We Fall Once More

Fall Once More

Yesterday marked the first day of fall. We had a humble, but much anticipated, celebration in our home all day which we lovingly termed our Fallibration. Nothing fancy, just simple fun. A fall sign made from repurposed brown packaging paper from an Amazon order, dollar store cups, plates, and a table cloth, and plenty of baking and books for all.

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Each year the turn of seasons is a good place to pause, praise, and perceive what the Savior is teaching us in our current season. Also, to identify what type of season we are in. It is easy for us, particularly women I believe, to assess our entire season of life on the last week alone. I know I do. My husband can ask me how I, we, our family is doing, and I will base my answer on the afternoon and not the week or season in its entirety.

We are back in the throws of toddlerhood and homeschooling as September is turning a brilliant red and bursting into October. I have failed in grace and fallen so many times in need of grace. Can you relate? In fact, this week, while apologizing to my oldest son, my daughter quipped with a knowing grin, We have to forgive you everyday mommy. It’s true, we fall once more and need to be forgiven daily. Maybe not by our children–as my daughter was partially teasing, or maybe we so– but certainly by our Heavenly Father. The maker and sustainer of our physical seasons and our life’s seasons knows our weaknesses and limitations. He remembers out of the dust we were formed. We fall once more and then turn and fall into the forgiving grace-filled arms of the Savior.

We repent and seek change in ourselves, our reactions, and reconciliation with God and man daily. God knows we will fall under self-sustained burdens. That is why we need to be in fellowship and friendship, with Him, with a local Body of Believers, and with the Church Universal. He assures us in His word:

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. (Hebrews 4:16)

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.… (Matthew 11:28-29)

As we fall once more, may we keep these and similar verses in mind so that we may fall forward in grace and sanctification; sustaining ourselves with God’s Word, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers.

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Beginning Again

Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? ~Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fresh starts. What a positive turn of phrase. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s protagonist,  Anne Shirley, Anne with an e, states the above quote which makes each day sound so romantic and full of possibilities. Contrast this with the phrase beginning again, that sounds more determined with an end-goal in mind.

I believe that most of life is full of moments which necessitate beginning again and less of fresh starts.

Consider Mark 4:1, in which Mark documents the setting of Jesus’ teaching: And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. (Emphasis mine.)

I read this verse one morning in July and it stirred both comfort and an impression to pause and consider. I had quickly gathered belongings to take our children to the beach and thought how much effort it takes to get us to the surf and sun. Once we arrived, this verse was brought to mind again as I watched our oldest son playing in the sand. Today’s efforts may seem to disappear with the setting of the sun, but it is the continuous working over time that brings growth which outlasts the sunsets of today.

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Beginning again: parenting.

Over the past fourteen months, we have actively pursued adding to our family in the manner of adoption. We are less than a month away from the culmination of faithful prayers and petitions on the part of numerous friends and family… in short, the efforts of the Body of Christ. One fall day in early October, our son will be legally deemed our son, and the work of adopting will be sealed.

During the last eight months, I’ve written far less than usual and certainly below my personal desire. My days have been full emotionally, physically, and dare I say, spiritually. The task of beginning again each day has been most of what I could handle. In honesty, I have wondered if it were time to hang up my writing hat until another life season. What is the purpose of blogging? Aren’t there enough bloggers and books out there? Is this creative outlet for me purposeful, or is it a frivolous use of a precious commodity that always seems in short supply? Additionally, it has been a season of reading, studying, and learning from others. I have weighed writing versus reading many days.

Beginning again: daily work.

Everyday I must begin again. In our home, we have chosen home education for our children. This means that my personal and professional calling are synonymous. I am a mother and an educator. Both teacher and disciple-maker. This has proven to be a passion of mine and a daunting task as I, we,–my husband and I– bear the responsibility of preparing our children for the rest of their lives in every aspect. Beginning again everyday in this area takes energy, courage, and determination. It also takes will. The will not to compare my methods, my children, or the opportunities that we provide them to other homeschoolers, family members, or the world in general. Our education endeavor is on the forefront of my mind always. I weigh the options of running to the beach, out to the park, or reading one more book with my kids, to writing and slipping away to pound the keyboard with my thoughts.

Beginning again: daily tasks.

Everyday you and I must begin again with daily tasks. It is essential that we perform the mundane tasks of life in order to live. Food, dishes, laundry, cleaning, studying, working. This is our everyday lives. These are the things we are to purposefully bring to the Father and offer as a sacrifice to Him. Consider Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Each day we must begin again to keep our living areas, desks at work, and our daily schedules in order. In the words of Mother Teresa, we are to do small things with great love. These are our everyday acts of worship to the Lord. To praise him in the daily and seek him as we begin the tasks of each new day. Oh how I need to remember and practice this! The joy that would invade my life if I approached tasks in this way.

Beginning again: unexpected change.

So there you have it. We know this in our hearts and minds that each day we begin again; however, we think about beginning again perhaps as often as we think to breathe. That is, we think of beginning again each day with such nonchalance until beginning again becomes more difficult than usual. Some beginnings may not be such a welcome and expected turn of events that cause each new day’s beginnings to be challenging. It may be a move, an unexpected health issue, a death in the family, or a career change. In any case, God’s word models constancy for us. Following in His footsteps, we can begin again with eternity in mind. We are able to pause and picture Jesus, with His complete knowledge of what the future would bring, with His mission on the forefront of His mind, stepping into a boat once more to teach the multitudes that were drawn to hear Him. He knew the harvest was ripe, He knew His time on earth was short, and He began again…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Here’s to beginning again every day,

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A Brief Note to Parents on the State of Humanity

A Somber 4th of July

Today we deeply mourn the loss of life and the latest evidences to the degradation of humanity within our culture. These days we can wear our grief like a cloak never fully making it to the wardrobe.

We have turned on one another; which frankly isn’t new in human history. However, this turning against our brother at this scale and with this fervency is new in the course of recent history within our own particular sphere of the globe.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that little black boys and little black girls would hold the hands of little white boys and little white girls as brothers and sisters. I would argue that his dream has been realized. I am sure of it. I witnessed this dream in action only this morning.

Loading up the kids, we headed to the local zoo. Inside the zoo were a slew of children at the splash park area. Brown, white, yellow, and black children all splashing together in the same water. Oblivious to the hateful murders of the night, they played together in one accord. The children were busy laughing in the warm Florida sun, sharing space and time in the chlorinated waters of the zoo playground where a mere 60 years ago this would have been unlawful for those not white skinned.

The color of a man’s skin need not have been an issue in our past, and it most certainly should not be one any more. Yet, we can’t get away from it all together in the grown-up world. Lord Jesus save us from ourselves.

I do not briefly address the audience on this blog today with any semblance of answers that are easy, quick, or flippant. Nor do so with any intent to sweep away the violence and loss of life occurring as recently as last night. But I come to you today offering hope and a few words of encouragement as we pause and grieve, weep, repent, pray, and express thanks to those who serve and protect.

There is much beauty and goodness in this world if we will take the time to witness it, and to create it. Today, I witnessed it in the laughter and play of children all shades of btown and tan on a splash pad.

Deeply saddened for the loss of life and the loss of humanity we see in our country, we need to remember this: Change starts inside our homes and reverberates throughout our culture and world. Press on dear friends as we grieve with those who grieve and mourn deeply the current situation. Change is possible by the grace of Jesus and our homes are perhaps our greatest, though indeed not our only, conduit for revival. Our job as parents is not easy…it never has been. Our task is significant…it has always been. Our time is now.

Even so come Lord Jesus,

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Lessons from a Dirty Fan

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The last two-to-three months has found our family in the midst of two property renovation projects. Gratefully, this weekend we finished up the last touches on the second house we are putting on the market. As I dusted and wiped down the ceiling fans, it occurred to me: we each are like a busy fan whirling and whirling. Like the ceiling fan I was cleaning, we too are frantically flying through our days working, or trying to get from point A to point B, meeting goals, beating deadlines, checking off our to do lists, or even distracting ourselves to death; however, we are nonetheless collecting dust, stains of the earth. Newton proved that objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force; but dust seems to land on anything moving or stationary!

In the frantic pace of life, even for people like myself who try to keep a simple, steady rhythm, we circle round again and discern that we haven’t taken the time to stop and reflect on our souls, our situations, our strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps, at best, we have paused. We haven’t completely halted to inspect the accumulation of dust, rather we have forged on with little notice of the cleaning of the heart and mind that needs our attention.

Hearts, like fans hurtling headlong day in and day out, can look the picture of health and beauty, but upon closer inspection can be layered with a thick covering of dust and earthly filth.

In our own homes, we tend to get in the spring cleaning mode as the spring days quickly glide into summer. We may find that we are dusting off shelves, emptying closets, and cleaning out drawers…even cleaning ceiling fans. As we do that, perhaps those actions could be mirrored in spring cleaning of the soul. Some time to stop and consider:

  • what practices do I need to cease in order to become more like the image of Christ?
  • what practices should I resume or initiate?
  • who do I need to forgive, or forgive again?
  • who do I need to seek forgiveness from?
  • where am I wasting resources that could be of better advantage used differently?
  • what is God whispering to me by the power of His Holy Spirit that I’ve been too busy to notice?
  • what leading have I dodged from the Holy Spirit?
  • what have I been lamenting over that I need to praise God for?
  • what passion needs to be further put into practice to see God’s Kingdom come?
  • what distraction do I need to do away with?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10

It seems ceiling fans aren’t the only thing that needs a little dusting off.

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Lessons Gleaned from the Sea

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the day.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

Near the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. With the passing of each year, birthday after birthday with our children and friends, we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

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Ten Verses to Walk You Back from the Political Edge

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Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win the kingdom? There is no salvation or hope of everlasting life but in the cross. (The Royal Road, Thomas a Kempis)

Perhaps you, like me, are a bit consumed with the presidential race of 2016. I’ve poured over pundants, read principled Bible teachers, and raised my fists in both victory and disgust while watching presidential debates. As recently as today, I’ve laughed at memes of Chris Christie’s face as he, to borrow the words of Tammy Wynette,  stands by his newest man–perhaps he finally realizes what he’s done! I’ve done these things all the while praying and simultaneously scratching my head over the polictal carnage inside the Bible Beltway and across our nation. What are people thinking and has it really come to this? Is anger-filled, empty slander, or entertainment, all that a so called civilized people seek in the leader of their country? I hope and pray not.

These thoughts beg the question, what should we do with our political concerns? How does the gospel infiltrate our political thinking?

There is not a short answer to this except to point out that the secular and sacred split we see in our country and the world around us must not be employed by Christ-followers. We are to let the gospel inform every decision we make in all areas of our lives: personal, professional, private, public, and political. We don’t sever the teachings of the Bible from our service in the world. God’s truths aren’t just for the Sabbath, they are for the work-week as well.

I am not implying that all Christians will or should support the same candidate, but that our loyalty to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, resurrected, and coming again would inform our choice.

I am certain that many of us feel as if we have come to a political precipice in our nation. We have a sinful, worrisome tendancy to bite our nails as we see America toppiling over the edge. We need to remember, no matter what happens at the ballot box in the next few weeks, nor in Novemeber, God’s Kingdom will continue to endure. Further, only the gospel changes man eternally and secures him a safe, peaceful dwelling for all of time. Government cannot legislate morality nor forgive the sins of man and right man’s relationship with God. There is no salvation nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross. (The Royal Road, Thomas a Kempis)

Following are 10 verses to walk us back from the worrisome political edge of this election year:

  • You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22, NIV)
  • Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NIV)
  • Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36, ESV)
  • Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  (1 Corinthians 5:24, ESV)
  • For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28, ESV)
  • And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.  (Daniel 2:44, ESV)
  • For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)
  • He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:21, ESV)
  • The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. (Psalm 33:10, ESV)
  • Sing to Yahweh, you His faithful ones, and praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5, HCSB)

May God show His continuing mercy to the people of America by giving us a leader we do not deserve–one who seeks His face. And may we the people of the Lord Jesus spread His gospel in our homes and to the ends of the earth to see everlasting change.

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Admitting Our Weaknesses to Seek God’s Strength

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I like to think that I stay on top of tasks and deadlines. However, there come certain times and circumstances in our lives that demand we lighten our load before we lose our mind! Just this week, I had to call and cancel my daughter’s orthodontist consultation for the second time. Actually, the call went something like this:

“Hi, Marline. This is Brooke Cooney. I am scheduled to bring my daughter in tomorrow for her orthodontist consultation. Last week I called to cancel because I hadn’t sent in the paperwork beforehand and also, we had a guest with us all week. Today, I am calling to cancel because I not only didn’t send in the paperwork, but now I can’t find it. Last week one child ran a fever and had a virus all week. This week my younger child woke up with a fever and has the virus too. Also, we are in the middle of an adoption and have just come off a weekend with family in town. I am sorry, but I will need to cancel and just stop by when everyone is well to fill out the paperwork and reschedule.”

Needless to say, Marline received more information than necessary, and was fine with me rescheduling. She was a little baffled that I lost the paperwork, and quite frankly so was I—the yellow folder containing all the paperwork will show up eventually. Cue the power of positive thinking!

I am a Type A woman, and Type A women like myself often want to function out of our own strength. We don’t usually ask for help, and when we are offered help, we hesitate to take it. Additionally, we’d rather not raise the white flag and admit we can’t make all things go according to schedule or as planned.

Right now, my family is walking through an emotionally difficult time as we are walking the slow path of adoption. Further, my husband’s mother is in the second half of a year-long chemo and radiation round to address breast cancer. To top those two situations off, the demands of homeschool, ministry, and work don’t cease. I feel like I am constantly giving and am at times to the point of completely poured out. I know my husband often feels the same. 

Please join me over at iBelieve to continue reading.

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Walking By Faith: Responding to the No and the Yes of Jesus

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Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:18,21, ESV)

A few weeks ago, I was strolling alongside a newly-walking one-year-old. He had tired of simply watching the gymnastics lesson and wanted to try out some moves of his own. Instead of letting him onto the gym floor with my kids in class as he first attempted, I took him outside to walk on the sidewalk. I wanted to hold his hand to protect him from falling and getting yet another bump on his face. He’s gained the nickname “Bruiser” because of all his recent spills.

Needless to say, newly walking one-year-olds think they have the whole walking bit down. He didn’t want to hold my hand this time. He hadn’t asked for assistance, but rather, he had a taste for freedom.

As I grasped his hand and wouldn’t let go, I considered that all he was hearing was, no, no. 

No, don’t pull away from me.

Continue reading at iBelieve.

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Your Kids Slow You Down… and That’s a Good Thing

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We all know kids take time, but do you ever feel as if your kids are slowing you down? Maybe you long to shop alone without the help of little hands? Or perhaps you wrap all of your Christmas presents at bed time because you know you can do it faster without the assistance? You are not alone! Please join me over at iBelieve to see why it is a good thing that your kids are slowing you down and how this points to the Father. Read this slowly here.

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5 Lies Satan Wants You to Believe and Scriptures to Combat Them

Scriptures to Combat the Lies of Satan

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

Satan wants nothing more than to make you ineffective in ministry. He wants you to quit before you start, falter in all your attempts, stray from the truth, and feel isolated in your quest. Don’t fall for his lies. Here are five lies Satan wants you to believe and scriptures to combat them. If it worked for Jesus, certainly it is a model we should follow.

Your goal is impossible and will end in disappointment; quit while your ahead. Our generation is programmed to believe that if what we aim to achieve isn’t quickly given it must not be worth while. We hate the wait and the work that impactful endeavors require. Let’s face it, we are often tempted to quit. However, God urges us to keep going–one faithful step after another–to overcome and be rewarded.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9, NASB)

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Revelation 21:7, NASB)

You are alone in your struggles. Recall the song, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrows?” Satan would have you believe that you are all alone and nobody can empathize. Not so!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

If you make yourself your number one priority, everything else will fall in place. Selfishness never leads to serenity for yourself and certainly not for others. Yes, we should take care of our bodies, soul, and minds as they are a temple unto the Lord. However, our temple is not a shrine and our chief aim is not the satisfaction of ourselves but our sanctification.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:4-7, ESV)

…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:8, ESV)

Their is an end to your desires; therefore, obtain, achieve, or accumulate X, Y, or Z and you will be filled. We so easily fall for the lie time and time again that if we obtain this one thing we will be happy. If we achieve this one goal, then we will be enough.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes. (Proverbs 27:20, NIV)

What you can see, feel, taste, or smell is all there is. The devil would love to have us think that all we see is all there is, after all, according to him, you only live once.

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (Revelation 19:13-14, NIV)

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 
(John 20:29, ESV)

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17, ESV)

What would you add to these five? What scriptures do you use to combat the lies with the Sword of the Spirit?

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