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Archive | From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit: Rev. Chadrick Brown

 

Honesty

Do you remember when you and your friend would climb on one of those old seesaws? I don’t think playgrounds have them anymore because someone deemed them too dangerous, but if you ever watched two kids get on one, the same thing happens every single time. They giggle as one goes high into the sky and the other plops onto the ground. Then, with a hard push, the one at the bottom goes up, sending the other down. Up and down, up and down. Then, inevitably at some point, the two riders decide to balance on the seesaw. They tap the ground with the tips of their toes, trying to see if they can get the seesaw to stay parallel. What they have just achieved is balance.

Adults often feel like life is a constant ride on a seesaw and there is very little balance going on. We try to stop feeling like we are always going up and down by attempting to create balance among the parts of our various responsibilities. We usually discover, however, that achieving balance in life is as difficult as it is for two children to balance on a seesaw. That balancing act does not stay for very long.

But maybe trying to make life’s seesaw sit unmoving and parallel is not the ultimate goal. Instead, maybe the goal is to allow for “a time for everything.” All the parts of your life are important and deserve your time. The best way to find a sense of balance is to purposefully make time for everything, and when you’re there, be completely present, focused, and involved.

Life is always about priorities. And when you know your priorities, you can make time for them and be able to find time for everything. For instance, here are my priorities: My God, my wife, my kids and my job. I have learned that if I am not right with God, I will not be right with my wife or with my kids, and I really won’t be able to do my job. This has nothing to do with me being a minister either. So that is why He is priority number one. Daily being with Him is the first thing I do. And spending time in His church every Sunday is a must if I am going to maintain proper balance. My next priority is my wife. If I am not OK with her, then the balance of life is off kilter as well. I cannot be the best Dad that I can be, if I don’t make my relationship with my wife a priority. So, I spend time with her; care for her; love her.

I could keep going but you get the picture. I don’t think our lives are as unbalanced as we think they are. The problem is we have lost our sense of priority.

So, my friends, I want to encourage you today to prioritize your life and then you can find some balance. But staying balanced is not always the goal; being faithful to your priorities is. Life is indeed like a seesaw, so why not let out a giggle and enjoy the ride?

Rev. Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE, Cedar Springs 

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Why bother?

Rev. Karen Sorden

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs, MI

www.cedarspringsumc.org

 

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” Psalm 100 (NRSV).

You may have said it or at least have heard it said, “I’m going to church.” When we make that statement we usually mean we are going to a worship service. In a world that seems to be filled with strife, anger, hatred, pain, and anxiety, you may wonder, “Why bother”? Why bother worshiping a God who appears to be absent in the midst of so much chaos? But as people of faith around the world have realized for millennia, one place we can be certain to encounter God is in worship.

As a gift of God, worship is an amazing opportunity to experience and engage the living God. Worship provides the opportunity to connect with and know the living God. Worship also provides God the opportunity to get to know us individually. In worship God invites us into the very presence of God for the glory of God.

Worship includes the proclamation of God’s Word, yet worship is so much more than Scripture lessons and a sermon. For some people, music is their favorite element of worship; yet worship is so much more than a collection of songs. We pray during worship, yet worship is so much more than prayer. People need to gather together for worship to happen and yet worship is so much more than just a meeting. Clearly worship is much more than the sum of its parts!

And while the focus of our worship is on God, we are affected by worship. Worship has the ability to both inform and transform us; it helps us remember who God is and who we are to be. It is in gathering together as a worshipping, praying, sharing, learning, and serving community that we are able to continue the work of Jesus Christ.

It is important that in these times of strife, anger, hatred, pain, and anxiety we move toward God and not away from God. So why bother? When we worship God, God comes. And when God comes, lives are transformed. So find a worship service at a time and place that works for you and encounter the glory that is our God.

 

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Finding your place in the body of Christ

Pastor Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street | Cedar Springs

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) (NKJV)

A few weeks ago our family was privileged to spend a few days in the Niagara Falls area. It was a much needed time of rest and relaxation and we happily let ourselves get caught up in some of the tourist trap offerings that go with that area. Of course one of the major highlights of the trip was the time spent right at the Falls itself. We walked around, viewed the Falls from both the American and Canadian sides, took pictures, enjoyed watching the color display at night, and we will always remember the awesome experience of riding the Maid of the Mist as close to the Falls as you can get by water.

That morning, after we disembarked from the boat, we walked over to the edge of the American side and followed the path along the side of the Falls, My wife and children went further up the path, but I stayed toward the bottom of the path and was enjoying the view from that angle. As I stood there, watching the magnificent sight of thousands of gallons of water spilling over the precipice and crashing with a mighty roar onto the boulders below, I was struck by the sight of something that seemed a little strange. Just a few feet away from that awesome cascade of water, was another tiny rivulet of water trickling down a small rut of rocks on the dry land bordering the Falls.

Compared to the beauty and power of the Falls just a few feet away, it seemed a bit ludicrous and insignificant. The scope of its size and strength was dwarfed by the Falls until in comparison it seemed like a grasshopper standing next to an elephant. But I watched as that little stream of water quietly made its way down the slope and slipped into the Niagara River, while the furious torrent of the Falls did the same just a few feet away. Then united, they ran downstream until that river spilled out into Lake Ontario just a few miles away.

There is a truth here that speaks to our lives. Paul, in our text, spoke of the fact that as believers we are all one body in Christ. In the following verses he pointed out that every part of the body is important and plays a vital role. For a human body to function perfectly as designed we need all our parts. Eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, fingers, toes, and internal organs work together to accomplish the miracle of life. It is possible for the human body to function without certain parts, but it certainly makes life much more challenging.

In a spiritual sense, every member of the body of Christ is important. The book of Acts repeatedly shows us that if you are a believer, you are the church in action. It is true that some people, because of their abilities or position, seem to garner more attention. They are the Falls cascading onto the rocks with excitement and power and everyone seems to ooh and aah about what they do.

But there are many more people who are the quiet rivulets silently slipping into the river who are just as important. They are not as noticeable, seemingly not as exciting, but they play a vital role in filling their place in the Kingdom of God. They may not stand up in church and speak or sing, but they are the ones doing the small but significant jobs that impact the church and the community around them. They clean the sanctuary, mow the grass, run the bus routes, and connect with their neighbor over a cup of coffee. They help grieving families, take a plate of cookies to the new people moving into the area, fix a meal for a shut-in, and volunteer their time and energy at Alpha Women’s Center, North Kent Connect, and many other worthy charities. And they do it all, willingly and cheerfully, simply because they love God and love people.

So find your spot in the family, in the body of Christ. Whether it’s big or small, your help is needed to move the Kingdom forward and make the world around you a better place.

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What are you being called to do?

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Hello and happy fall! Well, truth be told, I am sad that summer is drawing to an end because I love the long days and warm evenings. Yet September brings us to many new activities and our ambitions are quickened and we get back into our routines and there is actually some joy in that. I believe many parents of young children especially appreciate it.

The fall brings about a renewed focus on the activities of the church since everyone is returning from summer vacations and the routine sets in. Kid ministries start up, including the KidzClub here at East Nelson Church on Thursday evenings. Mission trip planning gets into full gear. High school youth begin meeting. It’s a lot of fun to watch the joy that comes from community activities.

September is a great time for each of us to recommit once again to what the Spirit might be calling us to do. Might a Bible study group be calling to you? How about a recommitment to daily devotions? Maybe there’s a new sense of calling to attend regular worship? Are you feeling called to begin some new ministry?

We read that Jesus told his disciples that discipleship requires commitment and then we take that and begin to worry that a commitment might be a cross that we could not possibly bear. But, if we try to do this on our own and try to figure out ways to do this all by ourselves, we can get all tangled up! Jesus told his disciples “for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God, all things are possible.” Let’s open ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit and answer the call on our lives.

The terrific news is that the Holy Spirit is at work all the time. The work of the Holy Spirit is in leading and guiding us, counseling and inspiring us. When we feel called yet worry that we can’t do it or we simply don’t have the time, just listen to the words of Jesus and understand that we are not in this all by ourselves. The Holy Spirit will give us the strength to work together and we will be given the ability to support each other. We will be able to do the work of our church communities.

So, should you think you can’t, open yourself to the workings of the Holy Spirit and you will be filled by the amazing action of God in your life.

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Finding rest 

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

All you who are weary and burdened…” I am not sure about you, but that phrase tends to describe me quite often. Weary and burdened, translation = tired and weighed down. It’s in these moments when I begin to become overwhelmed with the burdens and pressures of life that I often think, “I just need a day off.”  Wouldn’t that be nice? A whole day to myself to do whatever I want. No responsibilities of dropping kids off somewhere or picking them up from somewhere else only to transport them to the next thing. No phone calls, e-mails, or texts from work. No honey-do list or chores to take care of.  Just me, a TV, a book and my couch.  I often find myself thinking that if I could just have a day like that, then everything would be better. I wouldn’t be so tired. I wouldn’t be so weighed down. Instead I would be rejuvenated and re-energized. “Yes, if I could just get a day off, then everything would be restored back to order and life wouldn’t be so weary and burdensome.” That is the lie.

The reality is that no matter how much rest or relaxation we may get, it doesn’t take long being back in our normal routine of life where we end up finding ourselves “weary and burdened.” The solution isn’t how much time we can find to rest but rather where we go to find our rest. While our couch, or the TV, or our favorite book may sound like a welcomed destination for relaxation, they will never provide the rest that our souls crave. Jesus knew this and that›s why when He was around the weary and burdened he didn’t tell them to take a day off, or find an afternoon where they could only do what they wanted to do. Instead, he welcomed the weary and burden to the only place where they could find rest for their souls—in His presence.

The invitation is simple; come. In other words, leave behind all that is weighing you down and simply come be with me, come sit with me, come dwell with me, and you WILL find rest for your souls. Are you weary and burdened down by the struggles and trials of life? The invitation is open to all. Come to Jesus. Sit in His presence. Let him carry the load and walk with you side by side . Stop trying to do it on your own, and stop trying to find what only Jesus can give in anything or anyone else. Come to Him, and you WILL find rest for your souls! It’s really that simple, the decision is up to you.

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Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd.

Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

616-696-3904

 

On August 15, the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the faith of the Roman Catholic Church that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven when her earthly journey was completed, because God “would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb, since from her body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life” (Preface: the Glory of Mary Assumed into Heaven, the Roman Missal).

The faithful was surprised to hear the Gospel passage chosen for the Vigil Mass of this great Solemnity, Luke 11: 27-28: “While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

The true blessedness that Jesus spoke of in Luke 11:27-28 should not be interpreted as a rebuke of the mother of Jesus. Rather, it emphasizes that attentiveness to God’s Word is more important to Jesus than biological relationships. Mary lived her life in attentiveness and obedience to the Word, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” said her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 2:45). The Church honors Mary for her role in salvation and looks to her as a model of discipleship.

The word “Church” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 775 and 777 teaches ecclesia in Latin and ekkalein in Greek means to “call out of” or “convocation.” It designates the assembly as those to whom God’s Word “convokes,” or gathers to form the people of God. Thus, to be the people of God is to be attentive to the Word.

In short, to be Church is follow the example of the mother of Jesus: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  To be Church is to hear and to keep the Word in our heart. Amen.

(In addition to being the priest of St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, Father Lam also proudly serves as Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 W Maple Street, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343. Phone 61- 636-5671.)

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Promoted to friends

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. NE

Sparta, MI 49345

 

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” John 15:13-16 (NIV).

A few weeks ago, while on vacation, the Lord led me to this passage. In fact, it was on the first day of vacation, during my personal time of reading. I was touched by verse 15 where Jesus said he “no longer called his disciples servants but friends.” I felt like He was saying to me, “Craig, I want you to be my friend, not my servant.” This simple, yet profound truth has done so much in my heart and life in a few short weeks. You see, I have for most of my Christian life, strived to be a very good servant of the Lord. At times, even trying to be the best servant possible. I have preached many sermons on being a good and faithful servant for Jesus. I never recalled a sermon on being Jesus’ friend; after all, He is God. Servanthood is important, and yes biblical, but if not careful, servanthood alone can become your sole source of purpose and identity. It can rob you from your intimate relationship and friendship with Jesus. It steals your joy and your ability to really hear from and follow Jesus. It can leave you empty, tired and worn out. Once rested, we tell ourselves, I have to do a better job of serving him, not be a closer friend of Jesus.

The first thing I noticed is that Jesus says that the disciples were only his friends if they did what He commanded! Then before they could ever fulfill a command as his servants, he says, I NO LONGER call you servants! What? Wow! He promoted them. In one statement, he changed the status of their relationship. They were just invited into His inner-circle. Why? The reason is simple, because servants do not know their master’s business. Servants are limited in their information access. They are limited in their understanding of their master’s heart and decision-making process. Often, they are the last to know anything. You see, masters and bosses do not reveal major decisions and important plans to their servants, but friends do! Think about it, everything important, any valuable or intimate piece of information you ever received from anyone, you received based on your friendship with him or her. So, it is with Jesus.

For example, those of us who are married realize we do not know the personal, intimate and important things about each other based on serving one another, but on our friendship. You open your heart to friends. It’s been said, “people want to know you care, before they care to know.” As a pastor, I do not strive to build a church based off servanthood, but friendship. The Heart of God is the same. Jesus is not building his family, the church, off servanthood, but friendship. If Jesus is your Savior, you are His friend and He is yours! Plain and simple. You have access to the intimate things of His heart before you ever do a thing for him. Jesus holds no secrets from you. Verse 16 states, everything His father shared with him, He shares with you. Learn to be a friend of Jesus. Slow down, even stop your serving long enough to hear what He has to say. How he loves you and cares about every about you. Many people think if no one serves in the church, our families or jobs, nothing will get done! This is simply not true! People are not motivated by servanthood. A servant’s mentality alone will never sustain anything of value or importance. Great example from Luke 10:38-42, is the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was so busy serving, she never heard Jesus’s heart. Her serving distracted her. If Jesus wanted a clean house and a sandwich he would have said so, and Mary would have made him one. Martha, on the other hand, just cleaned the house and made five sandwiches just because. She made them just in case Jesus needed or wanted them. Many Christians are like this. We create unneeded work for ourselves, even doing things that were never asked or desired of us.

In hopes of helping you develop a better friendship with Jesus, I would like to leave you with four things to consider. They contrast the difference between a Servanthood vs. Friendship mentality. One is freeing and empowering, while the other leaves us empty and requiring more.

Friends live from His presence, not his commands.

Friends find value in relationship, not assignments.

Friends work “with” God, not “for” God.

Friends live “from” God’s favor, not “for” God’s favor.

Brothers and sister in Jesus, Friends of God, cultivate your friendship with Jesus. It is the key to knowing His love and heart for you.

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Self love

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

While it is a great good to seek self-sacrifice and self-denial in our relationship with God and others, we also want to be weary of demeaning ourselves to the point of self-hatred. While we are called to be lowly in Spirit (Proverb 16:19) and to lay down any self-pride, we must also be careful not to demean our own selves. We must recognize and embrace the value given to us by our Father who made us good.

In the Bible, Paul illustrates the idea of not despising ourselves but the flaws and effects of our brokenness. (Romans 7:14,15, 20, 24, 25).  In this way, Paul shows us how to apply to ourselves the saying, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” He then goes on to share that even with the guilt of doing what we hate, we still preserve great value as children of God. “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14, 17).

We cannot hate what God loves, whether this refers to others around us or ourselves. We need to hinge on God’s love for us to overcome the temptation of self-hatred. God loves us, and sent his son Jesus on the cross to prove it. The whole gospel message is built on His love for us. This love should remind us of our true value as humans. When we keep in mind our worth, it helps us to love ourselves in the balanced way that we are meant to.

We should not misunderstand this love with the modern day notion of self-esteem, which is simply an artificial “good feeling” about oneself. This balanced love of self is not feeling good about the nice things we can do. This is a love of self in which we seek the true good for ourselves, forgiving ourselves when we fail, and accepting ourselves totally with all of our talents and weaknesses, realizing that we are not perfect, but we are also not hopeless. Remember, God told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. How can we do that if we do not have respect for ourselves? We are created in His image in which we find our identity. That would indicate a whole lot of worth.

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The Spirit of heaviness  

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah really hits home with these words of promise: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3 –King James translation).

There is a comparison being made here between a funeral and a wedding celebration. A funeral is where the Hebrews would have put ashes upon their heads in mourning, and some would have beat their breasts and wailed, while wearing sackcloth. Yet at a wedding, they wore beautiful garments, literally, garments of praise.

The point being that whatever you were feeling in your spirit and soul, whatever your mood was, would be reflected in what you wore. That is still the case today; Jesus taught on this—that Christianity is meant to be a wedding celebration and not a funeral dirge. I believe that what Isaiah is speaking to us today, is a revelation, an important key to get delivered from the spirit of heaviness.

What is the spirit of heaviness? First off, we’re not talking about a weight loss program like Weight-Watchers; the spirit of heaviness is spiritual. It is like a drudgery that comes over you, something generally unexplainable, not necessarily reflecting the circumstances that are around you. Some have described it as a numbness of the soul, more like darkness. The NIV translates it as spirit of despair. If you’ve ever been in desperation you can understand this.

Young’s Literal Translation says a spirit of weakness, which covers a whole lot of things, like how we can be weak in mind, weak in our emotions, weak in our actions, and even weak in our body.

If the real you, your human spirit that God breathed into you, if that is damaged, it will affect your whole being. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 KJV). If there is something wrong with your spirit, it can even affect your body. What Isaiah is talking about is this human condition of the heart that is devastating, that makes us weak, that makes us frail, that makes us despair, that makes us want to give up on life, taking all the color out of life, burning life to the ashes.

Isaiah gives us the solution: the garment of praise. How do you get it? Like every provision of God, you’ve got to go and get it. It is free, given by grace, you don’t have to buy it or earn it, but you do have to come and get it by faith. Jesus has bought it with His own blood, and God, by grace, is handing it to us. But we, in the midst of our despair, have got to come up to the throne of grace and say “I need that garment, Lord!” There is something for us to do; we’ve got to wrap ourselves up in praise, “I had a coffee with a friend,” “somebody blessed me,” or “I had a nice walk today.” Thank you Lord, thank you!

Isaiah said he will give you beauty for ashes. We all know what ashes are; it’s what is left after all the fuel (joy) is burned out. God knew we would be burnt by life’s experiences. But he also knew he could replace that burnt out mess with something beautiful. Rather than anointing our head with ashes, he wants to anoint our head with the oil of joy.

Bill Gaither wrote the song that says: “Something beautiful something good; All my confusion He understood; All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife; But he made something beautiful of my life.”

This may seem simple, actually it is, but it’s profound. You are wrapping yourself up in the garment of praise and thus, overcoming the spirit of heaviness. If you wait until you feel like praising, you’re not going to break through. You take your God-given will and say, “I will praise God.”  There is power in praise, medicine for a merry heart, take it many times a day.

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Have I got Good News for you

Thomas M. Doherty, Superintendent

North Michigan Conference Free Methodist Church, USA

Writing for The Springs Church

 

Have I got “Good News” for you! As Christians, we are the people of the “Good News,” but I wondered if we understand all that is meant by “Good News.” Yes, Jesus came to earth to become one of us. Yes, He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. And yes, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

Many of us believe and have acted on Romans 10:9-10, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (ESV).

We have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior; we have asked for forgiveness of our sins and are saved from the penalty of those sins.

When this happens, the bible tells us that we become a new creation. We become something new and wonderful “in Christ.” Recently, at a bible camp, I tried to teach five lessons about what the bible tells us related to who we are “in Christ.” I only got through two of the lessons because there is so much. Therefore, I can’t say everything that I would like to say in this article.

The bible says that we who have asked Christ to be our Savior are pure, holy, and blameless. It tells us that we are children of God and have been given an inheritance that is reserved for the firstborn. God dearly loves us, and we are to help others experience that same love (Ephesians 1:4, 1:11, Colossians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The word grace in the New Testament means more than graciousness. It literally means that the God who lives in us will move on our hearts to express his character. What does that mean to us? It means that we do not need to be controlled by fear, anger, hate and bitterness. We do not need to be controlled by habits, or impulses or additions. As we let God have control in our lives, his character shines through.

We don’t have to let our tempers get the best of us, or addictive behavior rule our lives. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted a passage from the Old Testament that said that he was anointed to proclaim the good news; to proclaim liberty or freedom to those in captivity; recover sight for those who are blind; and to set at liberty those who are oppressed (ESV).

In Christ, we are a people who can thrive not just survive. Salvation is not just for when we die, it is for life now.

Let me encourage you when you read your bible to look for those phrases, “in Jesus,” or “in Christ.” Embrace all of the blessings God has for you.

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