Category: thoughts by Caran Jantzen

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“We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. For our offenses are many in Your sight, and our sins testify against us.” Isaiah 59:11-12a

It’s not faaaaaair!” How many times have I chastised my kids for their whining, discontented attitudes, only to turn around and say the same thing to God?

To God, we all sound like angry bears and distressed birds when we complain about not getting that promotion, or finding a spouse, or whatever else we feel we deserve. But God isn’t laughing when he hears us moaning and grumbling.

He knows that what comes out of our mouths is a direct result of what is in our hearts — in this case, sin.

In these verses, Isaiah was speaking to the nation of Israel, who had turned its back on God and was pursuing its own unjust interests. But those who follow God and His ways should also take these words to heart. Even one little sin can begin to blur our vision of — and our desire for — God’s just plans.

When we repent of our sins and trust that God’s justice is greater than our own fair-o-meter, we will begin to see His hand at work more clearly.

These verses aren’t promising that God will right all wrongs done to us when we confess our sins to Him. But they do give us hope that we won’t languish under the burden of bitterness and self-pity any longer.

When our eyes are fixed on Christ alone, we won’t whine like selfish toddlers when we experience unfair treatment. Instead, we can be confident that He will provide for us in the midst of life’s injustices, and He will see us through them in His perfect time.

God, please forgive me for the sins I have committed today. Help me to trust that You are just, and that Your perfect plan will be accomplished in my life. Use even the unfair circumstances in my life for my spiritual good, and for Your eternal glory. Amen.

Thought: Is there a sin in your life that you need to confess to God? Are you hanging onto self-pity and bitterness because life has dealt you harshly? God is ready and waiting to forgive. All you need to do is ask! Then, in light of God’s just mercy, think of how you might begin to forgive others.

By Caran Jantzen
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David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” 2 Samuel 7:14

David’s life story reads like a page-turning biography. As a shepherd, he fought wild animals and giants; as a King, he led the nation of Israel. He was an accomplished musician and songwriter, people were continually out to kill him, and he committed scandalous sins.

My life, by comparison, seems pretty uneventful. I shuttle the kids to and from school, dance, and soccer; I cook for my family and work on our little farm. I sing on a worship team at church, but I’m certainly not writing the songs. And the only animal I’m fighting with is my moody cat.

Yet, looking deeper into the story of David’s life, I can’t help but find things I relate to as well. He stumbled over temptation and sin, like I do. He loved and trusted God, like I do. He passionately worshiped the Lord, like I do.

David wasn’t afraid to fully engage in the life God called him to. He didn’t consider himself too important that he couldn’t worship and dance before God with all his might. And he wasn’t too proud to prostrate himself before God in repentance when he sinned.

David understood that while men and women tend to focus on outward appearances, actions and abilities, God cares most about the heart. From his public displays of celebration and leadership to his private times of confession and worship, David desired to live his life for God.

Dear Lord, thank You for including David’s life story in the Bible to encourage us in our faith. Thank You that even though we sin, you still love us and forgive us when we come to You in repentance. Help me not compare myself to others or worry about what others are thinking about me. Help me to live unashamed to follow you. Amen.

By Caran Jantzen

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In September 2014, I got the formal diagnosis I had been expecting: General Anxiety Disorder. Until then, I thought something was simply wrong with me. I felt ashamed of these feelings; I tried to keep them hidden inside. And then a barrage of stressors intersected in my life, and all of these feelings spilled out.

Philippians 4:6-7 had once brought me comfort. Now, the phrase, “do not be anxious about anything,” just rubbed salt in the wound. How was this possible? I felt anxious about everything!

As I recited these verses over and over, my focus shifted from what seemed impossible, to the next phrase in verse six, which says, “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I petitioned, yelled at, and cried out to God.

I looked for things I could be thankful of, in spite of how I felt: my supportive and loving husband; a Bible study that grounded me in God’s Word; family members who had walked the path of anxiety before me and who accepted me as I am; the Lord God, who loves me in spite of my brokenness.

I clung to this promise: “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In moments of panic or despair, I surrendered my feelings to God and pleaded for His peace.

And in His great mercy, in the moments I felt I couldn’t go on, God filled my heart with overwhelming peace. He also led me to the right doctor, counselor, and friends who helped me get the support I needed.

He even restored a difficult relationship through my diagnosis; our friendship will always remind me how God can take the difficult, ugly, and even shameful things in our lives and use them for our good and His glory when we trust in Him.

Lord, thank You for the ways You uphold us and care for us as we walk through times of difficulty. Thank You that You transform the pain in our lives into things of beauty, as we trust in You. Thank You that You love us in spite of our brokenness. Amen.

Thought: We all struggle with worry and anxiety at times. God promises that when we surrender our worry to Him, he will guard our hearts and minds and fill us with His peace. If you are struggling with worry right now, claim this promise. Recite this verse to yourself whenever you have anxious thoughts as a reminder that God will help you when you come to Him.

By Caran Jantzen
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Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8

Christmas is over; those shoe boxes full of toys and school supplies for needy children got sent out months ago. The receipts for your tithing at church, and the donations you made to the local charity have been filed. The season of giving has finally come to an end.

Or has it?

The Apostle Paul challenged the first century Church to give financially as they felt led to give, and his words challenge the Church today as well.

Do you struggle with giving?

God does not want you to give as if you were simply following a rule book, or checking something off of a list. God desires that you give as an act of worship, responding to receiving the grace that he has given you through his son, Jesus Christ.

Do you feel led to give?

Give generously, as you feel led! Whether you have an abundance or are living paycheck to paycheck, you can give joyfully and generously. And Paul’s words are an assurance that God can provide for all of your needs, as you continue to do the works he calls you to do.

Most importantly, remember that Jesus gave up his glory and “became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). As you give of your finances, remember what Jesus gave up for you. Rejoice that God can use your giving to help others come to know Jesus as their savior as well.

Father, thank you for providing us with all that we have. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ, to be our savior. Help us to have generous hearts; and help us to trust that you will provide for our needs as we give of our finances. Amen.

Thought: Where is your heart when you think about giving of your finances? If you struggle to give of your money, confess this to the Lord, and ask him to give you a generous, giving heart. Pray that God will give you an opportunity to give, and that he will give you joy as you give to him.

By Caran Jantzen

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For You created me in my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13, 14

Babies are miraculous beings. When I had the privilege of holding each of my children for the first time, I was in awe of God’s handiwork, amazed at the precious life in front of me. I rarely tired of holding them, looking at them, playing with them.

God’s workmanship is obvious on the outside; but it is also evident in each person’s inmost being — the ability to think, feel, create, and communicate.

Our desire for intimate relationships is one of the clearest reflections of God’s personhood in us. God created us to know and be known; to love and be loved; to trust and be trustworthy. Ultimately, God has created each of us to be in an intimate relationship with Himself.

But in our broken world, our relationships are often less than ideal.

Parents don’t always care for their children in a way that reflects our Heavenly Father’s love and compassion. Friends, a spouse, or children may take these relationships for granted. We may even neglect our Creator, the God who loves us unconditionally.

However, when Jesus dwells within us, He begins to mend the wounds of our broken relationships. Do the hurts of past or present relationships disappear? Not always. But He will comfort us with a richer intimacy than any human being could offer.

Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me to have a relationship with You, the Almighty God. Thank You for the people in my life, both easy and challenging. Strengthen me to reflect Jesus in each relationship I have, as I find comfort and rest in my relationship with You. Amen.

Thoughts: Have you been taking your relationship with your Heavenly Father for granted? Ask for His forgiveness. Pray that He will give you a deeper desire to spend time with Him through prayer and Scripture reading. Is there someone you need to apologize to? Pray that God will give you gentle and humble words when the opportunity arises to speak to them.

By Caran Jantzen

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Nehemiah 8:10b The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

“…For the joy of the Lord is your strength.Nehemiah 8:10b

Like most people, I have longed to be happy. I have striven to make choices that lead to positive outcomes — eating healthy to avoid illness, choosing uplifting friends instead of those who lead me astray, working hard in order to be successful in my education, my job, and my family.

Over the years, I have faced many trials within my family and myself personally. Illnesses, deaths, broken relationships, anxiety, and depression have all been obstacles to my happiness — and have all happened outside of my control.

Somewhere along my Christian journey, I got caught up in the lie that I could control the course of my life: that I could pursue happiness, and achieve it. That the negative circumstances in my life were just detours I needed to navigate around in order to find my way back to my happy place.

God used my husband’s life-changing illness three years ago to open my eyes to a sin I was holding near to my heart. In the middle of one of my most difficult trials, I confessed that I was pursuing happiness instead of pursuing God alone. God’s joy washed over my heart.

His joy gave me the ability to be thankful in my present circumstances instead of focusing on trying to escape them. His joy enabled me to trust Him completely, instead of wrestling with my fears and doubting His love. It freed me from the worry I had for my own circumstances so I could help others in their own trials.

Lord, thank You for promising Your people the gift of joy through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Open my eyes to any sin that might be stopping me from experiencing Your joy. Fill me with Your joy so that I can glorify You in the midst of my circumstances. Amen.

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Devotional - IS IT WORTH IT?

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:3, 13

The headlines are full of stories about violence, tragedy, and suffering. Storms, cancer rates, mass shootings — it might feel impossible to believe that God can work in the midst of these tragedies. How can anything good come from something so horrible, we ask. As followers of Christ, these are the dark places into which we are called.

We are called to go to our neighbor who just lost her husband and is now a single mom; we are called to go to the marginalized groups who feel vulnerable, targeted and afraid; we are called to go to our estranged brother who just got diagnosed with cancer; we are called to go to the homeless camp on the edge of town.

But we aren’t called to go into the darkness alone; we are to carry Christ’s love with us, and lavish it on those who are suffering and in need. Good can come out of a community’s pain, out of a family’s grief, out of a person’s despair when the love of God moves His people to love and to serve them.

Without God’s love, we question whether it is worth it to go to the unsavory side of town; we wonder if new immigrants really care if we make the effort to visit them; we second guess whether we should bother picking up the phone to call our elderly neighbor.
With God’s love, we don’t ask, “Is it worth it?” but rather proclaim, “He is worth it!”

God, please fill me with faith to trust that You are good, hope to believe that You are working all things out for the good of those who love You, and the love of Christ, which moves me to be Your hands and feet to serve those in need. Amen.

By Caran Jantzen

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devotional on fruit of the spirit

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

For me, gardening is an exercise in trust. I drop tiny seeds into ground, believing that most of them will sprout and grow into ample food for my family and myself.

In faith, I thin out my rows of seedlings, pulling out perfectly healthy plants to make room for others to grow, confident that this will actually give me a better yield.

One of the more difficult parts about gardening is pruning. I find myself second-guessing how much of a branch to cut off, or if I really need to get rid of all but a couple of raspberry canes.
It seems counter-intuitive that less branches would equal more fruit.

In the same way, God takes His clippers to me, His branch. He doesn’t hold back; He prunes away all of the unfruitful parts of my life.

Any desire that would take glory away from Him is snipped off. Any plan that feeds my ego rather than a Christ-like spirit is stripped away.

He would rather that I would be a spindly stalk that produces fruit than a lush bush covered with leaves that produces nothing of value. And when I really think about it, so would I.

God, help me to accept the pruning You do in my life, and trust that You know what is best for me. As You prune, may Your Spirit work in my life to make me more like the true vine, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.Psalm 103:11-12

Years ago, our family traveled to Paris and visited the Eiffel Tower. From the lookout at the top, we could see the city stretched out before us. The cars looked like toys; the people like ants.

Yet, when we looked upward, we felt no closer to the sky or clouds than when we were on the ground. From that vantage point, we gained a clearer perspective of just how minuscule we are compared to the enormity of the heavens.

The psalmist David describes God’s love for His children being as immense as the heavens are vast. Author Frederick M. Lehman described God’s love in a similar way in his well-known hymn:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made…
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

As the psalmist reflected on God’s love, he looked ahead towards a future savior as an expression of that love; we can rejoice, knowing that Jesus Christ is that savior, and that He paid the debt we owed for our sins.

If you are God’s child, you can live in light of His merciful, unconditional love. You have been freed from sin’s burden of guilt and shame. Know that as infinitely far as the east is from the west is how far your wrong doings are from you.

God, Your love is amazing! Thank You for revealing Your love to me through creation, through Your Word, and through Jesus. Thank You for lifting the burden of sin off of me. Help me to continue to trust You and obey Your Word as an expression of my love for You. Amen.

By Caran Jantzen

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Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

Do you rest on the fact that you are generally a good person who tries to do good things? Or do you rest in Christ Jesus, knowing that He alone is where your hope is found? King David penned the words in Psalm 139 knowing that the God of the universe could be trusted with his most personal thoughts, his most shameful sins, and the worries that kept him up at night. David’s hope was securely anchored in God, trusting that God would lead him along the path of everlasting life as He convicted him of his sins.

Asking God to reveal can be painful. Do I really want God to search my heart — a heart that struggles with bitterness, jealousy, and anger? Do I actually want God to hear those insecure, worried thoughts I think? Do I truly want God to point out everything in me that offends Him?

The reason I pray this prayer isn’t so that I can be reminded of my struggles and sins, but because my hope is rooted in God, who is gracious and merciful. These lines to the hymn “Solid Rock” are a perfect picture of the grace and mercy we receive when we put our hope in Christ Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

I take great comfort in these truths; I know that it is not the state of my heart, but because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, that I can stand before God, worthy of everlasting life.

Jesus, thank You that I have the hope of everlasting life because of Your sacrifice on the cross. Thank You for pointing out the sin in my heart, my thoughts, and my actions so that I may grow to become more like You. Lead me along the path of righteousness and truth today. Amen.

By Caran Jantzen

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devotional on doubt

Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31

Nearly three years ago, my husband became critically ill. Initially, the fear, anger, hopelessness, and exhaustion consumed us. We asked God, “Why?” for months. We were slow to hear God asking us in return, “Why are you doubting?” Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on doubters.

Roughly 2,000 years ago, Jesus asked Peter the question, “Why did you doubt?

Just before this, Jesus had asked Peter to do what seemed impossible: walk on water. Enthusiastic trust drew Peter out of the boat; focusing on the storm raging around him, and not the Creator of the wind and waves, is what caused him to begin to sink.

When Peter realized that he was sinking, he cried out to the Lord Jesus, “Save me!” Jesus grabbed his hand and lifted him out of the water. When my husband and I felt like we were drowning in our own circumstances and fears, we too cried out to God to save us, and He did.

Our fear was replaced with unshakable peace and calm. Although we still found ourselves in very difficult circumstances, the Lord sustained us in a way we had never before known possible. When we fixed our eyes on Jesus, and not on the wind and waves around us, He rescued us from our burden of worry and doubt.

After Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat, the text tells us that Peter and his friends worshiped Jesus. Although we didn’t know at that time if my husband would recover or even live, our doubts were transformed to worship as we daily put our trust in him.

Lord Jesus, You are my Savior and Lord. Forgive me for focusing on my burdens instead of You. Lift me out of the worries I find myself sinking into; I want to put my trust and hope in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

By Caran Jantzen


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“‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?‘” Luke 15:4

devotionalI have about 100 chickens on our hobby farm. They are in a large, fenced pasture and they enjoy roaming around in search of weeds and bugs.

Almost daily, one or two scratch along the fence until they have made a little hollow, and are able to squeeze under to explore the fresh grass on the other side. We have had to come up with some creative ways to get them back.

People aren’t so different. We peck at new ideas, and scratch around looking for ways to keep busy and active. As Christians, we sometimes push up against the fence of God’s guidelines, testing its strength, its value.

We may even start digging along this fence, looking for ways to escape God’s direction or discipline in favor of greener pastures.

For one, this may mean visiting the pub more regularly to help cope with stress. For another, it may mean telling your spouse you have to work late in order to socialize with a colleague of the opposite sex.

This is where the good news of Jesus comes in. He won’t leave us where we are. He follows us under the fence and into the pub. He isn’t afraid to visit the darkest places of society, or our hearts.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “He (God) will not leave you or forsake you.” Just as a shepherd goes after his lost sheep, the Lord will continue to pursue us because He loves us.

Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You would come after me to draw me back to Yourself. Help me to trust that Your plans for my life are good, and protect my heart from desiring the things of this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By Caran Jantzen

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Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
John 13:12b-15

How many of us has heard the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do”? As a teen, I felt that catching my parents doing something less than perfect was license to do the same. Did they speed on the highway? So could I.

As a parent, I feel the weight of this responsibility. My children are witness to my less than perfect life. They could choose, as I did, to use my actions as an excuse to do the same.
There is only one person who lived a truly perfect life. Daily, Jesus modeled unconditional submission to God the Father, and selfless compassion for others. He set the perfect example of how to love God and the people around him.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he did more than wash off the dust from their busy days. He gave them a picture of what it looks like to participate in God’s kingdom. Christ Jesus served his followers; now it was their turn to serve others.

We have the opportunity to serve people all around us in our daily lives. Our homes and churches; our places of work or school; the sports practices or dance classes we attend; the stores, parks, and rec centers we visit; these are the settings in which we can share God’s love with others through our servant-like attitude and actions.

Jesus, thank you for setting the perfect example for us to follow. Thank you for serving us and offering your life for us; help us to live with an attitude of service toward others. Amen.

Pray that God would bring someone into your life today whom you can serve. Go about your day expecting to be interrupted by a person who needs to see God’s love through your helping hands.

By Caran Jantzen

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Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” James 4:8 (NLT)

When I was a young child, I remember standing on my tiptoes on my bed so that I could look out of my window and peer into the starry night sky. The view filled me with awe; it also made me feel that God was very far away, because in my childish understanding, He was behind the sky.

I am amazed by the fact that, because of Jesus, I can come close to God. And I am so thankful that God will come close to me, a sinner saved by Christ’s righteousness alone.

As gracious as God is however, I cannot approach Him on my terms. In this passage (verse 8-10), the author James states several ways to come close to God.

Confront my sin and its destructive power in my own life and the lives around me. I need to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness. I will also pray that God will keep me from delighting in the temporary pleasure that my sin might bring.

Purify my heart by studying God’s Word, and spending time with Him in prayer. I will also ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there is any area in my life where I am being double-minded — that is, going back and forth between God’s plan and the world’s path.

Submit myself humbly to God and His will. God wants to use all of me — my actions, health, commitments, possessions, thoughts, schedule, habits, future plans, and emotions — for His glory.

Father God, thank You that You have made a way for me to come close to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please forgive me for my sin, and help me to submit myself to You in every circumstance I am in today. Amen.

Do you desire to be closer to God? Make a deliberate choice today to confront any sin in your life, purify your heart through Scripture reading and prayer, and submit yourself humbly to God. His Word tells us that when we come close to God in these ways, He will come close to us!

By Caran Jantzen

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Thoughts by All thoughts by Caran Jantzen Thoughts by Women

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Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.” Psalm 15:1-5 (NLT)

There is a dear lady at the Bible study I attend. Her clothes look old, and they often don’t match. She doesn’t wear make-up, and she keeps her hair plain.

As I have gotten to know her, I have seen her deep desire to grow in her knowledge of God, and to serve Him whole-heartedly. She comes early to help set up, and she stays late to help put things away. She never seeks attention for herself, and always gives glory to God.

In the secular world, she would be considered a nobody. But to God, she is beautiful, valuable, treasured. She is one of the faithful Christ followers we are called to honor.

The Bible gives us many lists of attributes that describe genuine Christ followers. Those in our culture, and even Christians who are distracted by the world around them, see these lists as nothing but a bunch of rules; they might describe them as backwards, old-fashioned, or only for legalists.

However, Scripture describes the life of a believer in this way because living this way brings glory to God, and joy to those who serve Him.

The Apostle Paul reminds us

the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25a).

What doesn’t make sense to the world around us makes perfect sense to God; and what strikes the world as incredibly wise doesn’t even compare to the foolishness of God.

Lord God, You are infinitely wise. Help me to trust Your Word, even when it is difficult and makes no sense to me. I believe that it makes sense to You, and You are trustworthy. Amen.

Thought: Read the list of attributes in Psalm 15 again. Is there something from this list that you are struggling to accept? Pray that the Lord would convict you of your sin and change your heart so that you would desire His wisdom and not the wisdom of the world.

By Caran Jantzen

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Thoughts by All thoughts by Caran Jantzen Thoughts by Women