Bible Devotions

Return to Me

Yet you have not returned to Me says the Lord. Amos 4 NKJV

Do God’s people really need reminding to return to Him? Yes. Apparently they do as we see in Amos chapter 4.

The opening verse is used five times in this chapter and every instance He is talking to the children of God, Israel, God’s chosen people.

If we are not careful to watch and pray to stay close to God, we will stray or drift away just as Israel did.

Let’s take a look at the offenses God’s children committed that are recorded for our benefit.

  • They oppressed the poor
  • They crush the needy
  • They got drunk
  • They bring sacrifices every morning and tithes every three years
  • They offer thanksgiving sacrifices with leaven
  • They proclaim and announce their freewill offerings

The Hebrew word for “oppress” is “asaq” meaning to press upon, for example to defraud, violate or overflow. Further definition includes get deceitfully, deceive, defraud, drink up, oppress, use oppression, oppressor, do violence, an do wrong.

The Hebrew word for “crush” is “rasas” meaning to crack in pieces, literally or figuratively, break, bruise, crush, discourage, oppress, and struggle together.

God cares for the poor and needy. In what ways do we find ourselves oppressing or crushing the poor? Remember, to not think about the poor is just as bad.  God wants us to care for the poor and needy. Dueteronomy 15:11 says “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”

How often do we drink our problems away? Proverbs 31:5 tells us drinking makes us forget the law and pervert justice for all the afflicted.

What about sacrifices? How often do we ask forgiveness from God? God would rather we obey Him from the beginning than continue asking forgiveness. 1 Samuel 15:21-23 says “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

What about the good we do?  Are we quick to brag about it? Proverbs 20:6 says most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?  Psalm 5:5 says the boastful shall not stand in Your sight, you hate all workers of iniquity.

As we read God’s Word and study how the people responded, we can learn much about our self.  With God’s Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth, we can know how to take an accurate assessment of our self.  Once we recognize sin in our life, we confess it to God and knowing Jesus’ work on the cross has already forgiven our sin, we can ask for His power to avoid the same sin in the future. God is faithful an just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we have to be willing to turn to Him. Are you?

Father, thank you for your Word, your Spirit, your desire to do what is pleasing to you. Thank you for so many second chances.  In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

© ThinkOnIt Bible Ministries Inc is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity helping you grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.  Visit us at http://www.ThinkOnIt.org today.

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Humble Yourselves In The Sight Of The Lord, And He Will Lift You Up

Read James 4

Fights, wars, murder, coveting, and seeking pleasures are all signs of someone who is an enemy of God. These outward expressions reveal the adultery within. The heart is far from God, puffed up with pride.

Pride makes us do things against God. We speak evil of others, judging them as though we ourselves were god. We boast of all we plan to do. Yet this boasting is foolishness and arrogant.  Being preoccupied with all we plan to do, causes us to miss what God wants to do in and through us.

Humility protects us from pride, self-will, and arrogance.  James exhorts believers to submit to God by doing two things: (1) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (2) Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

So when these ungodly behaviors appear in our life, stop. Confess our sins and turn our hearts back to God.

Thank you God, for being willing to hear our prayers to forgive us one more time when we confess our sins. Thank you for your faithfulness to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and purify us as though we never sinned.  Thank you, Jesus, for taking our punishment for us.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit who helps us live a pleasing life to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

© ThinkOnIt Bible Ministries Inc is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity helping you grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.

Bible Devotions on Humility
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Repeated Pattern

Read Joshua 8

To fully appreciate what’s happening in chapter 8 you might need to revisit chapters 6 and 7.  Here’s a quick recap.

Chapter 6 – The children of Israel took Jericho following God’s strange instructions.  Everything was to be burned except the silver, gold and iron items were for the Lord’s treasury.  But one man kept some beautiful garments, silver and gold for himself.

Chapter 7 – The children of Israel came to Ai and decided to spy it out like they did in the past.  The spies said it would be easy and only needed a few men to take the city.  Joshua listened to men, without consulting the Lord. They were defeated.  Joshua cries out to the Lord.  But God says get up the people sinned. Sanctify them.  So they had to deal with the sin by putting to death those that sinned.

Chapter 8 – The Lord gives Joshua the plan.  They get to keep the spoil this time.  The Lord is with Joshua every step of the way.  Following God’s instructions they take Ai and the booty.  Joshua builds an alter to the Lord and writes God’s Law on the stones.  He also reads the whole law to the people.

As you read these chapters over several days, and reread them, you might discover as I did a process emerge.  Obedience, false confidence, failure, obedience pattern is repeated through out the Bible.  It’s not just these three chapters.  Take David for example he’s known as a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed murder and adultery.  Take Peter, so sure he was ready to die for the Lord, yet moments later he finds himself denying the Lord three times.  Take Saul as another example, he was overly zealous as a Pharisee that he persecuted Jesus’ followers, until he was knocked off his horse by the Lord.  We see it again and again.

Have you noticed this pattern happens in your own life? We can become secure and confident in our relationship with the Lord, we may start to think we know the way.  We slowly start doing things on our power rather than consulting the Lord.  Sadly, that leads us back into bondage of sin and failure.

How do we break that pattern?  By remembering who we are and what Jesus Christ has done for us.  We need to examine our thoughts and motives and make them obedient to Christ.  If you’re not able to spot sin in your life, it might be time to ask the Lord to help you see the truth.  For if we say we are without sin, we make God out to be a liar.  For the Good Word tells us “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Lord Jesus, thank you for saving us from our sin and paying the penalty for us.  Help us to stay on track with you and accept your truth. You are faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

For more Bible Devotions…

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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A Look at Deuteronomy 27:11-26

And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. Deuteronomy 27:11-13 NKJV

Read Deuteronomy 27:11-26 NKJV.

At first glance this list of curses may seem out of place.  Why command them to recite these curses rather than the actual Ten Commandments given to them earlier in Deuteronomy 5: 6-21?  As we study this further, we see these verses may be practical, real-life, re-statements of the Ten Commandments.

Let’s look at the curses and the Ten Commandments in table format, as well as categorize each.

Category

Curse

Commandment

# of Ten Commandment

God

Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;

2

Family

Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

5

Neighbor

Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.

You shall not steal. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

8, 10

Neighbor

Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9

Neighbor, Justice

Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9

Family, Personal Integrity, Sex

Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed. Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal. Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother. Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not commit adultery.

5, 7

Neighbor

Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9

Neighbor, Justice, Personal Integrity

Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.

You shall not murder. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

6, 9

There are several things that come out of this analysis.

First, I don’t see a reference to commandments three and four:  “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.  Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.”  I wonder why?

Second, there are four curses regarding sex.  If God repeated this one four times, I’m pretty sure He wants us to remember this one.   This one seems to be about honoring father, mother, family members and self by not joining our self inappropriately.

Third, analyzing the categories makes it clear family and neighbor relations are very important to God.  He wanted the children of Israel to live in relationship with one another.  If everyone did their part, surely none of these curses would be a problem.

Sadly, we learn throughout the Bible the people were not able to refrain from such abominations.  There are plenty of examples of how these commandments were broken and not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament.  Here are just a few to get you thinking:

  • Exodus 32:1-10 NKJV – “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’”
  • 2 Samuel 16:21-22 NKJV – “And Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1 NKJV – “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”
  • Matthew  26:14-15 NKJV – “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”

So what does this mean to us today?   God gave His Word to us as instruction, correction and training in righteousness.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV  says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Therefore, what can we learn from this reading?  What needs to change with in our thoughts, attitudes, behavior and relationships?  Ask God to reveal all the reasons you do not obey His voice.   Thank Him for completing the good work which He started in you.

Lord God Almighty your plans and purposes are wise and just.  You lead us by your Spirit and Truth.  Equip us with your word.  Give us a pure desire for you.  Reveal anything in us that offends you.  Thank you, Jesus, for cleansing us from all unrighteousness.  In Jesus’ precious name we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Sin Has Consequence

And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21 NKJV

You have probably heard the “Miranda Rights” read to someone being arrested on a TV show before. It goes something like “every word you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Well, everything we think, do and say will be used to determine our destiny.

Every decision we make to sin or not is known by God. Everything we do is witnessed by Him. There is nothing that will not be exposed. God is the Great Judge. He is just and fair. His rulings are right and true. He doesn’t make hasty decisions. Instead He investigates, verifies and gives the benefit of doubt to the accused.

If you read Genesis 18:22-33 you will see God is fair. Abraham pleaded with God for the sake of the righteous. God said He would spare the city if even ten righteous people were in it. But there were no righteous people and so God judged Sodom and Gomorrah. The cities were destroyed.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah chose to sin. Their sin was very grave. It was so bad that an outcry was heard by God. Therefore, God had a choice to make: let the people continue doing wicked, evil, detestable things or take care of the problem so as not to spread wickedness to others.

They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, no, not one. Psalm 14:3 NKJV

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NKJV

Sin is always dealt with. Romans 6:23 NKJV says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The end of sin is death. Therefore, to continue to sin is to knowingly accept the fact one day we will die to pay the penalty of that sin. But did you also notice the later half of Romans 6:23 says “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord?”

It’s our choice to either follow God and live or follow sin and die. God will honor our choice. But we must make sure we are willing to accept the consequence of our choice.

Almighty God, thank you Lord Jesus for dying in our place to pay our sin debt. May we always remember the choice is ours to accept your gift and live or turn our backs on you and die. Give us a desire for your way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade. Author of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Repent with Sincerity

Remember what 2 Chronicles 7:14 said? There are four steps leading to healing. Humble ourselves, pray and seek God were the first three steps. These steps prepared us for the action step.

The fourth step in healing is repentance. Don’t let the word “repent” scare you. It simply means turning from and turning to something. It’s a decision to change your mind. It means to stop one way and start another. God asks us to turn from ungodly ways and turn to Him.

So let’s look at what we need to turn from as 2 Timothy 3:2-5 outlines:

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Pastor Rick Warren took these items and looked each word up in the Greek to seek further meaning. We’ll use his list (taken from January 10-11, 2009 sermon) as our checklist below. Rate how frequently you see these appearing in your life. Use the following scale: 1 for not at all, 2 for occasionally, 3 more than I’d like, 4 becoming a habit, and 5 all the time.

Self-absorbed

1 2 3 4 5

Money focused

1 2 3 4 5

Self promoting

1 2 3 4 5

Status conscious

1 2 3 4 5

God-insulting

1 2 3 4 5

Rude, disrespectful

1 2 3 4 5

Unappreciative

1 2 3 4 5

Crude and profane

1 2 3 4 5

Unkind and heartless

1 2 3 4 5

Unwilling to forgive

1 2 3 4 5

Slanders and gossips

1 2 3 4 5

Impulsive and uncontrolled

1 2 3 4 5

Loves violence

1 2 3 4 5

Cynical, hate do-gooders

1 2 3 4 5

Double-dealing

1 2 3 4 5

Reckless and rash, irresponsible

1 2 3 4 5

Puffed up with pride

1 2 3 4 5

Choosing pleasure over God

1 2 3 4 5

Fake spirituality

1 2 3 4 5

If you rated any item more than a 1, stop. Pray and ask God to help you repent of this ungodly behavior. Confess it and ask for forgiveness.

Acts 3:19 NKJV says “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Now who doesn’t want their sins blotted out and times of refreshing to come?

Act now. Turn from your ungodly ways and turn to God Himself. In this turning you are repenting. If repentance comes with sincerity, it is well pleasing to God and He will be glorified.

Lord Almighty, your Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment to come. May your word settle deep without our hearts that we may be convicted of ungodly behaviors to confess them and be freed from them. Forgive us our sins and send your times of refreshing. In Jesus’ name Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade. Author of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Genesis 12 – Faithful

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macho Stock.Xchng

The Lord tells Abram to leave his country, family and father’s house. In return the Lord said he would make Abram a great nation, make his name great and bless him. He also said he was blessing Abram so Abram could bless others. Along with that the Lord said anyone who curses you will be cursed. All the families of the earth will be blessed through Abram. What was Abram’s response? He departed as the Lord had spoken to him. He responded in quick obedience.

Later in the land of Canaan and Shechem, the Lord says I’m giving this land to your descendants. What was Abram’s response? He built an alter to his Lord and kept moving. He worshipped the Lord. He obeyed the Lord.

Now with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, Abram builds another alter to the Lord and calls upon His name. What was Abram’s response? He sought the Lord’s counsel. Then he journeyed south.

Next we see Abram in Egypt during a famine. Abram fearing for his own life decides to lie about Sarai being his wife. He thought the Egyptians would kill him to take her. He starts handling things on his own rather than calling on the Lord. (See verse 10 through 16) What happened? Abram was obedient up to this point. What caused him to not trust the Lord?

But what encourages me the most is how God chose to continue using Abram, despite his lack of faith, his need to control things, his self-preservation, fear and his lying and scheming. God still worked despite Abram’s missteps.

And so it is with us. We may be obedient one time and disobedient the next, just like Abram. But God still uses us. He still works in us and through us to accomplish His great purposes.

God is not looking for the perfect. He’s looking for the faithful; those who will trust Him no matter what. But even if we do slip up and depend on our own strength once in awhile, God doesn’t leave us there. He draws us back into His care.

Lord, thank you for being willing to put up with less than perfect followers. Thank you for drawing us near time and time again. In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade. She is creator of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com , YourBibleWitnessAtWork.com, and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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What’s the big deal about Cain’s offering?

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Sparky2000 Stock.Xchng

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? Genesis 4:3-6 NKJV

What’s the big deal about Cain’s offering? You might think he simply gave what he had. The real issue was not the offering itself, but the motive behind it.

Remember God knows our motives better than we do. Cain brought what he thought was befitting the Lord. Cain gave what he wanted to give rather than what God wanted.

How many times have we done the same thing? We think “look Lord see all these good things I’ve done for you?” But does God require all these good deeds? No. He looks for the humble and contrite heart. He longs for us to truly seek Him.

Self check: What are my real motives for the activities I choose to do?

Lord God above, forgive us for the times we, like Cain, come bringing our offering rather than humility of the heart. Help us to remember you desire our inward most beings rather than the good deeds of our hands. In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has lead small group Bible studies for almost a decade. She is creator of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com , YourBibleWitnessAtWork.com, and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Caught Off Guard

858531_wondering.jpg 

The other day while working during the lunch period, a co-worker asked if I would answer a few questions.  “Of course”, I replied, “happy to help if I can.”

 

A stranger steps into my work area asking me questions which seemed rather difficult to answer on the spot.  But the worst part was they were video taping my response!

 

I vaguely remembered we had an all-employee-meeting coming up, and slowly I began piecing this together.  This brief interview would be edited down into a collage of interviews to make an entertaining skit for the event.

 

I don’t particularly like being on camera, unless I’m prepared for it.  I have to think about my responses before speaking, so being put on the spot was very uncomfortable.

 

As I share this story, it dawns on me, this is a reminder.  We, Christians, should be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15).  In case, we are “put on the stop” we will be ready.  

 

Are you prepared?  Do you have your 30 second explanation of what Jesus has done for you?  If not, why not work on one today?  You never know when you might need it.

 

Here’s my 30 second story:

I gave my life to Christ during a marital crisis.  After being forgiven from my sins, Jesus changed my hard heart of hatred into a tender heart of love.  He delivered me from perfectionism, workaholism, and love relationship addiction.  Now, I am a new person, my marriage is restored, and we were blessed with another child.

 

It’s your turn.  Tell me what Jesus has done for you. Write it down.  Practice it a few times until it holds off your tongue.  When you do, you won’t have to worry about being caught off guard.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for letting us enough to die for us.  Thank you for making all things new.  In your precious name we pray Amen.

 

 © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

 

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How did you believe?

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:42 NKJV

 

Some people believe when they hear other people’s story of how they found Christ.  Other people believe after they investigated for them self.  But everyone comes to believe when they finally hear Christ for themselves. 

 

God in his infinite grace has given each of us the opportunity and privilege of sharing his word with others.  As we share what God has done for us it may very well cause others to believe in God too.  Then again it may just be a seed that’s planted for someone else to water.

 

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gave us His final directive: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

We can’t make disciples if we ourselves don’t know God’s Word, can we?  No we can’t.  Therefore, first we come to God and ask Him to reveal Himself through His word.  Next we apply what we’ve learned from His word in our lives.  This is what embeds His truth into our belief system.  Finally, we begin to share what God has done in our life with others.  We build relationships with others and invite them to church or to Bible study or any other God honoring activity.  And we pray continually for anyone who hasn’t found the Lord yet (2 Timothy 2:25).

 

Will anyone be thankful you shared Christ with them?

 

Lord, we thank you for your word and your Holy Spirit who gives us the courage do what you ask of us.  Continue your good work in us until the fullness of Christ is complete.  In Jesus name we pray Amen.

 

 

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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