Archive for January, 2012

10“Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. 11For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.

12“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment….14Good advice and success belong to me. Insight and strength are mine. 
Proverbs 8:1012, 14 (NLT)

As I read verses 10 and 11, the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention with the understanding that choosing silver and gold is so much easier than choosing God’s instruction and knowledge. Let me rephrase that – choosing to pursue silver and gold is so much easier than choosing to pursue God’s instruction and knowledge. Our society highly values the pursuit of silver and gold. Far be it that anyone should set aside the pursuit of these things to pursue God’s wisdom. I mean when was the last time you heard someone say that they were going to work less so they could pursue God more. It happens, but not a lot and most of the world (even those in the Church) would look at such a person with a bit of suspicion.

But then I read on, and learned that wisdom brings along good judgment. Good judgment is one of the greatest values in the workplace. Having wisdom and good judgment leads to the discovering of knowledge and discernment. Scripture continues, telling us that good advice and success belong to wisdom, as does insight and strength.

Now let me see if I have this right. If I pursue (and presumably attain) wisdom, I will also be receiving good judgment, good advice, success, insight and strength. It would seem to me that if I had all those things, there could be little doubt that I would be successful in the work world during the (less) time I’m spending there. I am also totally confident that my spiritual life, my relationship with God, would bring greater satisfaction, joy, peace and victory.

OK, there was an important parenthetical in that last paragraph that perhaps I should qualify. I assumed that when you pursue wisdom you would “presumably attain” it. Well, I have it on good authority that you will:

5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:5-8 (NIV)

God’s Word promises that He will give wisdom to all who ask. When we really believe that verse, we live in expectation that God will give it. (See my blog “What Do You Really Believe” for more on this.) And when we live in that place of faith, God responds by generously giving us wisdom. What’s it take to live in that place of faith? Pursuing Him more so that we might know Him more.

Can there be any reason that makes sense not to pursue wisdom? Well, in case you don’t agree with me yet, let me share one more verse. Here’s Hosea 4:6a in two translations:

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6a (NIV)

My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Hosea 4:6a (NLT)

Lack of the knowledge of God destroys us, God’s Word says. Conversely, pursuing the knowledge of God brings with it good judgment, discernment and success (among other things).

God’s Word provides so much encouragement to study His ways and get to know Him. Let’s be a community of believers who prove God’s Word to the world. Let’s be people who prove that when pursuing God and knowing Him is more important than pursuing worldly riches, we become people of knowledge, wisdom, discernment, insight, good advice, and success.

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW  in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings.

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

Happy treasure seeking, friends!
Sandy

Download Bookmarks Here Download a PDF of the February Reading Plan Here

Here’s February’s reading plan:

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These nuggets of wisdom are the last I’ll share from sermons I heard in 2011. I hope you’ve been challenged and blessed as you’ve read them.

  • We’re called to the impossible. The Christian life is a journey into the impossible.
  • The presence of God carries wisdom and direction (i.e., it’s not impractical).
  • Wisdom implies preparing properly; being led by the spirit does not trump proper preparation.
  • If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.
  • Celebrate who a person is without stumbling over who they are not.
  • It’s in our DNA (through the blood of Jesus) to hunger for the supernatural. That hunger is either taught or disappointed out of us. (Don’t let it be!)
  • If it matters to us, it matters to Him.
  • We tend to lower the standard of Scripture to our experience. (Ouch!)
  • Will you lay your Isaac – your dream for the future – on the altar?
  • If we’re in prison, it’s because we’ve traded the Truth for a lie! When we trade the lie for Truth, we walk in freedom.
  • We have a relationship with a God of adventure!

I’m looking forward to all that 2012 offers and am thankful for the ability to learn from other pursuers of God. What did you hear in 2011 that stuck with you throughout the year?

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God is challenging me to believe His Word. I mean really believe it. That challenge has just started, so I’m sure there will be future blogs about it, but let me give you a taste of what God’s been whispering in my ear lately.

In Matthew 9:29 Jesus said the following to two blind men as He healed them:

“According to your faith let it be done to you.” (NRSV)
Matthew 9:29b

This is not blog about healing, healing faith or faith healing,  and I don’t want to take the verse out of context. On the flip side, I don’t want my lack of faith to limit God’s work in my life.

Do you believe this…or that…

God can heal you…or that you have a condition that you’ve had all your life and at best God can alleviate some of the symptoms sometimes?

God can give you favor with a boss…or that your boss hates you and you will never succeed until he or she retires?

Your marriage can be the most satisfying relationship you’ve ever imagined or…that things will never change?

You can change (set you free from) that habit that keeps you from moving forward…or have you tried so many times and been unsuccessful that you believe it’s a hopeless cause and you just have to keep fighting

While I would like to say that I believe everything on the left side of these equations, I’m afraid some of my actions would suggest that my “faith” falls on the right side. You see, we act upon and react based on what we believe. Our actions are based on our beliefs – our faith! The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is true. Our actions (and inactions) demonstrate our faith.

So when things don’t go quite as I had planned or hoped, do my actions say “I trust God’s Word to bring the outcome He’s promised” or do my actions say “I lost this and will never…” or “I don’t know if…”

What kind of faith do you have?
In the above “this…or that” examples, we see two different kinds of faith. The first might be called “positive faith” and the latter “negative faith.” (1) Positive faith believes God and lives in such a way that our trust in Him is obvious. Negative faith has more confidence in the enemy’s ability to thwart God’s plans and blessings and is just as obvious to those around us. These two kinds of faith are very different but have at least three things in common:

  • Both kinds of faith are obvious to those around us people around us can see from our actions and hear from our conversation that we are trusting God or have given up hope that God can/will impact our situation.
  • Both kinds of faith impact what actually happens! In Matthew, Jesus didn’t say “According to your positive faith let it be done to you, but your negative faith has no impact on the situation.” No. He said “According to your faith let it be done to you.” While I believe that God’s grace and mercy transcends all, I also believe that when we have no hope – no confident expectation – that God’s impact is muffled.
  • Both kinds of faith have an influence on those around us that goes beyond the blessing they receive when our faith was more active. In other words, others are seeing us stand for and take action based on a confident expectation that God has spoken and God will do what He says…or they are seeing us accept (believe) that the enemy has won. Our actions impact their faith and actions. I want my faith to help others grow in their faith. The alternative is that I am a person who makes it harder for them to believe. Lord, please help me be the positive influence!

Friends, this is impacting my spirit so strongly. I am seeing things in every area of my life where I have exhibited negative faith – where I have been a “doubting Thomas” – and God is opening my eyes to how that very well may have limited God’s blessings in my life. Let me give you two examples from my own life.

  • I have written a Bible study on the book of Jonah. While I wrote it quite awhile ago, I have not finished formatting it for publication. That process is nearly complete. I’ve been heard saying “I don’t know if anyone will want the study when I’ve finished it, but…”

Wait a minute! Or as Phil would say “roll back the tape!”

>  Do I believe that the study holds powerful truths gleaned from a book that holds more sovereign acts of God per page than any other book of the Bible? Yes.
>  Do I believe that God gave me those studies? Yes.
>  Have they impacted my life? Yes.
>  Have they impact the lives of others who have seen the material? Yes.
>  Do my actions demonstrate that I believe those things? Uhhh…no, not really. My actions say that I’ve not made this a priority and probably even say that I’m a bit afraid to actually release the study.
Where is my confident expectation in God?

  • We’ve owned our business for 23 years. During that time, our income has been very cyclical – we have a good year, then we have a not-so-good year. During the good years we save. During the bad years those savings are depleted. While God has blessed us by keeping our business alive through years when many of our competitors have failed, we’ve not see the kind of steady growth we would like. It has occurred to me as God is teaching me about faith that I have believed that this cycle is “the nature of our business” – I’ve fallen into an expectation of prosperity followed by lack. Don’t get me wrong – God is always blessing and even in our lean years we are blessed more than most of the world. We started this business, however, to be a conduit of blessing to the church – believing that God would use our business and businesses like ours to fund end time ministries. I am seeing my negative faith impacting our business…and therefore all who would be blessed through it.

Laying Aside That Which So Easily Entangles
Now if you’re like me, this also brings up questions and objections. I am laying those aside for now! I am confident that God is speaking to me about faith. I don’t want to stop that flow by throwing in all my “yeah, buts.” I am confident that God will teach me a proper perspective and throwing the “yeah, buts” into the mix right now will simply interrupt the Teacher. It’s not that the Teacher can’t answer my questions, it’s that He knows the best order to present the material. I’m confident that some of those “yeah, buts” will get answered. I’m also confident that some of them will end up on the “you’re too young to understand” list. (Don’t tell me your mother didn’t use that line on you!)

Joining the Great Adventure
This is an exciting journey, friends. Imagine what might happen if the Church (yes, that’s you and me) really believed God’s Word and acted upon that belief. I know God has a great adventure in store for me. He also has one in store for you…will you join Him in the great adventure? I hope so!

(1) One of the books God is using to draw my attention to positive and negative faith is 10 Curses that Block the Blessing by Larry Huch, Whitaker House Publishing.

682080: 10 Curses That Block the Blessing 10 Curses That Block the Blessing By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
Have you been suffering with depression, family dysfunction, marital unhappiness, or other problems and been unable to overcome them? Within the pages of this book, Ten Curses That Block the Blessing, Larry Huch shares his personal experience with a life of anger, drug addiction, crime, and violence. He shows how he broke these curses and reveals how you can:

  • Receive dominion – what it is and how to use it
  • Recognize the signs of a curse,
  • End cycles of abuse and violence
  • Be set free from generational curses
  • Bring your children to Christ

You might also find these books by Larry Huch helpful. Click on the title to learn more:

84282: Free at Last--Book and CD Free at Last–Book and CD By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
You can break free from your past! Don’t let what’s happened to you and your family hold you back in life! You can find freedom from depression, anger, abuse, insecurity, and addiction in Jesus Christ. Pastor Larry Huch reveals powerful truths from Scripture that enabled him and many others to quickly break the destructive chains in their lives and receive God’s blessings. Learn the secret to true freedom and you, too, can regain your joy and hope, experience divine health, mend broken relationships, and walk in true prosperity – body, soul, and spirit. A study guide and teaching sermon are included on a CD.
741187: The Torah Blessing The Torah Blessing By Larry Huch / Whitaker House

Discover the Jewish roots of your Christian faith in The Torah Blessing. Author and pastor Larry Huch takes you on a incredible journey through the hidden truths in the Torah and God’s Word. You’ll learn deep spiritual truths from Israel’s heritage which will connect you to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus in new powerful ways.

 

742580: Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
In Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets, Pastor Larry Huch reveals God’s ancient blessing for your life, such as: destruction of the curse of poverty, healing beneath the wings of the tallit, the covenant of success and more. By understanding and tapping into these timeless truths, Christians can rediscover the destiny that God intends for His people.

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44By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the thick veil hanging in the Temple was torn apart. 46Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Luke 23:44-46 (NLT)

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, as we studied the crucifixion in Bible study yesterday I learned two very special things. (Thanks, Phil, for the study you did on this passage. I was blessed by it.) Yesterday’s blessing was learning the story behind the word translated “paradise.” Today’s blessing is based on Jesus final earthly prayer. (I qualify it as His final “earthly” prayer because we know He sits at the right hand of God now constantly interceding for us.)

Chances are good when you were a child, you learned to repeat this common night-time prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Amen

The words are much like Jesus’ final prayer on the cross. Each night before going to sleep, those who recited the prayer were entrusting their spirit to the Lord. I never knew that this childhood prayer mirrored the Jesus’ last words on earth. Somehow that touched something deep inside me.

But what I learned next touched me even more. During the time that Jesus lived on this earth, Jewish mothers taught their children to say a pray before they went to sleep each night. The prayer was based on Psalm 31:5:

Into your hands I commit my spirit.
Psalm 31:5 (NIV)

Sound familiar? What that tells us is that as Jesus was dying, He prayed the prayer His human mother had taught Him – a prayer the young child Jesus He had undoubtedly prayed each night before He went to sleep. There was one difference this time, however. As Jesus died with that prayer on His lips, He added the word “Father.” He was “going home” to His Father. As He prayed the prayer He had learned from His mother He was entrusting His spirit into His Father’s hands. The man Jesus, who was also the Creator of the world, the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords, intermingled His humanness and deity as He prayed “Father, I entrust my spirit into Your hands.”

What a fitting final prayer! Showing His deep love for both His mother and His Father, it is a prayer that brings to the center both the humanity and deity of Christ. And it blows me away. The tenderness brings me to tears. The perfect “completion” that this prayer brings amazes me. I am sure that I am not adequately putting into words the fullness that comes from that simple prayer.

So as I did yesterday, I simply invite you to meditate on it for yourself. Think about the humanness of Jesus and the deity of Jesus…the little boy who was taught to pray by his mother, reciting a simple Psalm each night…the humble Son returning to His Father…the Reigning King who will one day return.

This child, Son and King invites us to walk in paradise with Him. Wow!

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35The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One, the Messiah.” 36The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38A signboard was nailed to the cross above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? 41We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:35-43 (NLT)

As we studied the passage of Jesus crucifixion our Bible study today, I was touched by two very special things that I didn’t know before. I knew immediately that I wanted to share them with you. The first came from this passage.

The soldiers, leaders and crowd were mocking Jesus as He hung on the cross between the two thieves. One of the criminals even chimed in. They were all bating Jesus to prove He was the Son of God by miraculously taking Himself off the cross. What a temptation that must have been at times as He hung there in agony.

I imagine Jesus took a bit of comfort from the thief who turned to Him and said “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” Here was a man recognizing Jesus for who He was – a King who was soon to return to His Kingdom. Here was a man who was giving Jesus a final opportunity while on earth to accomplish His purpose – bring people to salvation. I think that Jesus was blessed by this man’s request.

Jesus in turn, blessed the man with the promise – the assurance – that he would be in paradise with Jesus that very same day. Now on a very simple, natural level, this was an assurance that the man would be released from the pain and agony of hanging on the cross. Sometimes crucifixions took days. Jesus was telling the man that this was not the case for him. His ordeal would end soon. But beyond that there was a very special promise. The word Jesus used that is translated “paradise” was an unusual one. It is only used three times in the New Testament and it’s not a Greek word, it’s a Persian word that means “walled garden.” Listen to what William Barclay says about the promise of paradise:

“When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a very special honour he made him a companion of the garden which meant he was chosen to walk in the garden with the king. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised him the honoured place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven.”

When I heard Phil teach that truth today I was close to tears. What a special blessing Jesus was promising the thief. He was saying “Friend, later today we will walk and talk together in my private gardens. I’ll tell you my secrets and we’ll enjoy one another’s company as we meander through the beautiful flowers and trees.”

Wow! What a promise. I have not thought of spending time in Jesus’ private garden with Him! I think of seeing Him on His throne and falling at His feet in worship. I think of dancing with Him at the marriage supper of the lamb. I haven’t thought of walking intimately with Him in His private garden. What a sweet picture that brings to my mind.

I am reminded of a favorite hymn of both my mother and my mother-in-law’s – In the Garden. My mother-in-law is enjoying that Garden with Jesus. Lord. God is so very good!

I think I’ll end this blog with that wonderful thought. Tomorrow I’ll share the second very special thing I learned today. But for now, meditate on spending time in the garden with Jesus for awhile!

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I hope you’re being blessed as you read these highlights culled from notes I took while listening to sermons during 2011. I encourage you to pray before reading them and ask God to speak to your heart and spirit through one or more of these gems.

  • If we only give God 50% of our heart, the other 50% is tearing down the work the first 50% is doing!
  • Is anything different in me because I’ve been in His presence? (If not, I’m just “playing church.”)
  • We have been created and called to a much bigger story!
  • Are you bored with Christianity…then you’re not being obedient!
  • The definition you assign to glory will define where you encounter it.
  • When the Lord laid out the plans for our life, He took our stupidity into consideration!
  • Doing even small things for Jesus breaks principalities and powers of darkness.
  • It’s easy to be discouraged as a believer! Simply focus on what God hasn’t done in your life or in the lives of those around you. Instead, we’re to dwell on what He has done and what He’s doing.
  • We’re going to have to make a few adjustments for God’s glory to shine through us. (Amen!)

Which of these gems spoke to you this week?

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9Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. 10If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. 11And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? 12A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

As I read this passage last week, my first reaction was to praise God for the perfect life partner He’s given me. My husband is God’s gift to me, given to demonstrate unconditional love.

As I read verse 12, however, I saw a much broader application. Verse 12 tells me a couple of things. First, it tells me that being alone is a dangerous place. The enemy will attack those who allow themselves to live a life without relationships. There are those who take pride in being a loner. Let me encourage you if you are one of those people to resist the label and the urge. Loners are people who are at risk.

Verse 12 tells us that the person standing alone can be attacked and defeated. The enemy will attack and has the ability to defeat the person standing alone. Knowing this, we ought to take care NOT to be alone. Even when that’s what it feels like we want, we need to ensure that there is at least one person around us to help fight our battles.

Conversely, when we see others who are alone, we can become that battle partner sometimes. This doesn’t mean we’re always in battle. It can also be the fun things we’re doing that makes the person not alone – those things are part of the battle. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about community in our house lately. Community, especially Christian community, offers protection against all sorts of trials the enemy will throw at us, and as Phil and I see the end times approaching we believe that Christian community will be more important than ever. But I digress.

This passage provides a great picture of a friend – one who stands back to back with the person to fight off their enemies; one who helps us out of a pit when we’ve fallen in it. A friend is not one who tears us down. If there is someone in your life who is tearing you down, they are not your friend. If you are tearing down someone in your life, you are not being their friend. We are called to be friends, encouragers, and bearers of one another’s burdens.

So I see the passage cautioning us to be purposeful and careful in developing relationships so that we have at least one friend who will always have our back. That often means reaching out when I want to draw back. It also cautions us to be that friend to someone else who needs it. Again, that often means reaching out when I want to draw back because the person who needs a friend may be someone who is difficult to friend. Perhaps, if the enemy has been attacking that person for a long time he has won the battle for his or her joy. Such a person needs someone to pull them out of the pit, to warm their soul and to have their back.

That kind of relationship can be difficult and the battle we help to fight can be a hard one. But then we have the last part of the verse: “a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” It is that third strand, Christ in the midst of the relationship, that ensures our victory. He provides the strength – emotionally, physically and spiritually – to stand when we would rather rest. He provides the love when we would rather not love. He provides the wisdom when there seems to be no way to victory. He provides rest and nourishment in the midst of the battle.

As mom always said, “two heads are better than one.” Be purposeful in developing relationships in 2012. And be sure it’s not just the two of you in the relationship – seek out friendships with fellow believers and make Christ the center of your fellowship. For your protection and theirs…and for the glory of God.

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We’ve just completed our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules for the entire year and we’re excited to provide a new way for you to track your progress.

New bookmarks are available for download. Click on the link below to download the 2012 bookmarks. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules. They’re great for tracking your reading.

Download Bookmarks Here

Note: This download will take a little longer than downloading the monthly schedules because it is a larger file.

Be blessed as you read God’s Word and find treasures that He has just for you!

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As I share more tidbits from sermon notes I took in 2011, I want to give a bit of credit. I opted not to identify who I am quoting in each line because that would be a bit tedious as most were said by one of my pastors. In other words, the same two names would appear after most of the lines and that would just take up space. So let me give credit where credit is due at the beginning of this blog. Most of the gems of wisdom and motivation you’ll read in today’s blog were said during sermons by Pastor Larry Klaiber or Pastor Danny Caudill. Both men have served Jesus many years while continuing to work an outside job. That is quite a challenge, folks, but it is also often the norm in rural areas.

After we moved from “happening” suburbs to this rural community, I often wondered why God would place such gifted preachers in such small settings. I’ve come to understand that it is not the size of the setting that makes us successful, it is our obedience to our calling; and God places His people strategically in the place of His choosing for the upbuilding of His Kingdom and His ultimate glory. Just as so many spectacular creatures shine in the darkness of the sea where no one but God seas them, many of God’s treasures labor in obscurity for His glory and without the applause of crowds.

So let me share some of the gems from my pastors’ sermons in 2011.

  • When Satan brought his A game (tempting Jesus in the desert), what did Jesus do? He quoted Scripture.
    – I can’t quote it if I don’ t know it.
    – Lord, help me to remember to do the same thing when I am tempted.
  • It’s not the absence of the storm that sets us apart. It’s the One we find in the storm.
  • Isaiah 6:3 says that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. Let’s look for His glory everywhere we go!
  • We were developing in the womb for the life we would live here; we’re developing now for the life we will live for eternity. Those things we ask “What’s the sense of it all” are for our future life (for example., our mouths had no purpose in the womb!).
    – This truth explodes in my mind! For everything you and I have ever questioned, there has been a purpose in God’s bigger picture. If we can’t see it now, we can have confidence it’s for our future.
  • Faith is more than believing, it’s obeying.
  • In every western movie, someone comes riding into town and all hell breaks loose. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came riding into town and all heaven broke loose!
    – Hallelujah!
  • Let us act like the redeemed of the Lord – in the midst of it all – and shout “Hosanna, Son of David!”
  • Ask God: “Draw me away with You.”

Which of these quotes had the most impact on you today? Leave me a comment below or on Facebook.

If you missed my first post of tidbits from 2011, click here.

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