Burning Heart or Still Small Voice?

With Jeremiah, God’s voice was like fire in his bones; with Elijah, it was a quite whisper. God thundered from a cloud when Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop, telling mankind, “Listen to him.” God speaks to us in many voices. If we don’t hear him, we’re not paying attention.

 

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. — Jeremiah 20:9 (NASB)

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. — 1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)

[A] bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

GOD’S VOICE.

What does that mean to you? Does He speak to us? If so, in what way?

It’s easy to pass this question off by saying, “Well, back in the Bible days, mayVoice of Godbe He talked to man, but that was then; this is now.”

Why wouldn’t He speak to us now?

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THE BIBLE GIVES US TWO DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS of God speaking to man. The first is Jeremiah. He was called the “weeping prophet” because he was so distressed by the increasingly bad news God called him to deliver to the Jewish people because of their unfaithfulness.

But whenever he tried to silence God’s voice, the Lord became more insistent, and our reluctant prophet felt a “burning fire” in his bones.

Elijah was another prophet of very high esteem. In fact, the Jewish Passover ceremony references his predicted return — an event Christians believe was fulfilled with the testimony of John the Baptist. In this account in 1 Kings, Elijah is hiding from the Jews because he fears they will kill him as they have the other prophets.

While God spoke to Jeremiah in the fire, the Bible is clear that He did not speak to Elijah in the same manner. “The Lord was not in the fire,” Scriptures tell us. But God did speak to Elijah, “in a still small voice.”

The “still small voice” comes from the King James Version. Other translations call it a “gentle whisper” (NLT), “low whisper” (ESV), or “soft whisper” (HCSB).Man Listening to God

So, which is it: a burning fire in our bones that’s impossible to ignore or a small, soft, gentle whisper almost beyond our hearing?

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IN MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Lord is direct in telling us to pay attention to His voice.

When Jesus took his three closest disciples up a mountain and was transfigured in heavenly aura before them, along with Elijah and Moses, the gospel writer Matthew tells us a bright cloud overshadowed the three men — Jesus and Elijah and Moses — and then, from out of the cloud, Almighty God Himself proclaimed of Jesus, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight.”

Then, unmistakably and most assuredly for us to take account of, He said, “Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

There’s no ambiguity there, is there? No wiggle room, no way to spin this event into a mere suggestion or wise saying. No, this was from the Creator himself. “Listen to him — my Son.”

With this moment on the mountain, we can be sure that God still speaks to us — and that He most assuredly wants us to listen. Listen, understand, take in, and obey.

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THE LORD HAS MORE WAYS to speak to mankind in modern days. There are more sophisticated communications devices, and, through advanced transportation modes, our globe is smaller than the ancient world.

Woman Listening to GodWe have Holy Writ translated into numerous English translations, plus translations into most of the world’s languages. Bible translators say Scripture has been made available in more than 2,500 languages, with another 1,500 or so, mostly minor languages or dialects, without a translation.

Add to that the numerous videos, podcasts, online sermons and commentaries, plus  Christian fellowship, and God finds many willing avenues to talk with us.

Perhaps no method is more intense or meaningful than our quiet devotion time, where we open our hearts and minds through prayer, then spend quality time reading a current and easy-to-follow translation of the Bible, followed by meditation on what we just read, and closing prayer.

We’re reminded in the book of James, a short how-to primer written by one of Jesus’ half-brothers, that we can ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

When Solomon asked God for wisdom, we’re told in 1 Kings 5:12 (NIV): The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him.”

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WE CAN BE SURE THAT GOD STILL SPEAKS to His people. Let’s just take two verses from the Bible — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — to make the point clear.

In Genesis 1:27 (NIV), we’re told that God created us in His image: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Then, in John 3:16 (NIV), we’re told that God loved these humans created in His image so much that, well, He was willing to let His own Son die on the Cross to pay for our sins and reconcile us to Him: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”Woman Hearing God

With all that was at stake, God creating us in His own image and God giving us His Son to reclaim us as His children when we went astray, how could we possibly assume that He has stopped talking to us?

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IF WE DON’T HEAR HIS VOICE, then we should ask ourselves this question: Have we stopped listening?

The psalmist answers that question this way: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)

PRAYER: Our most heavenly Father, pour your love on us. Shower us with Your goodness, and speak to us. Whether You whisper at some times that we must pause to listen, or you set our very bones on fire with Your strong voice, show us that You haven’t stopped loving us, that You are with us, that You are calling us to follow You. Father, we ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

WORSHIP WITH JOY

Raising our voices — and our hearts — in joyful worship of the Risen Christ is the greatest experience we can have in this life. How sad when “church-goers” head for the pews each week out of a sense of duty. God gives us eternal life through His Son, and for that gift, we should be eternally grateful and eager to sing praises to Him.

“O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1 NASB)

“Worship the LORD with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing!” (Psalm 100:2 NET)

“And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:52 ESV)

DO YOU EVER GO TO CHURCH and wonder why you’re there?

You know, you’re sitting in the pew listening to the preacher drone on about something that may or may not have happened, like, 2,000 years ago, and you’ve got better things to do. Your cell phone is buzzing, and you realize at least someone in your life actually has a life.

Joyful Worship - cross outstretched armsAnd what’s with the singing? You’ve been to churches where a choir of 50 or more senior citizens sing some old dusty hymn to a pipe organ, and you’ve been to churches  where they rock to something that could be on the radio, except, well, they’re singing about God and that dude, Jesus, and that would never fly on the radio, for sure.

Then, your clothes itch. Seriously, like who can sit there for an entire hour dressed in something you wouldn’t wear to a costume party.

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LET’S WATCH A TYPICAL FAMILY alight from their car in the church parking lot.

First, there’s some pushing and shoving from the back-seat occupants. Then, there’s the stern shushing from one of the front-seat occupants, before the driver gets out and tries to replace his scowl with a grin. You never know who you might run into in the church parking lot, and it’s never good form to make a bad impression. Not good for business, really.

Finally, in single file, they make their solemn way from the car to the church’s front door.

So, let me ask you: Do you ever go to church and not feel joy?

Unless Joyful Worship - womanyou rephrased the question, your answer probably is “Yes.”

Rephrase the question? How?

Let’s examine the question. “Going to church” is an expression similar to “going to the dentist.” It’s something you know you should do, but it’s not something you enjoy doing, at least more than twice a year. For the dentist, it’s called a semi-annual checkup. For church, it’s called Christmas and Easter.

Instead, what about this question: Do you ever go to worship God, the Creator of the universe, and not feel joy?

The answer is: “No.”

It’s impossible not to feel joy if you’re worshipping God. There is no joy in merely attending church — there’s an abundance of joy in worshipping Almighty God.

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SO, WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT WORSHIP?

Worship is praising God, thanking Him for what He has done for us. God created us in His image for His glory, to have communion with Him and to have dominion on His behalf over the creation. Yet, through pride and rebellion, man threw that connection away. God, in His mercy and love, reconnected us through the lifeblood of His Son. In thanksgiving, we praise His Holy Name.

Now, that’s joy. 

The book of Matthew records a conversation Jesus had with His disciples in which He asked them who men said He was. Jesus was asking for the scuttlebutt. You know, the guys in town, the ones you know, your buddies, what do they say about Me? Who do they say I am?

The disciples offered some feedback — like Elijah or John the Baptist — basically, responses that missed the mark. Then the Apostle Peter offered this gem, recorded in Matthew 16:16 (NASB): “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Once we can say with total conviction, as Peter did: “You are the Christ,” Joyful Worship - 3 Crosseswe are freed from all of life’s uncertainties, its hardships, its troubles. We are free to express our eternal gratitude to the God who, in His mercy, gave us a way back to Him, despite our rebellion.

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THIS IS TRUE JOY IN WORSHIP: Singing and praying our thanks to Almighty God, because, in the end, it’s all about us and Jesus.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, You are from everlasting to everlasting. You created us in Your image as Your greatest creation, for your glory. Help us to praise You and Your Holy Name with joy, with thanksgiving, with our hearts singing to You. In Jesus’ name.  Amen

PRAYING BOLDLY

The Lord calls us to pray boldly, asking God for big things; yet, too often, we’re timid. We ask God to fix the little things that bother us today. Sometimes, those little things seem big, like salvation for our children or to cure a loved one’s malignancy, but those prayers merely ask God to take care of the situation. They don’t really involve us. Jesus said He wants us involved in our prayers, so that we become part of the solution we seek. That’s where boldness comes in, by aligning ourselves with God in salvation’s story.

Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. — Ephesians 3:20 (BSB)

‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.’ — Jeremiah 32:17 (NASB)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (BSB)

THERE IS AN AMAZING STORY OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK.

Okay, you say, aren’t the Gospels filled with amazing stories of Jesus?

One moment, you say, He’s raising Lazarus from the dead, then He heals 10 lepers and  restores sight to two blind men. He stops a woman’s hemorrhage just by her touching His cloak. He feeds 5,000 men — the Bible tells us men, Pray Boldly - lightningin addition to women and children, so there probably were 15,000 people — then He does it again with 4,000 men — plus their families — shortly afterward. If that weren’t enough, He tells the wind to shush and the waves to quiet.

Even the disciples were incredulous, asking themselves, “Who is this man?” (Mark 4:41 NLT)

True enough, but this story in Mark is different from the others. This one focuses on Jesus in a way that clearly transports him from an earthly realm to a heavenly one.

Before I tell you the story, I have a question for you.

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HOW BOLD ARE YOUR PRAYERS?

Well, how big is your God?

My guess is your God is no bigger than your prayers. If your prayers are small, probably your God is small. To pray boldly, as the Scriptures encourage us, requires a big God. A God big enough to have created creation, itself — including you.

If you’re like me, you’re probably a bit in awe of praying to the Creator of the universe. Here we come in prayer, armed with a wish list of stuff Man Praying Humblywe want Almighty God to take care of, much like giving him His morning “To Do” list. Even while we lay our requests at His feet, we can’t help wondering if our weak requests in our puny lives in our insignificant corner of the universe is even worth His attention?

What would it take for each of us to take Him seriously when He beckons us to prayer?

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LET’S GO BACK TO THE STORY.

Jesus comes down from a mountaintop with three of His most trusted disciples — Peter, John, and James — and He finds a distraught man whose son is acting strangely. The  men approaches Jesus and urgently tells him his son is possessed with a demon that causes him to froth at the mouth and fall to the ground, going rigid. Sometimes, the man said, the demon throws his son into the fire to burn him.

Then the man tells the Lord, while pointing to the nine other disciples who did not accompany Jesus to the Woman Praying Earnestlymountaintop, “I asked Your disciples to cure him, but they weren’t able to.” The man searches the Lord’s face earnestly, then asks, meekly, much like many of our prayers, “Can You help him?”

Mark records the Lord’s answer to the man, which, really, is the Lord’s rebuke to us: “What do you mean, if I can? Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Then Jesus commanded the demon to leave the boy and never return.

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JUST ANOTHER WONDERFUL STORY OF JESUS, YOU SAY?

No, not exactly. What makes this story so spectacular is what Mark tells us happened just before this healing incident occurred, back when Jesus was on the mountaintop  with His inner circle of trusted disciples.

Mark tells us that on the mountaintop, while Jesus’ three closest disciples watched, “Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and His clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than earthly bleach could ever make them.”

During this transforming moment, Peter babbled something inane, as Peter was wont to do, but Mark passes over it quickly, dismissing it as mere background noise.

Then, Mark tells us: “[A] cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My dearly loved Son. Listen to Him.’”

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THIS SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IS POWERFUL.

There is a testimony for us. There are so many ways that our Lord tells us to pray boldly, even telling us that if we have the faith of a small mustard seed, we can pray in the Lord’s name, and He will move mountains for us (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Why, then, don’t we?

Adult Man in PrayerEven as believers, we are likely to pray “small.” Most of our prayers focus on our lives, and our families and loved ones. As part of prayer and fellowship groups, we extend our  prayers to include those members and their concerns; and, yes, we open our eyes to the suffering around us and pray the Lord’s intervention to sooth our concerns.

What we don’t do is go beyond ourselves and petition God, who tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to share everything with Him in petition and thanksgiving.  (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

There’s nothing wrong with our prayers for our loved ones and for help in those areas of our lives where we hunger for God’s tender grace. It just that God is so much BIGGER than that. We seldom ask Him to go beyond the routine request.

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JUST THINK OF JESUS TRANSFORMED ON THE MOUNTAINTOP — and meditate on just who He is — and what He can do … and then meditate on how little we ask of Him.

How bold are your prayers? How big is your God? 

One pastor said that health and wealth and miracles are Pray Boldly (script)wonderful things, but the Apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus that He prayed that the love of the Lord Jesus Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.

To what end? To this end: “[That you] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NASB)

NOW, THAT’S BOLD!

PRAYER: Our heavenly Father, forgive us for offering You timid prayers, which often are just a list of our wants and needs, when You call us to pray boldly for Your kingdom, that Your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see a grander vision that You want for us, to pray boldly and then offer ourselves, in obedience to Your call, as part of that prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen


PRAYING FOR BOLDNESS

Jesus often tells us He can handle our requests, like this one: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man, this is impossible, but with GOD all things are possible.’” — Matthew 19:26 (BSB)

Apostle Paul sought boldness: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, divine utterance may be given me, so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it fearlessly, as I should.” — Ephesians 6:19-20 (BSB)

Here’s a prayer for the early disciples after Peter and John were released from prison: “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and enable Your servants to speak Your word with complete boldness. — Acts 4:29 (BSB)

Paul leaves us with this thought: “Pray without ceasing.”— 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (BSB)

God’s People Complaining

The Lord is so gracious in His Word, that He devotes needed passages to remind His people that we are called to praise His Holy Name. Too often, caught in the net of our earthly desires, we grumble and complain over, really, little things. While I’m not proud of my whining, the Bible is clear that God loves me and is in charge of the situation.

Exodus 17:3-4 (NLT) “But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”” 

Philippians 2:14 (NIV) “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”

THE BIBLE TELLS US in the story of Exodus — where the Jewish people were led out of slavery by God’s mighty hand — that within two months they were grumbling. First, they complained they had no food (Exodus 16),  then they complained they had no water (Exodus 17).

thumb_IMG_0798_1024It’s easy for us as readers in the 21st Century to wonder how they could possibly doubt that God would rescue them from their every adversity and provide for their every need.

THAT’S NOT THE WHOLE STORY. Today, we can read the story and place ourselves in the position of the Israelites. God has blessed many of us in marvelous ways, but we often grumble.

I personally enjoy good health, a retirement with sufficient material resources, a new home with a paid-off mortgage, and a lovely woman to be my wife and join me in our walk with Christ and our retirement years. Yet, I still complain.

THE LORD HAS BLESSED ME RICHLY. He has promised to watch over me and lead me. He calls on me to trust him. When life presents its challenges, and I start to grumble, I need to stop and reflect for this is a moment when the Almighty is calling me to grow in my faith and in my character, both to enhance my earthly witness and to be prepared for an eternity in Glory.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we are ashamed when we let our petty tribulations interfere with our faith walk, when we look in the rear view mirror and see a past more glorious than it was and through the windshield  and see a future dimly lit. Help us remember that this is the moment when we need to ask for God’s help, believing He will deliver us. Forgive us our complaining and our shortsightedness. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

 

Opposing Sin With Love

In a world with so much sin, so many broken lives, we can draw comfort from this one amazing fact: Jesus loves us and accepts us as we are. He calls us to turn from our brokenness and follow him, and He promises to redeem us to his glory. Amazing Love.

When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:10-11 (HCSB)

JESUS CLEARLY TELLS US to love our neighbors as ourselves, but not to love our neighbor’s sin and certainly not to embrace it. The Lord showed mercy on the woman accused of adultery, which is sinful behavior, but he admonished her not to continue in her sin. Loving our neighbor means helping our neighbor through his or her struggle with sin, not by supporting our neighbor’s sinful behavior.

Today, we’re faced as a country with a cultural divide regarding homosexual or same-sex marriage.

The secular battle lines are drawn between political liberals who believe legally sanctioning “marriage” between two men or two women represents equality and freedom from oppression, that oppression being the bigotry of the majority heterosexual population. They reasonWoman Caught Adultery that the free-flowing love that one man or one woman may feel for a same-sex partner is no threat to their neighbors’ heterosexual marriage and that, after all, society should not be able to dictate their expression of love.

They are opposed by political conservatives who argue that marriage between two men or two women violates long-standing human experience in all parts of the world and, by so doing, upsets or discards received wisdom in favor of current prevailing passion. They say that tradition mandates continuing a marriage arrangement that works, regardless of the divorce rate, and scoff at providing tax breaks for those who want to experiment with settled practice.

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THERE IS A THIRD VIEW and one that too often is ignored: the view of Christ’s followers. For faith-based Christians, homosexual behavior is unnatural behavior contrary to God’s law and contrary to how He made us (Leviticus 18; Romans 1). He has warned us repeatedly from the writings of Moses and the prophets through the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to refrain from sexual immorality.

Such immorality, the Bible says, includes sex with children, the neighbor’s spouse, a close relative, the family pet, or a same-sex partner.

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THE BIBLE ALSO IS CLEAR that we are to love our neighbors and pray for them. Nowhere does it say we are to embrace their sinful behavior, condone it, or codify it into law, nor are we are called to look down upon our neighbor’s sin or rank-order their sin — we have enough sin in our own lives to atone for. All of us have fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).

Love means joining hands and raising our eyes to the Lord, asking his forgiveness for our sins, and joining in fellowship with others to serve him. Some among us may struggle with homosexuality, some with alcohol addiction, some with lustful hearts or immodest dress, some with uncontrolled anger, but our Lord calls us into fellowship with him and one another to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We long to hear our Lord say to us, as He said to the fallen woman, “Don’t continue in your sin, but I do not condemn you. I love you, and my mercy abounds.”

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PRAYER: Lord — Help us to see our neighbors they way you see them, as lost sheep in need of a Shepard. You call us to model Christ-like behavior by showing love for our neighbor but that love should manifest itself in helping our neighbor overcome sin, not in supporting our neighbor’s sinful behavior. We’re also called to refrain from judging our neighbor because we also sin. In the Name of Him who knew no sin.  Amen

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Juan 8:10-11 (EM) Entonces Jesús se enderezó y le preguntó: –Mujer, ¿dónde están? ¿Ninguno te ha condenado?
Y ella dijo: –Ninguno, Señor. Entonces Jesús le dijo: –Ni yo te condeno. Vete y desde ahora no peques más.

Rejoicing in God’s Grace

The Lord grants us his grace as a gift to us. He will not abandon us.


A Short Devotion on God’s Amazing Grace … and Our Response

Nehemiah 9:5 (ESV) “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

Galatians 1:10 (GW) “Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”


The Lord God wants us to take the narrow path that leads to life. He warns us that few will find this path and ensures us that (a) without Him we can do nothing and (b) He will be with  us always. Through Him, we can take the narrow path with confidence because He will light our path and guide our steps.

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“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

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Prayer: O Lord, be our constant guide. Hold us close when trouble strikes us. Let us know that You will not abandon us but will lead us along the straight and narrow path — the one that leads to life. Amen


Regocijo en la fuerza de Dios

Nehemías 9:5 (DHH) «Levántense, alaben al Señor su Dios por siempre y siempre. ¡Alabado sea, con bendiciones y alabanzas, su alto y glorioso nombre!»

Gálatas 1:10 (DHH) Yo no busco la aprobación de los hombres, sino la aprobación de Dios. No busco quedar bien con los hombres. ¡Si yo quisiera quedar bien con los hombres, ya no sería un siervo de Cristo!

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Oración: Nuestro Señor, sea nuestra guía constante. Sostenemos a cerrar cuando los problemas nos llama la atención. Háganos saber que usted no nos abandonará, pero nos llevará por el camino recto y estrecho – el que lleva a la vida. Amén