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The Greatest of Treasures

The Greatest of Treasures

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” II Corinthians 4:7 NASB

Every man woman and child stands in need of the grace of God. God has given to us His law as a standard by which we are to live. However, the Word of God clearly teaches that all in one form or another have broken the law. Because we are lawbreakers we await judgment, a judgment that will lead to eternal damnation. However, God is not willing for any to parish but for all to enter into repentance. For this reason God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty on the cross of our judgment. Apart from the grace of God we are utterly hopeless.

Jesus said in Mathew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees, although lawbreakers themselves, prided themselves in keeping the law through their ritualistic routines within their daily lives. How then is our righteousness going to surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? It can’t. Thus, we need another means to enter the kingdom of heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

So often we overlook and therefore take for granted how great the gift of grace truly is. The greater we understand grace, the more we will come to realize what a treasure Jesus truly is. The grace we have received is through God giving His Son as a gift. Although we are sinfully blemished and undignified God gave us His Son who is sinlessly perfect, unblemished, excellent, and dignified in every way. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21). God gave to us, whose righteousness is as filthy rags, His Son, the King of Glory, the Ancient of Day’s, the one in whom the angels in heaven worship, the one in whom all things was created for. God gave to us, mere men, His Son, His only begotten Son, His Son of whom he loves, His Son who is near and dear to His heart.

What a wonderful treasure we have received in these earthen vessels; a treasure that outshines all others; a treasure worthy of giving all to receive, yet a treasure freely given. A treasure we are unworthy of receiving, yet our God, a God of grace, gladly, and lovingly gives. A treasure we should share with those whose treasures have tarnished. Truly Jesus, given by grace and received by faith, is the greatest treasure.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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It’s not Religion

It’s not Religion

Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Jesus ended that statement in the same verse with “for they shall be satisfied”. We are blessed and satisfied when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is hungering and thirsting for God.

God has placed a natural void in our lives that He intended to be filled with Himself. However, most people (Christians and non-Christians) try to fill that void in their lives with many things of this world only to discover that they are never satisfied. Money, power, sex, possessions, drugs, or anything else of this world will never satisfy us. Only the righteousness of God that comes from seeking Him will ever satisfy us.

However, if the devil can’t draw us away from God with the immoral rivals of this world, he will attempt to distract us with the invalid rituals of religion. Satan loves religion. That may  strike you as odd at first, but hear me out. We must ask ourselves “what is religion?” Religion for the most part is a system of things that we should do and things that we should not do. It is a meaningless and emotionless system that is only rooted in what we do and is focused entirely on us. The things that are done out of the spirit of religion may be good and proper and even biblical; yet, they are done out of a sense of tradition rather than a Spirit-led soul that seeks the face of God. Many times religious rituals are done out of a sense of guilt, trying to appease God rather than out of a heart that is sold out to God.

As we look in the Gospels, we find that the people that Jesus was the harshest to were the Pharisees. The Pharisees had religion down to an art. However, Jesus said of them in Matthew 25:27, 28, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Religion focuses only on external things to the neglect of the soul. God isn’t concerned with outward things. He is focused on the heart.

Shortly after God called me to plant a church in 2006 He gave us our first convert who repented from her sins and wholeheartedly gave her life to Jesus. When that first convert walked forward, I noticed she was wearing a shirt with a large beer logo on the front of it. It didn’t bother me; however, the religious person would have turned her away and said, “Don’t come back until you are dressed properly.” What we later found was she had lost everything she owned in Hurricane Katrina except the clothes on her back. In the process of rebuilding her life, her newly acquired home as well as her few belongings burned to the ground just a few days before we met. The clothes she had on that day was all she owned, and they were given to her by someone else. Had I been a religious, person I would have turned her away in her most desperate time of need. She most likely then would have viewed all Christians and all churches as cold and heartless, and her soul would have been forever condemned to hell. Yes, Satan loves religion.

Being focused on the external rather than the internal keeps our focus off of God as well. Jesus said in John14:15, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” Notice Jesus did not say, “If you keep My commandments, you will demonstrate your love for Me.” That is religion. However, if we know Jesus because we are seeking Him, we will love Him. And if we love Him we will obey Him-not out of a sense of necessity because that is the right thing to do, but out of a sense of bringing honor and glory to the One we love.

What do you think my wife would have done if on our wedding day I would have said to her, “Honey, I will stay faithful and true to you all the days of my life because that is the socially acceptable thing to do and that is everyone’s expectation of me? Besides, what would everyone think of me if I was ever unfaithful to you?”  She would have thrown the ring back in my face and marched right out of there! I am not faithful to my wife because it is the right thing to do. I am faithful to her because I love her. In like manner, I am not faithful to Jesus because it is the right thing to do. That is religion. I am faithful to Him because I love Him.

God despises religion but longs for relationship. God loved us first; and, therefore, desires for us to love Him back. I John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” God doesn’t want our hearts and minds focused on ritualistic religion, but He wants a relationship that longs to know Him more and more. Why do I then go to church? To seek Him and worship Him and to know Him more! Why then do I pray? To seek Him and worship Him and know Him more! Why then do I read His word? To seek Him and worship Him and know Him more! Anything I do for the Lord should be for the purpose of seeking Him, worshiping Him, and knowing Him more-not because it is simply the right thing to do.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Born Again

Born Again

In the third chapter of the book of John we see a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night seeking answers as to who He was. Nicodemus recognized Jesus was from God but wanted to know more. Jesus then startled Nicodemus with a statement he had difficulty understanding. Jesus said in John 3:3 to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus not understanding Jesus statement asked in the next verse, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus then answered in verses five and six, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

At first Jesus said unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Then Jesus said, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I believe Jesus was basically making the same statement, but rewording it a little for Nicodemus to better understand.

If we are alive today we were delivered from the water from the flesh as flesh. In other words we were conceived and formed into flesh in our mother’s womb and thus we were born. If we are born again we have been born of the Spirit of God. If we are not born of the Spirit of God we cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God.

The question that is now before us is, “How do we become born again?” The simple answer is, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior by believing in who He is and the works He has done on the cross to purchase redemption. By grace we are saved by faith and not by works. (Ephesians 2:9-10).

Paul said in Romans 5:20, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, regardless of how much sin we have had in our lives, God has more grace. Therefore, all our sins, regardless of how much, will be washed away if we place our faith in Jesus.

Paul then asks in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Since God has more grace than we have sin should we just keep on sinning so God’s grace can increase? If we ever see yelling in writing we see it in Romans 6:2 when Paul said, “May it never be!” He then goes on to explain through the remainder of this chapter that those who are in Christ are dead to sin. They have died and have been buried with Christ.

For one to be born again he must first die; not physically but spiritually. One must die to his flesh, his hopes, his dreams, his goals, his ways, his ideas, his thoughts, and basically everything that has made him, him. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus said that the requirement of following Him was denying yourself and taking up your cross. Remember that the cross is an instrument of death.

Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul’s hopes, dreams, goals, ways, ideas, thoughts, and everything that made Paul, Paul was no longer about him, for he denied himself, it was about Jesus. He was born again. He died to Paul and came alive to Jesus. How did he do this? He explained how in the second part of Galatians 2:20 where he wrote, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Far too many people have a fire insurance type of faith. They don’t want to go to hell but they don’t want to live for Jesus either. They are unwilling to turn from their sinful, fleshly, self-centered, and self-serving ways to truly live for Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, unless you are born again you cannot see, nor enter, the kingdom of Heaven.

To be born again we must die to the flesh and come alive to Jesus. Paul saw the love that Jesus had for him and the actions of the cross that demonstrated His love. With this in mind Paul said in Colossians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul realized that he, Paul, was not worthy to live for, but Christ was more than worthy.

Have you been born again? Jesus died for you to give you life. He gave up all so you could have all; all that matters anyway. Have you died to you and come alive to Jesus, or do you simply have a fire insurance policy? Romans 8:12-13 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Satan is a Liar

Satan is a Liar

As an active witness for the Lord we must remember two great truths, first God’s word is always true, second Satan is always a liar. From the beginning of time Satan the liar has tried to disprove God’s word. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden giving them the freedom to eat of every tree in the garden with one exception. God said to Adam in Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Eve knew the command and the warning of God; however, Satan came with his lies to convince her that God was holding out on her. Satan the liar tri

ed to convince Eve that God was the liar. He said to her in Genesis 3:4, “You surly will not die.” He directly contradicted God. We know the rest of the story; therefore, we know who tells the truth and who the liar is. Jesus Himself said of Satan in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Satan’s tactics have not changed. He will first try to convince people through his lies that God’s word is not true. If he cannot succeed in this tactic he will then try to twist and warp God’s word removing the truths of God with lies that Paul calls, “doctrines of demons.” (I Timothy 4:1). God’s word time and again warns us of those who proclaim these lies of Satan. The bible calls them false prophets.

When dealing with these false prophets we must remember our truths, God’s word is always true and Satan is always a liar. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Satan is the author of the lie; the false prophets are simply believers of and proclaimers of the lie. Does this make them innocent? Of course not. This simply reminds us of the essence of our battle. It is a spiritual battle with spiritual implications rather than a physical battle. Our struggle is against Satan and his demons, not his false prophets. God’s heart is to win over those who have believed the lie. Not to destroy them. If they choose not to repent from the lie, the lie will destroy them.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” In other words, just because they look and act Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. We need to listen to what they are proclaiming and ask ourselves, “Does it line up with the consistency of scripture?” In John’s warning of false prophets he tells us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1). How do we try or test these false prophets to see if they are wolves in sheep’s clothing? With the Word of God! Does their message line up with God’s word or does it directly contradict it?

Again, remember our truths, God’s word is always true, and Satan is always a liar. In the fact that God’s word is always true, God’s word never contradicts itself. One extreme of the lies of Satan is that one must do good works and deeds in order to be saved. Satan will lie to them telling them that they have to earn their salvation by the works that they do. This clearly is a contradiction of Satan. Scripture after scripture tells us that we are saved by faith and not of works.(John 3:16, Romans 3:22, 3:24, 3:26, 3:28-30, 4:3, 4:5, 4:11, 4:16, 5:1, 5:9, 9:30, 9:33, 10:4, 10:9-10, 11:6, Galatians 2:16, 2:21, 3:5-6, 3:8, 3:14, 3:22, 3:24, Ephesians 1:13, 2:8, Philippians 3:9, I Timothy 1:16). Titus 3:5 tells us that we are not even saved by acts of righteousness. The clear consistent teaching of God’s word is that we are saved by faith. Faith plus anything equals nothing.

The other extreme in Satan’s deception is that God is okay with sin when the consistency of God’s word says He clearly is not. Satan will lie and tell people that they can live in sin and be in right relationship with God. However, I John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Satan will even go so far as to try and redefine what sin is and is not. However, God’s word is clear as to what sin is and is not.

Paul said in II Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” I have no doubt that this time has come and that this is the day that we are living in. As faithful stewards of God’s word we must stand firm on the truths of God’s word. We are the light bearers of the truth. If we stop bearing that truth and cower down to the masses the world will live hopelessly in the dark. If we have believed something that we find directly contradicts God’s word we must repent and line ourselves up with God’s truths.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Understanding the Lost

Understanding the Lost

Naturally, everyone is an individual, therefore everyone is unique. They have different cultures, religious influences, and social influences. Members of the same family can often be vastly different from the other. However, we must keep in mind that we are not focusing on the flesh. The battle we are waging war against is a spiritual battle. Since this is a spiritual battle we can better understand the one who is not led by the Sprit of God, the lost person, but led by the god of this world who is Satan.

Ephesians 2:1-3 gives us the perfect portrait of the one who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Paul says that they are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are dead because of their sins. They are spiritually dead because their sins spiritually separated them from a holy God. They are walking according to the course of this world rather than by the Spirit of God. They are free moral agents able to willingly choose between right and wrong. God has given to the Jews the law but all men have been given the law of conscious. Romans 2:15 says, “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” Although they have the ability to choose what is right they are by nature children of wrath and will inevitably rebel against God since they do not have the Spirit of God to guide them. They are spiritually dead.

Since they are in rebellion against God they not only walk in accordance to the world but also in accordance to the prince of the power of the air. This prince of the power of the air is none other than Satan himself. Satan cannot force anyone to follow him. However, when one makes the choice to rebel against God he has then made the choice to follow Satan. They may disagree with this truth but the bible is clear, they are now on his side and he is now working in their lives manipulating them for his purposes. Paul said they are “of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

To counter act their rebellion we must firmly proclaim God’s righteous standards that stand in direct contradiction to their fleshly ways. All men will admit that they are sinners. However, all men do not understand that they are in rebellion against a holy God and therefore stand guilty and condemned before Him. James 4:4 says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” As we proclaim the righteous standards of God we must also proclaim the fact that rebellion against God makes one His enemy. There is no neutral ground. You are either for Him or against Him. Those who choose to live for Him will receive His grace while those who choose to rebel against Him will receive His wrath. God’s will is for all to choose His grace. However, He is a just God and must punish unrepentant and un-atoned for sin.

As those who are in Christ we need to stay mindful that Paul said, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh.” We must remember that we to were once in this unregenerate state of rebellion against God. We need to continually remind ourselves that it is only by the grace of God that we were saved and brought out of death and into life. With this in mind we realize that we are no better than they. We are only better off than them because we have accepted the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our boasting should only be found in the grace of God provided through the cross of Christ. As a result we should be busy boasting among those who are perishing so they too will be drawn to the grace of God; drawn out of death and into life.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Set Your Mind on Jesus

Set Your Mind on Jesus

In Romans 8:1-4 Paul shares the glory of the gospel by explaining that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. The reason there is no condemnation is because Jesus became flesh for the purpose of being the sin offering for all of mankind. All of mankind broke the law of God but Jesus paid the penalty, which is death, and took upon Himself its condemnation. We all deserve the condemnation but those who have set their minds on Jesus have turned away from the condemnations sentence of death and have set their minds on life; they have set their minds on Jesus.

Paul then goes on to explain in Romans 8:9-11 that if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you, you will have your mind set on Christ, which He talks about in Romans 8:5-9, the Spirit of God will dwell in you, and the Spirit will give you life. This happens the moment you are saved. In fact, the very first act of the Holy Spirit in a believers life is the giving of life; eternal life. Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” The very reason we have life is because we have repented of our worldly mindset and have set our mind on Jesus who paid the price for our redemption.

Romans 8:7-8 says of the non believer, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The non believer’s mindset that is on the flesh is hostile toward God and cannot please God. His mind is not only not set on Jesus, Paul tells us here that He is not even able to do so. Why can’t he set His mind on Jesus which is setting His mind on life? Because He doesn’t have the Spirit of God. The man void of the Spirit of God cannot focus on Jesus, and the man not focused on Jesus does not have the Spirit of God. If you have the Spirit you have the Son, but if you do not have the Spirit, you do not have the Son. How do you receive the Spirit? By receiving the Son. How do you receive the Son? By faith; faith in the works of Christ on the cross. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If one is a believer he is commanded here to take his mind off of the world and set it on Jesus. An important principle here is that wherever your mind is, there your heart will be also. Take for instance the one who is walking in the sin of bitterness. The more they focus on how the person wronged them the more bitter they will become. Even a Christian can be guilty of this sin. But, only the Spirit of God can refocus the wrong that the person did to them and set their mind on Christ thus giving them the grace to forgive the individual who wronged them setting them free from the sin of bitterness. The non believer is incapable of this act because the Spirit of God is not in Him. The more the believer sets his mind on Jesus, the more in love with Him and the more dedicated to Him he will become.

Once a non believer is convicted of his sin and they recognize that they ways of the world are wrong they repent and turn to Jesus in recognition that His ways are right. This initial act of repentance results into salvation. At this point the non believer is converted and receives the Spirit of God that gives Him life. Then, the Holy Spirit helps the believer keep his mind set on Jesus. If the believer loses focus it doesn’t mean that he loses his eternal life. Rather, the Spirit of God who is now in him will continue to convict him until he regains his focus.

Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Therefore, repent of the mind set on the flesh and set your minds on Jesus and live according to the Spirit so you can have life and peace.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Repentance Requires Action

Repentance Requires Action

As previously stated, true biblical repentance is more than just action, it is a reaction to the grace of God. That being said, true biblical repentance requires action. Paul tells us in Romans 5:17 that God’s grace is in abundance. Truly, God has more grace than we have sin. That being said, the abundance of God’s grace doesn’t give us a right to continue sinning. In fact, a true understanding of the grace of God should motivate us to repent from our sin. For this reason, Paul asks in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” He then answers this rhetorical question by stating with great boldness, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
One who understands the grace of God understands that it was sin that Jesus died for. Jesus died for sin so we could die to sin. Continuing in sin so that grace may increase is utter foolishness. In fact, continuing in sin is trampling over the grace that God has freely offered to the whosoever will. We don’t continue in sin, we consider ourselves dead to sin and accept the death to sin by placing our faith in Christ.
Once we consider ourselves dead to sin we consider ourselves alive to Jesus. Jesus died for our sins to make it possible for us to live for Him. Romans 6:3-7 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
Romans 6 explains that through Christ we have died to sin but come alive to God. The full circle of repentance isn’t just turning away from the bad stuff but is turning to Jesus. Only through Jesus can we truly repent. Only through Jesus do we have the freedom from sin. Therefore, when we repent of our sin we turn from our sin while turning to Jesus trusting that He will keep us from sin.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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