Bread – R

October 6, 2017


Psalm 85

Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again … Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.  Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”  Ps. 85:4,6-7, 8-9

This Bread is called “R” because this Psalm reveals so many of the “R” words which matter to us in our Christian walk as individuals, as people, and as a nation.

These “R” words are Remember, Restore, Revive, Reveal, Resist, and Rest.

Remember, because this Psalm requires us to remember who we are as sinners and who God is as creator and savior.

Restore, because without a right relationship with God and to God, we have no connection.  Restoration of our relationship to each other begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our relationship with our surroundings, our earth, begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our rightful places, as righteous rulers of the earth, as heads of our households, as workers in the fields of life, as saints, and as obedient bondservants begins with restoration of a right relationship with God.  And who is in charge of that restoration?  In a sense we are as prodigal sons who must look up from our piggeries and see the home where we belong.  But, more importantly, the person who is in charge of that restoration is the same person who is charge of our salvation – and that is God Himself.  He is the One who must restore, because but for His love, His forgiveness, and His power, we would have no position to do it ourselves.

Revive, because we need a fresh infusion of God’s Holy Spirit on a minute-by-minute basis to avoid falling into Satan’s pits of confusion, despair, and forgetfulness.

Reveal – “Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak.”  God has spoken in his written Word and in Jesus Christ.  Both the fact and the content of that need to be revealed to us by God.  We have a job to show up, to read and study, and to try to understand.  But while we try God works in us to reveal His truth and His love.

Resist, because when we know what is right because we have been restored and revived, and God’s truth has been revealed to us, it is time for Satan to get involved, to drag us back and defeat us.  “Let them not turn back to folly” is a reminder that the choice to return to foolishness is ours to make; to avoid it, we must flee sin, we must resist.

And finally, Rest.  Where does that word in this Psalm come from?  It comes from this – “Surely His salvation is close…that glory may dwell in the land.”  If God’s glory dwelt fully in the United States, what would we be doing today?  If God’s glory is present in its fullness, then we have surrendered fully.  Once we have surrendered fully and acknowledged that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we may dwell with Him in safety.  What is that?  Rest.

Given the problems of the day, the difficulties of life, and circumstances of a fallen world, the encroachment of sin, and the sounds and sights of war and destruction, what we all need and want is rest.

Restore me again, o Lord of my salvation.  Revive my spirit.  Teach me Your ways, so that You might be fully revealed to me.  Help me to resist Satan.  And bring me Lord to that place of rest, where you dwell in glory.

What more can we ask for?

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – Restore

September 1, 2017


Psalm 80

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!…But let Your hand be on the man of Your right hand, the son of man whom You have made strong for Yourself!  Then we shall not turn back from You; give us life, and we will call upon Your Name!” Ps. 80:1-2, 18-19

This “thought” called “Bread” is always rooted in the present but, hopefully, calls us to a future based upon wisdom from God contained in His Word to us.  “His Word” is embodied in Scripture which I quote and Jesus Christ, the “son of man.”

What is rooted today about this Bread is the overwhelming disaster which has overtaken Houston, Beaumont, and indeed all of the coastal area of Texas.  Water, water everywhere and, literally, undrinkable because of the filth and the disease it harbors.  It has devastated everything built and owned by the people who live there.

Right now these people are being rescued from their dire state.  Then, soon, the work of restoration will begin, taking a people who are destroyed in possessions and hope and bringing them back into wholeness.  This massive restoration effort will be conducted by an army of people who will rebuild and restore.  If it is to be effective, this restoration will be driven by love for our neighbor…in other words, it will be driven and superintended by God.

But all this is nothing but physical and, perhaps, emotional restoration.  It is not restoration of the soul.

“Restore us, O God.”  Restore us to what?  To a right relationship with Him.

We can restore our bank accounts, our buildings, our possessions, and maybe even our relationships with each other.  But no-one can restore our soul except God Himself.

And God started that restoration with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the “son of man” known by the Psalmist as revelation from God and the “son of man” and “Son of God” known to us as Jesus Christ.

But how weak are the words of this Psalm that say, when the “son of man” appears, “Then we shall not turn back from You.”  We ask for restoration and get it and then what do we do?  If you are like me, at the next available opportunity we do turn our back on Him who saved us.  We say that, if You “give us life, we will call upon Your Name,” but we have been given the gift of life and, most often, we do not call upon His Name.  In fact, when things are going well, we tend not to call upon Him at all.  All we have to do is to add up the time we spend in prayer, the time we spend in study of God’s Word, and the time we spend in worship, and then compare that sum to the amount of time we spend watching television or listening to radio, and we will know very quickly whether we are in the practice of calling upon His Name.

The sad fact is that the people of Houston cannot restore themselves to wholeness.  It will take the resources of an entire state and country to do so.

The sad fact is that we, the people, cannot restore our soul to wholeness.  It will take the resources of the Creator.

And the resources of our mighty God have been deployed in this restoration to glory – He has given us Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for our use in this restoration of life.

There will be people in Houston who will reject the gift of restoration they are offered because of pride.  They should accept.

There are people who will read this Bread who will reject the gift of restoration of life eternal with God because of pride.  We should accept.

When the people of Houston are restored, their restoration will be temporary, gone again in the time of disaster and death.

When the people of God are restored, their restoration will be permanent into eternal life.

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Pounding

June 10, 2016


Psalm 23

“He leads me beside still waters.”  Ps. 23:2b

Our roof, like so many in North Texas, suffered hail damage and has to be replaced.  The replacement is occurring while I write this, and directly over my head is constant pounding upon the roof.  Pounding, like an oncoming headache type of pounding.

And, so, the Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters, being stirred up by the pounding of replacement and repairs, by the world’s hammering on my ears, body, mind, and soul.

Very distracting, these turbulent waters.  So turbulent, in fact, that I can think of nothing else.

Isn’t this the way we wake up every day?  Oh the pounding may not be as physical and we may turn the pounding of life into the more politically correct “drumbeat” of life, but don’t we wake up every day to the drumbeat of demands, the commands of the agenda, the rigors of dealing with the troubles of life, being pulled this way and that way, hurry up and move along?  Get up, get bathed, get dressed, get ready, get gone?  And when we get to the end of the day, who is not exhausted from all of the things we have had to pack into our day … the meetings, the telephone calls, the e-mails, the text messages, the posts to various Internet applications, the “to do” lists, the animals in the three ring circus of life which don’t behave, the demands of bosses who expect too much and know too little, the pressure for profit, and the self-improvement reading of the day.  And, of course, the daily pounding we take from computers which don’t work and all of the gadgets which are supposed to improve our lives, but need to be daily cared for and fixed!

And here I am, writing another Bread which may add to your daily pounding of things to do.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, it begins with my statement “The Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters.”

The reason is that this statement is both right and wrong.  It is right in the sense that God is sovereign and may well have led me beside noisy waters, but his character, according to the Psalm today, is that He leads me beside still waters, not noisy waters.  His intervention in my life straightens out my crooked path; it does not my path more difficult.  His speaking to me calms my soul; it does not induce pounding headaches.  No, the real author of confusion, pounding, storms, distractions, and busyness is the current prince of the world, Satan.  Satan’s purpose is easy to see.  If he can keep me distracted, then I have no time to walk with God and let Him lead me beside still waters.Sheep need still waters in order to drink.  They will not drink from loud, running, pounding waters.  And they need water to live, just like we do.  The reason God leads His sheep by still waters is so that they can live, so that they can be refreshed, and so that they can be restored.

We know we are sheep.  We know we need to drink deeply of the water of life in order to fully live and not just survive.  We know these things and yet we let the world intrude upon our relationship with God.  We let Satan’s pounding distract us from Godly relationship.  We are so busy trying to grab a swallow from the river of life that we do not let God guide us to the still waters where we can rest in peace, being fully refreshed.

We talk about prayer time all the time, and for many it is another pounding, another slot to fill in an already busy day.  How can I allocate 15 minutes to God when I have to get the kids to school, when I have an important meeting, when I need to finish this memo, when I have to get ready for the exam?

Let’s stop talking about prayer time for a minute and talk instead about still waters.

Do you not want to drink beside still waters.  Let God take you there.  How?  Talk to Him and let Him talk to you … however long it takes.  And when you have finished drinking from the water of life, then let the day begin.  You can look back and call it prayer time if you want, but other names that come to mind are peace time, soul time, refreshment time, living time, and loving time.

And for peace, soul, life, refreshment, living, and loving we should take time.  Walk with God, talk with God, and drink from the still waters of heavens.

And the pounding will go away.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Outcasts

August 11, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 14:1-20; Acts 21:1-14; Mark 10:1-16; Psalms 94,95,97,99,100

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In today’s reading from the second book of Samuel, the woman, speaking God’s words, says to the king “But God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.” 2 Sam. 14:14

From time to time, people so misbehave outside the rules of the tribe, the family, the church, or the city, that they must be banished, they must be outcast. Sometimes they are banished to prison. Sometimes to another part of the world. Sometimes, as in the case of the prodigal son of Scripture, to eat with the pigs. Sometimes they are just fired, if the particular group banishing them happens to be an employer. In the case of a club, sometimes the membership privileges are revoked. In a church setting, we might call it being banished from participation in communion or excommunication.

How do we feel when that happens? On the side of the people doing the banishing, generally it is a combination feeling of relief, anguish, worry, and loss. On the side of the banished, it is generally a feeling of anger, sorrow, depression, worry, and general upset. Both the banisher’s and the banished worlds have been changed.

There are three paths which the outcast can take. They can continue their downward spiral into degradation and death. They can “grow up” and become independent in spirit, but losing all ties to the group they used to be a member of. Or they can be restored to full relationship with their prior tribe, family, church, job, or other group. What makes the difference?

I think the difference is in two people. The first, the outcast, must come to grips with what he or she has become, must turn away from that, and must turn toward home. The second, the banisher, must come to grips with whatever actual or perceived injury has occurred to self, must set it aside, and must forgive. The first we call repentance and the second, forgiveness.

This passage from Samuel is a statement of simple truth which God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Where there is no way to obtain restoration with God through earning it with good works, there is a way through Jesus Christ, beginning with our repentance and our acceptance of His forgiveness.

The first banishment occurred when we were ejected from the Garden of Eden, when our personal relationship with God was broken by our sin. But “God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

The question is not whether God has devised a means; the question is whether we will take advantage of those means. And for that, we need not only God’s means but His power. And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Exile

March 27, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 29:1-13; Rom. 11:13-24; John 11:1-27; Psalms 22, 95, 141, 143:1-12

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An exile is gone from one place and is in another. The exile has been forced from where he or she wants to live to a place where they do not want to live, whether it be in captivity in prison, or outside the campfire, or in the case of a wayward child, to their room, absent from the place where the family is, banished for their misbehavior to a place where they are alone with themselves.

We normally think of exiles as having to go long distances, dragged by conquerors from the conquered land to the places of the conquerors, there to serve them (the conquerors) instead of themselves (the exiles). However, as in the example of the child above, it is quite possible to be exiled from a room, from a meeting, and from a relationship. One might be only ten feet away from the place they want to be, and yet they are still an exile.

What does it feel to be an exile? There is a strong desire to return to the motherland, the place of beginning. There can be longing for the way things “used to be” or the ways things “ought to be,” and there be anger toward the present circumstances. There may be anger toward the people who caused your exile, and this anger may be directed on oneself when one realizes that they are the cause of their own exile.

Why talk about this? It is the topic today of our reading from Jeremiah. Jeremiah the prophet writes to the Jewish exiles taken away from Judah to Babylon by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, acting as God’s agent for punishment. Just so that there is no confusion, God Himself is the author of the exile of His people – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I [God] have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Jer. 29:4

Whether we are separated from our home physically by geography or emotionally by withdrawal, we often find ourselves as exiles. Where we are is not where we should be. We have gotten to where we are by a series of behaviors or thoughts which may seem right to us at the time, but which are sinful and offend God. God has acted to remove us from that situation and place us somewhere else where we might have an opportunity to grow.

To grow? Isn’t exile a miserable place, where there is gnashing of teeth, loss, loneliness, despair, and ultimately death?

Well it depends how we look at it. We can choose to die in exile or we can choose to live. When God puts us into exile, it is not to destroy us. When we go into exile, we can decide to do what we did not do in our home – obey God.

And God’s instructions to His exiles in Babylon are clear – obey and live: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jer. 29:5-7

There is an overworked saying for this, “Bloom where you are planted.” When, because of your disobedience, you have been exiled from your current place into a new situation, and if your heart is one of obedience thereafter, then you will make the place of exile the place of life.

If we are obedient to God, we will bring life with us wherever we are. If we are home, then we bring life there. If we have been banished because of our disobedience, repentance and new obedience will result in our bringing of life to the place of exile.

When we are thrown into exile, there is the sense that it is all over, that we will never have the opportunity to return. Indeed, a very long time may pass. But God restores those whom He calls. God restores those who turn from their evil ways toward Him and are obedient to His will.

And God restored the Jews from exile in Babylon. In our reading today, it is but a promise, but we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the promise was fulfilled. God said through Jeremiah “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place (Israel/Judah). For I know the plans I have for you … to give you a future and a hope….I will restore your fortunes and gather you … and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jer. 29:10-14

When we are put into exile because of our disobedience, when we turn toward God and seek Him with our heart, desiring relationship and obedience, God promises to restore us. It may not be in our timing (who would choose 70 years?), but it will be.

We were exiled from the Garden of Eden, from our intimate relationship with God, because we disobeyed, wanting ourselves to be like God. That exile, though, is not permanent, not if we turn from our sin toward God, not if we accept His offer of restoration to Him through Jesus Christ, not if we have faith in Him. In the meantime, in obedience to God, we must work for the welfare of the place of exile in which we find ourselves, knowing that God will come get us and bring us to Him for eternity at a time of His choosing.

We have hope because we know that we will be called home by the One who has the power to make it happen. We who are in exile who know Jesus Christ and who are obedient work for the welfare of the place in exile where we find ourselves, knowing that He has a plan for us, to give us a future and a hope and to bring us back to the place from which He sent us into exile.

The path from exile to home passes through the cross of Christ.

Come, let us adore Him.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread — When

September 19, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, September 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24; John 12:20-26; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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Bread today is taken from our reading from Job: “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job 42:10. The order of events presented by this translation (ESV) is that Job recognizes his proper relationship to God, seeing Him and repenting in “dust and ashes.” He then prays for his friends, taking the mercy shown to him by God and extending it to his neighbors. Once that happens, Job’s fortunes are restored. The NIV translation is even blunter regarding the order of events, saying “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again …” Job 42.10 (NIV). The commentary from the ESV Study Bible confirms this conclusion, saying “It is of utmost significance to note that Job’s restoration occurs only at this point, when he has capitulated to God and he has been reconciled with his friends – still in his broken and bereaved state. Precisely at this point, community is reestablished and Job himself restored.” ESV Study Bible, Note on Job 42:10-17.

Perhaps enough said and the lesson is complete, and perhaps not. I often make the “mistake” of looking things up, which is what I did this morning. It turns out that the Hebrew word for “after” (NIV) and “when” (ESV) has no equivalent Strong’s number, but does have a G/K number of H928. (G/K is a compendium of words like Strong’s). When I ran a search for H928 in the Old Testament, I got 9,283 hits. The word is used a lot and in a lot of different ways. Some examples are:

“In [H928] the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” Gen. 1:1 (NIV)

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between [H928] the waters to separate water from water.’” Gen. 1:6 (NIV)

“And God set them in [H928] the expanse of sky to give light on the earth.” Gen. 1:17 (NIV)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in [H928] our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over [H928] the fish of the sea…’” Gen. 1:26 (NIV)

“By [H928] the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on [H928] the seventh day God rested …” Gen. 2:2 (NIV)

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with [H928] pain you will give birth…” Gen. 3:16 (NIV)

“To Adam He said….’Cursed is the ground because [H928] of you; through [H928] painful toil…’” Gen. 3:17

So the word for “when” or “after” is the same word for “in” (to set time), “in” (to set place or circumstances), “between,” “over,” ‘by,” “on,” “with,” “because” and “through.”

So, the headache begins. What does this word mean? Is it evidence of causation, or mere placement in sequence of time. Does it convey action or mere passive result. Or does it mean merely what the translator wants it to mean, at the time?

In thinking about this, something struck me. What is it that every instance of the use of this word has in common? It is that it is in the context of God’s action and something to do with man. Sometimes it is used in the context of man’s action after God has acted; sometimes it is used in the context of God’s action after man has acted, and sometimes you can’t tell.

And what great truths are built into this single, evasive word! Because God acts both in time and out of time. Because God actions are first causes – we act because God has first acted. In fact, we can only act because God has acted, not because of ourselves. Wherever this word appears, God appears. It is not the word for God, but it’s appearance is certainly evidence of God. And more than evidence of God Himself, but of God’s action within the universe of our understanding, in our history, in our lives, in our abilities, in our salvation, in our science and revelation, and in our hope.

And isn’t this the beauty of the reality of God, of Christ? When was Job restored? Was it when he recognized God for who He was, when he reached out in love to his neighbors, or when his fortunes were brought back to him? Or was it all of the above?

We are reminded in all this that our mind is not God’s mind and our ways are not His ways. From our perspective, Job first repented, then reached out to his neighbor in love, and then was restored. This is an important lesson because, knowing who we are and who God is, it is important that we reach out from our poor circumstances, no matter how dire, to those who need our love, and that we do this without expectation of anything because we deserve nothing. But it may not be the most important lesson today.

No, the most important lesson today may be that God operates in the past, present, and future, inside of time and outside of time, to work His purpose. And that purpose is that we should be restored to Him and to each other. And that purpose is demonstrated in the “whens” of the world, the “ins” of the world, the “betweens” of the world, the “becauses” of the world, and the “throughs” of the world. It is demonstrated at all times and in all places, in poverty and in plenty, in danger and in safety, in and out of our particular circumstances.

This word which appears when Job is restored also appears as the first word of the Bible, “In the beginning…” God is first, God creates, God saves, God restores. God, God, God … not Job, Job, Job … and not me, me, me. When we get that right, everything else falls out into its right order. We can love others because He first loved us; we can restore others because He first restored us; and we can live victoriously because He died for us, rose from the grave, and lives forever.

God lives in the smallest words and the largest places. Does He live in you?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Hope

September 7, 2012


Readings for Friday, September 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 19:1-7, 14-27; Acts 13:13-25; John 9:18-41; Psalms 31,35

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On Monday, Bread was called “Plodding” because the Scripture readings focused on the mundane living of life, not so much in the valley of despair, but in the plainness of life, where sometimes we just have to take the job God has given us and just put one foot in front of the other. Many of us live most of our lives in the plodding mode. It was a good way to begin the week, in part because that is the way most people see Monday.

The Scriptures today speak of something much different, the hope that is within us. They speak of that vision to the hills which we have to call on from time to time to help us through the plodding part of life, as well as the more adversarial parts of life. They speak of Jesus – the light on the hill, the Savior of the saved, the Son of God, God Himself.

We begin with Job in one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. I will let him speak for himself – “And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself….I call for help, but there is no justice … My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me…and those whom I loved have turned against me…For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself…” Job 19:4,7b,14,19b,25-26. We have all sinned (erred) and our error is ours and ours alone and we have all felt abandoned from time to time by family, by good friends, by people we have invested in. We have been misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, and seemingly set aside for failure. And yet, as Christians, we know the same thing that Job knew in the Old Testament – Our Redeemer lives. Not “has lived” at some time in the musty past or “will live” in the far future, but “lives” in the present, in our lives, leading us, guiding us, loving us, carrying us, crying over us, and healing us. And He will return to stand upon the earth. And because of Him and His mercy on us, we “shall see God” for eternity. Hope surrounded Job in his misery and caused him to look up to his Redeemer. Hope surrounds us too, but we to see Jesus.

In Acts, Paul recounts the history of the Jews from Egypt to Jesus, demonstrating that God works through history and through ordinary people to achieve His purpose. This reminds us that the hope which Job saw and embraced has existed throughout known history, constantly being proven to us by God’s actions on behalf of His people, even though they often insult Him, ignore Him, and hate Him. We are part of that history, today. Our hope is based upon the solid rock of a God of fact, not fiction, and of action in time, not suspended animation in eternity. If we are but to read, think, ponder, see, and hear, our hope surrounds us in reality. It is not a myth and it is not a dream. It is grounded in observation, in reason, in faith, and in the entirety of time, past, present, and future.

In John, the man Jesus healed is born blind. As that man says himself, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” John 9:32 From the Jewish perspective, that blind man was so steeped in sin at birth that sight was impossible. Jesus took the man born in sin, blind from birth, and restored his sight, restored his relationship with his world, stripped him from his sin, and set him free. This man who had no hope according to then-modern religious and scientific thought was given hope by Jesus. With his new eyes, the man could worship anything he wanted to. He could worship his family, the religious establishment, or the then world order. Instead, he sought out Jesus, saying “Lord, I believe [in You],” and then worshiping Him.

We began the week with plainness. We end the week with wonder. We begin the week with looking at ourselves. We end the week looking at Jesus – the Jesus who lives throughout time and in all time, the Jesus who exists in reality, and the Jesus who heals and restores. We begin the week looking down at our feet and we end the week looking to the heavens. The began the week knowing that we were blind and knowing that our error was ours. We end the week with sight restored and the error forgiven.

So when we are in the plodding phase of life let us hold tightly to the hope we have, let us look from our feet to our future, let us look from ourselves to our Savior. And let us live in victory, because we have it – and we have Him who won it.

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© 2012 GBF

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