dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

John 11-Why A Loving God Let’s Bad Things Happen

11:1-4.  Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…the sisters sent a message to Jesus right away about his illness.  But when Jesus heard the message, He said the illness was for “the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  God always has a purpose for our suffering.  His purposes never change–they are to display His glory and the power of Jesus.

11:5-16.  “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”  Jesus demonstrated His love for them in a unique way.  He kept them waiting for Him.  Now Jesus’ disciples were scared about returning to Judea to help Lazarus because the people there were in an uproar over Jesus and were trying to arrest and kill him.  Before they left, Jesus knew that Lazarus had died.  He told the disciples and said, “for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.”  Jesus was not glad that Lazarus had died, but He was glad about the plan because in the end it would strengthen His disciples’ faith.  They all left for Judea together at this news. Thinking they would all be martyred along the way, the disciples followed Christ anyway!

11:17-32 Two responses to Jesus’ arrival.  Martha heard that Jesus was close to town and she went to meet Him, while Mary remained.  Mary went to meet Him after being called to come.  She once again fell at His feet.  Both women called Jesus, “Lord.” And both women displayed their love for Christ through faith and obedience.

11:33-40 Jesus wept.  Jesus was deeply moved in His spirit.  Jesus was greatly troubled.  Ever felt like that?  Jesus sympathizes with us in all things.  He is a God of compassion, love and emotion.  Jesus was never glad over their pain.  He was only glad over the plan to show them the power of God.

11:41-44.  Jesus gave two commands, “Lazarus, come out!”  And he did. Jesus had authority over death!  He then said, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  In essence, take off the things that hold him back from living and the things that remind him that he was dead.  Jesus doesn’t just want to give new life; He wants to make us alive and free!

11:45-57 The Jewish leaders thought by putting Jesus to death it would save their nation from the jealousy and wrath of Rome.  But all of this unfolding plan was first and foremost God’s plan!  He was allowing one man–Jesus–to die to rescue and save all people from the true enemy and oppressor–Satan.

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John 10:22-42–Remember Deliverance

This section of verses starts out by giving us the setting:  “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.”

The Feast of Dedication is also called Hanukkah.  Although it is not a biblically mandated feast from the Old Testament, it is a significant holiday to the Jewish people for two reasons.  First, it is a celebration of deliverance of the Jewish people from the Seleucids and their Hellenistic ways.  Antiochus desecrated the Jewish temple with Greek gods and defiled all the belongings in the temple.  So the Maccabees went to battle for the Temple, for the Jewish people and for their God.  God graciously gave them victory and they began to restore the Temple.  Second, when it came time to relight the menorah there was only enough oil for one day.  God supernaturally extended the life of the oil for eight days until the new oil could be made.  “Because Hanukkah is a celebration of deliverance, it has also become a time to express messianic hope.” (God’s Appointed Times:  A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays, pg. 107-119)  Therefore it makes sense that the people’s anticipation for the coming Deliverer–Christ–Messiah would be heightened.  So they petitioned Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  The problem was He had been telling and demonstrating His Godhood consistently for about three years.  Yet, they refused to believe.  He finally said to them, “I and the Father are one.”  (Sounds a lot like the Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.)  Accusing Him of blasphemy, they picked up stones to kill Him.  

How many of us say we want a deliverer, but where the rubber meets the road, we doubt the power and person of Christ is what we really need?

Thinking back to the origination of the Feast of Dedication, I’m reminded that the temple was in disrepair and overcome with idols.  A deliverer came and restored the temple and restored worship.  In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we are told that our bodies are God’s temple.  Does my temple need restored? Is my heart defiled or overcome with idols?  Will I let God deliver me and restore me and make me a vessel of worship to Him?  Since God through Christ has delivered me, I am free to celebrate and feast in remembrance of all He has done!

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John 10:1-20 Who’s voice are you listening to?

Jesus is the only way to be saved.  Those who truly belong to God hear and recognize His voice-discerning His truth from the voices that try to distract, manipulate or deceive (3). They follow only His voice (4).  They know Him–not just about Him (14).  Jesus calls His own by name (3).  He leads us in for safety (pen) and out for satisfaction (pasture) (9).  He goes before us (4).  Jesus lays His life down to save and rescue His followers (11, 15, 17, 18).  He knows His own–not just about us–but has an intimate knowledge of us (14).

When we listen to anyone but Jesus, we are listening to His enemy.  The enemy promises life but delivers death.  The enemy promises satisfaction but delivers destruction.  He promises to give you all you’ve ever wanted, but he steals what you already have (1, 5, 8, 10a).

Jesus came to give you abundant life.  He is a GOOD shepherd (11).  He is a GOOD shepherd (11). He is a GOOD shepherd (14).  Psalm 23 teaches us what a GOOD shepherd does.

  1. He makes sure all our needs are met.
  2. He makes us rest.
  3. He satisfied our thirst and gives us peace.
  4. He restores our souls.
  5. He lead us on right paths.
  6. He removes fear and replaces with comfort.
  7. As we follow Him, we are followed with goodness and mercy.
  8. We have an eternal home with Him.

Am I listening to the voice of a stranger or am I fleeing from all voices except my Shepherd?  Do I recognize that all satisfaction and safety comes from following Him?  Do I take time daily to think about how GOOD He is?

Open to me the gates of righteousness that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.  This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.  I thank You that You have answered me and have become my salvation. Psalm 118:19-21

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John 9…Was Blind But Now I See

9:1-3 As He passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed IN him.”

The disciples addressed Jesus as “Rabbi” or teacher.  They wanted to learn something from him about sin and adverse circumstances.  Later we see that the blind man addressed Him as “Lord.” Jesus has an identity that is sufficient for any situation we face.

Jesus did not say that the man and his parents didn’t sin.  We all sin!  However, not all unfortunate conditions are discipline for sin, but all can be used to display God’s power.

Later in the passage we find out all this is happening on a Sabbath day–another Sabbath Day where Jesus is breaking the rules.  He is walking with His disciples, He is working and He’s asking others to work.  He worked by making mud out of saliva and made the blind man work by sending him to the pool to wash.  Jesus could have just spoken the healing and it would have happened instantaneously.  I think He chose to do it differently to make the point clear again that He is God, He has authority over creation, over circumstances, over sin and over the Sabbath.

9:8-9.  The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.”  He kept saying, “I am the man.”  Jesus restored the man’s sight; He didn’t change his appearance.  So why all the confusion?  When we encounter the transforming power of God, it makes a noticeable change in us that is evident to those around us.  It should cause them to question us and and want to know who and how the change came about.  That happens at conversion, and anytime that Jesus restores our joy or changes our sight!

9:34. They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?”  And they cast him out.  We are all born in “utter sin.”  Recognizing that truth and letting God change us gives us a message of hope and grace and power to share with others.  Those who don’t recognize their sinfulness don’t need God and have no real message to teach.

9:35-38.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have SEEN him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  Jesus gave the man his physical sight, then He gave him spiritual sight.

Jesus loves to take someone who has a sinful reputation and transform them into a bold worshiper.  I know because He did it for me.  Only Jesus has the power to overcome sin–our sin and the sinful families we are born into.

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John 8:39-59 Like Abraham

Jesus told the crowd, “If you were like Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.”   Just off the top of my head, here are a few things Abraham was known for:

  1. Recognizing the voice/call of God and following in obedience, no matter the location or the personal cost.
  2. Being willing to offer to sacrifice anything–even his only son–to God because He had first place in Abraham’s life.
  3. Truly believing the promises of God and believing God could do the impossible.
  4. Interceding for God’s mercy in others lives.

Also from these verses we see more marks of someone who may say they believe in God, but don’t really know Him.

  1. Don’t love Jesus
  2. Can’t bear to hear the words of Jesus (truth)
  3. Tell lies, believe lies, and have evil desires.

It is a great danger for people to think they are okay spiritually, but not really have the truth.  There is one only truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ.

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John 8:12-38 Light, Love and Law

LIGHT

Jesus said in verse 12, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever FOLLOWS me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  When we follow Christ there are no shadows; their is no fear of the dark.  It reminds me of when I was little (who am I kidding, I still do this!) and I had to come up from the basement.  I would shut the light off and start to head to the steps slowly, then a little faster, then a little faster.  Eventually, I would fix my eyes on the light at the top of the steps and run to safety!  When I am riddled with fears or confusion or enslaved to sinful habits, I need to get to Jesus–the Light of the World!

LAW

In verse 17, Jesus starts with the phrase, “In YOUR law…”  The Law (not governing laws but moral laws) was made for the people.  Jesus has no need of the Law–He is completely righteous and can only do right!

LOVE

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  Jesus is the only hope.  Without Him we are dead in our sins, separated from the Father.  Jesus only did what pleased the Father always, so the Father was always with Him and never left Him alone.  When Jesus took our sins on Himself; then He was momentarily forsaken by the Father–completely alone. 

Although when we believe in Christ all our sins are taken away and the Father sees Christ’s righteousness on our behalf, when we don’t live in a way pleasing to the Father He seems far away.  I can remember a time (no judging allowed) when I came home drunk and my parents were waiting up for me.  The next day I avoided my dad because I knew what I did was not right and that he was probably disappointed.  He never went away from me–he was right there, but I put a wall up.  Confession by me and love from him tore it down!  It is the same way with God.  When we live in a way that is pleasing to Him out of our love for Him, we are never alone.  When we choose to live on our own terms, He feels far away.

MORE ABOUT THE LAW

If I want to live a life pleasing to the Father, I need to follow Christ’s example.  The people following the Law didn’t please God–they didn’t even know God (verse 19).  Following a set of rules leads to bondage, rigidity, emotional detachment, pride, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, or despair, self-loathing and bitterness.  Following Christ leads to life, love, light, freedom and grace.

How do we follow Christ?  Abide in His Word! (31)  The Word teaches us truth and sets us free.

I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32

 

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John 7:53-8:11 Men Caught in Sin…Woman Caught in Grace

The heading of this portion of history is always “Woman Caught in Adultery,” but I think it should be retitled, “Men Caught in Sin; Woman Caught in Grace.”  So many things come to mind as I read this story.  Hopefully it will not result in a total ADD post.

“They went each to his own house, BUT JESUS went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple.” (John 7:53-8:2a)  Everyone had someone–a family–to go home to.  Jesus was alone with no home.  The Mount of Olives is the closest place to home for Him.  I researched the other places in Scripture that mention the Mount of Olives and came up with quite a list:

  1. King David ascended the mount weeping after he heard the news of his son, Absolom’s, conspiracy.  The messenger said, “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absolom.”  I wonder if Jesus felt that way climbing the mount that night: that His people had believed a conspiracy and followed after His enemy.
  2. In Ezekiel 11:23 it says the glory of the Lord departed from the temple and rose up on the Mount of Olives.
  3. Zechariah 14:4 says that the Lord will come to restore Jerusalem standing on the Mt. of Olives.
  4. Jesus ascended into heaven from the mount in Acts 1:9, and Acts 1:11 says He will return the same way.
  5. The Mount is where the triumphal entry began in Matthew 21.
  6. It was a place where he taught privately and rested (Matthew 24).
  7. Jesus and the disciples went their after the last supper (Matthew 26).
  8. Luke 22 says that it was Jesus’ custom to go the Mount of Olives.  It was there that He sweat drops of blood in prayer for the Father’s will before His death. 
  9. Luke 21:37 says that Jesus lodged on the Mount of Olives.

When he came back down in the morning–He came ready to teach in the Temple, prepared to overcome the conspiracy that was about to ensue.

The scribes and pharisees had caught a woman IN THE ACT of adultery.  Several questions rush to mind:  Where was the man?  Did they give her time to get dressed? What would it feel like to be brought into the temple in front of Jesus directly from those circumstances?  What if the most immoral action or thought we had was brought to light in the middle of our church? (We’ll come back to that…)  The religious leaders wanted Jesus to give permission to have the woman stoned for her sinfulness.  If He said yes, they could call His grace a lie and say He came to condemn.  If He said no, they would say He was blaspheming the Law.

Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger–there are many opinions on what He wrote, but unfortunately God didn’t tell us so they are just opinions-not truth.  Whatever it was, it probably went with His comment, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Ouch!  They were accusing her of adultery, but their hearts were full of murderous plans toward Christ.  Obviously, they had all broken commandments, just like you and I.

The woman was brought before Jesus in ridicule and shame, but she left covered in His grace.  What the scribes and pharisees meant for harm, God meant for good.  She did not get what she deserved, but she got exactly what she needed.  Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save!

Why do I think she was saved in that moment?  She responded to Jesus as “Lord.”  Anyone who confesses Jesus as Lord will be saved! (Romans 10:9, Acts 16:30-31)

Back to the thought of our darkest sins being uncovered in church…  I’m sure it was painful to be brought into that place, in front of those people, carrying that shame and disgrace. But Christ gave her grace and kindness.  We are all immoral people.  We try to mask it, hide it and not get caught.  The truth is we are in no shape to condemn each other, and it is in uncovering our sin that we find freedom and grace.  My prayer is that our churches would be places where people experience the love and grace of Jesus, not condemnation.  It is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It is repentance (exposing our sin and turning from it) that leads to salvation, and it is salvation that leads to a life without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Lord, thank you that you brought me to a place of vulnerability and brokenness before you.  Thank you that you covered my sin with your grace and righteousness.  Thank you that I’ve been set free, that I don’t have to hide from you or be ashamed anymore!  Thank you for saving me!

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John 7 – Thirst Quenching Truth

Strap on your reading glasses and prepare to be amazed by the perfect timing and planning of our great God!

Jesus was under constant opposition:

  1. In Judea people were seeking to kill Him (1).
  2. His brothers wanted Him to put on a “magic show” (3-4).
  3. His brothers did not believe in Him (5).
  4. The world hated Him because He testified to the evil in it (7).
  5. Jews at the Feast were muttering about Him (12,32).
  6. Jesus’–the creator of the mind, wisdom and all things–authority and knowledge is questioned by man (15).
  7. The crowd accuses Him of being demon-possessed (20).
  8. Many were seeking to arrest Him (30,44).

Yet Jesus fearlessly and boldly spoke the truth.  That’s grace!  He could have said, “I’m done with you people!” and walked away.  But He continued on, according to the Father’s will, for those who would believe that He came to save them.  We see, too, in verse 18 the difference between speaking on one’s own authority for one’s own glory and the One who spoke by the authority of God for God’s glory.  The first can be characterized by lying, exaggerating, selfish motives and a prideful heart.  But the second comes with powerful truth and is usually accompanied with persecution and rejection.

This whole chapter took place during the Feast of Booths–Sukkot.  In the book God’s Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays by Barney Kasdan, we get a detailed history of those holy days and the significance to Jesus’ message in this chapter of John.  According to Leviticus 23:33-34 Sukkot had three main parts: the Jews rejoiced before the Lord for seven days; they were to offer daily burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices, and drink offerings; and they built temporary booths to stay in commemorating the years in the wilderness when God dwelt among them and faithfully protected and provided for them after their exodus from slavery in Egypt.

One of the traditional practices of Sukkot is to wrap “The Four Species” together and wave them.  Here is a list of the species and their spiritual significance:

  1. Citron-a fruit that tastes and smells sweet (people with knowledge and good deeds)
  2. Date palm branches-tastes sweet, but has not fragrance (have knowledge without good deeds)
  3. Myrtle-No taste, but smells fragrant (those with no knowledge, but are morally “good”)
  4. Willow-no taste and no fragrance (one who lacks knowledge and deeds)

This sounds like a mix of the people in John 7 and a mix of the people in our own present day churches.

But here’s my favorite Sukkot tradition!

A priest would take a water pitcher down to the Pool of Siloam, dip it in the water and carry it back to the Temple. Crowds of people would form a  huge processional behind the priest,dancing, singing, and chanting the Hallel Psalms (113-118) as they entered the Temple mount.  For each of the first six days of Sukkot, the processional would circle the Temple altar one time, and on the seventh day (Hoshana Rabbah) there would be seven processionals to magnify the joy.

The highlight of the ceremony came when the priest dramatically poured the water at the altar of the Temple.  The response of the multitudes was so immense that the Talmud says whoever has not been in Jerusalem for this ceremony has not even experienced real joy!  Hence, it became known as Simbcha Bet Ha-sho-evah (the Rejoicing of the House of Drawing Water).

 

Why all the rejoicing at this water pouring ceremony?  (It) speaks of deeper truths from Isaiah 12:3 in regard to the ceremony:  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Salvation in Hebrew is yeshua, the name of the Messiah).

John 7:37-39 says, ON THE LAST DAY OF THE FEAST, THE GREAT DAY, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of this heart will flow rivers of living water’.”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Jesus is the Savior–the Messiah!  He came to bring salvation!  He came to dwell with His people!  Then He returned to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell IN His people!  God’s Spirit dwells in me!  God’s Spirit dwells in ALL who believe in Jesus!  And the Holy Spirit doesn’t just dwell–He fills and overflows us with living water!  That is good news to a barren and dry heart!

Lord, forgive me for behaving like a willow!  Make me like a citron by the power of your Holy Spirit who teaches knowledge, refreshes my heart and produces fragrant fruit in my life.  Fill me with Your living water so that I can spill out on others your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!  All Your ways are perfect!  Your timing is impeccable! You are my Savior! You quench my thirst! In Jesus’ holy name, Amen!

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John 6:22-71 Bread and Belief

This passage makes for interesting reading–especially if you try to put yourself in the crowd as you read.  

Notes on Verses 22-36:

God gives bread:  He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness, He multiplied the loaves at the feeding of the 5,000 and He gave Jesus-the Bread of Life.

God fulfills our needs and sustains our life.  Everything is from Him!  To be disgruntled about the gifts is offensive to the Giver.  Am I offending God in any way by being discontent or ungrateful?

Notes on verses 37-47:

Jesus came to the Father’s will; not His own.  What is the Father’s will?

  1. That all who come to Christ will never be cast away or be lost (37-39).
  2. That everyone who looks to and believes in Jesus will have eternal life (40).

How does that happen?

  1. We are drawn to Jesus by the Father.
  2. We come to Jesus and look on Him–His perfection and His sacrifice.
  3. We believe that Jesus is God, came from the Father, and that His sacrificed life and shed blood is all we need to be satisfied and to receive eternal life.

Notes of verses 48-71:

Jesus taught a hard truth, that unless we eat his flesh, feed on His flesh and drink His blood we cannot have eternal life.  Sounds a little vampire/cannibal-esque.  But Jesus did not men it literally.  No one by drinking blood will live forever.  

When we eat something it is because: a. We need it for survival. b. It is good. c. We are hungry.  Am I “hungry” for more of JEsus?  Do I believe He is my strength for living?  Do I taste His goodness?  Or do I take offense at the thought that Jesus alone satisfies and sustains?  Do I walk away from Him in search of other things to satisfy me?

Lord, let me say to Jesus like Peter, “Where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.  I believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”

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John 6:1-21 Importance of Asking

This is my fourth time meditating on Jesus feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children.  Even as I started to read, I thought, only God can give me something fresh from this–so that’s what I asked of Him.  Asking God is really important.  When situations arise that are seemingly impossible, overwhelming and out of our control, they tend to lead to fear and anxiety and fretting.  That is what happened with the disciples.

In John 6:5-6 Jesus asked Philip how they could feed so many people as a test.  Jesus “himself knew what he would do.”  Jesus is never caught off guard, never surprised.  In Isaiah 65:24 it says, “Before they call I will answer!”  My problem–and the disciples,too–is that I am not an asker.  I fret, I manipulate, I plan.  I have a hard time saying, “I don’t know how to do this, will you help?”  That’s really all Philip had to say when Jesus asked him how to feed so many.

A simple boy gave all he had to Jesus–5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Jesus thanked the Father for it.  Sometimes I think I would be more prone to be grateful after the miracle, after seeing the leftovers.  Jesus was thankful for just the little gift provided and the anticipation of something great.

I think verse 10 might be my favorite.  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  NOW THERE WAS MUCH GRASS IN THE PLACE.  Jesus is the one who created grass from nothing and made it reproduce abundantly just for the people to have a nice place to sit!  He is a generous and lavish provider!

In the end, the people said, “Surely this is the Prophet!…and were about to take him by force to make him king.”  They recognized Jesus.  Do I see provision and abundance as coming from God?  Do I recognize that He alone is capable of giving everything I need and He is the one giving?  But more importantly than wanting Him as my King for all He provides, is wanting Him to be King of my whole life, because of Who He is!

Jesus slipped away by himself then and the disciples set out on the sea by boat at dark.  The sea became rough due to a strong wind.  They didn’t call out to Jesus and ask for help–maybe because He seemed too far away.  But Jesus came anyway.  He dispelled their fear and took them safely to their destination.  Life apart from Christ is filled with darkness, uncertainty and fear.  When Christ comes, He brings peace and direction.

In both instances, Jesus provided what they needed even without them asking.  I was thinking about it through the afternoon though and thought that asking is better.  I would rather humble myself and ask for help, acknowledging I need it, and see help come from God.  For me it would raise my gratitude.  Humility leads to gratitude.  Pride leads to shame.  

While reading The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, we were at the part when Aslan sent Digory and Polly on a long journey to get one fruit seed to bring back to Narnia to protect the land and inhabitants from the Witch.  He sent them on a flying horse, but did not send along any provisions.

“Well I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.

“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse. “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”

When I don’t know what God wants me to learn from His Word–I need to ask Him.  When God puts before me a service opportunity that seems impossible–ask Him how to do it.  When I’m in the middle of a dark and fearful situation–ask Him to draw near and take me safely through it.

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