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Archive | From the Pulpit

Your mission in life

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Do you know your life mission? Have you given much thought to your mission in life? People sometimes spend their whole life searching for what gives them purpose, hope, value and fulfillment. If you’re looking in the wrong places, you only find disappointment, frustration, bitterness and envy.

Jesus had a mission. He knew what His mission was. He never lost sight of His mission, no matter what was going on around Him and to Him. He always kept the main thing, the main thing. He didn’t allow anything to distract Him from His mission. There are several places in the Bible where we find His mission clearly stated. Do you want to know what it was, and still is? Jesus quoted scripture from Isaiah chapter 61:1-3 among other places, regarding His mission in life. He said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, to preach good news to the poor. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort those who mourn, provide for those who grieve, exchange beauty for ashes, gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of despair” (NIV). Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He was passionate about His mission. The impact of His three years of ministry will reign for all eternity.

Jesus said in John 14:12: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (NIV).

So then, what are you deeply passionate about? It’s that thing that when you get to talk about it, you begin to speak faster and your voice goes up an octave! You begin to get excited. Where is your greatest impact? What are you best at? The place where all these intersect, is your personal sweet spot. God created everyone for a unique purpose. He has created everyone with unique gifts and talents. No one on earth is exactly like you in every way. Even twins may look alike but are not exactly alike in every way.

When we serve in our sweet spot, our service never feels like work. When you operate in your sweet spot, it energizes you. What do you do that energizes you? What drains you? Knowing what you’re not created for is just as important.  Operating outside of your sweet spot for extended periods of time will suck the life right out of you. You will find peace and fulfillment in your life when you seek and agree with God’s plan and unique purpose for your life. After all, He is the only One who knows why He created you. Apart from Him, it is impossible to discover our purpose. Our mission in life is to fulfill our purpose. Our value is not found in the things of this world. In God’s eyes, we are worth more than anything this world has to offer.

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New year—new beginnings

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

The start of a New Year gives us the feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning, and new opportunities. It is a time when people feel that they can begin anew with their lives. Common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier; or to spend more time with family. Still others include managing money better and being more organized.

Although there is nothing in the Bible or notable in Christian tradition about New Year’s resolutions, many good stewards take advantage of this time of year to become closer to the Lord. They may re-commit themselves to pray more, to read the Bible, or to attend Church more regularly. If you are looking for some helps in your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Practice gratitude. Cultivating a grateful heart is the hallmark of a Christian steward. Every day, express thankfulness to the Lord and to others. Seeing the good in your life will allow you to keep your heart compassionate and loving.

Encounter the Lord each day. Find time to be with the Lord each day, whether it is for an hour or ten minutes. Have a conversation with the Lord. Give your joys and worries to Him as well. Allow God’s love to transform them. Our encounters will keep our eyes and ears open to the presence of Christ in our midst.

Nurture friendships. Our friends are those we choose to be with, those with whom we spend our evenings, with whom we vacation, to whom we go to for advice. Friends are gifts from God who give us a greater appreciation of God’s love for us. Friends need our time and love.

Make a difference in your Church community. Believe it or not, your Church community can use your talents.  Offering your talents to your faith community is one of the most effective ways to feel useful and connected to others.

Consider living more simply. We cannot find fulfillment in possessions. They add nothing to our self-worth. Jesus blessed the “poor in spirit” in his Sermon on the Mount.

Get healthy. Studies show that most people in North America are accelerating their own decline into premature old age, owing to poor diet and lack of physical activity. Be a good steward of your body. Plan a complete overhaul of your diet and exercise habits.

Don’t give up. People give up their New Year’s resolutions because of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. Remember, take it slow, be kind to yourself and keep trying. Resist the urge to throw your hands up and quit. You succeed through small, manageable changes over time.

Turn to the Lord. Ask the Lord for guidance, strength and perseverance in achieving your resolutions. In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul writes: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). If God is the center of our New Year’s resolutions, they have a better chance for success.

These are a few recommendations that may help get one started in the right direction at the beginning of this new year.

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A Gift too wonderful for words; handle with awe

_C-Cedar-Creek-Community-Church-LandscapePastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

If you are reading this brief message, you have survived through the year 2016, including the Christmas-Advent season, and now we all have begun the journey called calendar year 2017 with whatever it holds. In my mind, this is no small accomplishment, and as Christians, we look forward to what God has for us in this new year—new learning, new discoveries, new relationships and more.

The Advent season, the coming of Jesus Christ, God incarnate into the world we live in, is celebrated in many different kinds of ways; one being that we become concerned about choosing just the right gifts to give to some of the special people in our lives. The full meaning of this practice can sometimes get lost in the activities of the season.

We must continually remind ourselves to be thankful for the first gift-giver, as Paul points out to us, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2nd Corinthians 9:15, King James translation). Have you ever received a gift that was beyond description? Just what kind of gift would it have to be to be called indescribable? Would it be a gift you open and say, “this is beautiful, something I’ve wanted all my life, what is it?” Or how about a gift given to you by someone special, carrying a lot of feelings and emotions with it?

The apostle Peter helps us better understand the importance of yielding our lives here to follow the path taught by Jesus Christ, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1st Peter 1:8 KJV). We are all in this year of uncertain times together, and may we all personally find this “unspeakable joy in the Lord.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ is describable and yet he is beyond human description. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” In these eight words, scripture captures our attention, to a word that cannot be expressed in mere words. When we search the scripture diligently, we find thousands of words describing characteristics of Jesus Christ, but the truth is that the more we learn of and about Jesus, we discover that the full knowledge, depth, width and height of Jesus nature, character, eternal existence, etc., always leaves us with more to learn.

When we believe on Jesus as scripture directs us, we quickly learn that this indescribable gift God has given, is God himself; that Jesus is man, Jesus is Savior, Jesus is the good news, and that even if God somehow would give us life for hundreds of years on this planet, we will still have an eternity to continue learning just how unspeakable this gift is.

This Jesus will bring us to God through the sacrifice of himself, and secure for us forgiveness of all our sins; for all eternity. Christmas is past, but it is not too late to open the gift.

 

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Putting your “yes” on the table

Pastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

 

Do you remember the Meatloaf song from 1993, I Would Do Anything for Love? In his hit power ballad, Meatloaf passionately declared—over and over and over again—“I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” Nobody really knows what the “that” is, but that’s beside the point. Maybe, like Meatloaf, you would do anything for love; but I think a more important question is this: If you could do anything for God—and money or time wasn’t a limitation—what would you do? Or to ask it more succinctly, “Would you do anything for God?”

If you’re like many Christians, in your heart you say, “God, I love You, I’ll do anything You want me to.”  But in your mind you’re thinking, “But I won’t do that…”  Fill in the blank; what’s the that for you?

Go ahead and think back to the last 3 things God asked you to do. Did you do them? Maybe you can’t even think of the last 3; what about just that last one? Did you do it? If not, why not? What was holding you back?

So often when God nudges us and asks us to step out in faith we either ignore Him or just flat out say No.  “God, I’ll do anything for You, but I won’t do that.”  What if you were to approach this new year differently? What if you lived each day with your “Yes” on the table? Lived a life that is open and available to God at all times, so that whenever God calls, you are ready and willing and available to say, “Yes, Lord”?

Look at what happened to Abraham when he said “Yes” to God.  “By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8 MSG).

Abraham put his “Yes” on the table and packed up his whole family and set out for a new country not evening knowing where he was going. Imagine what that must have been like. The faith that took. If you ever did that your friends would try to talk you out of it. Your family would think you’ve lost your mind. I’m sure Abraham’s family did too, but if Abraham wouldn’t have said “Yes,” God’s whole redemptive plan through Jesus Christ would have been in jeopardy.

So let me ask you: What new place is God calling you to? Maybe saying “Yes” to God means taking a new job, or going back to school, or adopting a child. Maybe saying “Yes” to God means moving away. Or maybe saying “Yes” to God means staying right where you are. Like Abraham, you may not have all the details.  All the “what ifs” might not be answered yet. But can you step out in faith and trust God to lead you, knowing that where God guides God provides?

The truth is, life is relatively short compared to all of eternity, where you’re going to have trillions and trillions of years there. You only get about 60 or 80 or at the most 100 years on this planet. It’s not very long. Life is pretty brief. You need to make your life count. It starts by saying “Yes” to God.

Putting your “Yes” on the table each and every day will change your life, it will change your home, it will change your family, it will bless this community, it could very well change the world, it might even change the course of history, or change someone’s eternity.  The world is calling out for people who will say “Yes” to God. People who will say, “God, I’m scared to death, but I’m going to say ‘Yes’ to You.”

This year, put your “Yes” on the table.  Say to yourself and to God, “Whenever, wherever, whatever, no matter the cost—Yes, God I’ll do it; wherever You send me—I’ll go; whatever You ask of me—I ’ll give; whenever You need me—I’m available. I’m keeping all the options open. My ‘Yes’ is on the table.”

 

 

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All things new 

First-Baptist-church-currenPastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church

233 Main St, Cedar Springs, MI 

 

New. This is a familiar word. I am the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Cedar Springs. My wife and I moved into a new home five months ago. We are new to western Michigan. We have a new mailing address. We’re meeting new friends in our church and community.

A lot of things were new to us last year. I would imagine the same was true for you even if in different ways. We faced the new experience of saying goodbye to a parent in death. Some events have to happen if other experiences are going to be new. We moved. We left friends. We left family. We left all things familiar to us to begin something new in Cedar Springs. I wonder what new thing the New Year will bring?

I believe that one day all things will be made new. I’m not talking about relocation or replacements or even repairs, but a reality that one day all things will be made new. This idea is not a figment of human imagination, but rather a fact of divine inspiration. “I am making all things new” is the record of the Apostle in The Revelation to John, which is the last book of the Bible. The Apostle John records these words as “trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5 ESV).

Why? Why can the Apostle claim these words are a reliable reality? John says, “Because God said so.” One thing known about God is that He tells the truth. He speaks the truth and nothing but the truth so help me—it’s true. One day all things will be made new. I believe this truth about God making all things new because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2 ESV).

New. This word is not only familiar to me; it’s a word familiar to my faith. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). You see, the certainty of my eternal confidence is because of an earthly change. One day God will do what He has done through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Most of us are expecting something new in 2017. Maybe it’s a new job or a new house or a new friend, but some day those things will no longer be new. However, life in Jesus will always be new.

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The Year in thanks

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC 

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (KJV)

As a Methodist, the end of the year brings me to a time of filling out year-end forms. Although a job that is not at all enjoyed, it does bring a time of reflection. As we look back at the past year, we are able to see how God has revealed Himself to us and how He has been in the midst of so many things, not only in our church life but in our lives in general. Many of us have begun to do an inventory of our personal lives over the past year to see how many “God sightings” that we recognize. So many times God reveals Himself to us without our recognizing what is happening. A cold that doesn’t last as long as it should have, a near miss in the car that could have been an accident, or a feeling of peace in a tense situation.

Of course many of us have had tragedies in the past year and we may not have seen God at work. And yet, He is always there. It may seem hard to “give thanks in all things” but remembering this, even in turmoil, reminds us that God draws us nearer to Himself and he is always there for us.

As the New Year begins, why don’t you see if you can remember the times that God has been there for you. And give thanks for these times because God is reminding us that He is a living God who truly cares for and loves us all.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and that your New Year is one of blessings and grace. Remember that there is a God that loves you very much and that He wants to be a part of your life. Want to know more? Check out a church near you! Blessings to you all!

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Pay it forward this season

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webRev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs 

(just north of 19 Mile)

 

 

A little while ago, I started watching a movie that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It came out back in 2000 and even back then it was a good movie that had the potential to really move people. What’s the movie? Pay It Forward. Have you seen it? Have you watched it again recently?

Even though the movie is not a Christmas movie, let alone a new release, it has some great things for us to remember this Christmas season. This movie is simply about the random acts of kindness started by a young boy who had a simple dream to make the world a kinder place. He wanted to start a new world order where random acts of kindness would be passed from one person to another until the whole world became one big happy family. What a great idea.

Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? Acts of kindness. Acts of love. Acts of gentleness. Acts that encourage other people. Can I tell you something? The very first Christmas was no random act of kindness. It was a deliberate act of love. God sent His son to this world to show you how much He loves you. Now that is something incredible to realize. But we can do more than just realize it; we can experience it, feel it and share it.

So, I want to encourage you. Go do some random acts of kindness. Be a part of making our community feel like a family. Help someone, say a kind word, smile more.  Look into people’s eyes when they are talking and be kind. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I also want to encourage you in this way: the next time you do your random act of kindness, do it with God in mind. Because when we do something on behalf of God, we begin to imitate Him in a profound and wonderful way. We start to become what God desires each of us to become, people that look out and help other people. People that care for each other. People that encourage each other.

The teacher in the movie Pay It Forward gave this young boy a chance to do something great. God has given us the same chance to do some great things as well. This Christmas season, let’s be deliberate about our kindness and remember that it all started with God sending us His Son.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Prepare

Pastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God …” Isaiah 40:3 (NLT)

We have entered into the season of Advent and the four weeks of preparation for the coming of the Christ child. During these days, we hear from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke—those books that express the events surrounding Jesus’ birth—of how God entered into the world. But the first baby that we encounter is not Jesus; it is John. The opening verses of Luke tell us the story of how Gabriel appeared to Zachariah in the Temple to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John the Baptizer—the man who would prepare the way for the coming of our Lord.

In a way, our season of preparation for Christmas mirrors the Gospel story. God was moving before the birth of Jesus to make preparations for his coming. But the preparations hadn’t begun there.

We often hear about the prophesies of the Old Testament telling us about the coming Messiah; the Holy Scripture found in Isaiah are often read during this time of the year. But there is also a time between the Old and the New Testament that we don’t often talk about when God was also moving to make preparations for the Messiah. They are often referred to as the Silent Years. The Word of God was not present with the people from the time of the words of the last prophet until the opening verses of the Gospels. The Silent Years span about 400 years. However, just because God was silent doesn’t mean that he wasn’t moving the pieces in place to achieve his plan to send his son, Jesus Christ into the world. Characters that are familiar to us from the life of Jesus, never mentioned in the Old Testament, are ushered onto the scene. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the leadership structures of the Temple are brought into form. The Roman Empire, a significant force in the life of Jesus, invades Israel. Even during a time when it seems that God is not present, he is moving the pieces on “the chessboard” as he prepares us for the birth of Jesus.

The four weeks of preparation throughout Advent is only a small piece of what God has designed for us. We need to know that even when God seems silent, he has been preparing us for the coming of the Christ child, long before we were ever aware of his actions. God has been working through all of history to prepare us for that moment in time—the time that Jesus would enter into the world and bring salvation for each and every one of us. So, during this season, let us prepare, let us truly prepare—prepare our hearts, prepare our minds and prepare him room—by praying, reading the Holy Scripture, participating in worship, loving God and loving one another. This is what this season is for.

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God’s Christmas List

Pilgrim-Bible-webBy Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) (NKJV)

The Advent and Christmas season is one of the most blessed times of the year. As we celebrate the arrival of Heaven’s Christmas Gift, we exchange gifts with those we love. If we are honest, most of us would admit that there is a list of things we would like to receive. We may not share that information with anyone, but the list does exist.

I believe that God too has a list of desires. If we were to ask Him what He wants for Christmas, I wonder what He would ask for?

Probably the first thing on God’s Christmas list would be the desire for room for His beloved Son. When Jesus came to earth some 2,000 years ago, there was no room for Him in the inn. It sometimes seems that little has changed over the centuries.

Multitudes still have no room for Jesus. He is not welcome in the classrooms of America. He is not welcome in the courtrooms of our land. He is banned from many city squares at Christmas time.

There is room for Santa Claus and his reindeer, room for Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost, room for all kinds of traditions and legends, but in our increasingly humanistic society there s no room for the sacred Son of God. It seems to me that God would indeed wish that there was room for His Son in Christmas. After all it is His birthday that we are celebrating.

I’m not advocating that we get rid of the fun legends and traditions that accompany the Christmas season. Keep on enjoying them. But in the midst of all the fun things that we add to the celebration, keep the Reason for the celebration front and center.

God is looking for room for His Son in the heart of every human. It is time that we welcomed Christ to our world. At this festive season, open the doors of your mind and heart and let Christ come in and transform you and fill you with His joy. Then you will truly be able to sing the words Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room, 

And Heaven and nature sing.

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Unexpected Gratitude

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The dictionary defines “thankful” as “feeling or expressing gratitude; being appreciative.” Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in all circumstances. I am not sure about you, but I don’t find it that hard to be thankful when everything in life is going good, but I really struggle when life is hard to find reasons to be thankful. I believe, though, that in these tough seasons of life, that our “unexpected gratitude” is what God is really seeking, because in our thankfulness even when life is hard, God is most glorified. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as the season of Thanksgiving is upon us. My thoughts have been directed to three very distinct realities that all of God’s children can be thankful for regardless of the circumstances we are facing in our lives.

1. Our Salvation Provided through Jesus Christ. God has taken care of our greatest need. At one point we were all separated from God because of our sin and there was nothing we could do to remedy the situation. So, God stepped in and sacrificed His Son in our place so that we could have his life! No matter what is going on in our lives, this reality is secured once and for all for all those who put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. The Indwelling of God’s Spirit. God didn’t just come to this earth, remedy our situation, and then leave us on our own. He has promised that all those who put their faith in Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit as the seal of our salvation and the power through which we can live the life of a disciple. No matter what circumstances we are facing in life, we are promised to have the very presence of God dwelling in us to comfort us and guide us.

3. The Gift of God’s Word in our Language. There have been many attempts over the years by various enemies of the cross to destroy the Bible, but God has sovereignly overseen the preservation and protection of His Word.  As a result, we are able to have the very words of God in our language that we can run to at any time. In this Holy Book, we find everything we need pertaining to life and godliness, we find everything we need to know about God and His character, and how He lovingly cares for us.  This truly is a gift that no trial on this earth can take away from us!

As we journey through the ups and downs of this holiday season, let us not forget that regardless of what we’re going through, we have so much to be thankful for!  I pray that we will find ourselves being able to express gratitude even when life is hard because after all, it is God’s will for His children.

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