web analytics

Archive | From the Pulpit

What it Takes to be content

Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

Thomas Watson once said, “Discontent keeps a man from enjoying what he does possess. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine.” Charles Spurgeon painted the other side of the picture, “A little sprig of the herb called content put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor’s turtle.”

It isn’t what we have, but what we enjoy that makes for a rich life, and the wise person understands that contentment is not having everything we want, but enjoying everything we have. It is ironic that Americans enjoy the highest standard of living, but concurrently have such an astronomical level of discontent.

Real contentment is a jewel to be treasured. Contentment is possible to possess despite circumstances which may not be what we would choose. As is always the case, real contentment is only truly possible if we base it on the foundation of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Once we have that relationship, we must fervently maintain a freshness in that relationship. If we do not maintain a vibrant relationship with Christ then dissatisfaction, discouragement and division will spring up and discontentment results. If we keep a fresh relationship with our Savior contentment results because we are confident in the sovereignty of God to work our good in our lives.

So how do we keep a fresh spiritual walk with God and thereby stay content in a world gone mad. I believe some answers to that question are found in Psalm 1. In this passage of Scripture we are given a picture of trees growing on riverbanks, bearing fruit and exhibiting strength.

Psalm 1:1 teaches us that we are to separate from the mindset of the world. To do that we must have our minds renewed and think on things that are good and pleasing to a clear conscience.

Psalm 1:2 characterizes the contented Christian as one whose mind is saturated by the Word of God. A contented Christian has a view of life which springs from the Bible. Such saturation with the Scriptures is the secret to satisfaction in the soul.

Psalm 1:3 says that we are to be situated by the water, which is a beautiful picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God’s supply of grace is inexhaustible and when we are living according to the tenets of the Bible it makes us contented.

Personal contentment in one’s soul results in proper perspectives, priorities and progress. Even in today’s chaotic events, we can still prove the truth that Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Get out there

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. • Cedar Springs MI 49319

Psalm 104:1-5: “Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

I know that the marketing campaigns have already reached the supermarkets and retail outlets with the plaintiff cry that it is time to go back to school. Well some of us are not ready for summer to be over just yet. In the words of one of the cruise line commercials, August is a time to “Get out there!”

This afternoon we got on the bikes and hit the trail. With all that is going on in our lives it just seemed right. We live in an artificial environment inside a dome of television, Internet, Facebook, and email.  While any one of these by themselves is not bad, one thing that they all have in common is that they are never ending.

When I grew up and we watched late night television, there came a point in the programming where they would show the flag, play the national anthem and then the screen went fuzzy. It was over for the day.

Now we live in a world that is seemingly non-ending. The television will play all night, email keeps coming in, people are constantly posting on Facebook, and you can shop at Meijer 24 hours a day. For some of us that means that we have lost our Circadian rhythm, or the internal clock that tells us when to be active and when to fall asleep.

One way to reset the internal clock is to get out into nature and allow God’s creation to anchor us once again to the foundation of the earth. August, with its long days and mild weather, is the perfect time to reset our body and soul, before all the business of the school year begins again.

Get out there!

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Something worth writing on our hearts

HolySpiritEpiscopalThe Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit 

Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

 

 

Stephanie Paulsell wrote  in the Christian Century, “We need places to pray as if someone were listening, to study as if we might learn something worth writing on our hearts, to join with others in service as if the world might be transformed.  Churches are places to learn to practice, with others, a continual conversion of life, a permanent openness to change.” I love this quote for all the powerful verbs Ms. Paulsell includes:  pray, listen, study, join, practice, converse, change, and transform. As a result, of those actions, there should be something life-changing in our faith communities, something worth writing on our hearts.

If that is not being experienced, those of us who have been given some kind of responsibility in the church need to assess what is happening. The Northern Kent County/Montcalm Yellow Pages lists over 175 churches. But those listings are only places—places needed to stage the real action of the Christian life. That action is ministry. In the Bible lessons for the first weeks after Pentecost, Jesus is continually giving his disciples his last minute instructions. He told them to do what he had told them to do, go into the world, teach as he had taught them, invite all people into the Kingdom of God, be one with the Father as He was with the Father. He did not tell them to go and erect buildings.

That concept came much later when groups needed more space to gather for their ministries. Recognition of that fact is a very important revelation. The church is not a place; it is a bunch of people doing what Jesus told them to do. Some people get confused on this point. They see their ministry to other people as a means of growing and supporting their individual church buildings. That type of effort leaves people hollow and spiritually starving. In reality, the buildings we call churches are only refueling stations. Their purpose is to support the workers for ministry.

The Communion of Believers must maintain its purpose as a mission and not a place. When that occurs, all sorts of good things happen. People understand the authenticity of faith, they are attracted to the God who wants all good things for them, and lives are transformed.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

“Dependence Day”

No, that is not a typo! As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day for the United States of America, I am reminded of how our country gained its independence from Britain. It was with dependence on God. As a matter of fact, the very first resolution brought before the First Continental Congress, and immediately passed was the declaration that they would open every meeting with a prayer. Our founding fathers were dependent on God. Our country was founded on Biblical principles.

Have you ever actually read our country’s founding documents? I have and was pleasantly surprised. I was not aware of how many times God and Our Creator are mentioned and honored in several of our official founding documents. As Americans, we depend on the Constitution and these documents to guide our lives. Knowing our history makes us all better Americans. Just as knowing, depending on and living by our Bible makes us better Christians. Many who claim to believe the Bible have never even read it.

We become stagnant, when we become dependent on wrong or destructive things.

“Stagnation is seen often in people who abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol. Their emotional development likely stopped at the age they began to escape life through substance abuse. One cannot grow when one no longer participates in life” (Dr. Henry Cloud).  

This rings true in our relationship with God, as well, when we become dependent on anything else over God. Just as when we stop participating in our Christian life, stagnation occurs. The one and only thing we must become dependent on is God, our Creator.

Peter Scazzero states in his book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” Christianity is not about our disciplined pursuit of God, but about God’s relentless pursuit of us—to the point of dying on a cross for us that we might become his friends. The inexhaustible God loves us so intensely that every time someone turns to Him after wandering from His love for us, all heaven breaks out in a thunderous celebration (see Luke 15:7).

Most of us believe this in our minds. This is the message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Experiencing this infinite love in our hearts, however, is another matter. But only when we stop fighting God and submit to dependence on Him, will we ever be transformed and experience His infinite love in our hearts. Once God has won our hearts, we pursue Him with a hunger and thirst that can only be quenched by more of Him. Then spending time with Him and His love letter, aka, the Bible is not a duty but satisfying an inner craving to know Him more. Like me–if that is you, then you too will celebrate “Dependence Day”!

Pastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Posted in Church Connection, From the PulpitComments Off

Finding yourself

Did you know that you matter to God? Did you know that God has a will and plan for your life? It’s sad to see so many people in this world today think that they serve no real purpose and think they are randomly placed here on this earth by chance or accident. We all need to realize we have a real strong purpose in this world. God predetermined before He created the world that he had a plan for your life. (Ephesians 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…”) Before you were placed in your mother’s womb, God knew who He wanted you to be. (Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”) God wants you to find His will for your life; in other words, find your true self or seek your true identity.

Many times we think everything or every action we do in our life is God’s plan. That’s not true. He gives us the freewill to make our own choices. God does not control us like we are His robots or direct our every move like we are His marionette puppets. He gives us free choice to make our own decisions; however, He aggressively attempts to get our attention and influences us through His Word and the Holy Spirit. Why would God not control us and make us come to Him? Why would he not force us to be obedient and make us love Him? Because when you control someone or dictate every move they make, it does not show real compassion or real love towards another. God wants us committed through love. He wants a real, compassionate relationship with us, not one that is forced. Therefore, He allows ourselves to make decisions in this path called life in hoping we will find the predetermined plan God has for us.

That is the challenge we face. To stay focused on the direction and purpose God has for us without getting distracted from the things of this world. Satan loves to get us off track, which is why the Bible tells us to walk by the spirit not by the flesh (Romans 8:1). The flesh is drawn to the things and temptations of this world. The flesh is what gets us into the ruts we get into. When we walk in the spirit, we are more eager to listen and walk in God’s desire for our lives.

Remember, God loves you and He created you for a purpose and meaning. He has a real plan for your life. Every decision we make may not be part of God’s plan, however, then again many times it can be. When things go the way we want them it doesn’t mean that’s the way God intended it to be. And when things don’t go our way it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t God’s plan to happen the way it did. God sees the big picture for each one of our lives and He knows what’s best for us. The greatest thing we can do is stay close to God through His Word and prayer and stay focused on what our spirit desires and not the flesh. God has a plan and purpose for your life. He doesn’t reveal it all at once to us because we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). If you stay on this path you will find your true identity—you will find your true self .

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Posted in Church Connection, From the PulpitComments Off

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.

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

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.

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

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.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

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.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

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!

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off