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Archive | From the Pulpit

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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Spring (time) cleaning

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.orghttp://craigtowens.com

 

 

 

Now that it appears that—let’s cross our fingers—Spring has finally sprung, many people will be throwing open the windows, airing out the house, and cleaning up some things that have accumulated over the long, icy winter. Ah, yes, the annual rites of spring cleaning!

One place that lots of things accumulate is our schedule. Between sports schedules, church activities, music lessons, grocery store trips, making meals, parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, and so many other things, our schedules are packed chockfull.

In our relationships love is typically spelled “t-i-m-e.” So if you don’t have enough t-i-m-e to express your love, perhaps some spring cleaning is needed.

A few things to remember:

(1) Time is finite. You cannot call a time-out, you cannot bank up some time for another day, you cannot slow down the clock. Once you commit to something, that time is gone forever.

(2) It’s okay to say “No.” A friend of mine recently shared this thought: Whenever you say “Yes” to anything, there is less of you and your time for something else. So make sure your “Yes” is worth the “less.” If the “less” is t-i-m-e with your loved ones, please say a guilt-free “No, thank you.”

(3) Make your “Yes” mean yes. If you do decide to commit to something, then honor your commitment. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37). And wise King Solomon warned, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).

(4) Time is your servant, not the other way around. Make your time work for you; don’t be a slave to the clock. A good indication that you’re the slave and not the master is that feeling like you are always running late for everything. Cut out some non-essentials like TV time or countless Facebook hours so you can make t-i-m-e for what’s really important.

Happy Spring (time) Cleaning!

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Power of Prayer

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345

 

 

“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness”—Martin Luther.

For the last several weeks, I have been drawn to a more committed and deeper prayer life. Often we think, as Martin Luther wrote, that our prayers are somehow needed to “move” a reluctant God. When in reality, we are simply acknowledging and “laying hold” of God’s willingness. Do you see God as a willing person? Willing to listen? Willing to answer? Willing to provide? Willing to reveal and show His love to you?  Is your “picture” of God one of a willing Father or a resistant and reluctant God?

You see, your “picture” of God is critical to understanding prayer. It is essential to knowing Him as a loving and willing Father. Jesus taught this lesson to his disciples when he taught them about prayer in Luke chapter 11. We call this well known teaching of Jesus, “the Lord’s Prayer.” Luke 11:1-4 reads, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us and lead us not into temptation.’”

Jesus had been with his disciples for some time now. They had witnessed him heal and deliver many people. They witnessed him repeatedly say, “I only speak what the father speaks,”  “If you have seen me, you have seen the father,” “I and the Father are one.” They also have witnessed him take time out of his demanding life and spend time in prayer. One day, upon returning from one of His prayer times, the disciples asked the Lord Jesus to teach them how to pray.  Their request was, “teach us how to pray, as John taught his disciples!” Notice this request? There was something different about how John was teaching people to pray. Jesus disciples knew about “prayer” but they wanted Jesus to teach them about the prayers that John’s disciples were praying. You see, up until this time, prayer was mainly one of reverence and adoration. Prayers, especially by the Pharisees and religious people, were known to be long and repetitious. In fact, Jesus warned us not to pray like this. So, what was different about these prayers?

As we read further in verses 2 – 4, we see that the Lord introduces the principle of praying to God as a Father. He includes in this communication our petitions and requests. We are encouraged to adore God as our Father and to share our requests and needs. In essence, He is saying, “please know you can ask your Father for what you have need of in your life.”

In fact, immediately following the Lord’s prayer, we see Jesus sharing a parable about a man who was rewarded for his persistence in asking for his need to be met. There was no rebuke, but a reward for his persistence! One translation says, he was rewarded for his “boldness.” As a child of God the Father, learn to communicate with him through prayer. Exercise your faith, your boldness, your confidence, during these times of pray. Make your requests and needs known.  For the Father’s ear is always listening. We are, as Luther said, “laying hold of His willingness.” Will you lay hold of it today? Will you be more consistent and persistent in your prayer life, because you know you have a willing Father who loves you. If so, you will begin to see the power of prayer in your every day life.

 

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How Can I Achieve Financial Security Even in Uncertain Times?

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

 

The Bible talks more about how to manage money than even Heaven and Hell combined. Even as times of prosperity come and go, financial hardship for many is just a way of life. It is a continuous battle but it doesn’t have to be that way. God is great at making ways where there seems to be no way!!

One of the great deceptions of wealth is its false sense of security. If the stock market crashes, millionaires can become paupers in one day. Also, there will come a time when we will have to account for our lives before God; on that day our money will be utterly useless. Your riches won’t help you on Judgment Day; only righteousness counts then (Prov. 11:4 LB). A person whose hope is in riches is headed for a fall (Prov. 11:28). Only trust in God offers true security.

Still, God gives us a wealth of information to help us have the right attitude about achieving and managing financial gain. Much of it is found right in the book of Proverbs. All in all, the consistent message can be summed up in three main principles that apply to our finances.

First, we should recognize that whatever we have is not ours and is the result of God’s blessing. That means we should hold our money with an open hand and give generously. God expects us to honor Him with our wealth, returning to Him a portion of our first fruits (not what’s left over) by giving to His work on a planned, consistent and priority basis (Proverbs 3:9). Just so we’re clear—God doesn’t need our money; what He wants is our heart. Where your treasure is; there your heart is also!

Second, we should work hard, earning our money honestly and spending frugally. God hates dishonest business practices while he delights in those who conduct y their financial affairs with integrity and honesty (Prov. 11:1).

Third, we should save in the good times for the times of need—unemployment, college, retirement, an emergency or any time when our income might be reduced. He who gathers money little by little makes it grow (Prov. 13:11).

In a nutshell—work honest and hard; pay God first; pay yourself second (savings); then live on the rest. That is living within your means. Don’t spend what you don’t have. Save up money for big purchases rather than borrowing money. The borrower is slave to the lender. God doesn’t want us to be in financial bondage; He wants us free to be able to focus on the bigger picture.

Finally, there is a way for your money to keep working for God’s Kingdom long after you have been called home in glory with our Lord.  Remember your church in your will. Many churches struggle with finances to do the ministries they feel called to do. You can help. The gift that keeps on giving for real! May God richly bless you in the powerful Name of Jesus, Amen!

 

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Spring—a reminder of life

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Springtime is finally approaching. What a lovely time of year. No other season invokes these sights, sounds and smells. Spring is the awakening of what was once dead but has now come alive. The Bible describes it, “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!’ (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). 

The spring season reminds us of how important life truly is.  But what is life and what does it mean? What does it mean according to God?

In the beginning God created a perfect world. Why was this world so perfect? Because God’s presence was there and the presence of God brings life! However, man fell into Satan’s temptations, which removed the presence of the One who gives life. As a result, a curse was placed on this earth because of sin which has resulted in all of us being handed a sentence of death.  The image of a physical death and a curse on the earth which forewarns us of an ending we do not want to inherit.  That picture is eternal death. Eternal death means eternal seperation from God, the One whom gives life.

However, God had a plan; a plan to rescue us from that separation. He accomplished this by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for us. This sacrifice bridges us back to the One who gives life! Eternally God has allowed us to escape our death sentence and has called us to live and reign with Him forever and ever. All you need to do is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and He will set you free and grant you eternal life in His Kingdom.

While the life God is concerned about is eternal, He gives us reminders and illustrations here on this earth.  Spring is a perfect time of year for that reminder. Spring brings hope that there will be brighter days ahead; days full of sunshine, happiness and joy. We see plants come to life, trees blossoming, flowers blooming, animals lively and birds chirping. These are all wonderful signs of life and should remind us that Jesus Christ gave us life through His death. It is a life that will allow us to live in peace and harmony with Him forever and ever. Remember, God is Life!

 

 

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