dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

Abundant Goodness, Steadfast Love, Undeserved Mercy

Oh, how abundant is Your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in You. (Psalm 31:19)

If we want to experience God’s lavish, extravagant, abundant goodness, we must run to Him when we are faced with trouble. To fear the Lord means to trust Him whole-heartedly and to stand in awe of His greatness.   It’s important to note that those who fear the Lord are not exempt from trouble, but have a refuge strong and sure; a good God who supports, protects and shelters them.

Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.  I had said in my alarm (panic, haste), “I am cut off from your sight.” BUT YOU heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. (Psalm 31:21-22)

David was under attack and his initial response was based on dread, distrust, deception, and disappointment.  (I feel you, David!)  But when David responded correctly with a plea for mercy and a cry for help; GOD HEARD! The Lord knows we are made of flesh–that we are weak-willed and self-trusting.  Yet, He quickly reveals His steadfast love and undeserved mercy when we call for help.

Is there a trial you are facing that you haven’t called out to God for help?  He will hear your plea. He will mercifully shelter you, lavish goodness on you, and show His steadfast love to you.

If you have experienced the steadfast love of the Lord, have you praised Him for it?

Have you encouraged others with His abundant goodness and steadfast love?  Verses 23-24 say, “Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!”

Isn’t it interesting that we have to remind each other to love the Lord?  Trials and attacks can be overwhelming.  Disappointment that evil seems to be winning can take root in our hearts.  Fear can be blinding.  Sometimes we miss–overlook–God’s goodness, love and mercy.  The next thing we know, we are wallowing instead of worshiping; grumbling instead of grateful; fearful instead of free; listing off our grievances instead of loving. LOVE THE LORD for His goodness and for his justice.  BE FAITHFUL!  BE HUMBLE! BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! BE HOPEFUL!

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 10)

As the Israelites were wrapping up their prayer, praising God for His faithful mercies in light of the previous generations’ rebelliousness, they committed to doing it differently!  How many of us have thought, “This is where my parent’s messed up, and I’m not going to do that!”?  Or how many of us, after realizing we have messed up put restrictions on ourselves to protect us from doing it again?  After stuffing ourselves at holiday dinners, my cousin and I would make a diet plan.  We made a strict food and exercise regiment.  We had great intentions, were very serious about our commitment, and promised to hold one another accountable.  Then our grandpa would come in and offer us big bowls of ice cream with chocolate syrup and nuts.  Our response was always the same: “Our diet starts tomorrow!”  All our good intentions and accountability went out the window.

At first read, this chapter sounds really good, but after evaluation it seems the Israelites are making a dangerous decision that could be setting them up to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.  Revival came and the people were excited afresh about the Lord and His ways.  So they collectively made a covenant with Him:

  • WE WILL NOT give our daughters to godless, foreigners as wives or take their daughters for our sons.
  • WE WILL NOT do business on the Sabbath or Holy Days.
  • WE WILL let the land rest and cancel all debts every seven years.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to pay the temple tax.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to bring the firstborn and firstfruits of everything to the temple.
  • WE WILL NOT neglect the house of our God.

Think about it, all of those promises require a great measure of dependence on God to provide.  But they are humans, and humans tend to give up on God and try to provide for themselves over and over again.  Covenants are good, and they reveal a heart that wants to change and walk in step with the Lord, but very seldom are people capable of keeping spiritual covenants.  There is only ONE Covenant-Keeper and He already knows we will fall short, yet He remains faithful and unchanging.

I don’t know why after experiencing God’s powerful grace and mercy God’s followers are so quick to make a list of rules.  When we gratefully rest in His grace, love Him with all our heart, and let Him live through us, obedience is a natural outflow.  As He changes our hearts, our desires and perspectives shift.  We want to be pure and generous, but we need Him to do it.  Our “wills” and “will nots” and obligatory obedience can only go so far.  Then guess what?  We call out for God’s grace and mercy when we fall short, and He gives it again!  From generation to generation, He is the same!  (And unfortunately so are we.)

Lord, are there any ways I’m trying to live for you in my own strength? Is my desire to live for You rooted in love?

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 9:6-38) Part 3

In my last post, I wrote about the power of God’s Word to move us to repentance, but it also moves us to worship.  As the Israelites praised the Lord for His faithfulness throughout their rebellious past, they were moved by His steadfastness and constancy, which led them to more confession and to commitment.  Our past is an invaluable part of worship because it documents when and where we experienced the presence and character of God in our lives.  I’d like to look quickly at the Israelites, then make it a little more personal.  The Bible is just words on a page, if we don’t let them into our own lives and hearts.

The Israelites started their worship by expressing praise for the power of God to free their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and to continuously provide for and care for them in the wilderness between slavery and the Promised Land. Verse 16 begins with a fretful phrase, “But they…”  The people acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey God.  They were not mindful of the wonders God performed on their behalf.  Halfway through verse 17 we see a faithful phrase, “But You…”  They acknowledged God’s character in the midst of the disobedience–His readiness to forgive, His grace and mercy, His slowness to anger and His abounding steadfast love.

Next their prayer recounts the time their ancestors made a golden calf in the wilderness to worship and claimed, “This is your god.”  And yet God did not forsake them.  He continued to lead and feed them, kept giving, sustaining, and blessing them in spite of their idolatry.

God gave them victories over enemies, allowed them to take over land, bear many children, gave them ease and abundant goodness, and in spite of it, they were disobedient and rebelled again.  God in love and mercy disciplined them so they would call out to Him and recognize Him as their only help and hope. He delivered them out of self-inflicted oppression again.  Verse 28 says, “Many times you delivered them according to your mercies.”  And verse 30 says, “Many years you bore with them.”  God is so patient and faithful!  He waits for years for us to “get it.”

Then the prayer of praise ends with a new acknowledgement: Behold we are slaves to this day…because of our sins…we are in great distress.

Last night God graciously and painfully gave me a look at my rebellious past.  The ugliness and depravity of disobedience was freshly magnified.  This really served to amplify His grace, mercy and protection and intensify my gratitude that He was willing to save me, make me His daughter, and prepare a life for me that is far beyond what I deserve.  Yet several years into this new life, marriage, motherhood and ministry, I found myself discontent, ungrateful, angry, bitter, disobedient, stiff-necked and rebellious again.  In His great mercy, He let me put myself back into slavery to my flesh until it broke me and made me call out to Him.  Because of His unfailing love, He never forsook me but bore with me and delivered me…again!  And even this morning, I’ve found my soul to be in great distress because the sins of selfishness and ingratitude have made me a slave once more.  Once again, I appealed to His mercy and grace, His undeserved faithfulness and steadfast love to set me free from myself!  And He did it again!  “Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.  You are the LORD, You alone.”

God faithfully uses His timeless, eternal Word to lead His people to confession and worship from generation to generation.  He’s awesome!

Time for a revived heart dance party!

http://youtu.be/C2epMyZv5ME Create in Me by Rend Collective

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Hey Jude! Them ~ You ~ Him!

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are CALLED, BELOVED in God the Father and KEPT by Jesus Christ:  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (vs. 1-2)

  • Jude was a 1/2 brother of Jesus, yet refers to himself as His servant.  Jesus was more than a brother to Jude; He was His Savior and Lord.
  • This salutation goes on to say that those who have been called by God are loved by Him and kept safe by Jesus.  It is only the power of God that calls us and keeps us until we see Him face-to-face.
  • Jude speaks a blessing of mercy, peace and love to be multiplied in the lives of his readers.  What a wonderful blessing!  Is there anything better that we should want for each other?

THEM

Jude goes on to warn of ungodly people who slip quietly into churches and start perverting God’s grace by promoting selfish living.  God’s wrath and judgment result in punishment for ungodly people.  Jude reminds his readers of these examples of the sins of ungodly people:

  • UNBELIEF:  The Israelites who were delivered out of slavery in Egypt but then didn’t believe that God was going to see them through to the Promised Land ended up wandering in the desert until their whole generation passed away. (vs. 5)
  • PRIDE and BOASTING: The angels that wanted to usurp God’s authority were cast down from Heaven and are held in eternal chains. (vs. 6, 16)
  • SELF-INDULGENCE:  Sodom and Gomorrah were completely wiped out with fire from Heaven for their sexual immorality. (vs. 7)
  • SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, JEALOUSY and HATE:  Cain gave a different offering than what the Lord required and became jealous when God accepted his brother’s offering but not his.  He ended up killing His brother over it. (vs. 11)
  • GREED and FAVORITISM:  Balaam loved getting paid for wrongdoing. (vs. 11, 16 and 2 Peter 2:15)
  • REBELLION:  Korah’s family wanted to take over the authority of the Israelite people from Moses–thinking their plans were better than God’s plans. (vs. 11 and Numbers 16)
  • GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING: Speaks poorly of God’s provision and plans. (vs. 16)

YOU

Verse 19 ends by saying, “It is these (ungodly people) who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  The next verse starts, “BUT YOU, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”

Those who have been called by God are set apart as different–different passions, desires and motives.  We are the godly ones; not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s call and keeping, because of the God-given gift of faith, and because of the indwelling Spirit of God.  There is no room for unbelief, pride, self-righteousness, jealousy, hate, grumbling, complaining, boasting or showing favoritism if we are focused on these three things:  building our faith, praying, and showing mercy.

HIM

Now to HIM who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy. (vs. 24)

Jesus keeps me from stumbling.  He presents me blameless before His Father’s throne.  He takes joy in taking away my sins, so He can show me off to His Father.  Not just me, but every person who believes that His death on the cross atones for their sins and that His resurrection gives them power over sin and death!

To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time AND now AND forever. Amen. (vs. 25)

Everything we are prone to want for ourselves–glory, power, authority, etc…–all belongs to Him!  It has ALWAYS belonged to Him!  When people steal it for themselves, He will punish them for it.  And He has every right to.  If I stole something that belonged to someone else, my conviction and punishment would be expected.  How much more so for those who steal glory and power from a Holy God!

Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on ALL and to convict ALL the ungodly of ALL their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of ALL the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (vs. 14b-15)

If you hear His voice calling you today, it is not too late to have your sins like pride, selfishness, greed, grumbling, rebelliousness, jealousy, hate, and self-indulgence forgiven by the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Ask His forgiveness and receive new life–Jesus takes great joy in making you blameless!

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2 John 1:1-3 ~ Truth and Love (Part 1)

This letter is from John, the elder.  I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children (a particular church), whom I love in the TRUTH–as does everyone else who know the TRUTH–because the TRUTH lives in us and will be with us forever. (v. 1-2)

There are four interrelated things identified as truth in the Bible that can be “in us and will be with us forever.”

  1. Jesus Christ-“I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
  2. God’s Word-“Sanctify them by your TRUTH; Your Word is TRUTH.”(John 17:17) and “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
  3. The gospel (Good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection to atone for our sin and give us power over Satan, sin, and death!)-“And now you Gentiles have also heard the TRUTH, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1:13)
  4. The Holy Spirit-“When the Spirit of TRUTH comes, He will guide you into all TRUTH.” (John 16:13) “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)

These things are the foundation of the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.  They are truths that unite us with each other, and can never be compromised.

Grace, mercy and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ–the Son of the Father–will continue to be with us who live in TRUTH AND LOVE. (v. 3)

When we allow for God’s truth to dictate how we live, and we walk in His command to love Him and others; we receive the rewarding gifts of grace, mercy and peace from God.  Do we need anything more than that from Him???  His grace is defined as abounding and wonderful!  His mercy is new every morning; it is very great and abundant! The peace from God is powerful and surpasses all our understanding–we can’t fathom it!  Clinging to truth and love–even when it is hard–is worth it!  The reward is too great to pass up!

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James 2:1-13 Know Mercy

Showing partiality and favoritism is an evil sin! (4,9) Not even one judgmental thought is acceptable! (1)  These actions disgrace the Lord who died for ALL people, who’s blood is able to cover ANYONE’S sins.

In James 2:10 we learn that breaking one commandment is the same as breaking all ten commandments, therefore we all come to the cross of Jesus on level ground–all sinners.  All who are redeemed are equally redeemed only by the mercy and grace of God.  When we realize that truth, it leaves no room for self-righteousness and judging others.

MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT.  James 2:13b

Mercy is showing compassion and/or forgiveness to whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  Mercy triumphs–conquers, prevails, takes first place, subdues–judgment.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful for they WILL receive mercy.”  Isn’t that what I want from God and others??!! Mercy instead of judgment!  Then I must freely offer mercy (compassion and forgiveness) to ALL others.  The truth is, I don’t have the power to punish anyone.  That’s God job!  If he shows mercy to all He has made, then I need to as well.

Is there anyone from whom I’m withholding mercy?

THE LORD IS GOOD TO ALL, AND HIS MERCY IS OVER ALL THAT HE HAS MADE! PSALM 145:9

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Hebrews 13:16 Sacrifice of Action

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

“Do not neglect to do good.” Based on my computer’s thesaurus, neglect can be interchanged with the following: forsake, ignore, overlook, leave undone, pay no attention to… How often do I neglect to do good because it doesn’t fit in my daily agenda? Because I am so blinded by my wants that I overlook the needs of others? When I think quickly on the example of Jesus, He never neglected to do good. When he was tired and wanted to be alone to rest or pray, His compassion drove Him to meet the needs of those placed in His path. He allowed crucifixion for the salvation of mankind to make His daily agenda! When I think back over my days and weeks; are they a pleasing sacrifice TO GOD or to me?

“Do not neglect to…share what you have.” This verse does not say to share what you have excess of but WHAT YOU HAVE. It does not say to share with the “needy.” In fact it doesn’t specify whom to share with, implying any and everyone. It’s not about who we share with, but that WE share no matter how little or much we think we have. We can share our time, our possessions, and our abilities for they are not really ours, but God’s gifts to us to be used as He desires.

“For such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” To sacrifice means to surrender something as an offering to God; to give something of value up for the sake of something regarded as more valuable or worthy. Is God more valuable to me than “my” life and time? The number one sacrifice of all time is Jesus Christ laying down His life for the sake of others. If my soul is that valuable to Him, shouldn’t pleasing Him be of utmost value to me?

Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 9:13, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Putting our faith into practice in our daily lives and dealings with others is far more pleasing to God than religious rituals.

This verse finishes like the last with “to God.” It is so hard to live my life to please God and not to please others. I can do good and share with the wrong motives. Is my good-doing and sharing about my glory or to please God? Do those actions flow out of love, gratitude and reverence for my Savior or out of need to be loved by others?

So much to think about today…

If you like piano-driven 70s music, I recommend this song by Keith Green:

http://youtu.be/A8gWDR35R8M

but if you don’t like 70s music, here is a link to the lyrics. I can’t get them out of my head this week.

http://www.metrolyrics.com/to-obey-is-better-than-sacrifice-lyrics-keith-green.html

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Hebrews 11:7 By Faith, Noah…

Our ladies’ Bible study finished our study through Proverbs on Wednesday, June 26, and I have been super excited to return to Hebrews and finish my journey through the New Testament that was started in January of 2012. And what an encouraging, challenging chapter in which to come back!

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.  By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

Our actions demonstrate our level of faith!  Noah believed God’s warning, believed in things unseen, and out of reverence for God in obedience built a giant boat!  His obedient faith condemned the world because it exposed their lack of faith and lack of reverence for God!  That was the problem with mankind then, and that is still the issue today!

This morning I studied through the Genesis account of Noah, the ark and the flood.  In it (Genesis 6-9), we see an Old Testament picture of the good news of salvation through Jesus that was to come.

Genesis 6:5-6, 11.  The condition of mankind was continually evil, violent and corrupt.  That’s sin–evil hearts are hearts in rebellion or opposition to God.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Genesis 6:7.  The Lord decided to blot out mankind because of their hearts.  Sin always has consequences–primarily death.  In Romans 6:23 it says, “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  All unrepentant sinners are under God’s judgment, and He can withdrawal His grace and mercy at any time.

Genesis 6:8.  But Noah received grace from God. (By grace…)

Genesis 6:9a.  God made Noah righteous and blameless among mankind. (You have been saved…)

Genesis 6:9b.  Noah walked with God.  As mentioned in the blog on April 13, 2013, to walk with God we have to draw near to God and the only way to draw near to God is by faith!  (Through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9)

Genesis 6:22, 7:5.  Noah did all God commanded.  Faith equals active obedience to God’s plan for our lives.  (For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10)  God doesn’t just save people, He also gives us purpose!

Genesis 7:16.  Once all the people and animals were on board, the Lord shut them in!  There is only one way to be saved–one door–and only the Lord is capable of saving.  They were obedient, but the Lord was the rescuer!  All credit only and always goes to God!

When I was warned that my earthly faith in Christ would result in eternal reward and my decision to not put faith in Jesus would result in eternal separation from Him and suffering, I believed the warning of events unseen and placed my faith in Jesus, becoming righteous through Him only by faith.  But if God warned me a giant, earth-destroying flood was coming, I wonder if my faith would be big enough to take on the overwhelming, all-consuming task of building a boat in the face of ridicule, scorn and loneliness???  Am I drawing near to God? Walking with God in a way that any purpose He sets before me, I am listening, ready, and courageous to follow?

The truth is, a day is coming when the Lord will destroy the earth again (2 Peter 3:4-10), and our only hope for rescue and new life is hiding our lives in the “ark” of Jesus Christ.  He is the door, the only way (John 10:9, 14:6).  Will you be found in Christ when the Lord’s judgment comes again on mankind?  I’m so thankful that in God’s mercy, He made a way for our salvation and rescue!

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Hebrews 10:19-39 ~ No Wavering

With Good Friday and Easter behind us, it could be easy to lose sight of what we just celebrated.  We rejoiced in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, His victory over sin and death, but Monday we return to “normal” life. I’m thankful that I find myself in Hebrews this morning reading anew these truths.

There is only one way into the presence of God, one way to experience His glory and that is through the torn flesh and shed blood of Jesus Christ–He alone opens the way and gives us confidence before the Father.  We must be unwavering in this belief and also strengthening each other in regard to the faithfulness of God and the purpose He set for us of loving and doing good to others through unity and community.

Many people may have gone to church yesterday and heard the truth of Jesus Christ, and sadly many may have walked away deliberately continuing in the sin of unbelief!  Anyone who daily rejects the truth of Jesus Christ as the only Savior forfeits the mercy of God.  They die to experience His judgment, fury and vengeance.  This is truth!  God in His mercy gives us day after day to chose to believe; but our lives will end, we will face God, and give an account for how we handled the truth.  There is only One way to the Father (belief) and there is only one way away from the Father (rejection). Rejection in essence is trampling the truth of Jesus, treating the shedding of His blood with contempt, and insulting/outraging the Holy Spirit.  Verse 31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of THE LIVING GOD!”  Oh how my heart breaks over those who refuse to believe the truth.  

Even on Good Friday as I was driving around, I was moved to tears by the sheer volume of people who were out and about and how few were probably considering the truth that Jesus shed His holy blood, taking the punishment for our sins–substituting His life for ours on that cross.

If I stopped reading this chapter at verse 31, it would leave my spirit crushed, but thankfully the next paragraph starts with the word, “BUT!”  Those who hear the truth and believe in Jesus are changed!  They are given endurance in suffering, compassion towards others and joy in unfair circumstances.  They have a great hope and confidence in God’s mercy and His abiding promise to live with Him forever in fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).  They are not “repaid” (30) with judgment, fury, and vengeance, BUT are”rewarded” (35) with salvation and eternal life!  All this is possible through unwavering faith!  Faith makes all the difference–it is the bedrock of endurance and perseverance.  It is the one thing that pleases the Lord. While unbelief leads to destruction, the path of faith leads to life.

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Hebrews 8:8-13 ~ Better Promises!

So far in these last few sections of Scripture we have seen the phrases: better hope, better covenant, and better promises.  This is all because Jesus came and offered Himself as a better sacrifice–a perfect sacrifice!

As soon as sin entered the world, sacrifices became necessary.  Even in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, God had to kill an animal (or 2) to make suitable coverings for their shame.  The result of sin is death, life is in the blood–therefore, shed blood is the only remission for sin (Leviticus 17:11).  God gave the law for His people to recognize sin.  God instituted priests to make atonement for their own sins and then on behalf of the people’s sins.  The shortcomings of man and priest (both fell away from God’s plan) pointed to the fact that imperfection could only be replaced by perfection.  [Enter scene: Jesus]

When Christ came and gave His life as the final perfect sacrifice everything changed!

  • Priests no longer needed to mediate between God and man.
  • Lambs no longer needed to be slaughtered to atone for sin.
  • The penalty for all sin had been paid by the blood of Jesus.
  • The presence of God could be freely and boldly experienced by all.
  • All people can know the Lord personally–He shows no favoritism.
  • His mercy triumphs over all our sin.
  • All of our sin is forgotten by God.

None of these promises is contingent on our behavior.  God said, “I will,” four times in verses 10-12, not “If you…, I will.”  When God makes an unconditional promise, you can be sure that it will be fulfilled.  The better sacrifice, better covenant, better promises, better hope seal us in righteousness forever!

Only because of Jesus, is it possible for us to know God and have our sins forgiven.  

Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice–for dying on the cross for my sins.  Thank you for having victory and power over sin and death.  Thank you that because You are alive, I have new life!  Eternal life!  Thank you for making me clean and blameless.  Thank you not only for forgiving my sins, but forgetting them too.  They are grievous and many.  Thank you for your promises and for giving me hope!  You are too good!  All honor, glory, power, might, wisdom, wealth, and blessing be unto Your name!

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