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Archive | From the Pulpit

Stone Soup

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 13600 Cypress, Ensley Township 

 

You may have heard the story of Stone Soup in one form or another. A poor man or peddler comes into a village and goes door-to-door asking for food. At each house he is turned away with the occupant saying that they only have a small portion of potatoes or carrots or something else, never more than one thing and never much. The man goes to the town square and starts a fire under a pot of water into which he places a stone. As the townsfolk come along and ask what he is doing, he says he is making stone soup. The people offer the small items they all have and soon the whole community is sharing in a pot of wonderful soup made of all their bits. In a way, that is how we take care of each other even today.

We, in the faith community think (for the most part) that this is a good way to do things—together. There are many small churches in the area that do all they can for the community they serve. But when we get together and pool our resources, we can do so much more. And it doesn’t stop there. The same works for individuals.

Churches are asked often to help those who are struggling and what a great blessing it is when a number of individuals who have no ability to give monetarily to a church are willing to give of their time and talents to make a difference for their neighbors in need! So much is accomplished by these wonderful people! We may not have a lot to give, but what we do have can make a huge difference in the lives of our communities.

How often have you heard or said yourself “I’m only one person, what can I do?” The truth is—a lot! None of us knows everything—despite what my uncle claims about himself! But we all know something. I used to work in construction and it took an awful lot of us to put together a building. Electricians, heating people, plumbers, carpenters, and the list goes on. If we had tried to do the job alone, we would never have finished and if we had, well… I’m not sure I’d want to live in it! But all of us together made something that will last a long, long time. The same is true of all of us.

Together we can make a difference that will last a long, long time. Helping those in need in the name of Christ makes a difference in the world. And that is what we are supposed to do. Just remember that when you do something for someone else out of the goodness of your heart and in the name of Christ, you are not alone! God is with you and so are all of us who are brothers and sisters in Him.

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Community Building…Building Community?

Solon-Center-WesPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)

 

Community Building and Building Community—are they one and the same? They are the same words for sure. But do they mean the same thing? I hope that our answer in Cedar Springs is “Yes.” A community building is a place where a community would come together in a physical space that is common.  A physical space where the needs of the community are both felt and met. In order for this to happen, or course we need to first build a sense of community.

The “church” often feels this tension, too. When I say that I go to church at “such and such” church, for me that church is (Solon Center Wesleyan Church), to you it might be a different location. But when we say that we are going to church, does that mean that we go to a physical location that has an address? I’d say both yes, and no. For us at Solon Center, our physical location is at 15671 Algoma Ave, yet when we leave that place we are called to “Go be the church” to the communities, schools, workplaces and families we represent. That is what is so great about the church; it can be a location where we worship and do the things of God, and it is also a place from which we are sent to do the work of the church.

When the church loses focus on what they are called to do, they get off track.  When the church becomes so much about us and our own needs, we forget what we are called to do. The Great Commission spells is out:

Matthew 28:18-20: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

A building that we call church is a great thing, and I am very proud of how warm and friendly our building is, but it is nothing without the people. Just look at all of the empty church buildings in Europe that have become nothing more than museums. When we fail to meet the needs of our community, our halls will grow dark and empty.

Right now in Cedar Springs there is great enthusiasm for a “Community Building” to be put together to meet the ever-growing needs of an ever-growing community.  Even now people are working hard just to find out what our community needs so that we can not only survive, but we can thrive. We have a vision for a building that will enhance the great things already taking place in Cedar Springs, and that will also take us to the next level. I’m sure that all of the details will be coming out soon to answer all of the questions that the community must have, but you can know for sure that our primary goal is not to just build a “Community Building,” but rather to “Build the Community” of Cedar Springs. I love these words spoken to the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 33:3: 3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”

When a community comes together united in their goal, and united in their love for their community ahead of there own personal interests, there is no end to what God can do.  We are called to be the church in our community, which means putting the needs of others ahead of our own. We as a community are called to see the needs of our current generation as well as the needs of future generations. Hang on—it’s going to be a great ride!

 

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Hearing the Prophets (Read Amos 5: 21-24)

cs-united-methodistPastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

Each year when we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), I’m amazed at the work he did as a servant of Jesus Christ. In just 39 years, his prophetic voice and tireless work for justice for all left a profound impact on our country and around the world.

He was a Christian pastor like my colleagues and me, but I cannot imagine what it was like to lead and work for racial equality for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rev. Dr. King is commended for his “I have a dream” speech, but he was much more than a dreamer. He was a doer. He lived his faith in Jesus Christ who came for all. He suffered for his faith. He was a prophet.

One way that I’ve heard prophets defined is that they seek to tell us where we are, tell us where God wants us to be, and they drive God’s Word in between. Rev. Dr. King’s legacy continues to draw us back to examine ourselves and our world and see where we’re still struggling to love one another as Jesus Christ loves us.

Rev. Billy Graham was a friend to Rev. Dr. King and participated in the civil rights movement. In a sermon, Rev. Graham said, “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.” Rev. Graham’s words are powerful as we celebrate the message of Christmas: that God comes in Jesus Christ for ALL the world.  In late December my family and I visited Washington, D.C. and were able to visit the memorial dedicated to Rev. Dr. King. It is a beautiful space surrounded by many of Dr. King’s quotes. One of the poignant for me is, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Throughout the Old Testament, we find “justice” and “righteousness” paired together, in the Psalms and throughout the Prophets.  And Amos is no exception. We are called to be people who seek to be righteous (to have right aim before God) and who seek justice (which is concern for the poor and oppressed). The two are tied together.
Early in Amos, chapter 5, God speaks to the people:
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.”
It’s no surprise that Jesus’ words to the people call us to be righteous and just. In the same spirit of the prophets, he calls us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness…”
There are times when we stray from God’s way, and we are constantly called back to faithfulness. The struggle for righteous living is real along with the work of seeking justice. Each day, we’re called to love and serve God, to live as children of God, as we work to bring even a glimpse of the Kingdom of God right now.

How are you working for God’s Kingdom? Where do you see it clearly?

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. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

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Operation overlord

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Jim Howard

First Baptist Church

233 S. Main, Cedar Springs

 

On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 allied troops stormed the shores of Normandy, France in what is arguably the beginning of the end of German domination of Europe in WWII. Over 12,000 aircraft and 7,000 vessels were involved in the operation. Five divisions of allied troops hit the beaches and three divisions were dropped behind enemy lines. By the first of September, nearly 3 million boots were on the ground, Paris was liberated and Germany was in full retreat!

Most people can only imagine the fear in the hearts and minds of those men who stood behind the ramps on their Higgin’s Boats or stood at the door of their aircraft ready to jump into the darkness! Fear can be a mind numbing and life changing experience…at least it is for most people. For some, fear can become a paralyzing agent, freezing us into inaction. Please understand, in some circumstances, this can be a healthy thing as it may keep us from doing something we shouldn’t. But for many, fear causes them to avoid responsibilities and actions that are necessary in the performance of their duty!

Many years ago, I had a USMC DI who ingrained in us the need to “trust” our training to see us through those circumstances in which you didn’t know what to do or where to turn—wise counsel for any generation of fighting man and woman. God gave us the same counsel long before we had DI’s when He said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)  In other words, don’t try flying by the seat of your pants, trust the truth…it’ll never fail you.  God never promised to deliver us from the tribulations of life, but He has promised to walk beside us through them, and at times, He will carry us through them (1 Cor. 10:13).  I’m reminded of Psalm 119:105 in which the Lord said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (ESV) God has given us sufficient light to see where we’re going and how to get there…the key is in the word “feet” which denotes action and the word “path” which reflects the objective.

Don’t allow fear to rob you of the opportunity to serve the Lord. Step out by faith and trust Him!  Spend time “drilling” as you memorize and meditate on the wonderful and eternal truths of His Word. Then when the unexpected trauma’s and tragedies of life occur, you will not find yourself paralyzed by fear.

Be cautious of overconfidence as well “…and do not lean on your own understanding.” Most of my own failures come during those times in which I try to function within the realm of my own self-confidence! It’s in these times I need to trust in His truth and His ways even more…and not in my own strength and abilities.

 

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Time

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

As I write these words 2013 is rapidly slipping away and soon 2014 will become reality. I’m sure that many of you share with me a sense of astonishment at how quickly time passes. It seems like just yesterday that we were ushering in 2013 and here we are bidding the year adieu. It is a good time to stop and reevaluate the priority of handling time in the light of God’s Word.

God has given each of us the same amount of time each day. We each have 24 hours. Each hour has 60 minutes. Each minute has 60 seconds. We are the arbiter of our time. We have the ability to invest or squander this precious gift as we see fit. Moses, in Psalm 90, makes some interesting observations about time that we would do well to consider.

First of all, we need to recognize the time.

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) (NKJV)

According to the Bible, the average life span is 70 years. In America, with our advanced medical technology, that average is somewhat higher. In the grand scheme of things compared to eternity, our lifespan is brief. Even though we know this to be true, multitudes live daily as if this life will never end. It would be prudent for us to recognize the time we have been given is precious and never to be regained. We will only live this life one time. As best-selling author Randy Alcorn has written: “Life is merely the lobby to eternity.” Our time on this earth is not about toys, trinkets, and treasures but rather about investing in eternal dividends.

Secondly, we need to redeem the time.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) (NKJV)

Moses recognized the need for the proper use of time. Our time should be used to acknowledge the brevity of time and the need to use our time wisely. One of the tragedies of our days is that so many people live on a shallow spiritual, intellectual and moral plane. Rather than feeding their soul, mind and spirit on stimulating and uplifting books, music, and conversation, they are wasting vast amounts of time on social media, gaming, superficial reality shows, sports fanaticism, and other assorted drivel of pop culture. I challenge you to make a conscious effort this year to limit the wasting of time and instead to make strong efforts to use that time wisely and build up your spiritual walk with God, your personal knowledge of important wisdom, and your relationship with your family.

Thirdly, we need to rejoice through time.

“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14) (NKJV)

The sooner we find the mercy of God in Christ, and are satisfied with that mercy all our days, the happier we will be! The word “mercy” here refers to God’s love. That love has been extended to all of us. When we choose to accept that love and reciprocate that love with devotion and service, we will find that we can rejoice even when life presses in on us. As the world around us becomes more chaotic, choose to recognize the time, redeem the time, and yes, even rejoice through time. I wish all of you a blessed and happy new year.

 

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What is Christmas all about?

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

Let me assure you that this is not another anti-santa and presents presentation from a delusional and out of touch Pastor. This is a heartfelt, honest, and open communication from a child of God who realized two months ago that he was no longer amazed like he should be by the Christmas Story. As I sat in my office with the task ahead of me of preparing a sermon series on Christmas, I realized that I didn’t want to preach on Christmas again, because I was sadly unmoved and unimpressed. I prayed that God would open my eyes and help me to stand in wonder at the story of the birth of His only Son. He did, and below is what He reminded me of. (This is a brief recap of 3 weeks of sermons that I shared with our Church. You can find those videos in their entirety online at www.gracerockford.com.)

1.  Christmas is about a Child. Isaiah 9:6,7:  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

There is this great list in the following verse of all the things that this child will be: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  It’s no doubt this child was special; but let’s not forget He was still a child, He was still a Son. Christmas is about God sending His one and only Son. What love, what mercy, what a miracle! As a father of four children, I would never consider giving them up for the welfare of another. After all, it’s my job to protect them. But on Christmas day, God gave his son up for the welfare of mankind. Christmas is about a child, let us not forget.

2.  Christmas is about a Savior. Luke 2:9-12: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born…”

There are many words that Scripture uses to describe this idea of a Savior. Words like rescue, heal, deliver, redeem, and atone. All of these words indicate that those being saved, have a problem that they can’t remedy. If they could, they wouldn’t need a Savior. Christmas is about God sending his Son to remedy a problem that you and I had and could not fix. The problem of our sin would have most definitely resulted in eternal condemnation unless someone came and rescued us, delivered us, redeemed us. Christmas is all about Jesus coming to do just that, set us free.

3.  Christmas is about a Cross. Galatians 4:3-5; 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…”

This child, that was born to save, could only do it by being crucified on a cross, and thus bearing our curse as he hung in our place. Many times we look at our nativity sets and everything looks so peaceful, but in reality that little baby was born in a manger to be murdered on a cross! Let us not forget that the peacefulness of Christmas will soon be destroyed by the punishment and the death that we each deserved being taken out on the perfect, innocent Son of God.

Christmas is about a Child, a Savior and a Cross.  I pray that this Christmas we will spend time worshipping the one who became a child, in order to be our savior, so that he might bear the punishment and death of our cross!

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Joy! Joy! Joy!

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.org

http://craigtowens.com

 

 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing.

Joy is not something that melts away, it is unaffected by circumstances, remaining rock-solid. Joy is what the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem brings us. 

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy.

On the day Jesus was born, the angels sang about peace on earth. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us. Jesus came to be our Savior, which is another reason for great joy!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

Jesus Christ’s Advent among us was the fulfillment of a promise given all the way back in the first book of the Bible. God the Father said Jesus would come to wipe out sin, and sorrow, and reverse the curse, turning it back into a blessing for all who would put their faith in Jesus. What joy to have all of the negatives turned into positives! 

I hope you will discover—or rediscover—the joy that the birth of Jesus brings. At Calvary Assembly of God, where I have the privilege of pastoring, we are talking about the joy and the light that came with Jesus Christ’s birth. If you don’t have a home church, I would love to have you join us over the next couple of Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

Joy! Joy! Joy! Let it reign!

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Waiting

The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

I was in the doctor’s office the other day and the appointments were backed up. The wait was much longer than usual. After perusing the scattered magazines, I made a mental shift. Instead of succumbing to growing irritation, I decided to make the most of the time of waiting. Mentally, I made a list of the jobs I had to do. Then I checked off the things that needed to be done to get my house in order. I did some financial accounting and then I checked my prayer list. I remembered all the friends, family members, social issues, and church concerns I had committed to pray for. It seemed as if the time passed at a rapid pace and then my number was called. The wait was over.

Dear friends, we are now in the first week of Advent—the season of emergence, of coming forth, of appearing.  We have four weeks to wait for Christmas. In our church, we stubbornly oppose the cultural norm of rushing Christmas. The deep blue colors and reflective mood are anticipatory, but restrained. There will be no decorations until just before the 25th. The words of Isaiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist help flesh out the time.  They guide us through the wait.

Time with God can be bent in so many ways. Even as we await the celebration of the coming of Messiah in the form of a child, we anticipate the coming of Christ in great power and glory.  Both happen at the same time. Both are comprehensive, both are cosmic. The nature of the wait depends on the understanding of the event.

As people grow older, they begin to understand that the appearing of Christ may be individual instead of a worldwide event.  The wait is a useful time to get the house in order, to make sure that jobs are finished, and accounts balance. The act of simplifying helps the wait go smoothly.

Of course, as children, we did not understand the deeper meaning of the season. Waiting was so hard! Little people, literally abuzz with excited energy, know that a great celebration is approaching. They can barely eat while they tick off the days. For them, the wait is torture.

For younger adults, the wait is more trying. Demands of time and purse result in the feeling that the wait is actually too short!  How can it all be accomplished? Or rather, why must is all be accomplished? So much is pressing that the wait does not lead to peaceful understanding. It is time that demands to be filled.

Wherever you find yourself, remember that the wait has a purpose. It teaches us that we are not in charge of time. The Messiah comes when he chooses. No amount of stress can make the days go faster. Preparation, however, can make the days more meaningful. Take some time in these next weeks to be quiet. Sit back and close your eyes. In the midst of the immediate hubbub, take a personal inventory. Is your spiritual house in order? Are accounts balanced? Are the necessary jobs completed? Are you ready to welcome the Christ Child, the Messiah as your guest?

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Heard from heaven

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345 

 

 

2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)

It is Sunday, November 24, at approximately 9 p.m., and I am taking a moment to reflect on one of the most amazing “Community Thanksgiving Services” I have ever attended. Tonight, I had the privilege, as did hundreds of others, to hear three powerful testimonies from three different men in our community. These men shared their stories with honesty, vulnerability and great a deal of humility. It took a lot of courage for them to share. Ultimately, their stories were filled with love, forgiveness, and redemption in Jesus Christ. They revealed how amazing God was to hear their cries and heal their lives. Their changed lives and testimonies have inspired me to write this article and remind men everywhere that Jesus Christ loves them! In fact, I am convinced that we are in a season of healing for the lives of people, but men in particular.

The souls of men have been beaten and left for dead, by the culture and cares of this life. Men are searching for meaning and purpose now more than ever. They realize that the pursuit of success and the accumulation of possessions do not satisfy. Men are being driven to fill this void with so many things, yet none of them bring the peace that Jesus offers. The overriding theme in these testimonies was that they were men who had come to the end of themselves. They were tired and weary from the demands of life, and the expectations placed on them as men. They humbled themselves and turned to God. They found a loving God who cared and was willing to save and heal them. God showed them He was listening to their hearts. So, He lovingly reached down from heaven and healed them and brought them peace.

If you are a man reading this article, how are you doing?  Do you know God is listening? Do you know He wants to heal your heart and free you from your burdens? You, like these three men, can find comfort and assurance in knowing God will, “hear you from heaven” and heal you. The Apostle Peter offered us this great advice when he wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV). If this is you, humble yourself! Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will remove them from you, because he cares for you!

Thank you to the three men who humbled themselves to God. Your lives are an inspiring example to us all!

Happy thanksgiving!

 

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The Greatest Honor

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Everyone knows that November is a month focused on giving thanks.  We even thank our Veterans on the 11th day of the 11th month and rightly so. But do you know that the greatest way to honor our veterans is to not forfeit our freedoms that they sacrificed their comforts to defend? A very sincere thank you goes out to all our Veterans today, this month, and always!

And do you also know that in the same way, we give thanks to our Lord Jesus who gave up the comforts of Paradise to come and enter into humanity and be the sacrifice for our eternal freedom? And that the greatest way to honor Jesus is to not forfeit the glorious freedom from the bondage of sin that He sacrificed His life for.

Jesus came to testify to the truth, which sets us free. As Christ followers, when we go through life believing the lies of the enemy, still in bondage to the very things Jesus set us free from, we discount His sacrifice and His power to bring freedom.

The power of God is truly an amazing thing. It redeems our past; communicates, guides, counsels and empowers us in the present; and secures our future! Too often we beat ourselves up over the past or get stuck there, not allowing ourselves to enjoy our freedom and move on. Or we get too farsighted, wanting to know the future and what is way on up ahead that we can’t deal with or enjoy the here and now.

I was reading a devotion the other day called “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young, who talked about the times God brings a peaceful fog over our difficult paths in life, obscuring our view so we can only see a few steps in front of us.  It is in those times we turn our attention more fully to God.

She goes on to say that the fog is a protection for us, calling us back into the present moment. Although God inhabits all of space and time, we can communicate with Him only here and now. Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for we will have learned to keep our focus on Jesus and on the path just ahead of us, trusting our past and our future to Him.

We bring the greatest honor and glory to God by trusting in His salvation and not forfeiting the freedom He died for. He now lives in every Christ follower and is with us always and He knows what He’s doing.

Ps. 73:23-24 NIV says, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”

Let us bring the greatest honor with a very sincere and glorious thank you to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

 

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