Statement of faith

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

"The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.
- Warren


Monday, April 30, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

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Week of: April 30, 2012                      www.pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

Proverbs 3:7
“Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”

ACQUIRED TRAIT
Communicating in humility is not something that comes easy. In all honesty I don’t get all that excited about displaying transparency. However, I understand that if I am to be an effective witness for Christ, I have to put it all out there.

The only criteria I have for writing these devotionals and hopefully speaking into your heart, is the raw truth that I was a “true mess” before developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some of you know this all too well, and others, well I never let you have that kind of access so you’ll just have to take my word for it. The cool thing is that when we finally reach the end of self, God has something to redeem. God has a lot of refining to do in this gal, but I promise you that I am now up for the challenge to become a better listener.

As I was reflecting last week and meditating upon Scripture that warns us about false teachings/teachers, it became apparent to me that wisdom is definitely the key to recognizing deception. I hope you had a chance to look at the materials I shared last week. I know there was a lot, but this is that important. 

Because I was limited by space, I wasn’t able to share the following. As we search to uncover truth, it is going to be important for us to learn how to effectively communicate what we discover. When we share our opinions, concerns and facts we need to be aware that it's not about what we know, it’s about how we present what we know. I am taking a seat at the front of the class on this one because I definitely need to absorb this lesson firsthand. Way too often I find myself emotionally driven and I’m learning the hard way that this is a dangerous trait. I’m glad to know that I am not alone in this. Wisdom is an acquired trait, it’s not a natural one.

The following is an article by Dr. Beth Ackerman, the Associate Dean, School of Education, at Liberty University. I read this on the Women of Faith site and it spoke to me. I believe it drives home the point of the necessity to apply wisdom as we communicate. Be blessed.

"As Christians, how do we handle discussions in our search for truth? As students and teachers, what do we do when disagreements arise? To make this question current and relevant to all of us, what is our role with others in discussing any disagreement, such as this political climate and discussing future political candidates?


The first step is acknowledging that we don't personally possess this wisdom. Many of us are familiar with Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding". In my struggle with pride, I prefer to meditate on the stern warning of verse 7 that follows, "Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil." The first step is humility and leaning on God and his word for all wisdom. To do otherwise, is evil.


And the next step is communicating what God has laid on your heart in a way that it is a building block and not a stumbling block. Ephesians 4:29 – "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Often in my passion to communicate, I become a stumbling block for those who listen, rather than presenting God's truth "according to their needs" and to "benefit those who listen". Meditating on these verses can help us communicate wisdom in a way that God's message can be heard and received.” - Dr. Beth Ackerman

It is important that we do not cause anyone to stumble. In Ephesians 4:15 we have a reminder from Paul that we are to judiciously speak the truth in love. We would be wise not to allow anger, frustration, conflict and disappointment to simmer. When it does, we tend to hold grudges and harbor hatred. Before you know it you’re sinking in sin again. James suggests that we are “slow to wrath” (James 1:19). I think the only way we do this is to draw upon God’s wisdom in every situation, circumstance or discussion we engage in. An unbridled tongue is dangerous (James1:26). My tongue has gotten me in more trouble than I desire to list. The truth is, either I master it, or it master’s me. Explosive tempers and unloving actions are a clear indication that we're missing the mark.

In Christ by grace,
Pam

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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Week of: April 23, 2012                                         www.pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

2 Peter 2:1-3: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachings among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies evening denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

EXAMINING THE EVIDENCE
In the Book of 2 Peter and 1 Thessalonians, Peter and Paul are addressing professed believers. They were not only giving them guidance, they were warning them to be on guard against false teachings. Many people believe that false prophets can only be found within strange cults and other religions. The Apostles were warning that there would also be false teachers/leaders within the Christian church. “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:30)

When I first began my journey of exploring the Bible, I received a similar warning. At first I dismissed it until something inside of me began to stir. I was discovering things in the Word of God that appeared to be contrary to what I had been practicing/believing for pretty much all my life. After intense study and the seeking of wise counsel, I eventually challenged the leadership within my church with questions that were specific to the denomination’s belief system. The answers I received made me restless. After much prayer and quiet discernment, I made the decision to abandon some of what I had grown up under in order to better align my spiritual beliefs to what God instructs in His Holy Word. Someone once said to me “if it aligns, obey it; but, if after careful discernment you conclude that it doesn't, reject it.” It is my personal opinion that, that was wise counsel.

Friends, we all have to figure this “spiritual” stuff out on our own. My journey is not yours, it’s personal. My questions may not be your questions. In fact, God may not have you wrestling with your spirituality, religious beliefs, or denominational doctrines at all at this point. This devotion is not intended to be a point of debate. I am simply sharing what Peter and Paul did back in their day. I am encouraging those I care about to be on guard and to educate themselves under the authority of God’s Word. It is not my intention to disrespect what you believe, and I would also ask that you return that same respect to me.

A few weeks back I shared information regarding the different religions and cults in our midst. I hope you had an opportunity to check out that writing. I said that it was imperative that we not only understand what we believe, we have to know what others believe so we will not be misled. If we don’t know the Word of God, we might be tempted to believe anything that sounds good or makes us feel spiritual. Our relationship with God should be much more than a “feel good” experience on Sunday mornings. God expects us to engage Him and obey what He shows us. We can do this by reading, studying, praying for the ability to discern the Bible in context, and then living out what we discover.

False teachings are not limited to organized religion; we can become false teachers ourselves. For example, if I tell you that “you deserve to be happy so go ahead and leave your deadbeat spouse,” I would be misleading you on several fronts. First of all we don’t deserve anything. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Next, leaving your husband is something that goes against what God teaches. The Word says “God hates divorce” (Malachi 3: 16), so I would be leading you in a way that is false. We have to look at the practices of our faith in the same light. What does the Word of God say about things such as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? What is the Biblical view in regards to heaven and hell, view of Scripture, salvation, sacraments, baptism, leadership, membership and prayer?

For the sake of time, I will direct you to a publication where you could check out the many different denomination views for yourself www.rose-publishing.com. I found this to be quite fascinating. The following is a link to www.gotquestions.orgTheir ministry in their own words “is to present what the Bible teaches on various topics. It is not our purpose to attempt to persuade you that all of our views are correct. We have presented what we believe to be truth.”

I have personally found gotquestions.org to be particularly helpful and Biblically aligned as I was challenged to explore some tough questions. If your denomination is not represented below you can search for it on their site. Be blessed. 

http://www.gotquestions.org/difference-Catholic-Protestant.html                                
http://www.gotquestions.org/Christianity.html

1John4:1-6 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the anti-christ, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

Life’s Application Commentary: “Some people believe everything they read or hear. Unfortunately many ideas printed and taught are not true. Christians should have faith but they should not be gullible. Verify every message you hear, even if the person who brings it says it’s from God. If the message is truly from God, it will be consistent with Christ’s teachings. False teachers are popular with the world because, like the false prophets of the Old Testament, they tell people what they want to hear. John warns that Christians who faithfully teach God’s Word will not win any popularity contests in the world. People don’t want to hear their sins denounced; they don’t want to listen to demands that they change their behavior. A false teacher will be well received by non-Christians. There are many ways to test teachers. One is to check to see if their words match what God says in the Bible.”

Additional Scripture Reading: Matthew 24:24-25, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15, 2 Timothy 2:17, Romans 16:18, 2 Peter 2:1, 3 and Ephesians 5:6-7.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father Your Word is described in the Bible as a lamp to our feet. Turn on the switch Father for anyone who may have questions. Give them a sense of courage to ask their leaders questions in order to validate what they have been taught by man. Give them the ability to discern Your Word correctly so as to avoid being deceived. If there is someone who needs to make some changes in order to align to Your Word, give them a sense of peace and a boldness to be obedient to what you instruct. May we love and respect one another as we seek this wisdom individually. In Jesus’ Precious name we pray.

In Christ by faith,
Pam

“It takes a lifetime to grow to maturity. Some believers, however, don't seem to grow up at all. They get older, but their understanding of God's Word never goes very deep. This lack of godly wisdom is caused by ignorance of the Scriptures, apathy and complacency about spiritual things, and a failure to apply biblical truths. Discernment requires time and effort. You can't simply move through life, thoughtlessly reacting to situations yet never learning from them. Take time to reflect on your responses and observe the consequences of your actions and choices. If you feel convicted by what you notice, let that motivate you to begin a lifelong pursuit of the Lord and His ways.” – Dr. Charles Stanley

Reflection song: 
Open the Eyes of My Heart
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDP12eYxSpE

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

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Week of: 4/16/12                                             pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Sharing by: Dr. Charles Stanley

Taking a respite and using this week to reflect on the Lord's prayer, and the importance of tapping into God's forgiveness everyday. Be blessed.

In Christ by grace,
Pam


The God Who Forgives
Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus Christ gave His followers a pattern for prayer that includes seeking forgiveness daily. The invitation to regular repentance is not a means of renewing our salvation, but rather a maintenance plan for our fellowship with the Lord. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, our sins are forgiven forever. The stains from our past, present, and future wrongs are wiped from our record; however, we're a fallen people so we do continue to commit sin.

With the exception of Jesus Christ, no person is perfect. Sin is simply a fact of human life. The Lord's payment for our transgressions means that we can look forward to an eternity spent in God's presence instead of getting the punishment we deserve. On this side of heaven, though, we still have to contend with our tendency to do wrong--and we must also deal with the consequences. The Lord's admonition to seek daily forgiveness is a reminder to confess our sins and turn away from them because we are forgiven.

God's grace is not a license to sin; instead, it's a reason to pursue righteousness. Bad attitudes, thoughtless actions, and unkind speech do not fit who we are as children of light. We're new creatures in Christ, bought for a price and set free to live as partakers of His grace.
Salvation makes a way for us to enter God's presence, while regular confession and repentance keep the pathway well maintained and free of obstruction (1 John 1:9). The so-called "sinner's prayer" need be said only once, but a saint will tap into God's forgiveness every day of his or her life.

- Dr. Stanley

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

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Week of: April 9, 2012                                       pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Sharing by: Pam Crawford


Psalm 110:1
The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit in honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”

HE IS RISEN INDEED!
This year in preparation of Easter I decided to do something different. Instead of giving something up, I decided to dig my heels in and explore the many different religious views out there. I wanted to check out for myself the controversy that appears to stem around God and the historical figure we Christians call Jesus. I have to admit I was surprised at what I discovered. I use to think we needed to get a grip on the Easter Bunny phenomenon that took over this holiday, but after some intense study, I think the Easter bunny is the least of our concerns. It is clear that on American soil in the year 2012, Christianity is being challenged by numerous different belief systems. This past Sunday not everyone was celebrating that Jesus has risen. It's pretty apparent that not everyone believes that the final battle on this earth will come at the hands of a resurrected Jesus who overcomes the forces of evil (Revelation 19:11-21). 

Life’s Application Commentary:
"Psalm 110 is one of the most-quoted psalms in the New Testament because of its clear references to the Messiah. Many people have a vague belief in God but refuse to accept Jesus as anything more than a great human teacher. But the Bible does not allow that option. Both the Old and New Testaments proclaim the deity of the one who came to save and to reign. You can’t straddle the fence, calling Jesus “just a good teacher,” because the Bible clearly calls him Lord."

For those of you who believe that Jesus was crucified and rose again, you might be surprised to learn that your view is not accepted by many other religions. This fact became critical to me as I recently received an invitation to attend a Mormon Church service. The invitation came from a lovely couple and had I not known their view on my Savior, I may have joined them. I may have also joined the sweet Jehovah’s Witness gal that regularly knocked on my door last summer to invite me to her Kingdom Hall.

I feel extremely passionate that we understand that not everyone honors or accepts the risen King as Lord and Savior. Sometimes this is the mindset of people all around us and we must be on alert. Some of these people live with us, some are our relatives, others work with us at our jobs and some socialize with us. Because I am limited to space I will only spotlight four views and I encourage you to look at others such as the Unification Church, Unity School of Christianity, Scientology, Wicca, New Age, Islam, Nation of Islam, Baha’I World Faith, Hinduism, Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation, and Nichiren Buddhism. I told you that there were many and these just touch the surface of the many religious views and cults out there. I gathered my information from several different resources then I crossed referenced to a chart from Rose Publishing.  If you’re interested you could search for “Christianity, Cults and Religions” at www.rose-publishing.com.

*Biblical Christianity claims that “Jesus is God, the second Person of the Trinity. As God the Son, He has always existed and was never created. He is fully God and fully man (the two natures joined, not mixed). As the second Person of the Trinity, He is coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In becoming man, He was begotten through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus is the only way to the Father, salvation and eternal life. He died on a cross according to God’s plan, as full sacrifice and payment for our sins. He rose from the dead on the third day, spiritually and physically immortal. For the next 40 days He was seen by numerous eyewitnesses. His wounds were touched and He ate meals. He physically ascended to Heaven. Jesus will come again visibly and physically at the end of the world to establish God’s kingdom and judge the world.”

*Judaism views “Jesus as either an extremist false messiah or a good but martyred Jewish rabbi (teacher). Many Jews do not consider Jesus at all. Jews (except Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians) do not believe he was the Messiah, Son of God, or that he rose from the dead. Orthodox Jews believe the Messiah will restore the Jewish kingdom and eventually rule the earth.”

*Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that “Jesus is not God. Before he lived on earth, he was Michael, the archangel. Jehovah made the universe through him. On earth he was a man who lived a perfect life. After dying on a stake (not a cross), he was resurrected as a spirit; his body was destroyed. Jesus is not coming again; he “returned” invisibly in 1914 in spirit. Very soon, he and the angels will destroy all non-Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

*Mormonism claims that “Jesus is a separate god from the Father (Elohim). He was created as a spirit child by the Father and Mother in Heaven, and is the “elder brother” of all men and spirit beings. His body was created through sexual union between Elohim and Mary. Jesus was married. His death on the cross does not provide full atonement for all sin, but does provide everyone with resurrection.”

*Christian Science says that “Jesus was not the Christ, but a man who displayed the Christ idea. (“Christ” means perfection, not a person.) Jesus was not God, and God can never become man or flesh. He did not suffer and could not suffer for sins. He did not die on the cross. He was not resurrected physically. He will not literally come back.”

*Rose Publishing Inc.

The Word tells us that Jesus is coming back (John 14:3) and we should be concerned for those who are distorting the Word of God. Call me na├»ve if you must, but I have to wonder this out loud. Why after 2,000 + years has no one uncovered the remains of this historical figure, a so called man, the “good teacher” of sorts? Could it be they are dead wrong and the witnesses who encountered the resurrected Christ might have it right?

Inevitably the choice of what we believe is ours. May I suggest you take the time to explore that of what you believe or that of what you doubt while there is still time? According to Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living, “we can’t only know what we believe as Christians, we need to know what others believe as well.” Be blessed.

Recommended Resources:
Evidence That Demands A Verdict #1 (Josh McDowell). San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972

Christianity – Passion for the Gospel by Charles Swindoll and Greg Laurie
Jehovah’s Witnesses – How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower by
David A. Reed
Mormonism - Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson.
Judaism – Share the New Life with a Jew by Ceil Rosen and Moishe Rosen

Additional Scripture Reading
Luke 24, John 19:33-34, Mark 15:43-45, Matthew 28.

Need more? Examining the Witnesses of the Resurrection
http://oakridgechurch.com/riggs/ex-wit.htm    




In Christ by grace,
Pam          























Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quiet-Time Reflections

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Week of: April 2, 2012                                                 pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Sharing by: Pam Crawford


1 John 4:7-8
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God – for God is love.” – NLT

ALL WE NEED IS LOVE
Francis Frangipane in his article titled This Day We Fight wrote: Truly, I am for peace, but I recognize that I cannot have peace unless I am first trained for war. It is my training for war that secures my ability to have peace. Indeed, it was during the times of warfare - of struggle and battle - when I have grown the most in courage, in faith, in sacrifice, and in love. The battle stretched me beyond the boundaries of my spirituality. Yes, when I was fighting for my family, church or community, it was the fight itself that defined and established my spiritual growth. Regardless of the battle before us, no matter how dark the spiritual atmosphere becomes, we must fight for the purposes of God in the earth. We cannot relax our intercession nor surrender our vision for our nation's future. We have not entered the day of irreversible darkness.”

Being stretched beyond our boundaries of spirituality can sometimes leave us in a state of weariness if we’re not careful.  But it is in these times that we have the ability to fight our best fight if we’re willing to align ourselves behind God, the commander and chief who promises us a spiritual victory (Matt. 19:26).

Oh how I yearn for peace in my life. How about you? I bet like me, you have some things in your life that have the potential to keep you down and out if you allow them to. And when you look around this world today, you might be tempted to declare defeat. What a mistake that would be! Despite how things appear, we should never lose sight of the fact that God gets the final victory over darkness (Rev. 20:9-10).

In the midst of a particular battle of my own, I have been reminded of how important it is to have the correct battle plan in place. I am learning that this plan cannot be void of love. If we expect to achieve victory in that of which we suffer in; we better understand the need to be well equipped at any moment for any type of battle. Sometimes the battles will be quick and not all that significant, and at other times they will be fierce. Without something firm to stand upon the arrows have the potential to destroy you.

If you have been following my writings for any length of time, I believe you might recognize that I stand firm upon the truths found within the Holy Bible. With all that said, I want you to understand that it is not about what I stand upon that is going to bring the victory, it’s about whom I am standing with. If I don’t learn to do it “love’s” way, I can expect to be defeated.

With human beings there is always some type of conflict in the air. It is actually one of Satan’s favorite strategies for serving up defeat. You see, if he can get us stirred up against one another then there is really no room for love. 1 John 4:8 clearly states that “God is Love.” Can you imagine if we all learned that love has nothing to do with how we feel? But rather, we learned that it has everything to do with obeying God. When we get this revelation we can begin to grasp God’s message of forgiveness, mercy and grace.

How many of you know that there is no perfect human being walking this earth? If we know this, then why is it so difficult for us to set aside our hurts to obey God’s command to love one another despite how we feel? I believe it is when we come to the understanding that we must love one another as God has loved us, that we gain the right perspective on resolving conflict God’s way.

1 John 4:19-21
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 

Life’s Application Commentary:
“God’s love is the source of all human love, and it spreads like fire. In loving his children, God kindles a flame in their hearts. In turn, they love others, who are warmed by God’s love through them. It is easy to say we love God when that love doesn’t cost us anything more than weekly attendance at religious services. But the real test of our love for God is how we treat the people right in front of us – our family members and fellow believers. We cannot truly love God while neglecting to love those who are created in his image.”

The command to love others is not any easy one as we are not only called to love those who are easy to love. We are called to also love the rascals in our life. Matthew 5:44-45 tells us but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

This devotion has been an extremely challenging assignment because it hits close to home. It’s also difficult because I have several severed relationships in my family circle that I have not yet seen God’s victory in. For those of you who know me intimately, you know my heart today as it relates to these situations. It hasn’t always been open to resolve and I take responsibility for my part in the relational breakdown. I pray that God will soon be the commander and chief in all of our lives because then and only then, will we begin to truly forgive one another and move towards reconciliation. I imagine that’s going to be a day when God will certainly celebrate the victory. Until then, I am choosing to stand upon God’s truth that goodness and love can win over evil. Love can dispel darkness if we’re willing to fight for our family and our friendships. 

From this day forward it is my intent to begin forgiving at the point of conflict. I think this might be a good strategy to stop Satan from advancing to the victory line. Now the test will be living out what I know is best. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of helping Satan win. How about instead of helping him, we simply ask God to “deliver us and those we love from the evil one.” As we obey we can expect the door of new blessings to open. Let’s begin with working to obey this. “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” – Luke 11:4, KJV. 

When you study this Scripture you learn that because God has forgiven us; we must also forgive others who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving indicates that we don’t value that of what we have received. Imagine if God dealt with us in the same manner that we deal with others. The Life’s Application commentary puts it this way. “When we don’t forgive others, we are setting ourselves about Christ’s law of love.”

Could it be that the victory comes when we understand that forgiveness is the cornerstone of healing? Forgiveness like love is not a feeling, it’s an action. When we allow God to love unconditionally and selflessly through us, we defeat the enemy. It’s the only battle plan that works because it’s designed by God.    

So what will I do as I wait on this battlefield?  I will stand firm in this reminder. “In every situation God is always doing a thousand different things behind the scenes that you cannot see and that you do not know.” – John Piper

Today I chose to trust that my Father is at work. This Easter let’s consider tearing down some walls so we can get to the celebration. Be blessed. – HAPPY EASTER.

LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
Keeping a record of sins (or holding a grudge) is like building a wall between you and another person, and it is nearly impossible to talk openly while the wall is there. God doesn't keep a record of our sins; when he forgives, he forgives completely, tearing down any wall between us and him. Therefore, we fear (revere) God, yet we can talk to him about anything.
When you pray, realize that God is holding nothing against you. His lines of communication are completely open.

Additional Scripture read: Ephesians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 13:13


In Christ by grace,
Pam


Easter reflection song:
The Hurt & the Healer by Mercy Me






In Christ by grace,
Pam