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Archive | From the Pulpit

Too good to keep to ourselves

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

 

 

Galatians 4:4-7: 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (NIV)

 

If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then you have a story. The Bible uses some amazing words to describe your story. Words like:

Redeem, which means to buy back from something.

Adoption, which means to welcome into a family by choice.

Sonship, which means you are no longer a slave but an actual child of the living God and, if a child, then an heir, which means you have a rightful claim to all the possessions of your Father!

And, most importantly, abba, which means that the Almighty God of the universe lets you climb up into his lap and call him daddy!

Our story goes something like this:  “Once I was a slave to my sin, but God sent his son to die on a cross and shed his blood, in order to buy me back from the penalty and judgment of my sin. By putting my faith in Him, he chose to welcome me into his family and make a son who has an inheritance, instead of a slave who has nothing. And most of all, he allows me to call him my Dad, as he promises to watch over and care for me all of my days.”

Now that is an amazing story! That is a story that is just too good to keep to ourselves!  Yet, many Christians do just that. They have a story that is so amazing and so wonderful, and it has the power to change the life of all those who hear it, and they keep it to themselves. If you are a child of God, then you have a story to tell that is far too wonderful and life-changing to be kept to yourself. You come in contact with people each day who need to hear this amazing story of a God who loved them so much he sent his son to redeem them and adopt them into his family. But if you aren’t going to tell them, then who will? God has placed special people into your life that he wants you to share this “too good to be true” story with. So why aren’t you sharing it with them?

At this time of the year, people are more receptive to the Gospel message than any other time, and they are more apt to come to church with you these next two Sundays than any other Sunday (besides Christmas) throughout the year. So, why not step out on a limb and tell someone about Jesus? Why not invite them to church on Easter Sunday? Why not step out of your comfort zone? After all, the good news about Jesus is just too good to keep to ourselves.

 

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Spring (time) cleaning

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.orghttp://craigtowens.com

 

 

 

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

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

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

A few things to remember:

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring (time) Cleaning!

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Power of Prayer

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How Can I Achieve Financial Security Even in Uncertain Times?

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Spring—a reminder of life

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Shhh! Quietude

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

This winter is truly one to be remembered; we have been given weather at record or near-record levels. But if we only remember this winter for snow, wind, ice and cold, we may be missing out on something even more unusual… quietude. Quietude is defined as “a state of stillness, calmness and quiet in a person or place.”

As I am writing this, there is a stillness in this room, away from the hustle and bustle of what I have become accustomed to as a normal day.  Yet outside, the wind and snow are anything but calm and still. The contrast between outdoors and indoors today leads me to believe that all too often I shortchange myself with all the commotion, noises and hubbub that I surround myself with in life.

I speak for myself today, but I am also confident that even though quietude is something we are generally uncomfortable with, it would certainly be a pleasant place to visit more often for everyone.  It is true that sounds can be a comfort, I’m thinking of the words we exchange in verbal communication, or the sounds of a wonderful piece of music being played, and the sounds of children playing. The prophet Isaiah wrote in God’s word, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18; New International Version). This pretty well describes a desirable state to be in when we communicate with God.

That scripture paints an ideal place to be, but that isn’t something we will ever experience 24/7 in this life. This isn’t to imply that we can’t visit there occasionally. When we have a choice, we would choose quietude over noisiness when we want to have a conversation with someone we really want to hear from. It is God’s desire that we know he is with us, and if we desire his presence and assurance, we need to be where he speaks, that by avoiding distractions, we can confirm his voice.

While I look outdoors today, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a picture of quietude, and still here on the inside I am at peace, inside from the winter storm, but also inside myself even though life is still making quite a stir.

Some noise is imposed upon us, especially in public places, and yes there are times those noises can be enjoyable, even comforting as we are assured we are not alone. But we can also know that we are not alone in quietude. “He says, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10-11 NIV).

We should be about devoting ourselves regularly to times of seeking God in silence and quietude. “I say this because I know what I am planning for you, says the Lord, I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future” (Jeremiah 29:11 The Inspirational Bible).

Did you hear that?

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Do you want to be successful?

TheSpringsPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

 

Do you want to be successful? Successful at work, successful in your relationships, in your marriage, as a parent, successful in life? We all want to be successful. I’ve never met anybody who wanted to be a failure in life. The problem is we often define success the way our culture defines success. Our culture tells us if you want to be prosperous and successful, you need to work hard. If you work hard and rise up the ladder and push it to the grindstone, and if you’re willing to do what others won’t do, you will be successful. There’s nothing wrong with working hard; the only problem with working hard in order to be successful is that you can work hard at the wrong thing. You can give your life to something that you shouldn’t give your life to. You can spend all your time doing something and the thing you’re doing isn’t the thing that God created you to do.

Our culture also tells us if you want to be prosperous and successful you need to make a lot of money. Again, nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but the trouble with gauging success by the amount of money you have is that there is always someone who will have more. Besides that, you can lose your money at any moment. If you tie success to money, and the money goes away, your success is gone. And beyond that, you can’t take your money with you when you die anyway. So if success is based on how much money you have, and you leave it all behind when you die, then at the end of your life you haven’t been successful. A lot of people confuse wealth with success. You can be wealthy and be a failure at life. Your net worth is not the same thing as your self-worth. The two don’t go hand in hand.

But our culture tells us if we work hard and make a lot of money will be prosperous and successful. We’re also told if we want to be prosperous and successful we need to invest well, we need to live in the right neighborhood, we need to drive a certain car, we need to have a particular look, and we need to know the right people. And again, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but the problem with saying that good investments, and a nice house, and a name brand shirt equals success is that you can have all of those things and still miss the point of why you are here on planet earth.

What if success is something different, and what if the path to success is something altogether different?

After Moses died, God tapped Joshua on the shoulder and said, “I want you to be my replacement for Moses. This would be the ultimate test of Joshua’s life—to see whether or not his leadership was sufficient for the task that God challenged him with. Do you think Joshua wanted to be a successful leader? Of course he did, just like you want to be successful. In Joshua 1:8 God told Joshua how to be successful. He said, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (NIV).

God says if you want to be successful you need to know My Word. That’s not what I would have guessed. I would have thought He would have said, “Joshua, if you want to be prosperous and successful, if you want to take the Promised Land, if you want to defeat all your enemies, you will need to be the strongest and have the best weapons and work really hard, and work over time, and invest well, and meet the right people and make the right connections.” But that’s not what God told him.  God said, “If you want to be successful don’t let My Word depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night, and be careful to obey everything in it.”

Here is true success in life: To stay in the Word of God until we find the will of God so that we can walk in the ways of God. God has a different way of defining success than we do. We define success in what you have, what you achieve, what you own. God doesn’t define success that way. The Scripture makes it clear that God defines success in different ways—right living, peaceful relationships, being in harmony with God and other people. That’s success in God’s eyes, and it is only found through knowing and living the Word of God.  My encouragement to you this week is to spend some time in God’s Word so you can be successful in the things that truly count.

 

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Keeping Warm?

Courtland-Oakfield-United-Meth

Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

 

King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm” 1 Kings 1:1 (New Revised Standard Version).

The character of King David in Hebrew scripture is an enigma. He becomes a hero while still a child and grows into a “man after God’s own heart.” As his life draws to an end, however, he sinks into a winter of discontent. His condition has less to do with physical age and more to do with regrets. The wunderkind of courage, poetry, and conquest turned out to have feet of clay.

Driven by lust he plotted and successfully pulled the strings to accomplish the death of a man whose wife he had taken for himself, only to experience the gut-wrenching grief of seeing the child, who was the product of his illicit union, die in infancy.

Having led his armies to victory after victory establishing and securing the borders of ancient Israel, he is then disqualified by God from building a temple because of the wars he has waged and the blood on his hands.

Ruminating on moral failures and setbacks is a sure way to bring a chill to our souls that is difficult to overcome when guilt is undeniable and remorse is relentless. Imagine the bitter glare on David’s face when an insensitive attendant asked, “keeping warm?”

The Bible also tells a story of resuscitation when the prophet Elisha bends over a child lying dead on a mat “putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands.” As life returns to the boy “the flesh of the child became warm.”

It’s reminiscent of the account of the advent of humankind recorded in the second chapter of Genesis, where God is said to have “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”

God, the breath of life, eye-to-eye and hand-to-hand contact, they add up to warmth.

Trying to stave off the cold of this unforgiving winter we’ve been living through? You know what your mother told you … layers. Trying to stave off the cold of the unforgiving memories of past mistakes? Try layers of breathing in God’s grace, upon layers of honest connections of the heart with people you love, upon layers of offering yourself in service to the needs of others.

 

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Sharpening one another

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
Cedarfield Community Center

3592 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

In Acts 18 we meet a group of Christian people named Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos. This trio is a highlight for any Biblical reader not just because they had some pretty cool names but also because they teach us a very important and practical lesson. Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple that were very helpful to Paul in his work as a Christian missionary. They most notably worked together in the city of Corinth promoting the name of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Apollos was a valued ministry worker who we first learn about through his ministry efforts in the city of Ephesus. Apollos was described as a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures who spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately. 

However, when Aquila and Priscilla made there way to Ephesus and heard Apollos speak, it says that they invited him to their home to explain the way of God more adequately. That’s kind of shocking because he already had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. Someone in their position might be a little intimidated to extend such an invitation especially with the credentials that Apollos boasted. However, both Aquila and Priscilla knew that there were things that Apollos needed to be strengthened in and felt it important to help him with these. Perhaps what’s even more shocking is that Apollos was willing to be tutored by this couple. Someone in his position might be too prideful to accept such an invitation, but instead he welcomes it. Apollos recognized that he didn’t know it all, and looked forward to becoming even more learned about Jesus.

What Christians today can learn from this is the importance of sharpening one another. Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. People in the church should always be asking two questions: first, who can I help to draw closer to God? And secondly, who can help me draw closer? No matter how long or short we’ve been in the church, there is knowledge, insight and spiritual growth that others can help us with, and we can help them with. There should be no pride, no doubting our ability to help others, just sharpening. This is what we see from the trio in Acts 18 and look what happens as a result. Apollos goes on to the city of Achaia and was a great help to the believers there and vigorously refuted the nonbelievers. He was strengthened by the sharpening that Aquila and Priscilla offered. Later on, we also see Aquila and Priscilla start a church in their home. Its not just being sharpened that helps, but when we actively sharpen others, it puts a charge in us too.

Let us be like Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos—not too afraid to sharpen others and not too prideful to be sharpened.

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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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