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Archive | From the Pulpit


Pastor Bill Dixon

Solon Center Wesleyan Church 

15671 Algoma Ave, NE, Cedar Springs 

I can’t believe it’s a new year already. Last year flew by quickly. For some of you, last year was a great year. For others, last year was not so good. Maybe you lost your job, or had some major health issues arise. The list could go on. The point is you’re glad that last year is finally over. The good news is it’s a new year—a fresh start. Instead of talking about new year resolutions, I want to share a passage that I shared with our church this past Sunday, from Acts 2:42-47.  

The beginning of this passages starts off with these words, “They devoted themselves…” (Acts, 2:42, NIV). I want you to understand a few things: 1) The word “They” in this passage is referring to the early church, meaning, Jesus’ twelve disciples and the 3,000 plus other people who had made the decision to give their hearts to Jesus. 2) The word “Devoted,” means to be earnest towards something, to adhere closely to something. It means “exerting great effort to persist in doing something. It indicates action that is continuous and habitual” (D.L Moody). 

Now that we know what those two words mean, my question is, what were they devoted to? Luke goes on to tell us they were devoted to: 

1) The Apostles’ teaching. In other words, they were devoted to learning God’s Word. Why? They were hungry for truth. They knew that there was power in God’s word to not only transform their lives but transform others through them. 

2) They were devoted to fellowship. Meaning, they were devoted to worshiping together (Hebrews 10:25), hanging out together outside of church, and that they were devoted to being there for each other in sickness and health, and in the good and bad days. 

3) They were devoted to the breaking of bread, which refers to both celebrating the Lord’s Supper and having regular meals together. 

4) They were devoted to prayer. They were devoted to prayer because they knew that there is power in prayer. They knew that when God’s people prayed, God moved. 

5) They were devoted to being generous with their time and resources. The main reason why I believe that they were generous with their time and resources is because they realized that all that they had came from the Lord. 

6) They were devoted to living out their faith every day. It didn’t matter what others said or did to them, they were devoted to living out their faith every day in their homes, church, and out in public. They were not ashamed to be known as followers of the “Way” (Acts 9:1-2). 

Listen family, because the early church was devoted, the “Lord added to their number daily,” meaning that many more people became part of the family of God. 

If you take anything away from this short message, understand this: when Christ’s church is devoted, good things are going to happen. Good things like our relationship with the Lord and each other is going to grow deeper and stronger, and others are going to see Jesus in and through us, and by His grace, they too will put their faith and trust in Him and become part of the family of God. 

In this new year, I encourage all of us to be devoted.

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“Where Shall We Look for Him?”

Rev. Bill Johnson

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs MI 49319

Christmas leaves too quickly for me. I want to stay in the miracle for the whole 12 days. So, I’m still wallowing in the Christmas spirit as we awaken to a new year.

In Grand Rapids during the 1960’s, there were elaborate Christmas displays in the department store windows downtown. The scenes in the windows would annually draw hundreds of young and old to peer at the fascinating, colorful decorations, adding delight for those who needed a break from battling crowds inside the stores. Those scenes came to mind as I reflected on a story in Tracks in the Straw, a collection of Christmas meditations (Ted Loder, Innisfree Press, Inc. 1985, 1997). In one intriguing story, Loder gives us a fresh perspective on the Nativity Scene. He tells of a street in South Philadelphia named Lombard Street, where homes, eateries and small shops exist side by side. In the block between 22nd and 21st streets he recalls a row house with the whole front window jammed with a manger scene. Compared to other houses on the block, at some point the residents of this house had enlarged the window to twice its original size—perhaps to accommodate this exhibit. The painted figures were about three feet tall, he says, and each figure glowed because it was lit from inside. There was a group of shepherds, three wise men, angels and assorted animals. They were all gathered around Joseph and Mary, who were side by side, looking outward, just about where an onlooker might be standing on the sidewalk. How strange! This familiar story was being given a different twist.

What were the creators of this scene trying to say? If you stayed long enough, you might figure it out. There was no manger; no infant Jesus in the scene. 

The creators of that window display were showing an atypical creche in order to make a point. The street is the manger, and if you were standing there looking into that scene, you were standing in the stable, perhaps right next to the manger itself. 

The glowing figures were looking expectantly out on the street for the Christ child, out on the street where the reality is; where the beasts are motorized, the creatures’ milk comes in cartons and plastic bottles; and the wool of sheep is woven into the suits or overcoats worn by the passersby; shepherds are sleeping on steam grates, wise men are dishing out food in soup kitchens; some folks are carrying political protest signs or joining coalitions or serving in churches, doing what they can to change things so someday there might not be homeless people or hungry children or addicted parents.

Is this a true picture of the nativity? Is this the world into which God sent the Son? Is this indeed the world that Christ came to save? Is this where, if the Christ is to be born at all today, he must be born—on Lombard Street, or Main Street, or on every street, everywhere?

On the fireplace mantel in our home, at this time of year, rests a delicate, beautifully crafted creche. Likewise, another holds center stage on the altar table in our sanctuary. This is not wrong. These silent scenes are reminders of what is precious, what is God-sent not just at Christmas, but the whole year round. And yet, the fact is that Jesus was born into conditions much like ours, where politicians argue, travelers seek shelter and children go to bed hungry. The world into which God chose to be born was, and is not made of delicate statues protected by window glass. It is the real world, a world in need of a Savior. The Good News is we live in just the right place—the perfect place—for Christ to be born once more. And we are in the manger.

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How was Christmas?

Pastor David Ward

Pilgrim Bible Church

361 Pine St, Cedar Springs

So, How was Christmas for you? Was it everything you hoped it would be?

Back in the early seventies, when I was a kid, a relative spent thousands of dollars trying to find just the right presents for her two children. She stayed up over half the night trying to get everything in picture-perfect packaging. Fifteen minutes after the pajama-clad kiddos found the Christmas tree there was much squealing and excitement as they happily played… with the boxes and wrapping paper!  I think their Mother was still mad for weeks afterwards. After she went to all the expense and effort, to think that her ungrateful offspring would choose to play with the packaging!

Of course, as we grow older, it gets harder and harder to find just the right gift. More often than not, we make sure to save the receipt, just in case the recipient would rather have something else. How long has it been since you were overwhelmed and excited about what you found under the tree?

For too many people, the Holidays are marked by loneliness and disappointment. The expectations and the promise of the advertisements never even come close to all of their extravagant claims. We’re left with feelings of emptiness and discouragement. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Perhaps these feelings arise because we are looking in the wrong place for our fulfillment and happiness? The advanced gadgets of today will be replaced with a newer revision in months, if not weeks. Things we thought would last for a lifetime are gone all too soon.  

The truth is, happiness is not supposed to be found materially but rather in relationships. This was the overlooked key in all the holiday hubbub. Happiness and contentment are not found in an object. It is found in a person, Jesus Christ.

The Message of the Manger was that God had come to Earth. One of Christ’s names is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” The amazing discovery is that God wanted to leave heaven to step into our world. How deeply God values us is revealed in His willingness to not only walk with us but to die for us, on the Cross of Calvary.  The extent of His giving is demonstrated in that He not only visited some two thousand years ago but rather that He still chooses to visit any and all hearts that will open to Him.  

Our value as a person and our fulfillment in life are revealed in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. Have you chosen to make that relationship a priority this Christmas season or have you allowed it to be crowded out by everything else?

As we stand on the eve of a new year, we have a golden opportunity to make our relationship with God who loves us a real priority in our lives. Don’t be distracted by the glitter of the advertisements nor discouraged by what may lie behind us.  Let’s choose to pursue the warmth and promise of the plan God has for us.

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Church Membership: “Plant your Flag”

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

I hear this all the time: “Church membership is not found anywhere in the Bible, is it really all that important?” Most Christians have a horror story about membership and how it was elevated to something it shouldn’t be, or made out to be an entrance requirement into the kingdom of heaven.  While it is true that church membership isn’t an explicit command found in Scripture, and that there are many instances where it has been executed less than perfectly, I don’t believe we should just write off the idea of church membership.  

We live in a culture of non-commitment. We don’t want long-term cell phone contracts and we like our gym memberships and TV streaming services to be month-to-month so we can cancel or switch at anytime.  We are okay with making a commitment to something that’s only going to happen one time, but the thought of long-term commitment scares us. We don’t want to be stuck in anything that we can’t get out of quick and easy if something goes awry.  While this mentality may be okay when it comes to gym membership and cell-phone contracts, it is detrimental to a healthy church community.  

Participation in a faith community (church) isn’t always going to be easy and it’s going to require some work at times. Becoming a church member is a way to plant your flag in the ground.  It’s a commitment that we’re not going to just bail when things get difficult. It’s a commitment that says we are here to be part of a whole, and not the whole itself (so I’m not going to make this all about me). It’s a commitment to submit to God-ordained spiritual leadership, which we all need (even those called to lead), to help ensure that we continue to be faithful in our relationship with Christ. Becoming a church member is sort of like marriage. You can say you’re committed, but until you “put a ring on it,” how does anyone know?

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”  Church membership is one of the main ways in which we do that. It’s that moment of “planting a flag in the ground” and committing investment in and accountability to a local body of fellow-believers. If you aren’t a member of a local church body would you consider becoming one? If you are a member, planting your flag was the easy part, pursuing health in the community of believers that we are a part of is going to take some work, but it’s work that’s worth doing.

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Beginning as mustard seeds…

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

616 696 3904

Growing as the hands and feet of Christ

On December 1, 2019 the Catholic Church entered the season of Advent: a preparation for the commemoration of Christ’s first coming at Christmas and the awaiting for the Lord to come again at the end of history. It was also the first day of the new liturgical year, and for Catholics in the Cedar Springs community, a new chapter in their journey of following the Lord: The Dedication of the Church for St. John Paul II Parish.  

During the early summer of 2013, as the newly appointed pastor of the recently established parish, I visited the site for the first time. Although I felt a great sense of hope and a strong zeal for the Gospels, I made the words that the Apostles spoke to the Lord more than 2000 years ago my own, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).  Walking around the campus, I found a large maple tree that offered shade and a place to rest. It was under this tree where I heard the Lord answer my plea: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

The Dedication of the Church for St. John Paul II Parish is a culmination of a six-year journey of approximately 400 households coming together, with their pastor, and opening their hearts to the Lord’s invitation: to have faith the size of a mustard seed. From humble beginnings, the parish has blossomed into a warm and welcoming community of believers! How grateful I am to the Lord and to those who have joined the parish over the last six years! The Dedication of a Church also provides an opportunity for current and future members of this parish to re-commit themselves to the parish’s mission—to be the hands and feet of Christ.

In sharing this reflection with all of you, the readers of the Post, I ask for your prayers for our Catholic community, may it continue to grow and be the hands and feet of our Lord to the community. In the spirit of Advent, may the poor truly experience welcome because our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake, “became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Amen.

Father Lam also is the Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 West Maple St, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343 phone: 616-636-5671.

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Letting go to gain and grow

Pastor Kristi Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

As I drive down the road, God draws my attention to the trees on the hillside. The beauty of all the fall colors takes my breath away. I watch as the wind blows strong but with a gentle strength as the leaves are pulled away from the branches and go flying around in circles following the breeze. The trees seem to try to hang on to the leaves for as long as they can, almost as a tug of war, ultimately letting go. The leaves chase after the wind for a while then eventually they fall to the ground in piles of multiple colors until they die and turn brown. 

We can depend on this process taking place every year like clockwork. Every year, the trees lose everything as the seasons change again and again throughout their lifetime. Their branches are left bare and cold for the winter. The greatest part of this little observation is that every spring, God restores everything those trees lost and then some. Each year the tree grows taller and bears more branches that produce even more leaves than the year before!

Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of letting go of things or people or jobs or lifestyles that have outlived their season in our life. Often God will ask us to let go of one season in order to bless us with our next season. His Promise is to restore that which was lost and redeem even years we may have lost. If we hold onto our hurts, we can’t receive our healing. If we hold tightly to our possessions, our fist is clenched and can’t receive the new and better blessings God wants to give us. If we hold onto our unforgiveness of others, we can’t receive forgiveness from God for our deeds. If you hold tightly to the wrong person you will not be available when God sends the right person your way. God’s plan for us far exceeds our own plans for ourselves. When we follow God wholeheartedly, as Psalm 1:3 says, we are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (NIV).

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.  

A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time (Eccl. 3:1-8, 11)

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Your reaction shows your Christianity

Reverend Lee Zabrocki

Resurrection Lutheran Church

180 Northland Dr., Sand Lake

Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus not only taught this message, He lived it. Jesus experienced misunderstanding, ingratitude, and rejection. But he was never bitter, discouraged, or overcome. To Him, every obstacle was an opportunity.  

Brokenheartedness? An opportunity to comfort. Disease? An opportunity to heal. Hatred? An opportunity to love. Temptation? An opportunity to overcome. Sin? An opportunity to forgive.  His uncommon response to the everyday problems caused those around Him to ask, “What manner of man is this?”  

Long ago I learned that the truth of a man is known not by how he acts when he is in control, but how he reacts when things are beyond his control.

How do we react when criticized? There is always someone in the crowd who will criticize. The way some people find fault you would think they get paid for it. Many people have been hurt under the banner of constructive criticism. Someone once defined such criticism in this way:  constructive criticism is when I criticize you; destructive criticism is when you criticize me.  

Whether criticism is unjust or just, a person shows his true colors by how he responds. The best way to lose an enemy is to treat him like a friend. It would help each of us to realize that there are times we make errors and display shortcomings. In our relationship with our Heavenly Father we do not need justice; we need mercy. In our relationships with others we should be quick to give mercy and slow to demand justice.

When tempted to react in an unchristian manner, we should remember the following statements:

Realize that everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Their life is no easier than yours. Perhaps today they are lonely, misunderstood, and hurt. A sure indication that a person hurts inside is what he says on the outside. Others may hurt you by what they say or do because they are hurting.

Reacting in a positive, reassuring manner will product better results. Some time ago, while driving on a city street in California, another car hit me. The lady who hit me was frightened and apologetic. I assured her that I had excellent insurance coverage and I encouraged the policeman not to give her a ticket, which he agreed to. I made a friend out of the lady who hit my car. How? By a positive reaction to a negative situation.

There is no better way to witness for Christ than by your Christian reactions. The fruit of the Spirit, as listed in the Bible, is not to be displayed only during the easy times. These attributes are given so that they will become a part of our daily life and be in evidence even when things go wrong. If someone is hungry and becomes irritable toward you, give him a piece of bread and butter. That is showing kindness. But while you are giving your friend a Christlike reaction, why not spread a little jam on it? That would be loving-kindness. That is the right reaction. That is also genuine Christianity. 

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Be anxious for nothing. What? Me worry?

Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

There are times when certain passages or words in scripture can throw us for a loop because of the current common use of the word(s) in our reading and conversation.  One that I found early on was Paul’s writing, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).  

Many years ago, my understanding of being anxious was in the sense of wanting something very much; similar to a child as they anticipate Christmas getting closer each day.  It stands to reason that telling a child not to be anxious for the arrival of something they want so badly resembles the effort of herding cats. Children are going to continue being anxious for that morning, but hopefully not anxious as the primary dictionary definition: “experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about imminent events or something with an uncertain outcome.” 

This certainly helps us understand what Paul is telling us in scripture, that when we read this precept, we’re inclined to understand that we are not to have anxiety or worry about anything. Christians try to live by what God has ordained for us. Do not worry! This is a clear exhortation, especially in the time that we live in, and the rest of this verse, “but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.”  

This does not mean a simple formula, “if you’re anxious, try prayer; it works.” God, through the pen of Paul, is telling us here, in the 21st century, that to have anxiety or worry about anything is a sin. Mainly, our worries are about things in this life that we have very little control over anyway. Putting such importance on such things to the point that we’re distracted from more important things is evidence that our treasure isn’t in heaven, but really on earthly things.

Another way of phrasing this scripture text is to not be troubled with cares. When we are born into God’s kingdom, we have the assurance that God cares for our needs and God has a plan for us. The Bible says that God fashioned the days for me before I was born. When I surrender to Christ, that surrender includes giving God the controls of my life and letting Him lead me into the life He has fashioned for me. 

For assurance, the very next verse reads; “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).

The only way to be free from our anxieties is to rest confidently in his plan and submit to his will. Anxieties will not just disappear when we commit to trusting God. We must know and apply his word to our lives. To be anxious for nothing, we must see God’s goodness, present our cares before the throne of grace and leave our cares in God’s hands.

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Working on our stuff

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St, Cedar Springs

Since the middle of September a group of seven or eight of us at The Springs Church have been trying out an idea I’ve had for several years but never pulled the trigger on. We’re doing this specific experiment called “How-To,” as part of a Follow Group, which is what we call our small groups at the church. 

Follow Groups can focus on any number of things, but are designed to make space for those in the group to put into practice some aspect of their faith. The point of these groups is to come back each week talking about how it went when each person tried doing something we talked about the week before. Sometimes actually trying things goes well, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way we talk about it and encourage one another in our efforts.

So here’s how our “How-To” group works. Each week, somebody shows the rest of the group how to do something that that person already knows how to do. It could be almost anything. One week, a couple showed us how they prepare meals with oils and vinaigrettes, which is good to learn as a new skill for the foodies among us. But it’s also an alternative for those who have a tough time finding foods that fit their dietary restrictions. Or as a way of making food that inspires enough confidence to finally have someone over for supper and offer Christian hospitality to them.

Another week, one of our guys showed everybody some basics of car maintenance and repair–how to access the jack and spare tire on several vehicles, and then how to fix a flat or blow-out. There were other fixes demonstrated, too, but the goal was that a few more people would learn how to help someone who gets stranded on the road. Because once you know how, then you canhelp.

But here’s another reason we’re doing this: God placed Adam and Eve in a very real garden, and He asked them to tend it and have dominion over it all. He called the Israelites to take responsibility for a clearly marked out land where His Kingdom could be rooted in the particulars of this world. At their best, God’s People shape and interact with their stuff.

There is value in learning manual skills that take a job from start to finish. They help us develop endurance in other areas of life, including faith. Hebrews 6:10-12 tells us, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” 

God has made us capable of working on our stuff. So give it a shot!

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A season for everything

Pastor Darryl Miller  | Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches

There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 Common English Bible) 

I know it’s strange but I live in Michigan because I like it. That includes the weather. Well, most of the time. Now, if you tell someone from Michigan that you like the weather, he or she may try to move away from you discreetly. I spent a winter in Arizona with relatives one year and to be honest, Christmas just didn’t feel right. I noticed that some people there didn’t seem to notice that it was a different time of year. It was rather strange. 

I guess I just like the change in seasons. The blooms of spring, the warmth and fun of summer, the beauty of fall, and even the clear and beautiful skies above the snowy landscape of winter. I also think that it is a good reminder for us all. Things change. Humans can far too easily get stuck in ruts. We get comfortable and don’t want things to change. But if you like the spring, the flowers, and the budding trees, remember that without winter this would not happen.

One of my favorite hymns is “Hymn of Promise” written by Natalie Sleeth in 1986 after the death of a close friend. It is a good reminder that there are seasons in our lives as well as in nature. We have ups and downs, celebrations and sadness. But the good news is that through it all God is with us. His presence is always there to guide us and the Holy Spirit is there to comfort us. Sure, as I get older I wish that winter would last only a few weeks now, but I still love the first warm day in spring and without the cold would I appreciate the warmth as much? And without trials would I ever learn to lean on God? 

Stop by a church near you, enjoy the fellowship, and get your questions answered.

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