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Archive for the ‘God’s Love’ Category

Years ago my mother worked as secretary to a publishing company vice-president.  One spring she was invited to attend a goal-setting retreat with those in leadership. Her job was to take notes.

 

 

During the first session, the facilitator (We’ll call him Jim.) included some clarifying questions about the mission of the company.   Mom didn’t expect to participate, so she was caught off guard when Jim invited her to share. She confessed to feeling out of place and unqualified to contribute. After all, she was only a secretary.

But editor-in-chief, Bernice, exclaimed, “Why, Geri! You shouldn’t feel that way!”

Jim suggested that Bernice tell Mom why her input was important, why she was a valuable part of the team.

 

(A-Z Quotes)

 

Perhaps Bernice mentioned a few of the gifts I noticed in Mom: her creative problem-solving ability, astute interpersonal skills, and proficiency at organization.

Whatever Bernice said, the compliments embarrassed Mom but validated her deeply. Bernice had never before shared what she saw in Mom.

Jim explained that citing specific reasons, rather than simply telling someone not to feel a certain way, can more effectively foster a change of mindset.

So in light of that facilitator’s advice, I won’t tell you that God thinks you’re pretty terrific.

Let me show you from his Word what he sees in you.

For example:

God sees you as precious and honored because he loves you.

 

 

That love is not just collective for all humankind, but individual and unique—just for you.

God sees and loves you—the one who handles a myriad of details so someone else can be in the spotlight.

He sees and loves you—the one who swipes up messes hither and yon, parades laundry baskets to and fro, and traipses dishes from washer to shelf, day in and day out.

He sees and loves you—making those calls, writing those notes, pausing to listen to sales clerks and restaurant servers.

But on any given day, you may not feel particularly precious or honored—when frustration boils over into unkind words, impatience leads to anger, or unfair treatment curdles into self-pity. How can God see anything precious and honored in that?  Perhaps it’s because he’s focused on his vision for you, his work in you.

Remember,

God sees you as his child.

 

 

And like any loving parent, he delights in every step of growth, every benchmark of progress. With pleasure and pride he is cheering you on.

Also,

God sees your heart.

 

 

Perhaps that statement evokes guilt, as it did in me for many years. I contemplated the ways I disappointed God, even failed him. But there’s a positive side to that statement. Our Heavenly Father sees our good intentions, our desire to obey him, our attempts to practice his presence with praise and gratitude.

And just as we would never reject a misspelled, wobbly-lettered love note from a child, God never rejects our sincere efforts.

Furthermore,

God sees you as his masterpiece, a stunning, one-of-a-kind design (Ephesians 2:10).

 

 

He chose the colors of your personality, the form of your life-chapters, the line of movement from child to maturity, and the spaces both negative and positive that contribute to soul growth.

God also chose a particular place for you in his world-size gallery where you could best display his artistry. And like all beautiful handiwork, you evoke joy in the heart of your Maker.

 

 

Indeed, it is holy, precious perfection that God sees in you.

 

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.hanscom.af.mil (Todd Maki); http://www.azquotes.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com.)

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Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Micki and I first met at church, and within moments it became clear: this woman would make a great friend. Not only did she exude warmth and smile easily, she asked questions.   Good questions.  And then she listened intently to my answers.

Fast forward a few years from that initial encounter. God did bring Micki and me together, and we’ve been friends ever since—over ten years now.

To know Micki is to experience loving acceptance from her heart, hear godly wisdom from her spirit, and receive splashes of joy from her effervescent personality.

You would not know that this well-balanced and vibrant person has suffered much pain and loss.

With Micki’s permission I am sharing with you her story:

At one time or another during her youth, Micki lived in the same house with an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a person suffering from mental illness.

In addition, she is an incest survivor and rape survivor.

“When you are abused by a person who should represent safety and security, and no one comes to rescue you, your entire world shifts,” Micki explains. “All the foundational undergirding and security a healthy child experiences is taken away. The world becomes terribly unsafe, with no one to trust or run to. And even though it is the abuser who is wrong, it is the child who feels dirty and bad.”

Those dreadful circumstances, however, were not the only tragedies to enter Micki’s life. She endured the trauma of teenage pregnancy and a doomed marriage as well.

“My first husband was a good and honorable man, but he was so wounded by his own childhood, he could not express love. For five years I was married to a man to whom I would say, ‘I love you’, and from whom would come silence. A man I hugged who couldn’t hug back. A man who regularly moved away from my touch.

“He never abused me, never fought with me, always provided for me, but his rejection was like a cancer, slowly eating away at my self-esteem. At that time I didn’t know he’d been wounded. I only knew he couldn’t stand to touch me, and the conclusion I drew was he must have discovered the truth—that I was dirty, unlovable and ugly.”

Micki recognized the damage in her life from living with an alcoholic, so she began attending Al-Anon, the sister organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Through that program, Micki was drawn to people with this light inside them—people who seemed happy despite their desperate circumstances—people who appeared to have a handle on that “Higher Power” the Al-Anon leaders taught about.

Of course, those people who radiated that Light were Christians, and in due time one of them led her to Jesus. She didn’t know it, but that was Micki’s first step toward wholeness.

Not long after she became a Christian, someone asked her, “Do you know how special you are to God?” She remembers sobbing because, how could ANYONE, much less GOD, think she was special?

Micki was so blinded by her past she could not fully grasp God’s personal love. But gently and tenderly over a number of years, he led her toward emotional and spiritual healing, that moment in time when she could finally accept God’s warm and gracious love.

Micki participated in her healing through enthusiastic Bible study. Where once she found scripture rather meaningless, the new Micki reveled in the instruction, inspiration, and encouragement she found within its pages.

Prayer became a lifeline as she navigated the rough waters of challenging family relationships and a stressful job.

Later, ministries at church became a source of great fulfillment. God has put her on a healing team and the planning team for women’s retreats, given her Bible study groups to lead and young women to mentor, as well as put her at the podium occasionally to speak. She has impacted hundreds of lives throughout the three decades since she said “yes” to Jesus.

As he so often does, God took the great brokenness of Micki’s life and created beautiful wholeness.

Then God took her wholeness, broke it open and poured it out, to multiply the beauty in others.

It’s what our God loves to do.

 

Micki and me, April 2018

 

 

 

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(A new parable)

 

In the high-ceilinged reception hall of the palatial residence of Elohim (1) stands an uncertain woman, Encie (2). Her new friend Jesus has just ushered her in, but what might happen next, Encie has no idea.

A tall, winged being of shimmering light glides into the hall through a massive door on the left. “Welcome, Encie! Welcome to your first day in the eternal kingdom of God! I am Avodah (3), honored assistant to Elohim. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to kingdom living.  But first, please direct your attention upward.”

With a graceful sweep of his arm, the angel (for what else could he be?) draws attention to a great choir of angels hovering high above.  They begin to sing a joyful, undulant melody accompanied by fast-rolling harmonies. Such a beautiful weaving of sound Encie has never heard, but all too soon the music crescendos in a heart-stopping finish.

 

 

And then silence.

The angel whispers, “That was for you, Encie.”

She turns, wide-eyed, to stare at Avodah.  “Me?  I don’t understand.”

“We can’t help getting excited every time another person invites Jesus into his or her life!” he explains.  “And now, Encie, we have gifts for you!”

He grandly gestures once more, this time toward a long line of angels entering the hall from a door on the left. Each bears a different gift.

The first angel approaches with a thick packet balanced on both hands.

“These are your adoption papers, Encie. They indicate you are now a full heir to your Heavenly Father’s estate, which is the whole universe. As an adoptee, you’ll enjoy other privileges also. For example, your Friend and Brother, Jesus, will be with you wherever you go, to provide strength and comfort.”

 

 

With trembling hands, Encie takes the adoption papers from the angel, barely able to whisper “thank you.” Can it be?  She is now a child of the King of all!

Angel #1 quietly slips away toward another doorway to the right and a second angel moves forward with a thick book.

“Ah!” says Avodah. “This gift will become more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. It is Elohim’s Supreme Instruction Manual, filled with wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.”

 

 

Angel #2 places the manual on top of the adoption papers in Encie’s arms and exits in the same manner as Angel #1.

Angel #3 approaches carrying an identification badge on a lavaliere.

“Allow me!” cries Avodah. Taking the badge, he drapes it over Encie’s head and positions it gently around her neck. “You now have direct access into the throne room of Elohim Himself. You may ask Him anything; you may tell Him anything.”

 

 

“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Encie blurts. “Nothing I have to say could possibly be important enough for Him.”

Avodah lays a lightbeam finger on God’s Word in her arms. “You’ll read here that He actually wants you to bring everything to Him. You can drop off all your worries and concerns in His throne room. In their place He’ll offer you another precious gift: His peace of mind that no human can explain. You will never again have to experience stress or sleepless nights—unless you choose to.”

Avodah pauses for a moment, allowing Encie to absorb the glorious possibility of exchanging life’s pressures for Elohim’s perfect peace.

 

 

And then Angel #4 glides forward. In his cupped hands he holds what appears to be a sparkler, but there is no stem. The ball of shooting sparks hovers over his hands, apparently causing no harm or hurt.

“Oh, Encie.” says Avodah, with reverence in his voice. “This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is because He’s already been working in your life that you are even here today. But now He will bring wisdom, understanding, and strong counsel to your mind. He will enable you to serve Elohim in far greater ways than you ever could on your own. And that’s just the beginning! You’ll learn more about the Spirit in God’s Word there.” And Avodah lightly taps Encie’s new instruction manual.

 

 

Suddenly the sparkler-orb arises out of the angel’s hands and moves toward Encie. She experiences no fear, and there is no pain as the light passes through her being into her soul. Upon entrance, a warm, euphoric joy spreads through Encie until she is filled with the presence of Spirit Light.

Yet there is more.

Avodah asks, “Encie, do you see all these other angels waiting in line? They, too, carry gifts for you including:

 

 

  • A padlock for your heart, because God’s love is locked into you in unending commitment
  • A can of sunshine yellow joy-paint, to splash on all life’s circumstances
  • A spool of never-ending blessings
  • An anchor of hope to hold you firm and secure
  • A level for smoothing the paths of life
  • And a packet of fruit seeds the Holy Spirit will help you grow into mature, delicious character traits over time

 

 

“Oh—and don’t worry. We’ll make sure all of these gifts make it home with you.”

“I-I don’t know what to say, “ Encie stammers and lowers her head. “The words ‘thank you’ seem…worthless.”

Avodah lifts her chin with his glowing hand and speaks with tenderness in his voice.

“The best way to show your gratitude, Encie, would be to demonstrate heartfelt reverence for all Elohim has done for you. Take Him at his Word, follow His all-wise ways, and trust Him. He loves you so very much, Encie.”

 

 

Encie nods.

“Why don’t you go into the throne room right now?” asks Avodah, indicating a golden door in the center of the back wall. Tell Elohim your thoughts. Remember, He’s not listening for impressive words; it’ll be your heart He hears.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Almighty! Everything within me cries, “Thank you!” I try to sing my gratitude; I kneel in worship in an effort to express my gratitude. Thank you for Your love and faithfulness expressed in countless ways. You are the One and only, great and glorious Elohim, my Heavenly Father! 

(Psalm 138:1-5)

 

Notes:

(1) Elohim: infinite, all-powerful God

(2) Encie: New Christian (N.C.)

(3) Avodah: a Hebrew word meaning work, worship, and service

 

Scriptural basis for elements of this parable: Luke 15:10, Romans 8:14-17, 29; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 119:72; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 4:6-7; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16, 20; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 4:4-8, 11-13; Psalm 40:5; Hebrews 6:19; Proverbs 4:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 147:11; Hebrews 11:6; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com by Tyler Neyens; http://www.canva.com.

 

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It’s been said, St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the love of Christ until he caught the glow of His Spirit, which he went about radiating (1).

The operative word for me is contemplated, which means to look at pensively, to ponder or consider thoughtfully, to meditate on.

In St. Francis’ case, he chose to thoughtfully consider a simple subject: the love of Christ.

And the result was quite astounding. Francis glowed with the Spirit—so profoundly that others took note of his radiance.

By contrast, it stands to reason that worry and unrest are the direct result of misdirected or insufficient contemplation. In addition, no one can glow with the Spirit if thoughts of discontentment predominate.

For some, the love of Christ might seem too simple a subject and difficult to contemplate for very long. But if we challenge ourselves to scan the New Testament, we’ll discover many worthy thoughts to ponder about Jesus’ love.  Thoughts such as these:

First, his love for humanity compelled him to leave the perfection of heaven for a life of poverty on earth. Ultimately, he laid down his life so that we might become children of God and heirs of his immeasurable, heavenly riches (2).

 

 

While here on earth, Jesus made it clear he loves everyone, including:

  • Those whom others ignore, like blind beggars and penniless widows (3)
  • Those considered unimportant, like children (4)
  • Those whose sin tends to be concealed beneath the surface, like the rich young ruler (5)
  • Those no one else will go near, like lepers with ulcerated and decaying flesh (6)
  • Those who make mistakes, misunderstand truth, and bicker among themselves—like Jesus’ disciples (7)
  • Those who commit crimes, like the thief crucified with Jesus (8)
  • Even those who would try to kill him (9)

 

 

His love compels him to:

  • Seek after those who stray, never giving up until each one is safely home  (10)
  • Knock gently but persistently at the doors of our hearts, because he dearly wants us to enjoy fellowship with him (11)
  • Offer God-enhanced, blessing-abundant living now, with eternity in heaven to come (12)

 

 

Because he love us, Jesus wants to:

  • Draw us into his protective care, like a hen gathers her chicks (13)
  • Enjoy our company forever (14)
  • Reveal himself to us (15)—not in physical form (just yet!), but in the evidence of his loving kindness, righteousness, power and glory.
  • Protect us from fear by teaching us how to let peace stand guard over our hearts (16)
  • Fill us with all the fullness of God–his perfect attributes, generous blessings, and hope-saturated promises (17)

 

 

Nothing we say, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us can separate us from the love of Christ (18).

And “we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement of his unspeakable love” (19).

No wonder St. Francis glowed.

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *   *

We do stand in awe, Lord Jesus, of the sweeping landscape of your love as revealed in scripture. And just as St. Francis of Assisi practiced careful contemplation centuries ago, may we continually ponder the expanse of your love—its breadth, length, height and depth.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Ralph W. Sockman, The Higher Happiness
  2. 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:7
  3. Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 8:16
  4. Mark 10:13-16
  5. Mark 10:21
  6. Matthew 8:3
  7. Acts 1:6; Mark 8:14-21; Luke 9:46
  8. Luke 23:39-43
  9. Luke 23:34
  10. Matthew 18:11-13
  11. Revelation 3:20
  12. John 10:10; 3:16
  13. Matthew 23:37
  14. John 14:3
  15. John 14:21
  16. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-7
  17. Ephesians 3:19
  18. Romans 8:35-38
  19. John Owen (1616-1683), English theologian

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

What contemplation of Jesus’ love makes your heart glow?  Share your thoughts in the Comment section below!

 

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Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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(A personal psalm)

 

 

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

He does not withhold the good

From those who live with integrity.

–Psalm 84:11-12 HCSB

 

I praise you, O God, that you are the Sun of my life (Psalm 84:11a), sustaining me in body, mind, and spirit, lighting my way with infallible dependability.

Just as the magnetic force of the sun keeps the planets in orbit around it, you keep me within the orbit of your love and care.

Like the sun you are my ever-present, never-changing source of power, enabling me to grow into your radiant likeness, day by day.

Even when menacing clouds of despair or discouragement roll in, your splendorous Light breaks through with encouragement, hope, and strength.

 

 

I praise you, O Lord, for being a shield around me (v. 11a)—a living shield that is always present, always on guard, and always ready to act.

Through the fiercest storms of life, you are a refuge, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).

You have protected me from what I thought I wanted, life choices that would have led me down treacherous paths.

And with the truth of your Word, you’ve deflected the poisoned arrows of hurtful thoughts and harmful lies.

 

 

I praise you, O Father, for the favor and honor you bestow upon me (84:11b).

Evidence abounds every day of your loving benevolence, as you not only meet my needs but graciously supply surprise blessings far beyond necessity.

Throughout my life I’ve seen evidence of your gracious provision: financial obligations met when funds ran low, impossibly long to-do lists shortened by cancellations and changes of plans, difficult circumstances resolved.

Even though I may walk through dark valleys of illness, trial, or tragedy, I know you will pour grace into my soul, enabling me to endure.

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you do not withhold even one good thing from those who live with integrity (v. 11c).

It’s so easy to become focused on material things, even though we know that a full closet, a garage of gadgets, and a large bank account offer fleeting satisfaction at best.

Instead, your priority, Father, is providing the good things of eternal value.  You never withhold your quieting peace or soul-drenching joy, the delight of your calming presence, your perpetual strength to persevere, or the exhilarating hope of eternal life.

These good things and more are always available to those who trust in you.

 

 

Heavenly Father, when trouble invades my life remind me that:

  • My vision of what’s good is severely limited (Romans 11:33-36).
  • Your ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • You accomplish monumental purpose through the meanest of circumstance (Romans 8:28).
  • The perseverance to navigate a hard road will one day be lavishly rewarded (James 1:12).

 

 

I praise you, Almighty God, for each good thing you bring my way, each blessing mentioned here and countless more unmentioned.

Now may complete trust and enthusiastic obedience be my gifts to you.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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