Category: <span>thoughts by Suzanne Benner</span>

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“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

The call to imitate God sounds impossible. Yet, just as a small child imperfectly mimics a parent’s actions, disciples of Jesus copy him. These verses in Ephesians contain a key way to imitate God: walk in love.

Love, by definition, gives time, attention, and compassion. Love spends energy, intellectual resources, and money. Love sacrifices personal interests, wants, and needs for the interests, wants, and needs of others.

Indeed, love requires sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice for us reveals what real love looks like. John explains what “love” is in his first letter. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

The call to “walk in love” goes far beyond loving nice, similar-to-us, or likeable people. God calls us to love dirty, unattractive, and needy people, too. He commands us to love greedy, ungrateful, and adversarial people. God directs us to love these people because that is who we once were. Paul tells the believers in Rome, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

To walk in love is to daily put others ahead of ourselves. We walk in love, not because others deserve our love, but because Jesus first loved us. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another
(1 John 4:11).

Holy Spirit, fill me with your presence so that I might walk in love as Christ loves me. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”  Matthew 25:35-36

Everyone wants to do something great for God, something noticeable and significant. Yet, Jesus tells us to care for the marginalized rather than the rich, beautiful, and influential.

In this passage, Jesus says he will return to judge all people. At the judgment, when the righteous don’t remember ever seeing Jesus and ministering to him, he says,

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).

Numerous times a week, I drive to where my dad, who has advanced dementia, lives so I can feed him lunch. Some days, my dad does not speak. So, I just tell him about the day or hold his hand.

When I entered his “neighborhood”, I saw a man shuffling down the hallway. I greeted him, pointed toward the dining room, and told him that it’s lunchtime. A woman, wearing a foam helmet, barely stood five feet tall. I couldn’t understand a word she said and I don’t think she would understand much of what I’d say either. So, I smiled at her and said her name. I offered her my attention. It’s all I had to give, but for the moment, it was enough.

Simple, unremarkable, often unnoticed, actions. Yet, these precious elderly people are some of the “least of these” for whom God calls me to care.

Who is God calling you to care for today?

Heavenly Father, thank you that you know and care for people we often overlook. Remind me daily that whatever I do for the least of these, I do for you. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”  John 5:30

Incredibly — though divine, eternal, and one with the Father — Jesus initiated nothing on his own throughout his time on earth. Instead, he listened to the Father and carried out the Father’s will.

Isaiah foretold that the Spirit would reside in the Messiah.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2).

Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

So, while on earth, the Eternal Son of God didn’t base his decisions on his human intelligence — though no human had greater understanding. He didn’t look at the facts or listen to the various sides of the argument to make a judgment (Isaiah 11:3). Rather, because Jesus knew his Father to be perfectly wise, perfectly just, and perfectly good, he trusted him completely and did what he wanted.

Thanks to his perfect obedience, the Holy Spirit now indwells all believers in Christ who have opened their heart to him. If Jesus could do nothing on his own, neither can we. We shouldn’t even try.

You see, the Spirit’s primary role isn’t simply to help us make decisions. Just as Jesus came to reveal God to us, now, the Holy Spirit reveals God to us. Therefore, through the Holy Spirit, we come to know God’s will by coming to know God.

The Spirit shows us God’s goodness, his glory, and his power. The Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ obedience, his sacrifice, and his love. By revealing God’s character and reminding us of God’s commands, the Spirit guides us to do nothing on our own, but only the will of the Father.

Holy God, I acknowledge that I can do nothing on my own. Thank you for sending your Spirit so that I can know you. Reveal yourself to me more and more so that I will know your will. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”  2 Corinthians 3:15-16

When my mom moved into her condo, some sort of film covered the windows. Light shone through, but everything looked distorted. She couldn’t see outside clearly. It took a grandson — armed with a razor blade, window washing gear, and YouTube video — four hours to scrape it all away.

Unlike my mother’s windows, no amount of scrubbing, self-help books, or willpower can take away the veil that keeps us from viewing things correctly. Our sinful nature and willful rebellion blind us, distorting our judgments and keeping us from seeing clearly. Paul says, their minds were hardened” (2 Corinthians 3:14). We can’t see the truth because our sin keeps us from seeing it.

Though we can’t fix our problem, Paul tells us who can. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away (2 Corinthians 3:14).

Only through Christ is the veil removed.

Only when we turn to Christ, can we understand our great need. Only when we turn to Christ can we see his great gift.

Just as God’s glory shone through Jesus, when we believe, God’s glory shines through us. The more we look at Jesus, turning our hearts to him and surrendering our wills to him, the more we become like him. The transformation is glorious! Everyone around us sees Jesus in us.

So we live for Jesus, through the power of Jesus, to show Jesus to the world.

Thank you, Jesus, for dying for my sins and rising again in power. Turn my heart and my mind toward you. Remove the veil, so that I can see clearly. Transform me into your likeness. May your name be glorified. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“And [Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marvelled.”  Mark 5:19-20

The place held a lot of bad memories for him. Leaving town to start a new life somewhere else would be so much easier than staying. Everyone in the area knew about him, had seen him naked. The people had shackled him with chains and watched how, in a crazed frenzy, he’d wrenched himself free and broken his bonds in pieces. He had made his home among the tombs because only the dead could tolerate him. How many people had he hurt when the voices controlled him? No wonder people feared and avoided him.

So, after Jesus had healed him, the man previously possessed by a legion of evil spirits (Mark 5:1-20), begged Jesus to let him go with him. But Jesus said no.

You see, the miracle terrified the local people. They begged Jesus to leave. So, Jesus told the restored man to stay. Jesus instructed him to go and tell his story — how God had healed him — to everyone who knew him. He wanted the man to explain his transformed life and tell how God had mercy on him.

The man obeyed Jesus. He freely shared his shameful past, God’s great mercy, and Jesus’ incredible healing power. Everyone who heard his story marvelled.

God wants to use your story too, no matter how much pain it involves. Tell how the Almighty God freed you from your bad behavior, the anger that controlled you, or your feelings of inadequacy.

Go — by God’s power — and live differently among the people who know you.

Thank you, Lord God, for having mercy on me and saving me. May your Holy Spirit make me bold in telling everyone what you have done for me. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

A lot of people talk about right and wrong these days, as if they were random or variable things. If no absolute truth exists, then the powerful determine what justice is.

Isaiah’s words — written thousands of years ago — sound eerily like our current society.

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey (Isaiah 59:14-15).

Yet, it’s not merely today’s society at large that has a warped view of justice. Too often, Christians doubt God’s justice. Believers read the Old or New Testament passages about God’s wrath and think God acts unfairly.

So, John reminds us in today’s verses from Revelation that all God’s ways are just. God defines and exemplifies righteousness, justice, and truth. All God’s deeds are righteous. Indeed, all creation will worship God because of these attributes.

God can’t act in opposition to his nature. So, it’s impossible for God to do anything unjust. In fact, our internal sense of justice comes from being made in the image of the true and just God. We wouldn’t know what justice meant if God hadn’t revealed it to us.

Therefore, we must approach difficult passages with humility. Our limited knowledge and perspective make it absurd for us to judge God. Instead, by affirming the truth of God’s character and submitting to the Holy Spirit for guidance, we ask God to show us how to correctly view his justice.

Lord God Almighty, you are just and true. Show me how to think and speak and live in a way that reflects that reality. There are so many things that I don’t understand; give me faith to believe that you are who you say you are. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
John 13:14-15

Jesus came to serve.

The night Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus gave His disciples an object lesson they wouldn’t forget. Jesus took off His outer clothes, wrapped a towel around His waist and washed His disciples feet. Surely, the disciples felt awkward. Servants normally performed the lowly, grimy job, not their Teacher. In fact, at first Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet.

Although Jesus deserves all the worship, gratitude and obedience of every living being, He didn’t demand His rights when He walked on earth. Instead, the God of the universe humbled Himself, became a man and ministered to the people He created. His service culminated in Him sacrificing Himself on the cross to buy our redemption.

By His example, Jesus showed us that no job is too menial for His followers. We too must not insist on receiving our due. In fact, leaders in God’s kingdom lead by serving others.

Mark records Jesus words.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

Serving as Jesus did means humbly and willingly doing whatever needs doing. Without thought of recognition or personal gain, a follower of Jesus serves in order to show God’s love.

The opportunities to demonstrate God’s love are endless. Cooking, cleaning, errands, baby-sitting, chauffeuring. From picking up dog droppings to helping someone write a resume, lowering yourself elevates God.

God, forgive my arrogance and my need for recognition. Teach me to serve as Jesus served. May the world see Your love through me.

Thought – Think of a practical way that you can serve someone you know and make a plan to do it today. Next, ask God to provide you with an opportunity to serve a stranger today. Keep your eyes open for the person God puts in your path for you to serve.

By Suzanne Benner
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“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12-13

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers how their ancestors rebelled against God in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. The people of Israel didn’t trust in God’s power to provide. They didn’t believe he cared about their need for water.

The writer then urges first-century believers — and us — to not fall into the same trap. It’s tough to follow God’s commands and live as disciples of Jesus. The daily struggle with sin can harden our hearts. We can begin to doubt God’s goodness.

Sin tempts us with promises that it can’t deliver. Even so, we sometimes think we can give in to temptation — just for a bit. We whisper to our conscience, “Tomorrow I’ll repent and follow God again.”

But, there’s no such thing as past-tense or future-tense discipleship. Hebrews repeatedly uses the keyword “today.” Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7). Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Today.

If we harden our hearts against God’s voice today, what makes us think we will listen tomorrow?

Every day, we can choose to listen to God’s voice or to harden our hearts against him. And every day, we have an opportunity to encourage one another to keep following Jesus, even when the road is difficult.

Dear heavenly Father, I choose to follow you today. Keep my heart soft and sensitive to your voice. Bring other believers into my life to encourage me and may I encourage those around me to keep seeking you. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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“‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”
Isaiah 1:18

We find promises of redemption sprinkled throughout Isaiah’s book. To redeem means to buy back or pay off–to satisfy a debt.

With these words, Isaiah prophesies a day of atonement, a time of cleansing, a sure salvation.

When we examine ourselves honestly, we see our sin. We recognize that we can’t fix our mistakes or stop sinning on our own. That’s why the promise of redemption brings such hope and joy and peace.

We need cleansing. We need forgiveness. We need a Savior.

Listen to God’s words recorded by Isaiah:

The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.” (Isaiah 4:4)

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1)

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)

These promises from the past point to our present reality. Jesus Christ—the Redeemer—came to save us.

God, thank you for giving me the promise of redemption. I acknowledge that You are my King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: You are the first and the last; apart from You there is no God. I proclaim, my Redeemer—the LORD Almighty is his name—is the Holy One. Amen.

Questions: How can I live out the forgiveness Jesus offers me? Do I always see Him as my Savior?

By Suzanne Benner
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Jesus loves you.

He died for you on the cross, and then He rose again, defeating death forever. The pain in this world is not the final word. The empty tomb on Easter morning is!

If a relationship with God is something you crave, it can start here and now.  God cares far less about your words than the attitude of your heart.  So tell Him what you’re thinking.  Here is suggestion:

God, I believe that you created me to know you.  Thank you for sending your son Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay the penalty that I deserve.  I believe that his death and resurrection has restored me to you.  Please forgive me for everything that has offended you.  Take first place in my life and help me become the person that you created me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.


If you prayed this prayer we would love to hear from you . If you would like to know God deeper we can connect you with an email mentor and/or send you some great links.


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Further Understanding:

Four Spiritual Laws

How To Be Sure You Are a Christian

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Reading the Bible – where to start?


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Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

My life, (particularly over the Christmas season), often feels scattered, frenzied, and harried. If that sounds like your life too, take a moment to ponder these words of Jesus, found in Matthew’s gospel.

Jesus invites us to rest.

His invitation draws us. We are so tired. Yet at the same time, we resist this rest. There is so much to do. Our society says rest comes simply with inactivity. So, we put up our feet and watch a movie. We take a luxury vacation to escape the real world for a while. Or, when overwhelmed, we do nothing and allow external forces to push us from one situation to the next. Yet none of these things brings us real rest.
The rest Jesus offers requires action. He instructs us:

  • Take My yoke upon you.
  • Learn from Me.

Jesus tells us to bind ourselves to Him. Like the ancient wooden frame that joined two oxen, Jesus asks us to make His way the framework for our lives. Following God’s commands provides the direction we need and frees us from the bondage of sin. Instead of frantically seeking approval from people, we rest in the knowledge that God loves and accepts us. Worry and fear fade away as we trust God to provide and release control to Him.

Jesus also calls us to learn from Him. His gentle care for us teaches us patience and mercy. His humility and selflessness show us how to unselfishly serve others. Real rest comes when we put our lives in God’s hands and learn from Jesus.

God, I’m floundering. Life is pulling me in too many directions. I want to follow your ways and find real rest. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.Proverbs 18:21

Words. We all know the damage careless talk brings. Most likely we all have spoken and heard things that were better left unsaid.

Yet, words can also encourage, strengthen, comfort, inspire and teach.

Proverbs 10 tells how the wise and upright person uses words:

  • the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life (10:11);
  • the lips of the righteous nourish many (10:21);
  • the mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom (10:31).

Life-giving words come from a righteous and wise person. What incredible power we have been given! Instead of cheap words or trite platitudes, we can offer rare treasures.

The Bible describes a righteous person as one who believes God (Genesis 15:6) and a wise person as one who fears God (Proverbs 9:10). So, when we trust Jesus to save us, and then submit ourselves to His will and His way, we become both righteous and wise.

In the New Testament, James instructs his readers that, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Paul tells believers, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

In a world that bombards us with meaningless and hurtful words, we can speak wise, kind, nourishing truths that build up people.

Holy God, may I understand the incredible power of my words. I want my conversations to be life-giving. Spirit of the living God, make me righteous and wise. Speak through me. Amen.

— Read James, Chapter 3. Write down everything you learn about the tongue and wisdom.

By Suzanne Benner

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“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

What forms your idea of God? Childhood memories, personal experiences, and unmet expectations can create a skewed picture of God. To rightly understand who God is, we must look to the only completely reliable source: God Himself, as He reveals Himself in His Word.

In the verses above, God proclaimed His name to reveal Himself to Moses. English Bibles translate God’s personal name as “LORD.” In Hebrew, only the consonants “YHWH” appear. The name Jews considered so holy that they dared not speak it or even write it completely, is “I AM.” With His name, God corrected the Israelites’ misconceptions. Not a calf formed out of gold earrings (Exodus 32:2-4). Not the image of anything in heaven or on earth. The self-existent One. Not made by anyone.

Merciful and gracious. Although ready to destroy the Israelites because of their idolatry, God relented when Moses interceded on their behalf (Exodus 32:7-14). The people deserved death; God gave mercy.

Faithless, grumbling and quarreling, the people questioned God’s love. Yet God did not change with the Israelites’ feelings. His abounding, steadfast love remained the same.

Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty. This statement must have puzzled Moses. How could God forgive sin without clearing the guilty? How could God be both forgiving and just?

Not until Jesus’ death and resurrection could we truly understand this mystery. But the Bible has been clear all along. God is who He says He is.

Holy God, when you revealed yourself to Moses, he “quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped” (Exodus 34:8). May I do the same. You are. You always have been. You always will be. You are merciful and gracious, far beyond what I can comprehend. Teach me to think rightly about who you are. Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner

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For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinance, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”  Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV

Real peace awaits those who come to Jesus.

When the angels announced peace, they didn’t mean simply a lack of open conflict. Peace on earth doesn’t come through a temporary truce that doesn’t address the underlying hostility, nor by begrudging resignation.

No, peace — the reason Jesus came — means reconciliation with God.

All our problems stem from the moment Adam and Eve’s disobedience severed our relationship with God. Sin destroyed our intimacy with God, our fellowship with other people and our contentment with ourselves.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul addressed the division between Jews and non-Jews in that church. As Gentiles, we were excluded from God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, from the covenants God made, and from His promise to send a Redeemer. Our situation was hopeless (Ephesians 2:12).

But then, Christ came.

Jesus destroyed the barrier, the wall of hostility — all the rules that divided Jew and Gentile, all the things that alienate people from each other. By dying on the cross, the sinless Jesus fulfilled the Law that no human could never keep. Jesus formed the bridge that reconnects us with God.

Jesus is our peace.

Jesus reconciles both us and our enemies to God, because all who come to God must come through Jesus.

Jesus preaches peace — reconciliation — to those who are near to God and to those who are far from God (Ephesians 2:17).

In Christ, we discover not only restored intimacy with God, but the pathway to healed fellowship with our family and our former friends. Jesus brings peace to our souls.

Thank you, Glorious Father, for sending Jesus to be our peace. I know that only Jesus can provide the way to be in right relationship with You. May the reconciliation that Jesus brings flow out my life to all my relationships.

By Suzanne Benner

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Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”Proverbs 17:9

No one likes to be reminded of their mistakes. An insensitive word. A foolish act that costs both money and credibility. The time we let anger control us.

Let’s face it — we all sin.

So, we experience great joy when we understand that God forgives our evil thoughts and actions. The psalmist writes, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).

Unfortunately, while we like to have our wrong deeds erased, as humans, we tend to hold on to the hurt that others cause us. Sometimes, we like the attention. So, we nurse a wound, repeat the story, and gain support from others about the poor treatment we received. Other times, we like the power we gain when we hold a past mistake over someone else’s head.

Each day provides plentiful opportunities to take offense. A friend ignores you, a stranger rudely takes advantage of you, a family member speaks unkindly to you. But, we can choose how we respond.

Covering an offense costs us. Seeking love, more than being right, requires humility and grace. Releasing the offender requires forgiveness. Yet, the reward outweighs the cost. We discover that freedom comes when we “let it go.”

God shows us the way. God loved us when we were, to others, unlovable, so that we could love others in turn. He forgave us, and gives us the power to forgive.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the sound advice this proverb gives me. Help me not to be touchy or super-sensitive. Help me to see beyond the offense to the person. I want to value relationships more than being right. Show me how to let it go. Amen.

Thought — If you have allowed some offense to fester in your heart, confess it to God. Ask Him to show you how to move forward.
Read: The Power of Forgiveness

By Suzanne Benner

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They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5)

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8)

What fills up your being? The book of Acts gives us a compelling description of Stephen. I long to be characterized as he was.

Consider what these qualities would mean in a person’s life:

Full of faith – Faith in God is not wishful thinking or hoping that all our personal desires will be fulfilled. Faith believes that God created us, loved us, redeemed us and is in the process of transforming us.

Full of the Holy Spirit –A life full of the Spirit is in tune with God’s desires and purposes and follows His leading rather than demanding her own way or seeking her own wants or needs.

Full of God’s grace –Patient and generous, she gives herself in service to others without expecting anything in return.

Full of God’s power –Able to withstand the attacks of Satan and the world, her foundation cannot be shaken because it is rooted in Jesus Christ our Rock and our Redeemer.

How do you define faith? What do you most want to be full of and why?

Father we want to be full of You. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit. Fill us with faith. Fill us with Your grace. Fill us with Your power. Amen

Are you walking a Holy Spirit Filled life?

by Suzanne Benner
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