. . . Because of God

Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph.  We have the main points in his life down pat: his coat of many colors, his dreams, and his interpretation of others’ dreams.  We know of him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, his life in Egypt, the accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and his imprisonment.  But how closely do we pay attention to his actual relationship with God?  Do we focus more on the “From the Pit to the Palace,” side of things than on his integrity before God?

In his story, Joseph appears to start out as a young man who is a bit boastful and can’t wait to tell every listening ear his dream.  (I’m not saying he was boastful, just that it appears so).  His dreams became so that they incurred the hatred of his brothers.  This hatred would boil up within them until it filled them with violent intentions.  At one point, they thought murder was one option to rid them of this dreamer.  Instead of killing him, they opted to get rid of him while making a little money on the side.  They sold him into slavery.

In what appeared as the hardest time of his young life, Joseph’s relationship with God deepened.  This showed in the way God cause him to be prosperous and favored no matter where life put him (Genesis 39:3, 21).  Joseph also displayed the importance of his devotion to God in not sinning against God (Genesis 39:9) and in his refusal to take credit for all that God was doing through him (Genesis 40:8; 41:16, 28, 32).

God blessed Joseph with this incredible gift yet in his humility and dependence upon God, he denounced any accolades of his own.  He considered himself to be a vessel, realizing that “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace,” (Genesis 41:16).

The humility of Joseph took him far in life.  Eventually, he became second in command over Egypt.  Had he gotten big-headed I’m sure the story would’ve turned out quite differently.  If he had reverted to the “Me, Myself and I” attitude that a lot of people seem to display, Joseph’s story would not have been noted as the legacy we now know.

“It’s not in me,” Joseph readily proclaims.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  The Apostle Paul out-and-out tells us what Joseph already proclaimed.  We don’t have it in us!  Any gifts, any abilities, any special insights, and any favor – we have it because of God!  There’s no room for a self-sufficient attitude when God is trying to work in you.

When Daniel went before king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream, Daniel, like Joseph, admitted his frailty as a human.  He said, “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living,” (Daniel 2:30).  He did not consider himself anything special just because he could interpret dreams rather, he gave glory to God, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his,” (Daniel 2:20).

Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was asked, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” (Daniel 2:26).  Daniel answered much like Joseph did.  He said, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days,” (Daniel 2:28).

It is amazing the miracles that God can perform through the one who will not compete with Him to gain the credit.  When God instructed Gideon to go against the Midianites with only three hundred men, He did so, “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me,” (Judges 7:2).  When there is competition for glory, God will retain His!  If one is in competition with Him they are “against” Him and God can’t work mightily through them!

It’s not just an Old Testament thing.  Peter said, “Why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).  Let’s face it, we are human, and unless God puts it in us – unless God gives it to us, we don’t have anything to offer this world.  “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven,” (John 3:27).

Let’s do a credit check today.  Not to decipher our financial status but rather our relationship status with God.  It’s not “Me, Myself and I,” but it’s God working in us.  Let’s stand with Joseph and declare, “It’s not in me: God shall give . . . an answer . . .” (Genesis 41:16).  Everything that we have or are able to do in life is because of God.

Blessings to you . . .

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Opinions

Opinions, everyone offers them.  Sometimes they are solicited, and sometimes not.

Opinions can be a welcomed, new perspective on a matter.  Then again, opinions can be discouraging whether the basis of them is right or wrong.

The thing we must remember about opinions when referring to people is just that, they are someone’s opinions.  What that means is it may or may not be factual.  It may or may not be the best option for your case.  It only means that is the way another views whatever matter is before them.  It is their best evaluation of the situation.

Does this mean they are wrong?  No.  Does it mean they are right?  No.  An opinion, again, is what it is, an opinion.

Does that mean we shun all opinions given to us?  If we are wise, the answer is no.  The reason being, that while opinions are opinions, the Bible constantly encourages us to seek wise counsel.  Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise,” and there are many more verses written like this that support these same thoughts.

As much as some would like to ignore the fact, there are people who know more than we do and we can glean from their knowledge, expertise, and experience concerning the different matters of life.  We do not know everything in and of ourselves and so prudence demands that we get close to wise counselors and partake of what they have and can teach us to enrich our lives.

Now, the opposite of that is invalidated opinions or harmful opinions.  The thoughts of others that can put a grinding halt on your life and mission.  These interferences disrupt the flow of your day if you allow them and can be a damper on the fire that God has placed inside of us.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul, being at the forefront of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through many regions of the world in his day often came under the scrutiny of others’ opinions.  One particular time that stands out to me was when he and the other 275 passengers aboard a broken ship had to either swim to shore for safety or float there on pieces of the broken ship (see Acts 28 and chapters prior for the entire story).

Once on shore, Paul gathered sticks for a fire, and out of the heat, a snake bit him and attached itself to his hand (Acts 28:3).  When those on the island that were gathered there saw this, they claimed that Paul was a murderer who may have escaped the sea but was still going to get his just desserts (Acts 28:4-5).

Paul, not phased by them or the snake, shook the creature off and went on about his business while the others stood to see what would become of him, expecting him to fall down dead.

When Paul didn’t respond as they thought he would to the snake bite, their opinion of Paul changed quickly in the eyes of these people.  They changed their view of him based off of what they could see with their natural eyes and started to call him a god (Acts 28:6).

That is a very dramatic turn from being labeled as a murderer and then having the script flipped to the people claiming he was a god.  This shows us how quickly, and how circumstantially, people’s views of you can change.

The problem is, that too many people have halted what God has placed in their hearts because of the opinions of others.  Too many have let others revoke their dreams or dictate their calling when it is the Father who knows His good will and thoughts toward you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Constantly looking to others for validation can hinder the mission God has placed you on.  If Paul had succumbed to their opinions, as one labeled a murder, he could have tucked-tail, turned, and hid in a corner, which would not benefit where God placed him and what God wanted to do through him.  By the way, while on that island, some were able to be healed due to the Paul becoming aware of their illness and being able to pray for them (see Acts 28:7-10).

If Paul allowed his head to get puffed-up when others claimed he was a god, he would have been no good for God’s mission in that place and in the places he was traveling to.

Please, and I mean, please with fervency on top, let me reiterate, that there is much wisdom in wise counsel.  Almost the whole book of Proverbs reads as wise counsel on what to do and not to do and the one who wants wisdom would be wise to follow it.  And verses like Proverbs 19:20, which says, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” really stand out on the importance of seeking and following through on wise instruction.  DO NOT neglect this great gift of available wisdom.

But, don’t let the invalidated opinions of others sway you from your calling.  If you are unsure about a matter, seek good, godly wisdom (as noted above).  Also, never forget that the greatest source of wisdom and knowing of what to do in an unsure time is to look to God Himself.  Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

If you are having a hard time figuring it out, pray for a heart of discernment because we DO NOT want to lean on our own opinions if they are wrong, either.  Don’t get hung up on self.  Again, we have these nuggets of wisdom from Proverbs: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits” (16:2), “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (16:25), and “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (21:2).

Above all, we want to be right with God for it is what He thinks of us, His knowledge and His perspective about our life, and what He wants from us and for us that matters the most.

Overcome the obstacles of false opinions, seek wise counsel, and look to God above all else.  He is your confident source for all of life’s decisions.

God bless you.

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The Golden Rule

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31

This is the Golden Rule, as we call it today.  God’s people are to know how to treat people in any circumstance, whether the times are favorable or if they find themselves in times of adversity.  God’s people are to respond to situations and people in the same manner as Jesus did.

Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  The way we view things, people, and situations are to be filtered through thinking about how Jesus Himself would respond.  How did He handle the adversities He faced?  What was His attitude like toward those who mocked Him and so forth?  All in all, if we were to take inventory and compare our responses to that of Jesus, would they match up or even come close?

In order to be identified as a  Christian, after all, it means that we are of Christ, we are His followers, and we are Christ-minded.  If we’re not, can we truly call ourselves Christians?

The greatest commandments Jesus taught was this: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these,” (Mark 12:29-31, emphasis mine).  Loving people, and treating people as one would want to be treated is to be a priority for being a follower of Christ!  It is one of the greatest commandments and it cannot be ignored!

Today, where do you know you need to view others as Christ did and respond to them in love, with patience, and the courtesy of our Savior?

Most, if not all of us, may be a continual work in progress in this area.  People are not always kind, but we can choose to be kind.  People are not always loving, but because we want to represent our Savior well, we can, as He did, choose to be loving.  The choice is always up to us on how we treat those whom we interact with daily and the random strangers that come across our path.

May we love people well, no matter who they are.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Excerpt taken from Jesus Teaches His Followers

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“Be Progressive”

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward,” Exodus 14:15

Have you heard of the phrase “two steps forward, one step back?” What if we could erase that end part? What if we could subtract from the equation the minus one step? What would the total sum of one’s life be if all they ever did was progress? If all they ever did was to add without factoring in any negatives?

“Two steps forward, one step back.” It’s a phrase that I have used and I know you have, too. But in reality, I actually think that we get too comfortable with that kind of mentality. Everything is not always going to go off without a hitch, we know that.  And yes, we will face obstacles at times, but it’s almost as if we expect to move back every time we try to advance forward. We are factoring in a negative from the very beginning and any time doubt is introduced into one’s advancement in this way, that will almost always sabotage one’s progress, taking away from all that they have done and gone through to move forward. It can subtract from and overshadow the positive with that seemingly bigger negative.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are many hard trials and circumstances that everyone will face. I will not trivialize the hurt and disappointments that one may come across in their life. But what will happen, if while we are on this journey, we try our best to look beyond the circumstances that we are in and be determined to move forward toward the promise anyway? What if for once we could factor out the negatives of life instead of factoring them in? Despite the chariots and the enemies pursuing us, we could be more determined to pursue the goals that God has for us.

That is what I really believe God wanted the children of Israel to do here. To stop looking for reasons for not progressing.  To stop looking for obstacles. To stop making excuses for why they can’t get to where God wants them to go. He had a glorious destiny for them. God had already shown them many, many miracles that led up to their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Yet, as soon as a moment of adversity poked its head around the corner to spy on their progress, they stopped moving. Instead, they stayed in that unproductive state wallowing in self-pity: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11), they cried.

God has a better plan for you than to keep you still, wallowing in the wilderness, in a state of self-pity. That’s why He said, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” Stop crying about it and just go! Move! Make some progress! No more backward! It’s time to go on in Jesus’ name! To move it or lose it!

Looking at the stuff one has been through and the possibility of hardship ahead can be very discouraging, but press on anyhow! There is a promised land for you and me to reach. That alone is enough to urge you onward and upward. So, go ahead – be progressive today. Say within yourself, “I’m going to make it this time!”  No turning back!

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Nothing Random

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 Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor . . .” 1 Kings 22:34, NKJV

Random.  Coincidence.  Left to chance.  Not with God.  The Bible clearly tells us what the Lord speaks will accomplish its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  As told in Ezekiel 12:25, He says, “For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass . . .” (NKJV).

In the above verse, king Ahab had been warned.  A prophet by the name of Micaiah told him, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace’” (1 Kings 22:17, NKJV).  And previously Elijah prophesied, “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours” (1 Kings 21:19).  Yet, the warnings were ignored, and king Ahab entered the battle against Syria.

There, we see a bow drawn at “random” that hits an unbelievable target, in an unbelievable way, with unbelievable preciseness and accuracy.

Unbelievable?  Random?  I think not.

God will always accomplish what He has spoken.  The warnings may go unheeded but that will never negate the truth that if God said it is so, it is so.

Many false prophets in Ahab’s day stood and lied about the reality of the times they faced (1 Kings 22:21-23), and today, we witness many distortions of the truth.  Regardless of what one believes or says, what God says will happen, will happen, and nothing about it will be random.  With the same preciseness that allowed that arrow to hit its target, so too will the Word of God be fulfilled exactly.

What that means for us today is that we are to be even more earnest seekers of His Word, being all the more determined to follow what thus says the Lord.

In the days of Jesus, history unfolded before the people, and prophecies were fulfilled right before their eyes with extreme accuracy, and yet many people missed the message, the moving of God, the visitation of God (Luke 19:44).

Today, many more things are happening, and those things are happening exactly according to God’s Word.  Are we filling our hearts with the encouragements written within?  Are we heeding the present warnings and of the time to come?

What was prophesied for Ahab came to pass exactly as it was told: “So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria.  Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood . . .” (1 Kings 22:37-38, NKJV).

With God, nothing is random.  Nothing is left to chance.  All will come to pass.  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35, NKJV).

Don’t miss what God is saying today.

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The Grace of Now

Now is a powerful word, my friend. It speaks of the present moment. It tells the story of your today.

What is today saying? It is saying because you are here; because you are experiencing me, His grace is working in your now moment.

Oh, for feet that could travel to the past and remedy every wrong. But you and I have been given this gift of today. Along with this ability to go forth and enjoy this day, there is grace.

Grace. That beautiful five-lettered word that reminds me, I didn’t earn it anyway. I didn’t deserve it any more than I deserved this time to experience my now moment. But God gifted them both to me. And He gave them both to you, too.

Anything we think that we can add to the pot to suppose that we are counted worthy to receive this on our own, remember what His holy Word says: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Remember that God’s grace is poured out upon us and our day from the pure motive of love.

The grace of now says come and enjoy me, partake of me, walk in me, live in me, work in me, and be renewed in me.

As the Lord spoke to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) is He speaking those words to you today?  Whatever your “now” looks like, the grace of the Lord is still alive and active in this moment of today.

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Encourage!

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The main goal of a cheerleading organization is to raise the spirits of the fans and team members of the sport they are supporting.  As I look at this life, I realize there are others around you and me every day that could use some encouragement.  People who need their spirits raised.  Some whose lives need to be touched with a little something that will help see them through this day.

The old saying is true that you cannot judge a book by its cover.  People are like that also.  Day by day we walk through our normal routines.  Sometimes we come across different people.  Sometimes we see the same people each and every time.  In meeting people there’s one thing I have come to realize, you don’t have a clue of what one may be facing on the other side of that facade.

The face that is smiling at you may be at the point of giving up.  The one who is engaging you in polite conversation may have just suffered a hard blow financially.  Or, any others we may see or come across on a daily basis.  All we can do is look at what they show us.  Sometimes, what they don’t show is there are deeper issues they are dealing with.  While in the middle of those deep issues, what if they receive a word that renews, that makes them feel that everything is going to be okay in spite of what they are facing?  What if one act of kindness done for them helps to ensure them they are important too, no matter what the situation is telling them, and raises their spirits?

How would we order our day, our regular routines, if we treated everyone as if they were a mission field to receive kindness?  You could be the one that will help somebody else to make the decision that they will not throw in the towel.  They will not give up.  You and I can be that deciding factor!  You can be that spiritual cheerleader that brightens the heart and lift the spirits of those who may be having a hard time in life right now.

Oh, what joy!  We don’t have to know the total story of another.  All we have to do is try to treat everyone who crosses our path with respect and a willingness to radiate the goodness of God onto them.  Perhaps all we have to have is a kind word ready on the tongue to bless the life of another.  After all, the Bible does tell us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .” (Pro. 18:21).  There is power in the words we speak to others and in any encouragement we can give.

1 Thessalonians commands us to “edify one another.”  That word “edify” means to build up.  Or, as I like to say, to cheer on!  The things we do and say in life should make people feel encouraged.  It should inspire them to go on and not give up.  It should show them to Whom we belong.  “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another,” (Rom. 14:19).  It’s looking for ways to touch the life of another through encouragement.

Lift someone else today.  Send out a ray of sunshine from you to them.  Let them feel the warmth of the love of God in you.  Let them know that there is something special in them.  And, yes, make them feel that they matter.  Be an encourager today!  Be a spirit lifter!

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Open Your Heart . . .

Open your heart, dear Friend, open your heart.  There is a God in heaven and He is waiting for the doors to swing wide open that He may gain access.  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

He is a gentleman.  He will not force Himself upon you.  But with love, He beckons you to let Him in.  “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Draw near, dear Friend, draw near.  Do not let this moment pass you by.  He’s waiting on you, but as with any opportunity, the days are fleeting and time continues to move ahead.  “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Will you welcome Him, dear Friend, will you welcome Him.  “Behold, I stand at the door,” He says, “and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

The Bible says that restoration is waiting for those who are truly repentant.  “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Open your heart to God and let Him rain on you.  He will cause you to grow with new life.  “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5).  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

The precious gift awaits.  Open your heart, and receive Him for yourself.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

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“God Made Your Life Beautiful!”

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No matter what you have going on in your life today.
No matter how you feel.
No matter the lies that try to convince you otherwise.
No matter the tauntings to get you to give up.
No matter the adversity that speaks against your dreams.
No matter what this says . . .
And, no matter about that . . .
No matter what! God made your life BEAUTIFUL!

” . . . For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” – Psalm 139:14

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” – 1 Peter 2:9

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What Am I Giving?

Certain stories in the Bible humble me.  The story of the widow and her two mites being deposited in the offering is one of them.  While the affluent and the better-off gave a portion of what they had, this widow, she gave all.

Examining our lives, can we truly say that we have given God our all?  And I am not necessarily talking about money.  Our life, in general, is this huge opportunity to do something wonderful with our time on this earth.  Every day we have the chance to make something beautiful out of our days – to impact this generation and those around us with the love of God.  If we were to take an inventory of her mites and our portions, what would be the sum of what we have offered to our God?  As I read the words “she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (Luke 21:4), I couldn’t help but to stop and take a closer look at my life.

While the reference is clearly related to money, I still asked myself, what of my living?  What am I giving to God?

Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  As recipients of God’s grace, in our “reasonable service”, what are we happily rendering back to God?  What is our daily offering we bring to Him?

No, we are not saved by our works, but “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  No, we are not trying to work our way up the ladder of success of heaven, but we are in good company when our focus is on wanting to express our appreciation for all that God has done for us.  Even the psalmist once asked, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12).

Like the woman pouring out at the feet of Jesus, when we have received so much, it seems our natural inclination is to want to show much love and appreciation for all the Lord has done for us (Luke 7:47).

So, the psalmist continues: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.” (Psalm 116:13-14).

No, and with that, no, I mean, NEVER, can we repay God for this great work of salvation He has done in our lives.  But like the widow and the giving of all her two mites, I can show my love and joy to my heavenly Father in the daily offering of my life by how I choose to live and what I choose to give.

So, I ponder, what am I giving?

“I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good.” Psalm 54:6

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