Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Give Thanks

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Without question, we live in the richest nation in the world. In terms of material possessions, even our poor own more stuff than many of the “well-off” in the world. Poverty, in the rest of the world, means that people have only one meal a day if that. They have no clean water to drink, no shoes to wear, and perhaps only one change of clothes. Their children are diseased and dying with little or no hope for medical care. That is real poverty.

America knows no such poverty. During my time as a bilingual elementary school teacher in Dallas and Garland, I visited in the homes of some of my students. All of them, as far as I know (it was not my place to ask), were children of illegal immigrant parents. All of them were considered “poor” and usually received assistance for their normal school supplies. I do not recall a single home I visited that did not have large flat-screen TVs, usually more than one, and the children had some kind of electronic devices including video games. The parents drove late-model cars often decked out with expensive custom wheels (“rims”). I do not say this to criticize, but only to point out that our “poor” are not really poor compared to the poor in the rest of the world. This explains why millions attempt to breach our borders to leave the poverty of their countries for the “poverty” in ours.

America has been richly blessed by God, yet the voices from the left grow louder by the day denigrating America as evil, intolerant, and bigoted. What God has blessed, they curse. Paul warned that these days would come (2 Timothy 3:1-7), so we should not be surprised by this. Rather than succumb to the venomous rhetoric of the loud left by retreating into a shell of depression, we should cast our light on the darkness though our proclamation of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day comes once a year, but our attitude of thanksgiving should be voiced daily. We have much for which to be thankful, and the Bible says much about giving thanks to God. “Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence” (Psalm 140:13). The “righteous” are those who have been made righteous by the blood of Christ forever; therefore our thanksgiving should be forever. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). I have much for which to be thankful. Every breath I take and every beat of my heart is a gift from God. I thank God for all those He orchestrated in my lineage, going all the way back to Adam so that I might have life. God has blessed me with good health for which I am thankful. I thank God for Jesus Christ who shed His blood on the cross so that I might receive His righteousness. I thank God for Jesus rising from the dead so that I might also have eternal life with Him. I thank God for my first wife through whom God gave me my two sons, their wives, and my four grandchildren. I thank God for June my wife of almost 32 years, with whom I have shared the best years of my life, and I thank God for her family who in every way has become my family. I thank God for my siblings and their families and the double bond we share in Christ. I thank God for my church family and the fellowship we share that will last throughout eternity. I thank God for my work and the talents and abilities God has given me with which I can make a living. I thank God for my job at the Institute for Creation Research and the privilege I have to work among fellow believers; they too are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Through my work – all the skills and talents God has given me – God has provided a home, “stuff” to fill our home, food, clothing, vehicles for going to work, church, and anywhere we want to go. God provides more than just our basic needs so that we are able to bless others from the overflow.

My list is short. If I were to provide an itemized list of everything with which God has blessed me, it would fill a book. I am sure my readers could say the same. The hypocrites on the left want to stir up envy against the “rich” one percent by making the rest of us feel deprived because we do not have what they have. Such envy stirs up hate and is divisive for our nation. Nowhere does the Bible promote the kind of egalitarianism promoted by the left. It is a lie of the devil and the only way to combat that perverse philosophy is by adopting an attitude of gratitude. “In everything, give thanks.”

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One Was Thankful

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (Luke 17:15)

Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and I’m sure most of us have plans for food, family, friends, and fellowship. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day, all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.

As I thought about Thanksgiving coming up, the Lord brought to mind the account of Jesus healing the ten lepers. We read about that in Luke 17:11-19:

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (Luke 17:11-19)

Following the “Transfiguration” (Luke 9:28-36), Jesus “stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Coming down from Caesarea Philippi, Luke records that Jesus “passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (v. 11). He is traveling from the north to the south (toward Jerusalem), which means He must pass through Galilee first before going through Samaria. Why did Luke name Samaria first? I do not know. I could not find one commentator that could tell me, but I suspect the answer is down below. Jesus was on His way to the cross.

As the passage records, ten leprous men met Him, and while remaining at a distance –because their disease was so contagious, they were not allowed to come near other people – they cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them. They addressed Him as “Master” – Greek ἐπιστάτης (epistatēs), from epi, “superimposition, to be over, above,” and histēmi, “to stand” Together the title means “one who stands above” – Master! This is not to be confused with διδάσκαλος (didaskalos) meaning “teacher” (Luke 3:12). Thus, they recognized that Jesus had the power to heal their disease.

When Jesus saw them, “He said unto them, ‘Go show yourselves’” (v.14). Note that Jesus does not touch nor approach them. Why? Jesus had often touched lepers when He healed them, why not today? Jesus was on His way to the Cross. He could not allow Himself to become “unclean.” Note also that His Word was sufficient to heal the lepers – “as they went, they were cleansed.” This healing by His verbal command is a clear demonstration of His deity.

All ten exercised faith in believing His Word that they would be healed, but only one returned to give thanks. “When he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God” (v. 15). “And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (v. 16). He did not simply bow in reverence. He completely prostrated himself, flat with his face to the ground. He placed himself at Jesus’ feet. His attitude was one of complete humility, reverence, worship, and gratitude – “and he was a Samaritan.” That this one was a Samaritan may explain why Luke listed Samaria before Galilee. The implication is that the other nine were Jews.

Jesus seems surprised that only this one returned to give thanks. However, knowing that the Lord knows the hearts of all men, His feigned surprise was likely intended to make a point. Jesus said that “[God] is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

Thankfulness was not particularly characteristic of the Jews. Consider how often they complained after they were freed from Egypt. Think of how soon they fell into idol worship during the time of the Judges. Consider their presumption on God knowing that they were His people. Their lack of gratitude came as no surprise to Jesus. However, the “stranger” recognized his unworthiness and was grateful for the mercy Jesus bestowed on him.

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (v.19). The Greek word translated “whole” here is σεσωκεν (sesoken), and it means “has saved.” Literally what Jesus said is, “thy faith hath saved thee.” Obedience (which also required faith) had made him “whole,” i.e., healed him. However, his “faith” in recognizing Jesus as “Master” saved him. He was “whole” not only physically, but spiritually.

Does God Expect Us To Be Thankful?

Leviticus 22:29  And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.

  1. Not out of obligation
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

1 Chronicles 16:8  Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

Can’t do the latter without the former.

1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 30:4  Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Considering God’s holiness and our unworthiness, how can we not be thankful for the love He has shown to us?

Psalm 95:2  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Not “come before His presence with prayer requests.” Prayer requests are fine, but let’s first thank Him.

Psalm 100:4  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

“Bless His name,” i.e., “speak well of His name” What are some attributes of God that come to mind?

Colossians 2:6-7  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  (7)  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Consequences of Ingratitude:

Romans 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Ingratitude darkens the heart.

2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7-9  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  (2)  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy … (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8)  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9)  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Benefits of Thankfulness:

Psalm 140:13  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

We are made “righteous” through Christ. Because of that we have His presence within us.

Jeremiah 30:19  And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

  1. In context, this is referring to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity.
  2. However, the principle applies.
  3. God will bless our thankfulness.

2 Corinthians 4:15  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

  1. “redound” Greek περισσεύω (perisseuō)
  2. to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess
  3. God’s grace to us “supper-abounds” through thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11  Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Colossians 3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

1 Timothy 4:1-5  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  (2)  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  (3)  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  (4)  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  (5)  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Conclusion:

Jesus healed ten lepers. Nine of them were of “the chosen.” Their attitude reflected ingratitude for the marvelous work Jesus performed in their lives – almost as if they believed they were entitled to what they received.

One leper – a “stranger,” a Samaritan, clearly an “outsider” due to both his leprosy and his heritage – recognized his own unworthiness and the greatness of the One who healed him; and he returned to give thanks and worship the God who healed him. And he was saved.  Let us recognize that we are all lepers and give thanks for all He has done for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What Can I Give God?

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)

I heard a story about two bills that were printed on the same day. One was a one-dollar bill, and the other was a twenty-dollar bill. They became good friends, but as things go with paper money, they were soon separated at the bank and went off in different directions. After many years apart, the two ended up in the same wallet. The one-dollar bill immediately recognized his long lost friend. “Andy! How have you been? What have you been up to?” The twenty-dollar bill responded enthusiastically, “Well, Georgie, let me tell you. I have just been having a grand old time. I have been on several cruises up and down both coasts of the good old USA. I’ve been to all kinds of concerts, and sports events. I have dined at the finest restaurants all over the country. I’ve been having a blast! How about you, Georgie? What have you been up to?” The one-dollar bill sheepishly answered, “Well, you know me, Andy … church, church, church.”

Giving to God is a struggle for many. I could spend a lot of ink offering many scenarios and excuses for why Christians have trouble giving to God, but the simple truth of it is lack of trust in God. Everyone has “X” amount of money coming in, and “X” amount going out and the two Xs have to balance. Unlike the government that makes its money by legalized theft, most people work for a paycheck which is limited by what the employer is willing to pay. That paycheck only goes so far, and it has to cover housing, food, transportation, medical expenses and so on. Unlike the government, real people get into real financial trouble when they spend more than they take in. Unlike the government, real people cannot print extra money when they run out of cash; that’s against the law.

After all of that, the Bible teaches that we should give to God. The Old Testament teaches the concept of tithing (giving 10%) of our income to God. The first example of this takes place early in the book of Genesis when Abram gives a tithe of all his spoils to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ.[1] Later the practice of tithing was codified in the Mosaic Law tithes were collected for three different occasions. They were the Levitical tithe (Numbers 18:21, 24), the tithe of the feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) and the tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).[2] In all, the Israelites were giving 30% not just 10%.

Why did God demand so much? The answer is that God wants His children to depend on Him for their provision. God proved Himself as Provider by giving them manna daily and water in the desert. In all their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out (Deuteronomy 29:5). God took care of them even with all of their complaining. God showed that in spite of what they gave up in tithes, God abundantly provided for all of their needs.

Another purpose for the tithe was so that the people could participate in God’s work of provision. One of the tithes was for the maintenance of “the Church.” The Levites, the priestly tribe, were not allotted any land. They derived their sustenance from the tithes the people brought to the Tabernacle (later the Temple). It was also used for the maintenance of the facilities. The third tithe provided for the poor, and through it, the people participated with God in caring for those who could not care for themselves.

Doubtless, like in other aspects of their religion, the Jews were unfaithful in the giving of their tithes. God points this out through His prophet Malachi. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). Of course, we cannot rob God! As our lead verse affirms, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. In another place God makes the claim, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). Every created thing belongs to God, even our very souls. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). If God owns it all, what then can I give Him?

God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and with that image came a free will to choose. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), but sin is a choice every soul makes individually. Our soul, then, is the only thing over which we exercise a small measure of control, and therefore the only thing which we can give to God. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The “sacrifice” is our offering or “gift” to God. A broken and contrite spirit and heart recognize God for who He is and submits to His ownership. It acknowledges our sinfulness before the Great and Holy God and our unworthiness of all His beneficence. By His grace, we receive what we do not deserve. By His mercy, we are spared what we do deserve. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Part of that “reasonable service” includes giving of tithes and offerings for the work of the Lord. I have heard Christians say that the New Testament does not mention tithing. This is true, but neither does it negate the practice. Jesus practiced Judaism perfectly and was therefore obligated to offer tithes. (He paid taxes also: Matthew 17:27; Mark 12:17.) Jesus expanded upon the law by going beyond the external practice to the very thoughts of man – “Ye have heard it said of old … but I say” (Matthew 5:21-46). By the same token, early Christians brought more than a tithe to the church; they sold all of their possessions and gave it to the church (Acts 2:44-45). Paul relates the attitude of the Macedonian church in their giving. He said, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis mine). There is the sacrifice!

Many Christians (80%) do not tithe for a variety of reasons, but most do not tithe because they fear they will not have enough to meet their financial obligations. This demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s provision. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It also demonstrates that they have not given themselves to the Lord completely; therefore they are relying on themselves for their provision. Other Christians do not tithe because they view their possessions as their own. They have not learned that God ultimately owns everything; we are merely stewards of the blessings He has placed in our possession.

Tithing is an act of faith. It is the sacrifice of ourselves to God through our lives and our possessions. Tithing is the only practice in which God challenges us to test Him. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10 emphasis mine). Before you take up that challenge, be sure that you give yourself to Him first.

What can I give God? I can give Him all of my life and give back all that He has given to me.

 Notes:


[1]  “Is Salem Jerusalem?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/08/16/is-salem-jerusalem/

[2]  “The Three Tithes of the Old Testament” – https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1958/09/the-three-tithes-of-the-old-testament

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Pilgrim

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. (Psalm 39:12)

On Thanksgiving Day[1] we remember the Pilgrims and the first celebration of Thanksgiving. Sadly, most Americans, including many Christians, cannot explain the significance of the day. For most, the day is a time for gathering together with family and friends to feast on turkey with all the fixings and pass out from tryptophan over a football game. On the following day, everyone swarms the malls and outlet stores to stock up on Black Friday bargains for the next big holiday. For these people, Pilgrims are people with funny clothes, stovepipe hats, big buckles on their shoes and guns with bell-shaped muzzles. Pilgrims look cute on greeting cards or as seasonal decorations, but what is a pilgrim?

Without rehashing what can easily be found with a quick Google search or repeat what I have written in the past, allow me give a different perspective on the word “pilgrim.” Dictionary.com defines a pilgrim as (1) a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion, (2) a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place, (3) an original settler in a region, (4) one of the band of Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth, Mass., in 1620, or (5) a newcomer to a region or place, especially to the western U.S.

Those fitting the fourth definition of the word celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 after surviving a harsh winter with inadequate shelter where almost half of their company died from exposure to the elements. The Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. These Pilgrims traveled to a foreign place (Definition 2) and were newcomers to the place where they landed (Definition 5). However, it cannot be said that they were the original settlers in the region (Definition 3) because the Patuxet tribe lived on the land before the Pilgrims arrived. Nor can it be said that they came to a sacred place (America) as an act of religious devotion, albeit they desired “the advancement of the Christian faith.”

About a month ago, my wife and I visited the Holy Land as pilgrims (Definition 1). We traveled a very long distance from Dallas, Texas to Israel and visited many sacred places there because of our devotion to the Word of God and our desire to visit the places we read about in the Bible. Our pilgrimage served to bring God’s Word to life in our minds and to form a stronger bond and love for the land of Israel and especially for the city where God has placed His name. June and I were pilgrims!

As Christians, we are all pilgrims. Regardless of where on earth we dwell, we are strangers and sojourners in this world – pilgrims; “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The Greek word translated “conversation” is politeuma and it means “community” or “citizenship.” Our true citizenship and our allegiance are in heaven; therefore, it is right for us to feel out of place in this world. If not, we might need to take a second look at our passport! “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. … And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15, 17).  Knowing that this world is passing away, I am “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:12-13).

As a pilgrim, I yearn with an aching heart for the Lord to return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and make this world right again. Then I will be home, no longer a pilgrim. In the meantime, fellow pilgrim, we can thank Him for all His care and provision as we travel this alien land and for the assurance that our real home is with Him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Notes:


[1]  “A Day to Give Thanks” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/11/26/a-day-to-give-thanks/

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Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Thank You, Lord Jesus!

You have preserved my life for 67 years and You have blessed me with a good, strong body and excellent health. And even though I have not escaped “the curse,” I still do pretty well, for an “old man.”

A couple of months ago I thought I was fit enough to run, and, while You kept whispering to me not to do it, I thought I could, and did. The next day, my right knee loudly complained that I should have listened to You.

Thank You for a good physical trainer that understands the anatomy that You designed and assembled enough to take it easy on my whining knee, and who encouraged me to have a doctor take a closer look. This time I listened, and I went to see my familiar orthopedist, Dr. Medlock. Thank You for the knowledge You have revealed to men and women in the medical field. Thank You for the desire You have instilled in them to devote their lives to the care of others.

Dr. Medlock started with conservative means – a cortisone shot to the knee. That did not help, so he ordered an MRI. Thank You for such wonderful technology You have allowed humans to develop that see inside the human body to help doctors pinpoint physical injuries. Dr. Medlock saw that I had, for the second time in one year, torn the medial meniscus in my right knee, and it would require surgery to repair.

Last Friday, May 26, 2017, I went to the Ambulatory Surgery Center at Medical City, Dallas to get the work done. Thank You, Jesus that You have allowed me to live in the United States of America where we have an abundance of good public and private hospitals staffed with talented and well-trained medical personnel that are efficiently run without oppressive government meddling. Dr. Medlock is an excellent doctor.  With the use of an arthroscope (again, thank You for technology) and the skill of an excellent surgeon (thank You for Dr. Medlock), I was out of the operating room in less than an hour.

Thank You for my wonderful wife, June, who drove me home in the car You gave us. Thank You for an abundance of food at every corner. June bought me a double-double Whataburger for my first meal with money You have provided through the ability You have given us and by the good employment You have provided. You have even provided the insurance to cover most of the medical expenses through the employment You have provided.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for a church family, and a choir and Sunday school family and all the many Christian brothers and sisters You have blessed us with that care for us, and pray for us, and encourage us as we go through the down parts of life. You have not left us alone!

Today, I am four days out of surgery. So far, You have given me the strength to walk eight blocks around the neighborhood, and I plan to walk at least four more before the day is done. Tomorrow, I will drive the pickup You gave me to the place of service You have provided for me.

Thank You, my Lord Jesus, most of all because I am Yours.

Lord, I feel sorry for all those who are so richly blessed by You, and they do not even realize from Whom their blessings flow. Open their eyes, Lord. All things come from Your hand, dear Lord Jesus. Thank You.

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