Our Testimony

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Esther 9-10, 2 Corinthians 1

So far this week, we’ve seen how we need to live in light of our ‘why’ – or our purpose for living. Our why should be the gospel. We’ve also seen how we can live in light of our final victory. Jesus has already won the war, so we can face our battles with strength and determination. As Paul begins 2 Corinthians, we see him turn his focus onto another important element of our Christian walk – our testimony. 

The word testimony means “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” When we think of a testimony, we may imagine someone getting up in court and attesting to what they believe happened in a situation. Testimonies are important and can be used as evidence in serious cases. If a testimony is given in court, that can make the difference between whether or not justice is served. 

In our Christian walk, we also give a testimony. Our testimony is the evidence of Christ’s work in our lives. It is our account of how the gospel has changed us. Sometimes our testimony may look like it does on true crime documentaries. We get up in front of our church or small group and recount in 1-5 minutes how we came to know Jesus and what he has done for us. Our testimony however is much more than a short speech. Our testimony is our whole lives. 

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul gives his own personal testimony of issues that he had previously in his missionary journey. At one point in their travels, they had even despaired of living because things had gotten so bad. But Paul reminds himself and the Corinthians of his hope. He says, 

9 Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again 11 while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11) 

Even in the midst of his trouble, Paul reminds himself of what God has done for him in his life. He knows that God has already delivered him, and so, he can trust that God will deliver him again. This truth helps to strengthen Paul’s own faith when faced with a difficult circumstance. It also becomes an amazing testimony for the church as a whole. The Corinthians can see how Paul handles this time of trials, and they can live with the same mindset in their own lives. 

Our testimony can be based on the past times that God has been faithful to us, but our testimony also includes how we treat others. In verse 12, Paul goes on, “12 For this is our confidence: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.” The way we treat other people is also a part of our testimony. If we treat others well – with God-given sincerity and purity, we will testify, or show evidence, that the gospel makes us better people. It makes us a people full of love and grace. Our actions can testify for God or they can testify against God. It depends on how we live. 

What is your testimony?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

We Will Win the War!

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Esther 7-8, 1 Corinthians 16

Esther took a chance and invited the King to dinner again. By this point, she knew that she had to act fast, but you can tell that she was nervous. If the king was angry at her request, she could have been sent away like Vashti – or worse. The king asked her again what she desired and she spoke out against Haman, letting the king know that Haman was planning destruction for her, Mordecai, and her whole people. Furious, the king sentences Haman to be hung on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Mordecai was then given Haman’s estate and role as advisor to the king. 

A happy ending for Esther and Mordecai, but there was still a dark day planned for the Jews. After the king gave the edict Haman advised him to give, he signed it with his signet ring. An order from the king was not able to be revoked; the day Haman had planned for the Jews would still happen. In order to prevent total destruction of the Jews, Mordecai planned another day where the Jews would be able to face anyone in battle who was hostile to them. Because of this order, there was rejoicing. The Jews could defend themselves, and consequently, they would not be destroyed. They knew they faced a battle, but ultimately, they had already won the war. The king was on their side. They would have victory. 

Most of us will not face a battle like this in our lifetime. We don’t need to worry about anyone destroying our communities, families, or – for the most part – even our property. We may not face physical battles, but we will face spiritual battles. Jesus promised in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We know that we will have trouble in this world, but we can be encouraged that Jesus has the victory. We may have battles, but we know that we will win the war! 

Paul encouraged the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “13 Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. 14 Your every action must be done with love.” We need this encouragement too. Whenever we face difficult trials and temptations, we can stand firm in the faith. We can be strong. And, we know that we can overcome. We pray – as Paul did – ‘Lord Jesus come’ and then we face our battles head on, because we know that we will win the war! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

The Victory

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

Esther 5-6, 1 Corinthians 15

I love summers because it seems like the pace of life slows down just a little. With camps, VBS, and simply more time, I feel like I can evaluate my priorities and reorient myself towards the things that really matter. Once August rolls around, my mind starts thinking about my classroom in the Fall, and I begin to plan out how I want my year to look. It’s helpful to think about those big priorities when planning out my next year. I want my life to be lived in light of my ‘whys’ – the reasons that I have for doing what I do.

If we are not intentional with our lives, the reason we have for living can range from getting our next meal, next paycheck, or next night out. These things can easily become what dominates our thoughts and our actions. If our lives are ruled by these things, we may end up going down a wicked path – as in the case of Haman. He wanted to get his next egotrip from everyone bowing down to him. When Mordecai didn’t, Haman didn’t stop at anything to destroy the Jews – which he thought would make him feel better. He thought it would make him have that feeling of pride (or being admired) again. Because his pride was his ‘why,’ all of his thoughts and actions led to how he can get that feeling of being admired again. This took him down a dangerous path that ultimately led to his destruction. 

In today’s passage in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul talks to the Corinthians about their ‘whys.’ The Corinthians had people who were trying to teach that there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul systematically goes through their arguments and refutes them. One main point of his argument is that if there is no resurrection from the dead, Christ was also not resurrected from the dead. And, if that’s the case, then, what was Paul doing all of this for?  At one point, he reminds them of their ‘why’: 

29 Otherwise what will they do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are people baptized for them?[f] 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I affirm by the pride in you that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord: I die every day! 32 If I fought wild animals in Ephesus with only human hope,[g] what good did that do me?[h] If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.[i]   ~ 1 Corinthians 15:29-32

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, Paul argues, we should be pitied more than any other person. He would then be suffering only for a human hope. But, he reminds them later on: 

55 Death, where is your victory?

Death, where is your sting?[p]

56 Now the sting of death is sin,

and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory

through our Lord Jesus Christ!

~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Paul knew he was living with the power that comes from Christ’s victory over sin and death. This was his ‘why’ and this helped him to endure whatever he faced – whether shipwrecks or angry men – and glorify God in the process. 

Our ‘why’ is the gospel. When we live in light of eternity – in light of this ‘why’ – we can face whatever battles come our way. We can have the victory!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Stand Firm against Deception

with Humility

1 Chronicles 21-22 and Proverbs 27

My family, several of my church family, and many friends and family from across the Midwest and beyond just returned home from a week of church camp for the whole family where the theme was Stand Firm. So, I am seeing Stand Firm everywhere. Sometimes good examples, sometimes bad examples, but always examples to learn from.

1st Chronicles 21 starts right off with “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”

One evening at Family Camp our theme was Stand Firm against Evil and many warnings were given of the roaring lion who seeks to devour – not just nibble at your toe. I found it interesting that in this passage (which is one of the few Old Testament passages besides those in Job that uses Satan’s name) Satan’s target is not an individual but a whole country and his means of attack is through their leader. Thanks to Stephanie Schlegel, our writer last week, I know that Israel is about the size of New Jersey and I can much better picture this beautiful land that God chose for His people and that Satan wanted to bring down.

It reminds me of the importance of praying for our leaders who are in vulnerable positions and are themselves perfect targets through which an entire nation or church can be attacked by spiritual evil. And the laws and policies they put in place are sometimes actually brought about by the devil’s deception, as we see in the case of David.

In this case I believe Satan saw David’s ego as a possible chink in his armor through which Satan could attack a whole country. David, unprompted by God but deceived by Satan, decided it would be a good idea to number the fighting men in Israel. His army commander, Joab, tried to talk David out of it. He pleaded with David to be content just knowing that ALL the fighting men were loyal to him and God was watching over them, regardless of how many or few they were. But that wasn’t enough for a man deceived by Satan, he needed to know exactly how large and vast his kingdom had grown. It’s better for bragging rights to be able to say, “The nation I built has one million one hundred thousand fighting men.” But God wanted him to be content saying, “The nation God built is large.” God was disappointed in David and there was a price to pay – by the whole nation. One man’s sins can reap a punishment for a whole nation. And it is a sin to let your pride grow, especially when it grows greater than your trust in God.

The Proverbs have much to say about pride and humility, including Proverbs 27:1-2

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

How can you Stand Firm this week – in humility. Never get puffed up about how well you are standing firm, or how large your army or influence is. Resist the devil and his attacks. Don’t be deceived. Stand firm – trusting in God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 21-22 and Proverbs 27

The Battles Fought and Still Fight

June 26     1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26

David is still fighting battles and confronting the enemies around him.  When things still flare up in Israel today, I often think how LONG it has been happening for about 2,700 years! Battles and hatred from their surrounding enemies has actually been going on for a long time in Israel. It is actually “old news” to hear the continual fighting. In this battle, Joab led David’s army. He could see that the battle was against them this time. He encouraged his best men, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” (19:13) What encouraging words from the army captain. He did not encourage them to find strength in themselves or by their own might and power they could win, but to be STRONG for their people and the cities of God, and that God would do what was good in HIS SIGHT. When young Israeli men (like our 2 sons) and women are sworn into the Israeli army today, Joshua chapter 1 is read to them in Hebrew. I found these words to be very touching and encouraging to a young soldier. (By the way, ALL boys are required to serve 3 years after high school in the Israeli military and girls 2 years. So, they are not thinking about what college they are going to attend, but what division of the army they would like to go into. Girls are not required to do combat. Lots of a variety of tests are given to match them up to fitting tasks for them.) “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9   What hope and encouraging words for the army of Israel, back then and today.  Like the schools, also their military is not anti-God or Bible.  How awesome that a whole chapter of the Bible is read at every soldier’s swearing into the Israeli army.  May they and we truly find our strength and courage in the God of Israel. 

Another battle was against the Philistines at Gath. Goliath was also from Gath. It is an ancient ruin still visible today as you can see in the drone picture that our son took. David’s brother, Jonathan killed a 24 finger and toed giant from Gath! We do not see any giants there today!

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It is interesting to note the allusion to David, one of many sling throwers, in Proverbs 26:8. “Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool.”  I understand this to mean that it is not fitting to praise a fool, like putting ammo in a gun except in this case it is a stone in a sling.  In conclusion, of todays and this week’s devotionals I hope you have a greater LOVE for the God of Israel, His Messiah Jesus, and beautiful Land of the Bible. 😊

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Longing for the Kingdom

June 25     1 Chronicles 17-18 and Proverbs 25

It is important to see the connection between David and Jesus, both are messiahs! Many Christians today misunderstand who Jesus is because they never understood about the messiah David. In fact, “Christian” has messiah in it. In Israel, they are called Messianics (which has also been twisted).  God chose David to shepherd the people Israel and be ruler over them. (17:7) God told him through the prophet Nathan, “When your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.” (17:11-14) What promises God made to David that through his seed would be an everlasting kingdom, AND that he would call God his FATHER and he would be God’s son. David was also a son of God, and we know that ultimately, Jesus is the Son of God. Even though sometimes the Old Testament books may seem “drier” or have lots of lists of names and cities, they’re so valuable for understanding as we’ve been seeing this week. Sometimes I tell my kids reading the Bible is as important as eating food.  One often can’t remember what they read or ate several days ago, but we needed them for our survival!!

David’s response is exalting, “O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, … and who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people—to make for Yourself a name by great and awesome deeds, by driving out nations from before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD have become their God.” (17:20-22) Little Israel, the size of New Jersey, yet God chose them as a people to make His name known. 

The first six verses of Proverbs 25 deal with the king, so it’s very fitting with our chapters from Chronicles. If you read Proverbs 25 today take note of that timely match up. 😊 Here’s one of them. “Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (25:5) That makes me think of the future kingdom of God.  Once the wicked are removed before King Jesus; his throne will be forever est. Oh, how we long for that day when righteousness will be established on this earth, and the wicked will be taken away. 

Today’s picture is when we left Israel 3 years ago. Our 9-year-old daughter is looking longingly out the window of the airplane as we left. She didn’t want to leave it as it was home to her where she was born and raised. She looked at Israel the whole time, until she couldn’t see it anymore. So far, we have not been back, because of covid restrictions, but others in our family long to go back. And 1 of our 2 sons there plans on coming this week, God willing, after almost not seeing him for 2 years. “The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God.” (1 Chronicles 17:24)

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Fear God and the King

June 24    1 Chronicles 15-16 and Proverbs 24

Once again David planned to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. However, this time he found out how to do it properly.  The last time he had good intentions, but did not do it the way God intended it to be done. “Then David said, ‘No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.” (15:2) Previously, he had it put on a new cart, and it was always ONLY to be carried by the Levites. “The LORD broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.” (15:13) After waiting and seeking the proper way GOD WANTED it done, THEN there was much celebration and joy this time since it was done according to God’s way. It even says, “God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant.” (15:26) The proper way was written down years ago in Exodus 25:13, but His ways can be forgotten if we don’t read and study them.  For us too, it’s always good to consult God and do it His way. There are so many things that we think and seem are right, but it’s not actually the way God planned it. Let’s be open to read the Scriptures and seek Him in prayer in the way we should go. 

After the ark arrived in Jerusalem there was much rejoicing.  I do not have a picture today of a site because I want you to image what it was like seeing and hearing the people praising the LORD.  It was not only sites and sounds, but smells too! There were numerous burnt offerings before God.  We often do not think of what it would have smelled like with all the burnt offerings.  Then David blessed the LORD God of Israel with song.  In fact, it is a combination of 3 different Psalms; 105:1-15, 96:1-13 (all), and 106:1, 47. “Do not touch My anointed ones (messiahs), and do My prophets no harm.” (16:22) “For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared about all god. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (16:25,26) “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (16:36)

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17) That’s just what David experienced when King Saul died. He mourned for Saul and asked others to do so also.  He wrote a lament and said to teach it to the children. In fact, all 6th grade Israeli school children, secular and religious are required to memorize David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1:19-27 to this day.  Our children memorized it also along with the other Israeli school children.  The picture is taken at one of our children’s school programs often celebrating biblical holidays. (As you can see there is limited seating and many children sat on the floor for the program.) It is neat in Israel by being a Jewish nation the Old Testament is studied as a subject in all the schools starting in 2nd grade until graduation. The public schools there are not anti-God or Bible, which is a good thing. “My son, fear the LORD and the king.” (24:21) We pray more will come to understand Jesus as their king along with the LORD God of Israel.

 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Good Intentions… yet Not What God Intended

June 23     1 Chronicles 13-14 and Proverbs 23

Now” that David’s living in Jerusalem. He wanted to return the ark of the covenant there. He said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the LORD our God, … let us bring back the ark of our God back to us.” (13:2,3) David had good intentions of bringing the ark back, but he did not actually inquire of God or do it according to His instructions. He gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God up from Kirjath Jearim. He had it put on a new cart. “All Israel played music before God with all their might with singing, on harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.” (13:8) He had such good intentions, but once Uzza held the ark when the oxen stumbled and he died, David became angry and was afraid. He took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom and left it. 

We lived in the village right behind Kirjath Jearim. In fact, for 20 years we could look out our living room/kitchen windows and see it! Also, one can see in the picture modern houses built around the ancient site.  There is a Catholic church over the ruins, which is the case for other sites in Israel. And one can see the main road, which is still the modern-day ridge route they would have traveled on to avoid the deep cutting valleys. 

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Even though David had good intentions, afterwards he sought God for instruction, which encourages us to do the same. Not long after the Philistines attacked near Jerusalem, it says, “David inquired of God” if he should go against them. (14:10) Again, he inquired of God if to attack them, and God told him to send an ambush around them and succeeded. (14:16) “So David did as God commanded him, and they drove back the army of the Philistines from Gibeon as far as Gezer (could include pictures of them too😉). Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all the nations.” (14:16,17) This account of David is so encouraging though he had good intentions and yet failed to seek God, he corrected himself immediately and sought God’s counsel if he should attack the Philistines.  We can learn from David and do likewise! “Be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Proverbs 23:17) In wrap up, it is interesting to note once again another Proverbs that talks about a child, which has a Hebrew word meaning more “youth.” “Do not withhold corrections from a child (YOUTH), for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13) Children and youth both need lots of training and correction, but the end results are so rewarding. Reach out to children nearby you or related to you and encourage and lovingly correct them. Many may be going back to camp this summer, which is a special time for them. Many times, they have good intentions and yet need directed in God’s ways. 😊

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

The Humble Shall be Exalted

June 22     1 Chronicles 11-12 and Proverbs 22

After the death of King Saul, Israel came together at Hebron to anoint David king. God took him from being a shepherd of sheep to shepherd people.  “You shall shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over My people Israel.” (11:2) Think about that, now adays it is a matter of degrees one has from LOTS of inside study. With David it was after LOTS of outside hours of watching the sheep (and years on the run from King Saul). For the first 7 years he reigned as king from Hebron. Then he wanted to move to Jerusalem, but the people rejected him there, so he fought against them. After David built the city up, and still to this day it is called, “The City of David” in that area by the temple. “So David went on and became great, and the LORD of hosts was with him.” (11:9) Below is a picture our son took with a drone of the City of David. (My husband knew what shots he wanted, but our son knew how to get them as a teenage tech). 😊 They made a great team, while it was still possible to fly in Jerusalem. 

My biblical geography teacher of a husband likes to point out the parallels with David, anointed as messiah and king of Israel with Jesus, also anointed as messiah by God and king of Israel. Both lived lowly lives in the beginning though they were kings! Some of David’s mighty men even hid themselves in the cave of Adullam. And guess what?! Those caves are still there today and called by the same name! The students that came for our semester program would sometimes camp out there or have a bonfire there depending on our schedule. (Drone shot from our son😉) “The LORD brought about a great victory.” (11:14) God caused David and his men to prosper against their enemies. “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.” (Prov. 22:4)

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Further looking into Proverbs, it is interesting to note that the popular verse, “Train up a child (youth) in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” (22:6) means more “youth” in Hebrew, like David was this age when he killed Goliath. Also, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (YOUTH); the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (22:15) So, to end on a happy note this “youth” son that took many of our drone pictures in Israel was granted permission today from the Israeli army to come and visit us for a month!! So exciting! 😊

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Turn of Events

June 21 1 Chronicles 9, 10 and Proverbs 21

The Philistines fought against Israel on Mount Gilboa. King Saul and his sons were also fighting against them. They fell slain in battle there.  It says that “Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he didn’t keep the word of the LORD.” (10:13) He consulted a medium for guidance, “but he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore, He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David.” (10:14) It is so important to ask God for guidance, first and foremost. We so often ask others or search online for answers, which can be okay, but mainly we need to seek and ask God.  It had been almost 9 years since Saul’s disobedience and rejection by God as king, yet he was still ruling for years, until it says that God killed him through the Philistines, and FINALLY the kingdom was turned over to David… as they mourn for King Saul.  

Here is a modern aerial (drone) view of Mount Gilboa taken by our homeschooled high school son that was with my husband on a field trip. It is a mountain range, not one individual mountain. And guess what? It still has the same name today! In fact, by it you can see a manmade “snow” slope to go sledding on throughout the year.  😊

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Proverbs 21:1 follows the two chapters in Chronicles perfectly! “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” And not just his heart but his whole life, as we just read that He can even kill the king. “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (21:3) “There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the LORD.” (21:30)

Another Proverbs I wrote “sp” for speech by it helped me a lot during a rough time in my life. “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (21:23) There were troubles brewing in my life, but it really helped to GUARD my mouth and tongue like a security guard standing by the opening of my mouth watching what I was going to say.  In Israel, there are security guards everywhere. Most malls have a grocery store in them, but before buying milk in the mall’s grocery store, I would need to pass by three security guards!  Thus, it is good for our words to be guarded at the exit of our mouth to make sure they are fitting! It is a good exercise today to picture a security guard by our mouths and tongues to make sure what we say is appropriate and pleasing to God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .