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Archive | From the Pulpit

The master artist

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley Churches

South Ensley United Methodist Church Address: 13600 Cypress Ave., Sand Lake Phone: (616) 636-5659

I have to admit that I love this time of year. I know that some will say I am crazy and wish that summer would last forever but I am a solid autumn guy. I love the weather; a campfire feels good and it’s not so hot that you need to sit far away from it. Most of all, I love the changes. Yes, those of you who know me know that I am blind, but I still remember the lake that I grew up on. It was ringed with every kind of tree that meant in the fall every different color would explode all around the lake. Brilliant reds, bright yellows, oranges, and so on. The thing that made it even better was seeing the trees at sunset. There is something special about a fall sunset. The colors seem almost painted. Moreover, they are, painted by the hand of a master artist—God paints them. 

One thing that far too many of us forget is that we, too, are artists. We were made in the image of God the creator: “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.” Genesis 1:27 CEB.

This includes the creativity of the Creator. We have been made with the imagination and creativity of God. Unfortunately, some will use this imagination and creativity to harm others and towards evil purposes, but God intends for us to use them to honor and glorify God. He has given us skills, but some will think that their skills are inadequate or not as good as others are. We need to remember though that we shouldn’t use these skills to impress humans, but instead to glorify and please God the Creator. This puts things in a completely different perspective. God gave us the gift of creativity: “The Lord has filled him with the divine spirit that will give him skill, ability, and knowledge for every kind of work. He will be able to create designs, do metalwork in gold, silver, and copper, cut stones for setting, carve wood, do every kind of creative work,” Exodus 35:31-33 CEB.

When you see a beautiful sunset and you paint it, paint it as a tribute to God. When you sing in church, give it your best, not for others but for God. He will be pleased if you do! 

Should you feel that your ability is not worthy, let me share a saying that I have kept all my life… God does not ask for perfection, only willingness. In God’s eyes, you are precious and so is everything you do to glorify Him. Use the creativity that God had given you freely and with joy!

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God is chasing you, but donít worry, that is a good thing

Pastor Jon Huizenga

Rise Up Church

Meets Sunday mornings at Cedar Springs Middle School, 10:00 a.m.

Psalm 23 verse 6: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Hi Neighbors,

The verse quoted above is the last line of Psalm 23, a well-loved, often quoted Psalm. You’ve probably heard it. It starts, “The Lord is my shepherd…”.

I find this last line especially meaningful when it says that goodness and mercy will follow me. Here is the story of the word “follow” in that line.

It could also be translated “chase” or “pursue” and it is usually used to describe a bad thing like getting pursued by an enemy. In the original language of the Old Testament (Hebrew) the word is “radaf.” Pharoah, for example, “radaf-ed” the Israelites when they crossed the Red Sea. One does not normally want to be pursued in the way “radaf” describes. It seems like the wrong word to go with such nice words like “goodness” and “love.”

Now, a little English class. Using the wrong word like this is called irony. In irony, you use language that normally signifies the opposite for the sake of effect or humor. The person who wrote this Psalm is making a point: God chases you, but that is not a bad thing, because He chases you with goodness and love.

I have two questions for you today:

1. How might God be chasing you? 

Two times last week God snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting Him and He surprised me in a good way. I’ve also, for full disclosure, experienced times when God snuck up on me in a way that was convicting and not pleasant but even that was a good and loving thing in the end. I wonder, how are you experiencing God chasing you? If you stop and look, I bet you will see something.

2. If God has “caught” you, who might He be calling you to chase?

Don’t chase with malice, of course. But is there someone in your circle who needs to experience goodness and love from you? They just might experience it as goodness and love from God, delivered through you.

Surely, God’s goodness and love are following you, and that is a good thing.

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Stop going to church

Pastor Dylan Mason 

Frost Creek Church

15671 Algoma Ave. NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Stop going to church. Stop it. Stop going to church, and start BEING the church. For too long, individuals who call themselves Christians, who have been created in the image of Christ, have not looked like Jesus. For too long, we’ve reduced “church” down to a building. A place. A weekly service. We’ve just shown up to go to church for one to two hours a week, check the box, and go home and live like the rest of the world Monday through Saturday. This is not what God had in mind for the church. As followers of Jesus, you and I have been called to something so much higher, so much greater, than just showing up to a building, a service, once a week. We’ve been called to become transformed into the image of Christ.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” As a follower of Jesus, your end goal is not just salvation. Salvation, received in an instant, is just the beginning of the life-long journey that God has called us to. This journey is a journey of transformation. It’s a life-long process in which we leave our old, sinful, human nature, desire-driven selves behind, and become more and more like Jesus. We become more and more like Jesus in the ways we speak, live, act, and love. 

The church is the collective people of God, the body of Christ, with the first priority to worship God, and then to work with God to accomplish His purposes. The church is not the people of God showing up to a building once a week. It’s the people of God, coming together to worship God, and fulfilling the purposes of God. So, please, stop GOING to church, and start BEING the church. Take steps to become more like Jesus through daily engaging in prayer, reading the bible regularly, serving your church and your community, giving generously, staying connected in regular biblical community, and being obedient to what God calls you to do and how he calls you to live. Let the love and good news of Jesus penetrate your heart and impact your soul in such a way that you can’t help but run after Him and overflow with the love that he fills us with!

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Unity in divisive times

Pastor Michelle Vallier 

Cedar Springs UMC

140 S. Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

The sanctuary was packed as community members gathered to celebrate the life of our beloved member, Steve Mueller. Fellowship hall was beautifully arranged for the luncheon that would follow, with specially coordinated table settings and ample food for such a crowd. Ten minutes before the service was to start, I began receiving urgently whispered messages: “Pastor, the bathrooms are flooding.” I knew I would not just dismiss the service and proceed with the luncheon as planned, so as we prayed and processed our grief, I also prayed for a miracle. During the final hymn of the service, I received a note that said, “The luncheon has been moved to the Baptist church across the street.” Praise God for good neighbors!

Another less dramatic, but equally gracious situation occurred last summer. A storm had come through, knocking out power in many areas of town, including at the United Methodist Church. I received a call from Bliss-Witters & Pike saying that their power was out, and the funeral that I was leading that day would be held at The Springs. We were welcomed into their space with generosity.

These are only two specific examples of the ecumenical efforts that take place in Cedar Springs on a regular basis. When I think of ecumenical ministry, North Kent Connect and Family Promise come to mind—wonderful organizations designed to serve our struggling community members, supported by a wide range of church congregations. 

In 1 Corinthians 10:1 (NRSVUE), Paul writes, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you but that you be knit together in the same mind and the same purpose.” What does this mean for us, in a world that seems increasingly divided along so many lines? And how can the pastor of a denomination whose impending split has been in the news for years speak to this? Is this truly good news for our current times?

I believe it is. These words speak of a unity in the Spirit which does not require uniformity in practice or even theological perspective. It is a unity that celebrates the diversity of the body, while calling for the parts of the body to work together. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NRSVUE), “Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 

In divisive times, let us love one another more deeply, striving to appreciate the diverse ways in which the light of Christ shines in our neighbors, to be a hope in the world, for the good of all.

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Being hospitable

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd NE, Rockford


Hospitality is becoming more and more a foreign idea in our culture. One of the perhaps unintended consequences of covid and our response to it is that we have become more comfortable with isolation. We were told to keep our distance and so we just got used to not interacting with others like we used to. What used to be a conversation at the grocery store has turned into a wave or a nod. We quit shaking hands and started fist bumping, and if you’re a hugger like me, don’t even think about it. Even smiling at people was taken away while everyone walked around in masks, and we quit smiling because no one could see it. Now that most of the initial chaos that surrounded our early response is gone, I wonder if, as a society, we’ve just accepted being less hospitable as the new norm?

The dictionary defines hospitality like this, “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, and generous way.” Hospitality is all about the posture in which we welcome and receive others. Being hospitable is one of the easiest and clearest ways that we can “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40).

If you’re like me, then you may have heard someone describe hospitality to you as a gift that certain people have and are really good at. And while being hospitable may come more naturally to some, if you are a follower of Christ, being hospitable is not an option. Romans 12:13b says, “Practice Hospitality”, and 1 Peter 4:9 tells us to “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” As followers of Christ we should be people who are known by our warm, friendly, and generous receiving and treating of others. In a world that seems to be getting more combative, cold, and less generous, we as the people of God can easily display the kindness and love of God by being a community known by our hospitality.  

So, the next time you make eye contact with a stranger, smile. The next time you reach the door to enter a building at the same time as another person, open it for them. The next time you meet someone new, shake their hand. The next time you see someone in distress and in need of assistance, don’t just walk by, take the time to see if you can help in any way. Who knows, your warm, welcoming and generous reception of someone else may lead to a chance for you to tell them all about our Jesus. 

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From the Pulpit

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs | (616) 696-3904

Nailing it to the Cross

Colossians 2:14

Last Thursday, with parishioners, I made a Pilgrimage to Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River, Michigan (www.crossinthewoods.com).  It was truly a day of prayer and reflection! In light of the Pilgrimage, I would like to share with you the following regarding the Cross.

First, the most basic and fundamental gesture of prayer in Christianity is and always will be the Cross.  When one makes the Sign of the Cross, one confesses Christ’s crucifixion on one’s very body.  When we gaze upon or bow down before the Cross, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Cor 23-24).  When we enthrone the Cross in our homes, we are reminded of the word of the crucified Lord: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32).

Second, we should note that the beginning and the ending of our spiritual journey is the Cross.

Our spiritual journey begins with baptism.  At the beginning of the baptism of an infant the priest greets the family of the child and reminds parents and godparents that they are the first catechists for the child, then calls the child, “N., the Church of God receives you with great joy.  In her name I sign you with the Sign of the Cross of Christ our Savior; then, after them, your parents (and godparents) will do the same” (Order of Baptism of Children, no. 79).  They quietly sign the forehead with the Sign of the Cross for their child.  

When the priest is ministering to the dying, chapter 6 of “Commendation of the Dying,” of the Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum, there is the final act to do for our departing brother/sister: “For the solace of those present the minister may conclude these prayers with a simple blessing or with a symbolic gesture, for example signing the forehead with the Sign of the Cross.  A priest or deacon may sprinkle the body with holy water.”  When I was in the seminary, closer to ordination, the priest who ran the practicum for caring for the dying began by telling all of us: “Future priests of the Church, don’t forget to seal people to the Paschal Mystery (Death and Resurrection of the Lord) with the Cross.” I will never forget that!

We begin and end our spiritual journey with the Cross.  Throughout our lives, we are reminded of these words of the Apostles to the Gentiles: “And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the Cross” (Col 2:13-14). Amen.

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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There’s hope for you

Pastor Mike Wittmer

Cedar Springs Baptist Church

233 S. Main Street, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

On June 28, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in helping her former boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, do terrible things to young girls. Maxwell and Epstein were a horrible couple.

There was another couple, in a Middle Eastern country, that you may have heard about. The wife was supermodel pretty, and her husband let another man take her in exchange for money. The husband posed as his wife’s closest relative, so when a wealthy man took her into his harem, the husband received her dowry. After a while, the husband and wife skipped town and went to another country, where they ran the scam all over again. 

Did you hear about them? Their names are Abraham and Sarah, the founding couple of the Christian faith. How scandalous! How embarrassing!

You can read Abraham and Sarah’s sleezy escapades in Genesis chapters 12 and 20. For now, consider that your sin is probably not—and your marriage is definitely not—worse than theirs. If there was hope for Abraham and Sarah, there is hope for you. God forgave them both and gave them Isaac, the child of promise. Isaac became the father of Jacob, the father of the Jews, from which Jesus, the ultimate child of promise, was born. 

God draws straight with crooked lines. Your past might be full of regret. You may have done terrible things to the people you love the most. Maybe they won’t forgive you. But God will. He gave his only Son so Abraham and Sarah and you and me could be forgiven. 

Don’t believe the lie that your offense is too great. Your sin is not stronger than Jesus. His great, great, great…grandparents are Abraham and Sarah. Jesus knows what it’s like to belong to a messed-up family. That’s why he came. That’s why he died. That’s why he rose again. Don’t fret over your sin. Give it to him.

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 To be like Jesus

Pastor Bobby Gray

Solid Rock Worship Center

MySolidRock.CHURCH  ~  11862 Shaner Ave NE, Cedar Springs

The alarm sounds and we surface from the depth of slumber amid an ocean of pillows and blankets. Depending on our age, our body creaks and groans when compelled to a vertical position. We sleepily make our way to the bathroom and get our first view of the overnight carnage in the vanity mirror.

There we stand in all our early-morning “glory.” Hair askew. Eyelids drooping. Wrinkled nightclothes. That pasty feeling in the mouth. Hardly magazine-cover material at that point, and certainly a long way from what we hope to present when we enter the workplace in an hour or two.

And so, the work of “getting ready” begins. We systematically tackle our hair, our dress, shaving, and so on, to change the image in the mirror into the desired outcome. It takes some time. On some days we are more pleased with the outcome than on others. But every day we try our best to transform the present image into one that we would like to see.

In many respects, this seems to be a picture of what discipleship looks like in each of us as individuals. God’s Spirit awakens us to take a critical look in the mirror of God’s Word. It presents us with a true image of our spiritual self. Aspects of it are often not too pretty—a bad attitude here, a selfish priority there, a carnal thought here, a harsh word there. We certainly don’t feel like magazine-cover material for whatever Heaven is publishing that week.

But the same Spirit who made us confront our weaknesses and faults does something wonderful: He assures us of His unwavering love despite everything and presents to us the goal for our spiritual man to pursue. The image we desire that spiritual mirror to reflect is none other than Christ! This was Paul’s goal for the church in Galatia: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

This is the point of discipleship – to see less and less of me and more and more of Him every time I look into the mirror of God’s Word. It is a transformative process, not a transformative moment. It is the amalgamated result of sermons and Bible studies, personal devotions, godly fellowship, the influence of one’s pastor and other spiritual leaders. It does not generally happen as quickly as we’d like, and regrettably not as quickly as some demand, but the quest is to look…to be…a little more like Jesus every day!

There will never come a day in which I will look into the mirror, sigh with satisfaction, and say, “Look at that. Exactly like Jesus! Every spiritual hair is in place. I look perfect!” No, that famed old song presents the reality, “I’ve got a long way to go to be like my Lord!”

But the grand news is that on every morning when the man in the mirror is a little less than stellar, these verses still testify: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Striving to be like Jesus… Oh! What a great Adventure!

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Blessings out of tragedy

Pastor Kristi Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

Greetings Cedar Springs! Sometimes, what you think will be the worst thing that could possibly happen, turns out to be one of your greatest blessings.

One of the hardest things about losing a loved one suddenly is there are so many things we wish we would have said to them—tell = them how much they mean to us, how much of a difference they’ve made in our lives or just to say “I love you” one more time. 

I lost my mother to cancer several years ago and walked through the battle with her.  I saw what a blessing it was to be able to have time to love on her, thank her for all she taught me through life and tell her how much she meant to me.  Yes, I had to watch her slowly fade but to me, losing her suddenly would have been worse.  We got to talk about how excited she would be when she saw Jesus face to face! I still miss her terribly but I’m so very happy for where she gets to be forever. I’ll see her again someday, but not soon.

So now I get to experience the blessing out of a tragedy from the other side of cancer. I have recently been diagnosed with cancer, stage 3.  God gave me a verse for such a time as this: Psalm 118:17 (NIV):  “You shall not die, but live, and proclaim what the LORD has done!” Wow! That verse pierced my soul that day. He also speaks to me through Matthew 9:22, “He said, be of good cheer daughter, your faith has made you well.” And Acts 19:12: “My power causes diseases to depart from you.”

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, the endless testing and meeting with a team of doctors, we announced this news to our family and then to our church, which have all been amazing.  The outpouring of love coming from around the world; friends we haven’t seen in over 30 years; and so many willing to spend their precious time showing love through a meal-train, fundraisers and so much more!  We have received many beautiful cards and gifts.  People call or text just to check in and see how I’m feeling, asking if there’s anything we need.  

I say all of this to make a point.  God is loving us through all these amazingly wonderful loving people!  He shows us the depths of His love for us through all the people He gives us the privilege to meet throughout our life’s journey.  I have a peace that surpasses all understanding. Every burden is lifted in His presence; every trophy will be laid down at His feet.  I will never stop singing His praise. In sickness I will praise Him; in health I will praise Him. He is worthy! There is a Name that reigns above all others, Jesus Christ, the King above all kings. Whether I live or die, I am good. If I die, I’ll be with Jesus.  If I live, I’ll be here with family and friends.

If you are reading this today, maybe feeling alone, struggling through your own tragedy, can I speak into your life right now?  God loves you more than you will ever know this side of heaven and He is with you through it all, even if you don’t feel His presence, He is there.  God reveals His presence in many ways.  Some find it in the warm smile of a stranger, the kindness of the nurse or a neighbor, or the scent of your favorite flower. It may be a bird that sings outside your window each morning, squirrels and rabbits playing in your yard, or even the peaceful beauty of the setting sun. You see, there are many ways to experience God’s presence if you will look for it.  He is the only one that can bring blessings out of a tragedy. Only God can do that.    

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God just doesn’t understand

Rev. Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church 

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

Human beings are constantly tempted—by what the Bible calls the world, the flesh, and the devil—to believe that Jesus couldn’t possibly know what we are walking through on a day-to-day basis. We think: He’s “up there somewhere,” not particularly close, and so (no offense, Jesus) what could He possibly know about life in our contemporary world?

This can feel like an alienating thing. But it can also—secretly—create a certain pre-fabricated excuse in us out of which we can often get a lot of mileage: “God just doesn’t understand.”

Doesn’t He?

For all of us who believe that “God just doesn’t understand,” in whatever form and for whatever reason, it can often provide the perfect amount of emotionally satisfying sympathy for ourselves. It seems like we’re just “being real” about the way life is. And often enough, we can even find others who will jump on board with us in our “honesty” to continue to validate these feelings.

But what if Jesus does understand? 

What if there’s an accessible peace and joy—a right-now hope—despite our circumstances? 

And what if His understanding includes a compassion that is completely compatible and resonant with being human?

What if there’s an empathy in Him that is actually deeper than we could imagine or would even want to imagine?

The theological fact of Jesus’ Incarnation—His coming down from Heaven to become a living, breathing human—confronts us with a truth that challenges us in our self-imposed isolation from God: The harder and more honestly we lean into our own gritty, embodied humanity, the closer we will find God actually is.

Yes, I said closer, not further.

The more you read the New Testament with an unbiased heart, the more I believe we see this to be true. Jesus is almost eerily consistent in pointing out and restoring the most human of realities in His world, not the most pious or religious concerns like we might expect. You can look at chapter five of the Gospel of Mark and get three brief snapshots of the many in our Gospels that prove this truth. So where do we really get the idea that God just doesn’t understand?

The prophet Jeremiah knew:  “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Have you ever taken seriously the implications of this verse before? I happen to know by experience—from my own heart and from ministering to a lot of other human hearts as well—that hearts are capable of manufacturing amazingly sophisticated self-deceptions that we are more than happy to latch onto. Our hearts are like little factories that devise complex strategies and justifications aimed at appeasing our minds so that our sinful natures are able to get the stuff they really want.

Let me flip the script for us today: Trust Jesus more. Maybe trust you a little less.

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Reconnecting through creation

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley UMCs


“Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 Common English Bible).

This was a great weekend for me see the closeness of God.  We were camping and because I mixed up some dates, I had to return to do the Sunday morning services. Actually, I should say that I was able to return to offer them. It was anything but a burden. I spoke about the wisdom that we can find in creation and how we can grow close to God when we recognize the wisdom of His grace. Sitting in camp, in nature, drove that point home. There was a beautiful moon, birds, and trees, and most of all, a little quiet. In addition, when we returned home on Monday, I opened my email and the daily verse I receive every morning was from Psalm 19, a wonderful Psalm about finding God in all things. 

I get the feeling sometimes that God is making a point.  We seem to forget the wonder of creation.  We forget to “stop and smell the roses.” One of my favorite quotes is from an Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story where (and I am paraphrasing) Holmes reaches out a window and cups a rose in his hand.  He says, “God made the trees and the plants for our survival, to make oxygen and food. But flowers He made for our pleasure.” What a great reminder to stop occasionally to observe the blessings that God has placed around us.

Have you been stressed lately? Has the burden of the world become heavy on your shoulders? Has it felt like you have lost touch with the loving God who calms your heart? Then maybe it is time for you to take a minute to step outside and remember that God has made this amazing world for you. The birds sing, the trees rustle, and there is a peace beyond the world’s understanding.  A peace that has been promised to you by God Himself. 

Take a moment to reconnect with creation and more importantly, with the God who loves you.

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Our Father in heaven

Pastor Jon Huizenga

Sunday Meetings at Middle School, 10:00 am.

Cedar Springs Middle School

4873 16 Mile Rd NE, Cedar Springs

Hi neighbors!

I read a book on the Lord’s Prayer. (And I would tell you what book it was if I could remember! Ask me in a day or two.) In the book, the author gave some wonderful thoughts about the opening words of the prayer, “Our Father in Heaven”

To quote the Bible directly, Jesus said to his disciples:  “This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven…’”

The book I read suggested we think about those words this way:

OUR – He is not my father only, or yours, he is ours.

FATHER – Because he is a good father, he cares.

IN HEAVEN – Because he is our father in heaven, he can.

So, when you pray to “our father in heaven” you can think:




I find that just thinking these introductory words solves most of the problems I am bringing to God when I set out to pray.

Sometimes I’m upset about a relationship, and God reminds me that he is not only my father, but that other person’s father too.

Sometimes I wonder if he notices or cares; he reminds me that he does.

Sometimes I wonder if he is able to handle the problem I am bringing; he absolutely can. 




What is bothering you today? Try out this prayer opening and see where thinking of God that way takes you. It’s how Jesus taught us to pray.

May God bless you today!

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