web analytics

Archive | From the Pulpit

Jesus is praying for you

Pastor Mike Shiery

Pilgrim bible church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 

But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’” (Luke 22:31-32) (NKJV)

It was a somber moment. Jesus and His disciples had been celebrating the Jewish Passover with a meal that we now commonly call “The Last Supper.” Most of the men gathered there that night did not fully comprehend the momentous events which were soon to follow. Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and executed. Those dark moments of seeming disaster would be followed by one of the most glorious days in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. 

Against that background, Jesus took the time to specifically speak into the life of one of His best and most flawed followers. He knew that in the next few hours, Peter would deny and forsake Him, cursing and turning His back on the Man he had traveled with and worked with for the last three years. 

Peter was bold, braggadocious, zealous, hardworking, loving, impetuous, and inherently flawed. At the core of his nature was a shameful hidden secret. Beneath all his bragging and bluster, Peter had a cowardly streak. The man who once vowed to die for Jesus would in reality deny his best friend in order to save his own skin.

Knowing all of this, it is heartening to see that Jesus did not lash out in anger and revenge. Instead He spoke words of encouragement and love to Peter. Jesus knew that after the passion of the moment passed, Peter would be eaten alive with remorse and sorrow. So Jesus basically told Peter that when he was feeling most alone and worthless (as a result of his own stupid decisions), to remember that Jesus had prayed for him and would be willing to restore him.

It would do us well to remember that when we have failed and see only a trail of disaster behind us, that Jesus still loves us and is praying for us. He is the God of mercy and desires to bring restoration to your life. When the world looks at you and says, “It’s over,” God looks at you and says, “I’m not done with you!” No matter how dark your circumstances, remember that with God working in your life, there is always hope! Never resist His love.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Love is all we need

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

“What the world needs now… is love sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” I bet the tune came to you! Dionne Warwick sang the song back in 1968 and it was really needed in that turbulent year when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The Vietnam War was raging, and protests and riots filled the streets. This song about love pierced through the cacophony of anger and anxiety of those days.  

The funny thing is that someone recently sang that song at an event I attended and the words rang true again. The song is needed in these turbulent times of discord and division. It seems as though this is a time when no one knows what to believe anymore. No one knows whom to trust.

But love transcends time and is something to hold onto. It is in a simple answer that Jesus gave to an inquiring expert wanting to know which law was the most important. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself» (Luke 10:27 NIV).

He simplified all the rules and laws into these two things. Love God. Love people. He didn’t qualify it in any way. It was and is a wide open entreaty to everyone and is as relevant today as ever.  

Love for God and neighbor is like two sides of one coin. They are two different things yet they are one. Still, we all know that love is complicated. It is a lot of different emotions and actions. Here are just a few ways to look at this complicated thing called love.  

Love is a function of surrender. Loving God is surrendering our will and our hearts and our trust to God. Surrendering to God means we set aside our own plans and look for God’s plan for us. The good news is that God wants the best for us! When we love God, it means we place our humble trust in Him and show others that God can be trusted with everything in our lives. The more we surrender to God, the more our human nature is replaced by a nature that looks more and more like Jesus.

Love is a function of commitment. We might feel warmed with gratitude when we consider all that God has done for us but love is more than being thankful. It is a stubborn, unwavering commitment to God and others. To love our neighbor is to imitate God by taking their needs seriously just as God takes our needs seriously.

Love is a function of compassion. Compassion for others is the reflection of God’s loving compassion for us. It is having an interest and concern in the welfare of our neighbor. It is the generosity of giving of ourselves; not just money but concern, interest, time and involvement. 

We humans search for love because we are made in the image of God and God is love. When we read deeply into the scriptures, when we don’t simply take a thin slice at them we discover that every action that God has taken toward humanity is because He loves us. So let us surrender to God, commit our lives, and be compassionate to others as we work to live the way of Jesus Christ in all we do. Love is all you need.   

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

So no one can boast

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8,9.

I have read those two verses hundreds of times. They are go-to verses when it comes to describing how someone is saved. They tell us that our rescue comes by grace and is applied through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is usually my understanding of these verses, but recently I read them and was struck by the last phrase of verse 9, “so that no one can boast.” The process that God chose to use to save us was used for a reason, and that reason is so that no one can boast. In other words, the gospel and the process by which we are saved is such as it is because it is designed to eradicate something from our life, and that something is boasting. 

Boasting is defined as “to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself.” I believe this is one of the greatest temptations that we face as Christians today. We want others to think well of us. We want others to know about our greatest accomplishments. We want others to take notice of all the great things in our life. If we are not careful we can easily find our lips filled with conversation about ourselves, and not the One who made our lips to speak of His greatness. The gospel at its core reminds us that we have nothing to boast about except to boast about the Lord. We have not been saved by anything other than an act of scandalous love called grace; it’s not something we deserve and our only contribution was a simple act of faith, therefore we have no reason to boast, except to boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:28-31).  

The world we live in doesn’t need to see or hear more about our gifting or our accomplishments, they need to see and hear more about the One who came to rescue them. As redeemed children of the Most High, our conversation should be filled with less about us and more about Him. And when we do happen to get recognized by the world for something we have done, we should be quick to not boast in ourselves, but instead use the opportunity as a chance to boast about our Savior!  After all, He alone holds the power to save!  

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

“Live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16)

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd

Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

616-696-3904

 

June is the time that we celebrate commencement exercises of our high schoolers. This is a time of joy and excitement for all! 

To the families, especially moms and dads, you probably watched your son/daughter graduate with joy and amazement. It probably seemed like it was just yesterday that you held this newborn child in your arms and now he/she is about to enter the world as an adult. As an uncle of five nieces and nephews, I now begin to share this joy and amazement with my brothers and sisters as my oldest nephew just graduated from high school. Thank you to all parents for accepting the gift of life and being a good steward of such a gift.

To the graduates, some of you will continue your education in colleges/universities; some will enter the work force; and some will take time off to explore the world and discern God’s plan for your life. What an exciting time! Many of you will be on your own for the first time. Not living under your parents’ roof will provide a certain sense of freedom. You are still their son/daughter, but now you will be making your own decisions. With this freedom comes with great responsibility. I encourage you to make wise choices for all the actions in your life. 

How does one make good choices in our life? “Live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16) is the advice of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians. This is good advice. When we live according to the guidance of God’s spirit, our lives will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit as well. The apostle continues:  “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-23).  

Ask yourself these questions when making decisions: Is this choice motivated by love for God and others? Will it increase joy for those involved? Will it preserve a sense of peace in the environment? Will it be an act of kindness and an expression of generosity? Will it be a faithful response to God’s love and relations with others? Is it an act of gentleness and shows my maturity in overcoming selfishness? If the action does not lead to these fruits, then it is not living by the Spirit and therefore, not a good choice.

Congratulations to all the graduates! May you live by the spirit so as to find true happiness in the exciting journey ahead of you! May you bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit and transform the world, which is filled with the “fruits of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-20). Graduates of 2018, you are called to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Mt 5: 13;14).   Amen.

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

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Conflict: the great distraction

Pastor Kristi Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

One thing everyone will come face to face with at some point in their life (some more than others), is conflict.  Sadly enough, it has the power to destroy relationships, friendships and even entire families. Just imagine the devastation it causes churches, which only distracts from the very purpose for their existence.

While watching a National Geographic episode on animal communities in the wild, it reminded me of the safari we were on in Africa a couple years ago. There were very large herds of antelope and other various animals. Normally they are very alert to predators. However, as two of the antelope began to fight, others in the herd seemed to become absorbed in the fight and soon they were oblivious to the fact that there was a lion prowling around just watching for an opportunity to attack.

This is the very picture that God paints for us in His Word. He tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour! This spoke to me as a strong warning for the Church. In the church, when we fight one another, we become distracted and vulnerable to attack. The more people that get distracted by getting involved in various disputes, the less effective we become for God’s Kingdom in ministry.  

I see it on a more personal level with individual families. If Satan, the enemy of our soul, can keep God’s children distracted by fighting each other, we won’t be fighting him. He will be able to just prance in and devour our young, weak and vulnerable. Then we wonder, how did this happen?

Life here on earth involves many battles in which God promises you victory through Jesus Christ. There are always going to be challenges, difficulties and problems to solve. Still there are times when they intensify, and we seem to be coming under major attack. Martin Luther King said that the ultimate measure of a person is not where we stand when things are going great, but where we stand in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.   

There are many verses in Proverbs as well as throughout the Bible that contrast the “wise and the foolish.” A few things I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) 

  • Avoid unnecessary quarrelling—don’t sweat the small stuff or the disputable matters.  
  • Seek wise counsel; not just anyone who will listen. Don’t involve others in your disagreement. Gossip is another ugly distraction.
  • Trust that God can bring good out of evil. Turn it over to Him and follow His lead.
  • Strengthen one another. Pray for each other.

Let’s be vigilant as God instructs us. Focus on what unites instead of what divides.

We need unity in the family of believers, united in Christ for battle against the real enemy. Less fighting each other and more fighting the real enemy. That’s where we truly belong!

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Dealing with thorns

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Have you ever cried out to God to remove a thorn, a problem from your life? Even Paul, from the Bible, experienced ongoing weakness, which Scripture calls “a thorn.” Though we don’t know the nature of his condition, it may have been depression, anxiety, a relationship, infirmity, etc. Scripture tells us that Paul reportedly prayed to God three  times to remove it, but God’s answer to him was this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Be strong. Avoid weakness. The world tells us in so many ways that showing human weakness is inappropriate, is not an option, especially to succeed in any area of life. Yet, the Bible has a completely different take on weakness and vulnerability. Sure, we all have times in our lives when we experience various forms of weakness due to medical infirmity, disability, mental health issues, grief, loneliness, relationship issues, financial challenges, or other adverse circumstances. The truth is, we all experience times of weakness, which is just part and parcel of our being human. 

Certainly, we all have thorns at times that annoy us, distract us, even derail us, from our life-mission to serve God with all our being and to live life to the fullest. Thorns can affect our comfort zone and leave us feeling alone and devoid of God’s love—even abandoned. Yet most of the challenges we face can bring us closer to God if we let them. Obstacles can enable us to choose between becoming bitter or better. Make no mistake about it; perspective is a conscious choice. We get to choose what we think about, and it is vitally important to accept our own weaknesses and those of others, as we focus on moving forward in our daily lives. Otherwise our shortcomings could bog us down and overwhelm us, stopping us in our tracks.

Even Jesus—who was fully divine and fully human—experienced weakness. When His crucifixion was imminent, he asked God the Father to “let this cup pass me by, if it be Thy will.” Despite worldly wisdom, there is much to be learned through weakness. Through our weaknesses, we can learn to deal with and accept our own imperfections and those of others. We are able to grow in compassion for others’ shortcomings and weaknesses with empathy, and seek God fervently as we come to recognize there is nowhere else to turn but towards Him.

Learning to live with our weaknesses, our own thorns and imperfections, is so important for growing in faith. It is our great field of labor, as we must strive to conquer our own thorns and fears before we can be of help and service to those around us who are vulnerable. May we learn much from Jesus and Paul and from their thorns, as we embark on the journey to serve God with complete abandon, according to His plan for our lives, rather than our own.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

God moves in a mysterious way

Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road NE, Sparta

 

Recently I was in a conversation with someone who asked, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” Most of us have heard that question in some form, or we may have even asked it ourselves at some time. There is no single response for everyone, but the one I particularly favor is, “A person must know God themselves in order to understand the answer.” For myself, only when I became a Christian, did I understand that the better question for me is, “Why does a holy God provide a way for sinners like me to enter his heaven?”  

The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6, NIV).  Isaiah tells us how to seek God: “while he may be found and while he is near;” implying there may be a time when God may not be found or near. So, when is the time he can be found and near? Right now, today.

There is a timeless truth in the first verse of a hymn written by William Cowper in 1774, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.” This is not citing a bible verse, but it is based on what we read in scripture, “God moves in mysterious ways.”                                                                                                                                          

Yes, having said that, you still can know him. He makes himself knowable to those who seek him in their lives. As good as that may sound, the even better news is that the God of the universe knows you personally and the fact that we can talk to God is absolutely amazing.    

This passage from Isaiah has become more dear to me over the years, as there was a time when I was living my life apart from God. Some people can’t find God in the same way a criminal can’t find a policeman, because they aren’t looking for him. Knowing God is just like knowing anyone else, I learned that I had to spend time with him, to be still and listen, to study his word, spend time in prayer and go to church. 

Of course, we need to know that God is so great that we will never fully understand him. Although we can and should know God, we cannot know everything about him. That may seem strange, but for those who are married, you surely know your spouse, but you don’t know everything about them. In our marriage of over 50 years, we are still being surprised from time to time with each other’s thoughts or actions.   

Inside all of us there is a longing to fill our lives with purpose and meaning. We can chase what the world offers, but our own pursuits always fall short.  Isaiah the prophet gives us this wisdom, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel” (Isaiah 45:15, NIV).  God brings us a kind of Savior we never would have expected, one who sympathizes with us in our weakness, while he works through our triumphs and tragedies.    

The word mysterious means “difficult … to understand, explain, or identify.” Based on this definition, God’s ways become both mysterious and not mysterious to us in some ways, and the Bible clearly explains how. God truly moves in mysterious ways; get to know him more today.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Start Here

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church 

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

Jesus said this in John 15:14-16 (NIV): “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 

Three verses. A person could find a lot to think about in any of the three: The analogy of servants and masters. The idea that I could actually be God’s friend! The pregnant possibilities in the statement that “…whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” So many directions you could go. But instead, let’s hold these thoughts all together and see what happens.

Friends of God are people who are already in the process of doing what God has asked them to do. Because of this, they are not only doing but being something very different in comparison to other people. If I’m reading my Bible clearly—both following its threads from the front cover to the back and noticing the details in this book and chapter—I  think that much of the “everything” that Jesus was learning from His Father had to do with both being and doing.

Who was being honored in every moment? Jesus always found His purpose and His identity in His Father. Where was the next leg of His mission going to take place? Jesus was always present with people, and yet was always on His way somewhere. Who was the next person or group of people who needed to hear a fully-dressed Good News? Who was the next person or group of people who needed desperately to experience the presence of the living God? These, I believe, were the preoccupations of Jesus, and so He told those closest to Him “…go, and bear fruit…

But He also made sure they understood that they were supposed to pursue “fruit that will last.” How many of the things you’re doing today will actually last? If you’re not sure many of them will, it seems to me that you need to find a stopping point in your busyness to reorganize your priorities.

Jesus has already done everything necessary to make you a friend of God. Are you prepared to do everything He asks of you? God’s Spirit is very interested, willing, able, and present to guide you in doing things with your life that will have permanent significance. There is a Bible with God’s words recorded in it that will give you structure and insight into how all this works. And there are churches full of God’s friends all around you, trying to do these same things. Are you wondering where to start with God? Start here.

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

A perfect storm

Pastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St, Cedar Springs

 

One of my favorite gospel songs is “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.” I remember singing this song as a small child in church services. As a young person growing up in church, I remember hearing over and over again the Bible story of a man who took his eyes off Jesus and nearly drowned. 

Do you know this song? Is it one of your favorites? Do you remember the words to the chorus?

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.”

According to these words, it isn’t until we “look full” into Jesus’ face that we will look away from earthly things. I believe to “look full” is to give our complete attention to Jesus. It is to see Him and only Him alone through the Bible. The earthly things that appear to offer us so much satisfaction or security will be seen as shallow and superficial compared to the eternal reward of seeing Jesus.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is when he directed his disciples to cross over to the town of Bethsaida while he went up on the mountain to pray. It was there, alone on the mountain, that Jesus noticed the disciples’ struggle out on the water. The Bible says, “the wind was against them.” 

The human tendency during difficulty is to imagine the face of God with blind eyes, but the Bible teaches the opposite. God sees. God knows. God cares. God acts. True followers of Christ are special objects of His sovereign care and compassion. We’ll know his care when we cast our concerns on him.

The very waves that the disciples feared became the way he entered into their struggle. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” And when he got into their boat, the wind ceased. When “the wind is against you” do you know that he is with you? If we are not going to be beaten down by the storm we must believe in the One who can calm it. Remember his promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Storms will come. Who do you see in them?

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Helen H. Lemmel, Singspiration

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

The one important truth

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction (NIV).

April 29 was a “fifth Sunday.” Four times a year we have five Sundays in a month. Several years ago, a woman came to me after services and asked if I would answer some questions for her. I said that I would be glad to and she proceeded to ask about the symbols around the church, the reason for the colors of the cloths and many more questions. It was at this time I realized that I had been neglecting one of my responsibilities as a pastor. I had not been explaining the symbols and the meaning of the various articles and traditions around the church. From that began “Question Sunday.” When there is a fifth Sunday, the people that I serve submit any questions that they have and I do my best to answer them. The questions have ranged from simple curiosity to scriptural thoughts. I have been told by many of the congregations that they really look forward to these days and that they get a lot from them. The truth is that I enjoy them as well. I love to learn and the bible challenges us to study the word, not just to read it. And often I am asked a question that opens up a new line of thought for me.

But as much fun as these days are I always end the day with a reminder. The one truth that we all need to understand is that, as stated in John 3:16, “God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life” (paraphrased).

Understanding the sacrifice of Jesus for us, and understanding that it was an act of unconditional love, is the most important knowledge that we can have. And the best thing to do with knowledge is to share it. God loves you. Jesus loves you. This is the truth. Share it with the world!

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

advert
Ensley Team Five Star Realty
Advertising Rates Brochure
Kent Theatre

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!