Saturday 31 October 2015

Genesis 21:1-7

21 The Lord was gracious to Sarah, just as he had said he would be. The Lord did for Sarah what he had promised to do. 2 Sarah became pregnant. She had a son by Abraham when he was old. The child was born at the exact time God had promised. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah had by him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. He did it exactly as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would breast-feed children? But I’ve had a son by him when he is old.”

Who would expect a 100 year old man to have a baby boy born to him? But then nothing is impossible to God! Because He is the Sovereign Lord, He chose to perform such a miracle.

Two things stand out so clearly in this reading. [1] the complete dependability of our God…..He did exactly as He said He would [2] His promises are equally dependable….God did to Sarah what He promised.

This is an event which touches my life and yours. To re-affirm that our Father God is absolutely reliable is so special in a world which so often fails to deliver its promises. In my daily life I know His promises are firmly established as part of my life and I am convinced that they will be fulfilled in His time.

There was a special purpose in Isaac’s birth at this late time in his parents’ life. He was to continue the covenant relationship which God had set up with Abraham. The principle here can be applied to everyone of us as we pursue our daily walk with Him.

Our hearts are full of praise because you have shown us just how dependable you are. We ask you Holy Spirit to continue to re-affirm your faithfulness in every situation of our lives.

Written by Keith Bennett

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Friday 30 October, 2015

Genesis 20:8-18

8 Early the next morning Abimelek sent for all his officials. When he told them everything that had happened, they were really afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in. Abimelek said, “What have you done to us? Have I done something wrong to you? Why have you brought so much guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 Abimelek also asked Abraham, “Why did you do this?” 11 Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘There is no respect for God in this place. They will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister. She’s the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother. And she became my wife. 13 God had me wander away from my father’s house. So I said to her, ‘Here is how you can show your love to me. Everywhere we go, say about me, “He’s my brother.” ’ ” 14 Then Abimelek gave Abraham sheep and cattle and male and female slaves. He also returned his wife Sarah to him. 15 Abimelek said, “Here is my land. Live anywhere you want to.” 16 He said to Sarah, “I’m giving your brother 25 pounds of silver. This will show everyone with you that I am sorry for what I did to you. You haven’t done anything wrong.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek. He also healed his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again. 18 The Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s house from having children. He had done it because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

This is kind of a strange story. Abraham, the great father of our faith, convinces his wife Sarah to lie and say that she is his sister instead of his wife because he’s afraid of what they will do to him on account of his beautiful wife. And ironically, Abraham doesn’t seem to have a problem that in doing this, he allows Abimelek to take Sarah away to join him as either a female slave or extra wife. Hmm… not so nice.

Now before I go judging Abraham too harshly, I feel challenged to take a look at myself and think of how many times I have “bent the truth” to avoid some sort of potential pain in my life. Look at how in verse 12 Abraham justifies himself here and modifies the truth by saying, well, Sarah technically is actually my sister (as well as my wife)…

Ever since the Garden of Eden it has been in our human nature to try and hide and lie to protect ourselves when we feel threatened. Just recently I have been deeply challenged to allow myself to be really honest and face the truth even when I’m afraid of some form of pain. I am still in the process of learning this, but I’m finding it really freeing to face my fears and my weaknesses in an honest way.

It seems the older I am, the more I’ve become aware of my own weaknesses, but I’m so grateful that God is patient and gracious with me. So good to know that He really is on our side.

Written by Shelley Witt

1 (reply)
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Amen, thanks Shelley. God is so gracious. Lord help me to be a truth teller and so live in greater faith.

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Thursday 29 October, 2015

Genesis 20:1-7

20 Abraham moved south into the Negev Desert. He lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar. 2 There Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.” Then Abimelek, the king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. 3 So God appeared to Abimelek in a dream one night. He said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken. She is already married.” 4 But Abimelek hadn’t gone near her. So he said, “Lord, will you destroy a nation that hasn’t done anything wrong? 5 Didn’t Abraham say to me, ‘She’s my sister’? And didn’t she also say, ‘He’s my brother’? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong.” 6 Then God spoke to him in the dream. He said, “Yes, I know you had no idea you were doing anything wrong. So I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife to him. He is a prophet. So he will pray for you, and you will live. But what if you do not return her? Then you can be sure that you and all your people will die.”

He’s done it again! Abraham telling half-truths to the people around him about his wife. The last time it was in Egypt (see Ainsley Wood’s insightful blog on Genesis 12:10-20 on 10th Oct) and this time it’s in Gerar.

It seems to me that, because of the evil nations around him, Abraham had only two options:

Option 1- say “Sarah is my wife”, get killed and Sarah is taken.

Option 2 – say “Sarah is my sister”, don’t get killed and Sarah is taken.

There’s no good options here – either way Sarah is taken. Abraham, the Father of Faith is also a pragmatic man of action.

So why tell the half truth? Why not tell the whole truth and let God protect him and his wife? Was it to protect his own life like the last time? Was it to protect God’s promise of the couple having a baby within the next 12 months? (See Gen 18:10)

Maybe Abraham did it again because it worked a treat last time. Both times God came through for him. And did abundantly more than Abraham could have imagined (see tomorrow’s passage for the compensation pay out!)

Here’s what I get from all this – Gods promises are unshakeable.  They are immovable and unbreakable. He is before all time and all time bows in humble submission to Him. If He promises something to us it is written in a way that no circumstance will ever be able to touch it, no matter how devastating.  Such is the immutable, unwavering, inconceivably great love and power and promise of God. May His name be forever praised!   Amen

Written by Boudy vanNoppen

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Wednesday 28 October, 2015

Genesis 19:30-38

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar. They went to live in the mountains because Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar. So he and his daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter spoke to the younger one. She said, “Our father is old. People all over the earth have men to marry and have children with. We do not. 32 So let’s get our father to drink wine. Then we can sleep with him. We can use our father to continue our family line.” 33 That night they got their father to drink wine. Then the older daughter went in and slept with him. He wasn’t aware when she lay down or when she got up. 34 The next day the older daughter spoke to the younger one again. She said, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight. Then you go in and sleep with him. We can use our father to continue our family line.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also. Then the younger daughter slept with him. Again he wasn’t aware when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son. She named him Moab. He’s the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son. She named him Ben-Ammi. He’s the father of the Ammonites of today.

If I was to write a book of the Bible, there is no way that I would include a story like this. Honestly, it’s one of the messy, yucky stories that leave me scratching my head and asking God why did you include this one? Yes, it tells us about where two of Israel’s enemies came from, but did we really need to know HOW?
But I’m so glad that God includes not just the good stories, but he deliberately includes the bad AND the yuck, because to be honest, my story has good parts, bad parts and yucky parts that I would rather forget and hope that no one ever finds out about them. Yet God loves all of me, and He has redeemed all of me. And the yucky parts, though they may become enemies to me they will not have victory over me.
Israel eventually triumphed over the Moabites and the Ammonites. Their names are now only in history and Israel remains.

God, I am so thankful that you love me, all of me. Forgive me for the yucky bits that I have done, and probably will still do, but I know that the work of the Holy Spirit in me will triumph over my mistakes and wrong choices. Thank you for saving all of me.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Tuesday 27 October, 2015

Genesis 19:12-29

12 The two angels said to Lot, “Do you have any other family members here? Do you have sons-in-law, sons, daughters or any other relatives in the city? Get them out of here! 13 We are going to destroy this place. Many have cried out to the Lord against the people of this city. So he has sent us to destroy it.” 14 Then Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law. They had promised to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry up! Get out of this place! The Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. 15 The sun was coming up. So the angels tried to get Lot to leave. They said, “Hurry up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out! If you don’t, you will be swept away when the city is destroyed.” 16 Lot didn’t move right away. So the men grabbed him by the hand. They also took hold of the hands of his wife and two daughters. They led all of them safely out of the city. The Lord had mercy on them. 17 As soon as the angels had brought them out, one of them spoke. He said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere in the valley! Run to the mountains! If you don’t, you will be swept away!” 18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords! Please! 19 You have done me a big favor. You have been very kind to me by sparing my life. But I can’t run to the mountains. I won’t be able to escape this horrible thing that’s going to happen. And then I’ll die. 20 Look, here’s a town near enough to run to. It’s small. Let me run to it. It’s very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” 21 The Lord said to Lot, “All right. I will also give you what you are asking for. I will not destroy the town you are talking about. 22 But run there quickly. I can’t do anything until you reach it.” The town was named Zoar. Zoar means Small. 23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord sent down burning sulfur. It came down like rain on Sodom and Gomorrah. It came from the Lord. It came out of the sky. 25 The Lord destroyed these cities and the whole valley. All the people who were living in the cities were wiped out. So were the plants in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back. When she did, she became a pillar made out of salt. 27 Early the next morning Abraham got up. He returned to the place where he had stood in front of the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole valley. He saw thick smoke rising from the land. It looked like smoke from a furnace. 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the valley, he showed concern for Abraham. He brought Lot out safely when he destroyed the cities where Lot had lived.

The time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has finally come. Lot, his wife and two daughters must be trembling with fear. They left all their possessions and are now running for their lives.

Lot knew he may not be able to make it to the mountains so he pleaded for a closer destination, a town called Zoar. Eventually they made it. It was only then the Lord rained down sulphur and destroyed everything; humans, animals and also the vegetation. However Lot’s wife was also destroyed as she was turned into a pillar of salt.

God remembered his promise with Abraham. God had to destroy the cities as He could not even find ten righteous persons.

Reading these verses highlighted 2 things to me. First, the importance of total obedience. Lot’s family was instructed specifically not to look back and not to stop in the plain. Lot’s wife obeyed only part of the “commands” and that cost her life.

The second thing is that our Lord is a holy and compassionate God. Yes, He cannot tolerate sin and His wrath will drive Him to destroy even the whole human race (as seen in Noah’s flood). But His compassion can also cause Him to relent; if there was found ten righteous persons in Sodom, God would have spared the cities.

Father, I thank you that you love us and you know that we are but made from dust. Our disobedience displeases you. You could have ‘wipe us out’ just like Lot’s wife. But you are a God that is slow to anger and compassionate in love. Your long-suffering and patience towards us deeply humbled us. But we know that if we confess our sins and repent, You will always forgive us. In Jesus name. Amen.

Written by Shin Liu

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Monday 26 October, 2015

Genesis 19:1-11

19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening. Lot was sitting near the gate of the city. When Lot saw the angels, he got up to greet them. He bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please come to my house. You can wash your feet and spend the night there. Then you can go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered. “We’ll spend the night in the town square.” 3 But Lot wouldn’t give up. So they went with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them. He baked bread without using yeast. And they ate. 4 Before Lot and his guests had gone to bed, all the men came from every part of the city of Sodom. Young and old men alike surrounded the house. 5 They called out to Lot. They said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us. We want to have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them. He shut the door behind him. 7 He said, “No, my friends. Don’t do such an evil thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters that no man has ever slept with. I’ll bring them out to you now. Then do to them what you want to. But don’t do anything to these men. I’ve brought them inside so they can be safe.” 9 “Get out of our way!” the men of Sodom replied to Lot. “You came here as an outsider. Now you want to act like a judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept trying to force Lot to open the door. Then they moved forward to break it down. 10 But the the angels inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they made the men who were at the door of the house blind. They blinded both young and old men so that they couldn’t find the door.

A vile story confronts me as I read of the angels coming to Sodom, being taken in by Lot, and then the deep sin of the men of Sodom, but also of Lot offering his two daughters to the men to “do what you like with them”. As a father of two daughters, I find this abhorrent.

As I have struggled with the passage, God continually reminds me that “all Scripture is God breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim :3:16). This passage is of no exception.

Firstly, it appears that Lot recognised these two men as unique. Did he see them as angels? Maybe, but yet he did not understand their power, as he felt he needed to protect them from the wicked men of the city. Did he have some understanding of their purpose? Maybe, for he felt it necessary to protect them at all cost by the offering of his daughters. (Culturally, I understand that a male guest in a household of the time was deemed of higher importance than one’s own family).

As the scenario grew in threat (v9), the two men “reached” into the situation and pulled Lot back to safety, shutting the door, thus preventing any further harm to Lot and his daughters. This would have required “angelic” strength, for it was only after this that they then cast blindness upon the aggressors at the door.

The message to me is that in time of great confrontation, when threat is high, to not retaliate in my strength, but to call upon God to defend in His way. Mugging, theft, injustice, verbal attack may not occur regularly, but has, and will happen at some stage of life.

Lord help me to be always so aware of Your presence that my first reaction in a highly tense and threatening situation is to call upon You to act. Continue to “teach me and train me in righteousness”. Amen

Written by Steve Fell

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Sunday 25 October, 2015

Genesis 18:22-33

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom. But Abraham remained standing in front of the Lord. 23 Then Abraham came up to him. He said, “Will you sweep away godly people along with those who are evil? 24 What if there are 50 godly people in the city? Will you really sweep it away? Won’t you spare the place because of the 50 godly people in it? 25 You would never kill godly people along with those who are evil, would you? Would you treat them all alike? You would never do anything like that! Won’t the Judge of the whole earth do what is right?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find 50 godly people in the city of Sodom, I will spare it. I will spare the whole place because of them.” 27 Then Abraham spoke up again. He said, “I have been very bold to speak to the Lord. After all, I’m only dust and ashes. 28 What if the number of godly people is five fewer than 50? Will you destroy the whole city because there are five fewer people?” “If I find 45 there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” 29 Once again Abraham spoke to him. He asked, “What if only 40 are found there?” He said, “If there are 40, I will not do it.” 30 Then Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me. Let me speak. What if only 30 can be found there?” He answered, “If I find 30, I will not do it.” 31 Abraham said, “I have been very bold to speak to the Lord. What if only 20 can be found there?” He said, “If I find 20, I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me. Let me speak just one more time. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “If I find ten, I will not destroy it.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left. And Abraham returned home.

Why put this story in? What does it tell me about God?

It tells me:
1. That God is a relational God who is concerned for his people. He remained with Abraham. And He conversed with Abraham.
2. He is not offended by questions. He likes an inquisitive mind. And He likes to reveal who He is to his people.
3. He is patient. He does not mind lots of questions that seem almost exactly the same. And to us they can sound accusatory. But God does not seem offended but simply and patiently answers the questions, because He has no shame and nothing to hide.
4. His ways are righteous and just. He is compassionate and merciful. No matter the ratio of wicked to innocents, Gods way stay the same, He will spare the innocent.
My response:
God thank you that you want to relate to me too. Help me to remain with you and converse with you. Help me to know I can ask you anything. Help me to be sensitive to your Holy Spirit and hear what you have to say. Thank you that I can know that your ways are always just and righteous. And that you are compassionate and merciful.

Written by Zoe Stewart

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Saturday 24 October, 2015

Genesis 18:16-21

16 The men got up to leave. They looked down toward Sodom. Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 He will certainly become a great and powerful nation. All nations on earth will be blessed because of him. 19 I have chosen him. He must direct his children to live in the way that pleases me. And he must direct the members of his family after him to do the same. So he must guide all of them in doing what is right and fair. Then I, the Lord, will do for Abraham what I have promised him.” 20 The Lord also said, “The cries against Sodom and Gomorrah are very great. Their sin is so bad 21 that I will go down and see for myself. I want to see if what they have done is as bad as the cries that have reached me. If it is not, then I will know.”

To get these verses in context, the beginning of Genesis 18 says that earlier that day the Lord had appeared to Abraham whilst near the great trees of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting in the heat of day near the entrance to his tent he sees these three men nearby. It says that he ‘hurries’ to see them and then bows low to them.  He asks them not to hurry but to spend time with him.

What did Abraham notice about these men that was different?  Were visitors common in the desert? You never know that next visitor or connection you have may open doors and opportunities that you were unaware of. He invites them for lunch (the bake bread, kill a fatted calf and prepare it…not a simple sandwich!! – so they are there for quite a while)

These 3 men call for Sarah and announce to her and Abraham that within the year they will have a child.  They speak forth the ‘promise’.  The future of their generations to come.  The fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham that he would be a father of many.  After waiting on God, God sends others into Abraham’s world to bring the ‘announcement’ of His future – who does God bring into your world to bring about your future?  Our future lies in those around us more than in ourselves.

So now these men stand up to leave….they are going to give a report to the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah.  When does God hide His plans from us?

God has already put a plan in place for the salvation of all men and women.  He rescued us and others through faith in Jesus Christ.  Salvation is in His hands only, and this message of Christ is all that matters.

Yet God has plans sometimes that we cannot see.  This makes me think of the current crisis in the world, rather than be rash and make quick decision, opinions, or ‘human’ responses, let us ask God what is His plan in this.  God eventually judges Sodom and Gomorrah and the fear of God is manifest.

Let us not be people who react in human wisdom but in God’s wisdom. Lord give me wisdom to see as you see.  What are you doing in this time in our world, so that I can pray for your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Written by Ps. Sue Botta

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Friday 23 October, 2015

Genesis 18:9-15

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “Over there in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year. Your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old. Sarah was too old to have a baby. 12 So she laughed to herself. She thought, “I’m worn out, and my husband is old. Can I really know the joy of having a baby?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Will I really have a baby, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for me? I will return to you at the appointed time next year. Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah was afraid. So she lied and said, “I didn’t laugh.” But the Lord said, “Yes, you laughed.”

Sarah hears the promise that this time next year she would have a child. Her response to the seemingly impossible was to laugh.

My response to my own seemingly impossible situations? I’ve cried, I’ve worried, I’ve stressed and lost plenty of sleep.

What Sarah and I have in common is that we have tried to figure out impossible situations ourselves.

But then the Lord says to us, Sarah, you and I,  “Is ANYTHING too hard for the Lord?” It’s not really a question, it is a statement, a declaration of an unchanging truth, but it is spoken with compassion towards us. It is an invitation to us to look inside ourselves and to answer from deep within our inner most being. Does this truth have root in our hearts rather than our heads. Emotional responses come from the heart. When I stress, worry and cry about something, it is a reminder to me to remind myself that the is nothing to hard for my Lord.

The right response to an impossible situation is worship.

“Nothing Is Impossible”

Through You ,I can do anything, I can do all things,
For it’s You who give me strength, Nothing is impossible
Through You ,Blind eyes are opened, Strongholds are broken,
I am living by faith, Nothing is impossible!

I’m not gonna live by what I see,
I’m not gonna live by what I feel

Deep down I, Know that You’re here with me
I know that, You can do anything

Father, I don’t want to live by what I see, but I want to live with the knowledge deep down inside me that NOTHING is too difficult for you, for THAT is the truth.

Written by Andrew Martin

2 replies
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    That is a great a all Andrew, worship somehow puts God’s glory, power and faithfulness in the right perspective when doubts prevail. That is a really good idea

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Thursday 22 October, 2015

Genesis 18:1-8

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the large trees of Mamre. Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent. It was the hottest time of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. So he quickly left the entrance to his tent to greet them. He bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if you are pleased with me, don’t pass me by. 4 Let me get you some water. Then all of you can wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat to give you strength. Then you can go on your way. I want to do this for you now that you have come to me.” “All right,” they answered. “Do as you say.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick!” he said. “Get about 36 pounds of the finest flour. Prepare it and bake some bread.” 7 Then he ran over to the herd. He picked out a choice, tender calf. He gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 Then he brought some butter and milk and the calf that had been prepared. He served them to the three men. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

When I read this passage I am torn between two different ways of reading it.
Part of me wants to see Abraham as being able to recognise the 3 men as the members of the trinity, so his response in rushing about to look after them is based on that ability to recognise God, even in an unexpected form.

The other way I read this passage is that Abraham has such an amazing gift of hospitality, that he treats any wandering visitors as though they are lords. (The Hebrew used for “lord” is “adown” which can refer to a human lord or Lord God.

The first way of reading emphasises the nature of discernment and ability to see God moving an unusual way.

The second way of reading emphasises incredible generosity and hospitality.

On reflection, I feel like God is telling me that both are true in a way, and both need to be learned from!

God help me to see you where you are in the places I do not expect and help me to grow in my ability to be extravagantly generous and hospitable. LORD, may You say of me  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

2 replies
  1. Andrew Martin says:

    How many times have I missed what God was doing simply because he came in a way that I didn’t expect or perceive?
    Open my eyes to see you Lord, and what you are doing.

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