But….(Part Two)

BUT” doesn’t change the past.  It changes the forecast.

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Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead.

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Read the following statements, and consider which part of each statement is most memorable.

  • I love you, but I really don’t care for this meal.
  • I appreciate your effort, but you really made a mess.
  • I love you, but you’re grounded for a month.

Now read the following statements, and consider which part of each statement is most memorable.

  • I really don’t care for this meal, but I love you.
  • You really made a mess, but I appreciate your effort.
  • You’re grounded for a month, but I love you.

In each case, the part of the statement that is most memorable is the part that comes AFTER the “BUT.”  “BUT” becomes a focus word; what one might call the fulcrum of the statement.  No matter how weighty the first statement, what follows the “BUT” outweighs it and can therefore lift it out of the way.  It is imperative for a leader that he/she know which statement to make the weighty, more powerful one that follows the “BUT.”

It is important in relationship at every level; family, church, professional, and social.  Imagine saying to an employee, “You’ve been with me for five years, but there’s a problem with your performance.”  The last seed you planted is a “problem seed.”  That become the focus; not the five years of service, not your appreciation of their service, and the past excellence; and especially not that the focus will be US working on the problem.  Now imagine saying this to an employee; “There’s a problem with your performance, but you’ve been with me for five years.”   Now where is the focus.  Now the focus in on tenure, faithfulness, and relationship; and that focus points toward US working on the problem together because I don’t want to lose you.

I refer you once again to our Text for Today.  All that Jesus did for us is certainly memorable.  We need to know it in our heart, believe it, stand firmly upon it, and hold fast to it.  For if all that had not happened, then there would have been no resurrection.  BUT it DID happen, and because of that, there most assuredly was a resurrection.  Yes, Jesus suffered, BUT He conquered.  Yes, Jesus died, BUT He arose from the dead.  Yes, we were unworthy, BUT Jesus became my redemption, making me worthy.  It fits into your life just as it does mine, though there are surely places where your preliminary statement may differ from mind, BUT Jesus made all the difference.  We sinned, BUT He did not.  We failed, BUT He did not.  We stumbled, BUT He did not.  We were weak, BUT He is strong.  We were sick, BUT He healed us.  We were bound, BUT He delivered us.  We were lost, BUT He found us.  Thank God for the “BUT!

Manna for Today – Acts 13:13-52; John 3:16-17; Galatians 3; Romans 10:6-17

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BUT … (Part One)

This little three-letter-word, “but,” is more powerful than you can imagine.  Use it well.

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Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead.

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In simplest terms, “but” fills the role of a conjunction in speech.  A conjunction joins nouns, verbs, phrases, and sentences together.  However, the conjunction “but,” when considered in its full function, does something additional.  Let’s take a moment and look at that “something additional.”

While the word “but” is a conjunction that joins two elements of speech together, it does so in a unique way.  In reality, when the word “but” is used, in joins those elements in a work of cancellation.  Consider, for example, how it is used in our Text for Today.  The preceding verses relate the story of the passion of Jesus, all the way up to and including His death and burial.  The events that followed His burial were unlike any other series of events that had ever occurred.  Yes, Jesus was arrested, beaten, ridiculed, mocked, crucified, died on the cross, and was buried.  BUT!

And that’s where our Text for Today comes into view, and the depth of meaning of “but” becomes clearer.  While we understand that EVERYTHING Jesus did, and ALL that befell Him in the passion was necessary, we also know that His resurrection was also necessary.  However, it would seem that all that occurred in His passion was geared to destroy His life and end His existence, we know it did not.  We know that He lives, having been resurrected and given a glorified body that will never taste death again.  That is where the “but” becomes so important.  Yes, Jesus was arrested, beaten, ridiculed, mocked, crucified, died on the cross, and was buried, “BUT” He was raised from the dead and lives forever.  While the work of His passion was not destroyed, the personal effect on Him was cancelled at the resurrection.  In short, the resurrection was the “BUT.”  It changed everything.

Oh, how thankful I am for the “BUT” in our Text for Today.  Can you imagine the horror, sorrow, grief, and anguish of the followers of Christ as they watched Him go through the torments laid upon Him from the moment of His arrest to His burial?  Surely those same grievous thoughts and images followed them, haunted their sleep, and likely every waking moment until “BUT.”  You see, the “BUT” changed everything for them.  He was arrested, BUT now He is free.  He was beaten, BUT now He is victorious.  He was mocked, BUT now He is exalted.  He was dead, BUT now He is alive, and alive forevermore.  Oh, such a powerful little word.  It has the ability to change one’s outlook.  You may feel sick, BUT Jesus has healed you.  You may feel defeated, BUT Jesus has given you victory.  You may feel lost in the darkness, BUT Jesus has made you the light of the world.  Whatever you face that tries to bring you down, remember, “BUT!”

Manna for Today – Acts 13:13-52; John 3:16-17; Galatians 3; Romans 10:6-17

A Gift to You!

Whatever you do, DO NOT respond to this by saying, “RETURN TO SENDER.”

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Acts 13:26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

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Our Text for Today makes it as plain as it can be made.  The salvation that is of Christ, the salvation set forth in the New Testament, the salvation of everlasting life, renewed mind, healing, provision of abundance, and complete deliverance in life is the “salvation” of our Text for Today, and it has been “sent” “to you.”  Read it again and observe . . .

  • Men and brethren” – Paul is speaking to a gathering, possibly comprised of mostly men, and those he called “brethren,” which, for him, could be both Jewish and the Gentiles present who had embraced Christ.
  • children of the stock of Abraham” – this is clearly speaking to those who were present who were of the natural bloodline of Father Abraham, likely Jewish, and certainly of the children of Israel.
  • whosever among you feareth God” – here is a “whosoever” statement – this would include ANYONE who feared the Lord – I believe this to imply having true faith in the Lord Jesus, male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free.
  • to you” – how could it be any clearer? – perhaps only by calling one’s name – to ANYONE who fears the Lord, and regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, social status, or education, that means YOU!

To YOU, my friend, has this salvation been sent, for YOU it exists, and in and through YOU in it manifest.  All this is a gift to YOU, specifically YOU, and it is expressly FROM Father THROUGH Jesus BY Holy Spirit.  YOU MUST make this a personal gift, a personal gesture of God’s love to YOU.  Allow your faith to rise to a new level today.  All the work of redemption that Father wrought through Jesus Christ in and by the power of Holy Spirit is for YOUYOU are that dear to Him.  He loved YOU in such a manner and to such a depth that this was all done for YOU.  All this belongs to YOU.  Believe it, accept it, receive it, hold fast to it, and live in it.  That is Father’s desire for YOU!

Manna for Today – Acts 13:13-52; John 1:1-14; John 3:16-17; Romans 10:6-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 3:13-29; 3 John 2-4

A David People

As born-again children of God, we have an advantage David did not have.  Yet he’s worth studying.

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Acts 13:22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

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Would to God that every believer would match the description of David in our Text for Today.  It is certainly worth our striving towards with all our being.  Imagine the joy of heart to hear the Lord say to you, “You are a person after My Own heart.”  That is certainly my heart’s desire.  But what kind of a man matches this description?

David was anointed as a prophet, warrior, psalmist, worshipper, and king.  But then, so are you.  We may all prophesy.  We are all called to fight the good fight of faith wearing the whole armor of God.  We are all to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” as true worshippers.  We are anointed to worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”  Jesus has made us all kings to rule over our own kingdom over which He is King of kings.

In his humanity, David sinned, and we have all done the same.  But as a man after God’s Own heart, David was a repentant man.  We, too, must be repentant people.  When we sin, we must be quick to confess our sin, for Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, restoring us to right standing before the Father.  Thought our flaws and sins, like those of David, may be great and many, we must be, like David, assured of the love, grace, and forgiveness of our Lord, and mindful of His covenant strength when we are painfully aware of our human frailties.  Long before the new birth was known, David understood the principle of a clean heart and a renewed spirit.  Here his heart-cry in Psalm 51 for a spiritual rebirth.  Here is the heart of a man who held  as precious his understanding relationship with Jehovah.  All this was King David.  Let us, as children of God, be a David people; a giant-killing, nation uniting, church-leading, warrior-general serving as ambassadors of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have the ability.  The question is, “Do we have the will?”

Manna for Today – Acts 13:13-52; Matthew 6:33; Proverbs 4:20-22; Proverbs 6:20-22; Psalm 51;         John 14:12-14; 1 John 1:9

When They See Holy Reality

Has the church of today shown the world holy reality, or holographic reality?

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Acts 13:12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

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Take a moment to read our Manna for Today; it will certainly add clarity to what I write.  There you will see that Paul (Saul) was certainly encountering demonic intrusion against his ministry and the work he was assigned to do.  The Scriptures are plain; the man called “Barjesus” (also known as Elymas) was a “false prophet.”  And he took it upon himself, not only to be against Paul and the faith of the Lord Jesus, but to be so rude as to attempt to insert himself in and audience between Paul and Sergius Paulus who had called to meet Paul, and to interrupt the desired meeting by withstanding Paul.  Such rudeness is a common element in the works of darkness.  People like Barjesus have no sense of decorum, do not honor dignitaries, and are most rude in their behavior.  Christians should NEVER emulate such behavior.

So, what was Paul’s response to this obviously demonic encounter with someone who was striving to prevent the work of the Lord?  The first thing he did was to pinpoint the problem and call Barjesus out for who he was.  Paul did not speak in generalities.  He was sensitive to Holy Spirit and knowledgeable of the Scriptures.  Based on that knowledge and sensitivity, Paul spoke boldly and plainly, calling Barjesus “a child of the devil” and “enemy of all righteousness.”  Paul then plainly revealed what it was that Barjesus was attempting to do; Barjesus was “a perverter of the right ways of the Lord.”  Oh, but many today would say that such speech is simply too bold, unloving, and inciting hatred and strife.  Yet that is precisely what Paul did.

And for those who would strive against such bluntness and boldness as Paul displayed, perhaps they should consider the 23rd chapter of Matthew in which Jesus did precisely the same thing, only with greater verbosity and likely sharper conviction.  There He called the Pharisees, scribes, and religious leaders around Him “hypocrites” (six times), “blind” (five times), and “fools” (two times).  In some places in America today, such words coming from a man or woman of God in any venue would be construed as hate speech.  But consider this.  If I see you in danger of being bitten by a rattlesnake, must I couch my words so the snake won’t be offended by saying that you are in close proximity to a fanged serpent with the potential of envenomating you?  Or may I simply call it a rattlesnake?  I believe you understand the analogy.  The church today is surrounded by, and in some cases, infiltrated by people like Barjesus.  It’s time to expose them plainly for what they are.  May the Lord help and embolden His people.

Manna for Today – Acts 13:1-12; John 10:37; John 14:11; Matthew 23; Mark 3:1-6

Dealing with Demonic Intrusion

Jesus faced it. Apostle Paul faced it.  It’s still around for you to face it.  What will you do?

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Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

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In our “everything goes” crazy world where fewer and fewer people truly know the difference in right and wrong, where it is, in many places, becoming more and more difficult to tell the distinct difference between one who calls him/herself a Christian and one who does not, people in general have become increasingly ignorant of and blind to true demonic activity.  Today, Christian parents send their children to see movies that have obvious demonic influence, if not being absolutely Satanic.  Christian leaders seek peace in the name of their fame and notoriety by partnering with enemies of our faith to make themselves look good.  All across the American landscape, shops for the palmist and astrologer are open for business, and Christians pass them every day as though they were part of the normal landscape.  And new age shops for shoppers who want crystals and skulls to enhance their psychic abilities in communi-cating with the spirit world are in almost every city in America.  And all that, dear reader, is just what is clearly seen on the service.

Make no mistake about it, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is in the midst of a spiritual battleground filled with demonic intrusion.  What I have shared is merely that which can be seen on a daily basis by simply driving around our communities.  Only our Father in heaven knows what is happening in our churches, businesses, schools, homes, and in the social scenes of the world today.  Once again, make no mistake about it, we are in a battle filled with demonic intrusion.  The question is, “What will you do?

Jesus cast out demons, cursed fig trees, talked to storms, and took authority over spirits of oppression and infirmity.  Paul the Apostle cast out demons, delivered the bound, and openly spoke revealing truth to take the wraps off of demonic intrusion seen in our Text for Today, and in dealing with a demon possessed girl in Acts 16.  Peter the Apostle cast out demons, and confronted by Simon the sorcerer in Samaria, uncovered his devious plan and exercised the power of God over him.  Clearly, from the Scriptures, we have solid and repeated precedence for our role in taking action in our time, regardless of where you are.  Don’t go about looking for demons under every flowering plant, behind every door, or clinging to every doorknob.  But PLEASE, join yourself in a closer walk with the Lord than you’ve ever known, open your heart and mind completely to the leadership of Holy Spirit and His ability to reveal that which is happening about you!  You have divine authority and ability in your world; your home, your school, your church, your place of employment, in your car, where you live and shop.  “What will you do?

Manna for Today – Acts 13:1-12; Mark 16:15-20; Matthew 18:18; Luke 10:17-20; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10; Acts 16:16-24

A Proper Departure

There is a RIGHT way to depart from a company of believers.

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Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

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I enjoy looking for patterns.  Patterns can clearly reveal a person’s motives and character.  In looking for patterns, I often see people imitating an action of a person who clearly has the highest motive and character, but the imitation is of action only.  The motive and character are absent.  And dear one, when imitation is imitation of action ONLY, without the presence of highest motive and character, the result can be devastating.  Make no mistake about what I am saying.  HOW you do a thing is important, but JUST AS IMPORTANT is the REASON and CHARACTER (MOTIVATION) behind what is done.

Every word spoken, and every action taken is, in reality, a seed sown.  And it is the REASON and CHARACTER (MOTIVATION) for the sowing of that word or action that feeds a certain DNA into the life of that seed as it grows and reproduces fruit.  All of this speaks to the action of the departure of a single person or a group of people from a defined space or position within the body of Christ.  There IS a way to depart that is proper, but sadly, there are many departures that take place that are completely improper.

Here are some basic rules for departure, that if followed tend to blessing, not cursing.

  • Such departure is the will of God, for it furthers His plan for the person(s) departing AND for the body of Christ.
  • That it is the will of God is clearly known to all those involved; the departing one, AND those remaining.
  • That the parting is done in a covenant spirit of love for one another, the parting, AND those remaining.
  • That the parting is done as an act of covenant, with those remaining partnering with the one(s) departing, having their faith joined together for the blessing of the Lord on those called to depart.

When these elements are NOT in the separation of covenant people, the door is opened for destruction to creep in, if not rush in, and bring about the potential downfall of those involved and the destruction of that to which they set their hands.  Many churches suffer such today because people leave one church in strife and begin attending another church, all the while carrying that seed of strive with them, only to plant it afresh in their new place of worship.  Pastors, as well as elders and church leaders, should guard against this, for it is rampant indeed.  New and struggling churches seem to be most subject to this device of the enemy, but it will try to rear its ugly head any where it can.  Be wise, my friend.  Walk in covenant, hold fast to the truth, and walk in love.

Manna for Today – Acts 13:1-12; Numbers 13:17; Matthew 20:2; Mark 8:9; John 17:18

Separation Is Not Division

If we “rightly divide,” we can avoid destructive division.

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Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

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Not all division is bad.  When a child is conceived, it is the astronomical number of DIVISIONS over the next nine months that produce the baby, fully formed, united in purpose to live, and each part serving its own correct function without strife against another part.  When a seed germinates in the soil, the resulting plant with its fruit arises from untold numbers of DIVISIONS over the coming days that achieves that result.  If the body of Christ grows, it is because of a divine DIVISION process that, in truth, creates the necessary multiplication process that brings forth growth in the body of Christ.

In our Text for Today, it was the Lord Who said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”  What was the Lord doing?  He was using divine DIVISION to bring about supernatural positioning and growth that would lead to great multiplication of the body of Christ.  Have you noticed a pattern of life in our Manna for Today?  Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “Birds of a feather flock together.”  That is precisely what was happening here; Acts 13:1 says, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers.”  I want you to focus for a moment on the fact that it was the “prophets and teachers” who were gathered together in a small group.  While there was nothing wrong with that, and I don’t speak against that in any way, where were the apostle, evangelists, and pastors?  What I am saying is that it is a part of the human make-up to gather together with and associate with other people of like motivations, interests, and passion.  While this can be encouraging, there are times when the Lord must separate us in some way from others like us in order to do with you something new, greater, of more importance, and of broader reach than our present circum-stances grasp.

Their gathering together was not intended to isolate themselves from the body, but if the Lord was to accomplish all He desired through Barnabas and Saul, they needed to be separated from that small group for a different, divine, and definite purpose of the Lord they could not accomplish as a part of the original group.  I am not suggesting that you need to be separated from your present position or function in the body of Christ.  What I AM SUGGESTING to you is that we be prepared for those times, places, and points of achievement in which the Lord may move us, or those close to us, from our places of com-fort and potential ease into arenas of ministry that will, at the very least, be greatly challenging to us.  Simply said, be prepared to obey what the Lord says at those times.  It may seem like a DIVISION, but it is, in reality, the onset of MULTIPLICATION.  Enjoy the growth.

Manna for Today – Acts 13:1-12; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:14-22

So, You Want to Move Forward

Whether running a race or fighting a fight, you should still be in it to win it.

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Acts 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

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A famed race car driver once said, “To finish first, you must first finish.”  It is such a simple statement, and yet absolutely profound.  I cannot tell how many people I have met in my seven decades of life who want to win, who want to finish first, who give little if any consideration to simply finishing.  With that thought in mind, take note of our Text for Today once again.  We see that Barnabas and Saul returned from Jeru-salem AFTER they had fulfilled their ministry.  They did not leave Jerusalem early, prematurely, or before they had finished their ministry.  This seemed to be part of the character of Apostle Paul.  In his second epistle to Timothy, as Paul neared the end of his ministry, he stated that he had “finished his course.”  So, we see it from the early days of his ministry to its conclusion.  What God gave Paul to do, Paul finished before he moved on to the next phase.

So, consider this same pattern as it relates to your own life and ministry.  Are you a finisher, or do you start, perhaps even well, but fail to finish that which you have been assigned?  I am not asking this question of you to anger you, or cause you to be offended, but to provoke true self-examination of the habits of life to which you give yourself.  Please believe that when you stand before the Lord, your works will be judged.  If you are a finisher of what He assigns to you, you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  You really don’t want to hear the alternative to that statement.

I don’t know what God has called or sent others to do.  I only know for sure that which He has called and sent me to do.  I often hear people say that want the Lord to specify His direction for their life and ministry, but they seem to be unable to find it, or hear from Him.  When someone says that to me, I have  one question for them.  It is a simple one.  “Have you finished doing all the Lord spoke to you the last time you heard specifically from Him?”  In most cases, the truthful answer is “No.”  That brings me to my concluding statement.  If you will clearly hear from the Lord that which He desires you to do next, finish what He last spoke to you.  There are multitudes of people running from place to place seeking the will of God for their life, all the while not having completed the last assignment Father gave them.  That’s not how it works.  Only when you are faithful to your present assignment to its completion can you clearly know your next assignment.  And having folks who do not follow through on your team, in your ministry, and helping in your vision will be a distraction, disappointment, or disability to your ministry.  Even on the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”  When you can say that to Father, you will receive your next assignment.

Manna for Today – Acts 12:20-25; 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Ever Growing, Ever Multiplying

It is settled forever in heaven.  If God said it, that settles it.

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Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

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I find myself always amazed as I delve into the Word of God.  Every time I read, study, meditate upon, or listen to the Word of God, regardless of the passage, though I may have read it hundreds of times, there is always something new staring me in the face saying, “Consider this.”  It is absolutely amazing, and I love it.  I find myself being drawn back into the Word of God again and again, day after day.  It NEVER gets old.

I am convinced that the reason for this consistency of revelation has as its primary foundation the truth that is found in Mark 4:26 and Genesis 8:22.  It is the SEED PRINCIPLE.  You already know what happens when you plant a seed in the natural world.  If the circumstances surrounding the planting are right, the seed planted will germinate, grow roots, then a blade, then a stalk, then and ear, and then the full corn in the ear.  In that “full corn” will be food for the eater, and future seed for sowing of the same genetic makeup  as the original seed sown.  This opens the door for reproduction at an exponential rate.

Jesus said “the kingdom of God” operates on this principle.  He did NOT say, “some of the kingdom.”  He said, “the kingdom.”  Take it for what He said, and that is simple.  The ENTIRE KINGDOM OF GOD operates on this seed principle.  With that in mind, the church today ought to be the most powerful representing agency of God in all of man’s history.  The kingdom of God does not diminish in power, but rather increases.  Everything that is in the kingdom; faith, love, the fruit of the spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and all the functioning elements of God’s kingdom operates on this principle.  Healing, deliverance, blessing, prosperity, et al, operates on this principle.  Every successive generation of the kingdom of God produces more fruit and seed that was ever produced by any preceding generation.  It is a kingdom principle.  Today, we should see the greatest manifestation of church, power, healing, deliverance, freedom, prosperity, and life that has ever been seen.  If we do NOT see it, it is NOT Father’s fault.  It is certainly available to us.  Let us embrace a life of ever-increasing faith, ever-increasing love, ever-increasing power, ever-increasing light, and ever-increasing glory; all of it ever growing, ever multiplying.

Manna for Today – Acts 12:20-25; Joshua 1:6-9; Proverbs 4:20-23; Isaiah 55:6-13; Romans 1:16;      Hebrews 1:3; Mark 4:26-29