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Archive | From the Pulpit

Can you hear me now

C-Cedar-Creek-Community-Church-LandscapePastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

 

There is a large phone company that has grown their business by one advertisement, asking one question: “Can you hear me now?” They have actually capitalized on a phrase that most people that have used a cellular phone have asked many times. When it sounds like your signal is gone, it’s normal to speak into the phone and say, “Can you hear me now?”

We live in a society that seems to require the technological capacity to be in touch with anybody, any time and at any place, connected by cell phones that ring or vibrate us at all kinds of occasions. There is WiFi available just about anywhere you go today, smart phones, instant messaging, texting, and some of us have even hung onto our old land lines, just in case there is a gap in coverage somewhere. Yet with all that is available to us today, it really doesn’t mean that we communicate with one another any better than we did before.

With massive information beyond what would have been called science fiction not long ago, we can make connection over incredible distances, to some of the most remote parts of this planet, yet, when all the dust is settled, there seems to be a serious lack of real communication. Along with all the technological advances, it is apparent there are all the more opportunities for mis-communicating, or even dead zones where true communication flat lines.

I believe this is a good illustration of what has occurred between our heavenly Father and his creation. We find several times in scripture the admonition to hear what God has to say. I believe that God does talk to us today, and he will do so in any specific way he chooses—be that through other people, via nature, audibly, but most especially, through his written word, his holy scripture. We read Jesus words in the book of Revelation in each of the letters to 7 churches in Asia Minor, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13,22—King James Version).

These words are for today, and we would be well advised to heed what God has been telling people since the creation. God’s word tells us that “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 KJV). There are many voices screaming at us today, TV, Radio, Hollywood, Newsgroups, and more talking heads than we could possibly count. But there is only one voice that can assure us of eternal life.

God wants us to hear him, to listen to him and respond to his voice. All throughout history God has spoken to mankind, in fact the book of Hebrews begins, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” (Hebrews 1:1 KJV). God is still talking to his people today, as scripture tells us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28 KJV).

Listen! If you will, you can hear him now.

 

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Does the Bible really say that?

Pastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

The Bible is the most revered book in America, but it is also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches—all types of people—quote passages that sound like they are from the Bible, but actually aren’t in the Bible at all. These phantom passages include phrases such as “This too shall pass,” “Moderation in all things,” and “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” But probably the most quoted Bible verse that is not in the Bible would have to be “God helps those who help themselves.”

The phrase is often mistaken as Scriptural, but it appears nowhere in the Bible. The phrase actually comes from ancient Greek literature. It is illustrated by two of Aesop’s Fables. And it is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who used a variation of the phrase in his Farmer’s Almanac. And people commonly think the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Ironically, the Bible actually teaches the exact opposite of this particular phrase. The truth is, God helps the defenseless and helpless.

Romans 8:26 (NLT) says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.” And Psalm 34:18 (NLT) says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

All throughout the Bible we find examples of how God helps us when we can’t help ourselves. If you take a close look at the Bible you see that many times God comes into helpless lives and makes the difference. Just look at the life of Jesus. Jesus dedicated His life to helping hurting people.

In Luke 4:18-19 (NIV/NKJ) Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He doesn’t say the Lord has sent me to help people who have their act together. To help people who can help themselves. To help people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. No. Who did Jesus come to help? He’s very clear. He says, “I came to earth to help five specific types of people: the poor, the brokenhearted, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed.”

What do all these people have in common? They are hurting. Later on Jesus says a doctor doesn’t come to help the healthy; a doctor comes to help the sick. Jesus came to help hurting people. Story after story in the Gospels you see Jesus helping hurting people. Jesus says, “It’s what I live for. I am here to help the poor, the broken, and the blind.”

In all of our lives there is a point of helplessness. It may be a point of helplessness over a relationship that you can’t get right, or a financial situation that cannot be solved, or a habit that you just can’t seem to break. It could be a point of helplessness at a point of growth that you just can’t seem to grow through, or a confidence that you just can’t seem to get. You’d like to be able to parent better, but you just can’t break through that confidence barrier. You feel helpless.

Be encouraged today. God wants to help you at your point of helplessness. He doesn’t say He will only help you if you can help yourself. He says He will help you if you will trust in Him. If you feel a little hopeless today because you’ve been helpless for a long, long time know that God cares. He loves you. He is close to the brokenhearted. He wants to help you, and He will if you ask Him to.

 

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Moving on from mistakes

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church

Cedarfield Community Center • 3592 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

Cedarfield Community room

 

On a few occasions in my life I’ve made the mistake of forgetting to roll up my car windows before a rainstorm. It’s always a terrible feeling to get ready to go somewhere only to realize that your seat is soaked! But sometimes in life the mistakes we make are much more serious. I’d like to share with you an example of a regrettable matter that came from Peter, one of Jesus disciples.

When Jesus had been arrested and led on a series of early morning trials, Peter followed from a distance to see what would happen to his master. Peter saw Jesus beaten, slapped, spit on, insulted and told that He was worthy of death. Soon after, someone noticed Peter watching all of this and questioned whether or not he was one of Jesus disciples, but Peter said no. A little while later another person questioned him about this and again he denied any connection to Jesus. A third time Peter was accused in this way and a third time he disassociated himself from Jesus. Peter’s disowning of Jesus was very sad, especially when we consider how well he did know Jesus and how much Jesus had done with and for Peter. It’s no surprise, then, that immediately afterwards Peter went out and wept bitterly in regret.

For many of us, we can identify with Peter’s experience. Certainly, we have all done things to hurt others, even people that we love. And perhaps, like with Peter, we feel very guilty about it. Maybe it’s hard for us to enjoy these nice sunny days we’ve had because we still dwell on our mistake. Is there any hope for mistake-prone people who do regrettable things? The answer is yes.

After His trials, death upon the cross and eventual resurrection from the dead, Jesus made it a point to talk with Peter knowing what he had done. Three times Jesus asked the question “Peter, do you love me?” Perhaps Jesus asked him three times as a reminder of how Peter had denied Him three times. When Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to Feed His Sheep and take Care of His Lambs. Jesus probably didn’t have any real sheep or lambs, but he was speaking figuratively. What Jesus was communicating to Peter was that He wanted him to work as a shepherd, caring for the spiritual and material needs of people. That Jesus offers Peter this job showed that Peter was forgiven and there was still a future for him. As it turned out, Peter’s regrettable actions were not the end of him, but rather a turning point for something special heading forward.

In the same way, our mistakes don’t have to be the end of us. When we confess our sins to God, when we repent of our regrettable ways, The Lord offers His forgiveness to us, and, a bright outlook for future service to Him. Don’t dwell on your mistakes and stay trapped; instead, dwell on The Lord’s grace and use that as a springboard to do better and brighter things for Him moving forward.

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Remember those who served

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 13600 Cypress, Ensley Township 

 

 “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Matthew 20:28 (NIV).  

It’s hard to imagine that in a couple of months we will observe the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War—the “War to end all Wars.” And in a couple of days we will observe Memorial day. For too many this day, Memorial Day, simply marks the beginning of summer. Now before we go any farther, please understand that this is not a discussion of the morality or immorality of war. Instead I want to remind us that it is because of the sacrifice made by thousands of men and women that we are able to celebrate our faith.

Many of us have relatives who have served. Some are still alive, most are not. Some came home from their service, some did not. But I am sure that all of them felt that they were serving the people back home and were willing to sacrifice themselves to protect us all from any harm. It is because of brave men and women who decided that this country should be a place of freedom, so much so that they were willing to put everything on the line, that our country was formed so we were allowed to worship freely. And it is because of the sacrifice of many more today that we are still able to do so.

There are still places in the world today where people can be tortured or killed for worshipping the Christian God. We sometimes forget how blessed we are to have the freedoms that we do. Remember that true freedom comes from God. And true freedom is not only worth dying for but it is worth living for. We should remember to live our lives each day sharing the true freedom that Salvation gives us. We do not need to join the service to be in service. We are in service every day—serving our community by living our lives as Jesus taught us. By feeding the hungry, both spiritually and physically, giving drink to the thirsty, from the well of living water as well as the faucet and by giving them freedom, freedom from the oppression of sin in their lives by introducing them to the one who can take those sins away.

So I thank all of you who serve, whether in the military, or in God’s fields. Your work is appreciated and your service is a blessing. This week, if you know someone who served in the military, be sure to thank them for their service. And thank all those who serve God’s people with actions, words and love.

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Turn around

Solon-Center-WesPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)

 

As I write this article I am coming off of preaching my “Mother’s Day” sermon, and trying to encourage the mothers in our church to turn around and take notice of the things around you that you might miss. Not the kinds of things like a spot on the carpet, or the dust on a ceiling fan. Instead we are talking about the things that aren’t obvious until you put on a new type of lens—a spiritual lens you might say.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth tells them this…

2 Corinthians 3:15-18 “15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

When we turn to the Lord, when we make a choice to follow after Jesus, we get a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we receive that gift, the lens that we look through will change. That lens will allow us to see with new eyes, and we will then be able to see what God wants us to see, not only about ourselves (it does that in the form of encouragement when we need it, correction when we need it, and joy when we need it) but it also gives us a heart for others.

What I challenged the mothers in our congregation to do is the same thing I’m challenging you with today. Who needs your attention? Who needs encouragement? What or who have you been avoiding, even though you keep feeling this prodding to get involved? Turn around and get involved.

I think that once you see with new eyes, you will see a change in not only the things you see but the person you are becoming. You will not only affect the change in those around you, but the change will be in you. There are so many needs in the Cedar Springs community, so many hurting and needy families and children. What is God calling you to get involved in? How can you help? How can you be the change agent in those that God is putting in your path?  Turn around and look with new lenses!

 

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On a journey

cs-united-methodistPastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

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

 

 

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 

(Deuteronomy 31: 8, NIV)

 

My family is in a season of transition. We will move from Cedar Springs this summer and make our way to Muskegon, where I will serve as pastor of Lake Harbor United Methodist Church beginning in July. I never moved as a kid, and my parents still live in the house where I grew up. But, moving is much more common than it used to be. Many families move these days for many reasons: employment, family needs, financial reasons, and the list goes on.

Moving is tough. To leave behind what is known and comfortable is not easy.  I like routines. I like knowing what’s coming next. But I’m not surprised that one of the ways we describe our spiritual life is a journey. We are on a journey with God—stopping here and there, but never staying where we are. God calls us to growth and vitality in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit guides us, many times to places that we never thought we’d go and serving in ways we never expected. Does this ring true for you?

Scripture is full of examples. The Israelites moved out of Egypt into the Promised Land on a long journey. Jesus was born after Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. Jesus’ life and ministry did not take place in one community, but he moved around, even going to places where no one else would go and encountering people who were eager to receive him.

So we’re on a journey with God, and the Good News is that God is faithful to walk with us. God never leaves us or forsakes us. I take great comfort in that promise even as I know that the time we invest in a community is important. I’ve been blessed to get to know many people in this community and be a part of their lives. My spouse and I are thankful for dedicated teachers and school employees who have been such a vital part of our children’s early years. We’ve been blessed to be a part of the congregation at CSUMC.

I’m grateful to be have been a part of the CS Ministerial Association for the last six years. This group has been joy-filled, life-giving, and faithful to God’s call to love God and love each other. I’m grateful for the commitment to find our unity in Jesus Christ and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us. I appreciate the connection we have and the honest sharing and respect we have for one another.

I celebrate what God is doing in our community, and I’ll continue to pray for you as we journey with God. I love Paul’s words: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1: 3-6, NIV).

If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us at 9:00 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. On May 25, we move one worship service at 10:00 a.m. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

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Courageous Christians!

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Jim Howard

First Baptist Church

233 S. Main, Cedar Springs

 

 

 

We are indeed living in a time in which fear seems to be an everyday reality for many people. It could be a fear of uncertainty, of those who intimidate, of government, of health related issues, of economic unknowns, and the list goes on. Fear tends to create a fight or flight mindset and, for some, a paralysis to do nothing. Many years ago, one of my drill instructors told us there was nothing wrong with being afraid; just don’t allow it to paralyze you from doing your duty! Courage has been defined as the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to a young man and pastor named Timothy in which he shared, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV). Fear can be an incredibly intimidating influence in the lives of people. Note that God does not tell us that fear is wrong, for fear can also be an incredible motivator as well. The word used here is one that suggests cowardice or a timidity that would prevent us from doing the task(s) before us. At this time in history, the church was suffering incredible persecution from Rome to submit to emperor worship. Young Timothy was under indescribable pressure and Paul’s words were specific—do not allow fear to paralyze you from carrying out your responsibilities!

In fact, Timothy, God has given you three assets that will enable you to hang in there and do your work. Three assets that are available to us to this very day—power, love, and a sound mind. The word for power here is the same word from which we get our English word for dynamite. It is a reminder to us that where God has called us to serve, He has also given us the power or strength to do the tasks expected of us. One of the hard lessons learned in USMC boot camp is that you can go a whole lot further than your mind thinks that it can. We have become a culture that quits way too early and is often unwilling to work hard for what’s important, and that includes through the hard knocks in life. God says, hang in there—persevere—for He will enable us to do His work.

The second concept of love is also one that is often misunderstood.  The word used here is one that reflects an unconditional love, or a love in spite of.  This is not based on how others treat me, or whether my expectations are being fulfilled, or for what I can get out of it!  If we really understood the meaning of this kind of love that we are to have for one another, the divorce rate would take a serious dive.  I’m convinced that if we were to love God the way we are supposed to (1 Jn. 4:19), the relationships we have with others would be positively & profoundly affected (1 Cor. 8:1; Rom. 12:10).

And the final asset of a sound mind reflects how the precious two assets of power and love were to be exercised, specifically – with wisdom and good judgment.  Power without love can be harsh, and love without power can be pointless & weak.  The word used here suggests self-discipline is to be an integral part of being courageous & persevering through the tough times!

Embrace your fear and learn to use it to motivate you to draw closer to the Lord.  For we are totally dependent upon Him for the strength, love & discipline we need to be overcomers in situations of intimidation, uncertainty & danger!  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Rom. 8:37 (ESV)

 

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Choosing to rejoice in difficult circumstances

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pastor: Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs • 696-1021

 

Given a choice, I’m sure that almost everybody would prefer the moments in life where everything seems placid and calm. Those days when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all seems right with the world. The cheerful words of the old song come to mind:

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-a, My oh my what a wonderful day. 

Unfortunately, reality is that many times our days aren’t like that at all. Perhaps it’s a marriage that has dissolved from a dream to a nightmare. Or it could be a child that has deeply disappointed us, a family member that is terminally ill, the loss of a job and financial security, or any other number of possibilities that haunt the corridors of our mind and threaten our peace and joy.

How are we supposed to handle events like these? The human instinct is to complain, gripe, and even grow bitter. God’s Word gives us a drastically different conclusion.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (James 1:2) (NKJV)

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can discover the power of prayer. We are not talking about little ritualistic prayers that are little more than words uttered as mere form. This kind of prayer comes from the depth of who we are and shows a desperation. We instinctively understand at moments like these, that we are not infallible or invincible, and that we really do need help from God. The beautiful part of prayers like these is that God promised us:

“Call to Me, and I will answer you.” (Jeremiah 33:3) (NKJV)

Understand that inherent in that promise is the understanding that we must be surrendered to the will of God. Also, we must realize that His answer may not be what we expect, but He does all things well.

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can gain an unshakable faith in God. True, mature, and deep faith is formed not in the calm and peaceful sunshine, but in the howling winds amid the dark night of the soul! Faith in our fellow humans if often found to be a let down, but faith in God results in more faith as we find Him to be absolutely trustworthy. You can trust the character of God!

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can discover the real values of life. Two years ago, I sat in an oncologists office and listened in stunned disbelief as my father was informed that he was now a cancer patient. It truly seemed that the life of our family had been turned upside down for the worse!

I’ve learned to hate the word cancer with a new passion since then. As a family, we’ve run the gauntlet of that disease together. We’ve uttered impassioned prayers, shed gallons of tears, faced the uncertainty of surgery, waited with bated breath for every test result, and stared into the darkness hoping this was all a bad dream.

We’ve also discovered that God is faithful, His grace is sufficient, and that a vibrant relationship with Him is the most important thing in life. We’ve learned to cherish every moment together as a family, spent a lot of time reminiscing about our favorite family memories, made some good new memories, and determined that we’re in this together on this side of eternity and that we’re resolved (by God’s grace) to someday stand on Heaven’s shore together as a family. We’re learning to live with eternity’s values in view. It’s not been easy, but we’re finding out that you can face a trial head on and still be joyful.

 

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Getting excited about church

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. • Cedar Springs MI 49319

 

It made me glad to hear them say, “Let’s go to the house of the Lord!” Psalm 122.

 

When was the last time you got excited about going to church for Sunday worship? I know that there are days when all of us wished we could stay home especially this winter with all the cold weather and snow making it hard to get to church. How many times do you go home complaining that you didn’t get much out of the service? Guess what? You may have received more than you think. According to William Morrow even falling asleep in church may be good for you. After all it is the Easter season and getting woke up in the service may be a reminder of the Resurrection. William goes on to say that “fully 50% of what happens in a worship service is at the unconscious level of the mind.”In other words we don’t know how the benefits accrue. They just do. As long as you go there, your inner self is soaking up the messages, many even unspoken. You don’t have to take notes or remember the theme of the sermon or “meditation”. Go with your five senses open to absorbing the beauty of the music, the surrounding symbols that embrace you and the enacted ceremonies of unconditional love and acceptance…where else but in a religiously motivated community can you find people who befriend and support you?

Many people today have given up on the church saying that it is outdated and not relevant anymore. That is unfortunate because I have  found some of the most relevant and up-to-date ideas come from people excited to be a part of a community of folks who are all connected together in Love to help each other grow in faith. I’m glad to go into the house of the Lord.

 

 

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Too good to keep to ourselves

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

 

 

Galatians 4:4-7: 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (NIV)

 

If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then you have a story. The Bible uses some amazing words to describe your story. Words like:

Redeem, which means to buy back from something.

Adoption, which means to welcome into a family by choice.

Sonship, which means you are no longer a slave but an actual child of the living God and, if a child, then an heir, which means you have a rightful claim to all the possessions of your Father!

And, most importantly, abba, which means that the Almighty God of the universe lets you climb up into his lap and call him daddy!

Our story goes something like this:  “Once I was a slave to my sin, but God sent his son to die on a cross and shed his blood, in order to buy me back from the penalty and judgment of my sin. By putting my faith in Him, he chose to welcome me into his family and make a son who has an inheritance, instead of a slave who has nothing. And most of all, he allows me to call him my Dad, as he promises to watch over and care for me all of my days.”

Now that is an amazing story! That is a story that is just too good to keep to ourselves!  Yet, many Christians do just that. They have a story that is so amazing and so wonderful, and it has the power to change the life of all those who hear it, and they keep it to themselves. If you are a child of God, then you have a story to tell that is far too wonderful and life-changing to be kept to yourself. You come in contact with people each day who need to hear this amazing story of a God who loved them so much he sent his son to redeem them and adopt them into his family. But if you aren’t going to tell them, then who will? God has placed special people into your life that he wants you to share this “too good to be true” story with. So why aren’t you sharing it with them?

At this time of the year, people are more receptive to the Gospel message than any other time, and they are more apt to come to church with you these next two Sundays than any other Sunday (besides Christmas) throughout the year. So, why not step out on a limb and tell someone about Jesus? Why not invite them to church on Easter Sunday? Why not step out of your comfort zone? After all, the good news about Jesus is just too good to keep to ourselves.

 

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