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Archive | From the Pulpit

You want me to do what??

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church 

“Rejoice in the Lord Always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4

I need to admit something.  I have known this verse for most of my life.  It goes all the way back to my Sunday school days as a little kid when we would sing the song. Do you know the song? We would even sing it in a round! You’re welcome, because if you just sang it in your head like I did, it will be stuck there for the rest of the day, haha! While I may have known this verse for most of my life, it’s still a really tough one for me to live, especially these past couple of weeks. What is there to rejoice in? We’re quarantined to our homes, can’t go to work (most of us), can’t go to school, can’t go to church, can’t, can’t can’t….the list could go on and on.  

At first glance you might think, “surely a verse like this must have been written by someone in the midst of a season of life that was full of blessings, because if they were living through what we’re living through they wouldn’t have written that!” But when you look into it, you will find that this book is written by the Apostle Paul (for a list of the “joys” he experienced in his life you can consult 2 Corinthians 11:23-28) whose life after turning to Jesus was filled with difficulty upon difficulty. It was written to the body of Christ in Philippi and it was written by Paul when He was in jail. Take all that into consideration and read that verse again. Here is a guy who has had his life threatened numerous times and has faced opposition everywhere he went, and as we know from history, he will ultimately give his life because of his work for Jesus. He is in prison for doing nothing more than preaching the good news that Jesus saves. He doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring, and he probably doesn’t even know what the next hour of his life will bring. And he pens these words, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” 

How can he say such a thing? I would dare to say because he knew something we need to be reminded of today. “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”(Philippians 3:8,9). He knew that Jesus was enough. Knowing Jesus and having a relationship with him was enough to find joy even in the midst of difficulty. Being “in Christ” was enough for Paul to where he could be without everything else. Simply put, he could rejoice because nothing else mattered except knowing Jesus, because Paul knew that if he knew Jesus everything else would be okay. Jesus was enough for Paul; the question I need to ask myself today is, “is he enough for me?”  The answer: “YES HE IS!”  So let’s say it one more time, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” 

The choice is yours. What’s it going to be?

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Stations of the Cross

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs, Michigan

616 696 3904

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM”

(Jn. 8:28)

In the new Church of St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, there is a beautiful set of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross.  During this Lent, I would like to share with all of you where this set came from and what it means to reflect on these Stations.

These Stations came to Cedar Springs due to the thoughtfulness of a group of priests and the kindness and generosity of the former St. Jean Baptist Catholic Church in Muskegon, Michigan.  In 2015, a group of priests urged the Archivist of the Diocese of Grand Rapids to invite me to St. Jean Parish. Upon arrival I was completely shocked to learn that the Church, which was over100 years old, was preparing for closure. The priests and parishioners encouraged me to take any available religious items that I felt I could work into the design of the new church at St John Paul II Parish.  I instantly knew that the antique Stations of the Cross would be a unique addition to our new worship space. I gathered a team and brought them to the grounds of St. John Paul II Parish. We commissioned two local artists to restore the pieces and they are now installed in the Church. I am so grateful for my brother priests who gave a thoughtful consideration for the newest parish in the Diocese and to the parishioners of formerly St. Jean for their encouragement and understanding.  Our gratitude to all!

To explain why the devotion of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross are important to Catholics, especially during Lent, I would like to share paragraph number 131 of The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines (December 2001) from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Of all the pious exercises connected with the veneration of the Cross, none is more popular among the faithful than the Via Crucis. Through this pious exercise, the faithful movingly follow the final earthly journey of Christ: from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord, “in a small estate called Gethsemane” (Mk 14, 32), was taken by anguish (cf. Lk 22, 44), to Calvary where he was crucified between two thieves (cf. Lk 23, 33), to the garden where he was placed in freshly hewn tomb (John 19, 40-42). . . The love of the Christian faithful for this devotion is amply attested by the numerous Via Crucis erected in so many churches, shrines, cloisters, in the countryside, and on mountain pathways where the various stations are very evocative.

Truly, Via Crucis/ Way of the Cross is a devotion to the suffering of Christ for our salvation: the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which the faithful devoutly visit the places associated with the Lord’s Passion. With the replication of the Fourteen Stations (His Condemnation to Death, Carrying the Cross, His First Fall, Meeting His Mother, Simon of Cyrene is Made to Bear the Cross, Christ’s Face is Wiped by Veronica, His Second Fall, the Lord Meets the Women of Jerusalem, His Third Fall, Christ is Stripped of His Garments, His Crucifixion, His Death on the Cross, His Body is Taken Down from the Cross, and being Laid in the Tomb) on the walls of a Church/Chapel, allow the faithful, who cannot make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to join in these moving Scriptural reflections.

We pray the Stations as pilgrims: Like Christ, we must press through towards the Cross, which leads to the glory of the Resurrection. The Fourteen Stations of the Cross calls us to die to sin and to rise in the newness of life. May our participation in the Stations remind us of the Lord’s promise: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn.12:32) 

(Father Lam also is the Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 West Maple St, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343 phone: 616 636 5671).

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Reaching Up in WORSHIP

Pastor Bobby Gray

Solid Rock Worship Center

11862 Shaner Ave NE, Cedar Springs


Those who worship regularly must guard against stale and/or routine worship. Sadly, it is all too easy for our worship to become mindless. 

In such an automatic mode of worship, we can say words, sing, or even clap or raise our hands while our minds are elsewhere. 

Point! This type of mechanical worship does not glorify The Lord. 

The Lord does not want “dry morsels” of worship. He is The Living God, and He desires worship that is genuine and passionate. 

John 4:23-24 NKJV says, “23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit [with life, passion, vitality] and truth [sincerity, genuineness].” 

It is my observation that most long-tenured saints of God do not necessarily lose their avowed sincerity in worship, but they are very prone to a declining passion in worship. 

 As people age, there will no doubt be changes in the physical demonstrations of our worship. This is often unavoidable. 

Notwithstanding, we must not permit a lessening of passion in our love for and our worship unto our Lord Jesus. 

Points! 

• Passionate Worshipers… Often find a way

• Dispassionate Worshipers… Often find an excuse

Does the worship leader and/or your Pastor always probe you to worship? (“Let’s all raise our hands,” etc.)

Or does worship flow naturally out from a genuinely grateful soul?

I would ask you, dear reader, to review your personal worship habits and typical responses during the next few days. If in honesty and transparency you realize there has been a cooling of the flame of passion in your worship, determine to purposefully become more intentional and intense in your responses to Jesus. 

I can promise you two things:

1)  You will be blessed, beyond words, for worshipping in spirit and in truth! 

2)  And you will never regret giving Him all of you!

(Excerpt from the Bible study “Reaching UP” 

written by Pastor Gray)

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Shattered relationships

Pastor Kristi Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319


I am so happy to be able to write on this topic of reconciliation today. Way too often, the death of a parent unfortunately results in great strain on family relationships. The hope is that the loss of a loved one would draw family members together to help each other mourn in a healthy way, bringing comfort to each other and encouragement through the most difficult times. I am in awe of those families that grow stronger through this most difficult time. Those that realize life is too short to live angry and choose reconciliation are able to find peace.

Unfortunately, my family was ripped apart when my mother passed on. Soon it will be 10 years ago. It took more than 7 years of silence before the process of reconciliation began to even seem possible. I never stopped praying for that miracle and believed that one day it would happen. 

I know the scriptures tell us to seek reconciliation and peace as far as it depends on us or to do everything we can on our end to bring reconciliation or peace. Be persistent in your prayers! Don’t give up, no matter what it looks like. Trust God with the outcome as you lift your shattered relationship up to the Lord. Not all broken relationships are a result of a death in the family. Most are actually the result of miscommunication or misunderstandings. And not all broken relationships can or should be reconciled but we must do our part and trust God with the outcome. 

Unforgiveness robs us of joy and holds us hostage. Jesus said, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” Matthew 6:15 NLT. And Paul said, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”Ephesians 4:32 NLT. 

Forgiveness is a gift from God who gives us the power to forgive even the worst offenses. Paul said, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NLT.  

I just had lunch with my sister that God restored to me, and we talked for hours! What a tremendous gift of reconciliation. We are now closer than ever, convinced and determined to always give the benefit of the doubt and talk it out. We were both so miserable for so many wasted years! Please, don’t waste the years God has blessed you with! Life is way too short.

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Shine, Jesus, shine!

Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


In the serenity of David’s beloved 23rd Psalm, verse 4 presents us with a passage of confidence, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 King James translation). The “valley of the shadow of death,” pictures a journey that every person will experience at the end of our lives, though it is not the only shadow we encounter in life.

We think of a shadow as something dark, made by an object coming between us and the light. It is an intercepting or cutting off of brightness. God created night to be a shadow made by the earth coming between us and the sun; a welcome phenomenon that though darkness comes, there is a benefit equally welcoming as we see the stars in the heaven that we couldn’t see during daylight.  

Every person we come into contact with also casts a shadow, some which make the world darker for us, while others, despite their shadow, seem to make our life brighter, as if light can pass right through them to actually cheer us up when we’re down, giving sunshine or radiance where and when it helps the most. Each of us casts a shadow of our own as we make our way through life. It reflects influences and choices we make and affects those around us. I like to call it our realm of influence. 

Some seem to make the world darker as their shadow falls on others, seeming to believe their gloominess to be uplifting, indifferently spreading or magnifying the darkness, doing nothing to lighten the lives of others and in effect adding more darkness in lives that already have more than enough. It isn’t only the shadow of death that brings about darkness in life, there is the shadow of sickness, broken relationships, catastrophes that bring in darkness of what the future holds and losses in finances, health, etc.

We are created in the image of God, and in our own ways we sometimes experience days, weeks or more that are much like what was here originally. We read In Geneses 1:2 KJV, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” 

The question I ask myself and others is, “what kind of shadow do we cast?” What is the effect of our presence on other people? Is it cheerfulness, gladness, hope, kindness or some other encouraging character trait? As people who know us see our shadow, does the presence of Christ’s goodness shine through, so that their life can be better as they can see the hope that is in us regarding our future? 

Knowing Jesus as our Savior should not be kept to ourselves. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).  

Shine, Jesus, shine!

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Would you love me a little?

Pastor Lee Zabrocki

Resurrection Lutheran Church |180 Northland Drive, Sand Lake

Tommy was a four-year-old little boy. He had no caring parents, came from the slums, and was taken to an orphanage. The first night was quite an experience. When bedtime came, after the first bath he had had in some time, the matron took him to a bed with clean white sheets. 

He said, “Do you want me to get in there?”

After tucking him in, the matron reached down and kissed him goodnight. 

“What did you do that for?” he said and rubbed off the kiss.

The next morning, when he saw the lady who put him to bed, he said, “Would you mind doing that again…what you did last night?”

He had never been kissed before. It did something to him that warmed him inside. In about a week’s time the matron said the boy was coming around three or four times a day. He’d look up at her with a soft look on his face and say, “Would you love me a little?” 

After some time, it was felt Tommy was ready for adoption. One day he was brought into a room to meet a man and woman. The matron asked Tommy if he would like to go home with the woman. Tommy looked at the floor and didn’t say anything.

The lady said, “I’ll give you a rocking horse and all sorts of play things.” She kept talking, trying to tell him how nice it would be at their home.

After a bit, Tommy looked up at her and said, “Would you love me a little?”

In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps  no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I asked Jesus, “How much do you love me?”

He answered with arms outstretched on the cross, “This is how much I love you!”

1 Corinthians 13 is Jesus’ love inside of you. It is love that everyone is seeking. It’s love that your children want. It’s love that your spouse wants. It’s love that your fellow Christians want from you and that unbelievers need from you.

Let’s give love out today to everyone we can. Let’s love non-Christians to Jesus. Yes let’s love Jesus more right now. He who first loved us. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

We have received love from Jesus. Let’s enjoy love now and let’s give love away!

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God never changes

Pastor Darryl Miller 

Sand Lake / South Ensley United Methodist Churches

616-636-5659


My friend is annoyed with me. Now I know that to some of you this may not be a surprise! But, when they called the other day and found out that I was in my office listening to music instead of being glued to the television watching the events in the news unfold, they could hardly believe it. “This is earth shaking!” I was told. But I calmly responded that right now I am writing about someone who actually is earth shaking—God. 

I am not going to say that the events of our times are not important; I am going to say though that they are not earth shaking. The truth is that throughout history there have been many important events that were thought to be world changing. But through it all there has been one constant–God. Governments have risen and God was still God. Governments have fallen and God was still God. Churches have formed and God was still God. Churches have disbanded and God was still God. 

Two millennia ago there actually was an earth shaking event. The day the shepherds went to see the child that they were told about by the angels changed the world. Some thirty-three years later there was an earthquake as that same child sacrificed Himself for all of us. That was a world-changing event. And He has never been away from us since. Each day the news seems to provoke many different emotions; fear, anxiety, celebration and indifference. But we do not need to be afraid because God had promised us His unfailing presence and love. There was a time when I would have been glued to the television eagerly waiting to see what happens next. Now? I guess I would rather tell the world of a loving God who can change the world, not for a few years but for eternity.

Got questions? Find a church near you. That is where to find the answers.

Deuteronomy 31:6 New King James Version (NKJV): “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

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Devoted

Pastor Bill Dixon

Solon Center Wesleyan Church 

15671 Algoma Ave, NE, Cedar Springs 


I can’t believe it’s a new year already. Last year flew by quickly. For some of you, last year was a great year. For others, last year was not so good. Maybe you lost your job, or had some major health issues arise. The list could go on. The point is you’re glad that last year is finally over. The good news is it’s a new year—a fresh start. Instead of talking about new year resolutions, I want to share a passage that I shared with our church this past Sunday, from Acts 2:42-47.  

The beginning of this passages starts off with these words, “They devoted themselves…” (Acts, 2:42, NIV). I want you to understand a few things: 1) The word “They” in this passage is referring to the early church, meaning, Jesus’ twelve disciples and the 3,000 plus other people who had made the decision to give their hearts to Jesus. 2) The word “Devoted,” means to be earnest towards something, to adhere closely to something. It means “exerting great effort to persist in doing something. It indicates action that is continuous and habitual” (D.L Moody). 

Now that we know what those two words mean, my question is, what were they devoted to? Luke goes on to tell us they were devoted to: 

1) The Apostles’ teaching. In other words, they were devoted to learning God’s Word. Why? They were hungry for truth. They knew that there was power in God’s word to not only transform their lives but transform others through them. 

2) They were devoted to fellowship. Meaning, they were devoted to worshiping together (Hebrews 10:25), hanging out together outside of church, and that they were devoted to being there for each other in sickness and health, and in the good and bad days. 

3) They were devoted to the breaking of bread, which refers to both celebrating the Lord’s Supper and having regular meals together. 

4) They were devoted to prayer. They were devoted to prayer because they knew that there is power in prayer. They knew that when God’s people prayed, God moved. 

5) They were devoted to being generous with their time and resources. The main reason why I believe that they were generous with their time and resources is because they realized that all that they had came from the Lord. 

6) They were devoted to living out their faith every day. It didn’t matter what others said or did to them, they were devoted to living out their faith every day in their homes, church, and out in public. They were not ashamed to be known as followers of the “Way” (Acts 9:1-2). 

Listen family, because the early church was devoted, the “Lord added to their number daily,” meaning that many more people became part of the family of God. 

If you take anything away from this short message, understand this: when Christ’s church is devoted, good things are going to happen. Good things like our relationship with the Lord and each other is going to grow deeper and stronger, and others are going to see Jesus in and through us, and by His grace, they too will put their faith and trust in Him and become part of the family of God. 

In this new year, I encourage all of us to be devoted.

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“Where Shall We Look for Him?”

Rev. Bill Johnson

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs MI 49319

Christmas leaves too quickly for me. I want to stay in the miracle for the whole 12 days. So, I’m still wallowing in the Christmas spirit as we awaken to a new year.

In Grand Rapids during the 1960’s, there were elaborate Christmas displays in the department store windows downtown. The scenes in the windows would annually draw hundreds of young and old to peer at the fascinating, colorful decorations, adding delight for those who needed a break from battling crowds inside the stores. Those scenes came to mind as I reflected on a story in Tracks in the Straw, a collection of Christmas meditations (Ted Loder, Innisfree Press, Inc. 1985, 1997). In one intriguing story, Loder gives us a fresh perspective on the Nativity Scene. He tells of a street in South Philadelphia named Lombard Street, where homes, eateries and small shops exist side by side. In the block between 22nd and 21st streets he recalls a row house with the whole front window jammed with a manger scene. Compared to other houses on the block, at some point the residents of this house had enlarged the window to twice its original size—perhaps to accommodate this exhibit. The painted figures were about three feet tall, he says, and each figure glowed because it was lit from inside. There was a group of shepherds, three wise men, angels and assorted animals. They were all gathered around Joseph and Mary, who were side by side, looking outward, just about where an onlooker might be standing on the sidewalk. How strange! This familiar story was being given a different twist.

What were the creators of this scene trying to say? If you stayed long enough, you might figure it out. There was no manger; no infant Jesus in the scene. 

The creators of that window display were showing an atypical creche in order to make a point. The street is the manger, and if you were standing there looking into that scene, you were standing in the stable, perhaps right next to the manger itself. 

The glowing figures were looking expectantly out on the street for the Christ child, out on the street where the reality is; where the beasts are motorized, the creatures’ milk comes in cartons and plastic bottles; and the wool of sheep is woven into the suits or overcoats worn by the passersby; shepherds are sleeping on steam grates, wise men are dishing out food in soup kitchens; some folks are carrying political protest signs or joining coalitions or serving in churches, doing what they can to change things so someday there might not be homeless people or hungry children or addicted parents.

Is this a true picture of the nativity? Is this the world into which God sent the Son? Is this indeed the world that Christ came to save? Is this where, if the Christ is to be born at all today, he must be born—on Lombard Street, or Main Street, or on every street, everywhere?

On the fireplace mantel in our home, at this time of year, rests a delicate, beautifully crafted creche. Likewise, another holds center stage on the altar table in our sanctuary. This is not wrong. These silent scenes are reminders of what is precious, what is God-sent not just at Christmas, but the whole year round. And yet, the fact is that Jesus was born into conditions much like ours, where politicians argue, travelers seek shelter and children go to bed hungry. The world into which God chose to be born was, and is not made of delicate statues protected by window glass. It is the real world, a world in need of a Savior. The Good News is we live in just the right place—the perfect place—for Christ to be born once more. And we are in the manger.

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How was Christmas?

Pastor David Ward

Pilgrim Bible Church

361 Pine St, Cedar Springs


So, How was Christmas for you? Was it everything you hoped it would be?

Back in the early seventies, when I was a kid, a relative spent thousands of dollars trying to find just the right presents for her two children. She stayed up over half the night trying to get everything in picture-perfect packaging. Fifteen minutes after the pajama-clad kiddos found the Christmas tree there was much squealing and excitement as they happily played… with the boxes and wrapping paper!  I think their Mother was still mad for weeks afterwards. After she went to all the expense and effort, to think that her ungrateful offspring would choose to play with the packaging!

Of course, as we grow older, it gets harder and harder to find just the right gift. More often than not, we make sure to save the receipt, just in case the recipient would rather have something else. How long has it been since you were overwhelmed and excited about what you found under the tree?

For too many people, the Holidays are marked by loneliness and disappointment. The expectations and the promise of the advertisements never even come close to all of their extravagant claims. We’re left with feelings of emptiness and discouragement. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Perhaps these feelings arise because we are looking in the wrong place for our fulfillment and happiness? The advanced gadgets of today will be replaced with a newer revision in months, if not weeks. Things we thought would last for a lifetime are gone all too soon.  

The truth is, happiness is not supposed to be found materially but rather in relationships. This was the overlooked key in all the holiday hubbub. Happiness and contentment are not found in an object. It is found in a person, Jesus Christ.

The Message of the Manger was that God had come to Earth. One of Christ’s names is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” The amazing discovery is that God wanted to leave heaven to step into our world. How deeply God values us is revealed in His willingness to not only walk with us but to die for us, on the Cross of Calvary.  The extent of His giving is demonstrated in that He not only visited some two thousand years ago but rather that He still chooses to visit any and all hearts that will open to Him.  

Our value as a person and our fulfillment in life are revealed in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. Have you chosen to make that relationship a priority this Christmas season or have you allowed it to be crowded out by everything else?

As we stand on the eve of a new year, we have a golden opportunity to make our relationship with God who loves us a real priority in our lives. Don’t be distracted by the glitter of the advertisements nor discouraged by what may lie behind us.  Let’s choose to pursue the warmth and promise of the plan God has for us.

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