Ezekiel 13:5-7

Do you teach a Bible study? How about a Sunday School class? Maybe you’re a teacher, a pastor, even a missionary? Or do you just teach your children, or occasionally speak truth to a coworker or neighbor or friend? Regardless of whom you influence, do you proclaim God’s eternal message to humankind–our need to repent and trust in Christ? Do you warn them about God’s “wrath [against unrepentant sin] that is to come?” (1 Thessalonians 1:10) Or do you say just what they want to hear, because you don’t want them to stop liking you, or because you’re afraid?

“They don’t warn the people about coming trouble or tell them how dangerous it is to sin against Me. Those prophets lie by claiming they speak for Me, but I have not even chosen them to be My prophets. And they still think their words will come true. They say they’re preaching My messages, but they are full of lies—I did not speak to them!” (Ezekiel‬ ‭13:5-7‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

I wonder how many of us still read the Old Testament–not just Genesis and Exodus, or Psalms or Proverbs, but all of it? Remember what Paul taught? “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…” (Romans‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NCV‬‬) Those accounts of others who came before us were recorded to warn us to not act as they did, so we don’t have to suffer like they did!

Take a look at today’s verse. This is God’s condemnation of Israel’s “false” prophets–individuals who presented themselves to the people as declarers of God’s truth, who failed to declare God’s truth. That’s why they were false! And how did they fail to declare it? Because they did not “warn the people about coming trouble;” because they did not “tell them how dangerous it is to sin against Me [God].”

It IS dangerous to sin against God, to live our lives doing “what…[is] right in…[our] own eyes.” (Judges‬ ‭17:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) because our judgment is flawed; because “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

You see, the problem is that our decision-making ability is flawed where holiness–issues of right and wrong–is concerned. Even if we do what seems right–what we genuinely believe the right thing to do–we can end up horribly wrong if we’ve not lined up our opinion of right with what God says is right.

God doesn’t have that problem. He’s not affected by sin, so His decision making ability isn’t skewed, like ours is–and that’s why we can trust Him when He says, “this is wrong; don’t do it.”

That’s the message we need to pass on to those around us, those with whom we interact. God’s condemnation of those prophets was that they told the people what they wanted to hear, instead of what they needed to hear. Do we tell people what they need to hear–that it is dangerous to sin against God?

Another prophet to the Israelites, Jeremiah, got dumped in a well by a mob enraged by this message; many others have been killed because of it. You may certainly become less popular; it’s no fun to be someone’s constant reminder that they aren’t living the way they should.

The disciples must have thought about this too, because Jesus warned them what to expect:

“A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect? Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” (Matthew‬ ‭10:24-28‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

This is what God asks of us; what He expects and demands of His people. It’s the sacrifice we make when we choose to follow Christ–the cross we pick up and carry. Remember that carrying the cross wasn’t a pleasant road for Jesus; it was a path of insult and injury and shame. Dare we expect any less?

Dear Jesus,

Help me not be afraid or ashamed to tell people what they need to hear. Amen.

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I Corinthians 10:13

So you’re scared? That’s okay; everyone’s afraid. You’ve got challenges that push you out of your comfort zone, issues you never had before, problems that require a level of mental creativity and emotional maturity—not to mention physical stamina—you’re not sure you have? Well, guess what? You’re not the only one; we all do. And what’s more, not only will you get through it; you can come out stronger on the other side!

One of the most limiting assumptions I can ever make is that I’m the only one going through this; I’m so unique, so special, that no one else has ever experienced whatever it is that’s happening to me now. This is a lie, and if you’re open to what God tells us in the Bible, here it is:
“No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭CEB‬‬)
This refers specifically to temptations—situations in which there is a right or wrong decision to be made—but I honestly believe we can extrapolate it to most of life’s experiences, because we’re all human. We’re all scared at times; each of us goes through experiences that intimidate and challenge us to rise to a higher level to successfully navigate…it’s our plight as humans, and in some way, it’s strangely reassuring. 
We all lose loved ones; we get sick, are in accidents, experience pain. We gain new family members through birth, or the blending of families, or marriage. We go to new schools; have new classes, new teachers. We change or lose jobs. We struggle financially. We move, face new challenges, deal with new issues. We find jobs and change career paths. And through it all, we deal with it—somehow.
Those of us who believe in God—who trust in Jesus Christ—pray; I highly recommend that, because He honors it when we look to Him. Inside of us—mentally, emotionally, spiritually—He supernaturally reassures and strengthens us so we can navigate through the scary times with less stress—with faith that’s He’s got it covered. Very often, though, He also actively alters external circumstances to make things better.  Don’t believe me; think I’m looking for God where He doesn’t exist? Okay, how about this?
My husband recently lost his job. He was having a hard time at work—he felt it; you know, the stress you sense when things aren’t going great—but we were still surprised when it happened (it never feels real for a while; it takes time to process).
Normally we would’ve panicked; I would’ve been terrified because of the financial implications. We’ve got our youngest daughter in an expensive private school and her recent college-grad sister is still looking for a position. We’ve got two vacant units at our properties, and a huge tax bill is looming ahead. But this time I’m not scared—at least not yet. Why?
Because God proactively provided for this exact moment in our lives ahead of time! My husband had acreage up in Michigan that he had been trying to sell for quite a while that he just closed on a week or two earlier; as a matter of fact, he had just gotten the funds! He thought he was going to use it as a down payment for a new truck (even though we all have good vehicles); God knew differently.
If you don’t believe in God, of course, you’re relegated to finding another plausible explanation for otherwise inexplicable and obvious ”coincidences” like this, but that gets to a point where it’s more absurd than to just give credit where credit is due. Honestly—it’s almost like Bobby’s ghost in the series Supernatural, moving things around just so Sam and Dean realize he’s there!
But what if you don’t believe in God? What if you think it’s all a lot of hooey, just like Supernatural itself? Or you’ve pushed Him out of your life; convinced yourself He’s superstition, archaic, irrelevant? Bought into the zeitgeist of the time? Then you’re on your own. Remember the promise, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬)? The promise is only for those who love God (and if you love God, it’s a given that you’re also called according to His purposes); if you don’t love Him, He’s no longer causing everything to work together for your good.
Please let that scare you. Look at your life. Notice the things that “didn’t work out…” Yes, you can still derive some comfort from the fact we’re all going through this misery together, but in the end, does it help that much? Community is generally comforting, but this is like being on a sinking ship. Wouldn’t you rather have someone get you off, than sink with those who won’t come with?
Dear God,

You know life is scary. Thank You that You are faithful and help us through it when we come to You—when we stop pushing You away, agree with You, commit ourselves to You and trust completely in You. Amen.

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Exodus 15:1-2

Have you ever seen God work powerfully in your life? Has He ever done something for you that genuinely convinced you He’s absolutely real? We’re all different, so what might convince me may not convince you–but that’s okay, because He knows exactly what it is that will prove His existence and power to each and every one of us–and He graciously meets us at our point of need!

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!'” (Exodus‬ ‭15:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

God may not have hurled the enemy’s horse and riders into the sea for you as He did for the fleeing Israelites quoted above, but we all have something that proves to each of us–that convinces us of–God’s magnificence, and that is what He, in His infinite mercy, does for those who trust in Him: He strengthens our faith, especially when we ask.

He is not obligated to. In fact, we are taught not to provoke God–to not test Him. We mustn’t set up circumstances–hoops for Him to figuratively jump through–to convince us He is real. Yet when we trust in Him, He helps us trust Him even more.

How? Through whatever way will help you believe more! It may certainly be physical deliverance like it was for the Israelites; it may be healing, or an answer to prayer–a job, perhaps, or grade, or whatever else will convince you. For me it’s getting protection plan sales. I sell, and my job is dependent, at least in part, on how many protection plans I sell. So I’ve actually started asking God for success in this area. I know–“you’re just getting better at selling them,” you might say; but who helps me get better? And curiously, I’ve noticed that when I believe He’s going to help me, I sell; when I start doubting–like when Peter was walking on the water, and got scared and doubted Jesus–I start messing up. It’s not my faith in my ability to sell that gives me sales; it’s my faith in the provision and graciousness of God!

Yet this is not a side show or curiosity. God works miracles–even the quiet ones no one else might realize are miracles–for the specific purpose of helping believe. Remember Herod’s excitement at having Jesus brought to him? How he had heard the amazing things Jesus had done and was hoping to finally witness something himself–yet got nothing? God performs miracles if they will help us believe; if they would be merely a curiosity and not lead us to repentance or greater faith, we get nothing, because they would be wasted on us.

Remember Jesus admonition “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬)? It’s the same principle This is why there are so few miracles reported here in the modern world. I am totally convinced God does still work miracles–just not for those for whom they would be meaningless. He saves His works–His miracles–for those whose faith will be strengthened by them.

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that You care about us and are gracious to strengthen our faith. Thank You that You are, indeed, a God of power and night and that nothing is too difficult for You, as You declare in Your Word, the Bible! Amen.

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Isaiah 53:2

Have you ever tried to imagine what Christians gathered for a worship service look like to a visitor who really doesn’t believe in God; who doesn’t think He exists? Merely a ragamuffin group of relatively unimpressive people singing songs, praying, sitting and listening to someone talk–sometimes, not necessarily always, eloquently–in their little (or not-so-little) groups? There’s nothing here to impress anyone–it certainly doesn’t have either the sophistication of academia or opulence of business. It’s certainly no Apple phone launch or TedTalk. To the contrary and in contrast, we must seem genuinely strange to someone observing us from a mindset that believes God’s not real. Yet superficial impressions can be deceiving.

“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah‬ ‭53:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This prophecy found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah confirms that even Jesus wasn’t visually distinctive–there is no Biblical reference to an extraordinary physical appearance; no record of someone ever saying, “Wow! He looks exactly like I imagined God become a human would!” Yet what He did was miraculous, and what He still does in those who trust Him is equally extraordinary, because it is nothing short of that which is otherwise humanly impossible.

What’s spectacular about God’s followers is not our appearance (although knowing Christ does tend to soften our appearance–we are not look hateful or angry or bitter as others, who are habitually tormented by those emotions). What’s spectacular about Christians, rather, is the miracle Jesus has and continues to accomplish in our lives–the “killing off” of our old self (or old man, as some versions of the Bible call it).

That’s a harsh term, so before you panic and say you don’t want your “self”–old or otherwise–killed off, let me explain that I’m not referring to anything that’s really truly “us”; that what Jesus “kills off”–help us overcome in ourselves–is our selfishness, our unquenchable tendency toward self-centeredness. It’s that miserable quality all of us are born with to be concerned primarily with me, myself, and I; to only look to how any particular decision or circumstance affects or benefits me. I understand the argument that this is a survival technique; that we’d die off the planet if we stopped caring about our own well being, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Jesus doesn’t take away our concern for our well being; He gives us the power to say “no” to ourselves to benefit another.

Before you dismiss this as relatively insignificant, let me point out that a life of selflessness is an impossible feat without the activity of God in us through His Spirit, because it goes completely contrary to human nature. I challenge you, in fact, to find even one instance where a person who has rejected Christ has consistently done this–especially in matters where it “hurts;” where the metal hits the road; where it hits too close to home; in respect to things they care about much. You won’t be able to, because without God it simply doesn’t happen on an ongoing basis.

The fact is that it is Christ only–through His Spirit working in us–who empowers us to be able deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Because that’s what selflessness is. It’s denying what I want, in favor of what benefits another.

It’s why people become missionaries–why they suffer hardship for the purpose of spreading the message of forgiveness through Jesus as He commanded His people to do. It’s why others, in countries hostile to Christianity, who convert to Christ–who believe the message–are martyred for their faith rather than deny Him. And it’s why we continue to meet in our little–or not so little–groups, to worship and corporately talk to, and be taught more about God.

So even if our meetings are not opulent or superficially impressive, we worship Someone who is most impressive–the One who is able to accomplish in us that which no amount of money can–a new heart and life!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me above all to, “Gain You, and be found in You,” because You are most precious above everything! Amen.

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I Timothy 4:4

God provides. We know that; we believe it. But I wonder how many of us realize exactly how fully and generously He provides–not just (or even necessarily) financially, but in terms of the natural world He created all around us for our benefit?

“For everything God created is good…” (I Timothy 4:4)

I’m a child of the late 20th Century; it was in my lifetime that processed foods came out–and we loved it because with all the added sugars and flavorings, our taste buds began to prefer them over the more simple tastes found in nature. Pharmaceutical companies concocted newer and more amazing drugs; the beauty industry produced an ever-increasing array of products to make us beautiful and keep us from aging.

None of this is necessarily bad, mind you, and there are cases it may be essential (if I’m having a heart attack, for example, I definitely want the benefit of the most potent life-saving medicines and procedures out there!). Yet as we embraced various products created in a lab, our collective consciousness seems to have forgotten the amazing benefits of what God has already provided for us naturally in the created world around us! Like what, you ask?

Well, like the idea that health is derived primarily, if not exclusively, from what we consume (or fail to consume in the case of things hurtful to our well-being). This includes eating raw organic veggies, fruit and herbs, whole grains, (some will disagree but in my opinion, raw) milk and milk products, pasture fed meats, free range eggs, apple cider vinegar, legumes, seeds, nuts, raw honey, chocolate nibs, garlic, etc.

But besides eating these foods, did you realize that God imbued many of them with healing and rejuvenating properties that can also be used topically externally? My mother taught me to never waste cucumber skin peels but rub them on my face as a beauty treatment, and there are so many other foods that can help our bodies heal and thrive in this way. Granted, they don’t have the heavy perfumes manufactured products do, and some of them can smell peculiar or even unpleasant (think of papaya or garlic), but they really truly do good things for us if we are not condescending towards using them!

A raw lemon, for example, can fade dark spots and lighten and brighten your complexion. Garlic has antibacterial properties, and because a bad complexion is frequently the result of inflammation, rubbing it on your face can actually tone your skin down and make you look prettier! Cod liver oil consumed internally is highly effective to moderate and lower blood pressure (work with your doctor)–I’ve used it for years and am still not on any other medication at fifty-seven; apple cider vinegar mixed with water can help alleviate ear infections.

There are countless other remedies that common foods around us provide, in terms of beauty, health, longevity, and even cure, but you have to do the research and try it yourself. There are things I’ve tried that haven’t done what I hoped they would, or not well enough. But there are others that I’ve been amazed about–about which I’ve really had a “who knew?!” moment!

My point is simply that even though God has given mankind the ability and knowledge to produce amazing products in a lab, He has also already given us many items naturally that do the same or better, for our skin especially–but we’ve lost the knowledge that they’re there, or don’t believe they’re as good if they’re not expensively scented, beautifully packaged and cost upwards of $100.

Remember that God is kind–and He provides for His own. Sometimes this comes in the form of a higher paycheck, but many times it’s Him giving us wisdom; opening our eyes to what’s already available or inexpensive to obtain–and we shouldn’t scorn His provision. If our goal is to feel wealthy and opulent, that lemon or raw honey or garlic rubbed on our face probably won’t do it. But if what we really want is the result, then consistent use, coupled with an improved wholesome diet, will actually give us benefits some pay significantly more for. God does love us, and He has provided!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You for Your provision. Open my eyes to see everything good that is readily available for my use, and help me benefit from it! Amen.

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Luke 11:9-10, 13

Do you give up too easily? Many remember the famous verse spoken by God when the Israelites were trapped between the approaching Egyptian army and Red Sea, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and extrapolate it to our own lives. But we need to be careful not to appropriate promises and commands given to one particular people and time to every single situation, including our own.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke‬ ‭11:9-10, 13‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Yes, there are times when God supernaturally intervenes and alters a situation completely on His own without any action on our part and on our behalf in response to prayer–I can attest to this in my own life countless times! Yet I also think we have a tendency to frequently interpret this to mean that we are to do nothing once we’ve “made our requests known to God” (which we are told to do and certainly should!). We forget the parable about the persistent widow–a person in great need who kept begging and begging an insensitive judge until he gave her what she asked, just so she would leave him alone. Jesus’ point was that if an insensitive human responds to persistent begging, how much more will our Father in heaven, who actually loves us–and He was teaching us to keep asking God, and not give up when the answer or solution is not instantaneous.

Far too often, when we pray and no door seem to open we wrongly assume it’s not God’s will, instead of seeing it as Him giving us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow. You see, God sometimes answers prayer–sometimes He solves our problem–by allowing us to become desperate enough to pry open a door, even figuratively make a door where none previously existed! Imagine–as an example most us may thankfully never go through–being so hungry that you don’t know where your next meal will literally come from; instead of debating whether you were trained for a particular job or did it before or even want to do it, wouldn’t you find something to peddle or a floor to sweep or simply beg for any available job, even if nothing was advertised? My point is that when the situation is dire enough, God helps us find a way!

Granted, we need to be careful when we do this. We need to stay close to Him in prayer and remain in His will, so we don’t end up “solving” our problem through sin; Abraham, for example, got get a child with Haggai, but it was not God’s will or timing, and caused much unnecessary grief in everyone’s life.

This, then, is the difference between people who trust in God and those who do not. Those who consider God irrelevant do “as seems right to them,” (as apostate Old Testament Israel did), regardless of whether it is a holy and righteous solution or not, but those belong to Jesus Christ do not. We will not “solve” our problem by disobeying God; this would only create new problems because this is what sin does. As a child of God, if I want something I do not have, I will not steal it; if I am unhappy in my marriage, I will not “solve” my problem by disobeying God and entering into a relationship with someone not mine.

Yet I will keep imploring God until a solution presents itself or I become aware of it; until He shows me a crack I can pry open; until a door I didn’t previously see materializes–because He is the God of miracles! He knows the solution to my problem and to every problem; the God who “…spoke, and [everything] came to be…” (Psalm‬ ‭33:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬) is fully capable of creating a solution out of nothing for me!

So–do you give up too easily? Do you assume because something doesn’t come easily, it’s not God’s will for you? Do you no longer pray, if it doesn’t happen right away? Do you stop applying yourself until you succeed, if you encounter obstacles? Are you not desperate enough to keep imploring your Father in heaven, until He shows you a way? Remember, “…keep on asking and you will receive…keep on seeking and you will find…” Don’t underestimate God’s love for you, and as long as you are in His will–never give up!

Dear God,

Help me be a “persistent widow” before Your throne; thank You that You promised “whatever…you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark‬ ‭11:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Give me creativity, ingenuity and perseverance to accomplish what You set before me! Amen.

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Psalm 8:4-6

Who are you? The Who released a song by this name on August 18, 1978, but human beings have been contemplating this question since the dawn of time. Really–who are we? Science officially categorizes us as animals; the older translations of the Bible refer to us as part of “all flesh–” and so we are, because we have skin and bones and muscle and blood, as do other primates and mammals. Yet there is nonetheless a distinction between us and them–God gifted us the ability to contemplate our existence, rather than simply function to survive.

“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” (Psalms‬ ‭8:4-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

I quoted the older and more archaic sounding New King James translation because it retains an important phrase, “that You visit Him.” Many newer translations merely rephrase the thought that God notices us, but it is significant that not only does God notice and pay attention to us, He actually cares about and thinks enough of us to come down to our level and visit us–to relate to, look for a relationship with; ultimately become a human being Himself in the person of Christ Jesus to let us experience genuine fellowship with Him! This is profound and highly significant, because as far as we can tell, it is not something He has given any other living being.

There is another difference between us and every other beautiful creature God has populated our world with–we have been designated their caretakers. The specific verse where He grants us this authority and privilege is:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis‬ ‭1:26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Some bristle at the word “dominion,” imagining this gives license to be cruel overlords, but that is not at all God’s intent. He is kind and loving; as the highest of everything He made on Earth, of “all flesh,” we are commissioned to reflect that care and concern by being kind and loving managers of the remainder of His creation! But enough about them and our duty towards them–what about us? Who are we humans?

Forgive me, but as I get older I have actually been pulling back and contemplating my physical existence more–not unlike King David of old, who penned today’s verses, did. Think about it: my perspective–my consciousness–is from within my person, my physical body. My eyes see outward from this marvelous creation that houses my consciousness; I can operate my body–lift my hands, move my feet, blink my eyelids. I operate–my consciousness of self comes–from within this physical body, yet it is still “flesh;” ultimately my body is incredibly frail and will shut down at some point.

So here’s the question. If we are so frail, just another form of “flesh,” ultimately so seemingly insignificant in light of everything that exists, both on this planet and anywhere else–why does God care about me? Why would He even pay attention to us?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but the amazing part that even King David marveled about is that though we are ultimately nothing–God does care about us!

And this is why we should be yet more amazed and grateful; that though our lives are short and we, regardless of how accomplished we might personally feel, are really quite insignificant within the cosmos–God notices me! He loves me! He cares about me!! Not because of who I am, but because of who He is!

And because of that, I have purpose. My life has meaning speaking the gospel to everyone I can–this message that God cares about us mere humans. This message that even though we are so very much not right on our own–we know it if we’re honest with ourselves–when we finally give in to Him, He accepts us with open arms and forgives all wrongness and makes us right and loved, in and through Jesus Christ!

So, “what is man, that You are mindful of him?” The answer is that because of Jesus–His life, death and resurrection–in and through Him we are no longer specks in an uncaring universe; we are “…God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” (Colossians 3:12)

Dear God,

Thank You!!! Amen.

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