Monthly Archives: June 2017

What Action Will You Take

Peninsula Community Church

What Action Will You Take 

June 25, 2017

Luke 5:17-20 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

This is an amazing story when you think about it. As usual wherever Jesus traveled there was a crowd of people. In this case the crowd had grown so large there was no room to get close to Him. It was in this context that the paralyzed man came to Jesus. He needed a miracle. He was ready to receive but he could not get close enough to get His blessing.

Before we look at some specifics let us take a quick look at the characters in the story. First, we have the crowd who was pressing in so they could be close to Jesus. They were so focused on their needs that they did not see this man and his needs. Their own interests blinded them to the needs of this man. Then we have the friends of the man. They were concerned about their friend who had been sick for such a long time. It is possible that he had lost hope and was at the end. Because of their friendship, they were willing to do whatever it would take to see him healed. Then we have the man who in some ways has a passive role in this story. We do not know why he was paralyzed. We do not know how long he was paralyzed. We just know he had a problem and he needed to get to Jesus. The power of God was moving in Jesus to heal. That is why this man needed Jesus.

Because of the crowd, this small group of men could not get close to Jesus. As a result, they had to make one of three choices. The first choice was that they could give up and go home. After all the crowd was too big. After all there was no way for them to get close enough to Jesus. They could have given up but nothing would have changed. He would remain paralyzed. He would continue to depend on his friends to help him get around for the rest of his life.

How many times do we face problems in life and we find ourselves giving up? Whether we realize it or not it is always easier to give up than it is to move forward and get things accomplished. It is easier to do nothing but doing nothing changes nothing. By giving up there is no healing and no future. There are a number of reasons to give up so easily.  For one, we tend to settle for less than God’s best. Sometimes we settle even for the good rather than His best. Secondly, too many times we are not willing to put in the hard work. We get overwhelmed and rather than pressing in we give up and give into the pressures of life. Thirdly, we can be so distracted by the issues around us that do not even realize that Jesus wants to touch us. Being distracted causes us to go after perceived solutions in a hope that hoping we will find an answer but never do.

The second choice we can make is to hang up. It is so easy to get hung up on what we do not have. We can get hung up on the belief that nothing will ever change or be any different than it is right now. When we get hung up on the problem or situation a couple of things happen. For one, we can become critical and judgmental. We are critical because we see everyone else getting blessed but we are not. We are critical because we think we deserve better but we are not willing to make the changes necessary for permanent change.

Newt Gingrich on Fox News made a valuable statement a few weeks ago. He stated that it is much easier to criticize than to actually do anything. We can get hung up on criticizing the issues and complaining about what is not changing but we never engage in a way to bring real change. Criticism is easy, but change is much harder. For me, I have found this to be so true. I can criticize people, plans, circumstances, and issues around me but fail to step up to the plate to bring any real solutions to the table. I must ask myself, “Am I a part of the problem or am I a part of the solution.” Your answer will determine your outlook.

When we get hung up we can begin to focus on the problem so much that we lose hope and faith. We see the problems but do not see anyway out. The result is that we make mountains out of mole hills when God wants to make our mole hills and for that matter our mountains fall into the sea. I remember in the story of Nehemiah that the Israelites become discouraged because they saw all of the rubble. They were so focused on the obstacles that they missed opportunities to respond to God. They became frozen with fear and anxiety.

While we might chose to give up or hang up we can also choose to stand up and move forward. Notice that in this passage the paralytic man and his four friends chose not to give up or to get hung up. They chose to stand up and make a difference. They saw the problems. They saw the crowd. They saw the obstacles but that did not stop them. The desire to see their friend healed far outweighed the obstacles and the problems. Their faith in Jesus moved them to action. They pushed through all of the obstacles to find another way.

Remember the old adage, when a door is closed a window is opened. The door here was closed but a roof opened. They took their friend upon the roof. They tore the roof open. They let him down into the crowd. Strange idea but that is what they did. They were not willing to settle or give up. They did not run away. They chose not to stand around and criticize but they chose to take action.

They needed faith to do what they were about to do. You see change comes by our faith being put into action. Jesus saw their actions and He responded to the man’s need. The Scripture says that Jesus saw their faith. Here is the principle of Biblical faith. We act God responds. We act and God will meet us in the process. Listen to the words of Jesus! “Man your sins be forgiven.”

This may seem to be a strange statement. The man needed healing not forgiveness. Or at least that is what he thought. The reality is that Jesus often gives us what we need and not just what we want. This man needed healing but he also needed forgiveness. Sometimes God knows that the best way to heal the body is to heal the heart. When Jesus touches us He can and will touch the whole man and not just part. Jesus heals and saves. He delivers us from the physical bondage of illness and sickness and He can deliver us from the power of sin. Sometimes, He does both at the same time. That is certainly what Jesus did here.

So the question is how does this apply to us. The fact is we are all confronted with impossible issues. Most of the issues we face are bigger than us and seem to be more powerful than we are. But when we are confronted with such things we can make a choice about what we will do. Will we give up? Will we get hung up? Or, will we stand up and press in to do the impossible by faith.

I suggest and encourage you to stand up and do the impossible. One of the things that has baffled me about this passage is how did Jesus see their faith. Certainly they pressed through the crowd. Certainly they had broken through the roof. Certainly they did not settle for the status quo. Certainly they took action but I think they did one more thing. When they lowered the paralyzed man through the roof, I believe they let go of the ropes. That was faith in action. They did all they could do and now they left the rest to Jesus. I encourage you to do your part and then let go of the ropes and giving your cares and issues to Jesus. Their part was that they sought Jesus. They drew near to Him. He saw their faith and He answered the man’s need.

The story is told of a mountain climber who set off all by himself to conquer a mountain he had always wanted to conquer. This was not a good idea because the protocol was to always climb with a partner. In a moment of arrogance he took off to make the climb. When he had climbed almost to the summit he slipped and began a rapid descent. All of a sudden the rope reached its end and he snapped to a stop. Because darkness had come, he lost all track of where he was. It was in that moment that he prayed. From the darkness he heard the voice of God. Cut the rope and let go. He argued and refused to cut the rope. The next morning, the park rangers found him. He had frozen to death. They found him tightly holding onto the rope. It was there he died. If he had obeyed the voice of God, he would have lived, as he died hanging only two feet off the ground.

Perhaps, today Jesus is calling you to let go of the rope and by faith give what every you struggle with over to Jesus. It is time to let go. It is time to stand up and push through the obstacles. Do so and Jesus will meet you where you are.

Let’s pray.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Let Your Light Shine

Peninsula Community Church 

Let Your Light Shine

June 18, 2017

Luke 11:33-36No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

In our passage today, although Jesus is not speaking directly to dads, He is speaking to believers and those who desire to be passionate followers of Christ. In this passage, Jesus does what He does so often. He uses a word picture to teach a spiritual truth. In this particular case, He is using the word picture of light. This is an important discussion as light refers to the work of Christ in our heart and the influence of that light shining through us.

Jesus begins the passage with an important statement. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. This may seem to be a absurd picture but it speaks to the reality of our hearts. No one with any wisdom would take a light and hide it under a basket or put it in the basement. You see the purpose of light is to illuminate. Notice he says that we should put the light on a stand so that those who enter may see the light. Thus, the purpose of light is to light the way of those entering one’s home or one’s world. For us today this is a reference to our sphere of influence. Does our life illuminate the way of Christ?

As fathers and passionate followers of Christ we are called to influence those around us by letting our light shine. We are called to be a light to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and coworkers. Whether you realize it or not, you are influencing those around you in many ways. Our influence is never neutral. It is an active process in which we are engaged. To influence means we have “the power to change or affect something or someone.” It also means “the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.” Know today you are an influencer.

The light represents our influence but it also represents our involvement because we are called to be involved with those around us. That is why we do not put our light under a bushel or in the basement. The point here is that we are to be people of the light. We are to be people through which the light of the gospel shines bright. Too often those who want to go to the cellar or the basement want to hide. But to hide is to conceal the light and that is never good. Christ’s desire is that our life is a light and a beacon of hope to others. So, do not hide your light but let it shine.

A good friend told the story of how he would encourage his kids to get MAD. He stated that MAD meant Make a Difference. His desire was that they would make a difference in the environment they were heading into whatever the environment. Of course his kids were not as excited when Jack would yell from the front porch… “Get MAD today!” His point was that he wanted them to be engaged with their culture and their environment so their light would shine.

But how do we do this? First, we must make a choice to let our light shine. The question is how do you want to affect people? What legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered for the light you allowed to shine or do you want to be remembered for the darkness you share? It is your choice.

Secondly, remember that Jesus is in us and He is the light. When we walk in the light of Jesus then He will be revealed in us. The worldview of the day is that we are not suppose to let our light shine. This worldview says to us, be a good person but don’t let your light shine. Keep your religion to yourself is the mantra of the day by liberal thinkers. In other words hide your light or keep in the basement so no one wiles sees it. But the reality is those around us really desire to hear your thoughts and heart on Jesus. They are not as interested in your political position or spiritual arguments but they are interested in seeking answers to life problems. They need real answers for real problems. They need an everlasting hope and they need Jesus. So, let you light shine wherever you go and in whatever you do. Do not conceal the light but rather let your light shine brightly.

Thirdly, to know Jesus, the light, we must know the word of God. Jesus is the Word and we are challenged as believers to read the Word of God and allow the Word to be the guide of our life. As we hide the word in our heart, we become a lighthouse of grace where Jesus is revealed. By allowing the word of Jesus to affect us, we are changed and we begin to affect those around us. So let your light shine.

A third idea here is that we must be an inspiration. We are to be an influence, we are to be involved, and we are to be an inspiration. By letting our light shine we become an inspiration to those around us. Light dispels darkness. Light conquers darkness. As we let our light shine for Jesus, we find that the darkness in others is impacted. Sometimes they are convicted. Sometimes they refuse to listen. Sometimes they become more entrenched in what they are doing. But many will seek out the light for themselves. Our responsibility is to simply let our light shine. We are not responsible for the affect of the light on others. The light will take care of itself.

It is noteworthy that in this passage there is only one imperative noted. Jesus says “be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” This is a strange statement because how can light be darkness. The fact is there is much in the world that can be presented as a false light. There is much that seeks to negatively impact our influence, our involvement, and our inspiration.

I recently had to get my car inspected and I noticed that my headlights were not as bright as they had been. The problem was that road film had built upon the lens. The light was not able to penetrate the dirt and film build up. The light inside was the same. In fact, the bulbs were brand new. The problem was not the light it was the lens had been darkened and the light could not penetrate the dirt and grime on the lens. The solution was to clean the lens so that the light could shine brightly again.

You see there are things around us that try to mask the light and attempt to be the light. The enemy of our souls often disguises himself as a light. But when we go after that light the way ends in more hurt and more pain. Listen to Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15. And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Notice here that satan, the enemy of our souls, disguises himself as a light. He is not the light but he presents himself as a light. It is for this reason that Jesus wants us to refuse to let our light be darkness. Cleanse your lens which are your eyes. They are the entry way into the mind and the heart. Purify your eyes and your heart and your light will shine even brighter.

So in the final analysis, we are called to let our light shine. By letting our light shine, we impact others. We become influencers for the all of the right reasons. By letting our light shine we make a big difference in others. That is our goal. That is our purpose. That is God’s plan for you and me.

Today, we need to get MAD. Today, we can make a difference. Let your light shine. Let your life mean something. It is in many ways easier than you think. Follow Him! Obey His word! Do not let the darkness overcome you and you will be empowered to make a difference. Your influence will be felt in your family, your job, your children, your community, and your sphere of influence. So as our friend Jack Crabtree use to say, “Go get MAD today.”

Let’s pray!

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Radical Grace, Radical Forgiveness

Peninsula Community Church

June 11, 2017

Radical Grace, Radical Forgiveness

Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, Holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.

This week I read a story about a farmer who was plowing his fields. He was sweating and yanking on his mule to get him to turn and go the way he wanted him to go. This was all done without saying a word to the mule. His hands were bloodied from yanking the reigns so hard. He had exhausted himself and he was behind where he needed to be in planting his fields.

A fellow farmer stopped by and saw how strange it was that he never said a word to the mule. After all this was the customary way of controlling one’s horse or mule. He talked with the farmer and asked him if he thought it would be easier to give verbal commands like “gee” and “haw” to get the mule to turn. The old farmer said “yeah it would but that mule stepped on my foot a year ago and we have not talked since.” Now this is a crazy story and it is somewhat absurd I suppose, but it relates well to the topic of forgiveness.

Why is that? You see the farmer chose to hold onto the pain of the past. He refused to allow himself to walk in forgiveness. The farmer was hurting himself more than he was hurting the mule by his refusal to forgive. He also made his job much harder than it needed to be. He refused to forgive and he suffered the consequences of his actions or his inaction for that matter.

In our passage today, Paul reminds us that relationships matter and that forgiveness is the cornerstone of those relationships. Because relationships matter, forgiveness is a necessary action that must be taken by each of us. Without forgiveness, our relationships can be damaged but when we walk in forgiveness our relationships are healed and restored.

Paul made the statements in this passage because he knew that forgiveness has the power to liberate us from the suffering of the past and that it inspires us to be present in the here and now. There is a problem that occurs when we do not forgive others. When we fail to forgive others we tend to live in the past. We are locked in the past because of the words that have been spoken. We live in the past because of what someone has done to wound or injure us. However, when we live in the past it is hard to be effective in the present. When we live in the past it is hard to have a future vision of what could be in our life.

In addition to living in the past, when we live without forgiving others we allow ourselves to be under the control of the one who has hurt us or who has wounded us. The result is that our growth is stunted and we treat others differently. We become afraid of what people may say or do because of our hurt. We are afraid to deal with the realities of our life when we refuse to forgive others. It has been said that when we do not forgive others, it is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person will die.

To refuse to forgive is to allow others to have power over us. They become tied to us in our spirits and we begin to carry them wherever we go. They begin to effect everything we do. And the funny thing is that the other person is usually oblivious there is a problem. But when we walk in forgiveness we can take back the ground we have given to others. We can begin to walk in the freedom given to us through Christ.

A second thought about radical forgiveness is that it is undeserved by the one receiving it. It also means that radical forgiveness extends radical grace. It is noteworthy that a key part of the word “forgive” is the word give. Therefore we “give” forgiveness as a gift. It is a gift given especially when the person we are forgiving does not deserve it. That is radical forgiveness and radical grace. We give to others what they do not deserve. You might say that radical forgiveness is a bit selfish in the sense that by radically forgiving the other person and extending radical grace we are healed in the process.

Paul reminds us that we are to forgive just as Jesus has forgiven us. We do not deserve His forgiveness. We do not deserve His grace but He gave it any way. He gave it because the gift was from the one who was forgiving and not the one who was receiving the gift. Verbalizing the words “I forgive” can be easy but giving forgiveness is another struggle altogether. True forgiveness requires releasing the other person from the effects of their actions and their words upon our life.

A third thought here is that radical forgiveness is an act of obedience. The fact is radical forgiveness is not easy. Radical forgiveness must be a decision that is made on an ongoing basis. The truth is that our natural inclinations do not push us to forgive others. True forgiveness is outside our natural ability to forgive. Forgiveness seems impossible because we believe our feelings and hurts are justified. We feel justified for not forgiving a friend, a loved one, or a coworker because of what they have done to us. The problem however is is that too often we ask of others what we are not willing to do ourselves. That is where radical forgiveness comes into play in our life and that is where an act of obedience is required.

When we choose to act on forgiveness we are released from the power of guilt, judgement, and criticism. Have you ever found it is much easier to criticize, judge, and place guilt on others than it is to extend grace and forgiveness? It is not easy to offer grace and forgiveness as our natural inclination is to hold others at a place we ourselves are not willing to go. It is for that reason that we must act in obedience to God’s purpose and will as to forgiveness. We must forgive others because it is the right thing to do.

And finally, Jesus illustrated radical forgiveness on the cross. He hung on the cross and yet He was innocent of His crimes. He had been brutally beaten and abused emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Can you imagine the restraint, the calm, and the power He exerted on the cross? In the midst of one of the most horrific days of His life He uttered some of the most powerful words that still reverberate down through history. “Forgive them because they do not know what they do.” When reading these words we might shout “Wait a minute Jesus!” Don’t you realize what these people have done to you? Don’t you see the pain and the anxiety imposed upon you? How can you utter such words? Why don’t you just call 10000 angels and get this over with? After all you are the Son of God!”

The reality is that Jesus could have done any of these things. He had the power. He had the means. After all He was literally the most powerful man in the world. But there was a greater purpose in mind for Jesus’ death. His death was not just any death, it was a death that would change the world and empower us to be receivers and givers of this divine forgiveness.

It is noteworthy here that while He could have taken things into His own hands, He chose to exhibit the restraint necessary to control His actions and His responses. He acted not out of the reality of the moment but a heart that was filled with forgiveness and righteousness. Some would say that is weakness but the reality is that is strength under control. What radical grace! What radical forgiveness! He looked His accusers right in the eye and asked the Heavenly Father to forgive them. He extended grace and forgiveness to those who deserved it least. That is the power of radical, amazing forgiveness.

Today it may seem an impossible task for you to forgive that one who has hurt you. It may seem you cannot do that but I am convinced that if you will call upon the name of Christ and ask Him to help you then you will receive the power and grace you need to act upon your need.

Let us pray!

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The Seed, the Sower, and the Soil

Peninsula Community Church
The seed, the sower, and the soil.
June 4, 2017

Matthew 13:1-9 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

As we look at this passage, we find that Jesus uses a powerful communication tool to define a very important issue for us. Jesus was a master at using word pictures and that is what He does here. The people listening to His message that day were very familiar with the concept of farming and sowing seed. For that reason Jesus used the familiar word picture of the farmer sowing seed to illustrate a powerful point about the Word of God and man’s heart.

This particular parable is broken into two parts. The first part is found in Matthew 13:1-9 and the second is found in Matthew 13:18-24. In the first section, Jesus shares the parable and then in the second He explains what the parable means. In this parable we find three key components. There is the seed, the sower, and the soil. The sower is Jesus Himself. The seed is the word of God. Then we have the soil which represents four conditions of the heart. Upon review, we find that all of these conditions can be evident in our heart in various ways.

The first heart condition noted is the hardened heart as represented by the hard ground. Jesus stated When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path (Matthew 13:19). Notice that the seed never had a chance to take root because the evil one snatched it away. The emphasis by Jesus in this passage is on the understanding of the word of God. The enemy loves to confuse us and create doubt so that our understanding of God’s word is diminished. The result is that the seed of the Gospel does not take root.

The second kind of heart condition is seen in the rocky soil. This seed takes root but it does not last because the sun bears down on the new growth and it is destroyed before it has time to take root. Jesus stated As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away (Matthew 13:20-21).

In our hearts, we can receive God’s word but tribulation and persecution can cause us to lose sight of the purpose of the Gospel. Our spiritual growth can be stunted when we focus more on the problems of life than the God who is able to keep us through every situation. The word is received with joy but the problem is not the receptivity to the word. The problem comes after the word is received. There is an excitement that comes from having the word planted in us but as soon as some one says something or we come against a problem we begin to doubt and we lose the joy we once had. Thus we are negatively impacted by persecution and tribulation which steals the seed from our heart.

The third condition of the heart is represented by the soil that is infested with thorns. There is growth but it is quickly smothered by the vines. In this case, the cares of the world smother the seed that is planted in our heart. This heart is negatively effected by the cares of life and there is little or no fruit produced. Jesus had this to say about the thorns. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).

The thorn infested heart is looking for external things to satisfy the longings of the heart. Too often this heart is looking for riches to provide the assurance they need, but as we know riches can be deceitful. John Piper says the one thing that brings us the greatest joy is our satisfaction in Christ. When we are satisfied in Him, we will be less effected by the cares of the world.

At our home in New York we had a beautiful vine in our back yard. It was called Wisteria. It was a deceptive plant in that the flowers in the spring were so beautiful. They looked like clusters of grapes. However, the vine overtook other vegetation and killed it off. We had to take down a tree in our back yard that had been overrun by the vine. So it is with the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. They can overcome us and destroy the Word in our heart.

The fourth kind of Heart is the one that is open to God’s word and His purpose in our life. An open heart is a soft heart. The Bible teaches us that God’s plan all along was to give us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). A good heart is one that has been cultivated by the Holy Spirit. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23). A good heart is a fruitful heart. It is one that bears much fruit.

While we have looked at four kinds of hearts we must also consider the change necessary to create a heart that is fertile ground for the Word. The first step is to prepare the soil of our heart by breaking up the fallow or hardened ground. Hosea said it best. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12).

We must allow the Holy Spirit to operate on us. In the Old Testament, scripture reminds us that God will take our stoney or hardened heart and He will give us a heart of flesh. This is something that requires an outside influence. We need the influence of the Holy Spirit in us to soften our hearts to receive the word of God.

Secondly, we must remove the issues that cause the seed of God’s word not to take root in our heart. We must keep our focus on Jesus who will guide us and keep us focused on what He desires. We must renew our confidence in who He is and what He can accomplish when we allow Him to work.

Finally, we must welcome the word of God into our heart. We must have a desire for the Word of God. We must want God’s activity to be evident in us. We must hunger and thirst after righteousness. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus states that blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. This is not a passive reaction but one that requires us to take action to receive God’s word and then allow His word to impact our hearts positively.

So how is your heart? Let us pray!

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