Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 16 – Anyone Sleeping in Your Church?

Psalm 16-17 Acts 20:1-16

“A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. As Paul continued talking, Eutychus was falling into a deep sleep. Finally, he went sound asleep and fell to the ground from the third floor. When they picked him up, he was dead.” (Acts 20:9 NCV)

Paul realized that he might not have a chance to make it back to Troas and he wanted to make sure that the church was prepared for the days ahead. There was an urgency about this last night with them that compelled him to speak for a long time. One of the followers in Troas was sitting in the window, perhaps he wanted a cool breeze to help keep him awake after a long day of work. Then, as hard as he may have tried to pay attention, it happened: he fell asleep. When he fell asleep, he fell to the ground and died. Paul went out to check on him and hugged him. Then he made the announcement that no one expected as he told them that Eutychus was alive again. Then Paul continued speaking until the early morning before he left.

This story could have been tragic, except for God’s intervention. Now, we joke about the event. The old preacher joke that will never die is of the preacher that’s bothered by the snoring of a man in the middle of the church. He looks at the man’s wife and asks her to wake him up. The wife responds, “You put him to sleep – you wake him up.” As a Baptist we believe that when the Bible talks about saints it talks about all believers, so we don’t have a special class of followers of Christ called “saints.” If we did, however, Eutychus would be high on the list of favored saints for all those who fall asleep in church. I don’t get a great spiritual lesson in this passage. What I do see is a reminder that people come to church from different circumstances and with different needs. Perhaps a long day of work, a warm night, and the lamps in the room put Eutychus to sleep. Perhaps the person next to you in church who falls asleep during the sermon had a sleepless night because of worry, or children. Perhaps that person who gets up and walks out during the middle of the sermon was dealing with personal issues that the sermon touched on, and they needed some space. We never know how God’s going to work on people in church. What we do know is that our call, when someone does something that may seem to be unacceptable in church, is to love and comfort the other person. Let’s spend more time showing grace to others and less time judging. We may be amazed how God works if we do that.

Lord, it’s so easy to look at people like Eutychus and judge people in church. We don’t know all the details of their situations, though. Help us to recognize that others may have issues that we could never deal with and be joyful that they want to be in the presence of Your saints.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 15 – How Do You Measure Your Net Worth?

Psalm 13-15 Acts 19:21-41

“And during that time, there was some serious trouble in Ephesus about the Way of Jesus.” (Acts 19:23 NCV)

Paul prepared to go back to Jerusalem, but he wanted to visit the churches in Macedonia before he did that. He sent his forward team, Timothy and Erastus, to prepare the way in Macedonia while he cleaned up loose ends in Ephesus. Then, after almost 2 years in Ephesus, the riot broke out. While the riot was ostensibly about the Christian faith substituting for the Ephesian practice of worshiping Artemis, those who instigated the riot were people who made a living selling silver icons of the goddess. In short, the gospel can be bad for the economy. At least the economy of people who prey on others.

Religion can be a lucrative business. Sometimes people use false religions to make money. They sell idols, or the accoutrements needed to practice these false religions. Sometimes people use the gospel of Jesus Christ to become rich. People who are trying to be faithful to God will give to preachers whose sole desire, or so it seems, is the accumulation of wealth. Here’s a hint: if people start talking about a pastor or a preacher in terms of their “net worth,” there may be a problem. Not everyone who makes a lot of money, preacher or not, has the spiritual gift of giving, but if the church and the world looks at you and their first thought is about how much you’re worth, you’ve missed the point. Jesus advised giving wealth away and using it for kingdom purposes. If you’ve got a net worth in the millions of dollars you may have missed that memo. If a preacher or teacher of the gospel has a net worth in that neighborhood, they’ve ignored a clear teaching of Jesus. Maybe we ought to look at a new standard of being rich in the Kingdom of God. Maybe we should look not to “accumulated wealth” as our measure of net worth; perhaps we should look at how much people have given to help others. And you can help model that. Once you’ve supported your church, find another ministry that helps people and give a little bit more to help them. Begin a life long habit of giving to meet the needs of others knowing that God commands us to care for others much more than He calls us to accumulate wealth of any kind.

Lord, give me a hear to give to help others. Help me be wise in that giving as I commit to being obedient to You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 14 – Testifying About How God Has Changed You

Psalm 10-12 Acts 19:1-20

“Many of the believers began to confess openly and tell all the evil things they had done.” (Acts 19:18 NCV)

After Paul’s stay in Corinth, he moved on to Ephesus for about two years. As Paul shared the gospel, and as God worked miracles through Paul, the message of the Gospel and the reputation of the Jesus that Paul preached spread. Miraculous things started happening and, in some cases, when people used Jesus’s name as a name drop, bad things happened to those who used His name without knowing Him. As the power of God moved among the people in Ephesus, people began to testify about how God had brought them out of an evil past. I believe that as they testified about their life before Christ, others heard their own story and realized there was hope in Jesus. The result was that the word of God spread in a powerful way.

Our testimony is our story. How did God bring you to the point where you are today? Perhaps you’re reading this, but you’ve never had a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s fine. The first thing I’m going to tell you is that God loves you and whatever you’re going through, whatever you may have done in the past, He offers you the opportunity to have fellowship with Him and forgiveness of sins through Jesus. I experienced that love and forgiveness first when I was eighteen years old. I was most likely on the road to becoming an alcoholic when God showed me His love and forgiveness. That may be why I’m such a strong proponent of not drinking alcohol. That may not be your issue. I can tell you that in the many years since I experienced God’s grace and forgiveness for the first time, He’s shown me even more grace. There are no “spectacular” sins in my past, especially since I came to Christ, but when I’ve done wrong, He’s forgiven me and led me to His way of living. I’ve had the opportunity to share the Gospel with friends, family, and strangers on three continents, and, I’ve had the privilege of being married to a godly woman who enjoys working with me to share God’s love and any other resources He’s given us with people who need to hear about His grace. What’s your story? How did you come to experience God’s grace and forgiveness? How has He led you since? Are you ready to tell others about your experiences with God? That’s the calling of every Christian. Make your confession about His grace. Share your testimony of what God has done with others. Start now. Share that in the comments even!

Lord, You have worked in my life in some amazing ways. Let me be ready to share with those who need encouragement in their faith and those who need to experience Your grace. Thank You for such and amazing walk through this life because of Your grace.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 13 – Living in the Right Time at the Right Place

Psalm 7-9 Acts 18

“During the night, the Lord told Paul in a vision: ‘Don’t be afraid. Continue talking to people and don’t be quiet. I am with you, and no one will hurt you because many of my people are in this city.’ Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching God’s word to the people.” (Acts 18:9-11)

Corinth was a city that had a reputation. It wasn’t a good one. It was situated on a narrow land bridge between the Ionian and the Aegean seas. It was a port city where sailors might transfer boats and cargo to avoid the trip around the Greek peninsula. There were a lot of sailors who passed through, and businesses sprung up to take care of the sailors’ needs. If there were any place less likely to be filled with God’s people than Corinth, we haven’t found it yet. Yet it was here that God told Paul to sign a long-term lease because He had many people in the city. Paul stayed there for a year and a half, surviving an attempt to kick him out when the proconsul brushed off the complaint the Jews brought against him.

When you think about modern pastorates, a year and a half isn’t that long. Paul was an itinerant missionary, though. His work enraged people so much that they ran him out of town on a regular basis. If Paul stayed in a place more than a month, that was a long time. The early Christian Church grew from leaders who rose up in that short a time. Corinth apparently needed more help. There were many of God’s people in the city. I wonder how many didn’t know that they were God’s people until Paul told them about Jesus. I wonder if Paul looked at the vice in this city and asked God to let him leave soon when God told him not to be afraid and continue proclaiming the gospel in this city. Have you ever asked God to move you out of some place? A house? A neighborhood? A job? A city? I have. Without going into details, God told me to stay put at that time. God has a purpose for putting us wherever we are. Our goal shouldn’t be to leave any place; our goal should always be to have the opportunity to be fruitful for God in the place He’s put us. The old cliché is that we’re supposed to bloom where we’re planted. He may leave you in place for a month, a year and a half, or many years. Our responsibility, as followers of Christ, is to share God’s love and grace wherever we are for as long as we’re there. If we do that, we can trust God to put us in the right place for the right time.

Lord, remind me that I’m called first to follow You. Let me be Your witness wherever You put me, for as long as You put me there.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 12 – Pagan Temples, False gods, And Idols All Around

Psalm 4-6 Acts 17:16-34

“While Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens, he was troubled because he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16 NCV)

As Paul wandered about Athens, he was disturbed the religious nature of the city. He would describe it later by noting that the people were very religious. There were idols and pagan temples all around him as he walked through the city. That didn’t stop him from sharing the Good News, though. He shared the Good News of Jesus in the synagogues and in the marketplaces. He attracted the scorn and derision of the Epicurean and the Stoics, the Greek version of the Sadducees and the Pharisees, as he proclaimed the risen Christ. They couldn’t fathom God wanting to come to earth as a human being and then allowing Himself to be crucified before coming back to life. To the Greeks, the body was evil, and people wanted to get out of this body and into whatever lay ahead quickly. But Paul’s discontentment began as he walked around the city and saw that it was full of idols.

He wouldn’t have that problem in our day. We don’t have idols around our world, do we? According to Simon and Garfunkel, we have people bowing and praying to the neon gods we’ve made. Ancient Greece had temples to gods and goddesses where the worship involved sexual activity. We have bars that cater to those same desires. We worship ideas that are contrary to God’s ideals. We stick earplugs in so that we can listen to the words of the prophets and we often spend so much time looking at our “smart” phones that it would be easy to mistake us for searching for a word from God from the virtual temples known as “Twitter” or “Facebook.” We follow politicians, political parties, or political ideologies with such fervor that we’re willing to destroy old friendships over people thinking differently. It’s a good thing we don’t have idols in our time. Paul’s message on the streets of Athens and, later, in his defense of the Gospel at the Areopagus was simple. Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. He died and was buried. He rose from the dead to bring us salvation. In the past God ignored that they didn’t understand Him, but now, God calls on all people to repent. I have no doubt that if Paul were to see our world today that his message would be the same. To all who would put anything before God: pleasure, wealth, ideology, or even false gods, the message from God is that we should repent, and we should come to Him through the forgiveness of sins that Jesus paid for. If we want our world to change, we must first get right with God and let Him change us into His image.

Lord, we live in evil times as people have turned away from You. Help me to be faithful to You. Help me to share Your love and forgiveness with people who are trapped in their sins.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 11 – How to Become a Godly Troublemaker

Psalm 1-3 Acts 17:1-15

“So, many of them believed, as well as many important Greek women and men. But the people in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, too. So they came there, upsetting the people and making trouble.” (Acts 17:12-13 NCV)

Paul and his companions left Philippi and went to Thessalonica. He went about three weeks before the riot started. Then, some from Thessalonica, jealous that Paul was gaining traction among the people went after Paul and Silas. They couldn’t find them, but they found Jason, at whose house the two had been staying, and dragged him and a few other believers before the magistrates claiming that these guys who had caused trouble all over the world, the King James translates this as “turned the world upside down,” and teach that there’s another king other than Caesar were teaching here. Jason and the other believers were required to post a bond, and they rushed Paul and Silas off to Berea. The Bereans actually studied the Scriptures and confirmed what Paul said, but when the Thessalonians heard what was going on, you know, the people who claimed that Paul and Silas were making trouble, they came and caused a riot there causing the Bereans to send Paul out of town quickly.

Christians do have a knack for causing trouble. When we follow Jesus, we begin recognizing things that are wrong in the world and we want change. Our ultimate allegiance isn’t to Caesar, any king, any political leader, or even any country when we do it right, our allegiance is to God. When we see wrong being done, we want to fix it. That troubles people in power. We see life being devalued and we recognize how much God cares for each person and we seek to make a difference whether that person is elderly, in prison, caught up in political issues on the border, poor, or unborn. Some seek to deal with those issues through governmental initiatives. Ultimately, because our allegiance is to God, we must take personal responsibility to care for the needs of others. And that troubles the people in power. We value the lives of those society would oppress for profit, as Paul did in the case of the slave at Philippi, and it costs more to get things done. Profit is lowered. And that causes trouble for the people in power. We care for people in need. That may bring more people who are in need to our area. And that causes trouble for people in power. Maybe the problem Christians have is that we don’t make enough trouble because we’re caring for those in need. Let’s cause more trouble today. Support organizations that care for the poor, the oppressed, or the hungry. Get involved and help personally. It’s time more people complain that we’re the people who turned the world upside down than complain that we’re holding on to power. Let’s use the power we have as children of the Almighty God, to do His work.

Lord, the powers of this world don’t welcome You nor Your ways. Too often the powers pay lip service to You as an excuse for oppressing people. Use me to make trouble in this type of world. Let my fellow Christian make so much trouble in this world that we’re once again called the people who turned the world upside down.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 10 – Benjamins or Not, It’s All About God

Job 41-42 Acts 16:22-40

“The police told the Roman officers what Paul said. When the officers heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. So they came and told Paul and Silas they were sorry and took them out of jail and asked them to leave the city. So when they came out of the jail, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw some of the believers and encouraged them. Then they left.” (Acts 16:38-40 NCV)

Paul started a riot. I know, that doesn’t narrow down where he is very much. He started lots of riots. Well, not Paul, actually. The people who started the riots around Paul didn’t like his teaching. In some cases, it was because religious leaders thought they were losing power. In Philippi, it was all about the Benjamins. Paul had cast a demon out of a slave girl and the people who used that slave girl for profit got ticked and started the riot in motion. When the Roman soldiers asked who started it, the crowd pointed to Paul and Silas so they stripped them and beat them before throwing them in jail. Riot over. Problem solved. When things calmed down the next day, the magistrates sent word to let Paul and Silas go. Paul took umbrage at that and reminded the jailer, who had come to Christ earlier, that they, Roman citizens, had been beaten in public without a trial and now they weren’t going to just slink away. The soldiers were worried then! If word got back to Rome that they’d beaten Roman citizens without a trial… They came, apologized, and asked Paul and Silas to leave the city – which they did after encouraging the new believers in the city.

This story fascinates me every time I read it. The earthquake that opened prison doors, yet no one escaped. The jailer’s change of heart because of the Good News of salvation caused him to care about Paul and Silas as he treated their wounds. Then came the offer of freedom from jail that Paul rejected as offered. He knew they shouldn’t be in jail, yet they didn’t leave when the earthquake gave them an opportunity. When offered freedom by the ones who put him in jail, they wouldn’t leave because it showed a lack of respect and Paul invoked their citizenship to put the fear of God into them. Finally, the ones who put them in jail came personally to apologize and let them out the right way. Well, they did let Paul and Silas know that they should leave town. Paul and Silas left, but only after encouraging the believers at Lydia’s house. There are some important lessons here. The first is that following and obeying Christ may have financial implications. Paul, by rebuking that spirit, stopped the ill-gotten gains of those slave owners. Today’s modern slavery thrives by way of internet advertising and pornography. We need to support efforts to fight both and we need to find ways to lead people away from those types of sites. There are other money-making methods that are less than honorable and we as Christians need to be ready to denounce dishonorable profit when we see it happening. The second is that we should use our rights for a purpose.  While we shouldn’t spend our lives demanding our rights, we should be ready to enforce them when it will help us spread the gospel as God calls us to. It was important for those leaders who put Paul and Silas into jail to realize that Roman citizens could follow the “Jewish gospel.” We should never be obnoxious, of course, but we should enforce our rights firmly when it will allow us to share the good news of Jesus with others. At the same time, we must be willing to give up our rights if doing that will allow us to share the love of Jesus.

Lord, I live in a world where money has become a god. People judge each other over how much money the other person has. Remind me to speak out about Your views of money and possessions. Teach me to use my rights or surrender them in order to proclaim Your love and grace to others.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 9 – Dealing With God’s “No”

Job 38-40 Acts 16:1-21

‘That night Paul saw in a vision a man from Macedonia. The man stood and begged, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we immediately prepared to leave for Macedonia, understanding that God had called us to tell the Good News to those people.” (Acts 16:9-10 NCV)

One of the most frustrating things when you have great plans to serve God is to get ready to work for Him, and He tells you “No.” Paul, Silas, and now Timothy ran into that problem. They wanted to go into Asia to spread the Good News, but God told them, “No.” When they tried to enter another way, God told them, “No” again. They went where the could without God stopping them, but I can imagine Paul might have been a bit frustrated as he reminded God of his plans. One night, it became clear: Paul and his team were to cross over into Europe and spread the gospel there. He got a vision that a man in Macedonia, modern day Greece, was calling him to share the Good News there. The wording of this passage lets us know that now Luke was an active participant in spreading the gospel.

I don’t know if there’s anything harder to take from God than the answer of “No.” You pray, you plan, you prepare to do God’s work in a specific way, and at the last minute, He tells you, “No.” A true man of faith would immediately accept that answer and seek God’s direction for the future. I talk back to God. “But God, I’ve worked and planned so hard…” You probably know the drill. We seem to think that we can remind God of what we’ve done for Him and what we’ve planned to do for Him as if this was all a surprise that He didn’t consider when He told us, “No.” God knows our heart even before we do. His “No” is actually a gift of mercy that allows us to redirect from something God doesn’t want for us so that we can search for God’s direction in other areas. If the task we had planned on doing was in God’s will to begin with and He told us “No,” we can rest assured that God has a plan to accomplish it. He has a different plan for us. Since He knows our gifts and talents better than we do ourselves, obeying Him when He says “No” will allow us to do a better job of serving Him in other areas. God’s “No” isn’t meant to discourage us, He means to encourage us to seek His will while He opens doors to use the gifts and talents He’s give us to better effect.

Lord, how often do I want to tell You what I’m going to do? When You tell me “No,” remind me that You do that so I’ll be ready and able to do more for You with the gifts and talents You’ve given me. Help me to serve You wisely.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 8 – It Doesn’t Matter Who’s Right

Job 36-37 Acts 15:22-41

“Paul and Barnabas had such a serious argument about this that they separated and went different ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left. The believers in Antioch put Paul into the Lord’s care, and he went through Syria and Cilicia, giving strength to the churches. (Acts 15:39-41 NCV)

The Jerusalem Conference was an amazing display of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. The leaders of the church wanted Gentiles to know that they were accepted as brothers and sisters in Christ with few restrictions: they should avoid meat offered to idols or with blood in it, and they should avoid sexual sins. Those who pushed for Gentile believers to become Jewish first were quieted as they heard the stories of God’s work among the Gentiles. A letter was drafted and sent to the church at Antioch. It encouraged the believers there and they had great joy. Things were great in the Christian world. Then, Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit the churches they formed during their missionary journey. They argued over whether or not to take John Mark, who had left them during that first trip. The argument was so strong that Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways: Barnabas left with Mark and Paul left with Silas – one of the Jews who had helped bring the letter from Jerusalem.

It seems strange that after the amazing show of unity after the Jerusalem Conference, Paul and Barnabas would have a fight. They’d worked and suffered together for the cause of Christ. They’d worked together to see Gentiles accepted fully into the church. Still the fight came up. Barnabas, showing the same compassion that had brought Paul into the fellowship of believers one he accepted Christ tried to show the same compassion to John Mark. He sought redemption for the young man. Paul, whose character was more focused on getting things done, wouldn’t hear about that. God used the disagreement to extend the mission work of the church. Later, Paul would commend Mark to Timothy. Who was right? God was right when He used the argument for His glory. Sometimes Christians argue today. Words better left unsaid are shouted, or worse, posted on Social Media to embarrass the people who hold the opposite position. We can have strong opinions that differ from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Can we follow Christ is loving and forgiving those who are “wrong,” knowing that since we’re not perfect, we may be wrong also. You don’t have to be always right to follow Jesus, but you always have to be loving and forgiving. When disagreements arise, we may even go our separate ways and that’s OK. Pray for each other and head out with the sole purpose of spreading the gospel. God will work through our disagreements if we don’t hinder Him.

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You. When fellow Christians see things differently, help me to love them and pray for them as they head off to do Your work in a different way.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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July 7 – Grace Grace Grace Grace

Job 34-35 Acts 15:1-21

“So now why are you testing God by putting a heavy load around the necks of the non-Jewish believers? It is a load that neither we nor our ancestors were able to carry. But we believe that we and they too will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:10-11 NCV)

There’s something about people that think that everyone should share the same journeys, the same experiences, and the same outcomes in life. When the gospel began spreading to the Gentiles, though, that journey veered off the path from the journey that Jews who had come to Christ followed. Some among the Jewish believers wanted to correct that path so that everybody could be the same. They began demanding that the Gentile believers submit to circumcision and the Law of Moses. I don’t think they were trying to be controlling, I think they wanted to make sure that the Gentile believers did things the right way. Peter set them straight by noting that no one was able to follow the Law, which is why Jesus came, and that the important issue was that all believers would be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, not by their “good” behavior.

It’s easy to want to make our experiences with God “normative.” Many people, in the midst of repenting and turning to Jesus as their Savior will cry when they realize the enormity of what God has done for them. Because of that, some will look suspiciously at a new believer who doesn’t come with tears. Some will experience and exercise certain spiritual gifts. Those who don’t have those gifts will come under scrutiny as well. Our denominational beliefs may differ, and that’s ok. There are a lot of different reactions to the entrance of Jesus Christ into our lives; there are a lot of different ways to experience our faith and explain what we believe. The one common factor among all Christians is that salvation can only come through grace. You can’t earn salvation. You can seek God, but seeking won’t save you. You can repent of your sins, but mere repentance won’t save you. Salvation only comes through the grace of God. Peter had to explain it at the Jerusalem Conference. It’s a lesson that needs to be learned in every generation as people begin to think that God’s grace isn’t enough – that we need to do something else. We are not saved by grace AND anything…we’re saved by grace alone. God’s grace gives us the faith to be saved. God’s grace gives us the heart to repent because we’ve been saved. God’s grace sustains us in our relationship with Him. Thanks be to God for His amazing grace!

Lord, I’m so grateful that salvation comes by Your grace. I could never be good enough to earn salvation. I could never do enough good works to earn it. Thank You that it’s all because of grace and that You give it freely to all who seek You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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