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Archive | From the Pulpit

Give thanks

Pastor Darryl Miller       

Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches 

616-636-5659

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (Common English Bible).

Having just gone through the Thanksgiving holiday, and now diving headlong into the Christmas season, I was wondering the other day how many of us get so wound up in these busy times that the true meanings of the celebrations have been set aside.

When I was a child we had big family gatherings around the holidays and there was always the dreaded “lets all share what we are thankful for” announcement from one of the aunts. This usually meant that at least a half hour would be used up as there was usually a huge gathering of relatives. And it also usually meant that someone miscalculated the cooking time on something and that they were trying to delay so that everything could finish cooking without us noticing how late dinner was being served. But even after we shared together as a group, I had one aunt that called all the kids to her after dinner and asked them individually what they were thankful for. I remember the first time she asked, I apparently said the wrong things because she told me she was disappointed in me. So I was coached by my cousins. There were three things we had to say that we were thankful for: family, our Savior, and for a bonus point, her. So I grew up thinking that when I thought of what I was thankful for I had to say what whoever was asking wanted to hear. This made my childhood much simpler but it took a long time to understand the problem with this.

Today I am happy to say that I still worry about what someone else thinks about what I am thankful for. But now it’s God. However, here’s the twist—my aunt heard what she wanted and accepted it; but God can see into our hearts so there is no just saying what we think he wants to hear. We must be truly thankful if we tell God that we are. And lets face it—sometimes it can be hard. In mid October, I spent eight days in the hospital, mostly because of a medication I must take after a kidney transplant that hid the symptoms of a serious infection in my gall bladder. They couldn’t find what was wrong. Was I thankful? Well, sort of. When I think of Paul being thankful for being in prison because he was able to create a new ministry, my reasons seem to fall short, but God thinks differently from the world. The truth is that I was bored out of my mind. But I began to meditate and pray throughout the day and I found myself growing closer to God. I was able to see how I had allowed myself to be drawn into a crazy busy schedule and how that had pushed God aside, despite believing that I was doing God’s work. And I was thankful that I was drawn closer to God and the pain was relieved. So it was actually a good thing. Would I have preferred that God used a different way? Absolutely. But then again I probably wouldn’t have listened.

So what is it that you are thankful for? Even the hard times are a time of learning and drawing closer to God. That is why we need to be thankful for them as well as the good. Have a wonderful Christmas and if you have any questions, visit a church near you, we would love to see you!

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Prepare and wait for Jesus to show up and show off

Prepare and wait are two words that stand out at this time of year.  The Christian Calendar marks this season as Advent. Advent literally means “coming” or “appearance.” During the four weeks before Christmas we celebrate both the coming birth of Jesus and his eventual second coming or “appearance” to set the world right.  We prepare and wait for both.

Our world seems particularly chaotic these days. Some days we can become so overwhelmed by the acrimony and division surrounding us we’re tempted to shout, “Come, Lord Jesus—NOW!”  Those, in fact, are some of the last words in the New Testament. Strife and conflict are nothing new.  Christians have been praying for Jesus to return to calm the tumultuous seas of our lives for 2000 years.

In these days and weeks before Christmas, we can get ready for Jesus to arrive. We can prepare to be less contentious with those whom we disagree. We can prepare to reach out to a lonely neighbor. We can prepare to offer words of healing to a broken relationship. We can prepare to forgive someone who has hurt us. And, as we prepare, we wait. We wait for Jesus to “show up and show off!” To be sure, Jesus will eventually come back and all will be right with the world some time in the future, but Jesus also “shows up and shows off” today—when we do the prep work.

The good news is that Jesus shows up everyday when we’re prepared to receive him. Jesus is the one who empowers us to reach out, offer words of healing, and forgive. Jesus is the one who gives us hope that peace, compassion, and forgiveness can be experienced right now. Jesus is the one who calms our hearts and souls while we wait for everything to be made new again.

May this season of Advent be filled with the promise that Jesus will show up as we prepare and wait to receive him!

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Thank You

Pastor David Vander Meer  Rockford Springs Community Church  5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

I recently realized how powerful the phrase “thank you” is. Wow, just saying these two words can bring great changes.  Yes, I know, it must be honest and authentic.  It must be real and true and from the heart.  If it isn’t, indeed it loses its power.  But when this little phrase is used to communicate an honest appreciation, it has a tremendous power.

For example, thank you is a phrase that speaks grace to others. And others need a word of grace when they have done something nice, or needed, or noble. It is only right to seek to return good with good. When someone opens a door for us, there should be a responsive “thank you.” When someone cooks our food, mops our floor, washes our car, takes out our trash, brews our coffee, pays our salary, teaches our class, pushes our wheel chair, (shall I go on and on?) we need to communicate a word of grace. In a harsh world, a word of grace to each other is so needed. Just take your wife or husband’s hand tonight and tell them how much you appreciate them and watch the power this has on their life. Tell your son or daughter how thankful you are for their life and behold the power this simple word of grace will bring. Watch for ways to say thank you and you will see change occur all around you.

Also, thank you is a phrase that has the power to guard my heart. It sets up a wall around my heart from becoming bitter, arrogant, and self-focused. I do not want to become one of those cranky, touchy, unthankful people. Saying thank you is a heart discipline that protects me from an inner darkness. A life filled with thankfulness overflows with a deep beauty and respected honor. As you read this, have you thought of someone in your life that is noticeably thankful? Are they not a joy to be with? They have a power to bring smiles, raise dignity, and promote peace.

Finally, this thought, communicating thank you glorifies God. Saying thank you is an expression that is in response to something received. And so, when I say thank you to God, I am rightfully acknowledging that all that I have is from God’s good hand of mercy and grace. And how can we say thank you enough for God’s greatest gift, His only Son, Jesus Christ, given that we might be saved from a just judgment due our sin. What a grave injustice I do God when I do not express the simple phrase thank you for all His kindness to me. But when I do remember to say thank you to God, He indeed is glorified.  

What a powerful thing it is to say. So lets say it and then say it again. So, thank you, for reading!  

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Don’t ring the bell

Solon Center

Wesleyan Church

Pastor Bill Dixon

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Don’t ring the bell

For those of you who may not know, the Navy Seal or BUD/S training is one of the most difficult military training in the world. Here is a brief description of the training known as hell week from NavySeals.com: Hell week “is the defining event in BUD/S training. It is held early on in the third week of the first phase before the Navy makes an expensive investment in SEAL operational training. Hell week consist of five and half days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25 percent of SEAL candidates make it through Hell week.” 

Now, in order for a candidate to quit or to end his training, he has to walk over to a bell and ring it. My goal with this message is to encourage ALL of us not to Ring the Bell, meaning, not to give up, not to lose heart, not to lose hope. The reality is, life can be hard at times. Right? Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble” (NIV). Jesus is not talking about lose your cell phone type of trouble here, he is talking about a type of trouble that has the ability to turn your world upside down and even shake your faith. Some of you reading this article might be facing what Jesus is describing here. Some of you maybe in a difficult season of life where it seems like nothing is working out, at least the way that you thought things would. Some of you might be struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed. Some of you might be thinking about ringing the bell—giving up. I’m here today to tell you, no matter what is going on, no matter what struggles you may be facing, DON’T RING THE BELL. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. 

Here’s why. 

1: You are not alone. God knows what you are going through and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 23:4) 

2: Your situation may look big but God is bigger. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. (Hebrews 12:2) 

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Words have power

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson UMC 

9024 18 Mile Road, Cedar Springs 

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14 NLT).

Many pastors recite this particular scripture prior to giving their message (sermon/homily). It is a reminder that there is a very significant burden upon us to speak and share the gospel in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. I am also reminded that these words were written by David for the choir master. They were sung at the end of a beautiful song that begins with the words:

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. 

Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known (Psalm 19 1-2 NLT).

This Psalm is for each of us to hold in our hearts because it reminds us of how words have more power than we appreciate. Even the heavens speak words of beauty! We all talk and converse and many of us are on social media, too. What we type is also the words and meditations of our hearts and our audience is as vast as the whole world now. Words have immense power to build up or tear down, comfort or belittle, help or harm. Our words reflect who and whose we are. Are the words we say AND type pleasing to the Lord? How can we be intentional about reflecting God’s love and the Good News through the words and meditations of our hearts in social media? 

If God was on Facebook would he click on “LIKE” for your posts? Yet, God doesn’t just “like,” He loves and His love is so much more than any of us could ever imagine. With that kind of love given freely and generously we are called to live out our lives in a manner that honors God.

Are our posts kind, helpful, inspiring, necessary and truthful? Forwarding things “as is” without fact checking or not watching a video through to the end before sharing may not represent ourselves well. How awful might it be if we were to share an article that turns out to be hoax or a lie. Would it not be better to respond to posts with grace, mercy and love? “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

King Solomon, a very wise man, said, My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice! Everything in me will celebrate when you speak what is right.

(Proverbs 23:15 NLT).

So let’s put God first in everything we do including social media. What better way to show how God loves us than to love one another even in this way? 

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Church membership

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

I hear this question all the time. “Where in the Bible does it say that I need to become a member?” The answer is simple, it doesn’t. Becoming a member is not a step of obedience on the same level as following the Ten Commandments, and it’s certainly not an issue of salvation, meaning you can still go to heaven even if you never take the step to become a church member. With that being said though, I do believe that church membership is an extremely important step that every Christian should consider taking. 

There are many reasons why I would say this and I don’t have time to cover them all here, so let me just share with you one reason why I am so big on church membership. Church membership first and foremost is a statement of commitment, it’s a statement of investment; it’s an acknowledgement that you’re going all-in. In a world where commitment and loyalty is a rarity, I believe this is important in the Church because we are supposed to be a family that is committed to each other and to pursuing Jesus together. 

In families, when things get tough you don’t just give up and move on, you hunker down and you do the hard work of persevering and fighting for something better together, something that could never be achieved by giving up, leaving and starting over. Church membership is kind of like the wedding ring in marriage.  It’s a statement that “I’m here, I’m in this, I’m committed and I will fight to create something together that I could never create alone—community.” 

I am not telling you that you need to become a church member, that is a decision you must make on your own; but I am asking you to consider it. Take that step, put down some roots, and commit for the long haul.  

  

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Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you (Luke 1:28)

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd • Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

616-696-3904

In the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, October 7 is a Marian Feast, the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. On this occasion, one might ask: what is the Rosary? To put it briefly, it is a prayer in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and primary is recitation of the Hail Mary. 

The popularity of the Rosary has been attributed to St. Dominic and the Dominican Order. It grew out of the laity’s desire to have 150 prayers to match the 150 psalms chanted by the monks in monasteries. In 1569, Pope Pius V officially recommended the praying “of 150 angelic salutations . . . with the Lord’s prayer at each decade . . . while meditating on the mysteries which recall the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This same Pope instituted the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, 1571.

The Rosary, in its current form, is a Scripture-based prayer: beginning with the Apostles’ Creed (a summary of the great mysteries of the Catholic faith, from creation through redemption and up to the Resurrection of the body and everlasting life); the Our Father follows the introduction of each Mystery of Christ (which is taken from the Gospels). The first part of the Hail Mary is composed from verses from the Gospel of Luke (1:29 and 1:42)—the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. It was Pope Pius V, that added the second part to the Hail Mary, namely “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” At the end of the 10th recitation of the Hail Mary, the great Doxology is said: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” 

Until October 16, 2002, people have prayed the Rosary while meditating on the Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of the Lord, Presentation, Finding of the Child in the Temple), the Sorrowful Mysteries (Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying the Cross, Death on the Cross), the Glorious Mysteries (Resurrection, Ascension, Descending of the Holy Spirit, Assumption of Mary, the Coronation of Mary). With Pope John Paul II’s Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002, Catholics now enrich this prayerful practice with the Luminous Mysteries (Baptism of the Lord, Wedding at Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration, and Institution of the Holy Eucharist). 

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is a Christocentric prayer at heart. Pope John Paul II once said, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary, the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 1).

In addition to being the priest of St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, Father Lam also proudly serves as Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 W Maple Street, Sand Lake, MI. 49343. Phone 616-636-5671.

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Love through sacrifice

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

We hear so much today about love. What is love, anyway? Love can certainly be manifested in many viewpoints; however, there is a particular component that showcases love above and beyond anything else. Often times we can witness illustrations of this factor in things such as the love for one’s country, love for a spouse, a friend, or maybe a job or career. What is the common element for this love? The answer is sacrifice. When one loves their country, many will sacrifice themselves perhaps through the means of the military. The love for a job may come by sacrificing your time to achieve its success. The love of a spouse, family or friendship may require many or multiple sacrifices to show affection and care towards another. 

Sacrifice plays a large role in love because it is itself an act of love. The very definition of sacrifice is giving something up for the sake of another. We see this put on display by God himself 2000 years ago at Calvary. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In other words, God doesn’t just say He loves the world, but demonstrates His love for the world; through sacrifice. Another scripture we can reference in regards to Jesus sacrifice to show His love is John 15:12-15: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Not only does He show his love through sacrifice but he is also encouraging us to sacrifice for others to show love. Therefore, since God shows us his love through sacrifice, we should showcase our love for God by our sacrifices for Him. This can be anything from our time for Him, our obedience, or by the deed of helping and sacrificing for others around us.  

Sacrifice is a huge benefactor when it comes to love. Learning and understanding the effects of sacrifice can play a vital role in our relationship with God as well as with people on this earth. Whether we are looking to showcase love in new commitments, new relationships, or build on those we have, we should come to the understanding that sacrifice is much needed for those connections to succeed, grow and stay healthy.

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What are you living for?

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Over the course of time, as we plod through life, we often will wonder about the meaning of life. Young and old, we all encounter this in one form or another, because purpose should be and is an important aspect of living; something we purposely consider and express verbally or internally. 

Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 King James translation).

We are all aware that time is passing and whether we use our time wisely or foolishly, when an hour or day of life is spent, we cannot get it back; when time is gone, it is gone forever. What then can you and I do to redeem the time as Paul states in Ephesians 5:16? 

Recently I heard a comment about the life of a well-known man who had died, that “he left the world a better place for his having been here.” There is no doubt that individual was generous and kind, but I’m not certain how anyone can quantify a comment like that, because not all of us, in fact very few of us, will have the wealth that person had to share with others.  

Life is a gift from God, and the purpose of life is to bring glory to God, that’s why we are here. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1st Corinthians 10:31 King James).  

The truth is that I am not able to add even one iota of glory to the divine glory of God himself, but what I can do, is ensure that what I do, is all to the glory of God, and none of my own. Whatever you do, big or small, little or much, do it all to the glory of God.  

The glory of God is the opinion and impression of God that fits with how almighty and unlimited he is. When we do things to his glory, it will improve people’s impression of God, and show through love, joy, gentleness and goodness, his magnificence and not our own. The ultimate goal is to build up in others how great our God is, greater than human minds could ever understand.  

How’s that for a purpose in life? Whether you’re young or old, whatever you do, whether you work or play, whatever you do, whether you read, speak, sing or preach, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. That is yours and my purpose in life, to live our lives knowing Jesus as our Savior, living abundantly in God’s presence.

The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church, while he was a prisoner for Christ in Rome, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21-22 King James).

Scripture makes very clear that whether we live or die or whatever we do, it should be to the glory of our Lord, remembering that little is much, if God is in it.  

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Bridging the gaps

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

 

In Exodus chapter 18, Moses meets up with his father-in-law Jethro for the first time in a long time. It had been a wild series of months for Moses and his wife, Zipporah, and their kids had been staying with Grandpa Jethro during that time. Moses had confronted Pharoah and showed him God’s breathtaking signs and wonders each time he wouldn’t allow God’s people to leave their slavery in Egypt. When they were finally allowed to go, Moses raised his staff over the Red Sea at God’s command and they had crossed over it on dry land. Once rescued from Pharoah’s army, Moses again watched God provide water and food for all of them almost out of nowhere.

Through all of this, Moses had gotten used to being “the guy.” Everybody came to him for help, and to know what to do next. As Jethro witnessed the extent to which this scenario had shaped Moses’ lifestyle—watching him serve as not only prophet, priest, and leader of God’s people, but as morning-to-evening judge over their affairs—this wise father-in-law had something to say:

 This is not good! You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you.

Jethro went on to tell Moses to continue leading, but to raise up other leaders as well—leaders who could help share the load. The idea was that most of the leading could be done by these other trustworthy leaders, while Moses could still be called upon to determine the most difficult situations. Thankfully, Moses listened and did exactly what Jethro suggested.

Do we follow Jethro’s advice today? Passing down our skills, our gifts, our best practices, and our hearts and souls to others, seems to have mostly fallen out of use in a lot of areas of life. It used to be more commonplace to see skills and trades passed down in this way, similar to what we see among people such as electricians today with the progression of helper, apprentice, journeyman, and—finally—master. Now, instead of each new generation working together with those who came before, there is almost a civil war. There seems to be no understanding—let alone appreciation—for what other generations bring to the whole.

God has not only honored but actually counted on the practice of our passing faith in Christ down to each successive generation. I believe the challenge for our society today is not only to be faithful to what we pass down (the Good News of Jesus), but to the method itself. Could each of us take the advice of an old Midianite priest, and reach out again to a generation above and one below? Could doing so aid in bridging gaps, fostering genuine friendships, and healing division? I think it would be a start.

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