Bible Reading Plan
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Weekends: Read any passages of your choice or catch up if you’ve fallen behind 🙂

 
 
 
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How To Soul Journal
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Journal Entries
Every weekday you will find a journal entry here from someone different in our church family. 
 
Click the scripture title and scroll down to see a comments section where you can ask questions, share insights and post your own SOUL Journal entry for the day!
 

Nehemiah 9

Scripture

Nehemiah 9:31-33

 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 

Observation

Israel is currently a province of the Empire of Persia, living under heavy Persian taxes and obligations and they desire to be freed from this oppression.

They come before the Lord in repentance and fasting.  They take time to give praise and thanks, confess their sins – acknowledging that they are where they are due to their failure to submit (or stay submitted) to God – and they conclude this chapter with resolving to a life of new obedience.

Understanding

God is unchanging.

As they recount their history, it is notable that, in each of the Israelites cycles, the motions get deeper and deeper – as if they fall a little further with each one…but God remains the same throughout.  Each time they find themselves at the bottom of this cycle, in slavery, they cry out to God and return to Him; and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, He hears them, has compassion on them and returns them to freedom from their oppressors.  He remains gracious and merciful, righteous and faithful.

God desires relationship built on trust and obedience.

 

God desires relationship with us, His children; but He also desires/requires obedience.  You’ll note, though, it’s not obedience for the pure sake of obedience…obedience to God comes with the trust and understanding that He desires what’s best for us.  As we see here, each time the Israelites turned away, they found themselves living in slavery and oppression (not God’s best); and when they repented and returned to God, they find themselves provided for, cared for, overflowing with blessings.

God never turns away the repentant heart.

As many times as the Israelites turned away, when they returned with truly repentant hearts, God would restore them.  His forgiving heart and willingness to redeem as a result of repentance is seen throughout the Bible (78 times in the NIV!).  Though we sometimes come to a place where we feel God must be so tired of us asking forgiveness over and over for the same thing, He never grows weary of us and never turns away the repentant heart. 

Life Application

God, you are so good.  Help me to trust and obey – remembering that you love me, see the big picture and want what is best for me.  And, when I fail, God, thank you for being willing to forgive me.  Help me to always return to you quickly, to maintain a humble and repentant heart and to turn away from the things that draw me away from you.  God, show me the areas of my heart, the areas of my life that are not yet fully submitted to you; may I lay them down today and come running into my Father’s arms.  I love you, thank you and praise you for all that you are!

In your name we pray, Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.

– Rei



Nehemiah 8

Scripture

Nehemiah 8:12,16

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.

Observation – What does it say?

The wall and gates around Jerusalem had finally been rebuilt, men were appointed in various roles of leadership, and the people were adjusting to their new life back in Jerusalem. When everyone had settled, they re-gathered in Jerusalem for the reading of the Book of the Law by Ezra the teacher. As he read, the people discovered in the seventh month of each year (which they were currently in) God required them to hold a feast of celebration to himself. As part of this celebration they were to build temporary shelters to live in for that month.

The people were filled with joy as they heard Ezra teach because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. But, they didn’t stop content with new knowledge. They put it into practice by building temporary shelters and living in them. And the result was that they were filled with joy!

Understanding – What does it mean?

God intends for us to not merely be entertained by Bible teachers, but to put their teachings into practice!

I have to admit I’ve played the fool. I have had many times where I’ve listened to a sermon and got excited about the new understanding I gained, but then didn’t do a thing with that new information. I failed to be intentional in putting it into practice. Lord, have mercy!

James, the brother of Jesus, warns us in his letter:

James 1:22-25           

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

It’s those who don’t forget what they’ve heard, but do it that are blessed. The Israelites took the time to build temporary shelters and sacrificed the comforts of home by living in them. You would think they would be bummed about having to do that. But they weren’t. In fact, the opposite happened! Scripture says that they hadn’t had that great of a celebration since the days of Joshua and that “their joy was very great”  (Neh. 8:17). This is the result of putting God’s word into practice in our lives!

Life Application

Don’t merely listen to the word, do what it says!

God, forgive me for the times I’ve listened and then walked away and forgot about it. Forgive us for coming to church to be entertained with no real intention of allowing you to transform us. May we be a people who don’t just listen but are passionate and intentional about obeying you. Thank you that you bless us and fill us with joy as we put your word into practice! Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Nehemiah 7

Scripture
 
Nehemiah‬ ‭7:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
“I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.”
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Observation-What does it say?
 
The wall of Jerusalem was finally complete. Nehemiah had to stay true to his promise to the King to return to Persia after his mission to rebuild Jerusalem was completed (see Nehemiah 2:6). He appointed 2 men, Hanani and Hananiah to take charge of Jerusalem in his absence. 

Understanding-What does it mean?

It wasn’t the strongest, fastest, smartest, bravest, richest, most handsome or beautiful who were chosen to protect Jerusalem. It was the person who feared God and had integrity.

 
Nehemiah showed integrity after the wall was built, by planning to return to the king in Persia as he had promised. He handed off the baton to other men who had integrity and feared God too.  Fearing God means having respect for God. The definition of integrity is honesty and having strong moral principles. 
The responsibility of taking charge of Jerusalem had to be given over to someone trustworthy and faithful. Essentially, these men were there to protect Jerusalem from sinful influences. They were chosen not because of what they had to offer on the surface, but because the motivations in their heart were pure. A big job like that could not be given to someone that could not be trusted. 
 
“All a personʼs ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭16:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Life Application

The more faithful we are with the little, he entrusts to us even more. But, it is impossible to fear God and remain faithful without the help of His Holy Spirit. 

Working hard to be a person of integrity is very draining because no one is perfect and it was not meant to come out of independence from Him, but rather interdependence, with Him carrying a bulk of the weight. Jesus is the only One who is perfect and as we continue to pursue Him daily, God will continue using us more and more. 

Dear Jesus, I pray for Your Spirit to do His work in my life to help me remain faithful to the tasks You’ve entrusted to me. I also pray for continual healthy fear of You as Lord and authority over my life. Take my heart and seal it for You alone. Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Michelle Gaddi
 
References: John Gill exposition, Oxford dictionary and Matthew Henry commentary 


Nehemiah 6

Scripture

Nehemiah 6:9

“They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

Nehemiah was given a great task by God. He was to rebuild the wall that once protected Jerusalem from it’s enemies. Now right as Nehemiah was just about to finish, Sanballat and Geshem, would send out an invitation to Nehemiah. They wanted to meet with him. But Nehemiah knew they were just trying to pull him away from completing God’s work, and that they wanted to do him harm. So he refused to meet with them, telling them that he was doing a great work, and the work would cease if he were to meet with them (vs. 3). This back and forth went on four more times, ending with the same result. Then the fifth time Sanballat and Geshem tried to spread rumors  about Nehemiah. The rumors stated that Nehemiah and the Israelites were planning to rebel, and Nehemiah was only rebuilding the wall to become their king. But Nehemiah knew these rumors to be false. He stood his ground, followed his higher calling from God, trusted that God would decimate such rumors for him in order for this task to be completed. Then when the wall was rebuilt, all of the Israelites’ enemies were disheartened, because they knew this work was done by God (vs. 15).

Understanding-What does it mean?

God’s people are often tempted or distracted to leave God’s work unfinished. But we must stay the course, trust God, and see what He can do. When it is all said and done, God will be glorified.

Nehemiah was a man on a mission…a mission from God. He did not let the constant nagging of “peers” to stray him from his calling. He did not even let nasty rumors that were spread about him sway him from completing the task at hand. He could have easily fell down the path and off track by using his time and energy to “put out the fire” of meeting with Sanballat and Geshem regarding these false rumors about him. Instead, Nehemiah trusted God. He followed through on God’s agenda above his own. In the end, his enemies were disheartened and were handed defeat. God’s will was accomplished and His name was glorified because of it. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”-‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”-Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Life Application

Nothing in this world can give us a better sense of accomplishment and peace than fulfilling God’s calling for our lives..

When I finally get to meet God face to face, and He holds me accountable for all the things He has called me to do while I was still on Earth, I would hate for my report card to read like it did for me when I was in junior college- (Lots of Incompletes and Withdrawals). Instead, how awesome would it be to be able to please my God, my Lord and Savior, and my Master. Imagine if God would reply, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”-(‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬a ‭NLT). How satisfying would that be? 

All I know is when I leave this earth, I only hope and pray that I was able to do my best with what God has given me.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
 To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi


Nehemiah 5

Scripture

Nehemiah 5:9
So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?

Observation
Directly after confronting outward opposition to the rebuilding of the wall Nehemiah must now deal with internal strife resulting from the poverty and hunger that some of the Jews are experiencing due to the rebuilding effort, the taxes of Persia and the exorbitant interest that the richer Jews are extorting from their countrymen in repayment of loans made in order to buy food. The situation is so dire that many families have been forced to mortgage their lands and even sell their children into slavery to eke out a living and meet their financial obligations. In response to the outcry of the poor, Nehemiah calls together the rich nobles and rulers to implore them to stop taking advantage of their poorer brethren in charging interest on any loans; a practice expressly prohibited in the Law of Moses. Nehemiah points to his own generosity in redeeming (buying back) some Jews from slavery, in feeding over 150 people at his own expense and his refusal to require of his countrymen the usual tribute and provisions for the governor’s table as an example of how the nobles and rulers should renounce their greed and free their countrymen from their oppressive obligations. The nobles renounce their usury and restore the land, vineyards and homes taken as collateral and repayment, and return the interest previously paid to them.
 
Understanding
Nehemiah implores the nobles and rulers to do the right thing for two reasons – for fear of the Lord and for how their decisions and actions reflect on the Name and reputation of The Lord. People can excuse and engage in just about any behavior they desire, as there is never an end to the number of reasons and rationalizations we can use to justify any action or attitude. However the filters that my decisions must survive are the same now as in Nehemiah’s day – that being, “Is my decision or action obedient to God’s word and motivated by awe, respect and gratitude; and does it result in praise, honor and glory to the Name of the Lord God Almighty?”
 
Life Application
Without the proper respect and dreadful awe of the Lord, I will never fear the relational and circumstantial consequences of my actions and, without concern for how my actions reflect on the Lord whose name I bear, my sin, disobedience and rebellion will give unbelievers and scoffers the means by which they may defame and bring reproach to His holy name and character. Lord, may I reject any choice, activity or attitude that is not in total agreement with the letter and spirit of your word; not out of fear of losing my salvation but for fear of not properly honoring the great love, grace and mercy that purchased my salvation; and may I be willing to crucify any of the same if they result in anything less than the exaltation and magnification of the Name of the Lord.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
-Gary Parker


Nehemiah 4

Scripture

Nehemiah 4:4-6

Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of[b] the builders.

So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

Observation

The Jews were rebuilding a wall around Jerusalem.  In Chapter 1, Nehemiah learns that during the exile of the Jewish remnant, the “wall of Jerusalem [was] broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (v. 3).  He prays to God – asking for forgiveness and asking for favor from the king.  He visits the king and expresses the sadness in his heart – asking if he can go to the land of his ancestors and help rebuild the wall (Neh. 2:1-4); the king grants his request (because of God’s hand).  Chapter 3 shares the details of how everyone came together to rebuild it.

Yet, often when God’s work is being done, there is attack and ridicule from the enemy.

  In this case, the enemies of the Jews include Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs and the Ammonites.  When Sanballat hears of the rebuilding, he gets angry and begins mocking them.  Tobiah the Ammonite joins him in the mockery.  The Jews, knowing this, cry out to God.

Understanding

Seek God first.

The rebuilding of the wall began with Nehemiah’s cry to God.  He was saddened by what he learned; but he didn’t wallow in the sadness, he sought God.  In doing so, Nehemiah felt that God had planted in his heart the desire to help rebuild the wall. 

When the enemy comes, do not get distracted, do not give up – seek Him and continue to carry out what He’s called you to do.

When Nehemiah and the Jews were ridiculed for rebuilding the wall, they again sought God.  They did not turn to revenge; they did not give up.  They sought God, asked Him to deal with those that were coming against them…and then they got right back to work.

We are called to do the same.

Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Life Application

God, I’m so grateful to be called your child.  And thankful that you love me and seek relationship with me.  Thank you for the desires that you have placed in my heart and the ways in which you have equipped me, prepared me and called me to carry them out.  As I seek to be centered in your will, please give me renewed passion for these desires and help me remain steadfast, regardless of the enemy’s attempts to distract or dishearten me.  May I seek you and trust you throughout and, as a result, may your will be done.

In your name we pray, Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.



Nehemiah 3

Scripture

Nehemiah 3:17

17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah,carried out repairs for his district.18 Next to him…19 Next to him…20 Next to him…21 Next to him…

Observation – What does it say?

This entire chapter lists the massive amount of people whom God compelled through Nehemiah to join in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and it’s gates. The thousands of feet worth of wall to be rebuilt were divided among all the people to make the job manageable.

Understanding – What does it mean?

God supplies everything necessary to accomplish his will.

Notice God’s hand in each step:

  1. He stirred in Nehemiah a desire to rebuild.
  2. He gave Nehemiah favor with his leadership (the king) to rebuild.
  3. He gave Nehemiah favor with the men he was asking to help rebuild.

Philippians 2:13 NLT “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

God not only gives us the desire to do what pleases him, but the power to do it! He supplies all we need – discipline, strength, resources, support, etc. He changes hearts, gives us favor, and provides direction us to accomplish his will. Ultimately, God is the one doing the heavy lifting.

It’s wasn’t Nehemiah’s eloquent request that caused the king to be pleased to grant it. Nehemiah said, “Because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” (Neh 3:8).

Life Application

First of all, I am reminded not to take myself too seriously. My responsibility isn’t to make something happen, but rather to simply lean into what God is asking of me.

Second, I am encouraged that God’s clearly communicated will for us to “multiply Christ-followers everywhere” is something that he will bring about.

As long as we are surrendered to God and obedient to him, he will supply everything necessary for us to accomplish his will!

God, we put our trust in you today! Thank you that you don’t set us up for failure. Praise you for supplying all we need to successfully carry out your will for our lives. Please show us any ways we haven’t been surrendered to you or areas we’ve been disobedient. Move upon our hearts as you moved upon Nehemiah’s! In Jesus’ name, amen.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.
 
– Levi Thompson


Nehemiah 2

Scripture

Nehemiah 2:20a

“The God of heaven will make us prosper and we his servants will arise and build…”

Observation-What does it say?

Nehemiah went to the king with a sad countenance. The king noticed his sadness and asked what was wrong. Nehemiah responded that he was sad because of the state Jerusalem was in. He desired to rebuild it and the king ended up releasing him to that project/mission.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Nehemiah had a heart for rebuilding Jerusalem and did not just sit back and let someone else rebuild it.  He took the steps needed to start the process because God’s hand was upon him.

 
What I like about Nehemiah was that he didn’t just stay depressed. He also didn’t  just pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He took action to make it happen because He knew God was on His side. The steps he took to start the rebuilding process were:
 
1. He asked the king’s permission to go.
2. He gave the king a certain time frame when he would get the job done.
3. He had a plan. He requested letters as he had already foreseen some of the obstacles ahead, such as safely passing through until Judah and also obtaining the materials to rebuild. 
 
Life Application 

Take action. We must not wait for someone else to step up and rebuild. 

When God is on our side, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) The Lord has strengthened us with His Holy Spirit, His Word, wise counsel from parents and Spirit filled leaders of the faith, and blessed us with a brain to accomplish His will. Whether we are working to build His Kingdom, rebuild a strained relationship, or rebuild our own lives after straying from His best for us and dealing with those consequences, the Lord has given us everything we need to take action.

Dear Lord, thank You for Nehemiah’s example. He didn’t stay sad when his heart was breaking over the state of Jerusalem. He took action and did what He needed to do with the resources You had already given him. Please forgive me for the many times I have looked at situations hopelessly and did not operate on Your strength, not seeing things through Your eyes,  but my own. Please continue to give me clarity on rebuilding certain areas of my life and help me operate boldly in Your authority. Amen. 

 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Michelle Gaddi


Nehemiah 1

Scripture

Nehemiah 1:4

“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”

Observation

Nehemiah was a servant of King Artaxerxes, who served as the king’s cup bearer, and was living at the fortress of Susa. It was then when he received a visit from his brother Hanani. Nehemiah asked his brothers how things were going in Jerusalem. His brother told him that things were not going so well over there. Nehemiah was told that the people of Jerusalem were living without walls to protect them from their enemies, and that the people were being constantly harassed and oppressed. Nehemiah knew it was because of the people’s unfaithfulness of keeping God’s laws and decrees which caused them to be in that predicament. Nehemiah also knew of God’s promise to His people. He knew if the people would repent from their sinful ways and return to God, that God would rescue them and bring them back, no matter how far His people have been exiled. So the first thing Nehemiah did was get on his knees and he prayed. Nehemiah’s heart broke for God’s people. Verse 4 says that he mourned, fasted and prayed for days. Nehemiah confessed not only the people’s sins, but his own. He interceded on behalf of the people of Jerusalem, in hopes that God will forgive and restore.

Understanding

 God often stirs people’s hearts before He moves in their circumstances.

In this case God stirred a strong compassion in Nehemiah’s heart for the people of Jerusalem. Nehemiah felt compelled to pray for God’s people. He felt the people’s pains and fears. He identified with the people. His heart broke for them. This is why he felt it so vital that he stepped in on their behalf, and he fasted and prayed for days. He knew if anything was going to change the people of Jerusalem’s circumstances, it would have to come from God.

I know we are now living in a world with so much terror, so much violence, and so much uncertainties that surrounds it. That is why we need more people like Nehemiah in it. People whose hearts break for the broken, and are willing to pray and fast to God on their behalf.  And with today marking a day in which a new Presidential regime is elected, who knows what is to come next?! All I know is if we expect God to step in and be present in our circumstances, we should all seek Him wholeheartedly, and pray. We need to pray on behalf of this nation, and it’s leaders. We need to pray for all of God’s people . We need to understand if God is going to move in any of our situations, it’s going to start from within our own hearts.

“And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:10-11‬ ‭NLT

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”-1 Timothy‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT

Life Application

Pray for God’s voice to be heard as change takes place.

God, I pray for this nation as we strive to move forward and not backwards. Give our leaders your wisdom of how to run this nation so that we may be blessed . I pray for Your people to step up as the leaders You called us all to be (in our homes, workplaces, and everyday life). I pray for courage amongst ourselves, so that we can stand up for what is right in Your eyes, and Your voice be heard amongst all decisions that are made. Give us strength and perseverance to do this God. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi

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Judges 21

Scripture

Judges 21:2-3
The people went to Bethel, where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. “Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”

Observation

Because of in-fighting between the tribes of Israel, Benjamin finds itself on the brink of extinction because, due to a foolish vow, there are no Israelite women to be given in marriage to the men of Benjamin. After implying that God is somehow to blame for this dilemma, the tribes concoct a scheme to destroy the city of Jabesh Gilead for not answering the call to battle; yet spare the virgins of the city so that they may be given to the surviving men of Benjamin. This plan leaves them short 200 virgins. To make up the difference, the tribes resort to kidnapping as a way of circumventing the rash vow that led them into this mess in the first place.
 
Understanding
Proverbs 14:12
There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death 
How frustrating it was to read this chapter full of self-righteousness, foolishness and rationalizations. Imagine the death and heartbreak that could have been avoided had the tribes, once they recognized the error of their actions, simply acknowledged their sin and stupidity before God and repented. The more they tried to fix it themselves, the worse things got and the more people there were who were harmed.
 
Life Application
1 John 1:9  
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
 

If I was so foolish as to get into trouble, what makes me think I will be any less foolish in trying to get out of it? God paid a terrible price in order to afford me the grace to simply come to Him in humility and confess that I have sinned. Once doing so, I am forgiven and the door is opened for God’s wisdom and power to be applied to my present circumstance. The only wisdom I can show in such situations is to take advantage of this truth and allow God to lead me out of the trouble of my own doing.

To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
– Gary Parker