Weekly Spiritual Readings

December 9, 2016

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.  Psalm 25:4-5



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God answers prayers every day. God wants us to come together in love and concern for one another. When we reach out to one another in unity of spirit, we share the healing love of God and its power to bring us peace.

Sometimes we think we cannot do anything to help others. But with God’s strength we can do much more than we can imagine. God is pleased when we offer love and compassion, no matter how insignificant our actions may seem. God calls each of us to show love to the world. Our acts of compassion shine God’s love into the world.

In times of spiritual drought, God can fill use with hope.

In the presence of the Lord we can always hope. However great our pain and problems or the difficulties and darkness in our past or in our present, Jesus has the power to restore us to new life. We can find hope for healing in Jesus.

Trusting God is about having faith that no matter what happens, God’s word is true — and then obeying that word. God welcomes us when we’re hurt, lonely, afraid, or just don’t know what to do. Whatever we experience — whether the loss of a loved one or problems in our jobs, in our homes, or in relationships — we can trust in God.

God gives us free will to choose our direction in life. We can choose to pray daily, to read the Bible, to attend church, or to extend kindness to a stranger. When we learn to put our faith in God and to allow God to guide our lives, we can have confidence in the choices we make. Today seek God’s wisdom for every choice we make.

God is with us in the midst of our struggles, guiding us through.

Letting go of the past enables us to embrace God’s possibilities.

God is with us and that God’s hand rests upon us. It is something so sublime that we cannot fully understand it. We can rest assured that wherever we go, God’s strong hand will guide us. God can use our helping hands to guide others today.

God’s truths will endure eternally.

We can rely on the Lord’s direction.

Whatever your circumstances, thank the Lord for his provision for you today.

No matter how busy we become, we must set aside time which is quiet and undisturbed, time where we can enter into the presence of God, worship Him, and listen. God desires to encourage us and give us clear direction today. Let's love Him with all our heart and listen intently for His gentle whisper.

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Giant of the Day by Sally I. Kennedy
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
It's no doubt true that most people are facing a giant of some sort each day. You may have heard the saying, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle". This came to my mind recently when someone asked how I was doing. With a big smile pasted on my face, I replied, "Just fine!", which was pretty far from being true.
How often do we all do that? In reality, most of us have 'something' we are dealing with. There's no last chapter from concerns, problems, and troubles while we are here on earth. Sometimes the giant we are facing at the moment is some kind of fear. The what-ifs can get us crazy. It certainly is no coincidence that the Bible tells us 'don't be afraid', 'fear not', at least 200 times: some say there are 365 verses pertaining to 'do not fear'.
We have been equipped with a toolbox to battle daily giants. We have the sword of the spirit (the Word of God) with its promises and declarations. We have others to come alongside us to aid us in our struggles. We have Jesus' promise to be with us always, and we have the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and help us with each and every giant we face.
That is awesome, and definitely good news.

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Don't Be Surprised by Trouble by Laura Story, from the book and Bible study curriculum, When God Doesn't Fix It
Our hope comes in Jesus, even when He doesn’t do what we want Him to do. Even when He doesn’t fix what’s broken in our life... When Jesus is with us, He’s our anchor in the rough waters of a troubled life. If we want to survive the storm we need to cling to Him like the salvation He is. — Laura Story
Introduction
There is a popular expression that says, “Into each life some rain must fall.” We all encounter stormy times in our lives. Sometimes this takes the form of just a gentle rain, but at other times it is an intense down-pour with hurricane-force winds. When these times come, it is difficult for us not to be taken back and ask, God, why did this happen?
Perhaps what we need to do is adopt the mindset of a young boy named Daniel. Daniel grew up in a tough neighborhood. He had friends whose houses were robbed, and he knew that if he left his bike out front at night, there was a good chance it would be gone in the morning. He knew better than to walk around his block alone after dark. He was on his toes when he saw strangers and was ready to run home as fast as he could if he sensed trouble.
Would you say that Daniel was paranoid or prepared?
The truth is, Daniel sees the world he lives in the way it really is. He has learned that he should be prepared, careful, and aware of his surroundings. Daniel has his eyes open to the fact that this world can be a dangerous place and the neighborhood where he lives has very specific hazards. His preparedness actually makes his neighborhood a safer place for him.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. — 1 Peter 4:12–13
If Daniel did not recognize the risks around him, or if he decided to ignore them, he would be in greater danger. But by honestly looking at the threats in the environment where he lives, he can make decisions and take actions that help him make it through each day. As believers in Christ, we need to do the same. We need to take to heart Jesus’ words when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But we must also remember the rest of that verse: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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"I Almost Missed A Christmas Miracle" By David Langerfeld
Bethlehem, 2000 - The excitement was building. We were standing in the Shepherd's Fields just outside of Bethlehem. We were ready to go into the Shepherd's Caves and sing Christmas Carols. Some members of the tour group had done it with me on previous trips. For others, it was their first time - but everyone was excited. Bethlehem... Christmas Carols... Shepherd's Caves... Who wouldn't be excited?
We had always done it. We had always sung carols in these Shepherd's caves - Because once you did, you were never the same. So, I planned it so that everyone could experience it. My plans were about to be fulfilled. We would sing Christmas carols inside the Shepherd's Caves in the hills of Bethlehem.
There was a problem. It was crowded. The year 2000 had bought more groups than ever to Israel. The Shepherd's Caves were full! We waited... and waited... No groups were leaving the caves. Our time was growing short. We were about to miss out on our chance.
I was disappointed. I knew what a blessing our group was about to miss. I expressed my disappointment to God. "God, we've always sung in the caves. No one is ever the same after they do! We have to do it, Lord. We've always done it that way. If we don't, our group will miss out on the blessing of Bethlehem. Can't you work it out to open one of the caves for us?"
None of the other groups left the caves. We didn't get to sing carols in the Shepherd's Caves. Disappointed, I led the group to the top of the hill - to a small chapel called "The Chapel of the Angels". We would sing there - but I knew it wouldn't been the same. It couldn't be, because we had always done it only one way.
Once inside the "Chapel of the Angels", we started singing carols. Most of the group had tears in their eyes as we sang "Silent Night". For them, Christmas already had a new meaning.
A MIRACLE - Then, it happened. A group from Germany entered the chapel. While we were singing "Silent Night" in English, they started singing it in German. Two other groups entered as well. There were now four groups singing Christmas Carols. Every time I started our group in a song, we were joined by an "International Choir" singing in German, French and Spanish!!! There was not a dry eye in the chapel. Everyone called it a "Christmas" miracle.
I almost missed out on that "Christmas Miracle" - me, the "spiritual leader" of the group. Why? Because I was so intent on doing it the way we'd always done it. If we didn't follow the same traditions of Bethlehem that we'd always followed, I just knew that we wouldn't be blessed.
What about you? Does God have a special blessing or a miracle for you this Christmas? If you're so intent on making sure that you follow the same traditions, that you do exactly the same things that you always do each Christmas, you may miss out on a special blessing or a Christmas miracle.
Two thousand years ago, the people of Bethlehem were doing things the way they'd always done them. People were working, shopping, visiting and worshipping. Due to the census, extended families from far-away places had returned home and were visiting with their friends and families - swapping gifts and memories. In the midst of their traditional way of doing things, God performed the greatest miracle of all - the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ.
With the exception of some shepherds, the introduction of God's Son almost went unnoticed. Don't miss out on a miracle this Christmas just because "We've never done it that way before".

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Do Not Be Afraid by Joel Jongkind
Psalm 56:3 – Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you. (NKJV)
Twice a month for a great number of years now, I have been leading a Bible discussion at the local Long Term Care Centre. On special occasions such as Christmas, New Year's, and Good Friday, I lead a worship service there as well. My wife leads the singing, and a friend from the church plays the piano. We do it on the actual day or a day close to it. In December, for the Bible discussion, I usually focus on two pre-Christmas events from the Bible as a lead-in to the Christmas service. In the past, for example, I have used the visit of the angel to Zacharias and then his visit to Mary. This time, I was in the process of planning to use a passage about the shepherds for the Christmas service, and while studying these well-known Scripture passages, I realized that the opening words to all of them were "Do not be afraid."
Luke 1:13 – But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." (NKJV)
Luke 1:30-31 – Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." (NKJV)
Luke 2:10 – Then the angel said to [the shepherds], "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (NKJV)
There is no doubt that we all have times when we are afraid: afraid of what the future may hold for us as we age; worried about our children or grandchildren; afraid of what might be happening around us or in the world; worried about our health, or employment, or relationships.
I searched the Bible for words of comfort and assurance that in all our concerns, God is with us. I found the story of Moses telling the people of Israel that he was old and no longer able to come and go as he pleased, and that he would not be able to lead them into the Promised Land. Amid their worry about the enemies that awaited them, he gave these words of comfort to his people:
Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. (NKJV)
This Christmas, the Lord willing, I am going to tell my people at the Long Term Care Centre what I am telling you now: Whatever situation we find ourselves in, whatever aches and pains we may have, the Lord is with us, and we can put our trust in Him.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, there are times when we worry and times when we are afraid, but we know that we can come to You and bring our concerns to You in prayer during those difficult times. We thank You for this assurance in Jesus' name. Amen.

 
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Laugh a Lot, on Purpose
Have you ever scheduled time to be happy? It may sound strange at first, but you probably make time in your schedule for other important things—doctor’s appointments, school functions, lunch meetings. Why not schedule some laughter? Take a few minutes each day to step away from the business of life and think about the good things God is doing. Focus on something funny that a friend said or something enjoyable that you’re looking forward to. Don’t let stressful events get every minute of your day—schedule time for a little fun.
Keep Calm and Laugh by Joyce Meyer
Take a moment and think about how you’ve been approaching life. Do you find yourself just trying to make it through the day? If you’re honest with yourself, can you even remember the last time you had a good laugh? Well, I want you to know that the joy of the Lord can ease any emotional and physical pain and bring you a new level of satisfaction in life.
Laughter is the outward evidence of inward joy, and it is proven to make you feel better. I once heard someone say that laughter is like internal jogging, and I think that is so true. Laughter improves emotional and mental heath, it lifts our spirits, and it dispels worry. It’s almost impossible to be anxious and laugh at the same time. This is why we would be wise to express joy in laughter every chance we get.
God has given us the ability to laugh for a reason. It may seem like a little thing, but laughter is vitally important in the battle against stress, anxiety, fear and worry. It’s a tool from God that benefits you in so many ways. That’s why the Word of God says:
Then our mouths filled with laughter, and our tongues with singing. Then they said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them. (Psalm 126:2)
He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing. (Job 8:21 NKJV)
A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
The Bible says that a happy heart is a good medicine because laughter lifts your spirits, improves your mental, emotional and physical health, and de-stresses your mind. And (here is the best part) . . . it costs nothing. You’ve got a proven, God-given weapon against stress that is free of charge and that you can use at any time, day or night.
Maybe you haven’t laughed — I mean really laughed — in a very long time. If that is the case, it’s probably causing much of the stress you are experiencing today. You will find that you feel better all over after a hearty laugh. Sometimes I feel clean and refreshed after a good laugh. If I am tired and weary from dealing with life’s issues, I often feel like my soul is a dusty closet — stale and in need of fresh air. But when I take the opportunity to have a really good laugh, it seems to “air my soul out,” refreshing me and lifting the load off my tired mind.
You may be thinking, Well, Joyce, I don’t have anything to laugh about! Many times I don’t either, but when you do make the time, you’ll be amazed at how different you will begin to view your job, your family, your relationships, yourself and even your walk with God. You’ll become a person whose first response to stressful situations is faith not fear, joy not sorrow. You’ll be a person like Freddie...
One day the schoolteacher scolded young Freddie, by saying, “Freddie, you mustn’t laugh out loud in the school room.” Freddie responded respectfully by saying, “Sorry, teacher. I didn’t mean to. I was smiling and my smile busted.”
That’s my prayer for you. My prayer is that no matter what you are going through in life that you will remember the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). That you’ll have a smile on your face no matter how intimidating the incident, how stressful the situation or how discouraging the dilemma. And when things get tough, or when you feel like giving up, I pray that your smile would bust. We don’t laugh about our problems, but thankfully, we can laugh as we trust God to take care of them.
Tip from Joyce: “Rather than thinking you don’t have time to laugh, begin to realize you don’t have time not to laugh.” – Joyce Meyer
Study Suggestion: This week, take an inventory of the number of times you laugh out loud each day—and then make plans to laugh more, on purpose. Schedule time with people who make you laugh, read something uplifting, watch a funny movie…. Do what works for you!

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Are you hearing God clearly? by Senior Living
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. - John 10:27
An old golfer was standing in front of the first tee box, ready to take his shot. The hole was a tough one, surrounded almost completely by water. And the golfer was wondering if he should use an old golf ball, or a new one.
He decided the hole was just too precarious, so he reached in his bag and pulled out an old ball he could afford to lose. After placing it gently on the tee, he heard a voice above him say loudly, “Use the new ball!”
Frightened, he replaced the old ball with the new one and approached the tee. And again he heard the voice from above shouting, “Take a practice swing!”
The golfer obeyed the voice, stepped backward, and took a big practice swing. Feeling more confident, he approached the tee one more time when the voice again rang out, “Never mind, use the old ball!"
All jokes aside, God does speak to us in a variety of ways. It could be through the counsel of a friend, through a still small voice inside of us, or most importantly, through His Word. And He’s always speaking – we just have to listen.
Jesus says that His sheep know His voice. So stay in the Word and follow Jesus – and you’ll hear God’s voice!
Prayer Challenge: Ask God to make His voice clear to you and give you ears to hear when He speaks!
Questions for Thought: How have you heard God speak to you in the past? What did He say? Is there a situation in your life today where you could use a word from God?


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Small Straws In A Soft Wind by Marsha Burns
You can now look back to see how your decisions have affected your current position. You have had multiple opportunities to respond to life's circumstances through walking in the Spirit instead of reacting emotionally and mentally. The goal is for you to walk in unity with Me, says the Lord. And, the result will be spiritual maturity. 1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.

So many of you have been too hard on yourself, and it has amounted to self-deprecation. It may feel like humility, and you might even believe that you deserve it. But, condemnation is not from Me. Conviction is not the same as condemnation. Forgiveness is not just for others, but must be extended to yourself as well. Rise up and walk in the Spirit, says the Lord. Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Be sensitive and aware of those things that bring weakness to your body, soul, and spirit, and fight to stay strong. This will be your battle, but you are well able to overcome by and through My Spirit, says the Lord. I am with you to usher you into the realm of victory! 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You must do the work required to come into order in every phase and function of your life. I have provided the avenue for you to be in My flow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and in your circumstances, but you have to do your part and cooperate with My work. This requires concentrated effort and spiritual focus, which you are well able to do if you want to, says the Lord. Be diligent. John 7:38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Many of you, My people, need to re-organize your thought process to exclude the mental clutter that has made you feel scattered. You can do this by focusing on that which is actually important to your life and spiritual well-being. The things that demand your time and attention are many and varied, and you would do well to prioritize and establish yourself in peace, says the Lord. Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Issues will arise that demand your attention. In dealing with these circumstances seek Me for wisdom and direction. Refuse to allow unexpected situations to derail you. Keep your faith strong and establish yourself in the peace that is beyond your understanding. Let Me lead you with the assurance that I am with you and for you, says the Lord. Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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The Trumpet by Bill Burns
"Set the trumpet to your mouth!" Hosea 8:1
Arise, My people, and receive that which I have given. Receive the joy of My presence within and upon your life. Receive it. Let joy overshadow you, so that it imparts greatness. Speak in faith and proclaim My will so that you can gain the victory over your circumstances. Establish yourself in thanksgiving and let My peace engulf you. I am with you and for you, says the Lord.

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Christmas Candy Cane Poem about Jesus Author Unknown
Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

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No matter who I am
Or where I've been,
No matter what I've done
Or what I've seen;
No matter what I have
Or where I go,
No matter what I do
Or how I grow;
God will direct me,
God will correct me,
God will protect me,
God will accept me.
by John Stuart

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A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

John 6:35 – Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

John 10:14-15 – [Jesus said,] "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep."

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! “ - Philippians 4:4

Paul wrote, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:13-14

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 3:5

11The lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Isaiah 58:11

John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

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Do You Carry Burdens Like Cats Wear Clothes? By Shannon Quintana
Have you ever put clothing on a cat? In my super important research for this article I found it necessary to search YouTube with the words "putting clothes on cats." I encourage you to do the same, as it will definitely brighten your day. When I was younger, we had a cat named Mr. Fraidy, so named because he was afraid of everything. Get it? He was a "fraidy cat." I know, my family is a clever bunch. As a source of fun and enjoyment, we would cut the toes out of a stretched-out sock and slip it onto Mr. Fraidy. He would get up and try to walk but would ultimately end up looking like some sort of drunken sailor or just give up all together and lay down in defeat. Oddly enough, this picture of my poor, old cat came to mind when I was doing a devotion about our burdens.
Burden by definition means "a heavy load." We all carry them from time to time, and sometimes, they are put on us (like little Mr. Fraidy, God rest his feline soul). We do our best to walk around and make life work in spite of this heavy weight. If you are anything like me, you stuff the burdens down, trying to hide them until one day it's just too much, and you can't fight the desire to give up anymore. But, we are able to be free of the burdens just as quick and easy as Mr. Fraidy was. When he complained enough (i.e. meowed as loud and angrily as he could), we would reluctantly remove the sock, and he would scamper off to hide underneath a bed or behind the couch. Similarly, when we are loaded down with worries and cares, all we need to do is ask God to take them from us.
When I was watching those silly "cat with clothes on" videos, I began to wonder what God thinks when He sees me struggling to carry my own burdens. Does he chuckle sometimes at the silliness of it all? How foolish I am to think that I can handle the weight on my own, when all I need to do is say, "OK, God, this is too much; I need you to take it." ...
God is clear in His words that the MOMENT we come to Him and ask for His help, He steps in immediately to rescue us. He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I WILL give you rest."
This is a clear invitation to come and be released from the unnecessary weight you're carrying. God has time for you, my friend! He has time to spend removing your burdens, no matter the weight and no matter how many you have been lugging around. His goal is your freedom! How can you walk encumbered by the worries, cares and stresses of life? The answer is you can't, and you weren't meant to. Don't be like those cats with clothes on. Meow (er, I mean call) to God, and He will come to your rescue and set you free from that weight!
In all seriousness, my friends, what burdens are you carrying today? It doesn't matter how small it may seem; it is keeping you from walking in the freedom God has already given you. How Jesus longs to come for you and remove that heaviness. He wants you to be able to walk lightly today. Will you let Him?


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Along the Way
I Thank You, Lord, for blessings and for favors bestowed on me this day. I praise you, Lord, for joys and inspirations received along the way. I give you glory, Lord, for love and mercies more than words could ever say.
Amen

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Read Through The Bible
Psalm 44
1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. 2 How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. 3 For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them. 4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. 5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. 6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. 7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. 8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah. 9 But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. 10 Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. 11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. 12 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. 13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. 14 Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. 15 My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, 16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger. 17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. 18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; 19 Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. 20 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; 21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. 22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. 23 Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. 24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. 26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.

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A prayer for spiritual awareness: ‘Today, dear Lord, open my eyes that I may see, unblock my ears that I may hear, sensitize my spirit to your touch.’

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