When Sorrows Feel Endless

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Lord, there are times when being joyful comes easier than others, when gratitude overflows, and when we praise You effortlessly.

There are also times when grief, pain, and sorrow feel endless.

Whether we’re the ones suffering or we’re empathizing with others who are hurting, please comfort us with the guarantee of Your unchanging character, as revealed through Your infallible Word.

As we enter the new year, please help us realize how temporary today is, so that we can be grateful for every moment and patiently trust You through every trial.

Thanks for affirming that all hard times will pass, as we cling to the only light of hope that lasts forever−You.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Begona Maier.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon

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Do You Want to Get Well?

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(Suggested Reading: John 5:1-14)

During my last procedure, medical assistants in blue smocks, shoe coverings, and caps bustled around the pre-op room as one of my favorite nurses led me to the middle of three gurneys. “I’ll bring you a warm blanket.” She handed me an open-back gown and clutched a fistful of curtain. Metal rings scraped on the metal bar as she swooshed the fabric walls closed.

Soft moans confirmed the pain of the patient in the make-shift room next to me. I understood how one wrong move could cause a flood of tears.

I prayed for my medical team and thanked God for the prayer warriors who were interceding for me through social media. I prayed for the hurting stranger on the other side of my curtained shack.

There have been days during my healing journey that I praised God for using my experiences to give me deeper insight and genuine compassion toward others who were hurting. There have also been days I begged the Lord for relief from chronic pain, for an end to my suffering.

I’ve cried out the prayer of David: “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:2-3, NIV)

I’m writing this post as I recover from one of the worst pain days I’ve had in months. Jesus’s words brush against my tear-stained cheeks.

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6b)

The Lord was addressing a man too sick to care for himself for almost four decades.

Four decades.

That man must have begged for relief. He might have cried for mercy. He may have wondered if it would be easier to give up.

So, why did Jesus ask if the man wanted to get well?

If this man didn’t want healing, he wouldn’t have been waiting at the pool near the Sheep Gate. He must have known he would never be the first one to the water with no one to help him. His wait must have felt useless and lonely.

Still, though clearly focused on his lack of resources and strength, the hurting one clung to a fraying thread of hope and waited on the Lord.

Would healing come today?

Jesus, in His all-knowing love, knew the man’s road to wellness wasn’t going to end near the Sheep Gate. The Lord reveals a bigger plan when He encounters the man at the temple in verses 14-15.

“See, you are well again.” (v. 14)

The man wasn’t always afflicted.

“Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (v. 14)

Some may suggest this statement confirms the man’s sin nature caused his suffering. But as we read Scripture, we’re assured God doesn’t punish His beloved children for sport. In these words, I recognize the same invitation the Lord has extended to me, the invitation He extends to all people.

Stop sinning. Obey Him, which translates plainly to love God. What is the something worse that may happen? Eternity separated from God.

Jesus gave the man a reason to believe without a doubt, a miracle that touched close to home, and then invited him to enter an intimate, committed relationship.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

The journey toward this man’s wellness required a first step of faith, so the Messiah said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Get up! Believe. Take action.

Pick up your mat. Don’t forget past experiences, but accept the freedom God has granted.

Walk. Move forward. Believe the Lord with ongoing confidence and persevering faith.

The man responded to Jesus in loving obedience.

Christ could have chosen to say yes to a partial healing, and even no to healing on this side of eternity, but He chose to say yes to this man’s miraculous and immediate healing.

Because my Creator and Savior is God, He has the right to determine how He answers my prayers as I follow Him in loving obedience.

Knowing this truth doesn’t mean the wait goes without struggle, though.

Sometimes, I need to process through complete melt-downs, whining pity-parties, and full-blown-on-the-ground-face-down-sob-prayers.

As God’s Spirit kneads His truth into my mind, His Word affirms His deep love, His constant and mighty presence.

I hear the question Jesus asked the man as a personal invitation.

Do I want to get well?

Well (hygiē), meaning “healthy, sound, cured, freed.”

Do I want to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually well, even if my God-ordained steps toward healing include long-suffering?

The path toward wellness begins with a personal encounter with Jesus, and leads to His call for loving obedience through faith.

As Christ followers, our primary goal is holiness, which often requires traveling through painful valleys. But by God’s incredible grace, we don’t have to feel as alone as the man by the Sheep Gate.

When Jesus stirs our hearts and asks if we want to get well, we can answer yes.

We can rely on His timing and rest in the goodness of His character, as we rejoice in the perfection of His plan.

And, we can reach out to others and receive the support of His people, physically and through the priceless gift of intercessory prayer.

Lord, thanks for reminding us You are always with us, always working, and always enough. Your grace penetrates through the moments when weariness and discouragement overwhelm us in the wait. Please help us submit to Your purpose and Your plan, even when we can’t see the hope around the bend. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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How do you feel when God doesn’t choose to bless you or someone you love with healing or pain relief?

How does the Lord comfort you during the wait?

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Photo taken and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon

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A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem

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“A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon

 

’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the land,

not a writer was stirring, none lifted a hand.

With paper and pencils put up with great care,

scribes opened their Bibles, to meet Jesus there.

 

Refreshing their spirits−they’d intended to do−

inhaling the Scriptures, believing they’re true.

With nary an argument, all snuggled in grace,

each writer excited to seek the Lord’s face.

 

A break from the hurry, they needed this season,

to affirm, with great hope, that Christ was their reason.

Yes, God−above all−gave them purpose to write.

The Lord−above all−was their Hope and their Light.

 

They prayed for their loved ones. They prayed for their readers.

They prayed for their projects, their friends, and their leaders.

Hearts fully surrendered, they asked God to be clear.

They asked Him for wisdom to last through next year.

 

Each writer confessed their worldly behavior.

They wanted so much to be changed by their Savior.

Transformed by God’s love and empowered by grace,

these writers prepared for the obstacles they’d face.

 

Discouragement. Doubt. Some would even fight fear.

But, the scribes would not quit. Not today. Not next year.

They had readers to serve, with each word and each story.

In the power of the Spirit, they’d write for God’s glory.

 

Be it novels or poems, their message the same.

Through devotions and articles, they’d spread the Lord’s name.

No frets over platform. With no worries, they’d edit.

With courage they’d write and give God all the credit.

 

Honing their craft, they’d trust the Lord’s choices.

They’d share the Good News, with their God-given voices.

In courage and faith, they’d gather for training.

No comparing, competing, criticizing, complaining.

 

They’d encourage each other, giving Jesus their best.

But the day before Christmas, in God’s presence they’d rest.

There’d be time to meet deadlines, to critique, to write brave.

And they’d make time to reflect on all that God gave.

 

’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the land,

Christian writers were resting secure in God’s hand.

They’d surrendered their dreams to the Lord and obeyed.

In His unchanging character, their hope and faith stayed.

 

No matter what words the Lord gave them to write,

it was His words they’d ponder, each day and each night.

Equipped with His truth and empowered by grace,

these scribes would persist, content with God’s pace.

 

They’d honor their Savior and bask in His love.

They’d serve with great gladness, as He watched from above.

With total submission, on God they’d depend.

They’d trust in His plan and be willing to bend.

 

Though some days would be harder and tempt them to hide,

the Spirit of God would be with each brave scribe.

With challenges ahead and struggles so real,

they’d follow the High Priest, who knows how they feel.

 

Springing to action, with words at the ready,

God’s scribes, moving forward, persevering and steady.

Filled with deep joy, they’d shout into the night,

“On this Christmas we rest. For tomorrow, we write!”

 

 

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“A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem,” was written by Xochitl E. Dixon on December 23, 2016. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon appeared first as a personal blog post on December 23, 2016 at http://www.xedixon.com/writer-to-writer/a-christian-writers-christmas-poem/ and may not be copied, printed, or dispersed in part or in its entirety, without expressed written consent from the author, Xochitl E. Dixon. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon, may be shared on social media accounts, by using the share buttons on Xochitl E. Dixon’s personal website, or the share buttons under the December 24, 2016 posting of this poem on the Inspire Christian Writers website. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon may be shared through the various options offered through social media, as long as the original author is credited. However, “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon may not be shared, in part or in its entirety, on a personal or community website without expressed written consent from Xochitl E. Dixon. Please submit your request to share on a personal or community website in the comment section below the original posting of the poem on Xochitl E. Dixon’s personal website or the Inspire Christian Writers website. When sharing this poem on social media accounts, please note the following: “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon. The original link for “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon is: http://www.xedixon.com/writer-to-writer/a-christian-writers-christmas-poem/

Photo taken by and Meme created by X.E. Dixon.

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Securing our Joy in Christ

meme-psalm-16-v-11-photo-by-jeanne-doyonLord, thanks for lighting the path to life through Your Spirit and Your Word.

Thanks for affirming You can be trusted, simply because You are all-knowing, all-loving, and all-sufficient.

Even though Your constant and powerful presence is reason alone to rejoice, You give us so many more reasons to be glad in You.

Please help us appreciate this moment, as You to help us see You more clearly, love You more completely, and follow You more confidently.

Please secure our joy in who You are and what You’ve already done, as You refresh us with the surety of Your eternal promises.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Photo taken and used with permission by Jeanne Doyon.

Meme created by X.E. Dixon.

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Discovering a Miracle for Christmas

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(Suggested Reading: John 2:1-11)

After another week of suffering with chronic pain, the Christmas lights on our tree didn’t seem to twinkle as bright as I thought they should. I recounted the year I’d spent battling health issues, dealing with broken relationships, praying for hurting loved ones, and wondering how God would meet our financial needs when the numbers didn’t seem to add up.

I focused on the unpredictable waves of my circumstances and sank deeper into discontent, discouragement, and despair. My weary heart begged for deliverance, a breakthrough, or at least a break.

During a fuss-my-way-to-submission prayer, I asked God to forgive me for succumbing to pessimism. I needed a miracle to shift my attitude, so I went to the source of my hope−Jesus.

As I read the historical account of the Lord’s first miracle−turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana−its familiarity tempted me to skim through the God-breathed verses. I almost missed the five faith-building truths revealed in the details.

  1. Surrender paves the way for God to move in miraculous ways. (John 2:1)

Mary’s response resounded with assurance when Jesus denied her request. She could have demanded her way or fussed about His answer. Instead, she accepted His words and trusted Him to do what He thought best. Confidence blanketed her tone as she encouraged the servants to simply obey Jesus.

  1. God uses the ordinary to perform extraordinary and intimate miracles. (v. 6)

Jesus chose to use the six common water jars that were already being used at the banquet. He transformed plain water into high quality wine. He invited the servants to witness His power in the middle of their average work day. Through this miracle in the midst of the mundane, the Lord blessed the unspectacular servants who were willing to trust and believe.

  1. Obedience prepares us to recognize God’s wondrous works. (v. 7-8)

When the servants followed Jesus’s instructions, they claimed front row seats to witness His power in action. Their quick submission displayed a willingness to believe in Jesus. They obeyed and waited expectantly. They didn’t try to figure out what Jesus would do, or tell Him what they thought He should do. They simply followed His instructions and remained at the ready. And they weren’t disappointed.

  1. Miracles reveal Jesus’s personal touches that often go unnoticed. (v. 9-10)

The master of the banquet failed to recognize the miracle that happened right before his eyes. I don’t judge him, because I know how easy it is to minimize the wondrous works God accomplishes through prayer closets. I know how easy it is to ignore the extraordinary moments God shows up in the ordinary days that make up the transformed life of a Christ follower. Those intimate exchanges when the Lord intervenes in our lives don’t often make the front page news, but each one is a miracle of His power, His love, His mercy, and His grace.

  1. Miracles are evidence of our living God’s active role in our lives. (v. 11)

The disciples placed their faith in Jesus when He demonstrated His glory, His majesty, His splendor, His divine might in action. They didn’t demean the Lord by placing expectations on Him. Instead, they encountered His majesty face-to-face and responded by making life-transforming decisions to trust Him by following Him in bold faith.

Though the Messiah’s first miracle wasn’t a life-shattering or life-altering event, we tend to expect modern day miracles to be extravagant displays of His power.

A miracle is simply defined as an effect or event “considered as a work of God.”

Through our trials and through the moments when things are going so well that we’re tempted to be bored or ungrateful for God’s peace and provision, we can be sure the Lord intentionally orchestrates events according to His perfect plan. He knows how we’ll respond in our given circumstances and is ready to use those responses for His eternal glory.

Even when we refuse to acknowledge Him, the Creator of the world, Almighty King and Savior, Redeemer and Provider, our Deliverer and Good Shepherd invites us to accept His love and forgiveness.

The miracle of Jesus didn’t start or end in a manger. From the beginning of time, Jesus was and is and always will be Emmanuel−God with us.

No matter what our current circumstances may be, our Lord Jesus Christ remains constantly present and consistently involved in our lives−that is and always will be a miracle worth celebrating on Christmas and every day.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to celebrate You this Christmas. Please help us recognize Your fingerprints evidencing Your work in our lives. Give us confidence in Your abilities, as You empower us to trust Your motives. Please help us live with courageous obedience to Your Word, as we wait expectantly to see Your miraculous works in and through the ordinary days of our lives. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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How have you seen God miraculously working in and through your life over the last year?

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Begona Maier.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon

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Come, and See for Yourself!

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(Suggested Reading: John 1:35-51)

I’m guilty of saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Whatever it was, I wanted proof before I committed to buying into the promises that it offered.

When I first heard the gospel, I wish I could say I reacted in a different manner. I wish I could say I joyfully received Christ without question, without hesitation, without a doubt in my mind that Jesus was God in the flesh.

But, if I said that I’d be telling a big ol’ fib. When I first heard the gospel preached, I had questions. I wanted explanations.

God gave me something even better.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the Holy Spirit Himself blessed me with face-to-face encounters with Jesus as I read through the Gospel of John, and even more as I committed to reading through the Bible yearly.

The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the Scriptures, so He could prepare my heart to receive the King−Jesus.

At first, my response resembled Nathanael’s in John 1. Can Jesus possibly be who people are saying He is? I’m not buying it.

But, thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a few wonderful mentors who didn’t give up on me−the Doubting Seeker. They didn’t just tell me about how Christ made a difference in their lives, they encouraged me to open up the Bible and meet Him face-to-face.

Their responses mirrored Philip’s reaction to Nathanael’s uncertainty.

“‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:46, NIV)

Whatever Philip saw in Jesus caused him to leave everything behind to follow Him.

Forever changed, he invited others to be drawn into a personal meeting with the promised Messiah.

What could he have seen in Jesus that made him believe with such conviction?

The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would have “. . . no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b)

According to Scripture, Jesus had nothing that should have made the first disciples want to follow him. But, oh, they did follow him.

The Spirit-infused confidence and excitement, the pure and passionate heart-deep faith of Jesus’s disciples recorded in the New Testament caused others to want to come and see the God-Man, then and now.

Is that the faith we truly want to portray to a world that desperately needs the hope we have in Christ?

If so, then what’s stopping us?

As we continue prayerfully studying the Bible, we can grow in our personal knowledge of God. But our journey doesn’t stop at knowing things about God. The Holy Spirit can help us submit to His authority, taking that knowledge to a life-transforming level.

God can do that in our lives, and He can do that in the lives of those we love.

Don’t take my word for it. Come, take time to venture into God’s Word, see for yourself, and invite others to join you for the ongoing adventure of a life surrendered to Christ.

Once we invite someone to know Jesus, our most important responsibility is to pray for them.

God knows it’s His job to save people, and hasn’t forgotten one name on our prayer lists.

He didn’t give up on us. And He won’t give up on those we’re praying for.

But, will we give up?

Will we stop praying for the salvation of our family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors?

Will we stop praying for the salvation of the clerks at the grocery store, the servers at our favorite restaurants, the community servants who risk their lives for us?

Or will we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, reflecting Christ through our words and actions, as we pray with fervor and confidently fulfill the Great Commission by inviting people to come and see Jesus for themselves?

The Lord has given us the privilege to proclaim truth with Spirit-empowered gentleness and confidence, to share His love within the context of authentic relationships with others.

He positions us to be His representatives in our little neck of the woods.

He wants to use our testimonies to glorify His name, but testifying can’t be the end of our commitment to Christ.

Everyone needs their own personal encounter with Jesus.

No matter how amazing our testimony is, God wants to work intimately in and through each and every person’s life in a unique way. We can play a vital part in this ongoing miracle as we live for Him, love for Him, and call others to come and see Him for themselves.

As God’s story penetrates our stories, the Holy Spirit makes our old lives history.

If you don’t believe it, or if you’ve forgotten the magnificence of this world-altering truth, come into the presence of the Lord. Come rest at His side and listen to His voice verse by verse. Come, and see for yourself.

Lord, thank you for welcoming us into Your personal space and softening our hearts so that we can receive You and believe You. Thanks for strengthening our faith so we can trust You. Please infuse us with the wisdom and courage we need to share You with others. Help us pray for others with persevering faith in Your life-transforming truth and love. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Have you ever given up praying for someone, doubting that they would ever come to the Lord?

Has God ever used someone else’s testimony to ignite a desire in you to get to know Him more?

Please share, but exclude last names in order to respect the privacy of others. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.

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Accepting My Wings of Freedom

meme-pick-up-your-wings-photo-by-l-escareno(Suggested Reading: John 1:29-34)

When I first heard, I mean really heard, the Gospel, I responded with tears.

Accustomed to feeling unworthy and unlovable, I struggled to believe that Jesus, God in the flesh, died for me.

Why would He give His life as an atonement for my sin, as payment for the sins I once wore like badges of honor?

Why would God want to forgive me for sins I tried to deny or hide, sins I intentionally committed in an effort to escape personal pain?

I had a hard time understanding or believing that God would willingly and completely release me from the chains of guilt if I genuinely expressed remorse over my sin and asked for His forgiveness.

I played tug-of-war with the concept of atonement and feared the reality of substitution.

Why would Jesus choose to die on the cross, willingly serving as my substitute to pay for the sins I was responsible for?

Why would the only One who knew no sin, the One who never committed a sin, take the punishment for my sin and endure the agony of separation from the Father?

Why?

Because of His limitless love for me.

This simple answer boggled my mind.

Could it be that Christ’s great act of sacrificial love was planned from the beginning, declared in the Old Testament, revealed through the New Testament, and experienced every day on this side of eternity within the lives of Christ followers past and present and future?

Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

The Lord cradled this verse with two astounding declarations of our privilege and responsibility as Jesus’ disciples:

(1) We are empowered to be ambassadors, imitators, representatives of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

(2) God’s grace came at a high cost that should be reflected in the way we live for Him (2 Corinthians 6:1)

Still, I battled doubt as the Holy Spirit continued to massage out the kinks of my imperfections.

I minimized the personal and sacrificial cost Jesus paid when He surrendered His life to save mine, by keeping a tally of accomplishments, failures, and sins as if they determined the measure of my worth.

Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection made complete forgiveness and freedom from sin possible.

Despite the ongoing war with our sin nature, God places wings of freedom within our reach.

Will we accept His offering, knowing we could never deserve or earn such a gift?

This abundant life of freedom begins the moment we profess Christ as our personal Lord, our Ruler, our Authority.

But will we have the courage to shrug off the comfort of complacency and the lies that keep us knee-deep in trying to prove ourselves or make ourselves feel good enough?

Through prayerful study of Scripture comes the knowledge of God.

Through personal acceptance of Jesus as Lord comes the freedom of God.

And through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes a life with full access to the power of God.

Every follower of Christ has this power, though many of us haven’t learned to access the power of His sweet Holy Spirit.

Though we’ve been pardoned, some of us continue to spar with guilt and shame when we think about our past sins or struggle with our present capacity to sin.

Though we’ve been cleansed, some of us wear cloaks of condemnation placed on our backs by ourselves and others, instead of accepting what Christ has done as completely final and intimately personal.

When Jesus declared His work on the cross as finished (teleō), He meant completed, fulfilled, accomplished, d-o-n-e, done.

The gifts of God’s grace and forgiveness are not passes to continue in our sin (1 John 2:1-6), yet it often feels easier to cling to excuses and wave the banner of weakness and timidity.

Will we struggle with sin? Yes. But we are no longer slaves to sin. Period.

The Lamb of God offers us wings of freedom−freedom from sin, guilt, condemnation, shame, and a powerless life.

His loving sacrifice frees us to become all He created us to be in Him and for Him.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)

Yes, we’ll experience tough times and even want to quit.

Sure, we’ll fall short, slip up, and wonder why we even bother trying. But that’s the key!

When we’re focused on ourselves, we tend to draw from our own power, our own strength, our own wisdom, our own courage.

As we steady our focus on Jesus, we can recognize our complete dependence on His power and ask Him to help us live in full surrender to His Spirit.

Surrendered prayers are seasoned with desperation.

Lord, I need You. I can’t do this without You. Be my strength. Show me the way. Give me the courage to follow You. Help me trust You. I believe You, Lord! Help me with my unbelief!

These are the prayers I want bursting from my heart and out of my mouth, to slide down my cheeks as words escape me as easily as my tears.

How about you?

Are you slipping into sin because it feels easier to give up than risk failure?

Are you damaging current relationships because you can’t let go of sinful behaviors you practiced in past relationships?

What hinders you from receiving the wings of freedom offered by the glorious Lamb of God?

Thank You, Lord, for knowing we could never do for ourselves what You have done for us. Please help us live in the freedom of knowing Your grace is sufficient, Your power is made perfect in our weakness, and Your sacrifice was and is and always will be enough. Reveal Yourself to us more and more each day, so that we’ll be able to see ourselves and others in light of Your truth, cradled in Your grace, and wrapped in Your perfect love. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Come and See,” asking God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.

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Pick Up Your Wings! – Photo used with permission from photographer L. Escareno

Meme Created by X. E. Dixon

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