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Archive | Intimacy with God

Star Trek, CS Lewis, and Your Free Will

Free WillI am a Trekkie. I was a fan of the original Star Trek series, but I really loved The Next Generation. My favorite character was Lieutenant Commander Data.

Data was an android with high computational capabilities. He looked like a human and was physically fully functional. Yet one thing prevented Data from understanding and relating to humans. He lacked human emotions.

Data’s desire to possess human emotions – and thus become truly human – was an ongoing thread in the show’s storyline. Although Data was like the rest of the crew in many ways, this deficiency made him somewhat of an outsider, unable to form strong bonds and experience deep relationships.

This may sound strange, but I thought about Data the other day while reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. During the discussion of another topic, Lewis wrote this about mankind’s free will:

He (God) gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite happiness.

The question of our free will has come up countless times in Bible study groups I’ve led or been a part of. “If God knew we would sin, why did He give us free will? Wouldn’t it have been better if we couldn’t disobey?”

Free Will Makes Ultimate Joy Possible

No, it wouldn’t have been better. If God withheld free will we could never know true happiness. We would be like little robots, always doing the right thing, but never experiencing the joy of relating to our Creator.

Even though Data was superior to humans in some ways, he knew he lacked the best part of humanity. The ability to love and be loved.

God desires to love us and to be loved by us. And He implanted the desire to love Him back in the deepest part of our souls. And that’s where we find our purpose, our fulfillment, and our ultimate joy. In choosing to love and be loved by our God.

Have you struggled with the question of mankind’s free will? Does Lewis’ explanation help?


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3 Reasons for Joy in Trials


Does God’s truth ever seem just crazy to you? Like the perfect God-Man, Jesus, dying for us sinners? Well, we find more of this counter-intuitive craziness in the first chapter of James. The brother of Jesus, who was also the leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote this to Jewish believers scattered around the world by persecution:

“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4, NLT

Through the years, I’ve heard preachers, Bible teachers, and others say that Christians can experience joy in spite of trials and troubles. And while that is true, that’s not what James meant in this passage. Depending on the translation you’re using, at the beginning of verse 3 you may see “for,” “because of,” “when,” or “whenever.” But you won’t see “in spite of.”

As crazy as it sounds to us, James did indeed mean that believers should consider trials an opportunity to experience joy. He even tells us why.

  1. God’s Process – Trails build and grow our faith like weight training does for our muscles. Life’s difficulties, Christian persecution, and temptations all put our faith to test. God uses this process to burn away impurities, refining our faith. He builds and shapes our character to look more like Jesus.
  2. God’s Purpose – I love the way the NLT translation puts it. When our faith is fully developed, we will be “ready for anything!” God has a specific purpose for each of us Ephesians 2:10). He has a plan, a way He wants to use us for His Kingdom. But He must shape and prepare His tools (you and me) so we will be useful in His hands.
  3. God’s Presence – Throughout God’s Word, He promises to be with us always and through everything (Isaiah 43:1-2, Matthew 28:19-20). Trials provide an opportunity to experience God’s presence in ways we cannot in easy times. If we never have to rely on God, we would never experience His faithfulness. If we are never weak, we would never experience His strength. Through trials we move from merely intellectual knowledge of God to experiential knowledge. Shared times of trial fosters deep intimacy and dependence.

This truth seems crazy to us because we often move through life spiritually short-sighted. We are stuck in this physical world and fail to see the greater reality. God works on an eternal time-table with eternal purposes in mind. He’s working for the end game. Let’s join Him!

Which of these 3 P’s do you struggle with most to keep in mind? Why?

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5 Reasons to Reboot Your Quiet Time

Quiet TimeDo you have a regular “quiet time?” You won’t find this term in the Bible, but Christians use it to refer to purposeful time spent alone with God. A time to hear from God and share your heart with Him. Jesus Himself set the example for us (Luke 5:16).

I’ve heard – and made – many excuses for not setting aside time in the day to spend with God. Busyness is probably the biggest culprit. Yes, life can be overwhelmingly busy. But we have control over many of the items on our calendar. How we spend much of our time is our choice. We can choose God.

Some of you are in a season of life where you truly have very little time to yourself. Maybe you are a caregiver or the mother of young children. Many life circumstances make carving out space for a regular quiet time more difficult, but with a bit of creativity you can claim some time, even if it’s just a few moments here and there. (See this post for some examples.)

And some of us who were once devoted to our daily quiet time may have realized we slowly fell away from this spiritual discipline until it’s no longer our regular habit. An abbreviated day here and a missed day there, and the next thing we know…

Quiet Time Reboot Challenge

I’m going to be honest with you. For decades I’ve been very committed to regular time with God, but the last few months have been extremely challenging for me. I’ve been traveling a lot and my parents have been ill. And I’ve allowed those things to impact the quality of my quiet time.

Many Christians make establishing a regular quiet time a New Year’s resolution. January 1st is always a good time to get back on track. But often, by this time of year, many of us have let that resolution slowly fall by the wayside. But we don’t have to wait for the New Year. We can reboot our quiet time now!

Not sure you’re ready to get back on track? Maybe we need some incentive to make regular quiet time a priority. Let’s remind ourselves of a few of the benefits of spending time with God.

5 Reasons to Reboot Your Quiet Time

  1. Spending regular time with God helps us know Him better, which fosters a deeper intimacy in our relationship.
  2. Listening to God through His Word and prayer helps us better understand His will in general and discover His specific direction for our lives.
  3. Time spent submitted and vulnerable before God gives Him an opportunity to accomplish His refining work in us.
  4. Sitting in God’s presence enables us to more fully experience the comfort, encouragement, peace, and joy He longs to give us.
  5. Purposeful time each day focused solely on God helps us keep our mind and heart on Him all day long.

November 1st Reboot

No time like NOW to start fresh on a commitment to spend time with God. Will you join me for a November 1st resolution? Let’s make a fresh commitment to regularly spend time with God and end 2016 with a spiritual bang instead of a whimper. Here are a couple of things you may find helpful in establishing or re-establishing a regular quiet time:

So… will you reboot with me? I’d love to hear from you about how your quiet time is going right now… if you need a reboot and why… and if you’ll reboot with me!

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My Southern-Fried Faith

In the south, we fry anything and everything. If it walks, runs, jumps, swims, or flies we will roll it in flour or cornmeal and drop it in a skillet or Fry Daddy. In addition to the commonly known fare, I’ve also eaten fried alligator, squirrel, dove, rabbit, and crawfish.

Side note for context: I was born and raised in northern Louisiana. And yes, watching Duck Dynasty is like attending a family reunion.

FaithIn many places in the south, “fry” is the default method of cooking. Unless otherwise requested, your meat or vegetable and sometimes even your bread and dessert get baptized in boiling oil. It’s simply assumed. After all, everything is better when it’s fried.

When I was growing up, I internalized the “fry principle” and a host of other southern assumptions. For instance, tea is always iced, right hands go over hearts when a flag passes by, pick-up trucks are perfectly acceptable prom night transportation, and good people go to church.

From infancy my parents faithfully took me to Sunday School, worship service, Vacation Bible School, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. I memorized Bible verses, earned high attendance pins, and wore wire hanger angel wings covered with gold garland in the Christmas pageant.

Church service and attendance wove through the fabric of our family. The question of whether or not we would go on any given Sunday was never raised because we were a “church family.” This faithful commitment to church hindered my faith.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. The family my husband and I raised could be described as a “church family.” And I would not want it any other way. But while both might look the same on the surface, a drastic difference exists between my childhood church attendance and my adult faith.

Inside-Out Christianity

During the first half of my life, I attended church because I was what a “good Christian girl.” To me, Christianity meant saying the right things and doing what everyone expected. And that’s exactly what I did. In fact, my brother sarcastically dubbed me “Sister Mary Kathryn.” And although Mary Kathryn is indeed my given name, I’m sure my parents never meant it to be used as a synonym for Miss Goody Two-shoes.

Although I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was eight, I experienced little to no spiritual growth. The rich relationship I wanted with Christ eluded me. Something vital was missing. Connected to church, I still felt disconnected from God. I had no real sense of God’s presence. I could see the kind of passionate, dynamic faith I longed to have in other’s lives.

But despite many weak attempts to pump up my own faith, it remained dry and flat. Even though I had been taught differently, I had internalized that faith was what you do. I missed the part about it being all about Who you know.

Relationship of Faith Over Religion

“Doing” is a human’s default setting. We like to make lists and check off the items, proving to ourselves that we have accomplished something. We can perform the outward motions of faith without actively pursuing the object of our faith.

Religion cannot satisfy. Unless our works of faith flow naturally out of a vital relationship with our Maker it is merely religious ritual. We were created for relationship, not outward trappings of religion. Faith that does not produce these kinds of works is dead and useless (James 1:20). But religious works performed from a sense of duty or habit only sap our spiritual strength, leaving our faith dry, weak, and flat.

Setting Assumptions Aside

 Over the years, I’ve learned that some southern assumptions of my childhood were accurate and some needed a bit of adjustment. For instance, while a few things are indeed glorious fried, the flavor of most food is best appreciated when it is grilled, sautéed, or baked, and a mug of hot herbal tea soothes a sore throat on a cold day. But, I still cover my heart in respect for the flag and my son took his date to the prom in his pick-up.

Although the Bible Belt culture of my north Louisiana childhood is less influential today, religiosity can still hinder true relationship with Jesus. I had to set religion aside and embrace relationship with the One who died to save me. Religion alone is as dry as yesterday’s toast. But relationship with the living Savior is exciting, satisfying, and yes, passionate.

Have you ever struggled to move past religion into a real relationship with Jesus? If so, how did that go??

This post is an excerpt from Kathy’s book “Fed Up with Flat Faith: 10 Attitudes and Actions to Pump Up Your Faith.”


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Lasting Joy DOES Depend on Your Circumstances

joyI’ve heard it said that, unlike happiness, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Makes sense right? Jesus both assured us we would have trouble in the world (John 16:33) and promised us that no one would take away our joy (John 16:22).

Difficult circumstances and lasting joy. So surely, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Circumstantial “happiness” and lasting joy have to be different. Right?

But wait just a second… when I looked up the meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “joy” they have essentially the same meaning as “happiness.” Biblical joy can be defined this way:

Joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness; the opposite of grief and sorrow; feelings that result from circumstances

 The difference in fleeting joy/happiness and the joy no one can take away is the circumstances on which we base it. If we look to our temporary, earthly circumstances for joy, it will be stolen from us time and again. But if we rely on our eternal circumstances, our joy will be firm and secure.

3 Circumstances for Lasting Joy

Although I know my list could be longer, here are three reasons for lasting joy God gives us in His Word:

  1. Salvation (1 Peter 1:5-9) – Peter beautifully shows how rejoicing in our eternal salvation far outweighs the grief of our temporary earthly trials. In the midst of our trials we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
  2. God’s Love (Romans 8:35-39) – Paul experienced great hardships and persecutions in this life. In spite of these things he experienced the joy of Christ (Philippians 1:18). How? No matter what he suffered, nothing could separate him from the love of God.
  3. Intimate Fellowship with Christ (John 15:5-11) – On the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus wanted to make sure His followers knew how to find their joy in Him. As we “abide” in Christ – stay closely and vitally connected to Him in obedient relationship – our joy will “be complete.”

Are you experiencing this kind of joy? You can! Read these Scripture passages and ask God to show you how to find joy in your eternal circumstances!

What other “reasons for joy” do you see in Scripture? Let’s share them with each other today!

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Juggling Joy and Pain

joy and painLately, my life has been joyfully full. Full hands. Full heart.

Our oldest daughter had her second son in April. I had the blessing of staying with them almost three weeks to help with the baby and my 4-year-old grandson.

Our second daughter had her first child last week! Little Josiah is 8 days old today. In fact, I am with them now – days are filled with cooking, diapers, rocking, and loving.

Next month our family adds a daughter. Our son is getting married to a wonderful young woman we already love.

Full, happy times. Joyful times.

But life has also been hard recently. Death and grief. Struggle and sadness.

My father-in-law, who lived with us for the last five years, passed away at home on March 1st after weeks of severe health issues, hospital stays, and rehab.

My own parents currently face significant health struggles of their own. Life is changing dramatically for them. Hard, difficult decisions lie ahead.

The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster. Rejoicing one moment, grieving the next. Some days these feelings overlap. Cries of joy mingle with tears of pain.

Joy and pain. Loss and gain.

I’ve wondered what to do with this. How do I handle these contradictions? How do I move with this weird ebb and flow? I want to understand this from God’s point of view.

First, I recognize that everything precious and wonderful in my life comes from God. He is the generous Giver of all good gifts.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17, NIV

Second, I realize that pain is part of life. God does not promise us good times. He never said our lives would be pain free. In fact, His Word tells us we will have trouble in this world. On the night Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples – and us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

We live in a world broken by sin. Until Jesus returns, illness, death, and evil still impact our lives. We also suffer the consequences of our own sin. Yet even when God does not choose to remove our trials and sufferings, He promises to walk with us through them.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2, NIV

In the joyful times I thankfully acknowledge God’s good gifts and in the painful times I am more keenly aware of God’s gracious, comforting presence. My life must be a constant mingling of gratitude and grasping. Thankful for His gifts and His presence, yet ever reaching for more of Him. Leaning into His strength and grace in the joyful times and the painful times.

Gratitude and grasping. Juggling joy and pain. Hallelujah!

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A Glorious Adventure of Faith

My guest blogger today is Gwen Smith! Gwen is an amazing musician, worship leader, woman of faith, and author of the brand new book “I Want it All!”

Gwen SmithGod has a plan for you, and it’s not an “I’m fine,” average life. You were created to be a woman of impact who is so in love with her Lord and so aware of His might that she cannot help but expect great things and move in His power and grace.

God’s plan for you is unique. No cookie cutter Christianity here. His plan may not look like the dreams you had as a little girl, but it IS a good one. Do you trust that?

God wants you to have a full, beautiful life—in Him, through Him, and for Him. Truly. The Bible tells us so. He offers us joy, but not the world’s joy (John 15:11); peace, but not the world’s peace (John 16:33); power, but not the world’s power (2 Timothy 1:7); love, but not the world’s love (John 15:12-13). I want every ounce of His joy, peace, power, and love. Don’t you? God’s plan is a good plan . . . for us, not against us . . . a plan that is filled with hope and a future. His is a plan that leads us directly to His presence in worship, and, ultimately, to a deep and intimate relationship with Him. Yes, please!

I want to live out God’s sacred plan that invites me to a glorious adventure of faith, that beckons me to perfect love, that calls and challenges me to His cross-carrying ways, that demands my everything and satisfies the longings of all I’ve ever dreamed my life can and should be.

I know many of you are going through difficult and painful challenges. Life throws curve balls that can leave us gasping for breath on any given day, at any given moment. I’m right there with you in the ditches of reality. God’s ways do not always make sense. They don’t always feel good. At times they even sting wildly, but one thing is always true: the great life He intends for us to live begins and ends with the Word. The Word made flesh: Jesus. And though we remain broken and impacted by an imperfect world, we can rise above and get through anything in the power and hope of God, for His glory.

And just like God spoke vision and life to the weary prophet Jeremiah thousands of years ago, His Word speaks vision and life to us today, and every day, reminding us of the beauty available to all in Christ. A beauty that brings Him glory.

That’s the ALL God wants us to want. All of Him.

What do you want in life? Will you be satisfied with the “all” the world offers or do you want God’s all?!


Gwen SmithGwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at and to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen’s latest book, I want it allI Want It ALL, (David C. Cook), was released on March 1, 2016 and comes complete with a study guide and questions for reflection. Gwen speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a co-founder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.

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5 Benefits of Living a Holy Life

5 Benefits Holiness“Holiness” is often misunderstood. Many believers think living a holy life is just too hard. Or too boring. Or simply undesirable. We recognize the truth that God commands His children to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We do want to please Him, but life gets in the way.

We fail to realize that the benefits of holiness far outweigh anything we might need to “sacrifice.” The gain is far greater than the loss of any worldly activity, behavior, or attitude.

In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges defines holiness this way: “To be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God. The word signifies ‘separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated.” The basic meaning of “holy” is to be “set apart.” We are set apart from the world, its sinful ways, and our own fleshly desires. We are set apart to God.

Maybe holiness sounds like an overwhelming, daunting, or impossible task? Humanly speaking it is. But, whatever God requires of His children, He also supplies. God requires holiness, but His Spirit provides the power to turn away from sin. God calls us to holiness and God provides what we need to be holy.

Usually what it comes down to is simply our desire to live a holy life. Why would we want to be holy? The following 5 benefits are not the only reasons to pursue holiness, but they’re one Scripture mentions repeatedly.

  1. Holiness fosters intimacy with God and builds spiritual strength and stability (Psalm 15:1-6).
  2. Holiness makes us useful and effective for God’s purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-26).
  3. Holiness causes people around you to glorify God (1 Peter 2:9-12).
  4. Holiness builds peace with God (2 Peter 3:10-18).
  5. Holiness pleases God and produces “fruit” (Ephesians 5:1-17).

And those 5 benefits are just the beginning of how God blesses a holy life!

How have you thought about holiness in the past? Have you thought a holy life was too hard? Simply undesirable? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Want to learn more about living a holy life? Check out Kathy’s Bible study “Embraced by Holiness.”

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Mug Monday: Sit Still

Mug MondayIt’s Mug Monday! Join me each week through the summer to see the featured mug (some mine, some yours, & some borrowed). We will seek to make some sense out of the wisdom or humor written on its side. Pull up a chair and join me in a cup of coffee!

You’ve seen it happen in the movies. When a physical disaster strikes, everybody starts running. They may run to safety. Or run to help. Or just run away. But almost everybody runs.

When trouble of various kinds hits our lives we want to run too. Run for help. Run to safety. Run to fix things. Or just run away.

But today’s wisdom from the side of a coffee mug reminds us what God wants us to do in times of trouble.

“Sit.” This mug reminds me of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still This verse has often challenged me to not allow the busyness and distractions of life to spend slow, intimate time with God. To meditate on His Word and allow His Spirit to pierce my soul with a deeper knowledge of who He is.

And I should apply the verse this way.

But there is far more application to be made from this well known passage. Let’s look at it in its context – the 46th chapter of the book of Psalms – to get the bigger truth. The psalmist David described times of trouble:

Though the earth gives way, though the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake… we will not fear.

Why? Why should we not fear even though everything is falling down around us?

Because God is our refuge and strength, an every-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Because God is with us and with help us; He will not let us fall (Psalm 46:5).

And what does God tell us to do in the midst of trouble?

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

When trouble comes, when hard times hit, when trials overwhelm us… let us stop. We can rest in the knowledge that the LORD Almighty is with us. He is our refuge and strength. Our ever-present help.

Be still. And know God the God who is able is also on your side. Be still and know.

Do you face trouble today? Do you need to stop running and remember that God is able?

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Praising God in the Hard Times

Isaiah 43:2We know we should praise God in both the good times and the bad. Of course it’s easy in the good times. But what about praising God in hard times? How do we do that and what does it look like?

Last week, I got a front row seat to a real-life example. I spent two days with a dear friend at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Janet has been battling myelofibrosis, a rare form of leukemia, for about 7 years. Of course there have been days of discouragement. Days when her trust in God faltered. Days when she wanted to give up. But those days have been the exception. Overall, Janet has clung tight to God and praised Him every step of the way.

Janet has participated in a number of clinical trials. She’s endured regular chemo. She’s been in and out of the hospital, increasingly so the last couple of years. And the last month or so the doctors have also been treating her for a fungal infection in her lungs.

This aggressive treatment has required almost daily trips to the hospital for intravenous medications. Many of Janet’s friends have pitched in to help her husband with the hospital trips, which often take all day. I took Janet to MD Anderson last Wednesday and Thursday. I wanted to help and encourage her, but she blessed me instead.

Witnessing Janet’s journey has encouraged me spiritually. I have seen her faith grow stronger and stronger especially the last six months. She leans on God every moment. She knows that God is with her in the hardest times (Isaiah 43:2). She gives Him praise for everything, big and small. She never hesitates to talk about Jesus with the medical personnel, hospital employees, and other patients. Her trust in God and her love for Jesus naturally flow from the intimate relationship she’s developed with her Savior – a relationship that’s been forged, refined, and strengthened through the crucible of this terrible illness.

On Thursday of last week I walked with her down the hallway to the bathroom, as she pushed the IV pole ahead of her. I stood outside the bathroom door, there just in case she needed anything. When I heard her voice I asked if she was okay. Her reply: “Yes. I’m just talking to Jesus.” That’s how natural it is for her now. Prayer, praise, telling others simply naturally flow from her constantly.

Yesterday on Facebook, Janet shared her most recent health status. I want you to hear this in her own words:

Today was the last day (day 13) of the first round of treatment for the anti-fungal medicines, which necessitated my coming to the hospital every day. Lee and I met with Dr. M this morning to get the CT results and the plans for future treatment.

The doctor showed us the CT scan from 13 days ago and then the one they took yesterday. The spots in my right lung are significantly better and the spots in my left lung are gone. Dr. M said he had no expectation that these medicines would make this big of a difference this quickly.

I told him lots of people have been praying for this situation. He said, “I believe this medicine is helping, but please tell your friends and family to keep praying.”

It was so exciting to see his face as he acknowledged the power of prayer. Praise be to God that in 13 days of praying my situation has radically improved. God is all-powerful and this doctor had to recognize His power. Thank you and glory to God for your prayers.

I have no doubt Janet would still be praising God, even if the situation had not improved. She would still be testifying about the power of God to the doctors. She’d still be asking the nurses how she could pray for them. She’d still be singing praise songs with the lab techs – I got to do this with her last Wednesday!

God works our faith in the hard times. But in the hard times He also proves our faith works. And Janet’s faith is working. And God is proving it to everyone that crosses her path.

How has your faith been tested and proven in the hard times?

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