Worship Reading Plan: Day 4

“You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the Lord.” Ezra 8:28

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

Some responsibilities seem too weighty to carry and are therefore destined for failure. Imagine the daunting nature of Ezra’s task.

King Artaxerxes had returned all of the valuables King Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he conquered Israel. Thousands of pounds of gold, silver, and other precious items were entrusted to Ezra to carry back to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra did not have an armed escort to protect him and the treasure from almost certain danger. Most caravans during that time were vulnerable to bandits. If word leaked out about the wealth being carted to Jerusalem, the travelers would be doomed.

Ezra called twelve priests and charged them with the safe delivery of the Temple treasure. We don’t know whether they had the option of refusing such a burden, but their service was seen as a special offering to God.

As difficult as it is to fathom the enormous worth of this treasure, both in monetary value and as invaluable pieces designed for the worship of the Lord, Scripture assures us there is another treasure of even greater worth. God calls his people his treasure: “The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure” (Deut 26:18). And in Matthew 18, Jesus speaks of God the Father giving special attention to the needs of “little ones” (18:10).

The phrase refers to children, but it also includes everyone who might be categorized as one of the “least of these” (Matt 25:40). The chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, all those who are unable to care for themselves or provide for their own needs—God especially treasures these.

And just as Ezra entrusted the treasure to the priests, God has given us the responsibility to care for those he considers his special treasure. Whether we have been charged with the care of a dying infant for six months, a sibling with a brain injury, or simply being a friend to someone with a disability, every believer has a part to play. Though we may experience fear and feel the risks to be greater than we can manage, we can take comfort in knowing that God is protecting us and will save all of his treasured people.

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Worship Reading Plan: Day 3

“Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods.

He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.

We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today!”
Psalm 95:1-7, NLT

Note from the Girls Life Application Study Bible

How to Worship

Think about a super-popular band. Their followers are pretty crazy about them, right? God wants us to feel that way about him—to know him, love him, listen to him, obey him, and tell everyone about him. That’s what worship is all about. Singing, reading the Bible, and preaching are all parts of worship. But the real heart of worship is the heart—connecting your heart to God’s. These three Rs can help:

Remember what God has done for you. This affects your attitude in worship. Approach God with a sense of gratitude and reverence. The songs will remind you of his greatness— that he is worth praising. Many worship songs are based on Bible passages that talk about God’s great deeds and his love for his people. They’re also about his faithfulness to keep the promises he has made. Think of all worship—including readings, prayers, special music, offering, Communion, testimonies, and sermons—as a celebration of who God is and what he has done.

Reflect the glory of God. When you sing a worship song or tell someone about God, you’re honoring God by spreading the truth about him. Even telling someone, “I saw a beautiful flower the other day,” can be a way of praising God, because creation itself shows God’s glory (see Psalm 19:1).

Respond to God’s grace. Worship is a response to the truth of God. Giving money in the offering is a response; so is following along in your Bible during the sermon. Responding often involves prayer—thanking God for who he is, confessing sin, or asking for help. And it also means applying the Bible lesson to the way you think or act.

Take a look inside the Girls Life Application Study Bible

Worship Reading Plan: Day 2

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.

Greet all the brothers and sisters with a sacred kiss.

I command you in the name of the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessaloniaans 5:14-28, NLT

Note from the Every Man’s Bible

In these verses, Paul leaves us with a collection of good teaching. If we follow these many instructions, as we can with God’s help, we will be well on our way. We are called to minister to others and to actively participate in God’s ongoing work on earth.

This gives hope to others and preserves our own spiritual gains as well. Paul calls us to rebuild our relationships by repaying the wrongs of others with kindness. We are called to live joyful lives, to be always prayerful, to continually seek God’s will. We are reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s continual helping presence. God gives us what we need to fulfill his plan for our lives. Our part is to participate in the good plan he has set out for us.

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Worship Reading Plan: Day 1

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

Psalm 100, NLT

Notes from the HelpFinder Bible

We do not think of ourselves as a worshiping culture, let alone an idolatrous culture, but our behavior suggests otherwise. Consider our weekly gatherings of up to one hundred thousand frenzied fans observing a ceremony of men dressed in strange garb acting out a violent drama of conquest. Others stay at home and join in by way of a small glowing shrine set up in the family room.

Fans of professional football are probably not even aware that their behavior could be described as worship. Or consider the way thousands of young people scream and throw themselves at the stage where their rock-star idols are performing. Human beings were created to worship. To worship is to ascribe ultimate value to an object, person, or God—and then to revere, adore, pay homage to, and obey by ordering the priorities of our lives around that which we worship. The Bible teaches that God alone is worthy of our worship. Worship, more than anything else, will connect us with God, our only source of lasting hope.

What is the ultimate purpose of my worship?
• 1 CHRONICLES 17:16-18 | “Who am I, O Lord God . . . that you have brought me this far?. . . You know what your servant is really like.”

• 1 CHRONICLES 29:10-13 | Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly: “O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord. . . . We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!”

• ISAIAH 6:3 | They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

• LEVITICUS 15:31 | “This is how you will guard the people of Israel from ceremonial uncleanness. Otherwise they would die, for their impurity would defile my Tabernacle that stands among them.”
Worship is the recognition of who God is and of who you are in relation to him. Ultimately, everything we do should be based on what we think of and how we worship the almighty God. If our actions don’t pay ultimate honor to him, then we are paying ultimate honor to someone or something else.

• PROVERBS 3:9 | Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.

• EXODUS 23:19 | “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.”
Giving the firstfruits of your income to God honors him as your number one priority. Your offerings demonstrate that your work is for God and that his work is most important.

• REVELATION 4:9-11 | Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

• REVELATION 5:11-12 | Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”
Your worship of God is a foretaste of heaven.

• GENESIS 4:3-4 | When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.
In the gifts of Abel and Cain we see that, from the very beginning, humans have an instinct for worship. We desire to offer thanks and honor to God by expressing our praise and bringing offerings from our work to God. Even if we fall short of the mark, as Cain did, the instinct is still there.

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Where is God in Suffering? Day 7

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” 1 Peter 5:6-10, NLT

Notes from the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition

We often worry about position and status, hoping to get proper recognition for what we do. But Peter advises us to remember that God’s recognition counts more than human praise. God is able and willing to bless us according to his timing. Humbly obey God regardless of your present circumstances, and in his good time—either in this life or in the next—he will honor you.

Carrying our worries, stresses, and daily struggles by ourselves shows that we have not trusted God fully with our lives. Humility is needed, however, to recognize that God cares, to admit our needs, and to let others in God’s family help us. Sometimes we think that struggles caused by our own sin and foolishness are not God’s concern. But when we turn to God in repentance, he will bear the weight even of those struggles. Letting God carry our anxieties calls for action, not passivity. Don’t submit to circumstances; submit to the Lord, who controls circumstances.

Lions attack sick, young, or straggling animals; they choose victims who are alone or not alert. Peter warns us to watch out for Satan when we are suffering or being persecuted. When you are feeling alone, weak, helpless, and cut off from other believers, or when you are so focused on your troubles that you forget to watch for danger, you are especially vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. During times of suffering, seek other Christians for support. Keep your eyes on Christ, and resist the devil. Then, says James, “he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

When we are suffering, we often feel as though our pain will never end. Peter gave these faithful Christians a broader perspective. In comparison with eternity, their suffering would last only “a little while.” Some of Peter’s readers would be strengthened and delivered in their own lifetimes. Others would be released from their suffering through death. All of God’s faithful followers are assured of an eternal life with Christ, where there will be no suffering (Revelation 21:4).

Look inside the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Now, available in Large Print and Personal Size.

Where is God In Suffering: Day 4

“’In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.’

Some of the disciples asked each other, ‘What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.’

Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

‘I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”

Then his disciples said, ‘At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.’

Jesus asked, ‘Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:16-33, NLT

Note from the Every Man’s Bible

In this world, we will encounter “many trials and sorrows.” Some of these difficulties are inevitable and beyond our control. These can be endured with God’s help. On the other hand, some of our suffering is self- inflicted and can be avoided.

In such situations, God still offers us peace as we muster the courage to make needed changes in our lives. God’s forgiveness and loving acceptance can give us peace as we face our trials and sorrows, even when the pain we face is ultimately our own fault. He has the power to lead us down the path of life; he has already overcome all the obstacles that stand in our way.

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Where Is God In Suffering? Day 2

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.

They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!

Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,

‘Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!

If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!’

Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.

I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.

Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.

My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!

Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey.

My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.

My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.

I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.

They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice for my clothing.

O Lord, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!

Save me from the sword;
spare my precious life from these dogs.

Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
and from the horns of these wild oxen.

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among your assembled people.

Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.

I will praise you in the great assembly.
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.

The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the Lord will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.

The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
All the families of the nations will bow down before him.

For royal power belongs to the Lord.
He rules all the nations.

Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Bow before him, all who are mortal,
all whose lives will end as dust.

Our children will also serve him.
Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.

His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
They will hear about everything he has done.” Psalm 22, NLT

Note from the New Believer’s Bible

Psalm 22 is one of the most dramatic scriptural descriptions of what happened when Jesus died on the cross. What makes this so amazing is that it was written a thousand years before the Crucifixion took place.

The Medes, Persians, and Assyrians devised this horrible form of death, spreading it throughout the East. The Romans borrowed it from the Phoenicians and then took it to another level. They crucified thousands of people.

And yet Psalm 22 reads as a vivid eyewitness account of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is one of the most amazing messianic prophecies anywhere in Scripture. Jesus quoted directly from it as he hung on the cross (Matthew 27:46).

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God’s Healing Hand Day 6

“Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.

All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.” Acts 3:1-11, NLT

Notes from the Wayfinding Bible

Throughout the big story God has revealed his power through miracles. He showed his control over nature through the ten plagues in Egypt and by dividing the waters of the Red Sea. He provided food and water for his people while they wandered in the wilderness. He displayed his power through the Old Testament prophets and, most clearly, in his Son Jesus. Now that same power is with the apostles. The apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, continues the tradition of performing miracles, displaying God’s power in Christ’s name. He then boldly preaches in the Temple about Jesus’ life and death.

In Jewish society, imperfection of any kind made a person an outcast. In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to sacrifice only animals that “have no defect of any kind” (Leviticus 22:21). God also required priests to be without blemish. God’s law held other people to a high standard as well, but over the centuries Jewish culture had generalized these rules in a was that was harsh and unrealistic. A person had to be practically perfect to be part of the Jewish community. Peter’s healing was a great gift. It restored this man physically and socially.

Peter and John had been empowered by the Holy Spirit and were energized to see God working through them to spread the Good News. God’s power flowed through them so that Peter even healed a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ. This is a wonderful example of how God can do more than we can ask or imagine. The beggar was merely hoping for a coin or two to help him survive one more day. The possibility of being whole again and walking out of the Temple didn’t even enter his mind. But it happened. God can, will, and does do what we perceive as impossible.

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God’s Hand of Healing Day 4

“Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.

Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be opened!’ Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, ‘Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.'” Mark 7:31-37, NLT

Notes from the Illustrated Study Bible

This miracle is very similar in order and vocabulary to the healing of the blind man in 8:22-26. Healing miracles in the Gospels follow a similar pattern—the constant telling and retelling of similar stories probably standardized their form and wording.

This healing miracle includes a change of scene. Although some interpret the next miracle as occurring in the Gentile world (Sidon or Decapolis), it probably took place after Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee. The next incident takes place there (8:10) without a change of scene.

Jesus also used saliva in a healing at Mark 8:23, where he spit on a man’s eyes in curing his blindness. The medicinal use of saliva in ancient times is well documented.

Since Jesus was looking up to heaven when he sighed, his sigh is probably best understood as a prayerful gesture. Ephphatha is an Aramaic term that Mark translates for his readers (see also 3:17; 5:41; 14:36; 15:34). These are not magical formulas or incantations; Mark is simply recounting some of the original words Jesus spoke. Matthew and Luke do not seem to have attributed any special significance to the Aramaic words of Jesus, since they did not include them in their Gospels.

Despite his desire to avoid attention, Jesus’ greatness shone too brightly—his person, his teaching, and his ability to heal inspired awe, and he could not be hidden.

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God’s Hand of Healing: Day 3

“The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. One day the girl said to her mistress, ‘I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.’

So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. ‘Go and visit the prophet,’ the king of Aram told him. ‘I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.’ So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter to the king of Israel said: ‘With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.’

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, ‘Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.’

But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: ‘Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.’

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: ‘Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.’

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. ‘I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!’ he said. ‘I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?’ So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

But his officers tried to reason with him and said, ‘Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.'” 2 Kings 5:1-15, NLT

12-Step Devotional from the Life Recovery Bible

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless Over our problems—that our lives had become unmanageable.

It can be very humiliating to admit that we are powerless, especially if we are used to being in control. We may be powerful in some areas of our lives, but out of control in terms of our addictive/compulsive behaviors. If we refuse to admit our powerlessness, we may lose everything. That one unmanageable part may infect and destroy everything else.

The experiences of Aramean army commander Naaman illustrate how this is true. He was a powerful military and political figure, a man of wealth, position, and power. He also had leprosy, which promised to bring about the loss of everything he held dear. Lepers were made outcasts from their families and from society. Ultimately, they faced a slow, painful, and disgraceful death.

Naaman heard about a prophet in Israel who could heal him. He found the prophet, and the prophet told him that in order to be healed he needed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman went away outraged, having expected that his power would buy him an instant and easy cure. In the end, however, he acknowledged his powerlessness, followed the instructions, and recovered completely.

Our “diseases” are as life threatening as the leprosy of Naaman’s day. They
slowly separate us from our families and lead toward the destruction of everything important to us. There is no instant or easy cure. The only answer is to admit our powerlessness, humble ourselves, and submit to the process that will eventually bring recovery.

Take a look inside the Life Recovery Bible