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Archive | From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit: Pastor Ryan Black

Cast your cares on the Lord

Are many of your life activities worrisome? I believe the most obvious answer is yes! God recognizes and understands this hardship, which is why He tells us to “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Even many in the medical field would agree that “An anxious heart weighs a man down” (Proverbs 12:25).

If we look at the Bible, Christ speaks to us about letting our fears and uncertainties govern our lives. This is captured through a moment in the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42:

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” 

Don’t you think we can easily sympathize with Martha? At one time or another, we are like Martha overwhelmed by all the activities of our lives. We find ourselves trying to do what everyone else expects. We are going in many directions and then we become irritable, resentful and angry.

Christ’s gentle rebuke was for anxiety and distraction. We have no need to be anxious when we can go to the throne room of heaven and simply ask Him. Worrisome issues can lead to a separation from our spiritual life. God encourages us to balance our activities by adding prayer and Scripture with serving others. Surprisingly, when we add balance to our lives foolish anxiety vanishes. We don’t have to worry because we can simply let God know our needs. God does not want us wringing our hands with worry over things in this life.

Next time you find your day driving you crazy, give yourself a break. Take a deep breath and remember Our Lord’s rebuke and meditate on it.

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

304 Pine St. Cedar Springs, MI


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Fries with that?

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


I would like to share a modern parable with you.

A man named James, wanting to do something special with Mark, his five-year-old son, asked if there was anything special the boy would like to do. He responded that he would like some McDonald’s french fries. As they drove to town, Mark told his dad he could almost taste the fries already. They parked and Mark excitedly headed for the door. When it was their turn in line, he told the person at the register, “I want a super-size order of fries.”

The anticipation in his son’s eyes was radiating as Dad took out his wallet and paid for the fries and a drink. Mark could hardly wait to sink his teeth into the fries as his dad said grace over the food, and eagerly started in on the fries at the word “amen.” James was overjoyed to see his little boy so happy over something so simple, and decided to join in the fun. He reached over to get a couple of fries for himself, and to his surprise, Mark quickly put his arms like a fort around the fries to protect them, saying, “No, these are mine.” Shocked, his dad pulled his hand back, not believing what had happened.

It was a disappointment that his son didn’t consider that he was the one who provided them. “I was the one who paid for them,” he thought. “I let him have twice as much as he would normally have gotten. Not only that, but I’m over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, I could just take all the fries if I wanted, or I could go back up and get so many fries he couldn’t possibly eat them all.”

As James thought about it, one or two fries really would not have made much of a difference for him that day. What he really wanted was for his son Mark to invite him into the wonderful little world he had made possible for his son. He  wanted his son to be willing to share the very blessing that he had provided.

In Luke’s gospel, we read that Jesus told a parable of a rich man whose land yielded a harvest so large that he could not store all the crops in his barns.  As a result, the man decided to tear down his current barns and build larger barns in their place. With the use of 11 personal pronouns (I, my, mine), he expressed one of the most selfish and self-centered passages in scripture.

Jesus concluded his parable with, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21- King James Translation).

There is nothing wrong with wealth, as long as God is thanked and glorified, and the wealth is shared. Being rich is not a sin, being selfish is. Everything we have has come from God, and is a blessing. If we consider everything as coming from our own efforts, our possessions will be a curse.

Neither poverty nor wealth renders one immune from selfishness. Some poor people share unselfishly with people in need, while others hoard a piece of bread. The problem is not wealth but selfishness, a character trait of a sinful heart.

But “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, KJV).

Like that Dad James, God desires to sit down at the table with us for some fellowship. When God reaches over to use some of the blessings that He has given to us, let’s not say, “No God, these are mine. Go get your own.” Instead, let’s gladly share what He has provided.

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What makes us vulnerable to tempation?

The-Springs-blurred-webPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 NIV). Many times we wait until we get into tempting situations and then we pray, “Lord, lead me out of temptation.” But Jesus taught us to pray in a different way—“Lead me not into temptation.”

How can we avoid being lead into temptation in the first place? Here’s what works for me: I must identify what makes me vulnerable.

Notice I didn’t say identify what tempts you. You already know what tempts you. What you may have never thought through is what makes you vulnerable to that temptation? What makes you weak? What makes you susceptible?

Jesus said in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (NIV).

Notice you can’t just pray; you have to watch. So when Jesus says you are to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” he’s saying that’s not even enough. Besides praying you also have to do some watching.

You have a pattern of vulnerability. You have certain people, places and things that make you more vulnerable to giving in to temptation, that make you more likely to be led into temptation. To “watch” means to identify what makes you vulnerable. You need to identify your pattern.

Let me give you five questions you need to ask yourself:

First ask yourself, “When am I most tempted?” You’re going to find you’re more tempted on certain days of the week than others. Maybe a certain time of the day. Maybe you’re tempted when everybody else is in bed. You need to figure out when are you most tempted.

Next ask, “Where am I most tempted?” It could be at work, at your neighbor’s house, in the kitchen. Do you get tempted at a convenience store? At a sports bar? At the beach? A lot of you get tempted in front of a computer. You need to know your area of vulnerability.

Three, “Who is with me when I’m most tempted?” Am I most tempted when I’m alone?  Or when I’m with friends who lead me in the wrong direction? Am I most tempted when I’m with my co-workers? Or when I’m with a crowd of strangers and I think nobody would know me? Am I tempted with my family? Identify who makes you vulnerable.

Four, “What temporary benefit do I get if I give in to the temptation?” Let’s just admit it—sin is fun. If it were miserable nobody would do it. The Bible even says there is pleasure in sin for a season. In other words, it doesn’t last. So what is the temporary benefit I get when I give in to temptation? Do I get comfort? Excitement? Joy? Pleasure? A false sense of confidence? You need to know what’s the benefit when I do this.

The fifth thing you need to ask is, “How do I feel right before I’m tempted?” You need to know what your emotional triggers are. Is it frustration? Stress? Is it when you’re bored? Lonely? When you can’t sleep at night? You need to know what feelings make you vulnerable.

Figure out what your pattern of vulnerability is. Ask yourself who, what, when and where you get tempted. Then watch out for those situations. Avoid those situations. Don’t allow yourself to be led into those situations and you will find freedom from the traps that so easily ensnare.

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What do you say…

Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford

…when you don’t know what to say? Brainyquote.com gives credit to Abraham Lincoln for the familiar axiom, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Lincoln has a reputation as a Bible reader so he might have been putting his own spin on Proverbs 17:28a that says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise” (King James Version, no NIVs or NRSVs in Lincoln’s day).

I wonder if the editor of the Post would have indulged me if I had asked to just print my name with a few inches of white space below so that even though a fool, I might be counted wise, or at least avoid removing all doubt.

It’s just one of those seasons that come along from time to time in the lives of those of us whose vocations include public speaking and frequent writing. We might have plenty on our minds, but when it’s a mix of the unresolved and personal, knowing what needs to be said, what has the potential to be useful and productive, isn’t always obvious.

Come to think of it, anyone of us can expect to find ourselves in such uncertain moments. Are you familiar with the guideline that if it’s not true, not kind, or not necessary, it ought not be said? Right now little is coming to mind that fully passes muster.

A couple of contributors to the Bible had interesting perspectives on not knowing what to say, remaining silent, holding one’s peace. The prophet Amos ran off a laundry list of wrongs being committed by certain people of ancient Israel. He named those who “abhor the one who speaks the truth,” “trample on the poor,” “afflict the righteous, take a bribe, and push aside the needy.” Then he drew an ironic conclusion after having just spoken up so loudly and clearly. The “prudent,” he said, “will keep silent in such a time.” Who says there’s no wit along with the wisdom contained in the pages of the Bible? (Amos 5:10-13, New Revised Standard Version.)

To those who find themselves at a loss in one particular form of dialogue, the Apostle Paul writes, “We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.” (Romans 8:26, Common English Bible.)

I hope you weren’t counting on this leading up to a pithy and profound conclusion. I don’t have one, unless it counts simply to pass on that the Bible seems to indicate that it’s ok not to know what to say and sometimes, saying nothing is the only way to get where we want to be. “Stand silent. Know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a, The Living Bible.)

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Working together

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 



Philippians 2:2 New International Version: then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

I had a rare opportunity this Sunday to visit a church other than the ones that I serve and to be ministered to. I love it when these opportunities come around. Most people don’t think about we pastors needing to be ministered to occasionally. The pastor had a wonderful message about the acceptance of Christ. How he welcomes everyone. This got me thinking about my faith journey. When I just got out of High school I joined a Christian band. There were two members who attended the Catholic church, one who attended a Baptist church, one who attended a Lutheran church, and one who attended a non-denominational church. We ministered to young people as a family of believers. I wondered why we couldn’t do that as “mature” Christians. When I first began pasturing, I actually had some pastors refuse to take my call because I was a “competitor.” I never understood this. Yes, I am a United Methodist pastor but I still worship the same God as the church next door.

There was a time when I was searching for a church that would be my home when I ran across a church who had cards that read: “If you do not feel at home here, let us help you find a church where you do.” This is one of the things that made me feel comfortable at this church. That was 25 years ago and now I pastor that very church!

The above scripture is a key part of Christian life. We need to work together. One church can do a lot of ministry, but several churches working together can do amazing things through God. As time has gone on we have begun to understand this idea more and more. In the community where the churches are that I serve, we regularly work together with all the other churches. And God has done amazing things through us. I love to see the different pastors supporting various ministries in our communities together because that is what God wants. We are a family. And together we are one.

If you want to be a part of this family, visit a church near you. Everyone is welcome in God’s house!

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Thou shalt not murder

Rockford-Springs-Church-webPastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341


“Thou Shalt Not Murder.” Among other commands, these four words were spoken to the Israelites as they began their journey to the Promised Land after being set free from slavery in Egypt. They were spoken by the one who miraculous freed them—God. Why? Why did He have to say to His people, “Do not go around taking each other’s lives?”

This question is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Perhaps one could give multiple answers, but let’s focus on one answer quickly and then a second reason with a little more effort.

The first reason is because God knows the danger of our hands and our hearts. We murder. We murder with our thoughts, our words, and sometimes, even with our own hands. So God distinctly and clearly says to the people he has just freed not to engage in the way of death, either with their minds, or their actions. This makes perfect sense. A people will never survive if all it does is kill each other or themselves. In 2015, in Grand Rapids alone, there was 1,381 violent crimes, with suicide being the third leading cause for teenage death. This is a very present agony in our own community with 3 suicides is just one year.

But I believe there is another reason for the law. Within all of God’s laws we learn something about God. Each law gives us insight into the value system of God. Within this particular law we learn the profound truth that God loves life. He did not just create it, but He also sustains it, protects it, and cherishes it. For God, life is good. The taking of life is bad.

If someone is involved with the church of Jesus Christ, a phrase that often is spoken about or sung about is “The Glory of God.” The glory of God can simply be defined as: “The infinite beauty and greatness of all His manifold perfections (his many character traits).” For example, we see the glory of His faithfulness when He commands us to be true to our relationships: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” We see the glory of His order when we hear the command to “honor father and mother.” But when God rises up and commands “Thou Shalt Not Murder,” the glory of His love for life shines like the morning sun breaking through the darkness of the night. His light shines on life and sparkles out the beauty of its glory. So, being image bearers of God we too should love life.

So God loves life. We see this truth in this command. And we also see this truth in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 10:10 that “He has come to give us life, and to have it to the full.” So when hatred is strong, despair is heavy, chaos is overwhelming, hopelessness is controlling, and the temptation of death is luring, we need to step back and see that God loves life. The taking of life is not the answer, either by word or action. Hurting others, or myself, is never the solution. Life is good; God is good; His way is best. In our battle for an abundant life we must trust God and hold to the glory of life.

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Rough Spots

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webRev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319


Michigan has a lot of things going for it, the great lakes, the in-land lakes, the rivers that run all through it, the sand dunes, beautiful lighthouses and a ton of golf courses. Some of these places are absolutely beautiful, but I can’t golf if my life depended on it.

One of my best friends a while ago was a semi-pro golfer and instructor. Quite often, he would invite me out, just to hang out and deepen our friendship. Each and every time he asked, I would decline. Not because I didn’t want our friendship deepened, but simply because he was a semi-pro golfer and I was simply terrible. In fact, I really don’t like the game. I’ll drive the cart in a heartbeat, but don’t make me play. But just like a good friend, he would not take “No” for an answer. He kept inviting me and told me that he would show me a few tips and help me with my game to make me a better golfer. Well, I gave in, but every time, without fail, I was terrible and could not get that little ball to straighten out. You would think as a pastor, God would have given me the gift of playing golf, but He didn’t, so I’ve given up on golf.

But I did hear something interesting. When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the covers smooth. Then it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up, one could get more distance out of it. So they started manufacturing them with dimpled covers. That’s why the golf ball looks the way it looks today.

That got me thinking. Isn’t that how life is? It takes some rough spots in our lives in order to make us a better person. It takes some bumps and bruises to help us understand and gain wisdom. It takes going through difficulties to truly appreciate the good times. And it takes our trust being broken to really understand how special it is to trust someone again.

So friend, the next time life gets a little hard or difficult, don’t get upset, discouraged, or even mad. Just see what you can take away. Don’t get depressed, or try to get even with a person for the bumps and bruises they have caused you. But see what you can learn to make you go farther in this life. Here is a fact of life that we all know. Difficult times come and go, so let the difficulties in life make you better, not bitter; stronger, not sourer. See how bumps in your life can take you farther.

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The missing puzzle piece

CS-United-MethodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319


In my reading of the Bible, one of the saddest verses is found at the very beginning. Genesis 3:9, God calls out Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” God has been walking in the garden in the cool of the afternoon. This portion of Holy Scripture is short but teaches so much about the relationships that we have been created for. As I read the text, I envision that there was a time when God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in community with one another; but humanity had rejected this relationship and we have been hiding from God ever since. Due to the power of sin, it seems we have become unable to live in direct relationship with God, as we had prior to the fall. It is the hope of God’s love that continues to pursue us, and this hope is made available to all of us through the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.

Not long ago, I was listening to an evangelist at a tent revival that my congregation hosted as a part of our church’s sesquicentennial celebration. She used a statement that I have tried to communicate both from the pulpit, as well as in more intimate conversations; we have been created with a God-sized hole in our hearts. There is nothing that can fill that place in our lives except God. My children played with a plastic blocks puzzle when they were young; each had its own unique shape and could only properly fit in the space that it had been designed for. They couldn’t force the wrong block into the wrong hole without either the block or that space being damaged. As people, we try to put all sorts of things into that space in our hearts that’s designed for God (drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, love of power and riches). We get the same result as the block puzzle—we damage ourselves and our relationships with others. This God-sized hole is of our own construction. God did not decide to be separate from us; God has sought us throughout history and has pursued us so that we might be in right relationship with him again.

Here is the good news for our life puzzles: God has provided a fix for our hearts. The cross of Jesus Christ fits within that hole. We simply have to accept the gift of grace and allow Jesus in. So as you continue on the journey that is your life, remember that God is pursuing each of us—seeking a relationship with us—seeking to restore our hearts and to make us whole.

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Building Faith

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs



“Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the people praise You. Then shall the earth yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.” (Psalm 67:5-6) (NKJV)

Perhaps you are like a lot of people who struggle to develop a life of deep-rooted faith. Having faith in God can be difficult when we tend to look at everything in our life from an earthly perspective. We are surrounded by chaotic events, a crumbling culture, and people who often (whether they mean to or not) tend to let us down.

However, I would remind you that God is steadfast, He is above our problems, and unlike people, He is perfect in every way. Scripture teaches that He is worthy of praise, and there is a natural progression from praise to a deepening faith.

Psalm 22:3 tells us, “But You [God] are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” (NKJV). The word “enthroned” can also be translated “inhabits.”  If you invest in praising God, you will find God to be present help in your life. Wherever the praises of God abound, God’s Presence abounds — and joy and victory.

Praise is a lifestyle, demonstrating your continual trust in Your Heavenly Father. Because you trust God, you believe that what He promised you, He is also able to perform, and you praise Him for it.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful.” (NKJV). 

The more we focus on God, the more we praise Him for who He is, the more our faith and confidence in Him grows. The bigger God becomes in our sight, the smaller our problems seem. Praise recognizes and gives God the credit and glory even before the answer is manifested in the natural realm. Praising God for the answer to our problems and prayers before we see it is faith in action.

So spend some time choosing to praise God regardless of the situation you are facing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it will do to build your faith. When we pour in to God, He pours into us! Let’s praise Him on purpose.

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St. Mary Magdalene: The Evangelizer

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs, Michigan


On June 10, 2016, a decree by the Congregation of Divine Worship formalized Pope Francis’ decision to raise the July 22 Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast on the church’s liturgical calendar.  In doing so, the Pope wants to highlight St. Mary Magdalene’s role as one of the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and as a “true and authentic evangelizer.”

The significance of this decision is obvious when we visit the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar (hereafter UNLYC) in the Roman Missal, which classifies the roman liturgical celebrations:

“Celebrations, according to the importance assigned to them, are hence distinguished one from another and termed: Solemnity, Feast, and Memorial” (UNLYC no. 10). The instruction continues: “Solemnities are counted among the most important days, whose celebration begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on the preceding day. Some Solemnities are also endowed with their own Vigil Mass, which is to be used on the evening of the preceding day, if an evening Mass is celebrated…Feasts are celebrated within the limits of the natural day; accordingly they have no First Vespers (Evening Prayer I), except in the case of the Feasts of the Lord that fall on a Sunday in Ordinary Time or in Christmas Time and which replace the Sunday Office…Memorials are either obligatory or optional; their observance is integrated into the celebration of the occurring weekday” (UNLYC no. 11, 13, 14).

It should be noted that the designation of Feast is often given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar. Thus, with the above decision, the Pope indeed highlights the special mission of St. Mary Magdalene, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church, in witness to the resurrection of the Lord. The witness to the resurrection of the Lord belongs to the entire Church: women and men are included.

As St. Mary Magdalene was among the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord and addressed the resurrected Lord in Hebrew, “Rabbouni, which means Teacher” (Jn 20:16), may all of our mothers teach their children the first word in their lives: “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1: 21).  Amen.


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