Category: thoughts 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.


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Further Understanding:

Four Spiritual Laws

How To Be Sure You Are a Christian

Now that I am a Christian,What’s Next? – 4 Starter Lessons in a printable pdf file

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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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. In these verses in Ephesians, lies 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 likable 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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Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16

I need grace. Selfishness keeps me from faithfully representing Jesus every day. Pride contaminates the service I offer God. Fear submerges the longing to love Jesus most of all. Maybe you can relate.

So, when the writer of Hebrews tells us we can find grace at God’s throne, it’s a great relief. Not only can we hope to find grace, but we can come to God confidently, even boldly, expecting to receive grace.

Yet, we shouldn’t simply think positively, believe in ourselves, or conjure up confidence. Paul had a long list of good works and religious pedigree, but he didn’t put any confidence in those things (Philippians 3:3-7).

To understand where our confidence comes from, we need to look at the preceding verses in the Hebrews:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Because Jesus always did God’s will and never sinned, His death paid the penalty for our sins. The confession Hebrews indicates is: Jesus is Lord; God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

Our confidence, therefore, doesn’t come from our own goodness, but from Jesus’ sacrifice.

The author of Hebrews urges us to daily seek God and heed His voice. The more we pursue Jesus, the more we understand our need for grace. And only those who admit their need for grace will approach the throne of grace.

Gracious God, I come before you confident that Jesus paid for my sins. I ask you for the grace I desperately need. Grace to live a holy life, to overcome temptation, to face the struggles of today and the fears of tomorrow. May your power flow through me. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
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My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Before the invention of call display, you could identify some voices on the telephone by a single word. Familiarity allows us to recognize certain people instantly.

In the same way, using a story about sheep, Jesus says we can know His voice. Those who know Jesus’ voice, listen to Him and follow Him.

In John chapter 10,Jesus describes Himself as a shepherd and people as sheep: • His sheep listen to His voice (10:3) • He calls His own sheep by name (10:3) • His sheep follow Him because they know His voice (10:4) • He knows His sheep (10:14) • His sheep know Him (10:14) • His sheep listen to His voice (10:16)

We can know God’s voice. God reveals Himself through His Word. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us — the sheep (John 10:14-15). When we surrender to Jesus and trust Him as our Savior, we know Him and we know His voice.

Followers of Jesus listen to God’s voice. Just like sheep listen to their shepherd, believers listen to what God says. And hearing is implied in listening. Not only can we know God’s voice, we can hear Him speak! God speaks to our hearts through His Word, with the quiet whisper of His Spirit to our spirits, through our consciences, through wise advice, and even circumstances.

Listening to Jesus means doing what He says and going where He goes. Followers listen and listeners follow. The two actions go hand in hand.

Heavenly Father, thank you for this incredible truth: that I can know your voice. I want to follow you, so help me to listen and respond to everything you say. Amen.

By Suzanne Benner
Used by Permission

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They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25

Human beings were created to worship. Unfortunately, we are easily misled into worshiping men who were created rather than our Creator, God Almighty. We must guard against worshiping men or allowing people to worship us.

The New Testament gives examples of our propensity to worship men in Acts 10:25, 26:

As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’”

Even the apostle John was tempted to worship a created being:

And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’” (Revelation 22:8, 9)

Why are we so prone to worship men? When are you tempted to allow others to worship you?

Holy God, You alone are worthy of our worship. May I never worship anyone but You, nor allow anyone to worship me. Amen.

Thought: Ask God to show you if there’s anything in your life that you are worshiping.

by Suzanne Benner
Used by Permission

https://thelife.com/devotionals

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Comments: If you don’t see our response form, please go to https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/s-benner_born-to-worship/

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