The Faith Hall of Fame


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 19-21; Hebrews 11

Today’s Key Passage – Hebrews 11:32-40

 

It is easy to understand why Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the faith hall of fame.  After all, some of the greatest names from the Old Testament are listed in this chapter as examples of people living by faith.  The chapter begins with a perfect definition of faith, which is, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Vs. 1)  The author continues with a list of people with great faith.  Abel offered God a pleasing sacrifice of a blood animal. (Vs. 4)  Enoch walked with God and was immediately taken up to Heaven. (Vs. 5)  Noah built an ark before he saw any rain. (Vs. 7)  Abraham left his home at God’s request and set out to an unknown place (Vs. 8), became a father though he was advanced in years (Vs. 11), and offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. (Vs. 17)  Isaac blessed his two children’s futures. (Vs. 20)  Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons. (Vs. 21)  Joseph trusted that God would bring His people out of Egypt and wanted his remains taken to the Promised Land. (Vs. 22)  Moses chose to be mistreated as a man of God instead of enjoying sinful pleasures. (Vs. 24)  Interestingly, even the prostitute Rahab is included in the faith hall of fame because she welcomed the spies in Jericho and believed God would save her. (Vs. 31)  Undoubtedly, these are great people who all had great faith.

For most of us, when we read this chapter with all of the greatest people of the Bible listed in front of us, our first thought might be that these people are so much greater than we are.  Who am I compared to Moses, Noah, Abraham, or even Rahab?  These people all seem bigger than life, and have done so much for our faith and our God.  The most interesting part of this entire chapter though, is found in the final two verses.  We read, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Vss. 39-40)  Believe it or not, as great as all of these men and women were, we actually have more than they did.  We have been given something better than any of these people!  Each of us today has the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  For those of us who are following Him, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us guiding us as we walk in faith.  These truths that so many of us can sometimes take for granted were nothing more than a dream and a hope for the men and women of the Old Testament.  Thank God today for His mercy, His forgiveness, and the better plan He has for us.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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A Call For Perseverance


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 15-18; Hebrews 10

Today’s Key Passage – Hebrews 10:32-39

 

At the time of this writing, Emmitt Smith is the National Football League’s all-time leading rusher.  Over the course of fifteen seasons as a running back, he rushed for 18,355 yards – the equivalent of almost 10.5 miles.  As would be expected, most of his professional statistics are impressive.  He scored a total of 175 touchdowns and only fumbled the ball 61 times.  Perhaps the most interesting statistic is his average yards per carry.  During his fifteen year, 10.5 mile journey into history, he was knocked down every 4.2 yards.  The reason Emmitt Smith will forever be considered one of the greatest running backs to ever play is because each time he got knocked down – all 4409 of them – he got back up and kept going.  He could have quit at any time, but instead he decided to keep running until he reached his goal.

In today’s key passage, the author of Hebrews is asking his readers to persevere.  He knew that his readers were on the verge of leaving the faith.  These new Christians were considering turning their backs on Christ and returning to their Jewish traditions.  The author asks them to remember how they felt when they were first saved. (Vs. 32)  He reminds them of all the times they stood firm in their faith even when facing insults and persecution. (Vs. 33)  He asks them to persevere through their current struggles, knowing that they will one day receive the promises of God. (Vs. 36)

Our walk with Christ is a long one.  As we live for Him daily, we must always remember that the Christian life is a marathon.  We are going to face some hard times, and even the best among us are going to be knocked down from time to time.  The true test of our faith lies in how we react when we are knocked down.  We can choose to quit.  We can choose to turn our backs on God and go back to living our lives filled with sin, or we can choose to get back up.  The important thing to remember is that we cannot persevere on our own.  When we try to endure hardships in our own strength, it is likely to only get worse.  Fortunately, because we have Christ living inside of us, we do not have to try to persevere in our own strength.  His strength will pick us up when we are knocked down.  His strength will allow us to keep going.  When the road seems too tough for you to continue, remember the words of Jesus when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  Christ will help you carry whatever weight you have to bear, and the knowledge of your certain salvation will help you get back up and keep going.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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No Reason to Wait


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 11-14; Hebrews 9

Today’s Key Passage – Isaiah 12

 

My wife and I are similar in many ways.  One of these similarities is the way we both view holidays involving gifts.  Whether it is a birthday, our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or any other gift-giving holiday, we both have a hard time waiting to give our gifts.  In fact, with the exception of Christmas mornings, I can count on one hand the number of times we have waited until the actual holiday to give our gifts to each other.  The funny thing is that in each case, the gift giving is done early at the request of the one giving the gift, not the one receiving it.  Once the gift is wrapped up, both of us are so excited to give the gift that we rationalize that there is no reason to wait.

In today’s reading, the prophet Isaiah talks about Christ’s eternal reign over the earth.  In chapter 11, he talks about what life will be like when Jesus begins His reign.  In our key passage, he talks about how people will react to His reign.  He says that on that day, people will praise God because they will know that He is no longer angry with them because of their sins. (Vs. 1)  They will know that God is their salvation and they will trust Him without fear. (Vs. 2)  They will experience nothing but joy in that day because their salvation is secure. (Vs. 3)  They will be so excited, that they will have no choice but to tell everyone what God has done for them. (Vs. 4)  They will shout and sing songs of praise to the Lord. (Vss. 5-6)  It sounds like a glorious day.

Here is the really good news.  As great as that day will be, for those of us who are saved we have no reason to wait.  If you have accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, all of these things already apply to you.  You can praise Him today because you know that He is no longer angry about any of your sins.  You can trust Him without fear knowing that He is your salvation.  You can experience nothing but joy today because your salvation is secure.  In gratitude, you can shout and sing songs of praise to the Lord, and you can begin today telling everyone what God has done for you.  There is no reason to wait until that day to celebrate and praise God.  As you read today’s key passage, picture what life would be like if you lived every day as if it were that day, and understand that all of us can start this process right now.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Blaming God


Daily Bible Reading – Isaiah 8-10; Hebrews 8

Today’s Key Passage – Isaiah 8:11-22

 

In November 2010, wide receiver Steve Johnson of the Buffalo Bills dropped a touchdown pass in an overtime game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  On the next possession, the Steelers drove down the field and kicked a field goal to win the game.  The dropped pass alone did not make this much of a story.  Professional football players drop passes all the time and even heartbreaking drops in the end zone during overtime games are quickly forgotten.  What happened after the game, however, is the reason why this particular dropped pass will be remembered by many football fans and Christians for a long time.  When the game ended, Mr. Johnson went back to the locker room, logged into Twitter on his iPad, and posted a tweet blaming God for his dropped pass.  The ensuing firestorm was epic.  For weeks, articles and blogs across the Internet were written about Mr. Johnson’s Twitter post.  It seemed like everyone had an opinion about his post, and most of the opinions were a mixture of shock and horror that he would blame God for his dropped pass.

I am not condoning Mr. Johnson’s actions.  He was wrong to blame God for the dropped pass.  What struck me as odd though, was the backlash this tweet created considering the fact that blaming God when things do not go our way is actually fairly common.  This phenomenon has happened as far back as the Israelites.  In today’s key passage, Isaiah (speaking for God) correctly predicted that the Israelites would blame God for their tragedies.  He said, “Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God.” (Vs. 21)

When things do not work out the way we think they should, many times human beings look for someone to blame.  It is in these times that we are vulnerable to attack by the enemy.  It is in these times when Satan will try to tempt us into believing that God is at fault.  His voice whispering in our ear will try to convince us to blame God.  This, of course, is a dangerous proposition.  When we listen to the enemy’s voice, we grow further away from God as we, “look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and are thrust into utter darkness.” (Vs. 22)  God’s voice, however, says something completely different.  God’s voice tells us that He has plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  God’s voice tells us that even when we cannot understand the reasons behind why something happened, we can rest in the knowledge that God is in control.  God’s voice tells us that we can grow closer to Him in our times of distress, and that we can learn through our failures.  The next time you face a setback and are looking for someone to blame, which voice will you decide to listen to?  Listen to the voice of God and avoid the trap.  When things do not go your way, resist the temptation to blame God, and instead press in closer to Him.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Purpose of Prophecy


Daily Bible Reading – Micah 5-7; Hebrews 7

Today’s Key Passage – Micah 5:1-5

 

There are many prophets in the Bible.  Some prophets were sent by God to call the people to repentance.  Others were sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah.  Though the prophets in the Bible were sent by God at different times to speak to different groups of people for different reasons, they were all sent by God for a single purpose.  The purpose of prophecy is not just to predict the future or to make the prophets credible.  While prophecy certainly did these things in the Bible, the purpose behind it is something much greater.  The purpose of prophecy is to give people hope.  Prophecy gives us hope as we learn about God’s ultimate plans for us, and gives us hope as we learn more about Jesus Christ.

In today’s key passage, the prophet Micah provides us with one of the clearest prophecies in the Old Testament of the coming of Christ.  He began by saying that the ruler of Israel would be struck down by enemies. (Vs. 1)  Most likely, Micah was talking about King Zedekiah who was the last king in David’s lineage to rule before Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem.  Micah went on to say that a new King would be born in Bethlehem. (Vs. 2)  This King would be, “from of old, from ancient times” (Vs. 2) meaning that the King who was coming had been alive forever and was present at creation.  Micah continued by saying, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. “ (Vs. 4)  Of course, we all know this King Micah is talking about is the Messiah who, though eternal, was born into human history in Bethlehem as the man, Jesus Christ.  We also know that Jesus will one day rule over everyone and everything when, “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And he will be their peace.” (Vss. 4-5)

To truly realize the hope that lies in prophecy, we have to trust God in two ways.  First, we have to trust that God never lies.  What He says He will do is what He will do.  Secondly, we have to trust that God will not change his mind.  God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He will not change or alter His plans.  The entirety of the Bible points to God’s plan for this life.  God’s plan calls for His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born in Bethlehem as a man and to live a perfect life.  God’s plan calls for Jesus to die on the cross as the perfect, once and for all sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  God’s plan calls for all of us to be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ.  Finally, God’s plan calls for Jesus to rule over everything and everyone and for Him to bring us eternal peace.  I am not sure about you, but I cannot imagine anything bringing more hope than God’s plan!  If you are looking for hope in this life, it can be found right there in your Bible.  In can be found in the prophecies of God.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Selective Hearing


Daily Bible Reading – Micah 1-4; Hebrews 6

Today’s Key Passage – Micah 1:1-7

 

Micah was a prophet who directed his message to the southern kingdom of Judah.  He lived at the same time as Isaiah, and the two most likely knew each other.  Like the prophets before him and the prophets after him, Micah preached a message of repentance to the people of Judah.  He wanted the people to turn away from their evil ways and turn back to God.  He told them all about God’s anger with their sins, and he warned them of the impending destruction that would befall them because of their refusal to repent.  Sadly, more often than not the words of these prophets were ignored.  By this time, though God sent many messengers, most of the Israelites were no longer listening to them.  They refused to hear the truth about their own sinfulness, and the people’s hearts were so hardened toward God they were unable to really hear God’s warnings about what was coming.  The people were suffering from selective hearing, as they only wanted to focus on the things that supported their sinful way of life.

All of us have a tendency to have selective hearing at times.  We like to hear the things and the people that support our own opinions, but often we are tempted to reject and ignore anything that might cause us to change our thinking or our current way of life.  Selective hearing is dangerous because refusing to listen to others or what God’s Word is trying to tell us can lead us to miss His warnings.  God speaks to all of us in a variety of ways.  Sometimes He speaks to us using the Bible.  Other times he uses a person.  Still other times he speaks to us in a soft voice during our quiet times.  We have to be careful that when He speaks, we are hearing Him clearly, and we have to be careful that we are hearing His entire message.  This cannot happen when we are only listening to the things we want to hear.  Sometimes God challenges us.  He challenges our way of thinking and He challenges our way of living.  When there are things about our lives that God wants us to change, He is going to let us know about them one way or another.  If we choose to only listen selectively, we might miss His voice.  Like the people of Judah and Israel, we might miss His warnings.  Do not miss what God is trying to tell you because of selective hearing.  Listen to the people who think you are wrong.  Read and study the passages of the Bible that you do not think apply to your life or that you find challenging.  When you are careful to avoid selective hearing, you are more likely to hear God speaking to you.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Time to Grow Up


Daily Bible Reading – Hosea 13,14; Psalms 100, 102; Hebrews 5

Today’s Key Passage – Hebrews 5:1-14

 

In my late twenties, I was living the life of a typical bachelor.  At that point, I was not saved so everything I did was about me.  I only cared about my own wants and needs, and I had no plans to ever change.  I had a good job and made good money, which I spent almost entirely on myself as I tried to find fulfillment in everything other than God.  Then in January of 2007, my life was forever changed when God introduced me to my wife and daughter.  In a relatively short period of time, I went from being a single man with very few responsibilities to being a husband and a father.  Over the course of the next few years, God would change the direction of my life from a person living an evil life for himself to a man saved by the grace of God and living for Him.  Somewhere along the way, I realized it was time to grow up.

Most of us have probably had a moment in life when we realize it is time to grow up.  Sometimes these moments occur along with a life-altering event, while other times it is a bit more subtle.  The author of Hebrews was hoping that his readers would have one of these moments.  In today’s key passage, the author tells his Jewish Christian audience that it is time to grow up.  The author says, “It is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Vss. 11-14)  These Jewish Christians were immature, and were not even applying the basics of Christianity to their own lives, so they were unable to grow.

There is nothing wrong with being a “baby Christian”, and there is nothing wrong with drinking “spiritual milk”.  In fact, it is important in the lives of every new follower of Christ to spend time learning and understanding the “ABC’s” of the faith.  Eventually though, the time comes to grow up.  Eventually, we must mature from milk to solid food.  Eventually, disciples must begin making new disciples.  The key to this maturity is discernment.  As we grow in Christ, we become better at making the distinction between good and evil.  As we grow in Christ, we become better at avoiding temptations.  God is not looking for us to be perfect right away, but He is looking for growth.  As we live our lives for Him, let us all constantly strive to get better.  Let us all constantly strive to grow up.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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When Life Seems Unfair


Daily Bible Reading – Hosea 10-12; Psalm 73; Hebrews 4

Today’s Key Passage – Psalm 73

 

At some point in our lives, we have all cried out the familiar phrase, “That is not fair!”  I can remember saying it as a child and I know I have thought it and said it as an adult.  As human beings, we naturally like to believe that things should always work out fairly.  The wicked should be punished immediately, and the righteous should be rewarded immediately.  Anything less just seems unfair.  One of the greatest lessons my parents ever taught me as a child was that life does not always work out in this way.  In this world, sometimes life seems unfair.  Sometimes the people who cheat and lie are the ones who are most successful (as the world defines success).  Sometimes the righteous people who live their lives in obedience to God face hard times.  While it is little consolation to us in the midst of a “life is not fair” moment, this is not a new problem that only affects our generation.  In fact, the fairness of life has been plaguing human beings for thousands of years.

In today’s key passage, the psalmist Asaph struggles with the fairness of life as he “envied the arrogant when [he] saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Vs. 3)  Asaph goes through a laundry list of the ways in which the wicked prosper (Vss. 4-12), and decides that, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.” (Vs. 13)  It was not until Asaph consulted with God that he truly came to understand the problem with his thinking. (Vs. 17)  The issue of fairness is really a matter of perspective.  Apart from God, we only have one perspective – our own.  We see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer and we believe life is unfair.  As we grow closer to God though, we begin to see things from His perspective.  As we get closer to God, we realize that the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous is only a temporary condition confined to this world.  Ultimately, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished, and these conditions will be eternal.

When facing a “life is not fair” moment, remember to change your perspective.  Instead of focusing on how unfair the world seems today, focus on how fair our perfect world will be in eternity.   Like Asaph (Vss. 23-28), praise God for His presence in this life, and praise Him for his promises of fairness in eternity.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Genuine Repentance


Daily Bible Reading – Hosea 6-9; Hebrews 3

Today’s Key Passage – Hosea 6:1-7

 

I grew up in a Christian home.  My family and I went to church every week, and if asked I would have called myself a Christian.  For the first 34 years of my life though, I had a wrong interpretation of repentance.  Though I called myself a Christian, I never actually read the Bible.  In my life, I knew that I was sinful.  I knew that I did things that were not pleasing to God.  At night, I would pray to Him and ask Him to forgive me for my sinfulness.  I would list out all of the bad things I had done that day for God and ask Him to forgive each one.  The problem was that in all of those years, I never really had any interest in changing my behavior.  I viewed God as a “get out of jail free card” in a sense.  I desired His forgiveness, His mercy, His blessings for my life, and His promise of salvation, but I did not desire actual change.

Our key passage today begins with Israel’s seeming repentance.  We read, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Vss. 1-3)  Now this all sounds really good.  It sounds like Israel is sorry for its sins and it sounds like Israel is ready to turn away from them and back to God.  The thing about God, however, is that He knows our hearts.  He knew that time and time again Israel called on Him for mercy and for help, but they never actually desired change.  God responded to Israel by saying, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” (Vs. 4)  God knew that Israel’s claims to want to return to Him were empty.  He knew that they were only interested in the material benefits God could provide.

Many people today are still misled about repentance.  People believe that as long as they are sorry for what they do, they can continue to live their lives in a sinful way without any consequences.  In fact, some churches even preach a message like this to their congregations.  They preach a “health and wealth” message of the Gospel because it is popular and it does not require actual change in the hearts of the audience.  Sadly, these churches are doing a disservice to the body of Christ because this message is not Biblical.  Time and time again in the Bible, God makes Himself perfectly clear.  He is not looking for us to simply desire forgiveness.  He is not looking for us to simply desire His mercy.  God is looking for genuine repentance.  He wants us to turn completely away from sin and turn completely toward Him.  He wants us to give up our lives of sin and replace them with lives focused on God.  Asking for forgiveness without asking God to change you is like a person calling himself a Christian without ever reading the Bible.  It is an empty gesture, and it is not what God wants for us.  Genuine repentance is a not a fleeting feeling of remorse over a sinful act.  Genuine repentance is a lifetime commitment to stop walking in the ways of evil and instead walk in the ways of God.  Anything less is like a morning mist.  Anything less is like the early dew that disappears.  Love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and turn completely toward Him with everything in your life.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Grass is Always Greener


Daily Bible Reading – Hosea 2-5; Hebrews 2

Today’s Key Passage – Hosea 2:2-8

 

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something that is not very uncommon as I was driving.  I was passing by a small pasture in which a couple of cows were grazing.  The grass in the pasture was a plush green, and most of the cows seemed pretty content grazing within the fences.  The thing that caught my eye, however, was a single cow standing closest to the road.  Though this cow was standing in a nice patch of green grass, she had her head through the fence and was eating the slightly brown weeds on the other side.  It seemed this cow believed that the grass was indeed greener on the other side, and she was intent on eating it instead of eating the grass in her own pasture.   When I saw it, I knew immediately that I would be writing about that moment as an illustration here, and all I had to do was wait until the day we read Hosea chapter 2.

Today’s key passage is all about the concept that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  As we learned in yesterday’s reading, Hosea married Gomer knowing that she would be unfaithful to him.  In today’s reading we see that God’s warnings about Gomer came to fruition as we read, “Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace.  She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’” (Vs.5)  Gomer chased after other lovers because she believed that she could find something better than what she had at home with Hosea.  Of course, Gomer’s life was a living, breathing example of what Israel did for years.  Though Israel had everything as God’s chosen people, they were continually unfaithful to God and chased after other gods to worship, all the time believing they could find something better.  Israel, like Gomer, believed that the grass was greener on the other side.

Sadly, it is easy for all of us to fall into this trap.  It is easy for us to believe that what someone else has is better than what we have.  There are people who believe that someone else’s house is better than their house or that someone else’s life is better than their life, so they covet what their neighbors have.  There are men and women who believe they can find something better outside of their own marriages, so they fall into adultery.  They wrongly believe they have more in common with a complete stranger than with the person at home to whom they have been married for years and with whom they have raised children.  In all of these cases, the focus is always on the wrong thing.  Instead of focusing on all of the blessings God has provided, when we focus on the things He has not provided we get into trouble.  I once heard a pastor say that if you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, spend some time watering your own grass!  Never forget that more often than not, the color of the grass in your own yard or in another’s yard is simply a matter of perception.  We think the grass is going to be greener on the other side, so we jump through hoops trying to get there.  We go out of our way to stick our heads through the fence, intent on getting to the other side and ignoring the barbed wire and the thickets that are in our way.  In the end though, all we find on the other side are slightly brown weeds.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

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