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Archive | From the Pulpit

Amazing hope

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Easter is coming! I remember looking forward to it as a kid because it meant Easter baskets, candy, those little fluffy yellow chicks with wire legs and feet, and then there were the marshmallow peeps–yum! That’s what Easter meant to me even though I was a life-long church going kid.

That’s because the story of Jesus rising from the dead was way too difficult to wrap my mind around. I didn’t really even understand death since I didn’t know anyone who had died. 

Now, I’m a whole lot older and have lived through many things. I understand the finality of death and the amazing hope found in the resurrection of Jesus. Why? Because I no longer feel condemned by the things (sins) I’ve done. I can live without regrets and guilt because Jesus handled it! Those things are behind me, gone, wiped out, buried and forgotten by God because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  

I know that God will provide. Any doubts I have I can bring to God. I can bring them to God and I don’t need to be afraid because God has shown amazing compassion to even those who really doubted (think Job or Thomas, who even required that Jesus show his hands and feet). If God loved those big doubters, He will surely love me.

I also know that I have a peace that has overcome the fears I’ve had. I know that my redeemer lives and because of that all my fear is replaced with awe, wonder and faith. I know that I can pray and I will be heard by a God who is so loving that he gave his only son for me. When I struggle, Jesus knows what that’s all about because he lived a human life and when I bring those struggles to him he gives me peace through the Holy Spirit.

See, if you are struggling, feeling overwhelmed, worried or fearful please understand that Jesus knows your heart and wants to step into it and conquer those difficult feelings. He creates a new heart and continues to work inside of each of us. We are new creations because of Jesus.  

That’s why Easter is exciting!

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A Timely Word

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

At this moment we are facing a battle that is leaving our community more divided than possibly ever before. It’s not long into a conversation before the question comes up, “Have you heard about what’s going on with the school board and the superintendent?” It is not my calling as a Church leader to comment on either side of this issue, especially here in a neutral public forum, but I do feel very strongly that some perspective may be needed, especially for those on both sides of the issue who call themselves “sons and daughters of God.”  

Conflict in life is inevitable. It’s a reality that we deal with everyday. The issue for God’s children when it comes to conflict is, “how do we navigate through conflict in a manner that is worthy of the gospel?” (Phil. 1:27.)  This is a topic that cannot be exhaustively dealt with here in such a short space, but I offer one verse that should be considered before we respond to others.  “…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39b).  

God is love and He calls His children to follow suit (1 John 4:7-21).  Loving others comes from a gospel mindset that declares every life has value because it has been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 139). The call for followers of Jesus to love others is rooted in this foundational belief. Regardless of how people are acting, how they are treating me, or whether I believe them to be right or wrong, it is my duty and my privilege to respond in the way of love because when I do this I reveal the image of the Divine in a way that causes others to take notice. As Children of God, our greatest desire must be for others to see through our actions, a God who can change their life, a God who can give life and give life to the fullest (John 10:10). This is the mandate for all “believers,” as we are God’s ambassadors in a world that desperately needs Him. I urge all the believers to consider this as we engage in this conflict or any conflict for that matter. After all, without love, we are nothing! (1 Cor. 13:1-8.)  

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Missing identity

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

So many in the world today find themselves lost and desperate in trying to find themselves. Many search far and wide to determine who they are as a person and what their identity is. Who am I? What is my image? While we can look in many places through out the world, the truth of the matter is we will never find our true selves in what the world has to offer. Whatever we think we can find ourselves in is temporary or false hope. Because of this, people can become tired, depressed and frustrated. They often think they’ve found themselves, only to later be extremely disappointed when it falls apart or disappears. 

The world’s hopes are false hopes laid out by Satan to distract us from the truth (1 Timothy 6:17).  That truth being that our true identity is not of this world but of Christ himself. The bible tells us from our creation we were made in His image (Genesis 1:27). This is partly why growth in our faith and relationship with God is so important. Not only do we get to know God, but we also get to know ourselves as we begin to discover our true identity in Him.  

This by no way strips us of our unique personalities, traits and talents that God himself has blessed us with. That is the beauty of it all. We all commonly can share in an identity in Christ, yet at the same time keep our individual uniqueness. Thus, we can have our own individuality shown through our true identity and image in Christ.  

Never feel down and frustrated thinking you can’t find who you are or what your purpose in life is.  Simply look to God and he will help you find yourself in Him, the true image and identity he created you to be.    

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The Real McCoy

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Did you ever wonder where that expression “the real McCoy” comes from? According to the folks at phrases.org, nobody really knows for sure. Whatever the origin of the term, we all know what it means—the genuine article, the real deal!   What does real Christianity look like? What are the tell-tale signs that distinguish “the real McCoy” from a cheap imitator?   

Some might suggest real Christianity means going to church or having perfect attendance. Obviously, I’m in favor of church attendance, but I also know that there is more than that to “the real McCoy.” You can’t tell real Christianity by how big a Bible a person carries, or how a person dresses.

The Christian “real McCoy” always produces three things in a person’s life: controls the tongue, softens the heart, and purifies the soul, and if it doesn’t, something’s wrong!

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26, NIV). Now, that is quite a statement. James explains this further in the third chapter; he says the tongue is harder to control than a wild beast. It corrupts like a poison and consumes like a roaring fire. There is not a single one of us that doesn’t know that by experience—either from the effects of our own tongue or from the receiving end of someone else’s razor-sharp words.

“A pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world,” (James 1:27, NIV). The plight of such people was not a pretty picture in the ancient world. We tend to rebel at what is fake, just as Jesus himself rejected fakes. Others can be fooled, but not God; he will unmask us sooner or later.  

Even sincere people are not perfect. A young man filled out an application for admission to a university, and in response to a request to “List your Personal Strengths,” he wrote, “sometimes I am trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Where the form said, “List Your Weaknesses,” he wrote: “Sometimes I am not trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” No one is perfect.

One thing that has limited the influence Christians have on the world is that many who claim to follow Christ are not authentic. An inconsistent lifestyle repels people from the church. So how authentic is your walk? Are the people around you drawn to faith by your life? Do people who cross your path recognize that there is a difference in the way you live?

The key is being authentic, being real, not trying to just appear perfect, and if you think you are fooling everybody, then the only person you are fooling is yourself. You can be assured you are not fooling God. What you say and what you do, influences those God puts into your life, and we must be ready and willing to be the good news, before we tell the good news. 

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Is there hope?

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

 

When you pick up the newspaper, are you often struck by the weight of what’s in it? Violence, political unrest, an unending clash of values…the temptation is to believe that these issues have never been seen before in all of history, but this just isn’t true. To read history from all over the world is to realize how commonplace so much of this has been since the earliest times.

Take a look at the biblical book of Judges as an example, written over 3,000 years ago on the other side of the world. You would be hard-pressed to find stories with more bizarre plotlines than these. It starts out describing pretty normal events, but as it progresses, things take a downward spiral as it races to some of the very lowest places humanity has ever been. I challenge you to do a read-through sometime soon, and see if you don’t agree.

So why I am I telling you all this? Well, for one, if Christianity ever seems to you to be hopelessly out of touch with today’s realities, I want to give you at least one good reason to question that common assumption. But beyond that, if you’re already reading today’s headlines, I want to challenge you to look at them from a perspective with the wisdom of hindsight—of “been there, done that.” If life is sometimes just going to be hard, wouldn’t it pay for us to know how to walk through it with insight, direction, and—hopefully—grace? I think so.

If you take the time to read Judges, you will probably notice how things from the story of Abimelech (chapter nine) onward start to snowball with the complexities of the evil that is happening. The questions that become important for us, then, are:

How does a society pull out of a nosedive when this “chain-reaction” of evil starts to take place in our own time?

What values and character traits have to rise up when chaos begins to reign?

These questions are addressed seriously and in deeper detail throughout Scripture. They aren’t questions that should make us wring our hands and worry; there are already plenty of people doing that. No, this is an opportunity to steep ourselves in the words of Jesus, and then… put them into practice: 

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” –Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV).

God’s People were built for this. Through Jesus, light and hope for the world can begin in us.

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Two words

Pastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church 

233 Main St, Cedar Springs

 

“Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” “I do.” Words seem so ordinary. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose,” is the paraphrase Dr. Paul Tripp gives to Proverbs 18:21 in his book, War of Words. Paul is a counselor, speaker, and a writer, with extensive pastoral experience. It’s true. Words are important. The two most important words for me are “But God.”

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” This is a familiar phrase, but its author is unknown. However, we open the Bible and discover several characters who received God’s grace. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis 8:1, we read, “But God remembered Noah.” What was the condition of the world at that time? In Genesis 6:5, God said, “The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Today is similar to yesterday. There is evil in our world. People of grace aren’t excluded from worldly evil, but it serves a providential purpose. At the end of Genesis, Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 ESV). But God.

When we encounter worldly evil we often wonder, “Why God?” Another Bible character, Asaph, a worship leader in King David’s court, wondered about good and evil. He thought, “Good things only happen to good people.” He thought that God’s people are excluded from worldly evil. Later he confessed, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:23 ESV). But God.

Who would I be if it were not for the grace of God? In Ephesians 2:4, the Apostle Paul declares, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” The grace of God guarantees that God loves us in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross. But God. Think about these two words for a moment. But God.

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Tools of the trade

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

“Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you are to be” (2 Thessalonians 1:2, The Message).

“He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32, Common English Bible)

Although I am (all too quickly) approaching the age of 60, I am, for the first time, reading the book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Like many, I have seen the movie countless times but the book is immensely different from the movie. What stands out to me almost immediately is the obvious fact that the thing that each character wants, they already have—brains, a heart, and courage. Each demonstrates these attributes repeatedly on their journey. There is a good lesson in this for all of us. 

Sometimes God calls us to a place or a work that we are—to be blunt—afraid of. We doubt if we have the skills needed for the job or if we will be able to make a difference in a place that we are not familiar with. Sometimes, when we turn away from the task without trying, we miss the tremendous blessing that we would receive in return for following God’s direction.

Do not let this happen! God does not ask of us things that we are not able to do. In addition, we will be able to do these things because God is with us. He knows what we need and He provides us with all of this and more. 

Sure, it can be scary going into an unfamiliar place or starting a ministry with unfamiliar people. However, if this is what God has called you to do then the first step is to completely trust in Him. It is not always easy because our emotions, fear and doubt are very powerful. Remember that God is infinitely more powerful than our fears. Most importantly, He will not ask us to do something or go somewhere without honoring His promise to be with us. 

Trust in God no matter where He puts us and the blessing to your life will be far greater than we could have imagined.

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Problems

Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

It’s hard to believe that we find ourselves in another New Year. Congratulations… you made it! The problems of last year are over and we can look to this New Year with great optimism. Yeah, but wait a second. Is that really true? Do all we need is more optimism and the problems will go away? Well, before we start celebrating again, let me tell you what some old preacher once told me about problems. The old preacher said, “I’ve got problems, you’ve got problems. All God’s children got problems.” Now that is a profound statement. Isn’t that true? It’s called “Welcome to the human race!” And do you know what?  I hate to be the kill joy, but in this New Year, it doesn’t matter how much optimism you may muster up, you’re still going to have problems to face. The issue, then, is not whether we’ll have problems, but how we’ll handle them.

I love what Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote. Listen to what she said: “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, until it seems as though you cannot hang on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” 

Did you hear that? Did you really read that? She said, “…never give up…” Now that is some great advice, isn’t it? I think many of us give up too quickly when the solution to our problem was right there, ready to be discovered and enjoyed. 

God’s Word tells us in Philippians 4:14 this powerful truth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So, let’s break this scripture down a bit. Where do I get the strength? I get the strength from Jesus Christ. What do I get that strength for? To do all things. My friends, it’s not in our own strength that will get us through the difficulties of life. It’s in and through His strength, which is ours for the asking.

Are you struggling today with a problem? Are you tired? Then take a moment right now and ask Jesus to give you the strength to do whatever it takes to overcome that problem. I promise you this, He will answer you as you surrender your life to Him. And my friend… never give up. 

So, in this New Year, let’s not be surprised by the problems, but let’s surprise the problems in how we handle them.

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A New Beginning

By: Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

One of the most beautiful promises found in God’s Word comes late in the Bible. In Revelation 21:5 God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Obviously He is speaking of a coming time in Heaven when the curse of sin is abolished and all the imperfections of time are replaced by the perfections of eternity in God’s Presence. And certainly, to every believer, that is a glorious promise. There will be no more sin, sorrow, or suffering. Pain and problems will be replaced joy and jubilation. 

But in the meantime, we are still ensconced in a world of woe. There are many things which trouble and confound us which are out of our control. Old age and death are an inevitable challenge which lurk in the future mists of our life. Other troubling concepts loom over us which we would like to avoid, but are powerless to change.

However, at this time of the year when many people are taking stock of their lives and finding themselves dissatisfied, there is hope for change in at least one area.

God does not have to wait for Heaven to make a new person out of us. The message of the Gospel is that Christ came to give us abundant life and that starts in the here and now. He came down to our level in order to lift us up to His. Ephesians chapter 2 says that God has raised believers up together in Christ. And all of those believers were one time sinners in need of a Savior. This act of salvation is not achieved in our own strength but rather in Jesus. 

Perhaps someone reading these words is taking inventory of their spiritual life and feeling hopeless. Allow me to point you to Jesus. He can step into your life and fix the things that are broken. This can be the moment when you become a new person in Christ. After all, he specializes in things thought impossible, and that includes fixing the mess we’ve made out of our lives.

As Gloria Gaither wrote years ago: 

Something beautiful, something good —

All my confusion He understood; 

All I had to offer Him

Was brokenness and strife, 

But He made something beautiful of my life.

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Arrival of Jesus

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

The advent season is upon us. Advent by definition means “arrival.” It is the period of time in our Church calendar filled with expectancy as we await the celebration of the arrival of Jesus. It’s a time meant to be filled with reflection and gratitude as we ponder the arrival of the “Word become flesh.”  Unfortunately this time ends up being hijacked by the hustle and bustle of the consumer-driven Christmas season. We spend time preparing for our family celebrations most commonly marked by the giving and receiving of gifts. Far too often I find myself failing to reflect on just exactly what it means to receive the greatest gift ever given. The perfect, eternal, all-powerful Son of God taking on the flesh He created in order to humbly, meekly, and selflessly stand, or, more accurately, be crucified in our place; the giver and sustainer of all life willingly enduring our death so we could freely accept and embrace his life. 

This is a gift for all mankind simply to receive. Let us not get so caught up in the celebrations revolving around the giving and receiving of material and temporal gifts, and risk missing the preciousness of receiving the priceless gift—God giving himself in the greatest act of love this world has ever or will ever witness. 

Let us find ourselves filling this advent season with time spent in worship of the One who gave himself once and for all for the joy, peace and life of all who humbly and simply receive the greatest gift ever given. As we await the celebration of our King’s arrival, may we find ourselves longing for His return where he will once and for all make all things new.  

#advent  #comeLordJesus  #He’scomingback!  #receive

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