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.

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Mindful of the Things of God

Get behind Me, Satan!  For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.  Mark 8:33 NKJV 

Remember, the gospels are a narrative genre requires us to look at the full context of any specific verse to fully understand what is being communicating.  As you read, ask yourself two questions:

(1) What further insight does this reveal about Jesus as Messiah? 

(2) As His disciple, how should I respond to Him? 

 

Read Mark 8:27-38. 

 

In verses 27-29 Jesus asks His disciples who people were saying He was.  Then He asked His disciples the same question and Peter replied “You are the Christ”.   In verse 31 Jesus explains what’s going to happen to Him.  In verse 32 a paraphrase of Peter, “No way, Lord, let it not happen to you.”  In verse 33 Jesus replies with today’s verse above.  In the remaining verses Jesus teaches about the commitment required in being one of His disciples. 

 

Jesus’ rebuke of Peter is a strong one which re-enforces the importance we should place on our thoughts.  If we allow our thoughts to dwell on our self, our desires and what’s best for us, we are effectively walking with Satan rather than with our Lord. 

 

When Jesus says whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up the cross and follow Me, He was indicating the kind of commitment required to be His disciple.  First, He says him deny himself.  This is not a martyr mentality, but rather a choice to think of others instead of self.  That is so contrary to our natural thoughts, isn’t it?  Would you be willing to do that?  Second, He says take up the cross which seems to indicate the need for crucifying all that is not of God in our life.  It is a symbolic way of describing the purifying process in our life as we strip away all that would hinder our walk with the Lord.  Third, He says follow Me.  This step can only be accomplished if, in fact, the first two steps are carried out. 

 

As Christ, Jesus is mindful of God’s will and carries out God’s plan no matter what.  In this section of scripture, Jesus is revealing what it takes to be one of His disciples.  God is calling us to a higher way of living.  A life marked by selflessness and a relentless focus on the things of God rather than the things of men. 

 

So what are you mindful of; things of this world, your own well-being or things of God?

 

The choice is yours.  Who do you want to follow?   The One who came to give you life or the one who wants to steal, kill and destroy all that is from God?

 Lord, thank you for who you are.  Thank you for your word of truth. Increase our understanding of you by rightly interpreting your word.  In Jesus’ name 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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A Matter of Choice

 

Have you ever noticed how the routine hurts of life can lead us to think we don’t have any choice?  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Life is all about choice.  We have more power to choose than we give our self credit for. 

 

We make choices all the time.  We choose to make a friend, get married, or have children.  We also choose to give love or give respect.  We choose to commit to a relationship and to put forth effort to maintain that relationship.  We even choose to believe God or not.

 Choice in Attitude

The easiest and most cost effective method of make-over is by adjusting your attitude.  Believe it or not you have a choice about how your attitude affects your life.  You can choose to let the circumstances of life cause negative thoughts to rule your mind.  Or you can choose to think on all you have to be thankful for.  Who is easier to be around someone who is always negative and complaining or someone who always thinks positively and gives people the benefit of doubt?  Philippians 2:5 says “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” He was humble and servant-hearted.  Are you?

 

Choice in Speech

Our words have a major impact on everyone around us.  We can use our words as weapons tearing down people with harsh, uncaring sayings.  We can use our words to build people up, encourage them with God’s Word.  A pleasant word at the right time is like honey for the soul (Proverbs 16:24). 

 

Choice in Marriage

You may have decided to get married.  Part of this commitment was to love and respect your spouse for the rest of your natural life.  This commitment requires work to maintain.  When wives choose to respect their husbands the man is more likely to respond by loving his wife.  Likewise when husbands choose to love their wives, the woman is more likely to respond by respecting her husband.  When both choose to give the other what they need, both are satisfied and God is honored by their obedience. Refer to Ephesians 5:22-33 for biblical instructions for husbands and wives.  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Cracking the Communication Code, the Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language is a great resource for helping us understand each other better.

 

Choice in Parenting

Whether you decided to have children or are around children a lot, you have a choice to make.  Will you commit to being a godly influence? Will you raise your child in love and admonition of the Lord? Or will you continue to worry about yourself and leave your child to figure things out on their own?  If God’s given you children, you have a choice to be a good steward. You can either build them up and encourage them or neglect them.  Which is honoring to God?  Proverbs 22:6 NKJV says “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

Choice in Relationships

Regardless of type of relationship you’re in, you may choose to display God’s character or not.  You can choose to love others as God has loved you.  Or you can try manipulating others to get your needs met.  Where two people come together without expecting anything in return are good relationships.  These people extend grace, forgiveness and mercy.  They seek to understand before being understood.  They seek the other’s best interest over their own (Philippians 2:4).  As they put others first, they fulfill God’s command.  Blessings come when we are obedient.

 Choice in Salvation

God honors our decisions.  If our decision takes us down the path of eternal destruction, God will be crushed by your decision but He will allow you to continue in your own way.   Just like in every other area of life, you have a choice for salvation.  God’s plans and purpose are not to harm us but to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  We can choose to accept God’s way, Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins and His resurrection which brings us life eternal or not.  He won’t force you to accept His truth but He surely hopes you will recognize the extent of His love for you and come to Him (Matthew 18:14).

 

In every aspect of life, we have a choice to follow God’s way or our own way.  Have you noticed when ever you choose your own way, things don’t turn out exactly how you planned?  That’s because you don’t know everything, like God does.  He knows what’s best for us and He longs to lead us down the path of righteousness. 

 Lord, you alone know what’s best for us.  Help us to turn to you with all our choices.  Equip us to make the choice to follow you in all areas of our life.  In Jesus’ name 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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Why Am I Unclean?

“It shall be unclean…So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,” says the Lord, “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.” Haggai 2:13-14 NKJV

The Lord clearly says the people are unclean. The work of their hands is unclean. Everything the people offer is unclean.

What does unclean mean?  It means not holy. Unclean is to be not holy, not pure, and not true.

God is holy. To approach God we must be holy as He is holy.  However, we can’t make our self holy.

Why the heavy emphasis on us being unclean?  It is because we need to recognize our need.  Without recognizing our true condition we miss God’s mercy towards us.

Look at Haggai 2:17-19. “I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands, yet you did not turn to Me” says the Lord… “But from this day I will bless you.”

Did you catch that?  Though the people didn’t turn to God, He still chose to bless them! They don’t deserve it, but He chooses to bless anyway! You and I don’t deserve it either. But He chooses to bless us too!

Though on our own we stand as filthy rags before our Maker, He chose to clothe us in His righteousness through Jesus Christ.

O Lord thank you for your mercy and blessings. Thank you for cleansing us of all unrighteousness and forgiving our sins. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Who is My Equal

To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? Isaiah 46:5 NKJV 

What is God saying with this verse?  To fully understand, you need to read the whole chapter of Isaish 46 in context.

 

The first two verses describe people who are loaded down with idols.  Their idols were on their beasts and cattle and filled in their carriages.  But they could not deliver the burden and instead have gone into captivity. Verses three and four describe God trying to get the people’s attention.  Remember, who’s in charge here, He seems to be saying.  He’s calling out to His people saying it’s Me who carries and delivers you. Next we see today’s verse where God asks His people whom do we compare Him with. Verses six and seven describe how the people made idols for themselves and how ridiculous it was for them to worship something they had made, rather their own Creator. The rest of the chapter is a plead from God calling His people to remember their transgressions, God’s past mercies, and God is the One to bring righteousness and salvation.

 

So what do we learn about people and God from this study of scripture today? 

 

Regarding people, we tend to forget about God, while we’re busily making our idols. People are stubborn-hearted and prefer to run things for themselves to their own disadvantage.  While we may not carve our own idols to carry with us, we still have idols in our life.  Anything that we put in place of God is an idol.  When we do put something in God’s place, we’re unconsciously comparing God to a worthless idol.  We’re setting up a false god and worshipping it as god.  Ask yourself a few questions: Where are your thoughts focused?  Where do you spend the most time?  Where does your money go?  If the answers to these questions are not about God and for God all these point to possible idols in your life.

 

Today’s idols might be something like: longing for bigger house, desiring a more intimate marriage relationship, working longer hours to get a better job, a nicer car, desire for children, making more money, desire to look good, or be physically fit.  Anything we pour ourselves into that is not God Himself is an idol taking God’s place.  That’s a problem we can only address with God’s help.  Turn to Him and ask for His guidance.

 

Regarding God, we learn He’s still God.  He’s the One holding us.  He’s the One carrying us all the way through our entire life, even when we refuse to admit it.  He hasn’t changed.  Only He can deliver us from our burden of sin and of idols. He’s God and there is none like Him.  He longs for us to remember our sins and humbly turn to Him for forgiveness.  He wants us to remember what He’s done in the past to help us remember He is God.   He doesn’t tire of our procrastination, He simply waits.   He’s incredibly patient as He waits for us to come to the end of our self-sufficiency and turn to Him.  He’s merciful because He hasn’t destroyed us already.  God’s calling us to compare our wimpy idols to Him, to recognize how silly it is to worship something other than Him.  Nothing we create can save us.  Our salvation comes from the One who made us.

 

What a great section of scripture we looked at today. God’s told us everything we need to know.  It’s time we choose to listen.  Let’s start looking to God for the transformation in our life that comes through obeying His Word.

 

Lord God above, thank you for your truth which highlights our errors and reveals more about you.  Help us see where we might have idols in our lives.  Help us tear down the false gods and turn to you, the One True God.  In Jesus’ name Amen.  

 

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God is God

“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22 NKJV 

Only God is God.  There is no other like Him.  Any that claim to be god, are only fooling themselves.  If you ever waver sometimes on whether God has the right to rule over us, try reading Isaiah chapters 40, 45, and 46.   

God has the right to determine how His people will be saved.  God’s Word is clear, there is only one way — God’s Way.  Even in the Old Testament, God told His people only His way would work.  Isaiah 46:11 NKJV says “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.”  God tells us, through His Word, He will bring it to pass for He purposed it.  God can not lie, therefore, if He said He would do something, we can rely on Him to do it just as He said He would.   

Salvation doesn’t come from us trying to earn it.  The only part we play in salvation is the part of being saved.  God’s doing the saving, we are the saved.  Look at what Isaiah 46:13 NKJV says, “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory.”   It is God’s doing.  He brings His righteousness near.  When His righteousness is near, salvation is sure to follow.   

Do you recognize God’s right to rule? If not, read His Word and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  He won’t resent your asking.  Look at what James 1:5 NKJV says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

Lord God above you have every right to rule your creation.  Where we struggle to submit to your sovereignty, help us turn to you.  You alone save us by your righteousness.  Help us look to you and be saved. In Jesus’ name Amen.  

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Where does Forgiveness From?

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 NKJV 

Have you heard about “claiming the blood of Christ” in your prayers?  Some churches teach it as a way of obtaining power over what you struggle with.  I wanted to know where this saying came from, so I became searching the Bible for it. 

 

When I searched for “claim the blood”, there were no results.  I searched for “claim”, but only found 8 references and all of them were not focused on the blood of Christ.  I searched again, this time for “blood of Jesus Christ”, “blood of Christ”, or “blood of Jesus”.  All together, there were 20 references found in the New Testament. 

 

What is so significant about blood, and specifically about Jesus’ blood?  To understand blood’s importance you must travel back to the Old Testament.  Leviticus 17:11 NKJV says this about blood, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’”  In Old Testament times, God gave the people a method of covering their sins, called atonement.  This practice of offering a blood sacrifice was repeated every year, because the blood of animals could never remove man’s sin.  It was atonement for sin.

 

From Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary, here’s what it says about “Blood”:To blood is ascribed in Scripture the mysterious sacredness which belongs to life, and God reserved it to himself when allowing man the dominion over and the use of the lower animals for food. Thus reserved, it acquires a double power: (1) that of sacrificial atonement; and (2) that of becoming a curse when wantonly shed, unless duly expiated. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26; 17:11-13)            From Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary, there was a lengthy explanation about Atonement Day.  If you’re interested in reading more about that, use this link: BibleGateway.com Dictionaries: ATONEMENT, THE DAY OF.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.  Therefore, Jesus’ blood is most precious because only HIS blood  forgives sins once and for all.  The shedding of His blood occurred once, never to be repeated.  Look at what Ephesians 1:7 NKJV says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”.

 

What do we conclude from this study?  While the Bible never uses the words “claiming the blood of Christ”, in a sense that’s what we do when we put our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. 

 

Are you, not necessarily with words, claiming the blood of Christ in your life?  Today’s verse explains how.  If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.

 

Father God above, you know our weakness and provide a way for us to be cleansed from all unrighteousness through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for shedding your Son’s blood that we may be forgiven and have fellowship with you.  Enable us to claim victory over sin through faith in Jesus Christ.  In His precious name, Amen.  

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A Pattern for Prayer

Psalm 89 is much too long for this short devotion.  However, if you read this psalm in it’s entirety you may start to see a pattern, as I did. 

 

Psalm 89:1-18 ascribes praise and worship to God.  The psalmist writes about how no one can compare to God and how God is creator of heaven and earth.  If you ever need some encouragement or a little extra faith, this section of scripture can help put your mind in the proper perspective by focusing on God.  That’s exactly how we should start out our prayers by focusing on all we know about our loving, merciful, and mighty God. 

 

Psalm 89:19-37 describes God speaking (or perhaps answering) the psalmist.  This section is all about what God has done and will do for His chosen one David and his descendants.  Looking at the “I have or I will…” statements He declares will give us great insight to the character of God:

  • I have given help to one who is mighty
  • I have exalted one chosen from the people
  • I have found My servant David
  • I have anointed him
  • I will beat down his foes before his face
  • I will set his hand over the seas
  • I will make him My firstborn
  • I will keep for him [My mercy] forever
  • I will make his seed endure forever
  • I will punish their transgression with the rod
  • I will not utterly take [My lovingkindness] from him
  • I have sworn by My holiness
  • I will not lie to David

 

God is the one who gives helps, lifts up a person, anoints, deals with your enemies, gives us responsibilities, adopts you into His family, corrects us when we when it and doesn’t lie.  Can you see yourself striving for some of those things?  Well, stop striving because it’s God who makes it happen. 

 

Psalm 89:38-51 outlines the cares, concerns and worries the psalmist had.  The psalmist struggled with how things appeared.  In his life he felt “cast off”, “renounced”, and “profaned.”   However, it’s okay to let these feelings flow freeing before God.  He is open to hearing our woes.  As the psalmist had no problem laying it out for God, we shouldn’t either.   

 

Psalm 89:52 closes with an accolade to God: Blessed be the Lord forevermore!  No matter what the situation looked like, the psalmist was going to trust God.  Ending the psalm this way is a good reminder to put our worries in proper relationship to God. 

 

Let’s review what this psalm’s pattern has highlighted:

1)      Begin our time with the Lord in praise and worship.  Focusing on who God is will help open our hearts and ears to hear Him.

2)      Listen when God speaks.  God is the one setting things in motion according to His plan and purposes.  He is in control.

3)      Lay out your concerns, fears and worries.  God can handle them.  But don’t stop there.

4)      Praise God for all He is doing, no matter what the situation looks like at the time.

 

Lord, thank you for your Word that shows us who you are and gives us a pattern to follow.  Thank you for being in control of all things and knowing the plan and purpose you have for us.  Enable us to come to you, praise you, release our worries to you and be strengthened by you.  In Jesus’ name Amen.  

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If God’s Peace is Like a River, What’s blocking the Flow?

“Your peace would have been like a river”, Isaish 48:18 NKJV 

God wants us to enjoy His peace.  The Bible is full of instructions on how to obtain that peace.  Being obedient to God’s Word is the key.  When we are willing to be under His all encompassing authority, His peace will be like a river in us.   

Let’s take a further look at this wonderful imagery and see what more we can learn from comparing God’s peace to a river.   

A river is a moving stream of water.  It doesn’t stand still, it flows.  It has a starting source and it continues down a pre-determined path until it reaches its final destination.  Let’s apply this thinking to our spiritual lives.  Once we’re saved (given our life to Christ), we aren’t done.  There’s still work to do.  We have to keep moving forward in our relationship with Christ.  Jesus Christ is the source.  He is the author and finisher or our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  We are also on a pre-determined path, a course set and held by the hand of God with a final destination being heaven.  Until we reach heaven, we are being transformed into Christ’s image and His character is being developed in us.   

Sometimes rivers get blocked up and there are few reasons for that.  Some are for good reasons and some are bad.  Let’s consider them and as we do, think about how it applies to us spiritually.  

Dead stuff like fallen leaves, broken branches, and other loose items find its way into the river.  For a time those items don’t hinder the river.  However, when the river narrows, as all rivers do at some point, all that stuff floating in the river starts to pile up.  This doesn’t usually cause the river to cease flowing, but it can reduce the flow of the river.   

What stuff is making its way into our spiritual river? It could be unconfessed sin, unwillingness to submit to God, or always wanting to know the “why” before you obey.  It also could be lack of belief, lack of trust or a build up of pride, or self-centeredness in our life. 

Other times the river is blocked from a beaver settling in and making a dam.  The beaver is doing only what comes natural to him, as God designed.  The beaver painstakingly takes broken branches, twigs, and other natural lumber and strategically places them in the flow of the river.  The dam acts as a river flow regulator.  Without the dam, downstream the river could overflow and cause more damage.  However, God takes care of it by sending the beavers to build their home in the river.   

At times in our lives, there may be situations or circumstances that seem to be a hindrance to us.  In the end, we discover it was all part of God’s glorious plan to help us grow in our faith, our love and in our character.   It’s not something we’d choose for our self, but we have to experience them nonetheless. 

In the Old Testament, cities were walled in, meaning there was a wall going all around the city for protection against invaders.  Usually these cities were made next to a river, so the river would run under the wall and through the city providing a source of fresh water to the people living there.  When an enemy came against the city, there were times when they would cut off the water supply to the city, as a way to get the city to surrender.   How they blocked off the water, isn’t the important part.  I simply wanted you to recognize an enemy can block the flow.  

How is the enemy blocking your flow today?  Our enemy, Satan, doesn’t want us growing in the Lord.  He’ll do all sorts of things to block God’s peace in our life.  Recognize the enemy exists and prepare yourself to stand against him by putting on the armor of God.  Read Ephesians 6:10-20 for details.   

Let’s review our comparison of God’s peace as a river:

1)      Stuff comes into the river and can reduce the flow.  The “stuff” is sin, disobedience, or wanting our way instead of God’s way.

2)      Beavers make dams which regulate the flow of the river.  There are things God brings into our life to help us grow spiritually.

3)      Enemies can block the river’s flow.  Our enemy, Satan, doesn’t want us growing in the Lord.  We must prepare for battle by putting on the armor of God.    

 

How’s your river of God’s peace flowing today?  Is the flow reduced by debris?  Is God working on growing your through trials?  Is the enemy after you?

Remember what the Psalmist penned in Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Jesus encouraged us with, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Next time peace seems lacking in your life, think about this analogy.  Perhaps there’s something you can do about it.  For the rest, take it to God in prayer, trust Him to be with you through it and know the waters will not overwhelm you (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Lord God, thank You for making Your peace like a river available to us through Jesus Christ.  Help us be obedient to Your Word by the leading of Your Holy Spirit in us. Enable us to stand against our enemy by putting on the armor of God.  May we grow in our relationship with You more each day. In Jesus’ name Amen.   

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10 Reasons NOT to Read the Bible

  1. You like running your own life your way.
  2. You prefer living based on lies instead of truth.
  3. You like feeling insecure, unwanted, and unloved.
  4. You don’t want to discover the purpose for your life.
  5. You would rather stay trapped in unhealthy patterns of life.
  6. You are too busy to sit down and read it.
  7. You believe ignorance is bliss.
  8. You never want to experience joy.
  9. You don’t like to think.
  10. You don’t care what happens to you after death.

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