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Last week, our three grown children, their spouses, and three granddaughters gathered here–in one place, at one time. Even Steve’s sister and brother-in-law were able to join us for a day.  Such gatherings do not happen often.

 

(Left side, front to back:  1. Steve, 2. our younger son, Jeremy, 3. our daughter, Heather, 4. her husband, Tim.  Right side, front to back:  1. Steve’s brother-in-law, Bill, 2. Steve’s sister, Karen, 3. Tim’s and Heather’s daughter, Sophie, 4. Eric’s and Hilja’s daughter, Elena, 5. Eric’s wife, Hilja, and 6. our older son, Eric.  Not pictured:  Jeremy’s wife, Nancy, and Eric’s and Hilja’s baby daughter, Maarit.)

 

For Steve and me, the greatest pleasure in life is the opportunity to enjoy our children– what King Solomon called “God’s best gift” (Psalm 127:3 MSG).

He went on to say:

 

How blessed are you parents,

with your quivers full of children!”

–Psalm 127:5 MSG

 

And what is a quiver-full?  Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary explained years ago that, in Bible times, a quiver most often held six arrows.  Thanks to our three children who chose their spouses wisely, Steve and I now have a full quiver–with three little arrows as well.

Oh yes, we are blessed, and always count down the days until our little clan can gather once more.

Even four-year old Elena reveled in the long-awaited together time.

 

Sophie (8), Maarit (3 months), and Elena

 

During the week, we  visited several parks with playgrounds…

 

 

 

…and even explored the zoo on Wednesday.  But perhaps some of the sweetest memories will be those associated with home…

 

 

… such as one afternoon at Eric’s and Hilja’s, catching up with one another and playing games.

 

 

(Jeremy and Nancy)

 

 

 

There were fun moments at Nana’s and Papa’s house, too.

 

 

(The Night of the Big Sleepover)

 

Now these moments are treasures to hold close in our hearts–not so much for what we did as for who we were with.

 

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;

They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

–French novelist, Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

 

 

How fitting that, as the landscape blossomed last week, so did our souls–because of a family who make us very happy.

 

*      *      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I thank you, Father, for the joy of doing life with this particular group of folks.  We may not live in close proximity, but because of you, our spirits are intertwined.  Every opportunity to be together is cause for great celebration.  And we praise you for the gift of recollection, so beautiful moments like these may live in our hearts forever.  

 

 

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While waiting for the coffee to brew Monday morning, I peeked out the kitchen curtains. To the east, a glowing red band rimmed the horizon. Slightly to the west, a clear, dark sky provided backdrop for a gleaming crescent moon.

 

 

Thank you, Father, I prayed, for prompting me to look out the window just now. Your handiwork never ceases to thrill me.

I wondered what further delights God might present as the day progressed? I decided to begin a list, just for the fun of seeing how many moments I could record. The glowing horizon and bright crescent moon became #1.

#2.  A completed workout.   Thank you, Lord, for helping me eat a live frog–yet again!  (Yes, that’s a perfectly logical prayer for those who know what Mark Twain said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” For me, exercising is about as distasteful as eating a live frog!)

Moments later, as a bowl of oatmeal spun slow circles inside the microwave, I chose to window-gaze again. This time a squirrel caught my attention as he scampered along a treetop branch, then leapt across a wide chasm to the next tree.

 

 

How do squirrels jump like that without falling? Such astounding abilities you’ve given some of your creatures, Lord.  

#3 became:   A gravity-defying squirrel.

#4.   Oatmeal—with cinnamon, berries, walnuts, and milk. Thank you, Father, for the endless combinations of ingredients we can put together to make our taste buds happy! 

#5.   Coffee.  The most exquisite flavor to start the morning.

 

 

I was on a roll now as the praiseworthy moments continued:

#6.   A dropped contact found.

#7.   Sunshine pouring through the windows.

#8.   The drive to our son’s house along the edge of Mount Airy Forest. Spring is in evidence: bright green undergrowth portends the imminent leafing of trees.

 

 

#9.   Clear, rain-washed air–fresh and crisp. Just breathing is a supreme pleasure.

#10. Holding four-year old Elena’s soft little hand as we climb the stairs together.

#11.  Snuggling two-month old Maarit on my shoulder while taking her on another slow, bouncy tour of the living/dining, and kitchen area. Her bright eyes seem to study every object, any sign of movement, every play of light.

#12.  Reveling in Maarit’s smiles, each one a delightful surprise.

#13.  Making her laugh for the first time.

#14.  Watching Elena complete a 48-piece puzzle, with very little help.

#15.  Catching one of Maarit’s smiles on camera–well, almost.

 

 

#16.  Listening to a symphony of birds upon arrival home, as I walked from car to house.

#17.  Soaking up the warmth of sunshine on the deck while reading my Bible and journaling a bit.

#18.  Enjoying a refreshing salad, all the more delicious because Steve made it.

 

 

#19.  Receiving blessing and challenge while reading posts from bloggers I follow.  (See the list in the right column!)

#20. Resting with a pleasurable book.

 

    *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

It may not be practical to record such moments every day, but I can see great benefit from keeping a list now and then.

It’s grateful eyes that get to see God’s goodness and glory everywhere–all day long.

 

 

(“It is good to praise the Lord…

…to proclaim your love in the morning

and your faithfulness at night…

…For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord,

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

–Psalm 92:1-2, 4)

 

What commonplace moment brings you uncommon joy? Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.farm7.staticflickr.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Imagine God on the sixth day of creation, surveying the work he’s accomplished.

Craggy mountain peaks reach upward toward cerulean skies.

 

 

Undulating oceans teem with thousands of different kinds of fish and sea creatures—from protozoa to humpback whales.

 

 

Flat lands and rolling hills, some covered with grass, others with trees, also abound with life—from pixie cups that can only hold one drop of water…

 

 

…to elephants that can drink 80 gallons per day.

“And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

But he wasn’t finished yet. God created one more being capable of deep thought, complex interaction, and an array of emotions. He called the creature “man” (vs. 26-27).

 

 

And the Lord Most High endowed man with abilities similar to his own. For example:

  • God is creative; people have the ability to produce new works and ideas.
  • God is linguistic; people can communicate with words.
  • God is logical; people are capable of reason.
  • God is interpersonal; people have the capacity to develop relationships.
  • God is wise; people can develop wisdom.
  • God is gracious and compassionate; people are capable of responding to one another with patience, kindness, and encouragement.

 

 

Just like our Father, each of us is (to some degree) capable of all these abilities. We can creatively solve problems, retell events, weigh the pros and cons of a decision, make friends, choose wisely from the grocery store shelves, offer a compliment.

But evidence would indicate God chose to endow each of us further, with a particular intelligence in which to excel. Our own family includes:

  • Two creatives—an artist and a graphic designer
  • Two linguistics—both pastors
  • One logistic—a tech support manager
  • Three interpersonal types—a teacher, school psychologist, and psychiatric/family doctor

 

 

Each person also has secondary and even tertiary strengths, in various combinations.

Yet God didn’t stop there. In his image he made us spiritual beings as well. Within each person is an invisible, eternal soul, a place where we can experience his presence (Ephesians 3:16-19). And he gave us a conscience to know right from wrong—not to spoil our enjoyment of life but to enhance it (Psalm 128:1-2).

 

 

As wondrous as all these gifts are—individually designed strengths, eternal souls, and the compass of a conscience–God chose to bequeath us with one more extraordinary privilege. He made us to be reflections of his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God chose not to confine his grandeur to the throne room of heaven. He allows us to make his radiant image visible in the world, as we reflect his multi-faceted goodness. No other creature was given such honor.

King David experienced the wonder. He marveled that God made us just a little lower than the angels and—get this—crowned us with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).

 

 

Think of it: The God of all glory who deserves all honor desires to share his magnificence in the world through us.

Just this week, I glimpsed the image of God as:

  • Steve thoughtfully brought me a cup of fresh coffee—as he often does.
  • Trelene kindly gave us a book she thought we’d enjoy.
  • Micki shared her wisdom.
  • Cheri offered a word of encouragement.
  • Four-year old Elena gifted us with a sample of her artwork—accompanied by hugs.

 

 

In such ways, God’s loving kindness, wisdom, inspiration, creativity, and affection are made visible. How dark our world would be without the sparkling splendor of God’s perfections reflected through his people.

So take note:

You are irreplaceable.

No one has your particular set of gifts, strengths and traits.

God designed you specifically

to achieve pre-designed purpose (Ephesians 2:10)—

just the way you are,

in the glorious image of God.

_________________________

 

What God-given attributes do you see among your family members? Where have you glimpsed the glorious image of God this week?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.mnn.com (Leonard Turner); http://www.mybible.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.freestockphotos.biz.; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.believers4ever.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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You Are

(A personal psalm)

 

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God of the boundless universe,

Your oceans roil and churn across wide expanses of the earth

To depths greater than the height of Mt. Everest.

Your sun explodes with firestorms,

Spewing plumes of flame thousands of miles upward.

A mere handful of 100 billion stars form the Milky Way–

Just one of your millions of galaxies.

You are a God of awesome, infinite power.

 

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God of perfect wisdom,

You know all truth and comprehend all things.

You possess the ability to always choose the best.

Your wisdom is righteous, impartial, and sincere–

Not just a function of your all-knowing, precise mind–

But guided by a heart of purity, understanding, and compassion.

Your wisdom is always active, never-failing, and full of mercy.

You are the all-wise God–far beyond human comprehension.

 

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God of mercy and compassion,

Your persistent love pursues us, longing to bring us home.

Your selfless love engulfs us, bestowing forgiveness and grace.

Your generous love endows us, lavishing immeasurable treasure.

Your changeless love is not based on our performance.

Your attentive love does not leave us to struggle alone.

“Your perfect love perseveres until it perfects.”*

You are a God of incredibly active love.

 

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God of glorious resplendence,

You illuminate our way through life,

Dispelling the darkness of fear.

You send forth your enlightenment and truth to guide,

Diffusing the fog of uncertainty.

You provide the radiance of your presence,

Instilling a sense of well-being and peace within our spirits.

You are a God of transforming light.

 

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God of bountiful blessing,

Every good and perfect gift comes from you—

From cloudless skies to life-giving rain,

From hearth-fires in winter to fireflies in summer,

From treasured memories of yesterday to anticipated hopes for tomorrow.

From rousing sunrise to restful sunset,

Each day overflows with abundant pleasures.

You are a God of extravagant goodness.

 

sunset-1815991_960_720

  

You are a God transcendent above all imaginings or hope!

 

Sources of inspiration included:

  • Stanza #2—James 3:17; Job 28:12-13.
  • Stanza # 3—Luke 15:11-27; Romans 8:38-39; Deuteronomy 31:8; *Philip Yancey, Grace Notes, Zondervan, 2009, p. 242.
  • Stanza #4—Psalm 89:15; 27:1; 76:4; 43:3.
  • Stanza #5—James 1:17; Psalm 31:19.

Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailybibleme.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.wikimedia.com; pixabay.com.

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If there were a Museum of Faith, and artifacts from earliest times still existed, the heroes of Hebrews 11:4-12 would surely be represented. On display we might find:

 

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  • Rocks from Abel’s altar, where God proclaimed him a righteous man.
  • Enoch’s walking stick, left behind when he strolled with God one day and ended up in heaven.
  • Part of Noah’s ark, which he spent at least 100 years building before God’s promise of rain (and protection for Noah’s family) was fulfilled.
  • Abraham’s tent, in which he lived while traveling to a place God had chosen, though Abraham did not know where he was going.
  • Isaac’s swaddling clothes, reminders of his miraculous birth to elderly parents, twenty-five years after God first promised his arrival.

 

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Then we come to verse 13.

 

“All these people were still living by faith when they died.

They did not receive the things promised;

they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance,

admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth”

(NIV, italics added).

 

What was the writer of Hebrews referring to? What things did these heroes of faith not receive that God had promised?

They did not see fulfillment of the most important promises: the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, his glorious resurrection, and all the blessings and privileges he provides. (All the way back in the Garden of Eden, God foretold that One would come to defeat Satan—Genesis 3:15).

 

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If the great heroes of faith listed in Hebrews did not receive things promised, I’d be wise to prepare myself for the same.

What should I do when promises are not being fulfilled? Below are five possibilities:

 

  1. Consider that the roadblock might be me.

Many promises come with conditions. If I’m not willing to comply, how can I expect the promise to be fulfilled? Philippians 4:6-7 offers a good example. If I want to receive God’s promise of peace, I need to be praying with a grateful heart.

 

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  1. Consider that the time is not right.

More than a few biblical heroes endured long waits for their promises to come to pass: Abraham for his son, Joseph for his position of leadership, the Israelites for their promised land, David for his kingship, and devout Jews like Simeon and Anna for their Messiah—to name a few.

I must remember that God is always at work carrying out his plan (Isaiah 46:11b). My work is to trust, pray, and wait.

 

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  1. While trusting, praying, and waiting for one promise, I can celebrate those already kept.

 Dozens of promises have been fulfilled in my life already. At the appropriate time God has provided:

  • Wisdom for difficult decisions (James 1:5)
  • Peace in the midst of challenging circumstances (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • Provision in miraculous ways (Philippians 4:19)
  • Purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Strength to push through weariness (1 Peter 4:10-11)
  • Help in all sorts of situations (Isaiah 41:13)

 

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Praise for what God has already done is a powerful weapon against discouragement.

  1. God’s ways aren’t my ways.

If God has not fulfilled a particular promise, he has good reason. What I desire may not be for my ultimate good or for the good of others.

Surely Paul had to wonder sometimes why God allowed him to be imprisoned in Rome for two years. Perhaps he recited from the psalms:

 

psalm_91-14-15_picture

 

“’Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name…

…I will deliver him and honor him.”’

–Psalm 91:14-15 NIV

 

Paul had every right to claim this promise. His love for Jesus was passionate, and he acknowledged his Savior’s name everywhere he went. But God did not rescue Paul. No angel came to deliver Paul, as had happened to Peter.

As a result, we are beneficiaries of Paul’s letters, containing priceless teaching from the heart of God: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon–all written from his prison cell in Rome.

 

  1. Fulfillment may come after I’m gone.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not see their descendants become as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5).  But the promise was kept centuries later, because there is no stopping the perfectly wise, precisely timed will of God.

 

romans-11-36

 

“From him and through him and for him are all things”

(including the fulfillment or unfulfillment of his promises).

“To him be the glory forever!”

–Romans 11:36 NIV (parenthetical comment added)

 

What helps you cope with unfulfilled promises from God?  Please share in the comment section below.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.biblewalks.com; http://www.pinterest (5); http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

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Cookie Ingredients Bake Cookies Christmas Time Bake

 

Lena was baking Christmas cookies when she realized her wedding ring was missing.

The family searched everywhere. No ring. Lena, of course, was heartsick. She had designed the ring herself—a band of white gold with seven small diamonds.

Years later when they renovated the kitchen and took up the old floor tile, the family again searched carefully. Still no ring.

One morning Lena was harvesting carrots from her garden when she pulled up a surprise. The carrot in her hand wore her wedding ring.

Lena surmised the ring had fallen into a pile of vegetable peelings in the kitchen sink and become part of their compost heap—sixteen years previously.

 

carrot-3-600x377

 

_________________________

 

Petunia, an American Staffordshire terrier, somehow escaped her family’s Virginia farm in 2003. In spite of a vigilant search, they were not able to find their pet.

Imagine the family’s surprise, eight years later, to receive a phone call that their dog had been located. The woman who found Petunia took her to a vet who scanned her microchip and discovered the address of Petunia’s family. However, getting her home was a bit complicated. Petunia had wandered 3,000 miles—all the way to California.

 

petunia

(Petunia)

 

_________________________

 

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(A scenic spot in Mark Twain National Forest)

 

In early May of 2009, three-year old Joshua Childers decided to take a hike in Mark Twain National Forest, not far from his home in southeastern Missouri. He was wearing sneakers, a T-shirt, and a pull-up diaper. It wasn’t long before Joshua was lost.

Joshua’s family notified authorities and for 52 heart-in-the-throat hours dozens of searchers combed through the underbrush, worried every moment the toddler would succumb to exposure in the wet and chilly weather, fall over a cliff or into a creek, or be attacked by mountain lion, bear, or snake. There were so many dangers to which a three-year old would be susceptible. And, of course, he had no food or water.

 

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(Southern Copperhead, one of five poisonous species in Missouri.)

 

After two days, searchers were beginning to lose hope of finding the boy alive. Finally one of the volunteers spotted Joshua huddled in a hollow near a creek bed. He wasn’t moving. The volunteer feared the worst but called out to the boy. Joshua sat up and grinned.

 

_________________________

 

Such stories receive much attention on social media, some even make it to the national news. Everybody loves a lost-and-found story. We find them satisfying, uplifting, and even resonating deep within our souls.

Why is that?

First, the impact of such stories is magnified by the importance of the lost items. If Lena’s ring had been costume jewelry, if Petunia had been a plastic toy dog or Joshua had been a doll, we would hardly react.

Second, we marvel at the odds. A ring found on a carrot? A dog found 3,000 miles away from home? A toddler found unharmed in a damp and chilly forest after 52 hours? The feel-good endorphins kick in when we hear such news.

Jesus told his own lost-and-found stories: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

 

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(The Prodigal Son by Charles Joseph Lecointe)

 

The sheep was lost because he foolishly left the watchful care of the shepherd and went his own way. The coin was lost through no fault of its own. And the prodigal son willfully lost his way in life through self-centered pursuits.

Each story illustrates: It doesn’t matter to God how we got lost; every one of us is important to him. He longs to restore us to the place where we belong: in his care and keeping.

And that brings us to the third reason we like lost-and-found stories.

We were programmed to be found, and to experience a happy ending—at home in heaven—where we’ll find secure safety, joy beyond imagination, and everlasting peace.

 

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(“Our hearts were made for you, O Lord,

and they are restless until they rest in you”

–St. Augustine.)

 

That’s why Jesus came—to find each of us and restore us to our Heavenly Father, because we were lost (Luke 19:10). And just like Lena who polished her soil-encrusted wedding band until it shone, Jesus makes us new, shining like stars (Philippians 2:15).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that my soul has found rest in you. You are my rock of stability and fortress of protection; You are my salvation from all that would destroy me (Psalm 62:1-2).

“And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice” (Psalm 119:176, MSG).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.littlethings.com; http://www.motleydogs.com; http://www.fs.usda.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimediacommons.org; http://www.pinterest.com.

 

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“Elena wins the prize for quote-of-the-day,” her teacher, Miss Allison, quietly told my husband as he picked up our three-year old granddaughter from preschool.

Miss Allison continued with a twinkle in her eye. “She informed everyone today that she’s Princess of the Preschool.”

 

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(Not Elena, but she would love this princess-style dress!)

 

In reality, Elena knows little about being a princess. She hasn’t seen any of the Disney fairy tale films and she owns no ball gowns. Even so, Elena has somehow decided that princess status is something to be desired.

Chances are, however, Prince Charming will not ride up her street on his white steed and whisk her away to a castle of fabulous riches.

What Elena doesn’t fully realize yet is this: her Heavenly Father does offer her a glorious life of royalty, because He is the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7) and those of us who receive his Son Jesus into our lives become his children (John 1:12).

 

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As Elena continues to learn about him, she’ll discover marvelous truths about the royal standing God’s children enjoy. See if your heart doesn’t begin to beat a bit faster as you consider the following:

 

  1. We each have great value in the kingdom of God (Luke 15:3-7).

Think about a museum of artifacts that once belonged to a famous person. Ordinary objects like a worn tailcoat, a battered desk, and yellowed correspondence take on great worth because of who owned them.

We belong to the most illustrious Being of the universe. Each of us might be as ordinary and common as a library chair, yet we are extremely valuable because we belong to God.

 

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  1. God provides fitting apparel in keeping with our royal status.

The figurative robes of our spirits (our insufficient efforts at good deeds) are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), given our foibles and misconduct. But God provides us with the pure white robe of Christ’s righteousness to replace those rags (61:10).

 

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That robe of righteousness includes sleeves of compassion and kindness, a yoke of humility, and long, flowing folds of gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). For my own puny stature, that robe is much too big; I can’t live out such goodness on my own. It’s only as I allow Jesus to work in me and through me that I begin to grow into his robe. It’s a process that will take a lifetime and beyond (Philippians 1:6).

Another piece of apparel is a necessity for every royal personage: a crown. And God has not omitted this adornment. Just what might a crown represent? Wise King Solomon made this observation: “Blessings crown the head of the righteous” (Proverbs 10:6).

 

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I can say amen to that. God has frequently adorned my life with gifts far exceeding what I need—not because I’ve earned them but because of his loving nature.

You too?

 

  1. We have access to the throne room of the King.

Any time of day or night, we can enter into God’s presence, knowing we’ll receive his immediate welcome. Because he exists independent of time and space, our Father King can turn his full, individual attention to each of us, even if we all approached him at once.

And we do need his attention. We are not perfectly wise and capable and strong like he is. Instead, we tend to be selfish and proud. We mess up. In addition, life is full of challenges—challenges we don’t know how to handle.

But at God’s throne of grace—where he dispenses his favor on us who do not deserve it–we receive his help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

 

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In fact, there is no one like God the King.

“He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor” (Deuteronomy 33:26 NLT).

Isn’t that a glorious image?

And look–he’s even riding a white horse (Revelation 19:11)!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pauldingcountyareafoundation.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.jesuscalls.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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