web analytics

Archive | From the Pulpit

Spiritual Sticking Points

The-Springs-blurred-webPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

Have you ever had a spiritual sticking point? A spiritual sticking point is something that blocks your spiritual journey. There’s an issue, an objection, a question, a concern that blocks your progress toward a spiritual breakthrough.

Have you ever been there? You hunger for a deep, authentic, personal relationship with Christ, but something stunts your spiritual progress. You’re attracted to a relationship with the God of the universe, but there’s something you just can’t seem to get past. If that’s you, you’re not alone!

Here are four of the most common spiritual sticking points:

Spiritual Sticking Point #1: I Can’t Believe

The first sticking point is when we say, “I can’t believe.”

This struggle is often expressed by people with intellectual issues blocking their spiritual path. A scientist might say, “I can’t believe the Bible because it conflicts with science.” Or the mother of a sick child might say, “I can’t believe in a God who permits my precious girl to suffer when so many evil people thrive.” Or maybe it’s a lawyer who says, “I’m used to dealing with evidence, facts, data, and logic; I can’t believe in something we’re asked to accept on faith.” A businessperson might explain, “I prayed my business would succeed, but it’s going down the tubes. I can’t believe in a God who ignores my prayers.”

This is the sticking point that Jesus’ disciple Thomas had. We hear it in John 20:25b where he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (NIV).

How can we get past this spiritual sticking point? Actively seek God. Search the Scriptures. Investigate the evidence. When we do these things, God promises to meet us. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (NIV).

Spiritual Sticking Point #2: I Don’t Want to Believe

Now, few people will come right out and admit this, yet this is a spiritual sticking point that stops a lot of people.

Have you ever talked with someone who just wasn’t interested in hearing the evidence for God? They don’t think there could be any real evidence—subject closed.

At first this may seem to be an intellectual sticking point, and in some cases it may be. But sometimes, as you get to know the person, you’ll discover that there is another issue behind their rejection of the evidence.

Moral issues often get in the way of a person’s spiritual journey. They may be involved in an adulterous relationship, unethical business practice, or some other sin. Sometimes people reject the evidence as a way to hide their real concern that becoming a Christian would mean a radical life change that they’re just not open to. In other words, sometimes we love our sin more than we love the truth.

Other people have a similar kind of hidden obstacle: the fear of intimacy. They aren’t afraid of Christ changing their life; their unspoken fear is of intimacy. They feel attracted toward God, but they recoil from the prospect of relating to anybody on a deep level. And since the core of Christianity is a deep and dynamic relationship with Christ, these people find all kinds of excuses to say it’s just not for them.

One other variation of this spiritual sticking point is a hidden authority obstacle.  A person who struggles with this doesn’t want anyone, including the God who created them, to tell them how to live their life. So they find reasons not to believe.

Spiritual Sticking Point #3: I Don’t Know What to Believe

We’ve seen that some people say, “I can’t believe.” For others, the real issue is, “I don’t want to believe.” And now third, some say, “I don’t know what to believe.”

Today, people get confused because they hear all kinds of interpretations of the Bible. They see different denominations. They hear some people who take the Bible literally and some who say it’s just a general moral guideline. They hear people using the Bible to support contradictory positions. They try reading the Bible and get bogged down in Leviticus.

So they throw up their hands and say, “I don’t know what to believe. It seems like the meaning of the Bible changes according to who interprets it. So who is right?”

If that’s your sticking point, it’s important to know that the key to accurately understanding the Bible is the same as the key to understanding any communication—you must study to determine what the writer actually meant. Not what we want it to say; not to interpret it for our benefit; not to read our biases into it, but to figure out what the writer intended to communicate.

This is important because sometimes we let what we want the Bible to say to get in the way of what it’s really saying.  Our motives can radically color the way we interpret things. And people do that with the Bible to get around teachings they don’t agree with or don’t want to apply to their lives.

Spiritual Sticking Point #4: I Do Believe; Isn’t That Enough?

These people say, “I understand the gospel, and I believe it’s true. But I still feel like I’m at a sticking point. I feel like something is holding me back from experiencing the kind of relationship with God that other people talk about. Why does God seem to be distant from me? Why can’t I really connect with God?”

That’s because merely agreeing with the gospel isn’t enough. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (NIV).

It’s not enough just to nod our heads in intellectual agreement. As John 1:12 tells us, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

There’s a simple spiritual equation that flows out of John 1:12: Believe + Receive = Become. We can’t become true children of God without both elements; we must believe in Him intellectually, and we must receive His forgiveness and leadership personally.

Where are you on the journey of finding God? What obstacles stand in your way? Now can be the time you get past your sticking points once and for all, if you’ll believe the truth, receive Christ, and become a child of God.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Will you remember?

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St, Cedar Springs

 

There are many facts in life that we are called upon to remember—names, birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, deadlines, tax day, and even historical events of national significance: September 11, 2001, January 28, 1986, April 3, 1968, November 22, 1963, or December 7, 1941. These dates bring to memory the reality of loss, suffering, and death. And the same is true for us today as we remember, April 3, 33.

In less than three days, Christians are called upon to remember not a date, not even an event of national importance, but an eternal person of significance. We remember not a change in our world, but the One who created the world, turned it upside down, and one day He will bring a new world. On Easter Sunday, will you do as 2 Timothy 2:8 says: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.” 

The word “remember” is an important word if we are going to comprehend this command. A few years ago, a friend of mine returned to Michigan to reunite with his family for a special occasion. On that evening, after dinner, the family began to share some of their childhood memories when one of his sisters suggested they watch some of the old 8mm movies. At first, the idea sounded horrible, the reason for the reunion was painful enough, but to watch movies of their own growing pains was considered unbearable.

Nevertheless, they turned on the projector and my friend saw his father as a twenty-seven year old walking with his two sons. He was running alongside his son as he showed him how to ride a bike. He was a thirty-two year old teaching his kids how to water ski. But most of the time, he was not on the screen at all. He was capturing his family on film.

It was a bittersweet experience for my friend as he contrasted that young man on film with the frail man his father is now. That evening helped my friend remember his father not as the man who forgot his name or that he was his son, but as the man who for most of his years was full of life. Somehow, it helped to bring some joy in the midst of their deep sorrow.

Remembering the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is important for a number of reasons. It brings joy out of sorrow. It brings hope for tomorrow. And there is another good reason we remember: God is faithful. He keeps His promises. Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead is proof. Remember what the angel said to the women at the tomb? “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6 KJV). Notice the last three words, “as he said.” Will you remember?

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

On being different

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

Acts 10:34-35 Common English Bible: “34 Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another. 35 Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him”.

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will live out the rest of its life believing that it is stupid.” This is a profound statement and it is very relevant today. Far too many people compare themselves to others and judge their worth by that comparison. You have probably heard it before. “I could never sing as well as she does or I wish I could play piano like he does. He is such a great speaker; I could never speak like that.” And so on. The truth is that if you could sing, play, or speak as well as those others, you would not be able to offer your talents; you would just be a copy of those others. God made us all different, and that is a great thing!

The bible tells us that we are all different parts of One Body and that the different parts work together to glorify God. This tells us how important it is to be aware that God made you the way you are for a reason. We all have different experiences and abilities. When we come together, we can do so much more than if we worked alone. For example: I play bass guitar but do not sing. That alone would get boring fast, but if we add a guitar player, a drummer, and some who are good at singing, soon we are making worshipful music together. By being a team of people with different abilities, we can build a community. We do the same with the community of believers. By using our different experiences and our different abilities, we can share God with lots of different people.

You may think that you do not have talents or abilities but if you allow others to help you discover them, you will be surprised. The best part is that God made you that way for a purpose. More than once, I have asked members of our churches to take on a task and they hesitated, saying that they were not qualified or able to do what would be required of them. However, as they grew into the job, it became clear that they had a real talent in that area and they excelled in it.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Be the person that God made you to be and be that person for God.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

The Separation of Church and State

Rockford-Springs-Church-webRev. David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church

5815 14-Mile Rd. • 696-3656

 

At Rockford Springs Community Church we have an adult Sunday school class that meets after our morning worship.  What I have grown to really appreciate as their pastor and leader of the class is everyone’s willingness to struggle with real life questions.  We try to take on topics that are relevant to our lives even though sometimes they are difficult issues.  Our goal is not to just share our own opinions but to determine what God’s Word, found in the Old and New Testament, says about a given topic.

Please join us as we seek to share with the Cedar Springs community our humble study on the topic: “The Separation of the Church and the State.”

We have concluded that the scriptures teach the following…

God is the author of three institutions: the government, the church, and the family; and uses them, among many other things, to maintain safety for individuals and communities so they can thrive, to promote good order, and provide justice.  God delights to bring us good laws so that we will be blessed.

We found that these three institutions bring blessing to each other, and to the society they were intended for, when there is collaboration and not alienation.

God, in His good providence, communicates His way for His creation to function through His Word.  His Word, when obeyed, brings order, joy, and liberty to a society.  But when ignored a society heads towards chaos.  We have seen in history where societies moved away from the teaching of God’s Word and stepped into this kind of chaos.  To restore order societies have turned to human authorities to decide what was right and wrong but in so doing ended up only limiting or even forfeiting freedom.  We thought of Hitler, or even the current leadership in North Korea as examples.  Think of other dictatorships, socialist control, or communistic dominance. So, the primary function of the church, in its relationship to government and society, is to communicate God’s Word so that God’s created world knows good law and is blessed, and liberty is promoted.  Other governments that have sought to remove the voice of God have less liberty, not more.

Another truth we discovered is that the voice of the church must not be separated from government since all creation is damaged by sin and hence needs the authoritative voice of God to bring about morality.  Who will decide morality if not God?  The only other answer is Humanity.  But Humanity is not able to since it is morally broken in the core of its nature.  We need God’s true standard like a carpenter needs a true ruler.

The United States of America has a history where the voice and work of the Christian church has brought blessing.  But we saw in our study that at times this was not true.  Where this was not the case we admit that the problem was not God and His Word, but rather the failure and sin of Christians to faithfully communicate and live out God’s Word.  For this we are sorry.

And finally we believe that everyone must be subject to the government, pay taxes, hold its representatives in honor and respect, obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word, and pray for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their governing.  Hence instead of separation there must be support for the government from the church.

Therefore, we believe that the government would be blessed to hear and obey God’s Word to bring the greatest blessing and liberty to her people.  And we believe that the voice of God through His church should influence the conscience of our government.

We hope that our attempt at dealing with this question is of some help to our community as we wrestle with such an important issue.

May the Lord bless our Cedar Springs government, and the United States of America.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Caution: dodging potholes

Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE | Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

With all the freezing and thawing we have had lately, I have noticed a whole lot more potholes on the road. Some of which take my car right out of commission if I am not watching. It may be time to put some of those orange signs out that simply say CAUTION.

You know another area in our lives that I have found that all of us should approach with caution is in our words and within our conversations. Do you remember the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Of course you do. We all remember that rhyme and have more than likely said it a time or two.

We use to say that in order to let bullies know they were not going to get under our skin. But in reality, that childhood rhyme is not so true. Name-calling really hurts down inside. All of us have been hurt by someone calling us names and more likly than not, we have hurt someone else with our words. We can say that little phrase all day long and to whomever we want to, but being called names really does hurt us deeply.

Someone said that we should handle words carefully because they have more power than atom bombs. It’s true! When we are getting ready to say something we shouldn’t say, we need one of those big orange caution signs to pop up in our minds to help stop us or at least to help us choose our words wisely.

God’s Holy Bible is the greatest book for showing us how to live a balanced life. It says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Can I say that again? “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If there were ever a bright orange sign saying CAUTION, I think that would be it. When we speak quickly, we speak dangerously, possibly hurting other people along the way. Words can be painful when spoken in anger or jealousy or fear. And the words we choose not only affects the moment, but they can have lasting affects for a lifetime. We need to choose them carefully. I have found that words are so powerful. They have the power to hurt, but they also have the power to heal. What’s the deciding factor? The choice you make. The caution you take by choosing your words.

So friends, just as we have to slow down to avoid some of those potholes that are out there on the road, let’s all slow down before we respond to someone. Let’s be cautious. Let’s be careful of what we say. Let’s really listen and then choose our words wisely and lovingly. Let’s begin to heal our community and start with our words.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on Caution: dodging potholes

St. Patrick

Keith Caldwell CLM

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St. | Cedar Springs

 

In early summer a Renaissance Faire comes to Morley Park for the weekend and people love to dress up like Robin Hood, King Arthur, wizards, gypsies and fairies. Many stories and legends are told and at times they are stretched a little to make them bigger than life. But are they really bigger than life? If we looked at the true story would it be greater than we could possibly imagine? The story of one man has been stretched to great grandeur, however his true story is a fantastic one of great faith, courage and loyalty. He was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, around the year 387. His early life was good, he was the son of Calphurnius, a prominent Roman military officer sent to rule Gaul (Briton), his mother was Conchessa, a woman of faith, and her father was part of the clergy.

His life changed abruptly when he was 16. It was then he was kidnapped by a raiding party and became a slave. As a slave he served as a shepherd for a pagan chief until he escaped six years later. During a time when many would lose faith his faith grew. He relates in his “Confessio” that during his captivity, while tending the flocks he prayed many times in the day. “The love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain.” For six years he served as a slave, when he escaped and returned home he later saw a vision and was compelled to take Christ to those that had enslaved him. Can we imagine what the world would be like if we took Christ to everyone, even our enemies? Do we dare think what the world might be like if we prayed a hundred times each day and each night for Christ to bring peace and love to the world? Then he asked, “Let it begin with me.”

This man, St. Patrick received the summons to his reward on 17 March, 493 (Some sources say 460 or 461) As we celebrate his day can we do it by making it a day of Prayer, Love and Faith as he would have? As he wrote of his faith:

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ in the fort,

Christ in the chariot seat,

Christ in the poop [deck],

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today

The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity, 

I believe the Trinity in the Unity

The Creator of the Universe.  (From St Patrick’s Confessio)

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on St. Patrick

THE GREATNESS OF GRACE

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Michael Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21)(NKJV)

Of all the words contained in the dictionary, perhaps non is so beautiful as “grace.” Although it can heave several meanings, in a spiritual context it simply means “the free and unmerited favor of God.”

Grace is gift that Christians are privileged to enjoy and that is freely offered to everyone from the hand of a loving God. There is not a single individual who deserves this grace and yet there has not been nor will there ever be a single person to whom this grace is not offered.

You see, we are all born with a corrupt nature that naturally leads us to the paths of sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NKJV). Sin has tragic consequences. It causes hurt and pain for those who have been sinned against, and it has fateful and fatal spiritual results of the one who has committed the sin.

James 1:15 tells us “…Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (NJKV). If we refuse to repent of our sin and continue to follow the path of wickedness, we will find at the end of life’s road memories of regret and eternity in Hell separated from Christ. This is what we had to look forward to, a lifetime of rebellion followed be an eternity of ruin.

Enter grace. Perhaps the Apostle Paul summed it up best when he wrote in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NJKV).

Please understand that sin conquered the human race, but because of Christ’s selfless sacrifice on the Cross the dynamics of the situation are forever changed. The chains of sin have been broken by the power of grace, and you do not have to live a life of shame and regrets. Jesus died on the Cross and then rose from the dead to give us not just life, but abundant life, and all who desire a stainless conscience, a pure heart, and a clean slate can obtain them through His matchless and gracious gift!

Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, regardless of foolish choices and marred memories of regret, life can be different from this point onward, if you will simply accept the gift of God’s grace, repent of your sins, and ask Christ to forgive you. That’s what the good news of the Gospel is all about.

As one songwriter put it:

Grace will always be greater than sin,

Calvary’s proven it time and again.

Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been,

God’s grace will always be greater than sin.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on THE GREATNESS OF GRACE

Dependence on God in Prayer

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

Psalm 86:5-7: “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.”

What a blessing to know that we have a God who actually listens to our prayers.  That no matter where we are or what’s going on in our life, we can cry out to God in prayer and He will hear and answer us. But most Christians I know struggle with prayer, especially when it comes to truly depending on God in prayer. The typical sermon on prayer just tells us how to do it better and to do it more often like Jesus did, but that never seems to have much lasting impact in our lives, so we continue believing the lie that we will always struggle with prayer. That’s just the way it’s going to be.

What if being dependent on God in prayer had less to do with what we are praying about, how often we are praying, or even what we are saying in prayer, and more to do with the mindset behind why we approach Him? If we want to be people who are dependent on God in prayer, it begins with an honest evaluation of our condition apart from God (Ps. 86:1,13). We are poor and needy. We are lost, desperate, and in need of deliverance. We can’t remedy anything on our own; that is our condition apart from Him. Combine that with an accurate understanding of who God is and what He is capable of (Ps. 86:5-10) and that will lead us to complete trust in His ability to answer our prayers (Ps. 86:4,7, 11-17).

When we stop coming to God because we are supposed to, and we start coming to Him because we understand that He alone has the power and ability do something about the burdens and struggles on our hearts, everything changes! It is no longer a chore to pray, it becomes the first place we turn because we understand who we are, who God is, and that dependence on God in prayer is absolutely critical to the vibrancy of our spiritual life. Dependency on God then becomes a way of life, and not simply something that we are supposed to do. And when that happens, everything changes!

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on Dependence on God in Prayer

Lent

C-East-Nelson-United

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

At East Nelson UMC, the last 24 hours of Jesus Christ is our series of messages for Lent. Lent is the 40 days prior to Jesus’ crucifixion (not counting the Sundays) and it’s a time of reflection. We are reflecting on how so much happened in that last 24 hours. From that last Thursday evening to Friday evening, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples; shared his last supper; prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane; was betrayed; arrested; deserted; tried; convicted; sentenced to death; tortured; crucified; died; and buried. The season of Lent allows us the space to reflect, to meditate, to ponder, to ruminate over each of these profound events.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasured and pondered all of the events that led up to the momentous evening when the shepherds barged into the stable to “see this thing that has happened.” I love that Luke (2:19) shares her introspection. I believe it’s a beautiful example of how to hold a story close to our heart.  We have much to ponder also. The story of Jesus’ life on earth begins when Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” There’s the birth in the lowly stable, parable stories Jesus told, people of all walks of life who were healed. We can meditate on the words of the Sermon on the Mount, or the meals for hundreds made from a few fish and loaves of bread. And now, in Lent ,we can reflect on all that occurred to bring Jesus to the cross for us.

May we each find the space in our daily living over the next few weeks to ponder these things in our hearts.

Psalm118: 5-6, 13-14, 17 (NIV): 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?

13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 

17 I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on Lent

Practice makes perfect

Courtland-OakfieldUMCRev. Bill Johnson

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford

Three activities occupied me during the summer I turned 16: I took U.S. History in summer school to get it off the credits check-list; I took driver’s training for obvious reasons; and I fielded ground balls at every available opportunity.

I bought a smooth rubber ball, baseball-sized, just the right weight, and soft enough to bounce well on the grass in our backyard. I threw it at a target drawn in chalk on the back of our garage. Sometimes I tossed it gently and worked on charging slow rollers. Other times I threw hard to stretch my range. Sometimes I worked on technique; other times I worked on accuracy.

I worked on the short hop, the long hop, the pivot and quick release, the line drive, and if I could hit the garage siding just right, I could get pop ups. I loved fielding ground balls, and those hours behind our garage paid off the next spring when competing for the second base job. Even though I struggled to hit my weight at the plate, when I got to college it was fielding ability that kept me on the team.

Those hours behind the garage taught me something I’ve never forgotten: After thousands of repetitions, some things become second nature, automatic. Gracefulness and confidence come, maybe without even thinking.

Spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service and meditation are like this. When his friends asked him about prayer, Jesus said the most important thing is to keep at it. When the time comes for us to seek or to thank God for direction, or comfort, or courage, or wisdom, thousands of repetitions pay off. The power in prayer comes from practice.

For Christians, the Season of Lent looms ahead. For other faiths, there are other seasons no less vital to growing spiritually. So, if your leanings have a Christian orientation, how’s your spiritual life as Lent arrives March 1? Do you have a “behind-the-garage” place for yourself for practicing spiritual discipline? We don’t have to be athletic to know it is never as easy as it looks. But whether faced with a screaming line drive or a spiritual crisis, gracefulness and confidence can prevail. Practice makes perfect.

If you haven’t already, why not consider thinking ahead to Lent as a chance to spend some time behind the garage, wherever or whatever that may mean to you?  Life is complicated, busy, stressful and at times out of balance, but when life hits one at you, would you want to be the one who responds with grace, or the one who wishes they’d practiced more?

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off on Practice makes perfect