St. Johns News

Thanksgiving Leads to Thanksliving – October 29, 2017

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
Luke 17:11-18

Thanksgiving Leads to Thanksliving


Daily Devotion – October 29, 2017

Devotion based on Luke 17:11-18

See series: Devotions

After Jesus cleansed the ten lepers, only one returned to thank him. His question was poignant. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” It appeared the nine were so excited about their new found health they forgot to thank the one who healed them.

How unfortunate! What is equally unfortunate is how I occasionally forget to respond to the Lord’s goodness and compassion. I pray for his intervention. I depend on his invitation to help. I even trust he will give me an answer. When he does answer my heartfelt request, what follows?

It is easy to be amazed and overwhelmed by the Lord’s answer to my prayer, but should it become a reason to forget to thank the one who came to my aid?

Luke does not record what happened with the other nine. No doubt they went to the priest, were declared clean, and returned to their families. Their new found health gave them a new life. The tenth leper probably did the same things. There was one exception. He stopped and returned to fall at Jesus’ feet. He began his new life by giving thanks to the Lord and praising him for his undeserved love.

It is a response I need to include in my life, and certainly, the Lord deserves my endless thanks. Richly and daily his undeserved blessings flow into my life, and these lead me to a life of thanksgiving. This life of thanksgiving could also be called “thanksliving.” It is how I live daily remembering and rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness and mercy.

Thanksliving can only begin when I recognize how blessed I am. Not a day goes by when the Lord does not support, strengthen or sustain me. Not a day goes by when he does not forgive, encourage or reassure me. This is why not a day goes by when I will not fall at my Savior’s feet and let my thanksgiving lead me to thanksliving.

Prayer:
O gracious Lord, words cannot begin to express my thankfulness for your rich blessing. Give me a thankful heart that not only proclaims my gratitude, but also reflects it in the way I live to your glory and praise. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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God’s Faithfulness Doesn’t Change – October 28, 2017

If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

God’s Faithfulness Doesn’t Change


Daily Devotion – October 28, 2017

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 2:13

See series: Devotions

“That’s just the way he is. He’s never going to change,” Jack explained to his younger cousin who had asked why grandpa had gone to bed at 6:30 pm.

“That’s just the way she is. She’s never going to change,” Sarah said, as she excused the absence of her sister who was over an hour late.

“That’s just the way he is. He’s never going to change,” Bob told the stranded motorist who was shaking his head in awe while Bob’s father, dressed in his Sunday best, wrestled the flat tire off the car so he could replace it with a properly inflated one.

“That’s just the way he is. He’s never going to change.” These words are most true when spoken about God.

People may have certain characteristics that define who they are and dictate their actions, but people do change. God never does. He is faithful. It’s not just what he does, it’s who he is.

God never goes back on a promise. He never fails to follow through on what he has said he would do. When you read a promise of God, you know that it is as good as done because God is faithful, and he never changes.

Your faithfulness or lack thereof does not influence God’s faithfulness one way or another. He has promised that he will always be with you even though there have been times when you have turned your back on him. God has promised that he will always love you even though you have not always loved him with your entire heart and soul and mind.

Most importantly, he has promised that the price for all the sins of the world, including yours, has been paid. Jesus’ blood was shed for you.

“That’s just the way I am. I’m never going to change,” your heavenly Father explains about his love for you and his faithfulness that never changes.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me even when I don’t love you in return. Thank you for your faithfulness that never changes in spite of my failures to be faithful. Help me to live a faithful life to you as the forgiven child you have made me. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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No question—You are loved! – October 27, 2017

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

No question—You are loved!


Daily Devotion – October 27, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 5:8

See series: Devotions

“I love you.” Those are precious words that we treasure hearing. But they are just that: words. Unfortunately, life experience has probably taught you that people can say anything, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Words that are backed up by actions, however, are much more meaningful.

The words “I love you” backed up by actions demonstrating that love—now we have something we know to be true, and it is pretty awesome.

Love is often demonstrated in any number of ways: a meaningful gift, care given during an illness, assistance with a home improvement project, just being there with an encouraging word when it is desperately needed.

The ultimate demonstration of love is someone giving up their own life for another person. Chances are that has not occurred in your life. That kind of extraordinary love and the extreme circumstances that would necessitate a sacrificial death in demonstration of that love are fairly rare.

If it did happen in your life, you could never question the love of the person who died for you. There would be no doubt as to whether or not the words “I love you” actually held any meaning.

God says he loves you, but is that real? Probably, there are times in your life when it doesn’t really feel like it. Maybe now is one of those times. When your world is falling apart around you and you feel helpless and alone, when your mind is filled with more questions than answers, it is very easy to question whether God really loves you or not. “Those are just words,” the devil tempts you to think.

God doesn’t just leave you with words. He proved his love through the ultimate demonstration of sacrifice by his death on the cross. Nothing that happens in your life can change the fact that Jesus died for you, a sinner. There can be no question. You are loved!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for proving your love for me. Help me to remain focused on your cross and know that I am loved by you and forgiven of my sins. May that assurance give me confidence and peace in my life. In your name, I ask it. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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An All-access Pass to God – October 26, 2017

Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

An All-access Pass to God


Daily Devotion – October 26, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 5:1-2

See series: Devotions

How far would you go to gain access to someone famous? How much would you pay for a backstage pass to a musical legend? How long would you stand in line to get an autograph from your favorite athlete or movie star?

How do you gain access to God? People have tried to figure that out since God banned Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. We have tried to gain access to God through hard work, through human intelligence, through our emotions, through wealth, and numerous other paths. However, each route leads us to the same dead-end. We can do nothing to gain access to God. Our sin has completely severed that connection.

What we have broken, God himself has restored. Rather than hold us accountable, he went after his Son for our sins. At the cross, God took out his anger over the world’s sin on his Son.

Because of Jesus and in Jesus, you have peace with God. You do not need to feel ashamed or guilty any longer. Jesus has forgiven the sins of your past. You can rest easy. God is not going to come knocking. No payment is left. The debt is gone.

Because of Jesus and in Jesus, you have full access to God. This means that when you need his help, you can call on him at any time. He will never put you on hold. When you call on him, he will never give you a generic list of options. His help is always tailor-made to fit your needs.

Because of Jesus and in Jesus, you have hope—a wonderful future in heaven. You may have troubles now, but God will turn all things out for your eternal good, and right all the wrongs you now suffer. No matter how tough your life is right now, before you know it, you will have a pain-free and trouble-free life forever with God in his glory.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for my all-access pass to your help, to the peace of your forgiveness, and the hope of eternal life; through Jesus Christ. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Good Fruit – October 25, 2017

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard; my loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. … The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Isaiah 5:1,2,7

Good Fruit


Daily Devotion – October 25, 2017

Devotion based on Isaiah 5:1,2,7

See series: Devotions

My wife remembers a cabernet we tasted at a Napa Valley winery as the best she’s ever had. Our tour guide told us a story about the vineyard from which it came. A man made a risky investment. He bought a sizeable estate with nearly 50 acres of grape vines. But the vines—all of them—were infected with a devastating disease. The new owner’s only choice? Uproot and burn every single plant. Treat the soil. Purchase and plant new vines. Several years would pass before they would be ready for harvest. In the meantime, his investment would not be turning any profits. In fact, more money would be needed to construct and renovate buildings to support the winery. That first harvest would be oh, so anticipated…and oh, so important. It turned out well for this man. But can you imagine if that vineyard—into which he had poured time, money, and energy—had yielded bad grapes or none at all?

A long time ago, the prophet Isaiah sang a poetic song about a vineyard. But the vineyard and its owner were only representative, employed to teach an important lesson. His song, a sad one, was about God and his people. The Lord God had done it all for the nation of Israel. He had chosen them, by his grace, as the people who would know about and carry his promise of the Savior to the world. He showed to them and through them what kind of God he is. He gave them his words. He lavished love and care on them. He revealed his plan of salvation through prophets sent into their midst. They had every advantage and every reason to be a productive vineyard, bearing the spiritual grapes that God desired to harvest. And yet, he received the opposite.

Rather than following the only true God in faith, they often turned to false gods. Rather than responding to his promises of forgiveness and life with joyful thanks and willing obedience, they often grumbled against him and served grudgingly. Rather than viewing his laws as blessings, they saw them only as burden. He looked for a crop of good grapes, but the yield was only bad fruit.

Perhaps you are new to this message about the God of the Bible. Maybe you’ve been, by God’s grace, a part of his vineyard for a long time. Either way, we can apply Isaiah’s song to our own relationship with God. He longs to and rightly expects to see good fruits springing from faith. Is that always what he receives?

If you answered, “no,” and are ashamed or frightened by it, look again to God, who is patient and gracious. Look to the vintner’s Son, Jesus Christ, who is the only source of the good fruit God desires to see in us and from us. See in his holy life and shed blood the forgiveness and righteousness you need. Connect to him, through his holy Word and precious sacraments, as the vine who can make non-bearing branches into vibrant and productive ones. Find in him your life, and with the life he gives, go out and bear good fruit for your gracious God!

Prayer:
Lord God, I do not deserve your love or your patience. But in Jesus I see you as one who loves me though I’m undeserving. In Christ, I know you as the one who patiently cures my disease of sin and nourishes me to bear fruits of faith to your glory. Keep me ever connected to the life-giving Vine, Jesus. In his name I pray. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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The Lord has given you a Vineyard – October 23, 2017

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
Matthew 21:43

The Lord has given you a Vineyard


Daily Devotion – October 23, 2017

Devotion based on Matthew 21:43

See series: Devotions

During the week that Jesus died, he told a story that compared God’s kingdom to a vineyard. He said that there was a landowner who rented out a vineyard. When it was time for the harvest, the landowner expected to receive his fruit. But instead the renters seized, beat, and stoned all the servants the landowner sent. They even killed the landowner’s son!

In Jesus’ story, the landowner represented God. And the renters represented the evil religious leaders of the day.

Jesus was trying to show those leaders that he knew they were planning on killing him. Jesus wanted them to see their sin, believe in him, and let their lives be transformed by his love. Sadly, they wanted nothing to do with Jesus’ message of forgiveness.

So Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

The kingdom of God has been taken away from others and given to you. And he wants you to be different than those who were unfaithful. He wants you to produce good fruit.

What does that mean?

That means that you acknowledge that you are a broken sinner. But more importantly that you receive the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Then God wants his love to transform every area of your life so that you produce the fruit of good works. Because your heart is filled with the gospel, your life will be different than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

• They used the people to get money, but you will serve people in love.
• They prayed to be seen by people, but you will pray for the good of people.
• They used their religion to look down on others, but you will love others as God has loved you.

Just like in Jesus’ story, on the last day the Landowner (God) will return and expect good fruit. When he looks at your life, he will find it because your life has been transformed by the grace of Jesus. Jesus has done everything for you. Now do everything for him as you wait for his return.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you have given me so many wonderful opportunities to serve you. Work in me that I might give you glory in my home, job, and community. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Fixer-Uppers – October 24, 2017

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21

Fixer-Uppers


Daily Devotion – October 24, 2017

Devotion based on Philippians 3:20-21

See series: Devotions

HGTV broadcasts several popular programs featuring “fixer-uppers”—outdated, often dilapidated homes, being beautifully transformed. Today’s passage describes another kind of “fixer-upper”—the physical bodies of all believers in our Savior from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the earth’s last day, Jesus is coming again. For believers, his powerful acts that day will include “transforming our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

The Bible declares: “Man is destined to die once, and after that face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Physical death is separation. Your soul, the essence of who you are, separates from your body and is judged immediately, heaven or hell. That verdict will be made public at the Last Day, when all people will appear before the heavenly Judge.

So, at physical death each soul vacates the “house” that is his or her body and goes immediately to eternal life or eternal condemnation. To the penitent criminal on the nearby cross Jesus said: “Today you (your soul) will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The unbelieving criminal would not! All bodies remain here on earth; “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”… until… the Last Day.

That’s Resurrection Day! The bodies of believers in Christ will be raised from the dead by his infinite power as a “house” perfectly “fixed-up” for reunion with the souls returning from heaven. Whether afflicted with a defect from conception, ravaged by disease, disfigured by accident or warfare, or just worn by age, the believer’s body will be perfectly restored, “like his glorious body.” Justly, the bodies of those who rejected Jesus are raised “to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

What if Jesus comes today?! You haven’t died yet. You and all believers still living will be “changed…in the twinkling of an eye” into glorious bodies made “imperishable,” just like the resurrected believers’ bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). And then it’s on to the glories of eternity with the Lord.

Obviously, Resurrection Day will not be glorious for the unbelieving. That is a stark reality, but God truly “wants all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). That’s why he sent Jesus. God’s Son is “the atoning sacrifice…for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Share the Good News: Salvation of soul and body is won for all by Jesus! Trust in Jesus, and look forward confidently.

Prayer:
(Revelation 22:20):
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Special Recognition – October 22, 2017

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Luke 17:10

Special Recognition


Daily Devotion – October 22, 2017

Devotion based on Luke 17:10

See series: Devotions

There are times when I feel like I deserve special recognition from God. Maybe I have forgiven someone who is difficult to forgive. Maybe I have shown kindness to someone who did not deserve it. Maybe I was simply on my best behavior. Because I have been so good, I feel I am due some special attention.

Jesus, however, directs me to consider things from his perspective. First, the only recognition I deserve is that which results in my judgment and eternal punishment. While I may do some things which are special and very good, what about the rest of my life? Am I perfect all the time? Do I do everything without excuse, hesitation or complaint? In reality instead of looking for recognition I should hang my head in shame. My life is not what the Lord expects or deserves.

Secondly, I need to remember what the apostle Paul writes to the Christians in the city of Philippi: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Even though I may fill my life with good deeds, it is only because of God’s undeserved love in Jesus that I have the will and the ability to do what he desires. His love, his forgiveness, his power to overcome my selfishness is my reason to do good to all.

Finally, I need to recall what Jesus shared with his disciples. When all is said and done, even if I have done something extraordinary, I have to admit, “I have only done my duty.”

In all humility I must confess I do not deserve any special recognition. Not only is Jesus the author and source of the good I do, he is also my strength and motivation. It is in him where I find joy in serving and seeing his love at work in me and through me. It is also in him where I find satisfaction and recognition. I am blessed to know my Savior has chosen me to be his servant. I am even more blessed to hear my Savior declare in time and for eternity, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Prayer:
O gracious Lord, accept my service. While I do not deserve any credit, I delight in knowing you have called, equipped and motivated me to be your servant. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Answer Your Timidity – October 21, 2017

God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Answer Your Timidity


Daily Devotion – October 21, 2017

Devotion based on 2 Timothy 1:7

See series: Devotions

Let’s start with a moment of candor. Not too many years ago, you and I could get away with living our Christian lives without taking much flak for it. Oh, sure, we could cite cases in which a secular society was attacking our faith, but for the most part we could go about our business as Christians without a lot of fuss and bother.

Let’s acknowledge what’s happened—those days are gone. The reality is that if we are actively working to follow the Lord’s will, and if we are at all open about our Christian faith, we will receive mockery and resentment and hostility from others.

We need a moment of candor about one other thing. We need to confess to our God and to each other that, more often than not, you and I have responded to our anti-Christian culture with plain, ugly, old timidity. We have remained silent when we should have spoken. We have chuckled nervously when we should have remained silent. We have cowered in embarrassment when we should have been standing up for the only Savior this world is ever going to have.

But here’s the good news. Jesus Christ came to this earth for our sins of timidity as well. On our behalf he lived a life of perfect courage. In our place he died for our every failure—every episode in which you and I have given in to fear.

Repent, therefore. Repent of timidity, both you and I. Bask again in the refreshing forgiveness we possess in the Son of God. And as we do, seize the moment to be brave in the days to come. Demonstrate the Christian courage that the Holy Spirit has placed within us. Shine the light that we have in Jesus Christ. For the world needs the gospel now!

Prayer:
Holy Spirit, in a world that is hostile to the Christian faith, give me courage. Give me strength. Empower me by your gospel to let shine the light of my faith in Jesus my Savior. Amen.

This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Proof of Payment – October 20, 2017

[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25

Proof of Payment


Daily Devotion – October 20, 2017

Devotion based on Romans 4:25

See series: Devotions

Years of reckless spending resulted in massive credit card debt. A couple months of following a strict budget couldn’t erase the debt, and he was beginning to feel hopeless. The house that he wanted to buy seemed completely out of reach because his poor credit made it impossible to get any kind of loan from a mortgage company.

Then the letter came. It was from an uncle that he hardly knew. “I want you to have that house. I’ve paid off all of your credit cards and deposited the money for the house in your bank account.”

“How can this be real?” he thought. “I want to believe it, but how can I be sure?” Then he contacted the bank. His account which had been overdrawn the day before now showed a balance that would easily pay for the new house. He looked at online statements from his credit cards. They all read a balance of zero.

It was all true! His debt had been paid! The proof was right there!

Years of sin have resulted in a massive debt that you cannot pay. Attempts at self-control and leading a good life can’t erase the debt. It is easy to feel hopeless. The eternal home that you would love to occupy seems so far out of reach.

Then you read the Bible—that letter from your God describing his love for you. “I want you to have that eternal dwelling in heaven. I sent my Son to pay the debt you owe for your sins. I have credited his perfection to your account so that you are justified in my eyes. Rejoice! Heaven is yours!”

How can this be real? It sounds fantastic, but how can you be sure? How do you know that Jesus’ death paid the price you owe for your sins? His tomb is empty. He died, but then he rose from the grave to life again, proving that he is not just a man, but the Son of God himself; proving that his sacrifice for you was accepted by God as payment for your debt.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

It’s all true! Your debt has been paid! You are justified before God! Believe it and enjoy the eternal life that is yours!

Prayer:
Jesus, my Savior, thank you for willingly going to the cross to die as the payment for my sins. Thank you for rising from the grave to prove that the price has indeed been paid. Help me to rejoice in your resurrection which assures me of my forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. In your name I ask it. Amen.

DailyCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS and www.WhatAboutJesus.com.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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