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Archive | From the Pulpit

Hold on gently

Pastor Inge Whittemore | East Nelson Church | 9024 18 Mile Rd | Cedar Springs MI. 49319

Raising canaries is an interesting hobby. I read that one of the most difficult parts of taking care of canaries is trimming the bird’s nails. You have to catch the bird and gently cradle it in your palm and your last three fingers (while holding each ankle one at a time between your forefinger and thumb). 

You then carefully cut each toenail but just don’t cut it too short or leave it too long. It is a carefully executed process. You can’t grab at the bird because that will scare it. You can’t squeeze the bird because that will hurt it. But you also can’t hold it so loosely that it tries to get away and hurts its fragile self in the process.

It is a bit like the scene of Mary Magdalene on the morning of the first Easter. Meeting the risen Jesus was, for Mary Magdalene, sort of like holding a canary. When she saw the risen Lord, her first thought was to run to him and grab hold of him and hold on to him tight and never let him get away. 

But in her heart she knew that he could not stay. He told her he was going to the Father. She had followed Jesus for some time now. She had heard Jesus’ invitation, “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” She’d followed and heard and had repented and believed and she was a changed person for it.

This invitation to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand“ continues to echo today to all who wish to experience true transformation of the deepest kind. It is the good news that brings hope to all. 

In that one incredible encounter at the garden tomb, God created space around Jesus and Mary, enough for Mary to be able to know that the Lord had risen just as he had promised. She stayed with him as long as he was there. And then, when he was gone, she went and told the others what she had seen and what Jesus had said to her. She was privileged to be the first to announce the Good News that Jesus had not died, but truly lived.  

Every year, this piece of history (his story) moves us along from searching in sadness, to incredible disbelief, and finally to immense joy. And that’s another reason I love canaries. Canaries’ songs are joyful. Canaries remind me that even while they are fragile and delicate their song is strong. Let us hold on to the joy throughout Eastertide—the 50 days from Easter until Pentecost and even longer. Let’s not hold on too tight that we keep it only to ourselves. Let us not hold so loosely that we casually let the meaning of Easter fly away. How about we continue to rejoice in the resurrection by holding the story up for all to see.  

Let us be like Mary and rejoice and sing out, “I have seen the Lord! (John 20:18 NIV)




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We can live in hope

“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (Lk 24:2) 

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor |St. John Paul II Parish |3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

“What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will become.” Those are the chilling words  inscribed on a plaque inside Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, Italy. It is an ancient church that displays the bones of over four thousand Capuchin friars who passed away. The sole purpose of this grisly display is to remind visitors of the inevitability of death and to invite them to visually reflect on the eventual human condition. 

This thought-provoking display not only reminds us of our death; but it also inspires us to live faithfully to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When our earthly pilgrimage is over, we will be united with the Lord for all of eternity. 

This is what the women, the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord in the Gospel of Luke, show us. After a full day had passed since the burial of Jesus, “at daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Lk 24:1). Two things are significant in this passage—the spices they prepared and that they arrived at sunrise on the first day of the week. 

The spices that these women brought to the tomb indicate their devotion to the Lord. These women had watched the crucifixion from a distance (Mk 15:40-41). They witnessed the humiliating death that Jesus had endured and then, like a criminal, he had been buried hastily before sundown. Out of love for Jesus, they came to the tomb with spices, to perform an important ritual that had not been properly completed. This last act of kindness and compassion leads them to encounter the Almighty Act of God, namely, to witness the resurrection. 

“At daybreak on the first day of the week” they went to the tomb. The fact that the evangelist mentioned at dawn is the first hint that the darkness of the death of Jesus had been overcome. Malachi alluded to the prophecy at the very end of the Old Testament: “for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20). At the empty tomb, the pious women are witnesses to the beginning of the new creation: Christ resurrected from the dead renews all things. 

It was love that led these women to the tomb. Their grief was quickly transformed into joy by the risen Lord, who transformed the darkness of death into new life! The fear of being persecuted was transformed into boldly proclaiming the joy of a new creation. It is all because of the friendship/relationship that they had with Jesus. 

So, for those who cling to the Lord Jesus, we do not need to fear the meaning of the words: “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will become.” Christians live in hope because of this assurance: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried into his death through the waters of baptism and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rm 6:3-4). 

We cling to Jesus so we might be delivered from the darkness of the night to the tomb at sunrise! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ the Lord is risen! 

In addition to being the priest at 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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Breakthrough on aisle 5

Pastor Bobby Gray | Solid Rock Worship Center | 11862 Shaner Ave NE, Cedar Springs

“Bread. Eggs. Milk. Coffee…get the good stuff.” My tired eyes squinted as they looked down at my phone to see the grocery list my wife had texted me. A long day of effort already lay behind me, and a lengthy evening of deskwork I knew would soon be my reward. I was exhausted as I arrived at the grocery store.

I entered, grabbed a cart, put my ear buds in, and cranked the gospel music up just as I had done so many times before. Bread first.

As my weary feet rounded the corner of aisle 3, I began to detect God’s presence. Looking up and down the shelves and placing the loaves of bread in my cart, I began to pray under my breath, doing my best not to call attention to myself.

At this moment, all of the things I had been dealing with had left a heaviness in my spirit. The vagueness of God’s will regarding certain circumstances I was dealing with had left me frustrated and annoyed. Let nobody lie to you, the ministry is a full contact sport; and most of the shoving happens in the mind. I felt that stirring quickly evolving into a whirlwind. I knew I needed to hear from heaven, but felt apprehensive. Next was the eggs and milk.

By aisle 4, I felt an undeniable touch of God’s Spirit. It grabbed me and, arresting my attention, it demanded I understand that my help and hope was imminent. I was grateful, but like a child before crossing the street, I looked both ways before I worshipped, trying desperately to keep from drawing attention to myself. Now, coffee.

 By the time I came to aisle 5, I had barely enough time to grab my can of coffee before I became overwhelmed by the goodness and compassion of the Lord. My cheeks became flush and tears filled my eyes as the soft murmur of my praise swelled to an audible level.

Soon, I openly wept as the tension and weight I had carried into the market begin to lift off my soul.

I continued to cast off dignity and timidity as my frustrations dissolved in God’s presence. With lifted hands, I thanked Him for the multitude of unwarranted courtesies he had shown me. I learned something that night that I’ve never forgotten—that God delights in meeting us at unexpected places.

The spectacle of a man crying and thanking God while holding a can of coffee in his lifted hand seemed to startle the white-haired woman that had turned undetected down the aisle.

The electric motor of her mobility cart whined in it’s low familiar tone as she slowly approached. Her eyes were fixed on me with a look that I could only describe as “deep, questioning concern.” Finally, after a long pause, she asked sheepishly, “Young man…what brand of coffee is that?”

I smiled before answering.

“Ma’am, I don’t know where this came from, but I sure am happy I found it!”



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Who’s leading you?

Pastor Kristi Rhodes | Hillcrest Community Church | 5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! Easter represents the greatest day in all of history for all mankind! Everything happened just as Jesus said it would, and just as the prophets foretold hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth. Jesus is Truth and He is incapable of lying or dishonesty.

Jesus said, “The thief (the devil, Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that you would have life to the fullest (John 10:10). Satan comes to destroy your family, to destroy your mind, to destroy your health, to destroy your finances, to kill your hope and steal your peace. We are no match for the devil—he’s been around thousands of years.  But the devil is no match for Jesus! Jesus defeated the devil and death when he rose victoriously and conquered the grave. Jesus (the Son of God) appeared to destroy the devil’s work, (1 John 3:8b).  Follow Jesus through His Spirit and live free from the chains of destruction that Satan has tried to bind you with.  

You are a combination of three parts: your body (the flesh), your soul (the mind) and your spirit. We are a spirit that lives in a body that has a mind. Through your body, you relate to the world with your 5 senses. Through your spirit, you relate to the Spirit of light (God) or spirit of darkness (devil) to guide your life. Through your soul (mind), you decide which you will obey. I know it’s kind of deep.  But this is where decisions are made. Joyce Myers wrote a book on this called “Battlefield of the Mind.” You may find it quite helpful if you’re struggling in this area.  

This morning when I got up, I thought I might feast on the leftover chocolate cake for breakfast.  But looking at the swimming pool out the kitchen window, (that we will be opening up soon), I decided maybe that wasn’t the best idea. This was my conscience (mind) telling me that my flesh (body) is wrong. Although the cake was tempting, it was not the best choice.  

God wants us to walk in the Spirit and enjoy the life we were intended to have, life to the fullest, a life of favor and grace. When you make decisions today, listen to your spirit that has first surrendered to God. His still small voice is leading you in the direction your life needs to take so that you may walk in victory over the flesh and the schemes of the devil. You cannot walk in the anointing (Spirit) that God has for you and mirror the devil at the same time. If you follow where the Holy Spirit leads, you will never take a wrong turn!  

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23).  


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God makes all things new

Pastor Darryl Miller |Sand Lake & South Ensley | United Methodist Churches 

Revelation 21:5: And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true (American Standard Version).

As I sit at my desk writing this, the television is on in the next room and the terrible tragedy of the destruction of the Notre Dame cathedral is playing out. It is horrible to hear. Although I serve a different denomination today, I grew up in the Catholic Church and I grieve with my Christian brothers and sisters. 

Yet, as this tragedy takes place, there is the sound of hymns rising up from the crowds surrounding the island. There is pain and worship. Thankfully, no building can contain God nor can anything stop His wondrous and unconditional love for His children. 

As Easter approaches, we must remember and cling to the truth of salvation. God does make all things new. Will a new cathedral rise from the ruins of Notre Dame? Most likely and the same is true of us. From our charred and sinful lives, we will rise. Not by our efforts but by the unconditional grace of God. He loves and cares for us. He said so Himself. He even told John to write it down because it was an important truth for all people. God does make all things new. He cleanses away the dirt and washes us clean. 

We tend to label ourselves differently, but we worship the God of life together. This week we will all celebrate the resurrection of Christ as one people. This is the way God wants us to be—one voice singing praises even in the toughest times. 

Visit your local church this Sunday and see what all the celebrating is about!

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Promises, Promises

Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

We continually make promises throughout life. “Yes, I’ll clean my room.” “I promise to be in before midnight.” “I promise before God and these witnesses to be a faithful and loving spouse.” All of us have made promises and broken promises. Most of us don’t start off with the intention of breaking promises; we mean well, don’t we? Things happen, however, and we find ourselves either forgetting or running out of time, and we don’t fulfill what we promised.  

We break promises all too often. It seems there are many high ideals and questionable promises voiced when we are being wooed to buy a certain product, support a certain politician, and in particular scams in today’s world. So many lame excuses and jokes have been made like “the check is in the mail” that some look at the word of promise as something to toy with.  

There was a time when a person’s word was their bond. But the value of commitment to truth has changed so much that many have locked their moral compass away and forgotten where they put it. In business, we have to read every piece of paper and packaging and disclosures in fine print in order to really know how much of our rights as a trusting consumer have been signed away to the tune of a little (*) asterisk.   

As Christians, we can always pray for the integrity of people we deal with. But what about our promises? Have you ever promised to do something and then forgotten? Have you ever had a friend promise to do something or maybe not to do something, and they failed to follow through? Do you ever let people down? Do others ever let you down?  

Some promises are quickly broken because those promising never intended to fulfill them. Others may be well-intentioned but later the one making the promise discovers it is beyond their ability or power to fulfill them. Some folks don’t even give a second though about making a commitment, fully intending not to follow through. That is not how things should be.   

The Dutch Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen said, “Our life is full of brokenness—broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives?”

There is hope; this business of promises all began with God for the purpose of relationship. God created this world, intending to create mankind and breathe life into us, for the purpose of giving us the gift of enjoying relationships with each other and with our Creator, and to live in harmony with God’s creation. Then the created man and woman failed in their part of the relationship and chose their evil ways instead of growing closer to God. And it has only gotten worse ever since.  

Have we have ever made a promise to God and not followed through? There are about 30 biblical references to vows, most of which are from the Old Testament. When a vow is made to God, God expects that we will live up to it and has little use for those who talk about vows without intent to deliver on the promises. Unthinking people make vows without considering the commitment that they are making.  

We can get better at keeping our promises, by keeping our promises to the Lord; in other words, get our vertical integrity right with God, and ask him for help in our horizontal relationships. This begins by admitting that we sometimes struggle with keeping our word; God has said, “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” (Numbers 30:2 New International Version).

We’ve all struggled with truth because circumstances make it more easy to fib. The down side is that our culture despises dishonesty coming from people who claim to be Christian, even while accepting the broken promises of those who do not profess to be followers of Christ. We can do terrible damage to our witness and even adversely affect the cause of Christ when we’re not people of our word.  

We must monitor our promises with God and use that same standard in our commitments to others. Reliability builds credibility, which builds trust. Examine your motives, allowing God to help you stay in the right. Ann Hibbard wrote in her Life at Work Journal, “The test of character comes when being truthful endangers what you want.”  God’s word says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV). Oh, to be like Jesus and follow his example. That is our reasonable service. 

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The End of the world as we know it

Pastor Dallas Burgeson | The Springs Church | 135 N. Grant St, Cedar Springs

Over the years I’ve had questions—some of them my own and some of them being asked of me—about the end of the world. This makes sense, I think. When things strike us as being “final,” it’s good to try and figure out what the details of “final” might mean.

In Mark chapter 13, verse 2, Jesus makes a statement about the buildings in Jerusalem that sparks questions of finality from a few of His disciples. What’s interesting (if a number of Bible scholars are right in their educated guesses) is that the book of Mark was written probably just a year or two before the most important of Jerusalem’s buildings—the Jewish Temple—was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Apparently, the disciples’ questions about finality were starting to be asked at a pretty opportune time.

Jesus’ disciples were wondering whether certain outward signs meant they were getting close to “the end of the world.” New Testament scholar Ben Witherington says that the destruction of the Temple obviously wasn’t “the end of the world,” but it certainly was “the end of a world.” While Jesus taught that a whole new world was opening up in Him, to the Jewish way of living that depended upon worshipping God in that Temple, the end of that world was unthinkable, and still is. 

For all of the ways that Mark chapter 13 may cause us to want to figure out the signs of our times and determine when “The End” is coming, most scholars actually agree that only a very few verses in that whole chapter have not already been fulfilled. In regard to the prophecies that remain to be fulfilled, Jesus shared in Mark 13:32 (NIV): “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”

He says be ready for The End, regardless of when it might come. This calls less for eyes that are open to the signs of the times, and more for eyes, ears, hearts, hands, and minds given over to all of the things Jesus asked of us in so many other places: prayer, care for the widow and the orphan, love of neighbor, being holy as He is holy, and so on. Be ready

But hear this, too: biblical calls to “Be on guard” and “Keep alert” had another function. They were originally written to be an encouragement. Some of you may have recently experienced the end of the world as you always knew it. Someone passed away. A job or relationship ended. Jesus wants you to know something: A whole new world can open up in Him.


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My God is BIG

Pastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church 

233 Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 49319


Children boast to each other about their fathers. “My dad is smarter than your dad.” “Oh, yeah? My dad is stronger than your dad.” “Oh, yeah? Well, my dad is bigger than your dad.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Most Americans believe in a god. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, 80 percent of Americans believe in a god, but only 56 percent believe in the God of the Bible. Most people believe in a god that protects and rewards them, but few believe they will be judged or punished by it.

What kind of god do most people believe in? It is a god of their own making. It is a god made in their own image. It is a god that fits in their hands. It is a domesticated deity. It is a god just like them. Their god likes them. Their god looks the other way. Their god leaves them alone. This kind of god doesn’t interfere with their life. This is not God.

The God of the Bible is not a god. The God of the Bible is God. He is the LORD God Almighty. He is the Living God. He is the only True God. He is the LORD of Lords and KING of Kings. There is no god like God.

There is good reason to capitalize the letter “g.” Yes. This is out of respect. This is because of reverence, but more than respect and reverence, this is reality, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV).

J.C. Ryle, an Anglican bishop, wrote in his book, Practical Religion, “Beware of manufacturing a god of your own: a god who is all mercy, but not just; a god who is all love, but not holy; a god who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none …The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all.”

How can we know God? The Gospel of John in chapter 14 and verse 9 records that Jesus, God’s Son, said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” A Christian knows God the Father through God the Son and by the Spirit he “… boasts in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31 ESV). The God of the Bible is BIG and He is my God!

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Happy PI day!

Pastor Darryl Miller | Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches|616-636-5659

“Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything” Colossians 2:9-10 (The Message).

I’m writing this on Thursday—3.14—otherwise known as PI day. The value of PI is 3.14. Actually, the value is infinite as far as we know! It is just a day when some of us have a little fun because of the date. However, the truth is that the value of PI is very important. A quick Internet search will show that it is used in most calculations for building and construction, quantum physics, communications, music theory, medical procedures, air travel, and space flight, to name a few. What a wonderful discovery it was for us to find. 

I got to thinking about how there are so many wonderful things like PI woven into creation and how wonderful it is to have a God who not only wove them into creation but made it so that we could find them. He seems to want us to see Him in things like this. 

I don’t usually use paraphrased bible translations like The Message but sometimes the wording is truly wonderful. Despite all the amazing discoveries that we make, God is right there in the midst. He doesn’t make it hard to find Him; we only need to open our eyes and our hearts. He is eager to be a part of our lives. We don’t need to go looking under every rock; He is standing in front of us with His hands outstretched waiting for us. I don’t know about you but this is a comforting thought to me. How wonderful to have a God who actively seeks us out. 

PI day is fun but God is life changing, lifesaving, and life itself. Look for Him in good times and in bad and you will find Him. It is His promise. Have questions? Check out a church near you, we love to give answers! And fortunately we know the source of all the answers!


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Goodbye Uncle Charlie

Rev. David Vander Meer, Rockford Springs Community Church | 5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

My uncle just died. It may be that you knew him. He was best known as Uncle Charlie, of the Children’s Bible Hour, later known as CBH, and now, Keys for Kids. This man just loved kids and loved to tell them about his best friend and savior, Jesus. When my wife and I visited him on the day before he passed away, he shared with us his favorite verse.

The verse is Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Uncle Charlie believed in the power of Christ to bring change in a little boy or girl’s heart. Adults’ too. This is why, from 9 years old to 84 years old he was involved in this ministry of sharing the power of Christ. He did not put confidence in himself to change hearts, but in Christ’s power to change hearts. He knew this power of Christ was brought to anyone who personally believed in Him and surrendered to His will.

But what made Uncle Charlie keep going all those years was the persistent power of Christ that not only began the work of changing a person but also could finish the work. Change can take time, and effort, and sometimes the need to work through failure. But in this text, Paul the apostle relied on the persistent power of Christ to change the believers in a town called Philippi. Uncle Charlie learned to trust the power of Christ to do the same in his world. And we need to trust Christ to change hearts in our world, too. Today, thousands of adults, who once were children, have been touched by the power of Christ through Uncle Charlie’s confidence in Christ.

We are planning to celebrate the grace of God in Uncle Charlie’ life on Saturday, March 16, at Calvary Church on East Beltline, at 1 pm.  We sure would be honored if you came and sang with us: “Boys and Girls for Jesus, this our earnest prayer.”   

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