayer! I felt loved. God’s love. It was amazing.

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Fast forward a few years. I was wondering how it would feel like to receive a bouquet of flowers, or even just a single one, that’s not from my parents or best friends. I randomly and sort of jokingly told God, “Lord, I just want to experience what it’s like to receive flowers.”

Valentine’s week. No flowers.

And like before, I didn’t have high hopes for anything.

Until one day, after a friend’s recital where I was head of the documentation team, I was given flowers. It caught me off-guard. And it wasn’t just a single flower or three, it was a full bouquet with the fancy wrapping and ribbon and such. It was a token of appreciation for the things I’ve helped with related to the recital. I got what I prayed for when I most didn’t expect it. God surprised me. It was one of the best feelings and moments I’ve ever felt. Again, I felt appreciated, special, and most of all, loved.

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It’s amazing how God is faithful and patient even with what seems like senseless things. He acknowledges that during those points in my life, those requests were important to me. He didn’t scold me nor tell me off. He proved that His love for me goes beyond my immaturity and would do anything to show how much His love is.

“If you feel like no one loves you, just remember that I have and always do” – God

God supplies us with all the love that we need. He will even supply us with family and friends to get the earthly love we crave for. For those who are still single, remember that while we’re still waiting for that someone to give us the romantic kind of love, God has already given us the greatest love of all. We are loved with the perfect love! No human love can ever come close to that. It is a privilege to be loved by Love Himself.

Keep on praying and keep on loving God. He is faithful to keep His promises.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:37-39

New King James Version