The Two Sides of a Coin

I am holding a coin of American money in my hand. There are different images on each side. On onside there are imprints stating the coin’s value, our country’s name, and the phrase “In God We Trust.” On the other side, there is either an image of a previous president or a historical building. There are always two sides to a coin.

Now imagine a spiritual coin. Like a monetary coin, the spiritual coin has two sides. One side is mercy and the other side is grace. We do not have images for mercy and grace but we do have definitions. The simplest definitions are: Mercy is not getting what one deserves from God. Grace is getting what one does not deserve from God.

A coin of money is used to pay the price for something purchased. The same is true for a spiritual coin.

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Death was the wage, or cost, of our sin. Jesus paid the extravagant price of His life by dying upon the cross. He purchased salvation and eternal life for us.

Romans 3:23-24, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Why was Jesus willing to pay such a high price? The answer is Ephesians 2:4, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy.” Mercy and grace are gifts purchased by the richness of God’s love. Nothing is free, monetarily or spiritually.

An American money coin is round. The cross is the shape of a spiritual coin.

Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. Consequently, we do not receive what we deserve. This is mercy. Titus 3:5-6, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Now He offers us a gift we do not deserve – grace. Ephesians 2:8 and 10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

In Exodus 25, the Lord gave Moses instructions on how to build the ark of the covenant. The lid was called the mercy seat. Annually, a priest would go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for atonement. This was where God resided. The writer of Hebrews refers to this when he says in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God has given us the coin of mercy and grace. Now, let us extend mercy and grace to others. The coin is in our hands.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Luke 6:36 tells us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Grace is promised to us in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” John 1:16 ESV, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” God has more than enough grace to meet our every need. I Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

In conclusion, let’s refer back to our image of the monetary coin. As previously stated, “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our American coins. The same can be said of our spiritual coin. It is only as we trust God that the valuable coin of mercy and grace is available.

 

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Recycle Your Mistakes

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Even your mistakes can be recycled into something good through My transforming grace.”
(quote by Sarah Young in Jesus Lives.)

Is Jesus actually saying He will transform my goof-ups into good stuff? Will He convert my failings into something favorable if I give Him the chance? Romans 8:28 NLT says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Yes, “everything” includes my mistakes!

God convicts me of sin, but He does not condemn me. I may feel like I have committed an unforgivable sin. It may appear to me that my whole life should be thrown into a trash can. However, God sees my shortcomings differently. He desires for me to throw away my sin in the trash can by confessing it. But. He wants me to place my life in the recycling bin. 

To confess means to admit that I have done wrong. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

In addition to confessing my sin, I am to repent of my sins. To repent means to turn away from what I have confessed as sin. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Recycling is repurposing. Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new.” When I dispose of my sinful habits, the Holy Spirit transforms my former life into a new life that glorifies Him. He recycles my habits.

When throwing something away, I have the choice of putting it in the trash can or in the recycling bin. There is no further use for what I throw in the trash can. If I place items in the recycling bin, they can potentially be used differently.

For example, did you know that recycled plastic bottles can be made into t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, sleeping bags – even carpeting? Ten bottles make enough plastic fiber for a t-shirt and it only takes 63 bottles to make a sweater. I wonder how God will repurpose what I place in His recycling bin.

When a potter molds clay into a vessel, he reworks it numerous times. If it does not turn out exactly as he wants, he scrapes the clay off the potter’s wheel and begins again. Notice what he does with the clay. Rather than throwing it in the trash can, the potter repeatedly refashions it until it is exactly what he wants. He may trim off a few rough clay edges and throw them in the recycling bin.  Those he will reuse later. He never throws away a valuable piece of clay. He recycles.

This is a wonderful picture of what God does with our lives. Job 33:6 NLT says, “I was formed from clay.” Then Isaiah 64:8 declares, “Yet You, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” The Lord never throws us into a trash can. He always recycles us! He kneads our strengths and weaknesses, shaping the vessel He needs. II Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

 Relying on God’s grace, we can be recycled from imperfection to perfection – from trash to treasure. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” according to II Corinthians 12:9.

 Philippians 1:6 says,being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Christ is in the recycling business! 

My Reader, do you realize that God can use your imperfections in His kingdom? Learn from your mistakes and let the Lord recycle them. Do not throw your life in trash can. The recycling bin offers a better purpose.

 

 

Life’s Chains and Rope

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How would you define a chain?  According to the dictionary, it is a flexible series of joined links, usually made of metal.

What is a rope? A rope is defined as a thick strong cord made of strands twisted together, usually fiber.

Both are types of cords that hold things together. I want to think about these “strong strings” from a spiritual perspective.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 concludes, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” When this verse was read at our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding, they proclaimed God to be the third strand of their marriage bond. To me, this cord of three strands could be symbolic of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever application of the three stands one may choose, this verse gives a positive description of a spiritual cord.

CHAINS. Jesus says in John 8:34 NLT, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” A slave to sin is a person chained to sinful desires. The length of the chain holding one in bondage depends upon the number of sins accumulated in a person’s life. The chain portrays a negative picture.

Spiritual chains are composed of links of lies told by the enemy. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” If a person is chained to Satan, he/she will take on his character. John 10:10 begins by saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

ROPE. In contrast to the chains of bondage, a rope can be a source of freedom.  For example, a lifeguard might throw a rope to a drowning victim –  the rope functions as a lifesaver. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What a disparity between the enemy’s chain of lies and the Lord’s rope of life! 

Paul and Silas’s encounter with physical chains and a spiritual rope is recorded in Acts 16:22-26. These men were in physical bondage with metal chains. However, when they praised God, their fetters were loosed. Paul and Silas were freed while clinging to a spiritual rope of divine power. The Lord inhabits the praises of His people according to Psalm 22:3. The Lord was present with Paul and Silas – and the Lord released His power and broke their chains.

I am reminded of two applicable songs.

The first is the contemporary song Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs. Her lyrics proclaim, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.” Yes, I want every link of the enemy’s chains broken from my life!

I am also thinking of the old hymn, Blessed Be the Tie that Binds by John Fawcett. The specific words that ring in my mind are, “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” For me, this tie is Jesus whom I have been describing as a rope. With His love, Jesus binds me to Himself. This is the rope to which I cling!

My Reader, I encourage you to cast off chains and reach for a rope.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything!

“Everything” is all-inclusive! When I was a little girl, my mother helped me learn me how to pray by giving me a simple prayer outline. She suggested that I pray, “God, thank You for ______ and ______.” I was to fill in the blanks with two things for which I was thankful that day. Sometimes it would be easy for me to fill in the blanks. Other times, I might just pray, “Thank You, God for everything!” This could have been my prayer because my heart was so full of gratitude that I could not choose two specific things. Or, it might have been an easy way out because I was too tired to think. Today, when I think about thanking God for everything, it involves a greater risk than I perceived as a child. Can someone be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer? Can another person be thankful for losing their job? At this point in my life, I do not always find it easy to thank God for everything. However, I do still pray about everything. I have discovered some all-inclusive scriptures I want us to think about today.

Jesus looked at them intently and said,
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God.
Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 NLT

Nothing” can be replaced with “everything” when we allow God to work on our behalf! This verse from the gospel of Mark is Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Humanly speaking, neither this man nor any of us can do anything to inherit the kingdom of God. Admitting that we can do nothing opens the door for Jesus to do everything for us. Jesus did it all! He died on the cross to pay the price we cannot pay.

The other factor we need to remember is that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His power, we become capable of doing the impossible even though we are human. I recently heard Bill Johnson  encourage us to not run from the impossible. We are told in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God for whom nothing is impossible and we can receive that same power. Bill Johnson pointed out that this power of the Holy Spirit in us is enough for us to do the impossible. We can do the impossible not because we are human, but because Christ through the Holy Spirit lives and works through us. This leads us to the next scripture.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 NLT

Everything” is “every thing.” From this verse, I gain the confidence that I can do everything that I encounter in life because Christ promises to give me the strength to do what I need to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. I should never say, “I can’t.” When faced with a regimen of chemo treatments for a cancer diagnosis, one may feel overwhelmed and be tempted to cry out, “I can’t do this!” However, Paul assures us that we can do the “everything” facing us because Christ will be with us and working for us during the duration of the treatment. Years ago, my uncle underwent numerous treatments for cancer and I remember my mother commenting that she did not know how he was able to keep going in spite of the side affects etc. However, less than a year later, she faced similar cancer treatments and I witnessed the grace of God sustain her during her time of trial. I need to have the mindset of “I can” rather than “I can’t.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7

Everything: can be “whatever.” This verse can be dangerous if we do not focus upon the complete verse. We must not skip over the “if” qualification for receiving what we wish or ask for “ if you remain in Jesus and His word”. In I John 5:14-15 the “if”qualification phrase relates to God’s will, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” God is able to do everything we ask when we become so attuned to Him that whatever we ask is always in accordance with His will. Although God may not answer in the way we expect, He is able to give us everything as He promises when we surrender everything to Him allowing all our thoughts and desires to be His thoughts and desires. Psalm 37:4 NASB says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desire of your heart.” When we delight in Him, our desires are transformed into His desires.

Now there is another “if” scripture for us to consider.

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.
Mark 9:23 NLT

Anything” is “everything!” In this scripture, Mark tells of a man who came to Jesus asking if He was willing and capable of releasing his son from the influence of an evil spirit. Because this man was thinking of Jesus’ capability from a human perspective, he was questioning Jesus’ ability to set his son free. Jesus responded by reassuring the man that through faith and trust anything and everything is possible. Like this man, we must be careful that we do not prevent the Lord from doing what He promises to do because of our lack of faith. We also need to remember that although anything is possible, God will only answer our prayers in His way according to His time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to
His purpose. . . . predestined to
become
conformed to the image of His Son,
Romans 8:28-29

All things” is “everything!” The point to remember from this scripture is that while God is capable of causing everything to be used for His good, He does not cause everything that happens to us. Referring back to my simple prayer outline, I can pray “Thank You, God, for how You are going to use my current experience, whether it be positive or negative, for Your glory.” That is quite different from asking a recently unemployed person to pray, “Thank You, God, for my losing my job.” I like the thought that God gives us all kinds of situations so He can give us all things.

When we encounter all kinds of situations, God has the opportunity to reveal His faithfulness to us by showing us how He actually uses all the things we experience for good. God will use everything we encounter to make us more like Him. We may not like everything we experience but we still need to embrace everything and allow God to turn negative situations into positive life lessons. 

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.
Jeremiah 32:17

Everything” can meannothing.” Nothing is too hard for our Lord who created everything with His hands. Today, everything we experience passes through the hands of Him who created us and our surroundings. He continues to hold everything in His hands, so we do not need to fear anything we experience. If He could create this world we live in, then He can take care of it. There is no reason for us to doubt His ability. Truly, there is nothing too hard for God to do!

In Genesis 18:114, the Lord asked Abraham, “Is anything too Hard for the Lord?” My Reader, how do you answer this question? How does your response to this question affect how you feel about everything that happens in your life and how you handle every situation you encounter? May you remember the words of Colossians 2:10 in the Living Letters, “So you have everything when you have Christ.”

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Childlike or Childish?

Childlike    Childish    Childlike   Childish    Childlike   Childish  Childlike   Childish    Childlike

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So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
Galatians 3:26

Through faith in God, I became part of His family and now I am known as a child of God. Daily, it is my choice as to how I behave as His child. I can be childlike or I can be childish. Childlike is defined as resembling a child showing pleasing qualities such as innocence and trust. In contrast, childish is described as being marked by immaturity and a lack of poise.

Most young children trust their father and run to him with open arms ready to receive his love. They are not consumed with cares and worries because they know Dad will provide. As a child of God, I have the same privileges from a spiritual perspective. My Heavenly Father desires a personal loving relationship with me. My thoughts and actions reveal whether I am childlike or childish. If I am childlike, I will love my Heavenly Father and trust Him with my life. If I am childish, I will demand my way and I may cry if I do not feel like I have my Father’s complete attention. Yes, I desire to be childlike, but if I am honest, there have been times when I not felt loved by my Heavenly Father. There have been times when I have cried out to God in my prayers asking “Why?” or “Where are You?”

Young children grow up and eventually leave their childhood homes to become independent adults. However, as a child of God, I do not want to grow up and move away – I only want to grow deeper and closer to Him.

But Jesus called the children to him and said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Luke 18:16

In this section of scripture, people were bringing their children to Jesus desiring Him to bless their little ones while the disciples felt this was an imposition upon Jesus and they told the people to leave. Jesus contradicted His disciples and reached out to the children surrounding Him. Oh, how I appreciate the privilege of coming into the presence of Jesus and receiving His blessings because I am a child of God!

Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore,
whoever then humbles himself like this child, he is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

This chapter of Matthew begins with the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by pointing out the characteristic of humility – not necessarily a quality of the disciples at this time. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” I desire to be a humble King’s kid!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Being a child of God does not mean that I just get to play – that would be childish. John 6:1-13 tells of Jesus feeding the 5000 because a boy offered Him five small barley loaves and two small fish. This child did something no one else did that day. He was not worried about what Jesus would do with what he had, he just gave it trustingly. I want to follow the example of this young boy and set an example by my speech and conduct as to how to live as a child of God.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’
You must go to everyone I send you to and say
whatever I command you.
Jeremiah 1:7

Jeremiah was a young boy when the Lord touched his lips with a coal to prepare him to speak. As a child of God, I can expect my Heavenly Father to equip me to do whatever He calls me to do. If I am afraid, I would be more childish than childlike. In Psalm 139:13, David tells about his Heavenly Father creating his inmost being and knitting him together in his mother’s womb. Then in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord tells Jeremiah of His plans and purposes that would give him a hope and a future. Exodus 2:1-10 gives the account of how Moses as a baby was left in a basket in the river, but God took care of him. Neither will God neglect me because He has a plan for me just as He had plans for David and Jeremiah and Moses.

Then you will call on Me
and come and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12

When reading this verse from Jeremiah, I picture myself as a child of God climbing into the lap of my Heavenly Father and having a two-way conversation with Him. This is known as prayer! Our Heavenly Father wants to embrace all of us as His sons and daughters. No matter what our biological age, we can be His spiritual children. Most of us may tend to have times when we act childish if things do not go the way we want physically or spiritually. However, our Holy Father is always ready to help us be more childlike in both respects. My Reader, do you live as a child of God? Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you.


Jesus Sees

Jesus . . . watched the crowd
Mark 12:41

These words are found within the account often referred to as “The Widow’s Offering.” Jesus watched a multitude of people putting their money into the temple treasury, but His attention was drawn to the widow who offered only two small copper coins. Why?

Jesus saw from two different perspectives as He watched this scene play out. Visually He saw a crowd of people giving what was required out of their material wealth and a lowly woman giving as much as possible out of her lack. While spiritually seeing the hardened hearts of men who gave out of pride, Jesus’ spiritual eyes were keenly attracted to the heart of one lonely, humble woman. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Jesus saw with physical eyes but He also saw with spiritual understanding. Many within the crowd wanted their actions to be seen while in actuality, they only gave out of necessity with a hardened heart. The widow did not want her small contribution to be noticed because she was embarrassed by how little she could give. However, Jesus saw her generous heart and was pleased. Paul gives us some guidance in II Corinthians 9:7, “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.”

One of the names of God is El Roi, translated “the God who sees.” God’s eyes are never shut. He is awake and aware of everything and everyone He has created. He not only has visual perception but He also discerns our thoughts and intentions. His spiritual vision includes spiritual knowledge allowing Him to see with divine understanding. God is omniscient – He knows everything. We cannot hide anything from Him. He knows and sees everything about us – our thoughts, intentions, feelings, and desires as well as our actions. It has been said that we can fool some of the people some of the time but we cannot fool all the people all of the time. When it comes to our relationship with God, we cannot fool Him any time! I John 3:20 says, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”

One additional definition of “to see” refers to meeting with someone. For example, I will see you at a specific location. With this perspective in mind, how can we see and meet with the Lord personally? James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

I ask myself the question, what does God see when He watches me? Does He see agreement between my actions and the desires of my heart or does He discover some discrepancy? These are sobering questions. Too often I may be more of a Pharisee while sincerely desiring to be like the widow. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”

In conclusion, we can say that Jesus not only sees our actions visually but He also sees spiritually the intents our hearts. The amazing thing is that He is still willing to see and meet with us. May we be willing to fulfill Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Jesus watched the crowd, and He is still watching us.


 

 

Leftovers Left in God’s Hands (Part 1)

I have accumulated a stash of leftover fabric from numerous sewing projects over the years. No piece is big enough to make a new skirt or a pair of curtains, yet I have kept the leftovers because I never know when I might need such a piece as this. Often when a granddaughter and I are having a sleepover, we search through my fabric resources for a craft project. Small pieces have value. Recently while sorting through my sewing stash, I was reminded of Jesus feeding the 5000 and the leftovers from that meal.

When they were filled, He said to His disciples,
“Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”
So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
John 6: 12-13

Join me as I look at these two verses of scripture phrase by phrase. Our focus will be upon the leftovers.

When they were filled”

Leftovers are what is left over after the use of the original intent of whatever commodity we have. These pieces have value beyond there first use. For me it was fabric, while for Jesus it was food. The bag lunch of one young boy placed in Jesus’ hands not only provided the meal for 5000 people but resulted in leftovers as well. I wonder how this boy felt when there were scraps of bread and morsels of fish left after everyone had lunch. Was he happy with the overabundance of food Jesus produced with what he gave or was he disappointed because not all of his offering was consumed in the way he thought it would be? Jesus did the math. He did not just add up what the boy gave, He multiplied it! We may feel disappointed if what we offer to the Lord is not totally used in the way we intended but God has much bigger plans than for us to just be satisfied with what we give to Him.

He said to His disciples . . .”

Jesus asked His disciples to pick up the leftovers. He did not do it Himself. Jesus asked His disciples to gather up the remainder of the meal because He knew the existing crumbs were important. We are not told what the disciples did with the leftovers but I think they gave the baskets of broken bread to Jesus. Maybe this was a prophetic picture of the Last Supper Jesus would share with these same disciples before His crucifixion. I want the obedience of the disciples to be an example of what I am to do with the broken pieces that are leftover from my attempts to serve the Lord.

Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”

John describes the leftovers as fragments. In Luke 9:17, the phrase “broken pieces” is used to describe the leftovers. Jesus did not want to throw away any part of the boy’s offering that had not been consumed. He did not want to see any small morsels left on the ground because they had value to Him. Like my pieces of fabric, the leftovers were just scraps that were not used for the original purpose. However, just as I may have a future use for swatches of fabric, Jesus had a use for the leftovers of the bread and fish. We do not know what Jesus did with the bread crumbs – maybe He fed them to the birds. It is not important for us to know what Jesus will do with our leftovers but it is necessary for us to give them to Him. Whatever we choose to do for the Lord may be used in ways beyond our original intents.

So they . . . filled twelve baskets with fragments”

Is there any significance that the disciples filled twelves baskets with leftovers? Possibly each basket represented the life of one disciple. Maybe each disciple had brokenness in his life that he needed to bring to Jesus so He could use their brokenness for His plans and purposes. The fragile fragments of each disciple were so important to Jesus that He wanted to deal with each one individually. The same is true for us today. We cannot lump all the shortcomings and brokenness of all people into one basket for Jesus to forgive. We must each meet Him personally.

“left over by those who had eaten” 

Leftovers provide for abundance. If I had not kept the odds and ends of various materials, I would miss out on many fun craft creations to be fashioned with my granddaughters. Today, most likely, crusts of bread and bones of fish are simply discarded. However, we never know what the Lord will do with the leftovers of our lives. Jesus still promises us that nothing will be wasted just as He revealed to the young boy with a small lunch over 2000 years ago. He will use everything, including the leftovers, according to His plans and purposes.

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