“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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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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Your Amazing IF

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IF has been around since the beginning of humanity.  IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question.  But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith?  What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.

One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed.  IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ.  Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33).  After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).

I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE.  Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset.  He believed in Jesus.  He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible.  He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.

Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends.  Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat.  Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here.  I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place.  Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.

We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also?  You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful.  But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.

The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason.  In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?”  We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.

Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week?  What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF?  I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter.  Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.

Is Jesus calling you to walk on water?  Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF?  If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.

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“Unwrapping Your Gifts!”

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Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s a special peace and happiness in the air as we come together with friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior.  We get together to laugh, eat and enjoy one another’s company.  Then, we have the privilege to exchange gifts that show the love we carry for each other all throughout the year.

Gifts, by definition, are something given voluntarily.  I love you, and because I love you, you don’t have to twist my arm to make me show adoration towards you.  I do it of my own will, without prompting, because you mean that much to me.

That’s what makes this time of year so special.  (After all, it was God’s biggest gift to humanity that gives us cause for celebrating in the first place.)  It’s not the big dinners, twinkling lights, or the carols (though we enjoy it all).  It’s the love and adoration shown when gifts are given and opened with a rejoicing heart.

We go through much trouble to find and carefully select that perfect gift for that special someone.  I mean, you just know in your heart that they are going to love it and you can’t wait for them to rip off that wrapping paper, rejoice with gladness over the special way you thought about them, and immediately start using that gift you gave.

Now, consider this.  What if, when you gave your gift of love, they toss it to the side in disregard saying, “I’ll get to it when I get to it?”  You would be so crushed, hurt, and disappointed over their uncaring way of receiving your gift.

What if God feels the same way?  Not only did He give us THE BEST GIFT that we could never live without (His Son, JESUS), but in our relationship with Him, we have been freely given many other gifts.  Not only is a gift something given voluntarily, but it is also a special ability or capacity; a special talent to be used for the edifying of Himself through you.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus told the parable of the talents.  One man was given five, one was called to receive two and another received one.  What is ironic is that the two to whom the most talents were given increased and prospered one hundred percent.  Now, we would think their master was unfair in expecting so much from them.  After all, he did give them more responsibilities than the other.

Through perseverance and diligent work, not only did they gain a little but they doubled what they started with.  Sadly, the one who was only given one responsibility, only one job, one talent let fear stop him from increasing and prosperity.  He said, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine,” (Matthew 25:25).  Instead of being made a ruler, he was made a disgrace.  Instead of living with abundance, he was deemed unprofitable and cast into outer darkness (vs. 30).

Living a life of unprofitableness is living a life of darkness.  There’s no joy or peace, only weeping.  This is not the life that God intended for us to live.  The special stuff that God put on the inside of you and me was never meant to be buried and hidden from the world.  We are meant to shine as a beacon of light into this dim, dark world and show them who God is and what He wants to do for all mankind through the abilities, gifts, and talents He has put in us.

What you have in you is too good to hide.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” (vs. 29).  To some, this may seem like an unfair statement, thinking, Why do they get more when they already have some?  And, why are they going to take his little bit of stuff away?

Instead of questioning and overanalyzing the story, perhaps our time would be better spent if we were to pull out our own shovels and start digging.  Dig for your talent.  Unearth it from deep within and don’t give up until you have pulled out every treasure that God has put in you.  If when you pull your treasure up, it turns out to be only one thing, then, you work that one thing with hard-pressing diligence until it has increased and doubled to two.  Then, you work some more until that two doubles to four and so on.

‘Tis the season for opening gifts.  God has already given them to you.  Don’t let fear stop you from unwrapping them.  God took great care in picking out the perfect gift for you and He can’t wait for you to rip off the wrapping paper and begin to use it.  God gave it to you because you mean a lot to Him and He knows that you would be great in using it.

Don’t toss it aside.  Whether your gift is humble or outrageous, open it and bring it to the Savior!  You may be surprised at what you find.

We have just a little ways to go before we celebrate the best gift ever: JESUS!  Soon after that, we will be bringing in a New Year.  What better time to unwrap all that good stuff God has placed in you?

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, always thanking God in advance for the greatest gift of His Son, our Savior, JESUS CHRIST!

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Navigating the Days

Friends, this day is a day that we have never seen before.  As each day progresses into the new, we all walk on unfamiliar ground.  As we walk the paths that lead into each day, we never fully know entering in what its end will be.  We never fully understand what will happen on the road ahead as we put our feet to walking forward.

But we are here, dear friend.  We are at the beginning of a new day and already there is not lacking things that demand our attention, or things that stir up friction, trying to disturb the walk for the day before the day itself has fully begun.

How can we make the best out of these days if we have never navigated them before?

As God was preparing the Israelites for the conquest of the Promised Land, He gave Joshua, their new leader, incredibly detailed instructions on their going into this new territory.  He said,

“When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore,” (Joshua 3:3-4). 

Their story is such a great symbol of our daily living.  Each day we enter is new to us: “You have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4, NKJV).

The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence among His people.  The instructions were for them to leave enough space between it and them so that they could properly see it, follow it, and know which way to go.

God stood as their ultimate guide for going into the new, and He stands as our guide, too.

How many attempts are made daily of entering this fresh territory called today without proper guidance?  Without connecting our eyes and hearts with the One who knows our days before we do?

Every day, as we are entering in, we need to look to God.  We need to get connected to where He is leading, and then we need to follow His lead.

As the clock ticks on, and the hours go by, the days and years come and go – every single day that we open our eyes in the land of the living is new to us.  To make the most out of each day, to successfully navigate this day, we need to focus on Him who has gone before us.

Take comfort, dear friend, that you are not navigating the days alone.  As He once told the Children of Israel: “… he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8), I believe if we look to God, and follow His lead, we can be encouraged by the same promise.  Instead of being dismayed by what is ahead, we can find joy because our God has gone before us, and daily His presence is with us (Hebrews 13:5).

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“Wisdom is Better!”

“Wisdom is better,” is what I read twice during my devotional reading.  In Ecclesiastes 9:16, 18.  In verse 16 it states that “wisdom is better than strength” and in verse 18 it states that “wisdom is better than weapons of war.”  This had me thinking, how often do we resort to strength and weapons before choosing wisdom to fight the struggles in life?

Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose author is God?  Many of life’s mistakes are made from rash human impulses instead of the patient endurance of wisdom that God provides.  Christians especially are admonished to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Wisdom is better!”  James 1:5 gives us the key to finding this wisdom to help with life’s choices.  He said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be give him.”  God will freely supply for the heart that seeks wisdom rather than the harried messes of one’s own way.

Today, choose wisdom.  It’s always the better option.

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The Prayers of the Saints

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Oh, my friend, do not think within yourself that your prayers do not matter.  Don’t let the thought enter your mind, saying, “What’s the point.”  The point is your prayers are very special to your King.  He loves to hear the words and petitions that flow from your heart and mouth.  His ears are opened, listening for His beloved ones who wills to communicate with Him.

Your prayers are so special before God Almighty.  Only the enemy wants you to look away from that blessed throne.  Only those who don’t want the best for you wish to turn you from believing your prayers matter.

God loves when your heart is bowed before Him.  He loves the utterances that are spoken from your lips to His hears.  You are His child.  He loves you and wants to hear from you daily.

Give yourself permission to release all that’s inside at His holy feet.  Let your prayers rise as a sweet-smelling savour before He who loves you more than you’ll ever know.

Your prayers are precious to God now, and in that time to come.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3,4

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

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In the will of God

“But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” Jonah 1:4

Are the winds blowing?  Has a tempest howled at your door?  Do you feel like your ship is bring broken and your world falling apart?

Have you stayed the course?  Have you allowed your sails to be set in another direction from His calling?  Have you gotten on board with a plan that is not God’s best plan for your life?

There is only one solution.  Reunite yourself with God’s will for your life.  Step back onto the path He has chosen for you to walk.  It may not always be easy, and the way may be unclear to us, but when we are where God want us to be, doing what God wants us to do, we are in the best place possible.

Following, when we don’t know all the specifics, is not always easy but the Bible encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6).  But you must be willing to go where He directs.

Jonah fled and when his plan began to break around him, he ended up in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1:17).  If your plan is breaking apart, make sure your plan is falling in line with God’s plan for your life.

God’s ways are perfect and right.  He wants to see a good end come from even the worst of circumstances (Jeremiah 29:11).  But we can never see the fulfilling of it if we are determined to board our own boat and go our own way.

In the will of God is where we’ll find safety and refuge.  In the will of God is where His best plan for us becomes the best part of our story.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  God will instruct you in the best way to go.

Psalm 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  When we delight in God’s will, God delights in us.

Proverbs 19:21 “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”  It is God’s will that will always stand.  Don’t fight it.

Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”  God knows how to get to the best ending out of your life.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Seek God’s kingdom/His will first and everything else will fall into place.

John 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”  Those who truly seek after His will, will know His will.  God doesn’t play hide and seek with His people.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Following God’s will, even when we don’t understand, will always work out according to His purpose.

Father God, I don’t pretend to know everything.  The things that are happening and the things I don’t understand may perplex me, but nothing is out of the reach of Your Sovereign hand.  Thank You, for Your faithfulness in my life.  Thank You, for the daily new mercies.  Thank You, that You have not given up on me, rather daily, You help me in the way I should go.  Forgive me for the times when I went the wrong way.  Help me to stay where You want me to stay and do what You want me to do.  In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.

If you have found yourself out of the will of God, use today to start again.  Today can be a day of renewal for you.  Today, you can have a fresh start.

“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” Jonah 2:7-9

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God: The Main Character

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Reading through the pages of the Bible, therein it tells the best story ever known to man.  One of love and forgiveness.  One of hurt and healing.  One of ultimate redemption that was strong enough to secure love forever.

As with any good story, there is the main character.  The one who takes the forefront of the overall picture.  The one, who, even if they are not mentioned by name during a particular episode, is still seen in the spirit of or behind the scenes of the whole story.

The Bible is the truest story of them all.  Be careful when reading it that you do not categorize it as just another good read even though, yes, it’s good.  When going through its pages, please do not view it simply as an ancient text, historical matter, or worse, a fictitious fable.  The Bible is the most real book one could ever read, and the story that lives in its pages is just as relevant today as it was when it was being lived, experienced, and penned.

The Bible is the only living book there is whose words are ever planting themselves in your life and revealing things about your life if you let it.

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And, just like any good story you read (again, we are to remember the realness of the Bible, and we are not to take it as a mere story), there is the main character.

Although many lives are revealed in its pages, and many stories are shared, the main character is there, in every story, on every page, revealing Himself in every one.

The main character of the Bible is, of course, God Himself (and I even hesitate to categorize Him in such life because His ultimate holiness demands so much more).

From the beginning to the end of its writing, God is there in every story.  The Bible is all about Him.  His creation.  His love.  His forgiveness.  His plan of salvation for humanity.  His heavenly abode.  His, everything!

In the very first chapter alone, God is mentioned by name thirty-one times.  In every page and every historical tale from there until the end, God is present in the pages even when you don’t see Him mentioned by name, for “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16).

So, why is it important to understand God as the main character of the Bible?  The answer is, many approach the reading of the Bible as just another book (which, as I stated earlier, clearly it’s not).

Everything written in the Bible is serious business.  The Bible is a Holy Book.  The main character, our God, is a holy God (1 Peter 1:16), and that is not to be taken lightly.  One must recognize that when they are opening those pages to read or study, they are opening to read about His will and His plan for all of humanity, not just a select few.

We must reverence God as we read through those pages.  We must never haphazardly approach those pages.  All of history written within, from the “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1) to the final “Amen” (Revelation 22:21), is His story.

And His story is beautiful if you treat it as the treasure it truly is – if you treat Him as the treasure He is.  Your life will be so much better when you get to know the main character, when you get to, intimately and personally, know God for yourself.

Read His story.  See Him in the pages.  As your eyes read over the words written on that paper, let them come alive in your life.  Hear what He has to say to you amid it all.

Do you know the main character of the Bible?  Read His story, be inspired, and let His words change your life.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.” – 1 Kings 18:39

“For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.” – Psalm 22:28

“For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” – Psalm 95:3

“But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king…” – Jeremiah 10:10

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6), and I say with them, Hallelujah!  For the Lord God reigns!  The main character of the Bible reigns forever and ever.  Get to know Him for yourself.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

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“Will I Be Worthy?”

Will I be worthy - pagemodo pic

Will I be worthy

in that day

when the clouds part

shining redemptive rays?

 

Will I be worthy

before the Son

rising with the saints

together as one?

 

Will I be worthy

to gain a crown,

with robes of righteousness

as my dressing gown?

 

Will I be worthy

to bask in that glory

when the books are opened

exposing my story?

 

Will I be worthy

to hear, “Well done;”

to enter for eternity

where’s there’s no need for sun?

 

Will I be worthy?

The answer is, “No,”

if on my own accord

I try to go.

 

My own works cannot mark me as good,

but if on Christ’s sacrifice I have stood;

my unworthy, sinful, scarlet state

counts me as worthy, by His grace.

 “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,

and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11