Why can’t we understand “free”?

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Living under the other shoe

shoe dropFor years I toiled under the weight of a “works” oriented salvation. I believed that to please God I had to work to earn His favor and His grace. When  I did good things I believed my deeds were pleasing to God and, for the moment, I had gained His favor. But, when I sinned (and I did.  A lot) I believed, even when I repented, God would make me pay with some consequence or retribution.  I considered it, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

It was a miserable way to live. I went about my day trying to figure out what the
shoe would be. Would it hurt? Would it drop when I least expected it? Would it drop when I was enjoying pleasant times? Would it drop on my friends? When it dropped would my friends abandon me? Would it grieve me or cause me emotional pain? Would I suffer?

Then in August, 2000, I learned my true identity in Christ. God showed me His grace and taught me I didn’t have to pay for any or all the sins I committed. He told me, “They’re all already paid for. Stop waiting for that shoe and let me show you how much I love you.”

I’ve never worried about that shoe again.

 

Baskin Robins Christianity

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A book of discipline

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Riddle: What is full when it’s empty?

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Do you ever use the “J” word in public?

Did you inow . . . Continue reading

What ever happened to “Discussion”?

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What’s your social intelligence quotient?

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Is that the truth?

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Charlton Heston and the 23rd Psalm

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Could you go an entire day without breaking at least 1 of the 10 commandments?

By James Corwin
James blogs over at DirtyHands.com

 Which commandment do we all break?

Typically for the sake of clarity we condense and number them. Different groups of Christians number them slightly differently. I won’t get the why and how of that now. It’s interesting but not important to the overall question. This is how I learned them.

  1. You shall have no other gods. (no idols)
  2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  3. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  4. Honor your father and mother.
  5. You shall not murder.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

So back to that first question. Which commandment do we all break most often?

I’ve heard many people say it’s numbers 9 and 10; coveting. Living in an affluent North American context this is obviously a problem. Our whole economic system would collapse in about ten seconds if we all gave this one up. After all our economy is built on consumerism; buying things. Companies spend literally billions of dollars to make you want what is not and in some cases should not be yours. But coveting isn’t the most frequently broken commandment.

Few people ever say it’s numbers 5 or 6. The reasoning goes like this, “Sure some people do murder or commit adultery. But those are the outliers. Most people don’t have serious issues with these two.” That reasoning works unless you happen to consider what Jesus says about numbers 5 and 6 in Matthew 5. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” OK. So, seen in that light numbers 5 and 6 are broken more often than we would think at first. But they still are nowhere near the commandment we break most often.

The commandment we all break is the first. “You shall have no other gods.” Martin Luther once said the fundamental problem in law-breaking is always idolatryIn other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the commandment against idolatry. (A Treatise on Good Works parts X, XI) Let that sink in a moment. In his explanation of the first commandment he wrote, “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And so anything that you fear, love, or trust more than God has become an idol for you.

When a person steals and breaks the seventh commandment, they have already broken the first. Their desire to have what they stole grew out of a violation of the first commandment. They did not fear, love or trust in God above all else. And so to fill their desire they took what was not theirs. And you can go down the list like that with all the other commandments. Each violation can be traced back to a breaking of the first commandment; “You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or 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; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Idols aren’t only or necessarily funny little statues made out of wood or metal that the unenlightened people of the past prayed to, but that we have outgrown. An idol can be anything. Anything you fear above all else. Anything you love above all else. Anything you trust above all else. The gods of today that vie for God’s place in your life are so ordinary and commonplace that many of us don’t even give them a second thought. The false gods of today don’t go by the name of Baal, or Molech, or Ashtoreth. They are our retirement funds and bank accounts, they are our homes and our families, and they are our countries and our smartphones. And we do our bowing and kneeling to them with our schedules, our credit cards, our imaginations and our work.

Yes, we all break the first commandment. And we break it often. The good news in all of this is that the Big Ten were never meant to be a checklist to get into heaven. God doesn’t attach a percentage to them and say, “If you keep them 90 percent of the time, or 60 percent, or 40 percent, then I’ll let you in. No. They do detail how God wants us to live. But in trying to keep them we learn not only the depth of our sin, but also our utter incapability to keep them.

Once Jesus was asked by a young man seeking to justify himself, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus expertly opened the young man’s eyes to the idol that was standing between him and God. The thing he feared, loved and trusted above all else was his wealth. He walked away sad, unable and unwilling to give it up. The disciples, watching from the sidelines, and realizing their own failings said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:16-30)

Yes we break the first commandment most often. We break it every day. How should we respond? By repenting and trusting in Jesus, the one who from the cross said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Loving people where they are

Editor’s Note: When I read this post on Shannon’s blog, I left her a comment saying everyone needs to read this message. In my opinion it goes to the heart and soul of the solution to many of our world’s social ills.  Enjoy.

By Shannon Moreno
Blogger over at Revelations in Writing

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” – (John 4:7,9-10)

I so appreciate this exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He models for usshannon 3 how we can break down social and cultural barriers, and approach people where they are. Though society would have deemed her unworthy – to acknowledge, let alone speak to – Jesus approached her directly and spoke to her face to face. He was kind, honest, and offered the hope she had so long been looking for. As followers of Christ, we are called to do likewise. Our job is to break down barriers that society deems necessary, and show the world that they are not. We must touch the “untouchable“, love the “unlovable“, give voice to the silent, and meet the needs of those without. So many are misunderstood, misrepresented, and labeled as a result of their circumstances. May we be the ones who answer the call to love our neighbors as Christ has loved us – no barriers, no limits, just love.

Shannon is a long-time devoted blogger since 2011. I read her thought-provoking posts regularly. Shannon is a career teacher and coach and is raising two teenage boys. which in and of itself is a full time job. Read her posts on her blog at https://revelationsinwriting.wordpress.com

Is Jesus God or not?

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What if atheists and non-believes are right?

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The Bible Police

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“Christian” Is A Label, Not A Life

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What’s Next For America?

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What Do We Do Now?

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Here’s a couple of probing questions for you:

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Steve’s List Of 10 Things God Will Never Do

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The Great Exchange

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“Religious Truth” Is An Oxymoron

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in a little while. . .

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A Talk With A Secular Humanist

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Was Jesus Crazy?

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Truth Or Consequences

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Voices

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What Is Truth?

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Kissing Buttercups

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He Didn’t Invite Her To Church

Leftist, Feminist Lesbian Professor Now A Pastor’s Wife Continue reading

A Plumb Line For Us

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“In Control” vs. “Controlling”

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Buddha And Truth

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Something We Need To Know

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The Gospel Of Jesus Christ

Editor’s Note: Rarely have I read such an apt description of the Gospel (Good News) message of Jesus Christ. In her copyrighted post, Meshawn Senior details what the truth of the Gospel is and the best way we can respond to God’s desire for all of us. Enjoy.

None Of Us Are Promised Tomorrow
By Meshawn Senior

What if you were to die today unexpectedly?  It happens to people all the time.  Young and old die in automobile accidents daily.  Heart attacks take many thousands of lives yearly.  And in this post-911 world we’re living in, who knows what could happen to any of us at any given moment?

One question that crosses most people’s minds is whether or not there’s a heaven or hell; and if so, which place will they end up when they die?  There are also some who believe that there is no conscious awareness upon death – that they will just cease to exist.  What is the truth?This needs to be understood by every one of us before our set time on this earth runs out.

WHO ARE WE REALLY?

There’s more to life than what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.  Human beings have a physical body.  However, many don’t realize that we also have a soul and a spirit.  The spirit is the REAL us. Depending on the condition of our spirits when we die, this determines where we will end up.

When the first humans, Adam and Eve, sinned against God by eating forbidden fruit that God told them not to eat,  they died spiritually. This means that their spirits were separated from God, their Creator.  This spiritual state has been passed down to all their children throughout all generations.  This includes you and me.  When we are born into this world, we are spiritually dead.  This is why Jesus said that we must be born again (spiritually) in order to enter into the kingdom of God.  (”Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  – John 3:3)

HOW IS THIS DONE?

Because God is merciful, He provided a means for us to undo our spiritual death and be reconciled to Him.  Under God’s law, when a sin is committed, a death has to occur.  In order to fulfill the death penalty for our sins (i.e., lying, gossiping, bad thoughts, etc.), He needed a sinless human being to die once and for all so that our sins could be wiped out and our spirits reborn and passed from death to life.  In other words, He needed the perfect human sacrifice to pay the penalty of death for our sins.  Since the children of Adam and Eve had sin passed down to them, God had to send His own Son to undergo this  heart-rending  task.  There was no other way! (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  – John 3:16)

WHO IS GOD’S SON?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …” (John 1:14)

Who is the Word?  This is referring to Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  He was “made flesh” approximately 2,000 years ago and “dwelt among us” in the form of a perfect human being so that He could pay the penalty for sins with His own death on the cross.  This is the only way that our spirits can be reconciled to God – by accepting that Jesus died for our sins.  (“I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  – John 14:6)

There’s a view some believe that assumes all one has to do is be a good person and do more good than bad, and God will let them into heaven.  However,  doing  these  things does  not correct the dead condition of the spirit.  Only by believing and accepting what Jesus Christ did on the cross can one be assured of going to heaven.

THE BOTTOM LINE!

How is the condition of your spirit?  Is the “real you” alive because you’ve accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, or are you still dead spiritually?  If this latter condition describes you, then when you take your last breath here on this earth, you will remain this way forever.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Accept the provision that God has given to all people to be reconciled to Himself.  Pray the following prayer (or a similar one) and really mean it with your whole heart.

“Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and I need to be saved from eternal death and separation from you in hell.  I believe that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die for my sins.  I know that no amount of good works or deeds that I do can reconcile me to You; only my believing in what Your Son, Jesus, did for me on the cross.  I ask you to forgive my sins, revive my spirit, and place me into Your heavenly kingdom.  In Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”

If you just said this prayer and meant it, then you will be with God in heaven when you die.  You have no reason to doubt this anymore.

WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Begin by reading the Bible, starting with the Gospel of John in the New Testament and pray to God daily.  These two activities keep our lines of communication open with God.  Reading the Bible is Him talking to us and our prayers are us talking to Him.  You should also start attending a good “Bible-teaching” church regularly.  These things will get your new “spiritual life” started on the right track.

May God richly bless you in your walk with Him!

Copyright 2008 by Meshawn Senior (JMS Tracts)

You can read more of Meshawn’s posts on her blog, His Reflections. Visit her blog today!

Mr. Smith Has Left The Building

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Would Jesus Have A Facebook Page?

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It Must Be True! I Read It On The Internet.

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Homosexuality

By Rob Morley
Co-founder of Light and Life Ministries
Guest Blogger

While I don’t necessarily advocate demonstrations, nor do I support anything less than love for individuals who practice homosexuality, I like the truth in the caption which is a translation of one of the banners: “Say stop to raping our morality under the name of freedom”

You see, many Christians have become confused and soft in their stance toward the sin of homosexuality. While on the one hand many see it as sin, on the other, they indirectly consent to it through not wanting to take away people’s rights to practice their “sexual orientation”. This is further fuelled by the notion that in order to be loving we should “live and let live” as long as it doesn’t affect others. But, is the negative effect of even a monogamous committed homosexual relationship only confined to the two involved?

Let’s consider who gets affected by someone practicing a homosexual lifestyle. Firstly, he is sinning against God and himself by denying the Creator’s design for his life. Then, just like with adultery and fornication, anyone who practices homosexuality is automatically causing his partner to sin and be missing out on God’s plan for his life. Finally, and what is often overlooked, he is sinning against the community by being a very likely, although not necessarily intentional, influence on others to do the same.

By allowing people to have homosexual relationships, whether monogamous or not, they become billboards that reinforce the idea that homosexuality is a viable lifestyle. Effectively we create an environment where other people can be more easily influenced into the same sin. Many people may fall as a result of the appeal that homosexuality may have on their sinful nature, while others may fall to the deception that homosexuality is a normal social way of life.

The permission to practice homosexuality, along with its promotion in the media and the prolific nature of the practice, can confuse and entice many vulnerable youth and adults into embracing what they may never even have thought of. Let alone the influence that it is having on kids growing up in this environment.

A few weeks ago a teenager who is very close to me and who has grown up in a Christian family and environment spoke to me of how he had wrestled with the question of his own sexuality and whether or not he was homosexual. I wonder to what extent the prevailing climate of open homosexuality that exists in this world has been an influence on his thinking.

As the ecclesia we need to be a clear voice of truth to a broken world. Love is telling the truth!

Seriously causing others to miss out on God’s best may be part of the reason for God’s harsh words

Editor’s Note: Rob and Tina Morely co-founded Light and Life Ministries, a teaching ministry in the bodymorley rob and tina of Christ helping people to understand and effectively apply God’s word, the Bible, as it relates to all of life. “While reaching people with the gospel is essential,” Rob said, “the goal of the Great Commission is to have effectively discipled believers. The Bible deals with all areas of life, but if not taught properly, believers remain ineffective for God’s kingdom in those areas.”

and punishments for this crime. These seeds are sown all around. But woe to those whose seeds germinate! And, anyone who condones this practice is an accomplice. “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! (Luke 17:1).

I have a very dear family member who has lived an open homosexual lifestyle for years with one partner. I love both him and his partner and recognize that their sin is no different to mine. Our difference before God is not that I am not a homosexual or that I don’t sin anymore, but that I was given a free pardon for all my sins, past present and future, and am now joined to Jesus.  My sins and wayward nature are not held against me anymore and although I still easily sin, it’s not in my new nature to continue in it. And, God wants to do the same for them.

I don’t condemn any homosexual just as I don’t condemn any adulterer, but I do want to warn against the destructiveness of participating in this lifestyle, both to individuals and societies. It’s not the Creator’s plan for anybody!

Finally, some may need to repent of practicing homosexuality, others of supporting it, and others of not loving those practicing it. Whichever it is, God is willing to forgive.

You can contact Rob or Tina Morley via e-mail at lightandlifebibleministries@yahoo.com

So, what do YOU think? Your opinion matters.

I Will Rise

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Winning In The Real World

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For His Glory 2013 Season Preview

Summer’s over.
Sabbatical’s over.
Let’s rock and roll with new posts. Continue reading

Buck Nekkid, Right There In Front Of God And Everybody

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Your Problem’s Not Your Problem

Is this you? You wish your life was better than it is. But there’s this problem. This problem is keeping you from enjoying a better life. Continue reading

You Plus God Equals Zero U+GOD=0

Lots of people who don’t know their true identity in Christ believe and live out of a contrived philosophy of works and performance. They think God plus ID in Christtheir good works is what brings God glory. If the truth be told, in my opinion and from my experience, usually the motivation for their good works is probably more about getting approval from God.

I had a friend who used to tell me, and everyone else, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” I had to bite my tongue every time I heard that platitude. First, it’s not the least bit scriptural or true. And second, it creates the impression that one has to do stuff to get help, approval or acceptance from God.

I was teaching about grace and the freedom we have in Christ one Sunday in my adult Bible study class. One of our members grew up in another faith, a legalistic, works oriented religion. She made this statement, “Okay, I hear what you’re saying, but surely there must be something we need to do to receive God’s grace.”

Obviously she did NOT hear what I was saying. Her resistance to surrendering her life to Christ and abiding in Christ (John 15:1-5) caused her to struggle with God’s grace and receive it.  John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing!”

Abiding is the toughest “nothing” we will ever do. But as the verses in John say, unless we do nothing in and of ourselves and just abide, we won’t produce anything worthwhile for the Kingdom of God.

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Where Are You Going?

By Dr. John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

When you look for guidance be sure you get good instructions.

Sabine Moreau is 67-years-old. She was going on what she thought would be a short trip, so she followed her navigationjohn ed system. It sent her on a 1,800-mile detour through six countries! Sabine only intended to drive 93 miles to Brussels, but ended up in Croatia. She said, “Suddenly I appeared in Zagreb and I realized I wasn’t in Belgium anymore.”

We rely a lot on Lowrance, TomTom, Garmin, Smart phones, and other GPS navigational devices. Most of the time they are correct, but they can be faulty. I read about one elderly man who was following his navigation system and drove off of a pier into the lake!

The Bible teaches us that God wants to guide us through life. In Psalm 23 David says that God is like a shepherd who wants to guide us to the green pastures, the still waters, and the paths of righteousness. (Psalm 23:1, 2)

We can trust God’s guidance. He never sends us on a wild goose chase. He never makes mistakes when He guides. What we need to do is follow.

There was small boy who had an unusual fear of the dark. Late one evening his father asked him to go out to the barn to get some tools. The boy broke down and confessed that he was afraid of the dark.

The father gave the boy a lantern and said, “How far can you see son?” The boy said, “Well I can see to the mulberry tree.” The father said, “Good. Then go to the mulberry tree.” When the boy reached the tree the father said, “How far can you see now?” The boy replied that he could see the currant bushes. The father said, “Go to the bushes.”

As the boy reached the bushes the father asked again, “How far can you see now?” This time the boy said he could see the hen house and then finally to the barn. The father told him to proceed and the boy went step by step and made it to the barn.

When God guides us he doesn’t always show us the destination. What He expects is for us to follow Him to the next point, then continue and trust Him. It is all about trust. He knows where we need to be and He knows how to guide us there. He does it step by step.

Sometimes I get impatient and want to see the full map. God is always reminding me that it is His responsibility to guide – it is my responsibility to follow.

Technology is good. I will continue to use my GPS device, but want to remember that sometimes it can be wrong. More importantly, I am going to ask for God’s navigation system. He has never been wrong in thousands of years. He has never carried a person to where they do not need to be. He has never made a mistake.

He guides! I follow!

John Ed’s blog posts appear each Thursday on For His Glory

Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4, 4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 | 334.270.2149 | info@johnedmathison.org

 

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Dividing over Issues – Welcoming Differences, Avoiding Division – part 5

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A New Way Of Winning

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Simple

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

We have an overwhelming tendency to complicate simple things. We have all heard the K.I.S.S. principle, but we seldomkiss apply it. James Madison, our fourth President, warned against creating laws  “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they can not be understood.”¹

I guess our lawmakers were on the campaign trail or a fact-finding junket in Maui when Madison said that.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so simple a child can understand it.  When we’re talking about the Gospel to folks, or even to each other, we don’t have to explain justification or sanctification or election or the Trinity or grace. The best Gospel we can ever preach is the one we live out. That sermon will preach clearer and simpler than any testimony we could share with words.

¹Our Daily Bread devotional for April 10, 2013, Keep It Simple, by Dave Egner, was the inspiration for this devotional today on For His Glory

Gay Marriage Post Draws Fire, Favor

The Most Commented-On For His Glory Post Ever Continue reading