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Archive | From the Pulpit

A Gift too wonderful for words; handle with awe

_C-Cedar-Creek-Community-Church-LandscapePastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

If you are reading this brief message, you have survived through the year 2016, including the Christmas-Advent season, and now we all have begun the journey called calendar year 2017 with whatever it holds. In my mind, this is no small accomplishment, and as Christians, we look forward to what God has for us in this new year—new learning, new discoveries, new relationships and more.

The Advent season, the coming of Jesus Christ, God incarnate into the world we live in, is celebrated in many different kinds of ways; one being that we become concerned about choosing just the right gifts to give to some of the special people in our lives. The full meaning of this practice can sometimes get lost in the activities of the season.

We must continually remind ourselves to be thankful for the first gift-giver, as Paul points out to us, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2nd Corinthians 9:15, King James translation). Have you ever received a gift that was beyond description? Just what kind of gift would it have to be to be called indescribable? Would it be a gift you open and say, “this is beautiful, something I’ve wanted all my life, what is it?” Or how about a gift given to you by someone special, carrying a lot of feelings and emotions with it?

The apostle Peter helps us better understand the importance of yielding our lives here to follow the path taught by Jesus Christ, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1st Peter 1:8 KJV). We are all in this year of uncertain times together, and may we all personally find this “unspeakable joy in the Lord.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ is describable and yet he is beyond human description. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” In these eight words, scripture captures our attention, to a word that cannot be expressed in mere words. When we search the scripture diligently, we find thousands of words describing characteristics of Jesus Christ, but the truth is that the more we learn of and about Jesus, we discover that the full knowledge, depth, width and height of Jesus nature, character, eternal existence, etc., always leaves us with more to learn.

When we believe on Jesus as scripture directs us, we quickly learn that this indescribable gift God has given, is God himself; that Jesus is man, Jesus is Savior, Jesus is the good news, and that even if God somehow would give us life for hundreds of years on this planet, we will still have an eternity to continue learning just how unspeakable this gift is.

This Jesus will bring us to God through the sacrifice of himself, and secure for us forgiveness of all our sins; for all eternity. Christmas is past, but it is not too late to open the gift.

 

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Putting your “yes” on the table

Pastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

 

Do you remember the Meatloaf song from 1993, I Would Do Anything for Love? In his hit power ballad, Meatloaf passionately declared—over and over and over again—“I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” Nobody really knows what the “that” is, but that’s beside the point. Maybe, like Meatloaf, you would do anything for love; but I think a more important question is this: If you could do anything for God—and money or time wasn’t a limitation—what would you do? Or to ask it more succinctly, “Would you do anything for God?”

If you’re like many Christians, in your heart you say, “God, I love You, I’ll do anything You want me to.”  But in your mind you’re thinking, “But I won’t do that…”  Fill in the blank; what’s the that for you?

Go ahead and think back to the last 3 things God asked you to do. Did you do them? Maybe you can’t even think of the last 3; what about just that last one? Did you do it? If not, why not? What was holding you back?

So often when God nudges us and asks us to step out in faith we either ignore Him or just flat out say No.  “God, I’ll do anything for You, but I won’t do that.”  What if you were to approach this new year differently? What if you lived each day with your “Yes” on the table? Lived a life that is open and available to God at all times, so that whenever God calls, you are ready and willing and available to say, “Yes, Lord”?

Look at what happened to Abraham when he said “Yes” to God.  “By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8 MSG).

Abraham put his “Yes” on the table and packed up his whole family and set out for a new country not evening knowing where he was going. Imagine what that must have been like. The faith that took. If you ever did that your friends would try to talk you out of it. Your family would think you’ve lost your mind. I’m sure Abraham’s family did too, but if Abraham wouldn’t have said “Yes,” God’s whole redemptive plan through Jesus Christ would have been in jeopardy.

So let me ask you: What new place is God calling you to? Maybe saying “Yes” to God means taking a new job, or going back to school, or adopting a child. Maybe saying “Yes” to God means moving away. Or maybe saying “Yes” to God means staying right where you are. Like Abraham, you may not have all the details.  All the “what ifs” might not be answered yet. But can you step out in faith and trust God to lead you, knowing that where God guides God provides?

The truth is, life is relatively short compared to all of eternity, where you’re going to have trillions and trillions of years there. You only get about 60 or 80 or at the most 100 years on this planet. It’s not very long. Life is pretty brief. You need to make your life count. It starts by saying “Yes” to God.

Putting your “Yes” on the table each and every day will change your life, it will change your home, it will change your family, it will bless this community, it could very well change the world, it might even change the course of history, or change someone’s eternity.  The world is calling out for people who will say “Yes” to God. People who will say, “God, I’m scared to death, but I’m going to say ‘Yes’ to You.”

This year, put your “Yes” on the table.  Say to yourself and to God, “Whenever, wherever, whatever, no matter the cost—Yes, God I’ll do it; wherever You send me—I’ll go; whatever You ask of me—I ’ll give; whenever You need me—I’m available. I’m keeping all the options open. My ‘Yes’ is on the table.”

 

 

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All things new 

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 

 

New. This is a familiar word. I am the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Cedar Springs. My wife and I moved into a new home five months ago. We are new to western Michigan. We have a new mailing address. We’re meeting new friends in our church and community.

A lot of things were new to us last year. I would imagine the same was true for you even if in different ways. We faced the new experience of saying goodbye to a parent in death. Some events have to happen if other experiences are going to be new. We moved. We left friends. We left family. We left all things familiar to us to begin something new in Cedar Springs. I wonder what new thing the New Year will bring?

I believe that one day all things will be made new. I’m not talking about relocation or replacements or even repairs, but a reality that one day all things will be made new. This idea is not a figment of human imagination, but rather a fact of divine inspiration. “I am making all things new” is the record of the Apostle in The Revelation to John, which is the last book of the Bible. The Apostle John records these words as “trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5 ESV).

Why? Why can the Apostle claim these words are a reliable reality? John says, “Because God said so.” One thing known about God is that He tells the truth. He speaks the truth and nothing but the truth so help me—it’s true. One day all things will be made new. I believe this truth about God making all things new because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2 ESV).

New. This word is not only familiar to me; it’s a word familiar to my faith. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). You see, the certainty of my eternal confidence is because of an earthly change. One day God will do what He has done through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Most of us are expecting something new in 2017. Maybe it’s a new job or a new house or a new friend, but some day those things will no longer be new. However, life in Jesus will always be new.

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The Year in thanks

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC 

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (KJV)

As a Methodist, the end of the year brings me to a time of filling out year-end forms. Although a job that is not at all enjoyed, it does bring a time of reflection. As we look back at the past year, we are able to see how God has revealed Himself to us and how He has been in the midst of so many things, not only in our church life but in our lives in general. Many of us have begun to do an inventory of our personal lives over the past year to see how many “God sightings” that we recognize. So many times God reveals Himself to us without our recognizing what is happening. A cold that doesn’t last as long as it should have, a near miss in the car that could have been an accident, or a feeling of peace in a tense situation.

Of course many of us have had tragedies in the past year and we may not have seen God at work. And yet, He is always there. It may seem hard to “give thanks in all things” but remembering this, even in turmoil, reminds us that God draws us nearer to Himself and he is always there for us.

As the New Year begins, why don’t you see if you can remember the times that God has been there for you. And give thanks for these times because God is reminding us that He is a living God who truly cares for and loves us all.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and that your New Year is one of blessings and grace. Remember that there is a God that loves you very much and that He wants to be a part of your life. Want to know more? Check out a church near you! Blessings to you all!

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Pay it forward this season

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webRev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs 

(just north of 19 Mile)

 

 

A little while ago, I started watching a movie that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It came out back in 2000 and even back then it was a good movie that had the potential to really move people. What’s the movie? Pay It Forward. Have you seen it? Have you watched it again recently?

Even though the movie is not a Christmas movie, let alone a new release, it has some great things for us to remember this Christmas season. This movie is simply about the random acts of kindness started by a young boy who had a simple dream to make the world a kinder place. He wanted to start a new world order where random acts of kindness would be passed from one person to another until the whole world became one big happy family. What a great idea.

Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? Acts of kindness. Acts of love. Acts of gentleness. Acts that encourage other people. Can I tell you something? The very first Christmas was no random act of kindness. It was a deliberate act of love. God sent His son to this world to show you how much He loves you. Now that is something incredible to realize. But we can do more than just realize it; we can experience it, feel it and share it.

So, I want to encourage you. Go do some random acts of kindness. Be a part of making our community feel like a family. Help someone, say a kind word, smile more.  Look into people’s eyes when they are talking and be kind. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I also want to encourage you in this way: the next time you do your random act of kindness, do it with God in mind. Because when we do something on behalf of God, we begin to imitate Him in a profound and wonderful way. We start to become what God desires each of us to become, people that look out and help other people. People that care for each other. People that encourage each other.

The teacher in the movie Pay It Forward gave this young boy a chance to do something great. God has given us the same chance to do some great things as well. This Christmas season, let’s be deliberate about our kindness and remember that it all started with God sending us His Son.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Prepare

Pastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God …” Isaiah 40:3 (NLT)

We have entered into the season of Advent and the four weeks of preparation for the coming of the Christ child. During these days, we hear from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke—those books that express the events surrounding Jesus’ birth—of how God entered into the world. But the first baby that we encounter is not Jesus; it is John. The opening verses of Luke tell us the story of how Gabriel appeared to Zachariah in the Temple to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John the Baptizer—the man who would prepare the way for the coming of our Lord.

In a way, our season of preparation for Christmas mirrors the Gospel story. God was moving before the birth of Jesus to make preparations for his coming. But the preparations hadn’t begun there.

We often hear about the prophesies of the Old Testament telling us about the coming Messiah; the Holy Scripture found in Isaiah are often read during this time of the year. But there is also a time between the Old and the New Testament that we don’t often talk about when God was also moving to make preparations for the Messiah. They are often referred to as the Silent Years. The Word of God was not present with the people from the time of the words of the last prophet until the opening verses of the Gospels. The Silent Years span about 400 years. However, just because God was silent doesn’t mean that he wasn’t moving the pieces in place to achieve his plan to send his son, Jesus Christ into the world. Characters that are familiar to us from the life of Jesus, never mentioned in the Old Testament, are ushered onto the scene. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the leadership structures of the Temple are brought into form. The Roman Empire, a significant force in the life of Jesus, invades Israel. Even during a time when it seems that God is not present, he is moving the pieces on “the chessboard” as he prepares us for the birth of Jesus.

The four weeks of preparation throughout Advent is only a small piece of what God has designed for us. We need to know that even when God seems silent, he has been preparing us for the coming of the Christ child, long before we were ever aware of his actions. God has been working through all of history to prepare us for that moment in time—the time that Jesus would enter into the world and bring salvation for each and every one of us. So, during this season, let us prepare, let us truly prepare—prepare our hearts, prepare our minds and prepare him room—by praying, reading the Holy Scripture, participating in worship, loving God and loving one another. This is what this season is for.

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God’s Christmas List

Pilgrim-Bible-webBy Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) (NKJV)

The Advent and Christmas season is one of the most blessed times of the year. As we celebrate the arrival of Heaven’s Christmas Gift, we exchange gifts with those we love. If we are honest, most of us would admit that there is a list of things we would like to receive. We may not share that information with anyone, but the list does exist.

I believe that God too has a list of desires. If we were to ask Him what He wants for Christmas, I wonder what He would ask for?

Probably the first thing on God’s Christmas list would be the desire for room for His beloved Son. When Jesus came to earth some 2,000 years ago, there was no room for Him in the inn. It sometimes seems that little has changed over the centuries.

Multitudes still have no room for Jesus. He is not welcome in the classrooms of America. He is not welcome in the courtrooms of our land. He is banned from many city squares at Christmas time.

There is room for Santa Claus and his reindeer, room for Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost, room for all kinds of traditions and legends, but in our increasingly humanistic society there s no room for the sacred Son of God. It seems to me that God would indeed wish that there was room for His Son in Christmas. After all it is His birthday that we are celebrating.

I’m not advocating that we get rid of the fun legends and traditions that accompany the Christmas season. Keep on enjoying them. But in the midst of all the fun things that we add to the celebration, keep the Reason for the celebration front and center.

God is looking for room for His Son in the heart of every human. It is time that we welcomed Christ to our world. At this festive season, open the doors of your mind and heart and let Christ come in and transform you and fill you with His joy. Then you will truly be able to sing the words Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room, 

And Heaven and nature sing.

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Unexpected Gratitude

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The dictionary defines “thankful” as “feeling or expressing gratitude; being appreciative.” Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in all circumstances. I am not sure about you, but I don’t find it that hard to be thankful when everything in life is going good, but I really struggle when life is hard to find reasons to be thankful. I believe, though, that in these tough seasons of life, that our “unexpected gratitude” is what God is really seeking, because in our thankfulness even when life is hard, God is most glorified. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as the season of Thanksgiving is upon us. My thoughts have been directed to three very distinct realities that all of God’s children can be thankful for regardless of the circumstances we are facing in our lives.

1. Our Salvation Provided through Jesus Christ. God has taken care of our greatest need. At one point we were all separated from God because of our sin and there was nothing we could do to remedy the situation. So, God stepped in and sacrificed His Son in our place so that we could have his life! No matter what is going on in our lives, this reality is secured once and for all for all those who put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. The Indwelling of God’s Spirit. God didn’t just come to this earth, remedy our situation, and then leave us on our own. He has promised that all those who put their faith in Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit as the seal of our salvation and the power through which we can live the life of a disciple. No matter what circumstances we are facing in life, we are promised to have the very presence of God dwelling in us to comfort us and guide us.

3. The Gift of God’s Word in our Language. There have been many attempts over the years by various enemies of the cross to destroy the Bible, but God has sovereignly overseen the preservation and protection of His Word.  As a result, we are able to have the very words of God in our language that we can run to at any time. In this Holy Book, we find everything we need pertaining to life and godliness, we find everything we need to know about God and His character, and how He lovingly cares for us.  This truly is a gift that no trial on this earth can take away from us!

As we journey through the ups and downs of this holiday season, let us not forget that regardless of what we’re going through, we have so much to be thankful for!  I pray that we will find ourselves being able to express gratitude even when life is hard because after all, it is God’s will for His children.

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Fearfully and wonderfully made

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Today as I sit to write this article I am looking out my dining room window at a gloriously blue sky with yellow and red leaves swirling in the breeze. It is a wonderful fall day at the cusp of a new winter on its way. The darkness overtakes the day and we begin to see our breath as we walk outside. Many people bemoan winter. It’s a long season and many of us simply endure it or retreat to warmer climes when winter moves down upon us. Of course there are those of us who really look forward to snow time sports, though I have to admit I don’t enjoy winter driving. But the season’s change is a blessing many in the world don’t get to experience. It’s always warm or temperate where they live and so they read about our experience and can only imagine how it feels. My sister lives in Tampa and in past years I’ve sent her colorful leaves from my yard just so she could enjoy the spirit of the season.

I guess this a lesson for all of us to check out our perspective on things. What one person enjoys, another may not. It’s really another way that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God gave us each individuality like none other on earth, before us or after us. So you think you are one in a million? If you are, then there are 7,000 people just like you since the population of the world is now over 7 billion (with a “b”)! You are one in 7-plus billion! Rejoice! God thought you up and made you like you are.

Love yourself because God loves you. He is good and cannot make mistakes. And, since he made each of us, we are not mistakes. Sometimes we get down on ourselves, we chastise ourselves and don’t believe in our abilities. I say, look to your Maker and know that you are His and He is yours. You are his beloved child.

Isaiah 43:1-28 ESV: But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.”

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Living in gratitude

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs

 

November reminds us of that the great civil holiday in the United States of America—Thanksgiving. If you attend Church on that Thursday morning with a Catholic community, chances are you will hear Luke 17:11-19:

As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” 

Let’s reflect upon the importance of the gift of healing for these ten lepers.

Leprosy is a terrible illness for those who lived before and during the time of Jesus:  According to Mosaic law, those who were inflicted with this illness were declared unclean by the priest, and they were prevented from encountering others so as not to make them unclean (Lev. 13:45, 46; Deut 5:2). Jesus, in the Gospel today, not only healed the ten lepers but also instructed them to “Go show yourselves to the priests” (Lk 17: 14). Jesus made this command so that the priests could declare them clean and thus not only would physical healing be complete, but their emotional well-being would also be restored.

Sadly, only one person returned to thank Jesus and that led the Lord to say, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17: 17-18). Jesus called the Samaritan leper who returned to give him thanks “this foreigner” as a reminder for us of the mutual animosity between Jews and Samaritans. From the Jews’ point of view, the Samaritans were “the illegitimate” siblings and were unclean. Samaritans, considered to be unclean by Jews, constructed their own place of worship, a temple on Mt. Gerizim, erected in the fourth century B.C. Jesus highlights the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan leper as an example to His contemporaries and to all of us as well: the characteristic of being people of God is not whether we are born as a Jew or Samaritan, but it is in living a life of gratitude to God who heals all of our spiritual leprosy, namely sin which damages our relationship with God and with one another.

So, on Thanksgiving, don’t forget to gather in Churches or houses of prayer to show gratitude to the Lord for the many gifts, especially for healing of our spiritual leprosy by the Blood of Christ poured out on the Cross.

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