I Have Never Needed Insect Repellent Before. Why Should i Need It Now?

“Bring insect repellent.”

This exhortation has been included on every tour description we have taken over the past 7 years in Peru.  But I have never experienced the need for the repellent. Apparently, mosquitoes can’t live in the higher altitudes.

This year’s tour description was no exception to the rule. But I failed to pack the repellent. I brushed off the oversight, reasoning that I wouldn’t need it anyway since I had never used it before.

At the prep rally, two days before the tour, the tour guide warned us that one of the stops where we would be getting out of the van was at a lower altitude. He stressed that there would be mosquitoes.  He stressed that we needed insect repellent. Once again, I brushed off the warning.

When we arrived at the touring site, there were some “gnats” flying around, but I didn’t see any mosquitoes, so I thought I was safe.

Later, when we stopped for lunch, these same “gnats” hovered around us.  I swatted one on my arm.  It was filled with blood.  These were the mosquitoes we had been warned about.  I checked my arms and they were covered with bites. The bites did not hurt when the gnats had made them, nor did they ever itch or hurt.  But I had definitely been attacked by blood suckers.

Spiritually, God warns us about the presence, prevalence, and dangers of sin.  He tells us that sin will be around us wherever we go.  He exhorts us to resist sin by drawing near him. He warns us that if we do not draw near him, sin will infest our lives.

We look around us and think that we really don’t need God’s help; that we have made it through life pretty good on our own, and we really haven’t encountered any “sin”.  We see actions occurring all around us which appear to be nuisances and aggravations, but not harmful sin.  These actions don’t look like our concept of sin. So, we put up with them, thinking the whole time that we are not being affected.

Then one day, after it is too late, we realize that these nuisances are filled with blood; our blood. We realize that these are the sins God warned us about. And, they have silently and stealthily been attacking us, biting us, affecting us, until we find ourselves “eat up” with the sin.

May we always listen to God’s exhortations, striving to use his power to resist the sin of this world, so as not to become secretly and silently infected by it.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) ESV


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Wisdom Often Determines The Rightfulness Or Sinfulness Of A Practice.

Suppose there is a drug which legally can be purchased and consumed by almost anyone. Consuming the substance is not necessary to sustaining life, but simply a choice. Suppose at least one member in almost every family in the world has chosen to consume the drug, and through its consumption has developed a life-threatening disease. In fact, many families have had multiple members to prematurely die because they chose to consume the chemical compound. There is no doubt that the consumption of the drug is the sole cause of the disease within these loved ones. No drug, no disease.

What would be a wise public response to such a drug? What choice should a person make concerning his own consumption of the substance? What would a responsible parent teach his children about that drug?  What should Christians teach their fellow man about consuming the potential life-altering, life-threatening drug?

Knowledge is accumulating and storing facts in our minds.  Wisdom is the ability to use the accumulated knowledge to its best potential.

Wisdom visualizes the potential power of the accumulated knowledge. It evaluates the hidden good or evil within the information. Worldly wisdom seeks to use its knowledge for its own pleasure. Godly wisdom chooses to utilize its knowledge with the intent of benefitting everyone concerned. (James 4:13-18)

Mankind’s ability to accumulate knowledge has led to the discovery and development of many kinds of chemical compounds, and mechanical tools.  Almost all these discoveries and developments have had potential to benefit mankind.  However, mankind’s inability to control himself when it comes to using these discoveries has often led to abuse, self-destruction, dependency, and atrocities.

Christians regularly find themselves debating the rightfulness or the sinfulness of employing certain discoveries. The use of these chemical compounds or mechanical tools is not specifically condoned or condemned within the scriptures.  Within the debate, knowledge freely flows forth. Many factual details are brought to light. Yet very little progress is made toward arriving at a conclusion because the participants have forgotten that the rightfulness or sinfulness of the practice may not lie in the substance itself, but in the wisdom of those who choose to use it.

An illustration of such debates can be found concerning the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (reread the beginning illustration), the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, the ongoing gun-control debate, etc.  In each of these discussions, the point that is continuously brought to the forefront is: “The Bible doesn’t specifically and emphatically state, ‘Thou shalt not.’ Therefore, I have a right to participate in this practice. And since I can do so in all good conscience, I am going to engage in the practice, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of how it affects others.”

When we approach debatable practices with this attitude, we are demonstrating that we are not addressing them with Godly wisdom, but worldly wisdom; that which is earthly, selfish, and unspiritual.

May we always strive to continually attain and accumulate knowledge, but may we also continually seek to apply that knowledge with Godly wisdom.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 4:13) ESV

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10) ESV

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” (Proverbs 8:12) ESV

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” (Proverbs 14:8) ESV


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How Do You React To An Extreme Weather Forecast?

Just a few observations gleaned from experiencing “extreme” weather conditions over the years on the farm:

There are some things not even the most powerful human being or group of human beings can control. The weather is one. We can study its cause, look for trends, forecast its effect, and make feeble efforts to prepare for it, but we cannot control it.

Attitude goes a long way in determining the effect uncontrollable circumstances have upon us. We can control our own attitude, but that’s all we can control.  Attitudes can be contagious. So, if we have a negative attitude toward the uncontrollable, we need to be considerate with whom we share it. And if we are susceptible to developing negative attitudes, we need to be careful about who we allow to influence us.

Young people do not realize how young and inexperienced they really are. Middle aged people don’t realize how “yold” (Yes, this is a made-up word.) they really are; they don’t realize how much they should have already learned, but how little they apparently have. And old people do not realize how much their experiences have changed their ability to deal with “extreme” weather.  Every age group considers itself almost invincible, often making plans, starting projects, or heading down the highway without considering the “what ifs” that inevitably will occur.

Water is essential to a healthy life and can be enjoyed when consumed and used in the proper form and quantity. However, like most any essential element, water can be hazardous and/or fatal when a massive amount is consumed or when a major amount falls from the sky within just a short period of time.

Being able to semi-accurately forecast the future is advantageous, but it can also produce unnecessary fear and dread, especially when we cannot control the events being forecast.

Although written about God’s message to Joshua, Joshua 1:9 might very well apply to us today because we have received many similar promises:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)

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A Clean Nose May Be The Secret To Enjoying Life.

When I was operating the dairy, there would be the occasional cow who would refuse the feed I placed in front of her.  Sometimes this was an indication of an illness or upset digestive system.  But sometimes, the refusal had nothing to do with health issues.

The problem revolved around a foul-smelling substance on the cow’s nose. She may have purposely placed her nose in the substance, or she may have gotten it accidently smeared on her muzzle when her head happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The cow wanted to eat. She would sniff her feed and try to take a bite, but the pungent smell would weaken her appetite. The cow would then look at me as if asking me to give her a new portion.  I would try to help by sprinkling fresh feed into the trough.  But no matter how aromatic the feed, no matter how rambunctiously all the other cows devoured it, this cow could not eat because the foul-odor was present no matter where she placed her muzzle.

As to my helping her with the situation by cleaning her nose, that was generally improbable because most of my cows would not allow me to touch their heads in such a personal manner.  The only solution to the problem was for her to clean her own nose, and to keep it clean.

Spiritually, many ruin their attitudes and outlooks on life by sticking their noses where they don’t belong. These people may want to enjoy the blessings of life, but no matter where they turn, the foul smell of past experiences or of unwise probing into other people’s business rob them of the ability to appreciate the beauty that lies all around them.

Although friends or professionals may try to help these people overcome their distorted view of life, in the end, the person with the dirty nose is the only one who can clean it.

If life constantly smells distasteful to us no matter what environment we find ourselves in, chances are, the problem lies not with life, but with the hygiene of our own nose.

“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15) ESV

“But we urge you, brothers, . . .to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11) ESV

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If All The Photos Have Accurately Captured My Outward Image, I’ll Always Look Like A Toad Frog!

“If you have 100 photos taken and in all of them you pretty well look the same, whether you like it or not, that’s what you look like.”  I once overheard a professional photographer make this statement while discussing how some clients mourn that they never “take a good picture”.

Over the past few years, my looks have been captured in several photographs. To me, in about all of the pictures,  I look like a smiling toad frog. I once had hope that the kiss of a princess would change me into a handsome prince, but my princess, Sarah (Hebrew name meaning princess), has kissed me several times and so far, there’s been no change.

Guess it’s not a curse. It’s just the way I look.

I’m okay with that.  It’s not the crooked nose, uneven teeth, hearing aids setting at the top of my ears, knot on the side of my neck, or unmanageable hair that counts.  It’s the person I truly see in the photos that matters.

I see a child of God. And that’s enough.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3) ESV

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If We Live In A Darkened House Where No Sunshine Can Invade It, Is It No Wonder We Can’t Enjoy The Blessings Of The Sun?

If we spend the vast majority of our time in a darkened house where the blackout curtains and shades are always pulled over the windows, we shouldn’t be surprised if we rarely realize that the world is actually a bright, sunshiny place. We shouldn’t be surprised that we have difficulty distinguishing night from day, nor should we be surprised that we rarely feel the energy rush which only a stroll in the sunshine can release.

It’s amazing the difference a single raised shade can make on the outlook of a person’s spirit.  Through an uncovered window, one can view life happening all about him. The magical rays of the sun can change a gloom-filled habitation into a house of hope and enjoyment.

A spiritual house continuously filled with the antics of politicians and the rhetoric of the news media will be a darkened house. A life continuously surrounded by drama expressing the frustrations of real or perceived injustices can’t help but be a house where the shades cover the windows. A christian who cannot discern nor incorporate the practical applications of the Bible into his everyday life will find himself dwelling in a spiritual house which appears gloomy and depressing.

But a life which is saturated with the truths and applications of God word will energize a person’s soul to the point that he can experience the joy Jesus came to give him.

To begin brightening your house, think on these verses:

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) ESV

 “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) ESV

 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) ESV

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8) ESV

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Learning To Completely Trash The Old Habits May Be The Key To Keeping Our New Year’s Resolutions.

We all have material things that we can’t bring ourselves to trash.

Sometimes we believe the item will be useful in the future. Any time I replace a part on an appliance or automobile, I save any extra screws, brackets, and unneeded adaption pieces.  If the used piece is not broken, I stow it away in a “safe place”.  I often keep the boxes in which the new fixtures were shipped, just in case they don’t work.

Sometimes we keep worn out items because they hold sentimental value. Falling apart old quilts our grandmas made, chipped serving bowls from which our moms fed us, worn out tractors and farm implements our dads and granddads used, ticket stubs and mementos from events we have attended. When one of our daughters was about five, I told her to throw away a candy wrapper. I watched her place it in the garbage can, then pull it out and put it with a stash of keep sakes she stored in her dresser drawer.  For whatever reason, the candy wrapper held a sentimental value for the young girl.

Sometimes we hold on to worn out items because we have gone through a time in our lives when we were poor; we had nothing, and we swore that we would never again find ourselves in those circumstances.  Many of the older folks who went through the Great Depression developed the habit of saving everything because they saw the potential of recycling even the tiniest scrap; strings, rubber bands, tin cans, empty ink pens, newspapers, magazines, worn out fabrics of all shapes and sizes.  (The above photo pictures labels my grandmother cut from Beanie Weenie cans.)

We all have materials that we just cannot throw away.  Our reasons for our reluctance may vary.  But in the end, the primary reasons we hold onto old worn out items is that they make us feel comfortable and secure, and we believe that one day they will again be useful.

Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions which involve giving up or discarding negative influences within our lives.  These resolutions may also involve adding positive attitudes and actions to replace the discarded ones.  Most of us will eventually fail in making the desired changes; not because we are lazy, or don’t have a fervent desire, or lack the proper attitude.

We will fail because we have secretly stored away the old habit, just in case.  We have refused to totally trash it.  It was a comfortable habit. We reason that the newly resolved attitude or lifestyle may not be what we really need or want.  Since we are not comfortable with it, we implement the new resolution on a trial basis. As for the old attitude or habit, it remains just down in the basement, readily available to fall back on should we need it.

The Apostle Paul’s inspired advice for accomplishing our resolutions, especially the spiritual ones, reads as follows:

“7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)

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Small Things May Seem Useless, But “A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned” Still Applies Today.

A goal reminder posted near the checkout register of a national retail chain store promotes a program called “Strive for 5”.  Each checkout clerk is to strive to place at least 5 purchased items in each bag.  The clerk should try to never send out a bag with 3 items or less.  She should also try to never bag containers with a ready-made handle, or to bag bulky items.

The program is designed to encourage each employee to help the company save money by decreasing the number of plastic bags given to customers. Each bag probably does not cost the company over a penny, if that much. Saving one bag per customer may not seem like much to the clerk working at one of the smaller community stores. But when one considers the fact that this company operates over 13,000 stores in 44 of the 50 United States, if every clerk in every store saved one plastic sack per customer, the benefits for the company would amount to a hefty chunk of change.

It is reported that while touring one of his plants, John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil Company, saw a man operating a machine that soldered the tops onto 5 gallon containers of kerosene. He asked the man how many drops of solder the machine applied, and the answer was 40 drops per can. Rockefeller told the man to try 38 drops, but the buckets leaked.  However, when 39 drops were applied, none of the buckets leaked.  According to Rockefeller, using one less drop of solder per can saved the company $2,500 the first year in the early 1870’s.  As the company continued to grow, that omitted drop saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Small things can often make major differences in our own lives, as well as in the lives of others.  We often desire to help others who are in need, but we can’t think of anything to do for them which we believe will make a significant impact upon them. We can think of several small things (a card, a call, a meal, an offer to babysit for a few minutes), but we deem these as being too insignificant.  We are looking for that one big, unique, beneficent deed that will change their lives forever.

Sometimes, in our own lives, we are searching for that one major decision which will prove to be the turning point in our happiness and destiny; the point at which we cease to sink deeper into the depths of despair, and we begin to rise to the mountaintops of joy. Yet, we can’t find that one major issue which will prove to be the pivot point.  Sure, there are a lot of small problems which we can resolve to improve, but these seem to be merely inconveniences. In our minds, improving them would not make a major difference in our circumstances or outlook.

But we would be wrong on both counts.

Just as the smallest efforts made by employees can produce significant numbers in a company’s bottom line, so the smallest benevolent act can often be just what is needed at the moment in the life of another.

Just as the smallest change in procedures can benefit a major company’s fiscal health, so, often, the smallest changes in our own lifestyle can prove beneficial to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

A cup of cold water. A warm winter coat. An encouraging word. A given up seat. An offer to hold a baby.  All of these can make a major difference in everyone’s lives.

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42) ESV

“9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21) NIV

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Hay For Sale! But Can You Afford It? That May All Depend On How Much I Think Of My Hay.

I had to buy hay every year that I operated the dairy.  Some years hay was plentiful.  Some years dry conditions caused hay to be scarce.  I bought hay from several different sources.  The sources ranged all across the country, as far away as Wisconsin.,

Every person from which I bought hay was honest.  Each would correctly represent the quality of the product. Each would provide the exact quantity of bales.  Some would even occasionally throw in an extra bale.  So honesty was never an issue with anyone.

However, with some folks, I often found myself bartering to pay more than the asking price for the hay.  This was especially true during the drought years. These people knew that I was going through a rough time.  They knew that I had cows to feed, and could not find hay. Often, they didn’t have much invested in the hay; just a cutting and rolling bill.  They didn’t  have livestock and thus didn’t have a use for it. And deep down, they really had rather given the hay to someone in need than to sell it to them. So these often asked less than market price.

With others I found myself either bartering to pay less than the asking price or walking away. These people knew that I and several more were in need of the hay. They knew that there was a hay shortage. Although they may not have had much invested in the hay nor did they have a use for it, they considered the low supply and the high demand to be a lucky break on their part. They had really rather see the hay rot than to take anything less than asking price. As far as they were concerned, it was absolute top dollar and nothing less.

Few things can nullify honesty more rapidly than can greed.

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17) ESV

“17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 
19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) NIV
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She’s Showing Her True Colors!

“She’s showing her true colors.”

We use this phrase to describe someone who is acting in an uncharacteristic manner.  Usually, the uncharacteristic manner is an emotionally-charged, negative reaction to an undesired, unexpected circumstance. When in public, the person normally displays a happy, cheerful, positively-charged outlook on life. But for the moment, he is demonstrating anger, meanness, drama, or disapproval.  Generally, the statement is uttered by someone who has previously witnessed the negative displays; someone who has been with the frustrated person behind closed doors. He is saying, “This is what the person is truly like.  This is his/her character.”

Our 21-month-old granddaughter’s emotions change at the flip of a switch.  One moment she can be happily chattering and energetically tottering from one toy to another, and the next moment she may be dramatically, tearlessly crying, having thrown herself on the floor.

During one of these fits, one of the family members observed, “She’s showing her true colors.”

But is she really?

The statement implies that the rare emotional displays of disapproval demonstrate the true character of the young child, and that her energetic explorations and exuberance are nothing more than a mask donned for the benefit of those around her.

I believe a child this age possesses nothing but true colors.  When she is happy, the energetic, wide-eyed explorations and incessant chattering are the expressions of her true colors. When she is unhappy, the dramatic displays are her way of expressing who she really is at that moment.

It is true that it won’t take her long to begin to develop other shades of expression, but for now, what she is is what she shows you.

This may be one of the points Jesus had in mind when he said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17) ESV

We don’t develop true colors of expression until we gain the ability to identify, control, and manipulate our attitudes, our emotions, our philosophies, our visions for the future, and our desires for relationships.  When we reach this point of maturity, then we begin to show the world a veneered side of our personality, while we let those closest to us see the stripped, natural side of our persona. The applied façade we hope the world sees is positive, happy, and likeable – a regular public relations poster child.  While many times, the true colors demonstrated behind closed doors are anger, frustration, and unhappiness – one which sounds much like a raging WWF challenger who has just been defeated.

Almost all teens and adults have true colors and fake colors; the persona which they display to the world, and the personality which stares them in the face when they look in the mirror.  For most people, the distance between the two is not as drastic as that described in the last two sentences of the above paragraph.  But regardless of the distance between the two, because there is a difference, most of us are miserable.

We dislike and are dissatisfied with ourselves.  We want to be like the small child.  We want to be pure.  We want the happy, energetic, optimistic person to be our true colors. On the other hand, on the rare occasion when the world sees our other side, we want those negatives to be our true colors as well.  We do not want to be a hypocrite.

So, how do we accomplish this task?

The best start is to look toward Jesus as our example and our motivation.  What a person saw of the public Jesus was what a person would see in the private Jesus.  His persona displayed his character and his character daily renewed his persona.

Jesus claimed, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34)

When we can get to the point that we had rather do God’s will than to eat, then we will be like the example. This change in lifestyle doesn’t come easy.  It is much like beginning a physically healthy diet.  As long as we see it as just a change in what we eat, and not a change in lifestyle, then we may realize some short-term, temporary success, but eventually we will go back to our old ways.  We must change our thinking, which leads to a change of lifestyle, which leads to a new us.

May we all be able to remember and apply the following verses:

21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24) NIV

14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16) NIV


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