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Archive | From the Pulpit

The Heart of the Father

Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

 

As we come into this weekend, naturally our thoughts turn to the father that God has placed in our lives. We will give cards and gifts, make telephone calls, and go out to eat as we honor the men who have so greatly impacted our lives. It is good that we do so. Fatherhood is designed by God to have a strong and positive role in a family, and we need to honor and restore that institution in our generation.

In our current culture, the role of the father in a family is one that is often mocked or misunderstood. In many TV sitcoms, the dad is portrayed as a dopey buffoon, a lustful and leering predator, or a weak and emasculated figure, who is constantly subjugated to an inferior role in the family by disrespectful children and/or a dominating wife. Reality is that what is seen on TV is often played out in real life in homes all across the country.

Some people do not have good relationships with, or memories of, their father. Unfortunately, many times those strained relationships or bad memories have been rightly earned by men whose parenting skills have been sorely lacking. Many children, small or grown, have bitter memories of fathers who were physically or verbally abusive or even went AWOL.

While there are many fathers who are derelict in their duty, thankfully there are also many who have accepted their rightful roles and are living out a reflection of God’s character in their own lives to the best of their ability. I am truly grateful that I have been blessed with a wonderful father who has lived out his faith in God and blazed a trail for me to follow in the paths of righteousness. Dad has lived his life in a way that made it easy for me to embrace the concept of God as a loving, Heavenly Father.

Jesus told Philip in John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (NKJV). Dads, that needs to be the goal in our lives. Part of the process of restoring fatherhood to its God-ordained place in society is for men to step up and accept and shoulder the responsibilities that come with that position. Being a dad is far more than just a title; it is an ongoing action.

It is being humble in our attitudes, consistent in our daily walk of faith, unwavering in unconditional love for our families, uncorrupted by current culture, constant in our generosity, and magnanimous in our acts of grace. It is being firm enough to provide boundaries for our families’ actions, strong enough to demand a proper code of conduct for our families’ behavior, and gentle in teaching those ways to ones we love. We are to model the heart of Jesus for those with whom we live.

May our spouses and children see the character of God shining out through our lives as His grace empowers to be more than we ever dreamed.

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The Spirit moves through us

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Before Jesus was taken to heaven, he had spent time with his disciples opening their hearts and minds to the scriptures. He taught them and then assured them that they would not be left alone to try to forge ahead without him. He told them to “GO and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The thing to remember is that he also said, “LO, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He said to stay in Jerusalem because they would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and on Pentecost that power became known by the rush of a mighty wind and flames over each of the disciples. Then Peter spoke and the church was born on that very day. That spirit is still powerful to this day, as shown by the whirlwind of work done by the church throughout the world, and by the flames of the spirit in the hearts of all those who believe.

I read a poem by Roy Lessin recently:

He is seen in 

The love expressed through your heart,

The compassion revealed through your spirit.

The kindness displayed through your actions,

The blessing received through your life.

What a wonderful way to describe someone who seeks to live their faith in their daily walk with the Lord. Would that all we do and say be evidence of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

In this season of Pentecost may you take time to recognize the Holy Spirit within you. May you honor the ways the Spirit has worked through you and moved you to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ.

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Don’t give up

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV).  

The very existence of this verse speaks to the fact that sometimes doing good can be a draining experience. This makes sense because anytime we as Christians set our mind to doing something good in this world that will result in God’s glory, the devil instantly wants to destroy it. And what is the easiest way to destroy it? By making the work hard so that the laborers give up.

Striving to show love in a world full of hate is hard work; raising godly children in a society that tries at every turn to deny the existence of God is hard work; putting Christ first in your marriage and serving your spouse when it would be easier to give up is hard work; being part of a community of believers that isn’t always perfect but is committed to work through the struggles with love and forgiveness is hard work; remaining pure in a morally filthy world is hard work. I am sure by now that you get my point. Anything worth doing in the kingdom of God is hard work because the devil wants to make it hard.

Odds are that right now there is a good work in your life that you are thinking about giving up on. Before you do that, would you consider the second part of this verse? The reason we are called to not grow weary of doing good is because if we persist, there is a promised harvest and this harvest is promised to come at the “proper time.” No matter how hard the good work you are doing is, the joy and satisfaction of the harvest is worth every ounce of pain and struggle to not give up. I promise you! God has promised that the harvest would come and He never makes a promise he doesn’t fulfill.

The unfortunate thing is that far too many of God’s children give up and move on to something easier before the reward of the harvest comes in. So today when the good work gets hard, instead of being tempted to give up, let us take it as an opportunity to push forward. Take a moment and pray that God would give you the strength to keep pushing until the harvest comes in. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

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The Ascension is our Exaltation

Father Lam T. Le 

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd.
Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Roman Missal, The Collect of the Mass of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ).

On this Solemnity of the Ascension we give thanks to God for the Ascension of Christ is our exaltation! Why is the Ascension our exaltation? St. Augustine has a wonderful explanation:  in the incarnation, the Son of God assumed our humanity so that he could die on the Cross to be in solidarity with the human family who, as a consequence of sin, suffers death. He triumphantly rose from the dead to give us hope and 40 days later returned to God the Father. Jesus brought the human flesh representing our humanity into the mystery of God, something that did not exist prior to the incarnation. God gains nothing from this, but we gain so much. In other words, in the Ascension, we give glory to God because Jesus brought humanity into God. Salvation is not only the forgiveness of sins but brings us into the very mystery of God and the fullness of life.

To truly be the people who believe that the Ascension of the Lord is our Exaltation, one must proclaim this good news of salvation to all men and women. We cannot keep our mouths shut regarding such great news! Jesus has saved the human family not only from sin and death, but has given us the gift of eternal life. We in turn, join the Apostles to be Jesus’ “witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Let’s begin that witness at our dining room tables with our friends and relatives and share the joy that Christ’s Ascension is our exaltation. Let everything that we do and say reflect the fact that we are the children of the heavenly kingdom because the Ascension of Christ is our exaltation.

Thanks be to God for our salvation in Christ.  Amen.

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Sincere Faith

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. NE • Sparta, MI 49345

 

I recently had the privilege of performing the funeral of a gentleman who was born and raised in a small community near McBain, Michigan. In learning more about this family, I soon discovered he was the grandson of a family who raised 7 children in a small 2-bedroom home near the edge of the town. They were very devout Christians, who were very active in their community and church. It was clear that their honest devotion and sacrifice to others had made a huge impact on this community for years to follow.

I was reminded of a similar story in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 1:3-5, we read of the Apostle Paul’s memory of a family dear to him. It was the family of young Timothy. Paul says, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (NIV)

Notice, Paul recalled the legacy of this family that began with Timothy’s grandmother and then was also passed on to his mother, Eunice. Now, Paul says he is persuaded, or convinced that it lives or exists in Timothy!

What was it? What did Paul see in Timothy? What family trait did Paul find had been passed down from one generation to the next?

In Verse 5, Paul calls it “Sincere Faith.” The Word “sincere” here in the Greek means real, without hypocrisy. In Latin, it comes from the word, “Sincera,” which means “without wax.” It was word used to describe pottery or sculptures made by artist that were authentic or flawless. Artist often made mistakes! The way they would correct them was to fill the cracks or flaws with wax. They would then paint them and cover them up. If the artist was not honest they would sell them as flawless or authentic pieces.

So, what was the Apostle Paul saying about Timothy and his family? What made Timothy’s grandmother and mother so effective in sharing their faith with Timothy? They were real! They were sincere! They were authentic! They did not try and hide their flaws. Interestingly, Timothy’s mother was Jewish and his father was Greek. One would be considered and believer and the other a non-believer. So, they had their flaws and differences. Every family has them. None of us are perfect, but if we are going to impact our families and communities with the love of Christ, we need to be real! I have been a probation officer, high school security officer and pastor for over 35 years now. People just want you to be authentic. Too often Christians try and portray this perfect image. We are good at filling our flaws with wax and then acting like we’re the real thing. You want to have a lasting impact in your family, church or community? You want to leave a legacy? Then live out a “sincere” faith first among your family and then others.

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Why is this happening?

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude is more important than facts. It’s more important than the past, education, money, circumstances, failures, successes, or what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It’ll make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we’ll embrace for that day. We cannot change our past or the fact that people will act in a certain way. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude I’m convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” 

~Charles R. Swindoll

Just a few months ago, our youngest son, Branden, 27, was diagnosed with a very aggressive, rare form of lymphoma requiring aggressive chemotherapy treatment. A mass the size of a softball invaded his chest pressing on vital organs. His wife was due to deliver their second child almost any day when they got the news. Treatment began immediately. The day before he was to be admitted at Butterworth for his first 5 day round of chemo, his wife was admitted at the same hospital resulting in emergency C-section, giving birth to their daughter. A few hours later, Branden went downstairs to begin treatment for cancer.

Since this journey began (early February), Branden has undergone three surgeries,  a collapsed lung, emergency bedside chest tube insertion, a viral infection, a very serious bacterial infection, as well as being separated from his family every three weeks for a week at a time.

I know there are people who are worse off. That’s not my point. Here’s my point. Long before the first diagnosis, Branden has and continues to praise God. He says this is just a miracle waiting to happen. If anyone has the right to ask, “Why is this happening?” he does. However that question has never crossed his mind. Instead, his question is, “How can I bring glory to God through what is happening?”

He knows God has the power to heal him instantaneously, but says, “If God will be glorified more by me going through this journey, then I’m willing to walk through whatever He needs me to for His Glory!” God’s goodness doesn’t change because our circumstances have.  As people visit him in the hospital, they continually share that they went to bless and minister to him, but instead, he blessed and ministered to them. As this journey continues, so does his peace and trust in God. Whatever the outcome, he wins!

One of his favorite verses for strength is Joshua 1:9 (NIV): Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Whatever you’re facing, remember:  Peace is found in the ability to see God’s presence, perceive God’s power, and focus on God’s plan in spite of the obstacles.

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Spring cleaning

Cedar-Christian-Church

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Do you feel like your soul could use a good renewal or cleanse? Each spring arrives in God’s perfect timing and this year is no different. This stretch of the year tends to lead us into “spring cleaning” mode. The thoughts to restore a crisp, clean feel to all surfaces, purging or refurbishing the old and embracing the new. This unexplainable urgency to scrub and declutter every nook and cranny encourages a new spirit of energy. We actually collect enjoyment in breaking out the mops, brooms and dusters. We get a rush from organizing and cleaning out. Imagine if we applied this ambition and excitement to renewing our spiritual life this spring season.

How are some ways to bring forth this renewal of our spirit? Nothing will restore your soul like time with God. Find a place where you can have quiet and calm. No distractions, no time limits, no pre-planned structure, no agenda—just be with Him.

Another way to help your renewal is while you’re with God you might as well put everything you’re carrying into His hands, including yourself! He already knows about it all. You’re not hiding anything from Him. Nothing you’re feeling or thinking will surprise Him, and He invites you to cast it all upon Him—so go for it! (1 Peter 5:7)

Meditation of biblical principles is an excellent way to bring in renewal. Choose a passage, a promise, or a verse and just rest upon it. Chew on it slowly and let it sink deep. Find a place to jot down some reflections. What you meditate upon has much to do with your attitudes and actions (Psalm 1:2). Meditating on scripture is great, however, you can also try reading an inspiring book constructed with faith-based principles. Make sure it connects to some practical aspect of your life (Proverbs 25:11).

Serving or meeting the needs of another is an exceptional step towards great renewal. This could be your spouse, your kids, your neighbor, a church member, or a local business owner. There’s something really refreshing about choosing to perform an act of kindness “just because.”

A final way to bring forth a renewal in the spirit would be to try spending time with someone you love. This could be your spouse, your family, or a good friend. Right relationships are energizing. They have a restoring and renewing quality. Go ahead and spend yourself for others, but be sure you carve out time to be with those who strengthen you in the Lord as well (Proverbs 17:17).

This spring, let’s spend a little quiet time with God, maybe even while we’re dusting, mopping and decluttering. These are just a few things we can apply to our lives to help us grow and renew our relationship with God. When we engage in biblical, renewing activities then it’s only a matter of time before God breathes new strength into our spiritual life. Patiently enjoy His presence as He renews your strength (Isaiah 40:31).

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Choices—today and every day

C-Cedar-Creek-Community-Church-LandscapePastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

God has a plan for each and every one of us, for life, and gives us the privilege to make choices as we journey through the process of fully living our life.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, New International version.)

The bible tells us that before we were born, God knew us. God knows who each of us are, much better than we know ourselves; and he knows not only why, but the reason for when and where he purposed us to begin life. It took me many years to discover that my life did not come about by accident. God is the Creator, the Giver of life, on purpose.

Not only has God purposed each and every life, through the writer of Proverbs, he has also given us wonderful direction: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.)

Trusting God with all of our heart is how we show that our faith in him is real.  This is not a piecemeal trust; the call is to a complete trust in him with our whole heart, putting our whole life in his hands. Often, we think we know better than God, when in reality, like Adam and Eve in the beginning, our wisdom and understanding is weak, crooked and unreliable. It’s like trying to walk with a foam rubber walking cane; if we lean on it, we’re going to fall over.

This is where I find myself sometimes coming up short of what God knows would provide life to the fullest. It is easy for Christians to make plans and set goals, expecting God to fall in behind them. I believe though, that we aren’t being fair to God, ourselves and others, when we insist on doing just what we want to do, while not letting God handle through us, the situations that pop up in life.

We must turn that around. Otherwise, the greatness of our God will not be seen by the unbelieving world around us. I learned many years ago, that if I wanted to go boating, I must first, get on the boat. I have to trust that the person piloting the boat is a good pilot; while trusting that the boat won’t sink.  It is simple, getting on board is an act of faith.

In all our ways acknowledging him, means exactly what it says, coupled with the promise, “and he will make your paths straight.” This appears to be an encouraging promise, which it is; a promise that with God’s help as we trust in him, we will eventually reach the destination that he has in mind for us. But it is also a warning. It reminds us that our path in life is God’s path, and his way may not be the way we would have chosen for ourselves.

If we want to find God’s will for our life, first, we have to put our trust in God. Acknowledging the Lord is surrendering to God’s will and starting on the journey; it’s putting our faith into action. In other words, be prepared to go where God wants to take you, trusting in him to make the way clear.

God’s word reveals his heart and love for us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.) The God we serve in this life is the God we will serve for eternity; choose wisely.

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Spiritual Sticking Points

The-Springs-blurred-webPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

Have you ever had a spiritual sticking point? A spiritual sticking point is something that blocks your spiritual journey. There’s an issue, an objection, a question, a concern that blocks your progress toward a spiritual breakthrough.

Have you ever been there? You hunger for a deep, authentic, personal relationship with Christ, but something stunts your spiritual progress. You’re attracted to a relationship with the God of the universe, but there’s something you just can’t seem to get past. If that’s you, you’re not alone!

Here are four of the most common spiritual sticking points:

Spiritual Sticking Point #1: I Can’t Believe

The first sticking point is when we say, “I can’t believe.”

This struggle is often expressed by people with intellectual issues blocking their spiritual path. A scientist might say, “I can’t believe the Bible because it conflicts with science.” Or the mother of a sick child might say, “I can’t believe in a God who permits my precious girl to suffer when so many evil people thrive.” Or maybe it’s a lawyer who says, “I’m used to dealing with evidence, facts, data, and logic; I can’t believe in something we’re asked to accept on faith.” A businessperson might explain, “I prayed my business would succeed, but it’s going down the tubes. I can’t believe in a God who ignores my prayers.”

This is the sticking point that Jesus’ disciple Thomas had. We hear it in John 20:25b where he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (NIV).

How can we get past this spiritual sticking point? Actively seek God. Search the Scriptures. Investigate the evidence. When we do these things, God promises to meet us. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (NIV).

Spiritual Sticking Point #2: I Don’t Want to Believe

Now, few people will come right out and admit this, yet this is a spiritual sticking point that stops a lot of people.

Have you ever talked with someone who just wasn’t interested in hearing the evidence for God? They don’t think there could be any real evidence—subject closed.

At first this may seem to be an intellectual sticking point, and in some cases it may be. But sometimes, as you get to know the person, you’ll discover that there is another issue behind their rejection of the evidence.

Moral issues often get in the way of a person’s spiritual journey. They may be involved in an adulterous relationship, unethical business practice, or some other sin. Sometimes people reject the evidence as a way to hide their real concern that becoming a Christian would mean a radical life change that they’re just not open to. In other words, sometimes we love our sin more than we love the truth.

Other people have a similar kind of hidden obstacle: the fear of intimacy. They aren’t afraid of Christ changing their life; their unspoken fear is of intimacy. They feel attracted toward God, but they recoil from the prospect of relating to anybody on a deep level. And since the core of Christianity is a deep and dynamic relationship with Christ, these people find all kinds of excuses to say it’s just not for them.

One other variation of this spiritual sticking point is a hidden authority obstacle.  A person who struggles with this doesn’t want anyone, including the God who created them, to tell them how to live their life. So they find reasons not to believe.

Spiritual Sticking Point #3: I Don’t Know What to Believe

We’ve seen that some people say, “I can’t believe.” For others, the real issue is, “I don’t want to believe.” And now third, some say, “I don’t know what to believe.”

Today, people get confused because they hear all kinds of interpretations of the Bible. They see different denominations. They hear some people who take the Bible literally and some who say it’s just a general moral guideline. They hear people using the Bible to support contradictory positions. They try reading the Bible and get bogged down in Leviticus.

So they throw up their hands and say, “I don’t know what to believe. It seems like the meaning of the Bible changes according to who interprets it. So who is right?”

If that’s your sticking point, it’s important to know that the key to accurately understanding the Bible is the same as the key to understanding any communication—you must study to determine what the writer actually meant. Not what we want it to say; not to interpret it for our benefit; not to read our biases into it, but to figure out what the writer intended to communicate.

This is important because sometimes we let what we want the Bible to say to get in the way of what it’s really saying.  Our motives can radically color the way we interpret things. And people do that with the Bible to get around teachings they don’t agree with or don’t want to apply to their lives.

Spiritual Sticking Point #4: I Do Believe; Isn’t That Enough?

These people say, “I understand the gospel, and I believe it’s true. But I still feel like I’m at a sticking point. I feel like something is holding me back from experiencing the kind of relationship with God that other people talk about. Why does God seem to be distant from me? Why can’t I really connect with God?”

That’s because merely agreeing with the gospel isn’t enough. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (NIV).

It’s not enough just to nod our heads in intellectual agreement. As John 1:12 tells us, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

There’s a simple spiritual equation that flows out of John 1:12: Believe + Receive = Become. We can’t become true children of God without both elements; we must believe in Him intellectually, and we must receive His forgiveness and leadership personally.

Where are you on the journey of finding God? What obstacles stand in your way? Now can be the time you get past your sticking points once and for all, if you’ll believe the truth, receive Christ, and become a child of God.

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Will you remember?

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St, Cedar Springs

 

There are many facts in life that we are called upon to remember—names, birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, deadlines, tax day, and even historical events of national significance: September 11, 2001, January 28, 1986, April 3, 1968, November 22, 1963, or December 7, 1941. These dates bring to memory the reality of loss, suffering, and death. And the same is true for us today as we remember, April 3, 33.

In less than three days, Christians are called upon to remember not a date, not even an event of national importance, but an eternal person of significance. We remember not a change in our world, but the One who created the world, turned it upside down, and one day He will bring a new world. On Easter Sunday, will you do as 2 Timothy 2:8 says: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.” 

The word “remember” is an important word if we are going to comprehend this command. A few years ago, a friend of mine returned to Michigan to reunite with his family for a special occasion. On that evening, after dinner, the family began to share some of their childhood memories when one of his sisters suggested they watch some of the old 8mm movies. At first, the idea sounded horrible, the reason for the reunion was painful enough, but to watch movies of their own growing pains was considered unbearable.

Nevertheless, they turned on the projector and my friend saw his father as a twenty-seven year old walking with his two sons. He was running alongside his son as he showed him how to ride a bike. He was a thirty-two year old teaching his kids how to water ski. But most of the time, he was not on the screen at all. He was capturing his family on film.

It was a bittersweet experience for my friend as he contrasted that young man on film with the frail man his father is now. That evening helped my friend remember his father not as the man who forgot his name or that he was his son, but as the man who for most of his years was full of life. Somehow, it helped to bring some joy in the midst of their deep sorrow.

Remembering the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is important for a number of reasons. It brings joy out of sorrow. It brings hope for tomorrow. And there is another good reason we remember: God is faithful. He keeps His promises. Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead is proof. Remember what the angel said to the women at the tomb? “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6 KJV). Notice the last three words, “as he said.” Will you remember?

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