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Archive | From the Pulpit

Have I got Good News for you

Thomas M. Doherty, Superintendent

North Michigan Conference Free Methodist Church, USA

Writing for The Springs Church

 

Have I got “Good News” for you! As Christians, we are the people of the “Good News,” but I wondered if we understand all that is meant by “Good News.” Yes, Jesus came to earth to become one of us. Yes, He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. And yes, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

Many of us believe and have acted on Romans 10:9-10, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (ESV).

We have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior; we have asked for forgiveness of our sins and are saved from the penalty of those sins.

When this happens, the bible tells us that we become a new creation. We become something new and wonderful “in Christ.” Recently, at a bible camp, I tried to teach five lessons about what the bible tells us related to who we are “in Christ.” I only got through two of the lessons because there is so much. Therefore, I can’t say everything that I would like to say in this article.

The bible says that we who have asked Christ to be our Savior are pure, holy, and blameless. It tells us that we are children of God and have been given an inheritance that is reserved for the firstborn. God dearly loves us, and we are to help others experience that same love (Ephesians 1:4, 1:11, Colossians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The word grace in the New Testament means more than graciousness. It literally means that the God who lives in us will move on our hearts to express his character. What does that mean to us? It means that we do not need to be controlled by fear, anger, hate and bitterness. We do not need to be controlled by habits, or impulses or additions. As we let God have control in our lives, his character shines through.

We don’t have to let our tempers get the best of us, or addictive behavior rule our lives. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted a passage from the Old Testament that said that he was anointed to proclaim the good news; to proclaim liberty or freedom to those in captivity; recover sight for those who are blind; and to set at liberty those who are oppressed (ESV).

In Christ, we are a people who can thrive not just survive. Salvation is not just for when we die, it is for life now.

Let me encourage you when you read your bible to look for those phrases, “in Jesus,” or “in Christ.” Embrace all of the blessings God has for you.

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A thin line

Pastor Robert Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St., Cedar Springs

 

There is a difference between a Thinline edition of the Bible and a perspective that views the Bible as thin. I view one as helpful in ministry and I view the other as harmful. One makes Truth easy to grasp and the other loses the grip on Truth.

What is meant by the perspective that the Bible is “thin?” First, the use of the word “thin” implies that the Bible lacks substance, fullness, or abundance in meaning or purpose. In other words, the Bible is irrelevant. It doesn’t really address, at least with any substantive meaning, the real issues that touch our lives.

A second matter for us to consider, which is nearly as dangerous as the first, is seeing the Bible as merely a book of rules. Yes. There are commandments in the Bible, but the Bible is not a book of do’s and don’ts. The Bible tells us what has been done for us that we cannot do. It tells us of God’s one and only Son, Jesus, and why He came into the world. It tells us of the kind of life that Jesus called “abundant.”

A third matter, which is as dangerous as the second one, is to think of the Bible as merely a resource that one might turn to in order to find comfort in a time of crisis or to find wisdom in making a decision. Those who hold this view of the Bible genuinely believe it offers some general help, but not enough for the hard issues of life.

The Bible is not thin. It’s thick. It’s substantive. It is full of meaning. It’s rich in wisdom. Its abundance overflows to address every daily matter of meaning and purpose of our lives. If this is true, and it is, then why do people not see its relevance? Or for those who do, why do they see it merely as a resource, as if the Bible is one among many voices?

The Bible is more than rules for a well-ordered life. It’s more than a resource for some of the issues of life. It is relevant in all of life’s areas. It is God’s revelation of Himself. It will awaken and revive a soul to real life!

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God sightings

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (KJV).

Several years ago, we began to use a certain publisher’s vacation bible school material. One of the things we did every day was to share “God sightings”—times that we experienced the presence of God each day. Since then we have begun to use the term almost constantly. It is a good way to stop and look at how God reveals Himself to us in our lives.

Some people write God off when something good happens and this is a shame. Why should we only give God recognition when something bad happens? A tornado, a flood, a hurricane happens and what does the television reporter and the insurance agent say? It was an “act of God.” However, when there is a nice sunny day, they do not say the same thing, do they? They may not but we certainly should.

I challenge you to take a minute each night and look back on your day. Did God make Himself real to you somehow? That truck that almost hit you but missed? The unexpected check that came in the mail just when it was needed? Or how about a beautiful sunset or sunrise? Or a bird singing outside your window just as you sat down to worry about tomorrow? Or a call from a friend? God reveals Himself in lots of ways; the trick is to not miss them.

We are so wrapped up in our worries and our schedules we miss out on God being the loving God that He is. And that is a great loss. See what ways you can experience God this week and make it a daily habit. I think that you will be surprised how often God is letting you know that He is there and that He loves you. Check out your local church and see how He reveals Himself to your neighbors; you may find that He is much more active in your life than you ever thought!

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Forgiveness

Pastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

 

When the Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray, in Matthew 6: 9-15, he guided them through what we have come to call the Lord’s Prayer. Every phrase is rich in meaning, every sentence is personal and relative to our lives, and every sentence is God centered and Christ exalting.

Note the prayer again: Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (ESV)

But the sentence that shocked us at Rockford Springs Community Church like jumping through a frozen Michigan pond is the sentence: 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Oh, we want forgiveness, and desperately need it… but we do not want our forgiveness compared to how we forgive others. And, as if that is not enough, the Lord immediately follows up the prayer with a comment directed specifically at this petition for forgiveness by adding this comment:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (ESV)

We are like a boxer reeling on the ropes after being hit by not just one punch, but by a volley of punches. We reel on the ropes, not just theologically, but also experientially.

Theologically we know that we are forgiven on the basis of the righteous life and death of Jesus Christ. His work is acceptable to God, and not mine. So clearly the action of forgiveness on our part towards others is proof of salvation, not the achievement of salvation. But that being said, how vital is this proof for without it we may indeed stand condemned, and not saved.

Forgiving each other is not an option.

The requirement of forgiveness towards each other is not removed due to any excuses I may draft up.

But we might as well as admit it. We cannot forgive without God’s help. Our hurts, too often, run too deep. Our tendency to carry a grudge is so strong. Our memory of what was said calls up the damaging event over and over through the night. Releasing the offender is not in our nature.

And so the Lord teaches us in this text to pray. We pray, and plead, and petition our God to help us. And when the joy of forgiveness comes through the resurrecting power of Christ, we worship him for the release it brings us of evil. To not forgive is evil. We know that. And Christ has the power to break the grip of evil in our lives. How wonderful it is to come to our Lord and ask of Him to do that which He has done for us. As Jesus said, pray then like this.

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Honesty

Rev. Chadrick Brown

 Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

When my wife and I meet, she had long, beautiful, blonde hair. I loved her hair. It is what initially attracted me to her. She kept her hair long and blonde until we had our first child and then off to the chopping block she went to get rid of it. I think I cried that day. Don’t get me wrong; my love for her didn’t change, nor did her beauty, but the hair was no more. She told me she would grow it back and she did. But every few years, once she gets it back to the way I like it, she cuts it off. And then comes the question that she always asks me after the hair gets cut: “Honey, what do you think? Do you like it? Do you like my hair cut?” And in my mind I scream, “No, no, no, no! I do not like it. I love your hair long and blonde. I want it long.” But then I quietly answer out loud, “Of course honey, I love it. It’s beautiful.”

I don’t think I am the only one that has ever done this. We all have had people in our lives ask a question and then answer them by telling them what they want to hear. Television sitcoms often depict funny situations where a person says what they think another person wants to hear. In fiction, it’s funny to see a person tell their boss or spouse what they want to hear.

Unfortunately, these situations aren’t funny when they really occur in our lives. We all want to have people in our lives who answer our questions honestly even when the honest answer may not be a pleasure to hear.

In Proverbs 24:26, from the Message Translation of God’s word, it says, “An honest answer is like a warm hug.” How awesome is that? How comforting is that?

Honesty is hard at times. But it’s necessary. Why? It’s necessary to build trust. It’s necessary to have healthy relationships. It’s necessary if we are ever going to get beyond the surface of relationships and begin to go deeper. It’s necessary if we are ever going to truly help each other and comfort each other.

I want to challenge you today to build your relationships on honesty. You will enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your friend is always giving you an honest answer. Your friends will enjoy the trust and confidence of a relationship where they can be honest without fearing repercussions if you don’t like their answer to your question. Everyone in a relationship benefits when it’s built on honesty.

And yes, I practice what I preach. I always tell my wife that her hair is beautiful, no matter what the length of her hair is, even though she knows, I miss her long hair.

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Times are a changin’

Keith Caldwell CLM

Cedar Springs United  Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

I remember my dad telling me how good the good old days were and now I tell my grandchildren things aren’t like they used to be. The fact is times do change; we live in a liminal state much of the time, neither in the past nor in the future. As Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they kept looking back and saying, “If only we would have stayed in Egypt”! Some of the words from a song Ray Price sang are, “It’s not healthy they say to relive yesterday, but for me it’s a way to survive.” Bob Dylan tells us, “The line it is drawn, The curse it is cast, The slow one now, Will later be fast, As the present now, Will later be past, The order is rapidly fadin’, And the first one now will later be last, For the times they are a-changin’.”

Is everything changing? How do we cope with change? What is our way to survive? The fact is some things do not change. Fear of the unknown has been with humanity since the beginning of time. Anticipation can bring imaginations larger than reality could possibly be. Looking back is a normal way to cope with change and remembering the good things from days gone by is way to build great futures.

We want stability, but what can be stable? What can be constant and not changing? What can we count on? For many of us God is the stability that helps us face the future. He is a God of love that sent His Son to teach us and to die for us, this is the God that gives us a Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us, the great God of love and hope. In Matthew 10:28-32 (NRSV) it says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” 

Yes the “Times are a Changin’,” but God’s love is forever.

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The Heart of the Father

Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

 

As we come into this weekend, naturally our thoughts turn to the father that God has placed in our lives. We will give cards and gifts, make telephone calls, and go out to eat as we honor the men who have so greatly impacted our lives. It is good that we do so. Fatherhood is designed by God to have a strong and positive role in a family, and we need to honor and restore that institution in our generation.

In our current culture, the role of the father in a family is one that is often mocked or misunderstood. In many TV sitcoms, the dad is portrayed as a dopey buffoon, a lustful and leering predator, or a weak and emasculated figure, who is constantly subjugated to an inferior role in the family by disrespectful children and/or a dominating wife. Reality is that what is seen on TV is often played out in real life in homes all across the country.

Some people do not have good relationships with, or memories of, their father. Unfortunately, many times those strained relationships or bad memories have been rightly earned by men whose parenting skills have been sorely lacking. Many children, small or grown, have bitter memories of fathers who were physically or verbally abusive or even went AWOL.

While there are many fathers who are derelict in their duty, thankfully there are also many who have accepted their rightful roles and are living out a reflection of God’s character in their own lives to the best of their ability. I am truly grateful that I have been blessed with a wonderful father who has lived out his faith in God and blazed a trail for me to follow in the paths of righteousness. Dad has lived his life in a way that made it easy for me to embrace the concept of God as a loving, Heavenly Father.

Jesus told Philip in John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (NKJV). Dads, that needs to be the goal in our lives. Part of the process of restoring fatherhood to its God-ordained place in society is for men to step up and accept and shoulder the responsibilities that come with that position. Being a dad is far more than just a title; it is an ongoing action.

It is being humble in our attitudes, consistent in our daily walk of faith, unwavering in unconditional love for our families, uncorrupted by current culture, constant in our generosity, and magnanimous in our acts of grace. It is being firm enough to provide boundaries for our families’ actions, strong enough to demand a proper code of conduct for our families’ behavior, and gentle in teaching those ways to ones we love. We are to model the heart of Jesus for those with whom we live.

May our spouses and children see the character of God shining out through our lives as His grace empowers to be more than we ever dreamed.

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The Spirit moves through us

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Before Jesus was taken to heaven, he had spent time with his disciples opening their hearts and minds to the scriptures. He taught them and then assured them that they would not be left alone to try to forge ahead without him. He told them to “GO and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The thing to remember is that he also said, “LO, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He said to stay in Jerusalem because they would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and on Pentecost that power became known by the rush of a mighty wind and flames over each of the disciples. Then Peter spoke and the church was born on that very day. That spirit is still powerful to this day, as shown by the whirlwind of work done by the church throughout the world, and by the flames of the spirit in the hearts of all those who believe.

I read a poem by Roy Lessin recently:

He is seen in 

The love expressed through your heart,

The compassion revealed through your spirit.

The kindness displayed through your actions,

The blessing received through your life.

What a wonderful way to describe someone who seeks to live their faith in their daily walk with the Lord. Would that all we do and say be evidence of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

In this season of Pentecost may you take time to recognize the Holy Spirit within you. May you honor the ways the Spirit has worked through you and moved you to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ.

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Don’t give up

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV).  

The very existence of this verse speaks to the fact that sometimes doing good can be a draining experience. This makes sense because anytime we as Christians set our mind to doing something good in this world that will result in God’s glory, the devil instantly wants to destroy it. And what is the easiest way to destroy it? By making the work hard so that the laborers give up.

Striving to show love in a world full of hate is hard work; raising godly children in a society that tries at every turn to deny the existence of God is hard work; putting Christ first in your marriage and serving your spouse when it would be easier to give up is hard work; being part of a community of believers that isn’t always perfect but is committed to work through the struggles with love and forgiveness is hard work; remaining pure in a morally filthy world is hard work. I am sure by now that you get my point. Anything worth doing in the kingdom of God is hard work because the devil wants to make it hard.

Odds are that right now there is a good work in your life that you are thinking about giving up on. Before you do that, would you consider the second part of this verse? The reason we are called to not grow weary of doing good is because if we persist, there is a promised harvest and this harvest is promised to come at the “proper time.” No matter how hard the good work you are doing is, the joy and satisfaction of the harvest is worth every ounce of pain and struggle to not give up. I promise you! God has promised that the harvest would come and He never makes a promise he doesn’t fulfill.

The unfortunate thing is that far too many of God’s children give up and move on to something easier before the reward of the harvest comes in. So today when the good work gets hard, instead of being tempted to give up, let us take it as an opportunity to push forward. Take a moment and pray that God would give you the strength to keep pushing until the harvest comes in. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

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The Ascension is our Exaltation

Father Lam T. Le 

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd.
Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Roman Missal, The Collect of the Mass of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ).

On this Solemnity of the Ascension we give thanks to God for the Ascension of Christ is our exaltation! Why is the Ascension our exaltation? St. Augustine has a wonderful explanation:  in the incarnation, the Son of God assumed our humanity so that he could die on the Cross to be in solidarity with the human family who, as a consequence of sin, suffers death. He triumphantly rose from the dead to give us hope and 40 days later returned to God the Father. Jesus brought the human flesh representing our humanity into the mystery of God, something that did not exist prior to the incarnation. God gains nothing from this, but we gain so much. In other words, in the Ascension, we give glory to God because Jesus brought humanity into God. Salvation is not only the forgiveness of sins but brings us into the very mystery of God and the fullness of life.

To truly be the people who believe that the Ascension of the Lord is our Exaltation, one must proclaim this good news of salvation to all men and women. We cannot keep our mouths shut regarding such great news! Jesus has saved the human family not only from sin and death, but has given us the gift of eternal life. We in turn, join the Apostles to be Jesus’ “witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Let’s begin that witness at our dining room tables with our friends and relatives and share the joy that Christ’s Ascension is our exaltation. Let everything that we do and say reflect the fact that we are the children of the heavenly kingdom because the Ascension of Christ is our exaltation.

Thanks be to God for our salvation in Christ.  Amen.

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