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Archive | From the Pulpit

Answers to prayer

cs-united-methodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319


We learn in Scripture that Christ often spent time in prayer. We don’t always know what he prayed for, but we are told that Jesus would go to quiet places—to escape the crowds that followed him and go to the Father in prayer. What would he do then? After his spirit was revived during these quiet times, he set out, once again, to minister to the people. Jesus taught, healed the sick, fed the hungry and cast out demons. And he did all of these things with the power and authority that he had as the Son of God and with the power of prayer. Today, I think that we, as Christians, can sometimes get caught in a trap. We read the Bible and find teachings on prayer, like the words found in Matthew 21:22, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” When we read this verse outside of the context of rest of the Bible, we might think that prayer is a test of faith, and if we don’t receive what we pray for, our faith must be suspect. Not true. When we examine Scripture closely, we find that prayers are not always answered in the way that we might expect. Jesus didn’t always get what he prayed for. When he asked for the cup to be taken from him (Luke 22:42), we know that it was not. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed from his side (2nd Corinthians 12:7-9), but it was not. God heard these prayers but did not answer them how we might have expected him to. He did, however, transform them into something even greater.

We can learn something from the unanswered prayers of Jesus and Paul. They didn’t pray and then just sit and wait for an answer.  They prayed–going to God in faith–and then they continued their work. Their prayer was followed up with action. And though, sometimes, their specific prayers were not answered in the way we might have expected, we know that God responded to their requests by continuing to work through them so that his plan for history might be worked out.

It is the same for us today; we might not always get specifically what we ask for in our times of prayer. We might not understand why the answers to our prayers are not what we expect. Our response needs to be to keep praying. We must also continue to do good work, and to reach out to others with the love of Christ. For when we are faithful, God will work through us as he did with Jesus and Paul, and transform our lives, into something new and into something even better than we expected.

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You give them something to eat

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. 

Cedar Springs MI 49319


“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” Matthew 14: 13-21.

 According to the Gospel of Matthew, the beheading of John the Baptist changes the scope of Jesus’ ministry. Up until this time, Jesus was teaching and leading his disciples through some important lessons.  The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of lessons about not only discipleship but also some practical advice on how to behave in the vision of the kingdom that Jesus describes. Many of these sayings have been incorporated into our everyday speech like “turn the other cheek,” “eye for an eye,”  “salt of the earth and others. Also, up until this time, Jesus has been doing everything, he has healed the sick, cast out demons and is teaching about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  So it must have been somewhat surprising to the disciples when they tried to get rid of the hungry crowds, Jesus does something different. He puts the disciples in charge. Jesus turns the tables and says, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples, of course, are dumbfounded and look at themselves and then to Jesus and said, essentially, “We can’t feed them, we don’t have enough food.”  Of course, Jesus shows them they are wrong, what they have is enough.

As we encounter this world we live in, we, too, are sometimes at a loss for how to make disciples for Jesus Christ. We complain that we don’t have enough, we don’t  have the right kind of church building, the right music, the right community.  We would like to do more for local missions such as the food pantry, Second Chance School, or Kid’s Hope but we think we just don’t have enough.  Our text today disagrees with our assessment; we do have enough if we allow Jesus to be at the center of all we do. Jesus has entrusted us with bringing the Good News to those who desperately need to be fed and with Jesus’ help we do have enough.  You give them something to eat.


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Maintaining a healthy perspective

There seems to be a real sense of negativity filling the minds of people today. Listen to the media and it seems to be one never-ending stream of reports of disaster, disgrace, despair, and depression. When you fill your mind with bad news, it is a natural progression from there to living a life steeped in a negative attitude. Consequently, we have multitudes of people living with what I call the “Eeyore Syndrome.” People who have this syndrome can only see the negative probabilities rather than the positive possibilities.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us a prescription, an antidote to the poison of negativity that permeates the atmosphere surrounding so many people. It is found in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (NKJV).

If you want to become a person who takes charge of their environment and rises above the negativity surrounding them, you must take this verse to heart and diligently strive to live these values on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

It may mean some drastic changes in your lifestyle and entertainment choices. Try turning off the radio and TV once in awhile. Choose to watch movies with uplifting and inspiring stories. Immerse yourself in the Bible and learn its timeless truths and values and how they relate to you personally. Take a vacation from Facebook. Read books that stimulate your thinking. Go for walks and admire the beauty of nature. Spend some time watching a sunset and marveling at the ever changing colors that paint the evening canvas of the sky. Become involved in a ministry that helps those less fortunate than you. Do these things and you will be surprised at what it will do for your mental and emotional outlook.

As you make the effort to develop a positive thought life, please recognize the key to success in this effort. It is found in the verse we read earlier: “…meditate on these things.”

The word meditate means “to carefully consider, to calculate, and to ponder.” That means tat we are to intensively focus our attention on things that are positive and uplifting. We are to concentrate on what is pure. We are to study what is just. We are to meditate on things that are pure.

And the tense of the word indicates we are to keep on doing it. It is an ongoing process that we purposefully pursue every moment of every day. So, let me encourage you to try it. It may revolutionize your life into an upward trajectory.

Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

361 Pine St., Cedar Springs

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Speak Life

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford


“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” Proverbs 18:21 (NIV).

God has given us an amazing gift in the ability to communicate. As people created in His image, we have a unique privilege and responsibility that none of His other creation has. We have the ability to communicate in a way that none of His other creation can. We have been given the power of life and death, and we hold that power in our tongues. The old adage goes like this, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The bruises that come from sticks and stones may stay for a while, but they quickly fade and heal. But the wounds that are caused in our life by others, who use their tongues to speak death into our lives, end up affecting us and hurting us for years after they are spoken.

There is nothing neutral about our tongues. Either death or life, those are the only two possible outcomes from the use of our tongues. Every conversation that we have, every word uttered under our breath, and every word yelled in anger or frustration is either bringing life or death. From our bosses to our co-workers; from our spouses to our kids; from the gas station attendant to the checkout clerk at the grocery store—every time we open our mouths, either life comes out or death comes out. There is no such thing as a neutral word.

As God’s children, created in His image, we should strive to speak life. We should strive to not tear down others with our tongues but instead build them up. We should not be caught up in grumbling, complaining or criticizing, but instead we should strive to encourage, uplift and edify with every word that comes out of our mouth. God gives the power to us but the choice is up to you.

Are we using the gift that God gave us to bring death or life? Are we looking for ways to speak life into a world that is hurting all around us? Or are we caught in the great hypocrisy—a mouth that on Sunday praises our God but then throughout the rest of the week curses and drags down those who are made in His image and His likeness (James 3:9-10)? The choice is up to you; will it be death or life? The power is in your tongue. Speak wisely!

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Is God a dangerous elephant or a fluffy kitten?

Rockford-Springs-Church-webPastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341


Let’s not be silly…He is neither. But He is our Father, Almighty.

From the very beginning of the New Testament church, the believers in Jesus Christ declared their belief in God as their Father, and as the Almighty. This beginning statement of belief is found in what came to be known as the Apostle’s Creed. This concise creed speaks of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and helps Christians verbalize what they believed about each part of the Godhead.

I have been impressed by the fact that when the early believers wanted to tell the world what they believed about God, they started by using two words: “Father,” and “Almighty.”  On the one hand, they understood their position to be intimate and generated by God so that they would be close to Him and safe. Yet, they also held Him in proper awe because of His breath taking power and infinite strength. Clearly this is how God reveals Himself in texts from the Bible such as when Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6 with the words: “Our Father,” and as Paul writes to the Romans in Romans 8: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (ESV).  This personal relationship with God, is recognized by the believer, as a relationship that God caused to happen by His grace.

This close personal relationship comes as a shock to the believer for at least two reasons. One, because God, in His nature, is holy which no human matches; and two, because of His almighty power that protects the holiness of His being. Verses like in Job 11: “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?” And Psalm 90 that asks the question: “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”  These verses leave us with a fear to enter the presence of His greatness and power.

But perhaps Psalm 91 brings these two truths together in proper unity: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” The ultimate protection we have from the wrath and power of God is God Himself. Jesus Christ became for us our protector from the almighty and the provider of our relationship with the Father.

And so the Christian says, “Thanks be to God, for what the Father desired (our salvation), the Almighty was able to provide. The believer is comforted by the tender touch of his Father that cares enough to wipe away every tear, and confident in the power of God to hold back every evil that could separate him from the love of God.”

And so we say today: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty.”

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Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd NE, Cedar Springs


A Reflection on the Visit of Pope Francis to the United States of America

C-Pulpit-popeMuch excitement surrounds the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States of America from September 22-28. The Pope has a busy schedule, first visiting the White House in Washington, D.C., then traveling to New York City to address the United Nations, and most importantly, presiding over the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The World Meeting of Families is an international gathering that was founded by Pope (now Saint) John Paul II in 1994, and is held every three years to promote and encourage families throughout the world.

The 2015 theme of the World Meeting of Families says it all: “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” which emphasizes the impact that the love and life of families has on society. Why does the Pope put so much emphasis on strengthening family life among Catholics and non-Catholics? The answer is, I believe, found in three important paragraphs (1655-1657) of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that his immediate predecessor Pope Benedict XVI put much effort in preparing. It is important to fully quote them:

Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than “the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers “together with all [their] household.”  When they were converted, they desired that “their whole household” should also be saved.  These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.

In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica [domestic Church]. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation.”

It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.” Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.” Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.

As the Pope visits our country to encourage, strengthen and bless families throughout the world, it is good for us to ask ourselves this question: “What am I doing to strengthen my family?” and more importantly, “What am I doing to make God present in my family and community?” Let love be our mission and let our family be fully alive in Christ.

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The Power of Purpose

Pastor Craig Carter 

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345


“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Why am I here? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself this question? If you are like most people, we live our lives with no real sense of meaning or purpose. We can easily live as if we are just a victim, or the by-product of the life events happening around us everyday. Sometimes the events are so serious, or life altering, that we finally stop long enough to ask ourselves this question, “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose of my life?”

The above verse found in Ephesians chapter 2, gives us some powerful insight into this serious life question. If you and I lived in the days of the Apostle Paul and spoke Greek like he did, we would know that the word workmanship means work of art or one of a kind creation.  In fact, the Greek word used is POY-ay-mah, which means something that has been made and is where we derive our English word poem. Paul is saying, you and I are a one of kind creation, a work of art, a poem, with a very distinct meaning and purpose. From the day you were born, you were His Masterpiece. There is and never will be another one like you!

The first step in finding your purpose in life is acknowledging and never forgetting that God created you!  Every created thing has a purpose. That is how God designed it! Psalms 139:14 says, “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.” God’s work of art was revealed in your life the day you were born. To many people bemoan their lives. They fall victim to life’s circumstances, forgetting that the very God of heaven created them and he did so with a purpose!

Step two in finding power in your purpose, is realizing you were also created to live in relationship with God’s son, Jesus. Notice the second part of this verse. We are his workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus.” This is reason so many lives lack meaningful purpose. They do not live in connection to, or in significant relationship with, Jesus. They may acknowledge Him, but never enter a real personal relationship with Him. This is what the Bible refers to as your second birth, or your new creation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” It is taking the next step in life. You first acknowledge that your natural birth was accident, but was by God’s design. Then out of gratefulness to Him, you enter a relationship with Him through his son Jesus Christ.  You acknowledge Jesus loves you and died for your sins. You receive His forgiveness for you and acknowledge He has a plan, a purpose for your life.

Lastly, You will find power in your purpose when you see that Jesus has good things for you to do, that His plan for you is good. Do not just dwell on all the negative in life. Learn to see and know that God has created you for good things. The prophet Jeremiah learned this truth when God said to him, “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). In fact, the end of Ephesians 2:10 says that God has ordained you to walk in them. Meaning they were a part of His plan for your life from the day you were born.  So, go live your life. Live it with power! Live it with purpose and meaning! You were born into this world as a work of God’s art. You were born to have relationship with Him and live it blessing others with the good God had blessed you with. So, start walking in them!

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Don’t lose your joy

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs


Does God want us to be happy? There seems to be some good evidence in scripture that God does want us to be happy and have joy in our lives (Romans 15:13). There are a variety of possibilities that one can appear to find joy and delight in the things of this world. We can seek joy in our families, friends, wealth and even our health. We can find joy in our careers, school, and of course, the countless forms of entertainment. These are all wonderful things we can enjoy and we should give God praise for many of these blessings. However, we must always make sure that the blessings do not become the source of where our joy comes from.

Our joy needs to come directly from God for who He is, and not for what He has blessed us with. If the joy in your life comes from the blessings you have received, then your joy can be taken away from you. You may also find yourself chasing the blessings thinking they will give you your happiness. If God is the source of your joy, your joy will never be removed or taken away from you (John 16:22) despite the blessing or blessings that are removed from your life.  This is why someone can lose a job and still be happy. This is why someone can receive a bad health report and still be at peace. This is why someone can be going through a family crisis and still feel comforted. Not that these things won’t sting or hurt for a moment, but God is our source of joy, not the blessings. While it’s great to enjoy the blessings and we need to thank Him for these blessings, we must not forget that we need to give Him the glory because He’s a loving God not just for the way we have been blessed. Unfortunately, many see it that way and will blame God for their lack of blessings and therefore think that they cannot have happiness.

God loves each and every one of us. Many have been blessed in different forms but as long as God is the foundation of our joy and happiness, it can never be taken away.

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Got Enough?

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

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


During his ministry, Jesus made many references to the “Kingdom of God,” along with instructions for those who choose to follow him here. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,” and later, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19, 21, King James Translation).

One of the more earthy stand-up comedians of our time has made a career of poking fun at the quirks of people. One of his favorites is our tendency to accumulate stuff—to the extent that there is a whole new industry of storage units where we pay others to watch over our abundance of stuff.

The obvious question is “What is stuff?” The answer depends on each individual’s preferences. For me, along with other stuff, I have accumulated enough books to read, that if I read 20 hours a day, 365 days a year, I may be able to read through them in another 200 years. There can be no doubt Jesus knows our human nature, especially when we look at this time of consumerism we live in.

So many of us have a desire to acquire, whether for bragging rights or just simply to show it off, even though we know having possessions just to possess them leads to greed. This is a big problem, made even worse by our modern idea that Jesus’ words are merely proverbs—that they are a good moral target, but not something people in the real word can actually do.

We live in a culture that bombards us with the idea that there is always something more; something we need to have in order to be happy. Advertisers are paid big bucks to convince us that we need something better, newer, bigger or faster than whatever they convinced us to acquire just a little while back.

It isn’t only that we live in 2015, and everything was better back in 1973, 1917 or even back in ancient times; let’s not kid ourselves. King David in the Old Testament didn’t have enough in 985 B.C.,  and neither did many others mentioned in the bible as examples for us—let alone what Judas felt he needed, with more silver than he had already stolen. It isn’t that we need more than we have; no, we already have enough and don’t know it. I think it would be accurate to call this time in which we live, “the age of discontent.”

We aren’t forbidden to have any possessions, as some in the past have interpreted scripture; what we are strongly warned about is the inordinate desire for more that affects our relationship with God and others. Jesus continued on in Matthew chapter 6, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV).

God is deeply concerned with the desires of our heart. If that desire is to please and glorify God, our heart, hands, mouth and feet, will respond to his word and the leading of the Holy Spirit to share love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience and self-control. Generally, if we will stop and consider what we already have in this land of freedom, we will know that we have enough.

Got enough? The writer of Hebrews states, “Let your conversation (living) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5 KJV).  Paul wrote, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1st Timothy 6:6-8 KJV).

The truth is that the more worldly things we desire and/or worry about, the less attention we will pay to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and advancing the Kingdom of God. May you find the peace that only Jesus can give. That is something neither money nor stuff can buy!

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God has the power to provide

The-Springs-blurred-webPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs


If I were to ask you, “What are you lacking today?” You might say, “I need more energy… I need more money… I need more emotional support… I need a job.” Chances are you have a shortage somewhere in your life right now. All of those things that you’re lacking in your life really happen for a reason. You don’t know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.  Sometimes God allows a shortage in your life to show you that He has the power to provide whatever it is you are lacking.

This was true for a prophet in the Old Testament named Elijah. The Bible tells us in 1 Kings chapter 17 that during a 3-½ yearlong drought “the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’ So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land” 1 Kings 17:2-7 (NIV).

What is a ravine? A ravine is a natural rut. It’s a long, narrow gorge. Ravines are dark, cold, and lonely. In Hebrew, Kerith means “cut off.” And Elijah was cut off from everything—his friends, social interaction, and what was happening in the world. He was all by himself.

You might be in an emotional Kerith right now. You’re going through a time that seems dark and cold and deep and lonely.

During this time, God supernaturally provides for Elijah in an unusual way. He has ravens bring food and drop it down to him. This is not exactly gourmet food. Where do birds get their food? Off other people’s plates. They find a little piece of meat here and a little piece of bread there. For a year, Elijah’s eating leftovers at best. At worst, he may be eating a dead carcass that they picked up somewhere. So this is not exactly a Sandals vacation. He’s in this pit, and his only support is from God. He has food that God has provided from the ravens, and water that God has provided in the brook. Remember: You don’t know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.

Then in verse 7 it says “The brook dried up.” Maybe you are in a situation right now where the brook has dried up in your life. The money’s not there. The friend isn’t there.  The support isn’t there. The energy isn’t there. Your health isn’t there. Things have dried up in your life.

What do you need to remember when the brook dries up in your life—relationally, emotionally, financially or whatever? You need to remember that God allows brooks to dry up to keep me from depending on the brook.

Elijah was in this rut for a year. It would have been very easy for him to just forget about God and focus on the birds and the brook, because they are supplying his needs. He doesn’t have to work; it’s all right there. The birds bring the food and the brook gives the water. If you depend on a bird every day to drop food down to you, week after week, month after month, for a full year, pretty soon you’re not thinking about God.  You’re thinking about, “Is the bird on time?” And if the water is coming down the brook each day, you might just start to assume it’s always going to be there.

So God says, “Whatever you’re trusting in, if it’s not Me, I’m going to turn it off. You’ve been trusting in your job for your security; we’ll just turn that off.  You’ve been trusting in your health; we’ll just turn that off.  You’ve been trusting in a friend; we’ll just turn that off.”

God says you must trust in Me and Me alone.

So what are you lacking in your life right now? What do you need that has dried up?  Whatever it is, God has the power to provide it. Trust in Him. The Bible promises in Philippians 4:19 that “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Why don’t you take a moment right now to pause and pray and ask God to meet that need in your life?



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