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Archive | From the Pulpit

Time

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

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

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

First of all, we need to recognize the time.

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

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

Secondly, we need to redeem the time.

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

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

Thirdly, we need to rejoice through time.

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

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

 

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What is Christmas all about?

Grace-ChurchPastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joy! Joy! Joy!

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.org

http://craigtowens.com

 

 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing.

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

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy.

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

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

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

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

Joy! Joy! Joy! Let it reign!

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Waiting

The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heard from heaven

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. • Sparta, MI 49345 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Happy thanksgiving!

 

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The Greatest Honor

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Getting over your past

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

The world often emphasizes that what has happened to you in the past is the determining factor for the direction of your future. If you came from a broken home, a home of alcoholism or drugs, that these factors will determine the future of your life. We are told if we had abusive parents, or we found ourselves in trouble with authorities as a youth, that these conditions and actions will decide our future as we struggle to deal with our past.

But we, as Believers, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the precious Lamb, live in liberty and freedom from the conditions of our past because Jesus Christ through His sacrifice has overcome our past (2 Corinthians 5:17). Meaning that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.

Salvation in our lives means that in the eyes of God the sins we have committed have been completely wiped away. Our once stained garments have become a righteous robe of fine white linen.  This tremendous gift of salvation, God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ is so powerful that all our sins are completely removed from the memory and knowledge of our Creator. Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

We are not able to wipe away the memories of our past as God does, but we are not to be controlled or motivated by the sins or conditions of our past as we are a new person in Christ and our future is filled with hope in Him.

The eyes of the world focus on overcoming situations. We as Believers need to focus on what we are becoming. As we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives we are being conformed to the image of Christ. In Christ as the Holy Spirit works in our lives; all hurts, injustices, pain and abuses of our past will eventually be addressed, healed and comforted by our Lord. What a wonderful blessing this is. As we now walk in Christ our future shines so bright and is full of hope, richness and the excitement. Living a life that has been redeemed is far greater than anything that happened in our past.

If you have problems dealing with and overcoming your past, simply pray and ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you may be able to see the wonderful and incredible future that lies in front of you, here in this life and the life to come. May your vision of your future be transformed and be as Paul’s as he wrote Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and pressing on toward what is ahead.

 

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In the process of being prepared

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

 

The writer of the bible book of Ecclesiastes expresses this very thoughtful statement “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV – New International Version). Then he lists a variety of comparative times, such as a time to be born and a time to die, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to be silent and a time to speak, etc.

This points us to one of the constants in life is that time changes things. Yet a more important aspect of change is that God will change lives. How does God change us? How does this process of change happen?

You may have seen a change in your neighbor, or your boss or son or daughter that you’ve thought to yourself, “There’s something up.” Yes there is! In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us how this will affect the born again Christian, as he writes “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2nd Corinthians 5:17, NIV).   Old things are passed away and all things are become new.

Some may be thinking, “Well, that’s ok for those who don’t have much changing to do, but you don’t know about me, about my past and what is going on now.” And you are right, I don’t know, but God does know. What I do know is what the Bible says and my experience in my own life, and I’ve seen what God has done in the life of others.

There were some things in my life, struggles that I thought I would live with the rest of my life, because there’s just no way out of them, no way it could change. I thought, “There is no way I can ever make that happen.” My response of choice was that “that’s just the way I am.”

God doesn’t take that as an answer; he didn’t say “Oh, that’s the way you are, then let’s just work on other areas of your life.” No, God doesn’t work that way. He has not only changed those things I thought were hopeless, but he also transformed my thinking and my character and he isn’t finished yet.

Scripture says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Something we must remember is that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we don’t just kick back and think that God does everything, as in “if I don’t transform, then it’s God’s fault.” Nor should we think, “it’s all up to me to change, I’ve got to work and do it all on my own.”

Accepting Jesus Christ and believing on him as our Lord is a decision that we each must make for ourselves.  But what the Bible teaches about sanctification is that it is being set apart for God’s purpose, is that there is a God part and there is an our part. Paul wrote “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2nd Corinthians 7:1).

God’s part is his power. Our part is our cooperation. We cooperate in this process of change but God’s power through his Holy Spirit controls the process. It is God’s Spirit in us that does the changing and we do the cooperating. God wants us to become new, and if we miss this, we will miss out on what God intends us to be. No, Christians are not perfect, at least not while we are still on this earth. But we are cooperating with God as he works at making us what he wants us to be.

 

Be sure to attend the church of your choice.

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I want to see

TheSpringsPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

 

How is your eyesight? Good, I hope. Recently my seven-year-old daughter, Ember, poked her eye with a hanger. I will spare you the details but, as you can imagine, her mother and I were very scared as we raced her to the emergency room. Although the injury could have been severe, she is fortunate and her eye is going to heal completely.

In Mark chapter 10, Jesus and His disciples were heading to Jerusalem and, along the way, they entered the town of Jericho. Alongside the road was a blind man named Bartimaeus who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, He called Bartimaeus over and asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.” In that moment, Jesus healed him and “immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:47, 51, 52 NIV).

In the Bible, blindness is a powerful metaphor for what is wrong with us spiritually.  In the Gospels, blindness is never just physical, but spiritual as well. Earlier, in Mark chapter 8, Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?…Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:18, 21 NIV)

Paul says in Ephesians 1:18-19a (NIV), “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”

What does he mean when he says, eyes of your heart? When you were born God, gave you five senses—hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight. Everything you learn in life comes through the five senses. If you don’t have those, you don’t experience anything. That’s when you’re physically born.

When you’re spiritually born again, when you are reborn into God’s family, when you develop a relationship with Jesus Christ, God gives you a second set of senses and suddenly you get spiritual ears to hear some things that you never heard before. And you get spiritual eyes and you start to see some things about life you didn’t see before. And you begin to feel some things that you didn’t feel before. These are the eyes of your heart, the spiritual senses.

So how do I get these senses? How do I get the eyes of my heart opened? You must begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the starting point. Until you begin that relationship, you’re spiritually blind.  You can only see things from a human viewpoint. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That’s why Jesus says in John 3:3 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

You can be born again and begin a relationship with Christ today by asking God in faith to open your eyes. Pray the prayer that Bartimaeus prayed, “Jesus, I want to see!” If you do, you will begin to see life more clearly than you ever have before.

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Common Ground

Pastor Robert Eckert Pastor 

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

 

“Let integrity and virtue guard me” (Psalm 25:21a, Common English Bible).

This space that the Post so generously offers to area clergy each week is not intended to be a forum for political discussion. It’s difficult, however, perhaps even impossible, to fully separate matters of faith from politics, especially with so much of our attention focused on Washington in the past few weeks as matters of budget and finance brought things to a standstill—for many of us, quite literally.

The fact is that much of what we say and do as expressions of our spirituality are intertwined with our relationships with government. Sometimes as a critical resource, sometimes as a bothersome obstacle, government is part of the landscape as much as family, friends, traditions, jobs, education, everything. So I think there are certain characteristics it is fair and reasonable for people of faith to expect from government, even to demand from government. And, more importantly, whether present or absent in government, they are characteristics that need to be honored and demonstrated in daily life.

For my part, I see the threat and reality of shutting down the government as a breach of integrity. Passing laws is a nation’s way of giving its word. Among the laws of this land are those that identify priorities for the common good and commit to providing the means for pursuing agreed upon priorities. When access to those means is denied, the nation’s word has been broken.

The bill from last week that raised the national debt ceiling for another 90 days set up budget negotiations between the GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate intended to reach a broader agreement on funding the government. Both Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and Sen. Patty Murray (D), chairs of the two legislatives houses’ budget committees, spoke of the need to find “common ground.” I would suggest that they begin by determining whether they are willing to occupy a plat of integrity together.

Heck, if world religions with all their differences and points of contention can find such common ground, is it too much to ask of politicians? Hebrew scripture offers as an example of blameless living the one “who keeps an oath even when it hurts.” The Qur’an admonishes, “O you who believe! Fulfill your obligations.” A Buddhist blogger writes, “[H]onesty and integrity are essential components of the good life.” And the Christian Testament quotes Jesus calling for simple, dependable, transparent adherence to moral and ethical principles: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Let’s set an example for our elected leaders. Let’s not shut down the means to fulfilling our priorities for the common good. Let’s keep our oaths, fulfill our obligations, and pursue the good life. Let’s let our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no.” Maybe those to whom we’ve entrusted responsibility for so much that directly affects our hopes and dreams will notice. Maybe they’ll get it. Maybe they’ll see what common ground looks like.

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