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Doer

“We see you more as a doer instead of a leader,” she said to me during our post-interview meeting.  It isn’t what I wanted to hear at the time.  After twenty-six years of service in the same position, I had applied for a supervisory position that made sense for my next career steps within my current department.  My employer was gracious enough to grant a debriefing time to discuss the hiring rationale and offer some advice to further my career pursuits.  I was disappointed, needless to say, but our conversation didn’t surprise me.  I turned to God’s word to understand more of His will and my purpose.   (Pause for Thought:  “But be ye DOERS of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a DOER, he is like unto a man beholding his face in a natural glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”—James 1:22-24  Have you ever been rejected by someone?  What were your immediate feelings?  How long did your feelings last?  What did you choose to do regarding your feelings?)
 
She went on to explain what I needed to do, or more appropriately, what I must stop doing.  “Leaders”, she said, “must stop doing and start leading.”  This just didn’t seem scriptural to me.  Great leaders of the faith were always doing–modeling, coaching, and instructing, because the Holy Spirit had placed them in circumstances where what they had done, and continued to do, helped others achieve their highest good.  Even as she spoke, I reflected on Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and most of all, Jesus.  (Pause for Thought:  “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a DOER of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.—James 1:25  Who or what do you turn to for affirmation or consolation when rejected?  How stable are these individuals or things?  Do they have a history of being rejected themselves?)
 
I am grateful my Lord, King, and Savior never stopped doing for me.  Seeing Jesus lead in all righteousness as He prays for me, heals me, affirms me, makes atonement for me, and so much more– for me, gives me the encouragement to lead by doing even if other leaders are not.  (Pause for Thought:  “Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.  ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should DO as I have DONE for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you DO them’.”—John 13:12-17  How has living in and encountering what Jesus has done for you inspired you to do likewise for others?  Do you fear doing what Jesus has done for you?  Why?  What can drive away the fear, so you can be and do more like Jesus?)
 

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Fish House Worship

It started innocently enough. I had just beaten the rain to the dock and entered the fish cleaning house with my morning’s catch, when the other two entered through the spring-hinged screen door. The typical fishing pleasantries were shared between the three of us—“Those are wall-hangers where we come from.” I asked where they were from, and they said the Monroe area. I was grateful for their compliment and congratulated them on the number of fine panfish lying on the cleaning table; however, my spirit said there was more to these two gentlemen than the smell of fish and rain-soaked outerwear. (Pause for Thought: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear’.”—Luke 1:41-42. Have you ever sensed there was more to a meeting with a stranger than what was happening through your physical senses? To what did you attribute it?)

I could tell they sensed more to me, as well. The questions started becoming more personal and the explanations more detailed. Then it finally happened. The question and explanation we all were waiting to hear—“Are you a Christian? What does Christ mean to you?” The younger of us stated he had recently, within the last couple of years, surrendered his heart to Jesus and enjoys cooking for his church’s wild game dinner outreach. The older of us declared he was the retired pastor of a church in Monroe, and it was he who led the younger to faith in Christ. The worship began. Our hunting and fishing adventures took second-place to the miracles Jesus had wrought in our lives and how the Holy Spirit was changing us daily. (Pause for Thought: “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”—3 John 3-6 When is the last time you were doing something menial or mundane only to have it turn into a worship-fest? Who was with you?)

I know our meeting was not by chance, and I know the hobby of fishing lends perfectly to my soul’s sense of the Holy Spirit when I meet fellow fishermen. Throughout the gospels, Jesus turned an ordinary outing on a lake or shore into a worship service. I know he does it with the many talents and hobbies He bestows upon His children. For the disciples who were fishermen and became fishers-of-men, no morning catch would ever be the same. (Pause for Thought: “I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you’. So they got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that is was Jesus. He said, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish? Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”—John 21:3-6,14. Has Jesus used your gifts or talents to make your spirit and soul aware of His presence and/or His presence in others? Have you thanked God for these gifts and talents and expressed your worship for the times He encounters you in your efforts?)


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Awakened & Shaken

The young woman is on a righteous path.  Our conversation a week or so ago confirmed what the Spirit had been saying, “Her awakening to the love I have for her will bring about a revival of her soul and the will of Heaven on earth.”  She, as a lover of Jesus and a ministerial candidate, is pursuing wisdom as it is to be pursued…through the Holy Spirit first, not the intellect first.  Her questions and applications were indicative of one being blessed for her hunger and thirst for righteousness.  (Pause for Thought:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”—Matthew 5:6 How do you define “righteousness”?  In what areas of life do you see the lack of righteousness?  Has God called you to do something about it?)
 
The more we spoke, and the more she answered the questions we gave her to reflect upon, the more she began to remind me of Stephen from the Book of Acts.  Her passion to apply God’s word into all manner of relationships was contagious.  It was impressive to listen to one so young; well on her journey to Spiritual maturity.  In comparison to those who claim to know so much about Christ’s purposes, her humility conveyed a powerful understanding of God’s will through Jesus.  I left our conversation thinking intently about what I had heard.    (Pause for Thought:  “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  ‘Brothers choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them.’  This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”—Acts 6:1,3,5  Who do you know full of the Holy Spirit?  What effect do they have on you and on others?  Are you full of the Holy Spirit?  Why or why not?)
 
Her journey isn’t without peril.  She expressed how much opposition she was receiving from her “Christian” classmates because of her passion for God’s word and ministry.  This doesn’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise.  When the Holy Spirit calls us into something for Christ’s-sake, and we can’t help but speak the truth, the enemy throws obstacles at us through people who could and should relate to our journey with Jesus.  Again, the story of Stephen comes to mind as he was noticed by the “spiritual leaders” of his day.  Stephen was awakened by the Spirit, but the leaders considered him a usurper of the normal pursuits of “spirituality”.  When met with opposition, Stephen’s Spirit-filled wisdom and love for others couldn’t be extinguished…even after death.  Saul, soon to be Paul, is living testimony to the awakening in Stephen and the shaking of the norm.  See Acts 6:8-7:59.  (Pause for Thought:  “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.  If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.’  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’.”—Hebrews 12:25-26,28-29.  Has anyone tried to quench the Spirit within you?  Have you ever tried to quench the Spirit in another?  How has the Spirit shaken the “normal” around you and awakened God’s will for you and others?)
 

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The Art of Recovery

Fishing Fletcher’s Floodwaters through the summer—Memorial Day to September—was a pleasure.  The water levels of the flooding stayed high enough to make for excellent catches of fish.  By Labor Day weekend, the water level diminished to the point all stumps and snags, once well below the water’s surface, lay exposed.  Fishing became problematic.  It was time to take slow boat rides and collect the summer’s lost fishing lures from their underwater tombs.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”—Psalm 16:9-10.  When have you felt abandoned?  What circumstances (finances, relationships, work, etc.) seem to overwhelm you with dread and loneliness?  How have you been rescued from these circumstances in the past?)
 
It was a treasure hunt for my family and me.  My dad and I would get in our boat and my grandpa would get in his.  We meandered through the once submerged forest looking for shiny, colorful, patches on the starkly dark, gloomy, tree trunks and branches.  Often, the lures and baits were so corroded and decaying, the hooks would disintegrate as you pulled them from the bark and grime.  The rust and pitting betrayed how long the baits had been left and forgotten.  It became a contest amongst us as to who could collect the most and best baits.  (Pause for Thought:  “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’  ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me’.”—Isaiah 49:14-16.  What emotional scars and distrust (fears) do you experience because of past abandonments?  Does knowing Jesus, through his crucifixion, empathizes and sympathizes with you help you to recover and, if yes, how?)
 

My grandpa would take the recovered lures, and using his God-given talents, restore them to pristine condition.  Many times the lures were improved with little flourishes and “touches” unique to my grandpa’s talents as a craftsman and fishermen.  Trolling lures received squirrel tail dressing to add life-like movement.  Spoons and jigs received fish-appropriate paint jobs that could withstand the stresses of rocks, wood, and fish teeth.  I loved receiving these baits back from my grandpa during Christmas and birthdays.  It was purposeful art created from long lost possessions recovered by those who took the time and effort to care.  (Pause for Thought:  “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”—1 Peter 5:10.  How does this Holy Week culminating in Jesus’ resurrection and restoration to the throne help you in your current circumstances?  What joy do you have for your future now that sin, and its consequence of death, has been defeated?  What hope and strength can you gain from your association with Jesus’ suffering, death, and recovery from the grave?)


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Collections & Revelations

My son and I collect baseball cards.  I’ve been collecting since 1977, and he started seven years ago when he was five years of age.  It’s a great pastime for the two of us to be together, and it’s interesting to discuss why a player’s card means so much to us.  We have our sentiments, team preferences, player performances, and other reasons why we get excited to open a pack of cards and get who or what we get.  In fact, New Year’s Eve kicks-off our baseball card collecting for the year as tradition dictates we each open a box of unwrapped cards and compare who got the “best” for our endeavor. (Pause for Thought:  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the tradition (teaching) you received from us”—II Thessalonians 3:6.  Do you have any collections and/or traditions that become especially meaningful to you during the Holy Days?  How have you conveyed the reasons for your traditional interests to your family?  Have you been able to use these collections/traditions as a way of revealing Christ’s work in you and for you? )
 
There is a monetary value placed on these cards by collectors and appraisers.  Some cards are worth a lot of money right out of the pack, though they may depreciate in value over time, while others might actually increase in value.  Those cards with unique “flaws” may actually be worth more than if they were issued as intended.  What fascinates me about these cards is they are just that – cards.  They’re photos of a person on one side of cardboard or thick paper stock with a bunch of numbers on the other.  These cards are really only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.  (Pause for Thought:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”—Matthew 13:44.  Have you ever thought about how valuable you are or how much you’re worth?  Jesus has made us as valuable as He is.  By giving up his place at His Father’s side, and by giving up His life on earth to redeem—purchase—us back from the prince of the air, He has given us the value of Himself.  Where do you look to find your value?  How do you and your family “value” others?)
 
My son and I like to look on EBay or thumb through a card price guide to see just what people MIGHT be willing to pay for our pieces of cardboard.  We like to sort them out according to our preferences, and we actually have a “baseball room” where we store and display our cards.  To be honest, the cards we like to show off aren’t “worth” that much, because the cards aren’t of superstars, and most people would pass them by.  However, it’s not the monetary price for the cards that make them special to us; it’s the relational sentiment, memories, and stories that mean everything.  Isn’t that like the Kingdom of Heaven?  (Pause for Thought:  “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God—born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13.  How can you and your family value others at Christmas the way Christ values us?  What will you teach your children to be WORTHwhile over the Holy Days?)
 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all God’s Children!


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The Umbrella of Authority

Once there was a man who witnessed great injustice and found himself in a unique position to do something about it.  His miraculous birth and life during an awful time of persecution, not to mention his subsequent education and rise to authority, placed him in a special place and time to come along his earthly authority to fulfill his Heavenly Authority’s will to free an entire people.
 
Unfortunately for Moses, he placed himself outside of the umbrella of his authorities, took matters in his own hands, and started a precedent of death and destruction.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 2:11-15.  What precipitated Moses to think it was all right to kill the Egyptian?  How could have Moses appealed to his earthly (Pharaoh) and Heavenly (God) authority regarding the situation, so a person wouldn’t have to die?  How do you want your children to appeal to you in their time of distress?  When and where will you hear them out?  Will you explain your expectations and reasoning to them?)
 
Moses would once again, under God’s grace and authority, find himself in a position to free his people.  God’s timing and preparation of not only Moses, but also Pharaoh, would have to take place, so God’s ultimate authority and might could be on display for an entire people.  The Israelites, from day one, would never get over Moses’s original willfulness to place himself outside of God’s Heavenly authority and the earthly authority He established.  Even Moses’ own family questioned his ability to be an authority over them for a generation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 14:10-12; Numbers 12:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:27-29.   What authority(ies) do you find yourself under?  How do your responses to their instruction influence the way your children view authority?  How well do you appeal to your earthly authority? Heavenly authority?  Do your responses to those you are “under” meet the expectations you have for your children’s responses to you?)
 
Ultimately, Moses found himself at the threshold of God’s promised land.  A generation of those who started to follow Moses authority would perish in the wilderness due to their inability to appeal to their earthly and Heavenly authorities and remain under God’s umbrella.  Even Moses was denied entrance into the Promise Land because he had withdrawn himself from under God’s authority throughout his life’s journey.  Joshua, filled by God’s spirit, would be the authority God used to build a nation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Deuteronomy 33:51-52; 34:4,9)
 

I often wonder how this story might have ended for Moses and the Israelites who first left Egypt had Moses remained under his authorities’ umbrella, and not killed the Egyptian out of his own arrogance.  I often wonder about our children’s journey and ending in this life as they serve their authorities, including the Most-High Authority—God our Father.  (Pause for Thought:  Is there something or someone causing your children distress?  Have you given your children a time and place to appeal to you for advice, and if appropriate, your correction/solution to the matter?  What/Who will you pray about with your children this week?)


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The Endurance of the Like-Minded

One of the most fascinating displays in nature, to me, is the phenomenon of the bait-ball.  A bait-ball is a group of small, open-water roaming fish that will synchronize their movements around a center, so they appear to be a large single organism to predators.  I become mesmerized by each fish’s ability to move exactly in the same time and space the other fish are moving.  I often wonder how a species as simple as an alewife or sardine, can be so like-minded in their group, they can elude a complex predator, such as a salmon or shark.
 
God knew, for groups of small fish and Christ following families, it would be necessary to be of like-mind for endurance and prosperity. (Pause for Thought:  “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.”—II Chronicles 30:12.  How “in-sync” are the members of your family right now?  What do you want for your family’s center?  Is this the center your family members are moving and thinking around?  How able to withstand the stresses of life is your center?)
 
One thing alone can break up a bait-ball—fear.  If a predator fish causes stress from without the group, a fish or two may decide it would be better for their self-preservation to abandon the center and others for open water.  This fish is often pursued and eaten which causes the bait-ball to lose their like-mindedness for fear’s sake.  Chaos ensues and the group is whittled down in size by those wishing to harm it.  (Pause for Thought:  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may not be divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  I Corinthians 1:10, 13, 17.  Have you witnessed a family and/or group of families moving around a center in harmony of thinking and behavior?  Do you suppose they experience little to no stress?  Have you asked them what, if any, stresses they encounter?  Will you ask them what the center of their like-mindedness is and if you can join their thinking?)
 
The church needs to be and is the place where individuals and families can look for the peace and endurance of the like-minded.  (Pause for Thought:  “Finally brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”   II Corinthians 13:11.  What dishonest or unreasonable thinking is keeping you and your family from moving in coordination with Christ and Christ-following families?  Will you address this fear this week?  How will you address it?  If left unaddressed what, do you think, will be the outcome for you and your family?) 
 

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The Rigidity of Bitterness

Forced, under threat of physical harm, we freshmen boys were made to serve our senior masters by waiting on them and their tables.  We considered how our first week of high school misery might play out for the remainder of our tenure.  During one of our brood sessions, one of my fellow sufferers offered “hope” to us in his statement he couldn’t wait to be a senior, so he could impose his oppressive authority on some unsuspecting freshmen boy.  This kind of hope for justice didn’t seem right to me, nor did getting “even” with my senior tormentors seem righteous.
 
The rigid cycle of bitterness and the foolishness it brings rages on in our lives no matter our age or circumstance.  (Pause for Thought:  A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him. – Proverbs 17:25; Read the story of Amaziah – II Chronicles 25; How did Amaziah’s foolish quest to get “even” cost him his authority and integrity?  How should have Amaziah dealt with his bitterness over his father’s life and death and the circumstances in his own rule over Judah?)
 
Bitterness’s vicious cycle is founded in the pride that leads to a fall.  Unfortunately, after we fall, the bitterness can be, and often is, picked up by our children for them to repeat the same mistakes and display the same foolishness.  Jesus’ ways of getting even and providing hope through bitter times is much different from the world’s ways.  (Pause for Thought:  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44; Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  – Romans 12:14. What enemy is causing your bitterness today?  In what ways has the bitterness impacted you, your family, your children?  How will you choose to deal with the bitterness if front of your family this week?)
 
We freshmen boys decided we did not want to perpetuate the bitter tradition we were suffering through and leave a legacy of foolishness.  I’ll never forget the disbelieving, but joyful, faces on the freshmen boys as we served them and their tables at lunch for the first week of their high school lives.  (Pause for Thought:  How can you get “even” by abolishing a rigidly bitter tradition/cycle by your service to your family or children this week?  Why does service result in our ability to be flexible and less rigid?  Can you name examples of how Jesus’ service to another lessened bitter rigidity and brought flexibility?  If you can think of some examples, share them with your children this week.)
 

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Crisis & Confidence

Crisis can come in many ways. It can come swiftly and terribly as in a sudden death or a financial catastrophe. It can come slowly, a gradual creeping sorrow, depression, or hot tears in the heat of the night. Crisis, too, can be born of our own hands. Past misdeeds and current sins can arise to plague our souls and bring frightful consequences.

 

All of this crisis brings doubt; doubt that causes us to question perhaps even our deepest held beliefs or to doubt how a sinner as wretched as we could ever be saved.

 

Each of us has known or will experience the bitter dregs of doubt. It is one of the tempter’s greatest tools to stifle the Christian’s good works and rob her of her joy.

 

The Lord does not want us, however, to live in a constant state of doubt or consternation about our standing with Him but rather to live confident in our position and identity in Christ.

 

Though we see now only in part the reality of our salvation, we may yet have assurance both in the present and in the age to come. We can stand upon our identity as forgiven children of the Lord.

 

If we have put our faith in Christ and repent of our sins, Scripture tells us that we have peace with God here and now. We have been justified by faith and that none may now condemn us.

 

While we experience some of the effects of our salvation today, we will not fully understand it until we meet Christ in the next age. That does not mean that we cannot live confident in the assurance of our future glory however. “My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus told His disciples, “and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

 

When our thoughts are assailed by shadow and we cannot see the light of day, God’s word for us gives us the confidence to reject our fleeting thoughts and emotions and to instead rest on the truths received from the mouth of God. It may seem forced at times, this rejection, but so does the athlete’s training. On the day of the race though, the discipline proves its worth. When the history of our life is told, our tale will rest upon these moments of tempting and our response. Let it be that we persevere under the crisis and chaos just as the love of God toward us perseveres so that we would hear at our final hour, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


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Significance

I recently had the opportunity to attend my daughter’s first dance recital. The house lights dimmed and the stage filled with the tiny silhouettes of the first group of dancers. Now I must admit that I have a fairly low tolerance for both awkwardness and imperfection. The recital had both in spades. In light of this, I mostly checked out as the first performers began their earnest but labored routines. That is, until my daughter stepped onto the stage. I recognized her thin outline and suddenly my eyes were transfixed on her graceful form moving across the stage. I wasn’t noticing the flaws but rather the girl that I loved.
 

The psalmist prays that he would be preserved like “the apple of [God’s] eye” and Jesus later confirms that the God who sustains the sparrows and the flowers of the field takes a far greater interest in the care of His children.

 

Somehow, in spite of our grand insignificance and the infinite complexity of the universe, the Lord of all creation reserves for us a place in His heart. He peers through the lives of the billions upon billions who live and have lived and sees our single flickering light.

 

I imagine too, that He views us much as I viewed my daughter, with loving intent even as we offer our flawed and inconsequential offerings back to Him. Though no other eye could find value in our lives of little consequence, He lovingly accepts our lives as the earnest yet erring gifts of those He has chosen and adopted.

 

When we begin to see our identity through the eyes of God, we are set free from our infernal quest for significance through our own hands. It has been said that “worth, value, and beauty is not determined by some innate quality but by the length the owner would go to possess them.” If this is true (and it is), then we are truly valued indeed and we can begin living not to prove our significance but to honor the One who already sees us as such.


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