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Archive | From the Pulpit

Church membership

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

I hear this question all the time. “Where in the Bible does it say that I need to become a member?” The answer is simple, it doesn’t. Becoming a member is not a step of obedience on the same level as following the Ten Commandments, and it’s certainly not an issue of salvation, meaning you can still go to heaven even if you never take the step to become a church member. With that being said though, I do believe that church membership is an extremely important step that every Christian should consider taking. 

There are many reasons why I would say this and I don’t have time to cover them all here, so let me just share with you one reason why I am so big on church membership. Church membership first and foremost is a statement of commitment, it’s a statement of investment; it’s an acknowledgement that you’re going all-in. In a world where commitment and loyalty is a rarity, I believe this is important in the Church because we are supposed to be a family that is committed to each other and to pursuing Jesus together. 

In families, when things get tough you don’t just give up and move on, you hunker down and you do the hard work of persevering and fighting for something better together, something that could never be achieved by giving up, leaving and starting over. Church membership is kind of like the wedding ring in marriage.  It’s a statement that “I’m here, I’m in this, I’m committed and I will fight to create something together that I could never create alone—community.” 

I am not telling you that you need to become a church member, that is a decision you must make on your own; but I am asking you to consider it. Take that step, put down some roots, and commit for the long haul.  

  

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Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you (Luke 1:28)

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd • Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

616-696-3904

In the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, October 7 is a Marian Feast, the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. On this occasion, one might ask: what is the Rosary? To put it briefly, it is a prayer in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and primary is recitation of the Hail Mary. 

The popularity of the Rosary has been attributed to St. Dominic and the Dominican Order. It grew out of the laity’s desire to have 150 prayers to match the 150 psalms chanted by the monks in monasteries. In 1569, Pope Pius V officially recommended the praying “of 150 angelic salutations . . . with the Lord’s prayer at each decade . . . while meditating on the mysteries which recall the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This same Pope instituted the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, 1571.

The Rosary, in its current form, is a Scripture-based prayer: beginning with the Apostles’ Creed (a summary of the great mysteries of the Catholic faith, from creation through redemption and up to the Resurrection of the body and everlasting life); the Our Father follows the introduction of each Mystery of Christ (which is taken from the Gospels). The first part of the Hail Mary is composed from verses from the Gospel of Luke (1:29 and 1:42)—the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. It was Pope Pius V, that added the second part to the Hail Mary, namely “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” At the end of the 10th recitation of the Hail Mary, the great Doxology is said: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” 

Until October 16, 2002, people have prayed the Rosary while meditating on the Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of the Lord, Presentation, Finding of the Child in the Temple), the Sorrowful Mysteries (Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying the Cross, Death on the Cross), the Glorious Mysteries (Resurrection, Ascension, Descending of the Holy Spirit, Assumption of Mary, the Coronation of Mary). With Pope John Paul II’s Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002, Catholics now enrich this prayerful practice with the Luminous Mysteries (Baptism of the Lord, Wedding at Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration, and Institution of the Holy Eucharist). 

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is a Christocentric prayer at heart. Pope John Paul II once said, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary, the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 1).

In addition to being the priest of St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, Father Lam also proudly serves as Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 W Maple Street, Sand Lake, MI. 49343. Phone 616-636-5671.

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Love through sacrifice

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

We hear so much today about love. What is love, anyway? Love can certainly be manifested in many viewpoints; however, there is a particular component that showcases love above and beyond anything else. Often times we can witness illustrations of this factor in things such as the love for one’s country, love for a spouse, a friend, or maybe a job or career. What is the common element for this love? The answer is sacrifice. When one loves their country, many will sacrifice themselves perhaps through the means of the military. The love for a job may come by sacrificing your time to achieve its success. The love of a spouse, family or friendship may require many or multiple sacrifices to show affection and care towards another. 

Sacrifice plays a large role in love because it is itself an act of love. The very definition of sacrifice is giving something up for the sake of another. We see this put on display by God himself 2000 years ago at Calvary. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In other words, God doesn’t just say He loves the world, but demonstrates His love for the world; through sacrifice. Another scripture we can reference in regards to Jesus sacrifice to show His love is John 15:12-15: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Not only does He show his love through sacrifice but he is also encouraging us to sacrifice for others to show love. Therefore, since God shows us his love through sacrifice, we should showcase our love for God by our sacrifices for Him. This can be anything from our time for Him, our obedience, or by the deed of helping and sacrificing for others around us.  

Sacrifice is a huge benefactor when it comes to love. Learning and understanding the effects of sacrifice can play a vital role in our relationship with God as well as with people on this earth. Whether we are looking to showcase love in new commitments, new relationships, or build on those we have, we should come to the understanding that sacrifice is much needed for those connections to succeed, grow and stay healthy.

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What are you living for?

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Over the course of time, as we plod through life, we often will wonder about the meaning of life. Young and old, we all encounter this in one form or another, because purpose should be and is an important aspect of living; something we purposely consider and express verbally or internally. 

Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 King James translation).

We are all aware that time is passing and whether we use our time wisely or foolishly, when an hour or day of life is spent, we cannot get it back; when time is gone, it is gone forever. What then can you and I do to redeem the time as Paul states in Ephesians 5:16? 

Recently I heard a comment about the life of a well-known man who had died, that “he left the world a better place for his having been here.” There is no doubt that individual was generous and kind, but I’m not certain how anyone can quantify a comment like that, because not all of us, in fact very few of us, will have the wealth that person had to share with others.  

Life is a gift from God, and the purpose of life is to bring glory to God, that’s why we are here. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1st Corinthians 10:31 King James).  

The truth is that I am not able to add even one iota of glory to the divine glory of God himself, but what I can do, is ensure that what I do, is all to the glory of God, and none of my own. Whatever you do, big or small, little or much, do it all to the glory of God.  

The glory of God is the opinion and impression of God that fits with how almighty and unlimited he is. When we do things to his glory, it will improve people’s impression of God, and show through love, joy, gentleness and goodness, his magnificence and not our own. The ultimate goal is to build up in others how great our God is, greater than human minds could ever understand.  

How’s that for a purpose in life? Whether you’re young or old, whatever you do, whether you work or play, whatever you do, whether you read, speak, sing or preach, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. That is yours and my purpose in life, to live our lives knowing Jesus as our Savior, living abundantly in God’s presence.

The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church, while he was a prisoner for Christ in Rome, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21-22 King James).

Scripture makes very clear that whether we live or die or whatever we do, it should be to the glory of our Lord, remembering that little is much, if God is in it.  

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Bridging the gaps

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

 

In Exodus chapter 18, Moses meets up with his father-in-law Jethro for the first time in a long time. It had been a wild series of months for Moses and his wife, Zipporah, and their kids had been staying with Grandpa Jethro during that time. Moses had confronted Pharoah and showed him God’s breathtaking signs and wonders each time he wouldn’t allow God’s people to leave their slavery in Egypt. When they were finally allowed to go, Moses raised his staff over the Red Sea at God’s command and they had crossed over it on dry land. Once rescued from Pharoah’s army, Moses again watched God provide water and food for all of them almost out of nowhere.

Through all of this, Moses had gotten used to being “the guy.” Everybody came to him for help, and to know what to do next. As Jethro witnessed the extent to which this scenario had shaped Moses’ lifestyle—watching him serve as not only prophet, priest, and leader of God’s people, but as morning-to-evening judge over their affairs—this wise father-in-law had something to say:

 This is not good! You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you.

Jethro went on to tell Moses to continue leading, but to raise up other leaders as well—leaders who could help share the load. The idea was that most of the leading could be done by these other trustworthy leaders, while Moses could still be called upon to determine the most difficult situations. Thankfully, Moses listened and did exactly what Jethro suggested.

Do we follow Jethro’s advice today? Passing down our skills, our gifts, our best practices, and our hearts and souls to others, seems to have mostly fallen out of use in a lot of areas of life. It used to be more commonplace to see skills and trades passed down in this way, similar to what we see among people such as electricians today with the progression of helper, apprentice, journeyman, and—finally—master. Now, instead of each new generation working together with those who came before, there is almost a civil war. There seems to be no understanding—let alone appreciation—for what other generations bring to the whole.

God has not only honored but actually counted on the practice of our passing faith in Christ down to each successive generation. I believe the challenge for our society today is not only to be faithful to what we pass down (the Good News of Jesus), but to the method itself. Could each of us take the advice of an old Midianite priest, and reach out again to a generation above and one below? Could doing so aid in bridging gaps, fostering genuine friendships, and healing division? I think it would be a start.

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What is Truth?

Pastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church, 

233 Main St, Cedar Springs

 

This was the question asked by Pontius Pilate. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea who presided at the trial of Jesus, God’s one and only Son. Now it’s a good thing when a politician asks about truth. It’s a good thing when they want to know the truth. It’s a really good thing when they rule by truth.  However, it’s even better when Truth rules them.

Last week a political commentator told a politician’s lawyer, “Truth is truth.” The lawyer responded, “Truth isn’t truth.” This led to an extremely entertaining exchange of truth versus truth. The lawyer reasoned resolutely there could be different versions of truth. You see it all depends on the one who is telling us what is true by what they believe to be true. In other words, each person has their own version of truth, and each believes their version is equally true. The consequence of this kind of thinking leads to an incoherent contradiction—truth isn’t truth. 

If truth is fluid, then truth isn’t fixed. Truth is settled. It doesn’t shift. It doesn’t turn and twist like a willow in the wind. Truth isn’t relative. Truth is reality. 

Pilate’s question was a rhetorical one. He was a cynic. He questioned Jesus about truth because of what he had said: “I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 ESV). Unfortunately, because of the chaos outside the courtroom, Pilate capitulates to the crowd and condemns Jesus to be crucified on a Roman cross. Why? Although Pilate knew Jesus to be an innocent man, he acted against what was true.

Truth can be known. Pilate was so close to truth. You could say, “Truth was standing right in front of him,” for Jesus had said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6 ESV). Why didn’t Pilate accept the truth? The answer is found in what Jesus had already told Pilate: “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate heard Jesus, but he didn’t listen to Jesus. Pilate listened to another’s voice. He was persuaded by another’s perception to become his reality.

Truth is the reality known by God because God’s knowledge is perfect. Today, many in our community ask, “What is truth?” Truth isn’t relative. Truth is reality. Jesus is Truth and he is revealed in God’s Word, the Bible. 

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Why we should lie every day

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

This may seem like a strange thing for a preacher to encourage you to do. But I think that it is important to the Christian life. Paul gives the Phillipians some great advice: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

One of the benefits of following this advice is that we can focus all of our thoughts away from the trials and tribulations of the world, and the turmoil that may be going on in our lives. When we focus on God and the things that He is a part of, we don’t have time to focus on those tempting things that we know that we shouldn’t. We can check on a neighbor and a person or two who may need some help. We can call someone who may just want to talk to someone. And we can turn our thoughts away from the television and the worries that invade our minds and concentrate on having a conversation with God. We can hear the birds singing and see the trees and flowers around us.

And when the day is done, we can lie. 

We can lie without guilt because we didn’t do the things that would push us away from God. We can lie with peace because we spent the day serving God’s people and staying in constant communication with God. We can lie in prayer because the weight of the world and all of its pressures have been lifted from our shoulders and we have been set free from them, clearing our minds so that a pure conversation with our Lord is possible. And we can lie in rest because we have done a good job in God’s eyes and He will provide the rest that we need. 

It is a wonderful thing to be able to lie at the end of the day and to feel that sense of God’s warmth. Not because we have earned it but because God desires to give it to us. How we live our days reflects our gratitude for God’s wonderful grace and love. And when we are immersed in His grace and love we can lie down each night in peace. 

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Speaking the Truth In Love

Rev. Kim DeLong

Courtland Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave NE • Rockford, MI 49341

 

Our worship series for the month of August at Courtland Oakfield United Methodist Church is titled “…In Love.”  Given the public and political discourse lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about what it means to “speak the truth in love.” In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he tells us that speaking the truth in love means building each other up, and growing up ourselves into becoming the Body of Christ.

It reminds me of a wonderful woman of the church in which I grew up. Betsy was not outspoken, but when she did speak everyone listened. Her words were always wise and kind. When she offered critique, it was constructive; never tearing a person down, but offered in such a way that the person knew they were loved.

I’m grateful for Betsy’s example for how to speak the truth in love. I’m grateful for the wise words and helpful suggestions she offered. Her words and the manner in which she spoke let me and others know that she was cheering us on. What she said helped us grow, to become more mature in our actions and our own words.

People like Betsy give me hope that we really can be kind to one another, that there is a way to offer helpful comments or a differing opinion that doesn’t tear another person down even if those in the public and political arena continue to descend into harmful and hurtful speech. Mature persons who can speak the truth—and do it with care—offer us an example of how we might disagree without being disagreeable.  

Who has built you up either with their words or their actions? How can we use our words so that they contribute toward understanding each other rather than creating distance between us? We cannot control other people’s behavior but we can control our own. Let us begin by speaking with kindness and generosity even when we disagree, especially when we disagree. In doing so, we offer others the hope of a world that can build each other up, not tear each other down. 

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Forgiveness

Pastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

 

When the Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray, in Matthew 6: 9-15, he guided them through what we have come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Every phrase is rich in meaning, every sentence is personal and relative to our lives, and every sentence is God centered and Christ exalting.  

Note the prayer again:

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (ESV)

But the sentence that shocks us like jumping through a frozen Michigan pond is the sentence: 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Oh, we want forgiveness, and desperately need it… but we do not want our forgiveness compared to how we forgive others. And, as if that is not enough, the Lord immediately follows up the prayer with a comment directed specifically at this petition for forgiveness by adding this comment: 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (ESV)

We are like a boxer reeling on the ropes after being hit by not just one punch, but by a volley of punches. We reel on the ropes, not just theologically, but also experientially.

Theologically we know that we are forgiven on the basis of the righteous life and death of Jesus Christ. His work is acceptable to God, and not mine. So clearly the action of forgiveness on our part towards others is proof of salvation, not the achievement of salvation. But that being said, how vital is this proof for without it we may indeed stand condemned, and not saved.

Forgiving each other is not an option.

The requirement of forgiveness towards each other is not removed due to any excuses I may draft up.

But we might as well as admit it. We cannot forgive without God’s help. Our hurts, too often, run too deep. Our tendency to carry a grudge is so strong. Our memory of what was said calls up the damaging event over and over through the night. Releasing the offender is not in our nature.

And so the Lord teaches us in this text to pray. We pray, and plead, and petition our God to help us. And when the joy of forgiveness comes through the resurrecting power of Christ, we worship him for the release it brings us of evil. To not forgive is evil. We know that. And Christ has the power to break the grip of evil in our lives. How wonderful it is to come to our Lord and ask of Him to do that which He has done for us. As Jesus said, pray then like this.

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No fear

Pastor Bill Dixon

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Fear is something that we all experience and struggle with at times. For some it may be fear of the unknown. For others, it may be fear of not having enough. Fear of the future. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of disease. Fear of death. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being strong enough. Fear of not being worthy enough. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being alone. The list could go on. The point is, fear is a powerful emotion that we all struggle with at times. Fear is so powerful that it has the power to immobilize us, to take control of our lives, to rob us of the joy and peace that is ours in Christ. But listen, here is good news. Fear doesn’t have to control our lives. Fear doesn’t have to have any power in our lives unless we allow it to. 

So, the question is, what do we do when fear comes knocking on the doors our hearts? The way I see it, we have two options. Option one is to do nothing and allow fear to wreak havoc in our lives. Option two is to do something about it. One of the last sermon series I preached in Indiana before moving back to Michigan was called, No Fear. In this series, I challenged everyone to make a stand against fear. One of the best ways to stand against fear is to stand on the Word of God. 

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 23. I forgot who said it, but I remember someone saying that this was a Psalm that “calmed the soul.” I would agree. Verses 4-5 say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

Here it is, King David knew that no matter what challenge or difficulty came his way, his God was right there by his side. David knew that his God was not a God who left His children hanging. David knew that there was nothing too great or too difficult for his God to overcome. 

Here’s good news, we too serve the same God as David. We too have a God who is right by our side no matter what comes our way. We too have a God who will not leave us hanging. 

I encourage you today to not allow fear to gain one inch of ground in your life. Make a stand against fear by standing on the Word of God. Commit to memorizing Psalm 23 and other passages that deal with fear and every time fear pops its ugly head up in your life, squash it with the truth. 

My family and I are excited to be part of this community. We are honored to lead Solon Center Wesleyan Church. We are looking forward to partnering with other local churches in our community to help change one life at a time. Be encouraged today and fear not. 

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