The Book of Judges and Ruth

I have never read the Book of Judges and the Book of Ruth one after the other, much less studied it. It is truly fascinating to see the stark contrast between sin and obedience!

As a side note, I believe the Book of Ruth is so short because the beauty of God’s loving-kindness is so simple. The Book of Judges on the other hand is five times as long because sin causes so many messy complications.

In the Book of Judge the next generation of Israelites had no godly leader after Joshua’s generation died out. They spread out through the land of Canaan tribe by tribe according to their God-given allotment. God had left some areas for them to conquer to test whether or not the Israelites would continue to love Him through their obedience:

 Now these are the nations that the Lord left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan…They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord…So the Israelites lived among the Canaanites…and they took their daughters as wives for themselves, and their own daughters they gave to their sons; and they worshiped their gods… The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the Lord their God…

Judges 3:1,4-7

Clearly the Israelites’ hearts were not faithful to God as they were in the previous generation. They had forgotten who He was and what He had done and thus their love for Him was gone. *Side note: remembering God’s faithfulness toward me every day is so important.*

Throughout the book, the Israelites would repent and turn back to God, and then God would raise up a judge up so they could be delivered from the hand of their enemies. That sin/slavery/deliverance cycle continued throughout the book.

Even the judges themselves were in general not of great character like Moses and Joshua. The result of sin had infected their hearts, as well:

Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Judges 8:27

Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her.

Judges 16:1

While God’s mercy was written all over this book, what God really highlighted to me was the ugliness of sin. One of the tribes of Israel had even begun resembling the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah. This just shows how far the downward spiral of sin had taken them:

 While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him. And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing.  Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.”  But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning.

Judges 19:22-25

I know that I no longer (thank God!) have to be come under punishment for my sin, since Jesus has already taken it for me on the cross. But I think the concept of grace has allowed much of the church today, including myself, to be okay with compromising on holiness. We hold on to things in our lives we know deep down are not pure. As a result, we don’t go “all-in” with God. And because of free will, He lets us make that choice, and He loves us no differently than the Mother Teresa’s of the world. Hallelujah!

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Studying Judges and Ruth at a coffee shop off base all day long!

I know that don’t want to become sin-conscious or religious – this only leads to condemnation of myself and others. But my prayer to God is that He sanctifies me in all areas of my heart so that the enemy has no foothold in my life to cause complications later on. I don’t want any selfish passion to remain in me so that I can be free from all the flesh. I want to go all-in with God even if the journey getting there is scary!

Which leads perfectly into the story in the Book of Ruth, which takes place in the time period of the judges. In the beginning of the story, Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, and there was famine in the land. Even though times were tough, she decided to obey and follow God anyway.

Short story short, God ends up redeeming Naomi by blessing her daughter-in-law with a rich husband and a baby boy, who would end up being the grandfather of King David. I even think that God supernaturally allowed her to nurse her grandson, as Naomi was probably too old at that point to do such a thing naturally. She even became the praise of the neighborhood women. Back then this probably would have been one of the most ultimate blessings for a woman!

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.

Ruth 4:14-17

So God was faithful to her. He never forgot her. All Naomi had to do was keep trusting God, and God came through gloriously in the end, beyond what she could imagine.

The character of Ruth can’t be left unspoken of. Her passionate, unconditional love for Naomi was so beautiful. When Naomi urged her daughters to stay in Moab, Ruth’s other sister chose to stay behind most likely because she feared she would not find a husband. But Naomi, out of her passionate love for Naomi, followed her anyway, despite the fear of leaving what was familiar and secure behind.

Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!

Ruth 1:16,17

She worked all day long on her feet to gather enough food for her mother-in-law and never complained about her circumstances or gave a thought to her own self.

[Ruth] is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.

Ruth 2:6,7

Ruth was totally selfless in all that she did, and in the end, she found favor from God through Boaz. She didn’t have to scramble for it or concern herself. She just put her head down and remained faithful and loyal to her mother-in-law and to God, and God’s love never failed her.

Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!

Ruth 2:11,12

The selflessness of Ruth is so precious, and it something that I’m hungry for! God has been showing me that this can be mine, if I just continue pressing into His presence and obey whenever I sense Him calling.

 

Deuteronomy and Joshua: Love, Obedience, Glory

This week our class studied Deuteronomy (the last book in the Pentateuch!) as well as Joshua. We are all feeling the heaviness of the workload, but it’s SO worth it! Studying and applying the Word is absolutely life-changing.

The purpose of Deuteronomy was to remind the Israelites of what God had done for them despite their failings, to remind them of the law, and to renew the covenant, before they enter the Promised Land:

10 So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…21 He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. 20 Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

Deuteronomy 10:12,21,22

Their obedience was to be out of love for Him, not because they would expect blessings in return. Yes, obedience was a requirement for them to enter into all the blessings God had for them, but if they thought they had earned it, they would cease to acknowledge the glory of God’s goodness and instead become prideful in themselves. He warns against this in the previous chapter:

 4 When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land”; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you…

6 Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.

Deuteronomy 9:4,6,7

What a humbling verse, both for the Israelites and believers today! God shows everyone unconditional love because of who He is, not because of anything we have done. We can’t even be righteous on our own – it’s Christ who makes us righteous to begin with. We are therefore without any excuse in becoming self-righteous or judgmental.

Then God reiterates His unconditional love to them:

…yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

Deuteronomy 10:14-17

God chose them because He’s God. He proved Himself faithful over and over to His promises. He didn’t choose them because they were special, but just because he “set his heart” on it and because He had this grand plan of redeeming all of mankind through them. The Israelites didn’t have to be anyone else or do anything more to receive His love and blessings.

Enter the Book of Joshua, the most epic of books so far, in my opinion.

Doing laundry off-campus has its upsides: the sunsets are always different on the way to the laundromat :)
Doing laundry off-campus has its upsides: the sunsets are always different on the way to the laundromat

So the Israelites had just been wandering the desert for forty years. Although the Bible doesn’t share much of what went down there, you can imagine that God was teaching them how to trust Him as their faithful King who would always provide for them. Their parents’ generation had died off because they proved unwilling to trust God (which is why they were punished to wandering in the first place), but this generation was, in general, obedient to God.

Upon entering the Promised Land, God leads the Israelites through miracle after miracle, victory after victory. God had appealed to their love in Deuteronomy as the motivation to obey. And they did. Thus, they were exalted by God:

[The spies] said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.”

Joshua 2:24

On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him, as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

Joshua 4:14

So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.

Joshua 6:27

I don’t think the Israelites or Joshua were exactly seeking glory for themselves – it was just the natural result of humility before God. The Israelites didn’t even realize they were feared by the inhabitants of the land until they met Rahab, a Canaanite in the land they were seeking to destroy, told them.

To read about the Israelites in their glory days is so inspiring. This is what God intends for everyone because it’s through a completely obedient people that He is most glorified. And His glorification leads to more and more people committing their lives to Him.

This leads to another amazing theme of Joshua: God gloriously defeated strongholds to make His glory known to everyone. All the Israelites had to do was obey, while God gave the victory:

For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.

Joshua 4:23,24

The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.

Joshua 10:13,14

Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

Joshua 10:42

God gave the Israelites battle strategies that no other king could come up with nor accomplish because they were indeed supernatural. He fought for Israel, both for their blessing and for Him to glorify Himself.

This revelation of God wanting to glorify Himself has helped me stop worrying so much about major obstacles I see in my life and in the lives of those around me. God is so set on glorifying Himself, both for my good and for the world’s, that I can just let God do the thing that He loves. I’ve learned this before, but coming to that revelation myself was what I needed for it to become an actual heart belief of mine.

Finally, in the last chapter of Joshua, God reminded the Israelites just how much He blessed them, over and beyond what they could ever claim credit for earning themselves:

When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.

14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;

Joshua 24:11-14

God was sure to remind the Israelites that it wasn’t because of them or their righteousness that God drove out the nations or blessed them, but so His character and nature would be made known. He’s not some egotistical show-off, but He knows that if we begin to worship ourselves or anything else other than Him, it results in slavery, pain, and death. We become a slave to the things we look to for our value, love and affection like: our physical appearance, praise/attention from man, having a lot of talent or skill in something, having a lot of material wealth, being “right,” being smart, being popular, being powerful, food, sleep, alcohol, etc.

Reading the first few books of the Bible has really opened my eyes to see God’s worth, His holiness, His control, His power, and His glorious love. God’s love really is enough. And I think I’m starting to accept that He is all I need. I can rest in that and be content, and not think I need anything more…that just leads to dissatisfaction, depression and restlessness.

And I don’t ever want to forget about where God has brought me, the things He has set me free from, and the waywardness of my human nature, because it reminds me of how amazing God is. It’s just like when I remember good times with friends and family, it stirs up positive emotions. Remembering what God has done for me fills me with affection for Him and satisfies my soul!

Crunching Numbers

This past Saturday night when all of our work for the Book of Numbers was handed in, my friends and I watched what we thought would be a romantic comedy. We just wanted something light and mindless after a pretty intense week.

Well the “movie” turned out to be a 90-minute Christian play that was filmed and passed off for a movie on Redbox. It wasn’t even a good play. The acting was so send a manbad, and one of the character’s fake mustache was crooked and falling off the entire time.

In the play, the guy in the picture asked this girl out. He wanted to know if he could “help her crunch some numbers.” Nice. They then repeated the phrase “crunching numbers” several times throughout the play, which led to the title of this blog post.

Other than the title, the play has absolutely no connection to what I learned studying the book of Numbers. I just thought I’d share a little side note just for fun 🙂

So anyway, after studying the book of Numbers this week, I was most impacted by the leaders in this story: Moses, Aaron, Caleb, Joshua, etc.  They were completely sold-out servant leaders. All they cared about was seeing God’s will be done. They didn’t care about themselves. They didn’t care about gaining the spotlight. They were zealous for God’s will and for God’s people and that’s it.

And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” Numbers 11:28,29

Moses rebuked Joshua’s jealousy when others were given the gift of prophecy that Moses held sole claim to at the time. But Moses was far from jealous of these men who could now prophesy. In fact, he was delighted that more people were helping to bring about God’s will.

I loved the scene in Chapter 14 where four mighty men of God show complete unification with one another:

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

Numbers 14:2-9

For the first time in the Bible, four different leaders, Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, were united together under God’s will. Their hearts were so aligned with God’s heart that they literally took on God’s grief whenever His will seemed to be thwarted. They were so consumed with God’s will that they simply didn’t have time to concern themselves with anything else. Though flawed, these godly leaders got over themselves in order to focus on higher things.

I know this is not a revolutionary thought, but my spirit stirred within me as I read this story because God was revealing to me what He’s doing in my life in this season.

I always use to think this was a nice thought, complete fear of the Lord and selflessness, but it wasn’t for me. Not only was this most likely impossible, but I didn’t really want it, or at least that’s what my flesh told me. I wanted what I wanted and when I wanted it, and that was perfectly fine because of God’s grace.

Now God is leading me to a new level of freedom I never dreamed possible for myself. As I rebuke thoughts rooted in fear of man or thoughts of any counterfeit affections and comforts, God has been purifying my heart and doing something in me there’s no way I could do without His Spirit. He’s basically helping me “get over myself” and live a life without compromise so I too can have a heart and mind completely aligned with His.

Those are my thoughts for the week. My prayer is that anyone who reads this is inspired and encouraged to submit completely to God and to follow Jesus into wholeness and freedom!

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This week our school camped in Death Valley a couple nights to mimic the Israelites’ wanderings

Leviticus on the Heart

I’m definitely one of the many people who have never understood nor liked the book of Leviticus. It’s the book with all the weird laws that seem to make no sense, and moreover, make God seem pretty angry, controlling and demanding.

Ha, found this doing a Google image search, thought it was funny.
Ha, found this doing a Google image search, thought it was funny.

This week I got a whole new perspective on Leviticus after learning some of the cultural context and studying it on my own. I also got to read Chapter 15 out loud in a group, the one about human discharge. I can now scratch that off my bucket list.

In Exodus, God gives the Israelites their purpose:

 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.

Exodus 19:6

So the whole purpose of Leviticus is to teach the Israelites how to fulfill this role as a holy nation so they would show the other nations the glory of God. This is why the laws were so detailed, precise, and non-negotiable. God wanted all the nations to be drawn to Him and for His people to be in right relationship with Him.

As humans, it’s a pretty hard task to glorify God and make Him known because of our fallen nature, especially for the people who lived before Jesus and without the Holy Spirit. The laws may have seemed quite demanding, but this is because God’s holiness is so far above what humans are accustomed to on earth. We are so accustomed to living in the effects of sin, whether we invite sin or not.

But all of the laws God gave were for their protection.

For instance, in Leviticus 15, a man became unclean after he had sex, and wasn’t allowed near the Presence of God until he became clean. This was the same for the woman on her period.

If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening.

When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening

Leviticus 15:18,19

Having sex within marriage and women having their period were obviously not sins. So why were these people classified as unclean for a period of time?

The people of Canaan (the land where the Israelites were going to) often practiced the most perverse worship rituals involving human discharge of all kinds. Because the Israelites had lived among the Egyptians for over 400 years, this pagan mindset was most likely deep-rooted into their own beliefs, and God was teaching them that this was impure worship. He was protecting them from what was vile so they were not influenced by the Canaanite culture. There was always a loving purpose behind His law.

Living out these laws prescribed by God would be nothing short of radical and point to the glory of God. God wanted to redeem all the nations to Himself through the Israelites, but it would only happen through holy, radical living.

Since Jesus has come, He has given me every ability to live holy, to live radically, not just for my benefit, but to point to God’s goodness. The spirit behind Leviticus has been written on the hearts of all present-day believers.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts

2 Cor 3:1-3

Studying Leviticus got me thinking about holiness a lot, and I felt the invitation to live out this holiness more strongly.

No, I’m not going to start slaughtering animals and leave them at the entrance of a tent. The sacrifice was already fulfilled through Jesus.

But God is inviting me, just like every other believer, to live knowing Him more fully. The only way to do this is to submit every area of life to Him, so that He Himself can help crucify the flesh.

Because I live in grace, it’s an easy trap to fall into the mindset: “Well, I know God loves me just the same, no matter what I do, so it’s okay that I let this particular area of my life slide. I don’t want to become religious and works-oriented anyway.”

This is so true! God loves us all the same – it’s not based on works! His love is totally unconditional.

Reading Leviticus, however, has challenged me to really switch this mindset to: “Even though I know I’m loved no more or less based on my behavior, I want to trust God in every single area of my life so that I know Him more fully. I want to live radically out of love for Him, not out of religious pride or need for approval.”

So with that, thank You God, that Your laws are out of love and protection, for our freedom and blessing, and for others to see how glorious You are! I can see that I can really trust You and actually praise Your wonderful law instead of seeing them as controlling and restrictive.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.

Psalm 119:33-37

The Veil of Exodus

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Our class’ trip to “Mt Sinai”

I’m not the only one in my class who can testify that studying Genesis and Exodus alone has already been life-changing. Using the inductive study to read the Bible (without looking at any other person’s commentaries/viewpoints), and simply receiving the revelation from the Holy Spirit, who is our Teacher, is life-giving!

This past week we studied Exodus and it was just as powerful for me as Genesis was, but in a totally different way. We read Exodus from start to finish without taking too long of breaks. By doing this, the overall messages behind the book is much more easily grasped. Although there were many themes in the book, I particularly loved seeing the intimate relationship between God and Moses develop.

So at one point, God got angry at the Israelites (because they had decided to worship the golden calf) and no longer wanted to accompany them on their journey to the Promised Land. It seems to me, however, that God never really wanted to leave them alone, but just longed for Moses to step in and fight for Him. This is Moses dialogue with God:

12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’  13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Exodus 33:12-17

When I read this, my spirit was so moved. This is a conversation between lovers. Look in verse 14! God already told Moses that He’d go with him, but Moses continues to plead, as if to say, “Tell me you’ll go with me, again. Just so I can hear it.”

I was only able to pick up on this love scene because I studied the entire book in context. If I had read this as an isolated passage, I would have never picked up on the romance. But because I saw how God and Moses’ relationship developed, I could read between the lines…these were just two lovers who already knew each other’s answers and just wanted them to hear one another say it!

But only Moses was chosen to have this very special relationship with God in Exodus. There was a veil in His dwelling place, a curtain, separating the Holy God from His people. Moses spent so much time with God, that his face literally reflected His radiance:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off…

Exodus 34:29-33

After reading this, I was immediately convicted! Jesus died so that I could be made righteous. Now, since the veil has been torn, I too can stand in the presence of God! And yet throughout the day I let my thoughts race away from God. I stop focusing on the presence of God that Jesus died to give. To set aside time for prayer with God is great, but I want to recognize His presence throughout the day…when I’m working, exercising, socializing, whenever! This requires me to lay down my worries, my schedule, my fears, and instead talk to God and praise Him for all that He is and has done.

Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thess 5:16-18

Thank you Jesus that You died so that I too can develop this extremely intimate relationship with God, just like Moses had. May I honor what You died to give by continually praying, giving thanks, and acknowledging Your Presence that lives inside of me.