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Archive | From the Pulpit

Dealing with struggles 

pioneer-christian-cedarfieldPastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church

Meets at Cedarfield Community Center

3592 17 Mile RD NE, Cedar Springs

 

In John 5, we hear of an invalid who for 38 years struggled to get around, had no friends to help him and was looked down upon by some who believed his disability was the result of sin in his life. The man believed his only hope was to get into a nearby pool that was noted for its water that would occasionally stir. People believed that angels would stir the pool and if they could get in while this occurred, they could be healed. Unfortunately, he was too slow to make it into the water on time and so he remained embroiled in his struggles for many years.

I think we can identify with a man like this; we have our struggles too. Many of us battle things like health, finances, addiction, loneliness and other difficult challenges. How do we deal with the struggles of life? We find help by looking at another character who also appears in the story — Jesus. Jesus saw the man, spent time with him and asked him if he wanted to be healed. These three encouraging things are what Jesus still provides for us in all our struggles.

First, Jesus sees our struggles. Sometimes we might feel as though nobody knows what we’re going through, but that’s not true, Jesus does.

Second, Jesus comes near to us in our struggles. Sometimes people see our struggle, but want nothing to do with us, but that’s not true of Jesus; He wants everything to do with us.

Third, Jesus wants to provide help to us in all our struggles. I hope that you are encouraged by his awareness and presence and that you take advantage of the help He offers. The man in the story struggled with that last part.

When asked if he wanted to be healed, he didn’t say yes, instead he told Jesus about his desire to get into the pool to find healing. He failed to see that Jesus was able to help him and I think sometimes we do the same thing. In health struggles, sometimes we rely only on doctors and medicine, but fail to include Doctor Jesus in the equation. When we call out to Jesus in prayer, we may not always be physically healed, but it does tend to bring us a sense of peace in the storm.

In struggles with addiction, sometimes we rely solely on willpower, but we need to lean on the words that Jesus spoke about overcoming strongholds in our life. There is powerful guidance found in scripture that can help us towards finding victory over any enemy.

When sad in life, sometimes we see material possessions as the solution to our blues, but it’s when we turn to Jesus and ask Him to use us in service unto Him that a renewed and lasting joy is found.

In all our troubles, know that Jesus is aware of them, He’s near to us in them and wants to help us with them all.

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God is with us

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC,

13600 Cypress, Sand Lake

Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

What a crazy spring this has been! The weather, the politics, the health issues, and that’s just this last week! Sometimes it’s hard to remember these words from our God. How can we look around us on some days and not be afraid? Let’s face it, it’s not easy but God’s reassurance is always there and always true. He is always with us throughout our struggles.

I used to become agitated when we would receive an unexpected income of some kind. A mistake on a bank account, or an underpayment of a refund. We would get some extra money and make plans for it, and then the car would explode or the water heater would melt. Or some other such disaster. (Yes I am being over dramatic.) And then the unexpected money would have to go towards the unexpected repairs. But finally, after experiencing this several times, I suddenly realized that this was a huge blessing that I was missing. God had been providing the needed money for the upcoming problem before we were even aware of the problem!

Sometimes seeing the blessing and presence of God means looking at things a little differently. When we look for God with an earthly perspective we may not always see God in action. However, if we look for God in a Spiritual perspective we can see Him more clearly. God acts in ways that we don’t always understand. And certainly in ways that we don’t expect. We may not notice if we are looking for what we expect instead of what God sees as important for us. There’s an old joke about a preacher who is caught up in a flood. When a boat comes along, he refuses to leave saying that God would take care of him. When a second boat comes along and the preacher is up on his roof to avoid the water, he again refuses to get in because God will take care of him. Now standing on the chimney a helicopter comes along and He waves them away saying that God will save him. And of course he drowns. When he complains to God, God replies: “What do you mean? I sent two boats and a helicopter!”

God can see far more things than we can. He can see things that we would never expect and because he loves us He does now what is best for us in the future. This is why we do need to learn to stand on His words. He truly is with us and He truly holds us up. Check out a church near you to find out more about God’s love.

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From the Pulpit: Putting good theology to good use in our battle against depression 

By Pastor David Vander Meer

In the old days when someone milked a cow they typically sat on a three legged stool. Why a three-legged stool? Because the ground in the barn was never even and so to keep from rocking around and being unsteady they could get good footing with just three legs.

In this article I want to write on three great theological Christian truths to aid us in our battle against depression. We might think that theology is just for seminary professors to argue about but I am here to say that these three great truths are the very thing that can help Christians find a steady footing in a life that often is unsteady. And frankly, what I find to be the most unsteady area in my life, and others, is our emotions…namely, our depression. These three great truths are well worth the effort to call to mind when our emotions are unsettled.

For the Christian, the first great truth is “justification.” What is so wonderful about this truth is that God declares, merely by grace, His people to be forgiven of all their sins and accepts them as righteous in His sight. This great truth gives the believer their identity. But so often when we are battling for joy we are confused with who we are. We may think and say things to our self that are just not true. This only works to put us down instead of helping to lift us up. Our first task is to identify who we are before God—forgiven and righteous because of the finished work of Christ.

The second great truth is “sanctification.” Wow, now there is a word! We get a lot of English  words from the root word, like sanctuary, sanctity, sanctify, etc. But all of these words have something to do with being holy, or separate, or special. So what this truth teaches is that God, again by His grace, enters into the process of making the believer learn to hate sin and desire righteousness. Once again I say that this is a great truth as we battle our unsteady emotions. Yes, I may be a mess, but I have hope that I will change as God works in me. The ultimate aim of my salvation is to become more and more like Him. And God is not depressed!

There is one more great truth for us to speak of, and that is “glorification.” In our depression we can think that we are losing the “game.” The scoreboard says we are behind. Life has us rocking back and forth. But look, the score for the end of the game is posted and we have won. To be clear, Christ has won, and so we have won because for the Christian we are in Christ. He has won the victory, even death itself. He is our vision for victory.

Battling depression is hard. And it can be complex. Often it means getting physical assistance and support from our medical care providers. But it is also a spiritual issue that requires the foundation of truth to help us. It is so wonderful that God helps our body and our soul. May God help you as you battle for joy.

Pastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE 

Rockford, MI 49341

 

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The Fire of Pentecost

CS-United-MethodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St. • Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

“1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” (Acts 2:1-3 NIV)

This past Sunday, Churches in this community, and around the world celebrated Pentecost—the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the twelve Disciples and others who had gathered with them. Pentecost is considered by many to be the birthday of the church. The gift of this celebration, which is the Holy Spirit, is most often represented by a flame because the souls of those gathered were lit “afire” with its power.

I think the use of fire to symbolize the power of the Holy Spirit is very appropriate. Not because it brings light and heat, but instead, because of how it spreads. Let me explain. Picture in your mind a bottle of water and several cups. If I were to pour water from the bottle into each of the cups, each would receive a smaller portion of the whole. Each time that I pour out water, it is not replaced; as each cup receives water, there is less in the original bottle. Think of the water as humanity’s power and strength and resources. If we rely only upon ourselves, the water, like that in the bottle, will eventually run out.

But, that is not how it works with God. Now, instead of water, picture in your mind several candles. If I had just one candle lit, and passed the flame from wick to wick, the first flame is not diminished or reduced as the fire spreads to the next candle. This is how it is with the power and strength and resources of God. As the fire is spread among those who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, the original flame remains, and the fire becomes stronger.

Just as the Spirit spread among those who gathered almost 2,000 years ago, may it also spread through us today. Let the power of the Holy Spirit, burn like a fire within each of us, so that we know the love and the grace and the wisdom of God, which passes our understanding, and is infinite.

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From the Pulpit: Golf

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. , Cedar Springs MI 49319

By Pastor Herb VanderBilt 

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him” (Matthew 4: 18-22).

So, what does golf have to do with fishing? Well nothing, actually, except many of us do not know someone who is a commercial fisherman but most of us know someone who plays golf. One similarity between fishermen and golfers is that it is not typically a solitary activity; in other words, it is something that you do with other people, and in fact is even better when you do it with someone else. In fact, think of what would happen if you went fishing alone and caught a record size fish that got away just as it broke the surface, or what about if you were playing golf by yourself and you shoot a hole-in-one and there is no one to see it.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is also not a solitary activity; in fact, Jesus gives us the model for that as we see him going from boat to boat calling people to follow him to a life of discipleship. What would happen in the church today if we asked people to join us in worship as easily as we ask people to go fishing or golfing? Good Luck and hit em’ straight.

 

 

 

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From the Pulpit: Desiring Righteousness

By Rev. Mike ShieryPilgrim-Bible

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) (NKJV)

We are born with important innate drives, desires, and needs. Physically we must have food, water, and shelter or we will quickly perish. Emotionally there is the necessity of being loved, and having a proper sense of self-worth or our outlook on life and others will become warped. Spiritually our needs are of no less importance than our physical or emotional wants.

It has been said that there is within every human heart a God-shaped vacuum. It is an emptiness within our soul that demands to be filled because we inherently understand, whether in a conscious or subconscious sense, that we are not complete while that hole remains. So multitudes spend their lives attempting to fill that void with something that will bring peace, contentment, and satisfaction to their daily existence.

The world systems and culture offers lots of options and many people have tried most of them. They have sought satisfaction in drugs or alcohol, contentment in illicit relationships, happiness in a never-ending quest for entertainment, fulfillment in the illusion that materialism brings joy, and security in the thought that they are the ultimate authority in their life. A quick look around an increasingly depraved culture and sick society shows the utter folly of following that road.

Jesus provided the perfect answer to that inborn empty space in our soul. He said that who hungers and thirsts after righteousness would be filled. He knew the craving of the human soul to be complete. And that completeness, the filling of that void, is only possible when we stop chasing the empty illusions of society and passionately desire righteousness in our life. When we want righteousness more than we want anything else, we will obtain it. God never taunts people. If we have a genuine desire to be righteous, God will fulfill that desire. How? It comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ because He is righteous. When we repent of our sins and invite Him to live in our heart, we live in His righteousness. He satisfies the longing of our heart and empowers us to live Godly in this present age.

Turn to Christ. He is the end of your search for fulfillment. Jesus is still the answer. He always has been and always will be.

Pilgrim Bible Church, West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

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From the Pulpit: Pastor Kevin Reed

 

Three questions for healthier relationships   

Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing to of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

Relationships are a struggle. Don’t get me wrong; when they are good, they are great! But when they are bad, it seems to affect every area of our lives. We have all had relationships that we struggled in, and the odds are that if you have been in a relationship for any length of time you have experienced the good and the bad. My desire in my relationships is to experience more of the good and less of the bad. Philippians chapter 2 verses 3 and 4 provide three questions that I believe will change our relationships for the good if we would ask them of ourselves when things are getting tough.

1.   “What is my motive?”  

Whether we like to admit it or not, many times in relationships we have agendas, and those agendas are usually self-serving. Most relational struggles come when I am driven in a relationship by selfish ambition or vain conceit. In other words, when I am only concerned about myself and furthering my desires. My motive in a relationship should be mutual encouragement and benefit and my selfishness tends to ruin that. Checking my motive helps me to get rid of my selfishness and realign my relationships to a place of mutual benefit.  

2.   What is their value?

Often times when my relationships are struggling, it’s because I am looking at the other person as someone who is less valuable than I am. I feel that it is their job to serve me because I am the one who is important. When I stop and think about their value in God’s eyes it helps me to maintain the proper perspective. The reality is that the other person you are in a relationship with is made in the image of God, has infinite value and worth to Him, and He proved it by allowing His Son to die on the cross for them. They are important to God, and they should be important to you.

3.   What is my focus?

This one’s simple—am I thinking more about myself and my desires, or am I putting the other person’s needs and desires first?  Most relationships struggle because one or both parties are only thinking about themselves. God wants us to put others before ourselves. After all, that’s what He did in order to purchase our redemption, and that is what He has called us to do as we live out His mission on this earth.

If you ask yourself these 3 questions when it comes to your relationships with your spouse, your kids, your parents, and even your friends, I guarantee it will promote healthier relationships in your life. May each of us have the same mindset as Christ Jesus as we walk in relationship with others.

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

www.gracerockford.com

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In His rising, the life of all have risen

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd. 

Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

 

Finally, spring is here! Having many friends and relatives who live in warm parts of the country, whenever I visit them, they always ask, “When will you move here with us and stay in the sun-shining states instead of Michigan?”

My response to them is always the same. “Only in Michigan will you experience four distinct seasons and, after a long winter season, you will appreciate spring time. What happens during spring is a wonderful analogy to Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously, when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.  Through him the children of light rise to eternal life and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful; for his death is our ransom from death, and in his rising the life of all have risen. Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy Holy, holy, holy, Lord of hosts. . .  (Preface II of Easter, Roman Missal-Third Edition).

I would like to call your attention to what is highlighted in the prayer: the resurrection of the Lord has an impact on not just human beings, but on all. That is the faith of the Church! Christ’s resurrection changes all things for the good! Alleluia.

This is when spring in Michigan can help us explain the mystery of Easter. After a long winter, grass, flowers, and tree leaves appear again. It is refreshing! When you walk into your house, it seems like a new one! What spring does for the environment, the Resurrection of the Lord does even more so for the world. The Lord, the Creator of all, has entered the world and by his death and resurrection has redeemed the world. Nothing has been untouched in this earthly field by the resurrection of Christ.

The challenges us now is to listen to the teaching of the Apostle Paul: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Col 3: 1-4).

Our entire world has been changed by Christ’s resurrection. Let’s us focus on “what is above.”  Amen.

 

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From the pulpit: As Christians, should we obey bad rulers?

By Pastor Kristi J. Rhodes

Should we obey bad rulers?

Greetings Cedar Springs Community! I was asked a question recently that I will ask you now.

You can hardly get through a single day without hearing discussion about the upcoming presidential election. I have to say, in all my years (which are many), I have never witnessed such a bazaar journey to the Whitehouse, regardless of who gets in there! There are not many topics more polarizing than politics or religion. So why in the world would anyone open that can of worms? It’s really pretty simple. God has something to say about that.

As Christians, that’s where we get our instruction—from God’s Word—which is the Bible. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,” Ecclesiastics 1:9 (NIV). There have been many bad rulers and God’s basic instructions before leaving earth gives us wisdom to live by.

The apostle Paul in speaking to Titus said, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men” Titus 3:1-2 (NIV).

Paul teaches that government’s authority is established by God to keep order on earth. If government lines up with God’s law, then Christians are right to obey it. However, if a human law runs counter to God’s principles, then it is not wrong to disobey. Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”(Acts 5:29 NIV). Bottom line is, we must obey the law of the land unless it conflicts with God’s law. Everyone answers to someone, but ultimately, everyone will answer to God. Even while resisting in those areas where government oversteps its bounds, Christians must still recognize the authority of government in its other functions.

The good news is that regardless of who is in the Whitehouse, God is on the throne and always will be! As Christians, we belong to the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is NEVER in trouble! Hallelujah!

May God richly bless you and yours as you seek to honor Him with your choices.

Pastor Kristi J. Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

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Confident Grace

By Pastor Craig Carter, North Kent Community Church

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16 NIV).

What’s so amazing about grace? If we are honest, the longer we live and serve the Lord, the more we realize that God’s grace is simply amazing. One of the most profound things about God’s grace is that it invites us to God’s throne with confidence. Notice that the throne we are invited to is not one of judgment, but of grace. The writer of Romans gives us this same picture. He writes, “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:15-17). God provided abundant grace for this life. Now that’s a confidence builder in us all! God says this grace assures us we can reign in life. We can live confidently that if God is for us, who can be against us?

I think it is important to remember that grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is a favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. That is why we are invited to come to this throne without hesitation. In the above verse, we are instructed to come to this throne with “confidence.” Another translation says that we may “come boldly” unto the throne of grace. This word “boldly” is the Greek word parrhesia (par-rhay-see’-ah), which literally means to come with an all out-outspokenness, frankness and bluntness. It also implies that we can do so, without fear of some repercussions.

Let me ask you this question. When was the last time you went to God and spoke your mind honestly and openly, without fear of some repercussions? You may be uncomfortable with this, but that’s exactly what God’s grace allows us to do. I find it interesting that people harbor all kinds of thoughts in their heart that they would not even consider speaking with their mouth. Yet, they fail to realize God already knows their thoughts! They act as if they were to verbalize them to God, he would punish them with some consequence. They think a lightning bolt from heaven is going to strike them because they had the audacity to speak their mind to God. I frequently remind people, God is a big boy, feel free to tell Him how you really feel.

Let me challenge you today. Go confidently or boldly to God’s throne with whatever need you have. Do not be afraid to speak your mind to God, because mercy and grace await you. Grace invites you to its throne because it longs to help you.

North Kent Community Church, 1480 Indian Lakes Rd., Sparta, Church Phone #: 550-6398

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