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Archive | From the Pulpit

The Value of Focused Vision

Pastor Bobby Gray

Solid Rock Worship Center

11862 Shaner Avenue NE, Cedar Springs

(Office) 616.696.1900  

www.MySolidRock.CHURCH | FaceBook.com/MySRWC

What makes a great team in church work? Some say it takes a great leader; but without strong workers, the leader can only do so much. Some would say you need a great music team; but without a great outreach team, the music team will have no one to sing to. Another may insist, it’s all on the prayer team; but the church still needs some follow-through to be great.

It’s never just one ministry. It will be a mixture of strategies possessing a few common ingredients. The leaders and workers will learn how to triumph together. Not every church will do it the same, but they can have some dependable characteristics that will cause their church to grow and experience revival.

One characteristic is vision. It can’t be just words on a website or business card. I’m talking about a God-stimulated idea, something that moves the church out of its comfort zone. What is a vision? A vision is a God-inspired idea that causes the church to dream of what could be.

Vision is so important to a church leader. It should remain clear and simple. Don’t clutter your vision with too much busywork. Have a strong focus on a limited set of intentions. Do a few things with great intensity and high excellence. Be specific, choosy, and focused. The apostle Paul demonstrated his focus when he said, “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). This kind of focus will cause us to realize that God is doing something special with us.

In Luke 10, Martha complained to Jesus about having no one to help her with her chores in preparing for Him. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha . . . one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part” (Luke 10:41-42). Sometimes we try to do everything and wind up not doing it to the best of our abilities. Let’s increase our focus and do our vision well.

When Nehemiah was rebuilding the broken-down wall of Jerusalem, Sanballet and Geshem wanted to meet with him to stop his momentum. Nehemiah’s answer is classic, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3). He refused to be distracted or disturbed. The vision must be the guiding force for the church or ministry. The vision is a picture of the chosen destiny. It is the church’s designed future. The vision gives direction. Without vision, we perish (see Proverbs 29:18).

Three elements of vision:

It Must Be PRECISE: If people can’t remember the vision, they will never catch it!

It Must Be MANAGEABLE: People should be able to communicate it to others in less than a minute.

It Must Be INCENDIARY: Ignite a fire of passion that moves people. It should burn in the heart but be too big to do on our own. The vision should cause growth in our spirit.

A vision that captures the church will have people who give their life to it. They are saying, “Give me a vision to die for and I will not miss coming to church. Give me a vision worth living for and I’ll get involved in it.” Everyone wants to be a part of something that is making a difference. The clearer your vision, the easier it is to do what Jesus called you to do.

Remember, good is the enemy of best. When you increase your focus, you decrease your options. Greater concentration equals higher power. As Christians, let’s seek Jesus! Let’s hear and see His vision so clearly that we are overwhelmed by it. Let it consume us to the point that it spills out in everything we do!

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Every Scrap

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

Are you the kind of person who watches the bonus material at the end of a movie, or who listens through an album to see if there are any hidden tracks? I absolutely am.

If I get excited about a piece of art like an album or a really great film, I’m one who wants to know everything about it, the “Why?” and “How?” behind everything. I’m often that way about things in the real world, too.

Ever since Google, I wonder if you’ve noticed something? We can usually learn more about something if it is: Old and sufficiently famous/well-documented, or, new and therefore almost automatically well-documented because it transpired in the digital age.

If you’re like me, though, I often want to know more about events and people that simply aren’t famous or well-documented enough for Google to know. And in my case, if it’s something from my childhood, I live too far from “home” to just sit down in-person and ask the people I grew up with about these things as they occur to me.

We often reach a limit to the amount of information that’s available about something in comparison to what we wish we understood about it. We’re sometimes left with only scraps to hang onto. At my stage of life, it’s both insightful and a point of conviction for me to recognize that in our Information Age, perhaps a little less energy could have been spent on working long hours or on consuming forms of entertainment, and instead diverted that energy to celebrating and preserving things more lasting and meaningful. There may come a day when someone would like to know what my kids were like when they were young, much like I now wonder what my great-great grandparents were like. 

Jesus had four whole books written almost completely just about Him, and yet some days I wish there was more. Do you look at the Scriptures and realize the opportunity you have to savor every scrap about God that has been preserved for you? Through the harrowing annals of time, who God was and is has been passed down by devoted scribes who painstakingly hand-copied fading, time-worn manuscripts. For us.

During this season, the Church has celebrated for centuries the Light that came into the world. After a long spiritual drought, Jesus came. The apostle John presents the monumental thing this was when he says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4, NLT).

You can know this Light. Deeply. Even in moments when things can feel very fuzzy, we are not left without Light. These beautiful scraps preserve for us who Jesus is, and every single scrap is precious. They almost glow with warmth in their “footage” of the God who came to bring you His Light. Go home today and take in this beautiful portrait – with renewed love and fascination – of The Word who came to give you Life.

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And a little child shall lead us

Pastor Michelle Vallier 

Cedar Springs UMC

140 S. Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

It’s the day before Christmas Eve, the season we have anticipated! What things have you looked forward to most? A day off perhaps? Time with family? Christmas goodies and presents? Just a break from the chaos of the world?

It’s the season of Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love…and yet it can be so difficult to feel more than a longing for those things, as we continue to battle Covid-19, school safety concerns, and all kinds of personal tragedy.

As I contemplate the stress I feel, in myself and around the community, my mind is drawn to the beautiful simplicity of the Nativity. Whether acted out by living people and animals, crafted from wood or other materials, or lit up with colored lights along a country road, the image of the baby Jesus in the manger, surrounded by doting parents, shepherds, angels, and a variety of animals brings me closer to a feeling that all will indeed be well. 

Luke 2:10 (NRSV) bring us the words of the angel to the shepherds in the field, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” These words resonate from the earliest days of my childhood, insisting that even in the midst of stress, good news is coming.

What is this good news, that will be for all people? It seems in this dog-eat-dog world, there are always winners and losers; and yet even the winners don’t really win in the long term. 

Words of hope and promise are found in the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6 (NRSV). “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” 

The way of Jesus Christ, the Word of God in human flesh, who came to us so humbly as a baby in a manger, calls the powerful to stand down, to relinquish that power, providing safety for those who have been in a weaker position. Our hope for peace comes in our willingness to be humble. Competition is no longer the order of the day. Instead, we are invited to reflect on ways we can contribute to joy, through acts of love, not only toward those in our close community of friends and family, but toward all people. 

May we see the ways God continues to bless us and may we all be a blessing to one another this Christmas season and in the coming year.

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Old and new, old and young

Pastor Jon Huizenga

Rise Up Church

Meets at Cedar Springs Middle School, 

4873 16 Mile Rd, Sundays at 10:00 am

Luke 2:28-30: Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation …”

In the Bible’s story of the birth of Jesus there is a lovely scene in which an old man named Simeon and an old woman named Anna meet the baby Jesus, whom Joseph and Mary have brought to the temple. Simeon is moved to say the words quoted above. Anna goes and tells everybody who will listen all about the child. Luke, the author of the account, seems to have two themes he wants to make clear.

Old and new

The Bible is divided into the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.” The Old Testament starts at creation and goes to just before Jesus. The New Testament tells the story of Jesus, followed by all that comes from his presence then, now, and in the future. Simeon was basking in the wonder of finally seeing God’s Son, the Messiah. God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had done so. That is why Simeon says, “Lord, you can take me now, I’m satisfied.”

The Old Testament and New Testament are one story of God announcing and then delivering forgiveness and salvation for all of us. Jesus’ continuing presence in the world is as exciting today as it was then! I see Jesus loving the people in and around Cedar Springs, Michigan. Can you see him or sense him?

Old and young

Another theme is that these two old people are filled with the Holy Spirit so that they know Jesus when they meet him. God does not discriminate due to their age. He gives them the privilege of being among the first to hear what he is doing. Simeon and Anna do not discriminate against the child, Jesus. They will not live to see Jesus as an adult, but they rejoice anyhow at what is to come. Old people and young people can be filled with the Spirit of God giving them joy and purpose. You are neither too old nor too young to experience the presence of God. That is part of the beauty of Christmas.

Be on the lookout for Jesus at work in someone old and young near you. Merry Christmas to you!

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All in

Pastor Jonathan Bergsma

City Impact of Cedar Springs

288 N. Main St., Cedar Springs

Greetings and blessings on whomever has the time to read this article today. I hope and pray the Lord’s favor on your life through his Holy Spirit for encouragement, blessing and direction in whatever circumstance of life you find yourself in today.

Today I felt led to share about the story in Mark 10:46, of Jesus healing the blind man Bartimaeus. The story goes as follows:

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

I love this passage because if you think about it, in the chaos and commotion of a large crowd, and all the multitude of people following Jesus, was every sick or disabled person wanting to get the attention of Jesus for healing.

This man, Bartimaeus, is crying out and causing a stir when Jesus passes by. It seems that Jesus was close enough that he must’ve heard the man but continued along without stopping or doing anything. Then the people start telling Bartimaeus he’s out of line, to be quiet, settle down, there’s not going to be time for him.

So what kind of reaction does this being ignored, scolded and criticized by many create in this blind man?

Does he say, “Ok, whatever, forget it, this Jesus guy is supposed to be the Messiah. Isn’t he supposed to care about people and heal them? Good grief he won’t even acknowledge me, a poor blind guy sitting here making all this noise? And these stupid people following him, who are they? Telling me to be quiet. They should feel sorry for me and help me, not try silence me and make me feel bad.”

Is this the reaction we see? Not at all. It seems the more he’s ignored and put down, the more he digs in and cries out all the more. He is desperate. “Help me, Jesus!”

And then what happens? Jesus stops in the midst of all the commotion of the crowd and says, “Bring that man to me.”

What was it that made Jesus stop the second time? I believe it was his commitment to Jesus for good beyond what his senses around him were telling him.

For Bartimaeus, and like so many times for us, when we come to Jesus and put ourselves out there with a need or in prayer, sometimes it seems like God is not listening. And then add to that every voice around you and every logical thing your senses can tell you says to be quiet, sit down, it’s not going to work! These are the times in so many of our lives when we can let outside influences mold our thinking and shape how we believe. And this is also the time where faith steps in and believes the truth of God’s word and his goodness over what we think or feel.

I believe this is faith, and that faith believes what is not yet seen, and when blind Bartimaeus could not see, he knew he had just this one chance, he wasn’t counting on people anymore. If Jesus truly was the Messiah, he was going after it or he was going to die trying. He was all in!

Jesus was here on earth to do good and it’s the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. So whatever it is you may be facing today, if you want your voice heard above the noise of the crowd and want to attract the attention of the King today then set your mind, set your heart, and press in to him no matter how bad things seem.

Father, I come to you in Jesus’ name and through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the blood of Jesus I stand in faith today. Father I set my heart, my mind, my will and emotions to follow you and the truth of your word believing that you are working for good on my behalf in every circumstance I am facing right now. Jesus, you are the only thing I cling to, I believe in you and thank you for opening the eyes of my heart to see your goodness, love, mercy, and love, in my life. For your glory today thank you and in Jesus name, Amen.

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Vacation Dad

Pastor Dylan Mason 

Frost Creek Church

15671 Algoma Ave. NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

I don’t know about you, but when the snow hits, I start looking for a vacation. I start looking for sunshine. Any time you can get out of town to head somewhere warm and sunny is nice, but leaving behind the cold, wind, snow, and slush to go somewhere warm and sunny just takes the cake. My mentor just recently came home from such a trip. When I asked him how it was, he told me the weather was just okay, but it was still a great time because he got to be with his family. He then shared with me some wisdom that had been reinforced in his life while he was there that has really been stuck in my head. He said, “Anyone can be the best version of themselves while they’re on vacation. Anyone can be a good parent or spouse for a week in Florida. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be vacation Dad or vacation husband. I want to be that all the time. What really makes a good dad or good husband is the stuff in between the vacations. It’s the day in, day out, sacrificial service and love of my family.”

I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1 that says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We are called to live this life like running a marathon! Now, I’ve never run a marathon, but I can’t imagine that most people who have, just woke up one day, decided to run a marathon, and just did it! Running a marathon requires months of training and preparation. It starts slow, with baby steps. It requires dedication, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to a lifestyle that allows one to be able to run the race. People training for a marathon adapt their entire lives to their goal. They change their diet, their sleep schedule, their work schedules, and so much more.

There’s a reason that the author relates a life following Jesus to running a race. Each of us can muster up enough motivation to pull up our bootstraps for a week and really run after Jesus. We can get into the word or spend extra time in prayer for a week, but to really experience the fullness of a life spent with Jesus, to be the parent or spouse we are called to be, and to experience the rich and full life that Jesus came to give us, we must approach life with the same mentality as someone training for a marathon. Everything we do must be oriented around running the race marked out for us with Jesus. I hope that even in this short article, you’re encouraged to take baby steps toward running with Jesus. I hope you commit to any kind of baby step, like reading the bible three days a week, or praying ten minutes a day. Don’t be a vacation parent. Don’t be a vacation spouse. Don’t be a vacation Christian. You were created for more! You can do it!

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Antler Stew

Pastor David Ward

Pilgrim Bible Church

361 Pine Street, Cedar Springs

The hunter slid silently into his stand, a smile on his face. Good things were going to happen today. He could feel it in his bones. 

Just before noon, he heard a sound that made him freeze in place. A grunt sounded just behind him. A buck was coming, following the scent of the doe that had passed earlier. Slowly he drew his bow back and waited. It was a handsome six-point with a well-formed rack. When the buck was gone, he eased the tension off the bow. It had presented a tempting target, but he had another buck on his mind.

For years he had been pursuing a monster buck he had named Destiny. He had determined that he would be the one to do what no one else seemed to be able to do. That deer would be his! His Destiny. There had been a couple of chances in the past but each time something happened. Somehow, at the last possible moment, the big buck would detect something amiss. Then, like something out of a dream, the deer was simply gone.

He had a feeling about today, although, to be honest, he’d had that feeling before. The hours slowly passed by, pleasantly but uneventfully. The sun began to set. He reached for his bow, resigning himself to another fruitless day.

Suddenly, like an apparition, without warning, and without sound, there it was.  In a moment the arrow took flight, straight and true, to its mark. 

The hunter stood in awe over his trophy. Suddenly he couldn’t wait to get home and tell his Dad.

The hunter slipped quietly, but with excitement, into the room where his father slept. Gently he shook him to awaken him. “Dad, wake up! I’ve got to tell you about my hunt.”

Groggily the old man opened his eyes. “What? Who’s there?”

“Dad, it’s me, Esau.”

“But…What… Then who was that earlier? Who did I bless?”

Slowly the picture begins to come together. Esau’s brother, Jacob, had stolen his blessing. While Esau was away, this bigger trophy had slipped through his fingers.

“Isn’t there yet a blessing left for me?” Esau cries.

“I’m sorry, son, but that blessing is already past,” is the regretful reply.

How many blessings have slipped through our fingers? We’ve been so busy pursuing our trophies: a career, a big retirement, the perfect family, and all the trappings that go with it, oblivious to the greater trophies slipping away with the sands of time. All the while, our Father was calling us into His presence. He’s not interested in our antler stew. He’s been waiting to share the feast of fellowship.

(A creative adaptation from Genesis 27.)

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Living outwards

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). He came so that we can live life to the fullest. The Bible tells us how to live this out and it tells us something very different than what our culture tells us.

We only truly flourish when we know Christ and have received the gift of his salvation. That is when we are set right with God. It is the first step to living a full and abundant life. We flourish because of something that is given as a gift to us. It is not something we create on our own. Today’s culture glorifies humans and human accomplishment as if on our own we can make things work right.

The cultural view of flourishing is self-focused, inwardly fixated, and all about me and mine. Biblical flourishing is missional, priestly, and outward focused, motivated on spreading God’s glory throughout the earth. We flourish when we help others flourish as it says in Jeremiah 29:7, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (NIV).

The science is clear. Helping others helps us live longer. Researchers have proven that volunteering is healthy! Volunteers show an improved ability to manage stress. Their loneliness is alleviated. Their depression is reduced and they experience a greater sense of satisfaction. Living outwards means we will flourish!

A team of sociologists tracked two thousand people over a five-year period and found that Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered as little as 6 hours per month. We live life more fully and we flourish when we give away ourselves and then we become more physically and socially active and our lives open up to so much more!

This “abundant life” Jesus invites us to live is about a grace way bigger than what we can imagine. It’s way bigger than our sins and failings. It’s about sanctified, holy living. It’s about the deep-down assurance that you belong to the risen Savior. It’s about a desire to tell people about this new and full life we have. It’s our response to Jesus who gave it all and thought we are worth it. Truly, I know that the life of a follower of Christ is abundant in so many ways and it is available to everyone—even you.

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What does Love require of me?

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

If you’re like me, you probably don’t need me to quote a Bible verse to you about the call of the follower of Christ to be someone who is known by their love for others.  We know the verses, and probably have most of them memorized (in case you don’t, look up – Matt. 22:37-40; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; John 13:34,35 – that’s enough for now.  You get the point).  But for some reason, even with these clear commands in Scripture for Christians to be known by their love for God and others, we still see and hear about, and even experience, situations where those who claim the name of Christ are not being known by their love.  And if we’re honest, we will admit that we too are guilty of this at times. The problem is not that we don’t know that we are supposed to be known by our love, it is that we are falling short in moments of conflict or disagreement to posture ourselves towards others in such a way that we walk through these situations in the way of Love.  

One discipline in my own life that I find particularly helpful in my desire to obey this command of our Savior is the discipline of asking good questions. In particular, the question that I find the most helpful is simply this: “What does Love require of Me?” Now, lest I be left up to my own biased interpretation and answer to that question, it helps me to use Scripture to remind myself of the love I’ve been called to walk in. 

One Scripture that Holy Spirit uses to help me is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV). I simply ask myself, “Am I doing any of those things?” If the answer is yes, I talk to my Heavenly Father and ask him to help me. If the answer is no, I move on to this next Scripture and question – Philippians 2:3,4 – “Do nothing out 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 the others.”  This question for me looks like this – “What interests (or needs) does the other person have that I need to look to (or consider)?” We all have basic needs to be loved, accepted, heard, cared for, etc. It’s in the process of assessing the needs of another individual that Holy Spirit begins to help me think of myself less and the command to love like Jesus has loved me more.  

Asking these questions usually is all the direction I need to lead me down the path of loving others like Christ Jesus has loved me. But, even after asking these questions I still need to make a choice to walk in obedience to the commands of Christ, but that is a topic for another article.  Just try this the next time you find yourself in a situation where loving others is hard. Take a minute and pause and ask yourself, “What does Love Require of me?” It might be the difference between making the most of an opportunity or missing one altogether.

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All Saints Day

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs, Michigan • 616 696 3904

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).

November commences with a great celebration, the Solemnity of All Saints. Another way to put it, “we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the saints” (see the Collect of November 1 in the Roman Missal). On this occasion, let us reflect on why the official teaching of the Church on the veneration of the saints has never lost sight of, but clarifies the principle enunciated in 1 Timothy 2: 5-6: “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man is Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” Let us ponder:  what does veneration of the saints mean and why do we participate in veneration?

Veneration of the saints means imitating the virtues lived by the saints, and through them, asking them to bring us closer to Christ. In our earthly life, we imitate the goodness of our fellow family members and ask them to pray with us and for us. In a similar fashion, we imitate the virtues of the members of our spiritual families by following Christ and we ask them to pray with us and for us. The water of baptism established a bond between all believers in Christ. This is the Communion of Saints which we profess every Sunday in the Creed. The proper veneration of the saints is an in-depth expression of baptismal grace: we are members of One Body with Christ as its Head, and thus all members are connected.

When the Church venerates the saints, it is acknowledging and proclaiming the victorious grace of the one Redeemer and Mediator, Christ. The Church is thanking the Father for the mercy that is bestowed in Christ, and that has taken visible, effective form in one of its members, and thus in the entire Church as a whole. This teaching is expressed so well in one of our prayers (the Preface of the Saints in Roman Missal): “For you are praised in the company of your saints and in crowing their merits, you crown your own gifts.”  

The prayer quoted above captures the very essence of the instructions from Second Vatican Council: “The Church has also included in the annual cycle days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us. By celebrating the passage of these saints from earth to heaven, the Church proclaims the paschal mystery achieved in the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; she proposes them to the faithful as examples drawing all to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she pleads for God’s favors” (Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 104).

On this November 1, let us join “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, and people, and tongue” and to praise: “Salvation comes from our Lord, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb” (Rev 7: 9-10).

(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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