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Archive | From the Pulpit

Contentment and happiness

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Man is always searching for that which promises happiness, but rarely finds it because he looks to the world for things to make him happy. So where can true happiness be found? Our unhappiness is not due to our lack of a fortune or high position or fame. It is due not to a lack of something outside of us, but to a lack of something inside us. We were made for perfect happiness. No wonder everything short of God disappoints us.

One of the most satisfying things to our souls is having contentment with God. The desire for perfect happiness, for contentment was placed in our hearts at the moment of our conception. We all have that desire to draw us to Him for every need we have. Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. It is the inward submission of the heart. While this is one of the most satisfying aspects in our lives, it can sometimes be difficult to find and maintain.  

We must learn to walk by faith, not by sight. We are given the privilege of the peace and contentment consistent with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is by grace alone we are permitted such a blessed, divine gift. Freely instilled in the faithful by our Lord, we are able to stand firm in our beliefs, and have unwavering trust in God even through winds of adversity as they attempt to topple us in great storms.

It is important that we grow in contentment, giving God the credit for all He has bestowed on us and our loved ones. To obtain true contentment, we need to open our hearts, minds and souls to God. We need to allow Him to grace us with what we need and be grateful for it. Also, we need to find our consolation in the love and mercy of Christ. Only then, will we be truly content. True contentment brings with it a sense of freedom from the prison of want. True contentment also creates an attitude of well-being, and peace in our inner lives. Be free, grateful and at peace—be truly content! (Philippians 4:10-13, see below)  

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I will, until I won’t

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

We have all promised to do something and then not done it, or promised not to do something, and then did it anyway. Then too, some make promises while really never intending to do what they say. It isn’t mere coincidence that Jesus has given an illustration for us:                                                                                                                

 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31a, NIV).

We are all familiar with sayings such as a man’s word is his bond; or, a handshake is as good as a contract. There was a time when these were true.  

The fact is that we are of a fallen nature, prone to errors of judgment and may make promises foolishly or out of immaturity. Adding vows, promises or oaths to our words will open us up to compromise our words, which will compromise our Christian testimony.  

Then, to make matters worse, we come up with justifications for our failure. We may shrug it off as a foolish pledge made in the heat of the moment, or simply “forget” because its importance fades over time. Then too, there are the times we partially fulfill a promise, explaining that circumstances have changed. The bottom line is that we live in a time filled with a crisis of trust.

The meaning of this word trust is being eroded in all arenas of life; family, community, politics, church, industry, etc. As Christians, children of God, when we fail to keep a promise or oath, people conclude that we can’t be trusted, and determine, wrongly, that God can’t be trusted. 

As Christians, when we blow off a promise, someone is left to pick up the slack and most of the time, that person remembers who didn’t keep their promise; thus, God’s reputation becomes tainted because of us. Making promises is easy; keeping them is more of a challenge, especially when we make promises carelessly. Just because we didn’t think it through doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility for keeping our word.  

When we become people of our word in little things and in big things, and when we make certain that our yes means yes and our no means no, after a while, we will have the reputation of integrity, and others will see Jesus in us. Promises are a trust and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can keep every promise we make. Some wise person once said that “You may be the only bible that some people will ever read.”   

May God help us to be better reading material. 

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Looking into mirrors

Thomas M. Doherty, Superintendent

North Michigan Conference

Free Methodist Church, USA

Writing for The Springs Church

 

 

Maybe you have been at a carnival or watched a program on TV where people enter a room full of mirrors. Some of the mirrors reflect an image that is wider, or taller, or even varied in shape related to the person who is looking into the mirror.

 In life we have mirrors, of a sort, that reflect truth to us. The Law of the Old Testament has been described as an instructor that shows us where we do not measure up. The New Testament shows us how we can, in Christ, fulfill the Law of God and live at peace with God.

Without the mirror of the Law we would never know things were out of order in our lives. The whole of scripture acts as a mirror to show us how we can reflect the image of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit too plays the role of a mirror. John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will be sent from heaven to convict the world of sin. 

The key with all mirrors is to believe what they reflect, unless they are the funhouse mirrors of the carnival. I have been troubled that the world doesn’t seem to know that their lives don’t measure up to the law and they don’t seem to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. More troubling to me is that one of the key reasons for this is the church is not believing and acting on what the mirrors of the scripture and the Holy Spirit are showing us.

We look into the mirror of the truth of the Word of God and rationalize that we aren’t too heavy, or our hair doesn’t look that bad. I know in my mind’s eye I see myself as that 28-year-old with dark hair and a red beard; and when I look into the mirror I see that 50-plus-year-old guy with short hair (to reduce the white on my head and a white beard). If I didn’t see that and saw the 28-year-old man there would be something wrong with me.   

The church almost does the opposite. The Word of God describes a strong, growing healthy body of Christ and we, through rationalizations and compromise, look into the mirror and see a broken down, wore out church just trying to survive. 

There is something wrong with our sight and I want to suggest two elements that will help us see truth as God presents it. First, we need to honestly examine ourselves to see if our lives reflect a true, full, uncompromising love for Christ. We would all profess our love for Jesus, but what does the evidence of our lives say.

First, do we have an ever-deepening sense of love in our hearts for Christ and the things that are important to him? What dominates our focus? Please don’t rationalize. What do we spend our time thinking about? What do we spend our time doing? How do we spend our resources? What breaks our hearts? Is Jesus truly our first love? Do we love Him more than anything or anyone; so much so that in comparison we hate these other things and people?

 Second, do we believe? Or do we rationalize? Not an intellectual belief, but I’ll risk my life on it, type of belief. The bible teaches us that confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and believing that God the Father raised Him from the dead is the only pathway to salvation. Our life does depend on believing this truth.

The bible says that the harvest is plentiful and the labors are few; therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send out labors into the harvest. And then he sends those who pray to the Lord of the harvest.  Do we believe that there are people who Christ died for, who are waiting to hear the gospel message?

I believe that if the church would love Jesus in real, practical ways, and believe that the Word of God is true, the World would see both the truth of how their lives are lacking and the transforming power of Christ in lives surrendered to Jesus.

These are core principles for church planting and revitalization. If we love Jesus enough we will love the people and things that are important to Him and be willing to step out of our boats into the water. We will be willing to bring the life-changing message of Jesus to people and circumstance that are in the midst of the stormy seas of life.

We will also be willing to be changed by the people we are reaching out to. Not changed in our principles but changed by new perspective and focus; reevaluating how, where, who and why we deliver the message of peace.

I believe that God is calling us as a church to really listen to those we are trying to minister to. I have been listening, and it is reinvigorating me as a Christian. Listening to those of the harvest, combined with looking into the mirror of the Word and His Spirit, will necessarily change us.  ,This change should impact our churches and will impact the development of new churches.  New wine skins for a new generation.

God’s call seems clear to me and God is looking for partners, people who hear His call, to work with and be a part of this next great move of God. 

May we all be caught up in the next great move of God’s Spirit and help with the plentiful harvest of souls.

 

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So the Bible is wrong again…

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

A month or so ago, a news article showed up in the national papers. The article, titled New DNA results disprove the Bible, told of an archeologist who found remains of a Canaanite that were around four thousand years old. The DNA from the remains was compared to people living in Lebanon today and they were found to be a match. In the Bible, God told Joshua to kill every living thing in Canaan. According to the DNA test, this could not have happened so the bible must be wrong. Well…we already know it did not happen—not because of DNA results but because the Bible says so. At the end of the book of Joshua, God tells him that he is old and he has only started the task. In fact there is a list of the areas that were not yet conquered in the book of Judges, which include Lebanon. Also in the book of Judges, an angel scolds the people for not obeying the command to destroy all the peoples of this area. Therefore, in reality the DNA results actually prove that the Bible is correct. You just have to read it all and not just the part that says what you want it to say.

I find it interesting that two thousand years ago Jesus intimidated the leaders of His time because He had a power and an authority that they did not understand. However, they should have because it came from the God that they claimed to represent. Now two thousand years later Jesus is still intimidating people because of the same reasons. He has power and authority that many do not understand and do not want to understand. The good news is that we who know Him do not need to be intimidated by Him; instead we get to celebrate with Him. Repeatedly the Bible is proven true. Archeology and other sciences show the truth in God’s word. The best proof of His word is the transformed lives that we experience in Him. If you don’t know Him then you should get to know Him. You will understand the peace and love that the world just cannot seem to understand, because it comes from a place that the world rejects but believers know and experience. Visit a local church and see for yourself!

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From the Pulpit: Rev. Chadrick Brown

 

Honesty

Do you remember when you and your friend would climb on one of those old seesaws? I don’t think playgrounds have them anymore because someone deemed them too dangerous, but if you ever watched two kids get on one, the same thing happens every single time. They giggle as one goes high into the sky and the other plops onto the ground. Then, with a hard push, the one at the bottom goes up, sending the other down. Up and down, up and down. Then, inevitably at some point, the two riders decide to balance on the seesaw. They tap the ground with the tips of their toes, trying to see if they can get the seesaw to stay parallel. What they have just achieved is balance.

Adults often feel like life is a constant ride on a seesaw and there is very little balance going on. We try to stop feeling like we are always going up and down by attempting to create balance among the parts of our various responsibilities. We usually discover, however, that achieving balance in life is as difficult as it is for two children to balance on a seesaw. That balancing act does not stay for very long.

But maybe trying to make life’s seesaw sit unmoving and parallel is not the ultimate goal. Instead, maybe the goal is to allow for “a time for everything.” All the parts of your life are important and deserve your time. The best way to find a sense of balance is to purposefully make time for everything, and when you’re there, be completely present, focused, and involved.

Life is always about priorities. And when you know your priorities, you can make time for them and be able to find time for everything. For instance, here are my priorities: My God, my wife, my kids and my job. I have learned that if I am not right with God, I will not be right with my wife or with my kids, and I really won’t be able to do my job. This has nothing to do with me being a minister either. So that is why He is priority number one. Daily being with Him is the first thing I do. And spending time in His church every Sunday is a must if I am going to maintain proper balance. My next priority is my wife. If I am not OK with her, then the balance of life is off kilter as well. I cannot be the best Dad that I can be, if I don’t make my relationship with my wife a priority. So, I spend time with her; care for her; love her.

I could keep going but you get the picture. I don’t think our lives are as unbalanced as we think they are. The problem is we have lost our sense of priority.

So, my friends, I want to encourage you today to prioritize your life and then you can find some balance. But staying balanced is not always the goal; being faithful to your priorities is. Life is indeed like a seesaw, so why not let out a giggle and enjoy the ride?

Rev. Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE, Cedar Springs 

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Why bother?

Rev. Karen Sorden

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs, MI

www.cedarspringsumc.org

 

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” Psalm 100 (NRSV).

You may have said it or at least have heard it said, “I’m going to church.” When we make that statement we usually mean we are going to a worship service. In a world that seems to be filled with strife, anger, hatred, pain, and anxiety, you may wonder, “Why bother”? Why bother worshiping a God who appears to be absent in the midst of so much chaos? But as people of faith around the world have realized for millennia, one place we can be certain to encounter God is in worship.

As a gift of God, worship is an amazing opportunity to experience and engage the living God. Worship provides the opportunity to connect with and know the living God. Worship also provides God the opportunity to get to know us individually. In worship God invites us into the very presence of God for the glory of God.

Worship includes the proclamation of God’s Word, yet worship is so much more than Scripture lessons and a sermon. For some people, music is their favorite element of worship; yet worship is so much more than a collection of songs. We pray during worship, yet worship is so much more than prayer. People need to gather together for worship to happen and yet worship is so much more than just a meeting. Clearly worship is much more than the sum of its parts!

And while the focus of our worship is on God, we are affected by worship. Worship has the ability to both inform and transform us; it helps us remember who God is and who we are to be. It is in gathering together as a worshipping, praying, sharing, learning, and serving community that we are able to continue the work of Jesus Christ.

It is important that in these times of strife, anger, hatred, pain, and anxiety we move toward God and not away from God. So why bother? When we worship God, God comes. And when God comes, lives are transformed. So find a worship service at a time and place that works for you and encounter the glory that is our God.

 

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Finding your place in the body of Christ

Pastor Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street | Cedar Springs

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) (NKJV)

A few weeks ago our family was privileged to spend a few days in the Niagara Falls area. It was a much needed time of rest and relaxation and we happily let ourselves get caught up in some of the tourist trap offerings that go with that area. Of course one of the major highlights of the trip was the time spent right at the Falls itself. We walked around, viewed the Falls from both the American and Canadian sides, took pictures, enjoyed watching the color display at night, and we will always remember the awesome experience of riding the Maid of the Mist as close to the Falls as you can get by water.

That morning, after we disembarked from the boat, we walked over to the edge of the American side and followed the path along the side of the Falls, My wife and children went further up the path, but I stayed toward the bottom of the path and was enjoying the view from that angle. As I stood there, watching the magnificent sight of thousands of gallons of water spilling over the precipice and crashing with a mighty roar onto the boulders below, I was struck by the sight of something that seemed a little strange. Just a few feet away from that awesome cascade of water, was another tiny rivulet of water trickling down a small rut of rocks on the dry land bordering the Falls.

Compared to the beauty and power of the Falls just a few feet away, it seemed a bit ludicrous and insignificant. The scope of its size and strength was dwarfed by the Falls until in comparison it seemed like a grasshopper standing next to an elephant. But I watched as that little stream of water quietly made its way down the slope and slipped into the Niagara River, while the furious torrent of the Falls did the same just a few feet away. Then united, they ran downstream until that river spilled out into Lake Ontario just a few miles away.

There is a truth here that speaks to our lives. Paul, in our text, spoke of the fact that as believers we are all one body in Christ. In the following verses he pointed out that every part of the body is important and plays a vital role. For a human body to function perfectly as designed we need all our parts. Eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, fingers, toes, and internal organs work together to accomplish the miracle of life. It is possible for the human body to function without certain parts, but it certainly makes life much more challenging.

In a spiritual sense, every member of the body of Christ is important. The book of Acts repeatedly shows us that if you are a believer, you are the church in action. It is true that some people, because of their abilities or position, seem to garner more attention. They are the Falls cascading onto the rocks with excitement and power and everyone seems to ooh and aah about what they do.

But there are many more people who are the quiet rivulets silently slipping into the river who are just as important. They are not as noticeable, seemingly not as exciting, but they play a vital role in filling their place in the Kingdom of God. They may not stand up in church and speak or sing, but they are the ones doing the small but significant jobs that impact the church and the community around them. They clean the sanctuary, mow the grass, run the bus routes, and connect with their neighbor over a cup of coffee. They help grieving families, take a plate of cookies to the new people moving into the area, fix a meal for a shut-in, and volunteer their time and energy at Alpha Women’s Center, North Kent Connect, and many other worthy charities. And they do it all, willingly and cheerfully, simply because they love God and love people.

So find your spot in the family, in the body of Christ. Whether it’s big or small, your help is needed to move the Kingdom forward and make the world around you a better place.

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What are you being called to do?

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

 

Hello and happy fall! Well, truth be told, I am sad that summer is drawing to an end because I love the long days and warm evenings. Yet September brings us to many new activities and our ambitions are quickened and we get back into our routines and there is actually some joy in that. I believe many parents of young children especially appreciate it.

The fall brings about a renewed focus on the activities of the church since everyone is returning from summer vacations and the routine sets in. Kid ministries start up, including the KidzClub here at East Nelson Church on Thursday evenings. Mission trip planning gets into full gear. High school youth begin meeting. It’s a lot of fun to watch the joy that comes from community activities.

September is a great time for each of us to recommit once again to what the Spirit might be calling us to do. Might a Bible study group be calling to you? How about a recommitment to daily devotions? Maybe there’s a new sense of calling to attend regular worship? Are you feeling called to begin some new ministry?

We read that Jesus told his disciples that discipleship requires commitment and then we take that and begin to worry that a commitment might be a cross that we could not possibly bear. But, if we try to do this on our own and try to figure out ways to do this all by ourselves, we can get all tangled up! Jesus told his disciples “for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God, all things are possible.” Let’s open ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit and answer the call on our lives.

The terrific news is that the Holy Spirit is at work all the time. The work of the Holy Spirit is in leading and guiding us, counseling and inspiring us. When we feel called yet worry that we can’t do it or we simply don’t have the time, just listen to the words of Jesus and understand that we are not in this all by ourselves. The Holy Spirit will give us the strength to work together and we will be given the ability to support each other. We will be able to do the work of our church communities.

So, should you think you can’t, open yourself to the workings of the Holy Spirit and you will be filled by the amazing action of God in your life.

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Finding rest 

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

All you who are weary and burdened…” I am not sure about you, but that phrase tends to describe me quite often. Weary and burdened, translation = tired and weighed down. It’s in these moments when I begin to become overwhelmed with the burdens and pressures of life that I often think, “I just need a day off.”  Wouldn’t that be nice? A whole day to myself to do whatever I want. No responsibilities of dropping kids off somewhere or picking them up from somewhere else only to transport them to the next thing. No phone calls, e-mails, or texts from work. No honey-do list or chores to take care of.  Just me, a TV, a book and my couch.  I often find myself thinking that if I could just have a day like that, then everything would be better. I wouldn’t be so tired. I wouldn’t be so weighed down. Instead I would be rejuvenated and re-energized. “Yes, if I could just get a day off, then everything would be restored back to order and life wouldn’t be so weary and burdensome.” That is the lie.

The reality is that no matter how much rest or relaxation we may get, it doesn’t take long being back in our normal routine of life where we end up finding ourselves “weary and burdened.” The solution isn’t how much time we can find to rest but rather where we go to find our rest. While our couch, or the TV, or our favorite book may sound like a welcomed destination for relaxation, they will never provide the rest that our souls crave. Jesus knew this and that›s why when He was around the weary and burdened he didn’t tell them to take a day off, or find an afternoon where they could only do what they wanted to do. Instead, he welcomed the weary and burden to the only place where they could find rest for their souls—in His presence.

The invitation is simple; come. In other words, leave behind all that is weighing you down and simply come be with me, come sit with me, come dwell with me, and you WILL find rest for your souls. Are you weary and burdened down by the struggles and trials of life? The invitation is open to all. Come to Jesus. Sit in His presence. Let him carry the load and walk with you side by side . Stop trying to do it on your own, and stop trying to find what only Jesus can give in anything or anyone else. Come to Him, and you WILL find rest for your souls! It’s really that simple, the decision is up to you.

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Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd.

Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319

616-696-3904

 

On August 15, the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the faith of the Roman Catholic Church that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven when her earthly journey was completed, because God “would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb, since from her body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life” (Preface: the Glory of Mary Assumed into Heaven, the Roman Missal).

The faithful was surprised to hear the Gospel passage chosen for the Vigil Mass of this great Solemnity, Luke 11: 27-28: “While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

The true blessedness that Jesus spoke of in Luke 11:27-28 should not be interpreted as a rebuke of the mother of Jesus. Rather, it emphasizes that attentiveness to God’s Word is more important to Jesus than biological relationships. Mary lived her life in attentiveness and obedience to the Word, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” said her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 2:45). The Church honors Mary for her role in salvation and looks to her as a model of discipleship.

The word “Church” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 775 and 777 teaches ecclesia in Latin and ekkalein in Greek means to “call out of” or “convocation.” It designates the assembly as those to whom God’s Word “convokes,” or gathers to form the people of God. Thus, to be the people of God is to be attentive to the Word.

In short, to be Church is follow the example of the mother of Jesus: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  To be Church is to hear and to keep the Word in our heart. Amen.

(In addition to being the priest of St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, Father Lam also proudly serves as Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 W Maple Street, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343. Phone 61- 636-5671.)

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