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Archive | From the Pulpit

The Torn Veil 

Pastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341


Imagine with me a curtain, 60 feet high, by 30 feet wide. That is the height of a six-story building. It was reported that the curtain was as thick as a man’s hand breath, and so heavy that 300 priests would be employed to move and care for it. The historian Josephus writes (Wars 5,5,4) “It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful.” 

This impressive curtain was in the Jewish temple at the time of the death of Jesus Christ. It separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, did the High Priest move the veil, and enter the Holy of Holies, and not without blood from the sacrifice that occurred in the court yard. And so the Israelite people learned from God how He was to be approached in worship. He was holy. There had to be a mediator with blood to enter His presence. 

But at the moment Jesus died, God tore the veil from the top to the bottom. Imagine what a noise that made. What did the High Priest think when he looked upon that great curtain, now in two pieces? 

But the crucial question is: “What did all this mean?” Why did God tear the veil—th very veil that God instructed the Israelites to construct, to separate His holiness from them, he suddenly destroys. Why? There are several answer and they are all great! 

In the Bible, Hebrews 9 teaches us that we have a new High Priest, Jesus the Christ. He is better than the old High Priest because He brings His own blood as our eternal sacrifice, and He does not need to enter, year after year, but only once. And this same High Priest, Jesus Christ, now lives in Heaven to pray for us. He is not in a building made by human hands, but rather in the heavens, seated at the right hand of God. And here is further good news, we can enter into His Holy presence, in the name of Jesus Christ, to speak personally with our Father. 

And, on top of all this, comes another important truth. God no longer resides in a temple, in a particular geographical location, but now He lives in the church. I Cor 3 says: 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (ESV) 

So, two great pictures for us to consider are displayed at the tearing of the veil. God invites us in because He is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ. And two, God, by the power of His Spirit, has come out to be with us. I am so glad God tore the veil. This is great news. This is the gospel. Come, turn from any, and all sin, and enter into the Holy presence of God, and be prepared for Him to come into you. There is no longer any need to stay out, we are called to come in. AMEN! 

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Bad day

Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319


As you read this, let me ask you a question and then I want you to pause and really think about it. How’s your day going? How has your week been? Good? Bad? Here’s a little way you can tell if it’s going to be a rotten day. 

You know it’s going to be bad when you see a Fox news team in your office. Or, you call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold. It’s going to be a bad day when you turn on the news and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city. Or, when your twin sister or brother forgot your birthday. It’s going to be a bad day when your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway. Or when your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat. It’s going to be a bad day when your income tax check bounces. Or when you put both contact lenses in the same eye. All these scenarios will create one bad day.  

I hope some of those things put a smile on your face, but here is the reality—we are in for some bad days no matter what we do or don’t do. So, friend, this may be a lame encouragement, but it helps get me through some tough days and brings some perspective. There is always someone who has it worse off than I do. Be thankful you’re not that person, put a smile on your face, walk tall and stay strong. The bad day will end. Another day will come. God is watching over you and He cares and loves you so very much. And just a word of advice… as Spring comes, watch out for those Hell’s Angels that may be coming down 131. 

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Live Backwards

Rev. Bill Johnson

Cedar Springs United Methodist

140 S. Main St. • Cedar Springs, MI  49319


“If you want to know how to live your life, think about what you would like people to say about you after you die … and live backwards.”

All who routinely use the Internet have grown accustomed to a barrage of unbidden wisdom filling our inboxes. Urbane or not, it is for the most part harmless. Some of it is forwarded to friends and family, while other pieces find their way into the recycle bin. The above anonymous quote surfaced recently, and survived below the radar of “junk mail.” 

A long-ago seminary course comes to mind, called “The Minister and Contemporary Human Life Crises.” We studied a range of common events faced by humans from birth to death. In the section on death and dying we were asked to write our own obituary. I remember how difficult that was, because as a young adult I had not yet dealt with “numbering my days” as the psalmist wisely advised. 

Does the suggestion to think about death bring some discomfort? I know it wouldn’t be on my top ten list of waking thoughts each day. Yet as people with an interest in the religious side of life, who among us doesn’t consider the end of our days, once in a while?  

Christians around the world have recently observed the season of Lent, the season when we especially do the things we say we should do all year. Namely, we practice the spiritual disciplines. Protestants and Roman Catholics consider the rich traditions like prayer and fasting, and we often enter the season of Easter with new religious habits, rituals that help form and reform us. We have learned to say goodbye to some old ways, and have created new or renewed paths toward deeper faith. Some would use the words death and Resurrection to describe this experience. 

In the northern hemisphere the earth emerges from its cold tomb in April (hope springs eternal!) so perhaps this is a good time to consider how we’d like to begin reordering our lives, renewing them to live as we would like people to speak of us when we’re gone? Can we take some moments amid the pounding pace of life? Or, if your pace doesn’t pound quite as much as it used to, carve out some space each day for creating and recreating a connection with God? For some that could mean a new prayer life. Others might practice tithing for a season. Others may find a need in the community that draws attention. Others may atone for some wrong doing, and others may rejoice in a new vision of God’s grace at work. 

The whole point is to die to some old way of being that holds you back from God’s desire for you. Imagine how life can be better! Think about what you would like people to say about you after you die…and live backwards.

It could be the most forward thing you have ever done.

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After Easter

Pastor Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine street, Cedar Springs


In Luke 24: 13-35 we find an interesting story. The Crucifixion of Jesus is finally over. The pain and suffering of the Savior have ended. His disciples and friends are reeling over this turn of events, still trying to wrap their mind and emotions around what has transpired, when yet another astonishing event grabs their attention.

Some of the women arranged to go to His burial spot to work to try to help preserve Jesus’ body and dignify His grave as best they could. However, they returned from this errand in a high state of excitement, telling everyone who would listen of an encounter with angels who announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. And to back up the story, the stone covering the tomb was rolled away and there was no sign of Jesus. 

Later on that day, two other followers of Jesus, were walking to the village of Emmaus, when Jesus joined them on the journey. For quite some time they were unaware of His identity as they told Him of their sorrow, disillusionment, and confusion. Jesus responded by pointing out Scriptures that spoke of His death and resurrection, and finally at the end of the conversation, they recognized Him.

There are a couple of thoughts that encourage us as we look at this story. First, Jesus will meet you even if you are going the wrong way. These followers of Jesus were in the midst of trying to sort out everything that had happened. For whatever reason, in the process of doing so, they were leaving Jerusalem and heading toward the village of Emmaus. They were heading away from the other disciples, from their support system, and from the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet, in the midst of their confusion, even as they were leaving behind their network of friends, Jesus came to meet them.

Sometimes we experience life circumstances that cause us to want to walk away from all the things we know and the people who could help us. It is easy to allow ourselves, as a result of disappointment and sorrow, to isolate ourselves from family, friends, church, and God at a time when we need them the most. Thankfully, God moves to meet us even when we are trying to run away. 

Secondly, when God does meet us it is not with anger and condemnation, but rather with hope and grace. Yes, Jesus did gently chide His friends for their lack of faith, but then He went on to encourage them and strengthen them in their faith.

Friends, remember that we have a friend in Jesus, who understands our emotions, our ups and downs, and comes at our darkest moments to restore hope and joy in to our lives. As the songwriter once said, “Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus.”

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Amazing hope

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson Church

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs


Easter is coming! I remember looking forward to it as a kid because it meant Easter baskets, candy, those little fluffy yellow chicks with wire legs and feet, and then there were the marshmallow peeps–yum! That’s what Easter meant to me even though I was a life-long church going kid.

That’s because the story of Jesus rising from the dead was way too difficult to wrap my mind around. I didn’t really even understand death since I didn’t know anyone who had died. 

Now, I’m a whole lot older and have lived through many things. I understand the finality of death and the amazing hope found in the resurrection of Jesus. Why? Because I no longer feel condemned by the things (sins) I’ve done. I can live without regrets and guilt because Jesus handled it! Those things are behind me, gone, wiped out, buried and forgotten by God because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  

I know that God will provide. Any doubts I have I can bring to God. I can bring them to God and I don’t need to be afraid because God has shown amazing compassion to even those who really doubted (think Job or Thomas, who even required that Jesus show his hands and feet). If God loved those big doubters, He will surely love me.

I also know that I have a peace that has overcome the fears I’ve had. I know that my redeemer lives and because of that all my fear is replaced with awe, wonder and faith. I know that I can pray and I will be heard by a God who is so loving that he gave his only son for me. When I struggle, Jesus knows what that’s all about because he lived a human life and when I bring those struggles to him he gives me peace through the Holy Spirit.

See, if you are struggling, feeling overwhelmed, worried or fearful please understand that Jesus knows your heart and wants to step into it and conquer those difficult feelings. He creates a new heart and continues to work inside of each of us. We are new creations because of Jesus.  

That’s why Easter is exciting!

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A Timely Word

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford


At this moment we are facing a battle that is leaving our community more divided than possibly ever before. It’s not long into a conversation before the question comes up, “Have you heard about what’s going on with the school board and the superintendent?” It is not my calling as a Church leader to comment on either side of this issue, especially here in a neutral public forum, but I do feel very strongly that some perspective may be needed, especially for those on both sides of the issue who call themselves “sons and daughters of God.”  

Conflict in life is inevitable. It’s a reality that we deal with everyday. The issue for God’s children when it comes to conflict is, “how do we navigate through conflict in a manner that is worthy of the gospel?” (Phil. 1:27.)  This is a topic that cannot be exhaustively dealt with here in such a short space, but I offer one verse that should be considered before we respond to others.  “…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39b).  

God is love and He calls His children to follow suit (1 John 4:7-21).  Loving others comes from a gospel mindset that declares every life has value because it has been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Ps. 139). The call for followers of Jesus to love others is rooted in this foundational belief. Regardless of how people are acting, how they are treating me, or whether I believe them to be right or wrong, it is my duty and my privilege to respond in the way of love because when I do this I reveal the image of the Divine in a way that causes others to take notice. As Children of God, our greatest desire must be for others to see through our actions, a God who can change their life, a God who can give life and give life to the fullest (John 10:10). This is the mandate for all “believers,” as we are God’s ambassadors in a world that desperately needs Him. I urge all the believers to consider this as we engage in this conflict or any conflict for that matter. After all, without love, we are nothing! (1 Cor. 13:1-8.)  

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Missing identity

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs


So many in the world today find themselves lost and desperate in trying to find themselves. Many search far and wide to determine who they are as a person and what their identity is. Who am I? What is my image? While we can look in many places through out the world, the truth of the matter is we will never find our true selves in what the world has to offer. Whatever we think we can find ourselves in is temporary or false hope. Because of this, people can become tired, depressed and frustrated. They often think they’ve found themselves, only to later be extremely disappointed when it falls apart or disappears. 

The world’s hopes are false hopes laid out by Satan to distract us from the truth (1 Timothy 6:17).  That truth being that our true identity is not of this world but of Christ himself. The bible tells us from our creation we were made in His image (Genesis 1:27). This is partly why growth in our faith and relationship with God is so important. Not only do we get to know God, but we also get to know ourselves as we begin to discover our true identity in Him.  

This by no way strips us of our unique personalities, traits and talents that God himself has blessed us with. That is the beauty of it all. We all commonly can share in an identity in Christ, yet at the same time keep our individual uniqueness. Thus, we can have our own individuality shown through our true identity and image in Christ.  

Never feel down and frustrated thinking you can’t find who you are or what your purpose in life is.  Simply look to God and he will help you find yourself in Him, the true image and identity he created you to be.    

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The Real McCoy

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


Did you ever wonder where that expression “the real McCoy” comes from? According to the folks at phrases.org, nobody really knows for sure. Whatever the origin of the term, we all know what it means—the genuine article, the real deal!   What does real Christianity look like? What are the tell-tale signs that distinguish “the real McCoy” from a cheap imitator?   

Some might suggest real Christianity means going to church or having perfect attendance. Obviously, I’m in favor of church attendance, but I also know that there is more than that to “the real McCoy.” You can’t tell real Christianity by how big a Bible a person carries, or how a person dresses.

The Christian “real McCoy” always produces three things in a person’s life: controls the tongue, softens the heart, and purifies the soul, and if it doesn’t, something’s wrong!

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26, NIV). Now, that is quite a statement. James explains this further in the third chapter; he says the tongue is harder to control than a wild beast. It corrupts like a poison and consumes like a roaring fire. There is not a single one of us that doesn’t know that by experience—either from the effects of our own tongue or from the receiving end of someone else’s razor-sharp words.

“A pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world,” (James 1:27, NIV). The plight of such people was not a pretty picture in the ancient world. We tend to rebel at what is fake, just as Jesus himself rejected fakes. Others can be fooled, but not God; he will unmask us sooner or later.  

Even sincere people are not perfect. A young man filled out an application for admission to a university, and in response to a request to “List your Personal Strengths,” he wrote, “sometimes I am trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Where the form said, “List Your Weaknesses,” he wrote: “Sometimes I am not trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” No one is perfect.

One thing that has limited the influence Christians have on the world is that many who claim to follow Christ are not authentic. An inconsistent lifestyle repels people from the church. So how authentic is your walk? Are the people around you drawn to faith by your life? Do people who cross your path recognize that there is a difference in the way you live?

The key is being authentic, being real, not trying to just appear perfect, and if you think you are fooling everybody, then the only person you are fooling is yourself. You can be assured you are not fooling God. What you say and what you do, influences those God puts into your life, and we must be ready and willing to be the good news, before we tell the good news. 

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Is there hope?

Pastor Dallas Burgeson

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs


When you pick up the newspaper, are you often struck by the weight of what’s in it? Violence, political unrest, an unending clash of values…the temptation is to believe that these issues have never been seen before in all of history, but this just isn’t true. To read history from all over the world is to realize how commonplace so much of this has been since the earliest times.

Take a look at the biblical book of Judges as an example, written over 3,000 years ago on the other side of the world. You would be hard-pressed to find stories with more bizarre plotlines than these. It starts out describing pretty normal events, but as it progresses, things take a downward spiral as it races to some of the very lowest places humanity has ever been. I challenge you to do a read-through sometime soon, and see if you don’t agree.

So why I am I telling you all this? Well, for one, if Christianity ever seems to you to be hopelessly out of touch with today’s realities, I want to give you at least one good reason to question that common assumption. But beyond that, if you’re already reading today’s headlines, I want to challenge you to look at them from a perspective with the wisdom of hindsight—of “been there, done that.” If life is sometimes just going to be hard, wouldn’t it pay for us to know how to walk through it with insight, direction, and—hopefully—grace? I think so.

If you take the time to read Judges, you will probably notice how things from the story of Abimelech (chapter nine) onward start to snowball with the complexities of the evil that is happening. The questions that become important for us, then, are:

How does a society pull out of a nosedive when this “chain-reaction” of evil starts to take place in our own time?

What values and character traits have to rise up when chaos begins to reign?

These questions are addressed seriously and in deeper detail throughout Scripture. They aren’t questions that should make us wring our hands and worry; there are already plenty of people doing that. No, this is an opportunity to steep ourselves in the words of Jesus, and then… put them into practice: 

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” –Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV).

God’s People were built for this. Through Jesus, light and hope for the world can begin in us.

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Two words

Pastor Robert P. Smith

First Baptist Church 

233 Main St, Cedar Springs


“Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” “I do.” Words seem so ordinary. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose,” is the paraphrase Dr. Paul Tripp gives to Proverbs 18:21 in his book, War of Words. Paul is a counselor, speaker, and a writer, with extensive pastoral experience. It’s true. Words are important. The two most important words for me are “But God.”

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” This is a familiar phrase, but its author is unknown. However, we open the Bible and discover several characters who received God’s grace. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis 8:1, we read, “But God remembered Noah.” What was the condition of the world at that time? In Genesis 6:5, God said, “The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Today is similar to yesterday. There is evil in our world. People of grace aren’t excluded from worldly evil, but it serves a providential purpose. At the end of Genesis, Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 ESV). But God.

When we encounter worldly evil we often wonder, “Why God?” Another Bible character, Asaph, a worship leader in King David’s court, wondered about good and evil. He thought, “Good things only happen to good people.” He thought that God’s people are excluded from worldly evil. Later he confessed, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:23 ESV). But God.

Who would I be if it were not for the grace of God? In Ephesians 2:4, the Apostle Paul declares, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” The grace of God guarantees that God loves us in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross. But God. Think about these two words for a moment. But God.

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