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Archive | From the Pulpit

Tools of the trade

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616-636-5659

 

“Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you are to be” (2 Thessalonians 1:2, The Message).

“He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32, Common English Bible)

Although I am (all too quickly) approaching the age of 60, I am, for the first time, reading the book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Like many, I have seen the movie countless times but the book is immensely different from the movie. What stands out to me almost immediately is the obvious fact that the thing that each character wants, they already have—brains, a heart, and courage. Each demonstrates these attributes repeatedly on their journey. There is a good lesson in this for all of us. 

Sometimes God calls us to a place or a work that we are—to be blunt—afraid of. We doubt if we have the skills needed for the job or if we will be able to make a difference in a place that we are not familiar with. Sometimes, when we turn away from the task without trying, we miss the tremendous blessing that we would receive in return for following God’s direction.

Do not let this happen! God does not ask of us things that we are not able to do. In addition, we will be able to do these things because God is with us. He knows what we need and He provides us with all of this and more. 

Sure, it can be scary going into an unfamiliar place or starting a ministry with unfamiliar people. However, if this is what God has called you to do then the first step is to completely trust in Him. It is not always easy because our emotions, fear and doubt are very powerful. Remember that God is infinitely more powerful than our fears. Most importantly, He will not ask us to do something or go somewhere without honoring His promise to be with us. 

Trust in God no matter where He puts us and the blessing to your life will be far greater than we could have imagined.

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Problems

Rev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE, Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

It’s hard to believe that we find ourselves in another New Year. Congratulations… you made it! The problems of last year are over and we can look to this New Year with great optimism. Yeah, but wait a second. Is that really true? Do all we need is more optimism and the problems will go away? Well, before we start celebrating again, let me tell you what some old preacher once told me about problems. The old preacher said, “I’ve got problems, you’ve got problems. All God’s children got problems.” Now that is a profound statement. Isn’t that true? It’s called “Welcome to the human race!” And do you know what?  I hate to be the kill joy, but in this New Year, it doesn’t matter how much optimism you may muster up, you’re still going to have problems to face. The issue, then, is not whether we’ll have problems, but how we’ll handle them.

I love what Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote. Listen to what she said: “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, until it seems as though you cannot hang on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” 

Did you hear that? Did you really read that? She said, “…never give up…” Now that is some great advice, isn’t it? I think many of us give up too quickly when the solution to our problem was right there, ready to be discovered and enjoyed. 

God’s Word tells us in Philippians 4:14 this powerful truth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So, let’s break this scripture down a bit. Where do I get the strength? I get the strength from Jesus Christ. What do I get that strength for? To do all things. My friends, it’s not in our own strength that will get us through the difficulties of life. It’s in and through His strength, which is ours for the asking.

Are you struggling today with a problem? Are you tired? Then take a moment right now and ask Jesus to give you the strength to do whatever it takes to overcome that problem. I promise you this, He will answer you as you surrender your life to Him. And my friend… never give up. 

So, in this New Year, let’s not be surprised by the problems, but let’s surprise the problems in how we handle them.

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A New Beginning

By: Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

One of the most beautiful promises found in God’s Word comes late in the Bible. In Revelation 21:5 God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Obviously He is speaking of a coming time in Heaven when the curse of sin is abolished and all the imperfections of time are replaced by the perfections of eternity in God’s Presence. And certainly, to every believer, that is a glorious promise. There will be no more sin, sorrow, or suffering. Pain and problems will be replaced joy and jubilation. 

But in the meantime, we are still ensconced in a world of woe. There are many things which trouble and confound us which are out of our control. Old age and death are an inevitable challenge which lurk in the future mists of our life. Other troubling concepts loom over us which we would like to avoid, but are powerless to change.

However, at this time of the year when many people are taking stock of their lives and finding themselves dissatisfied, there is hope for change in at least one area.

God does not have to wait for Heaven to make a new person out of us. The message of the Gospel is that Christ came to give us abundant life and that starts in the here and now. He came down to our level in order to lift us up to His. Ephesians chapter 2 says that God has raised believers up together in Christ. And all of those believers were one time sinners in need of a Savior. This act of salvation is not achieved in our own strength but rather in Jesus. 

Perhaps someone reading these words is taking inventory of their spiritual life and feeling hopeless. Allow me to point you to Jesus. He can step into your life and fix the things that are broken. This can be the moment when you become a new person in Christ. After all, he specializes in things thought impossible, and that includes fixing the mess we’ve made out of our lives.

As Gloria Gaither wrote years ago: 

Something beautiful, something good —

All my confusion He understood; 

All I had to offer Him

Was brokenness and strife, 

But He made something beautiful of my life.

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Arrival of Jesus

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

The advent season is upon us. Advent by definition means “arrival.” It is the period of time in our Church calendar filled with expectancy as we await the celebration of the arrival of Jesus. It’s a time meant to be filled with reflection and gratitude as we ponder the arrival of the “Word become flesh.”  Unfortunately this time ends up being hijacked by the hustle and bustle of the consumer-driven Christmas season. We spend time preparing for our family celebrations most commonly marked by the giving and receiving of gifts. Far too often I find myself failing to reflect on just exactly what it means to receive the greatest gift ever given. The perfect, eternal, all-powerful Son of God taking on the flesh He created in order to humbly, meekly, and selflessly stand, or, more accurately, be crucified in our place; the giver and sustainer of all life willingly enduring our death so we could freely accept and embrace his life. 

This is a gift for all mankind simply to receive. Let us not get so caught up in the celebrations revolving around the giving and receiving of material and temporal gifts, and risk missing the preciousness of receiving the priceless gift—God giving himself in the greatest act of love this world has ever or will ever witness. 

Let us find ourselves filling this advent season with time spent in worship of the One who gave himself once and for all for the joy, peace and life of all who humbly and simply receive the greatest gift ever given. As we await the celebration of our King’s arrival, may we find ourselves longing for His return where he will once and for all make all things new.  

#advent  #comeLordJesus  #He’scomingback!  #receive

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Let’s keep Advent

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor 

St. John Paul II Parish 

3110 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

(616) 696-3904

 

Sunday, December 3, marks the season of Advent and the beginning of the Church’s new liturgical year. The word Advent comes from the Latin word “ad-venire,” which means “to come to.” 

“Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” (See Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and Calendar, no. 39). 

In our culture of instant gratification, there seems to be no room for such a period of devout and joyful preparation as the liturgies of the Church suggest. But as people of faith, the Parable of the Ten Virgins reminds us; unless we are prudent (carrying a lamp with enough oil while awaiting the bridegroom) we are not suitable for the Feast (Mt 25:1-13). Unless we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, whether in the celebration of Christmas or at the end of time, we will not be prepared to enter the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Or, as Matthew 22: 11-13 indicates: we might enter, but not with the proper attire for the Feast. 

“Prepare the way of the Lord” is the exhortation that is properly applied to all of us as we celebrate Advent! Concretely, how should we keep advent? As the voice of one crying out in the desert indicates, “Make straight his paths!” (Mk 1:2). We make our paths straight by removing the obstacles in our hearts that separate us from God. Those obstacles can be sinful acts and unhealthy attachments to the “stuff” we accumulate in this life that consumes our hearts and souls, leaving no room for God. 

Let this Advent be unlike any other! Let us be like the five wise virgins with lamps filled with oil to await our Redeemer, Christ the Lord! 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 616 636 5671)

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Gratitude is not a platitude

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. NE, Sparta

 

Platitude is a remark or a statement, especially one with a moral content, which has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful. I find this often to be the case this time of year. With the Thanksgiving holiday having been enjoyed and Christmas around the corner, we certainly have plenty of reasons to be grateful. All too often we say to people struggling this time of year, “Look at all the things you have to be grateful for,” or “You should just be grateful for what you have!” True as these may be, it has become more of a platitude. It’s just a statement used to teach some lesson, but is not found thoughtful or beneficial to those hearing it. Gratitude, or gratefulness, flows from the presence and purpose of God. Gratitude can be difficult to express when one struggles to see purpose or God’s presence at work in their life or circumstances. So, a quick platitude about gratitude does not work. 

I encourage you to do two things. Redefine for yourself what gratitude means. Then help others find this meaning also. First, what does gratitude mean to you? For me, as a Christian, it really is a theology, a belief system. It’s understanding and recognizing God’s presence and purpose in every area of my life. It’s believing that no matter what happens in my life, God is still good! Gratitude is ultimately a way of seeing things, a certain worldview, not defined by our expectations, moods or emotions. I did not always think this way. Truthfully, before I gave my life to Christ as my savior, my life had no real purpose and meaning. All the things I sought to bring purpose and meaning in my life left me empty. I was not convinced there was a God, much less Him being good! It all changed when I realized that God was good. Gratitude is goodness, or kindness that exceeds all your expectations. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love (goodness) for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He loved me and died for my sins, while I was still a sinner! So, I am convinced, now that I know him, that whatever life brings, God has my best interest in mind. He is good despite what my circumstances, moods, emotions or unmet expectations tell me. Why? Because, he has a plan and purpose in it all, therefore, I am grateful. Settle your theology about God. God is good, all the time!

Now that this is settled in your heart and life, please share it with others! Many do not see God this way. Many are burdened, stressed and discouraged because unmet expectations have defined their understanding, not of gratefulness, but of God. Therefore, a platitude will not work. Refuse to make statements about gratefulness as a platitude. Make time to understand people’s lives and situations, so that you can speak words of encouragement. Help them find a good God in the middle of it all! Help them see that although we do not understand everything, a loving, good God has a purpose that’s best for their lives. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 – NIV)

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God’s got this

Pastor Kristi J. Rhodes

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Maybe you’ve noticed the tremendous increase of struggles in the lives of people you love. Maybe you’ve seen more and more people struggling with destructive addictions and hurts, habits and hang-ups both from the recent and distant past. Maybe it’s even YOU that have been battling demons with increasing difficulty.

It is easy to believe that there is no way out and that no one really even cares. But I am here today to speak truth to you. Truth is, “If God could close the mouth of lions for Daniel, part the Red Seas for Moses, make the sun stand still for Joshua, open the prison for Peter, put a baby in the arms of Sarah, and raise Lazarus from the dead, then He can certainly take care of you! Nothing you are facing today is too hard for Him to handle!” (Anonymous writer)

Truth is:  Nothing is impossible with God but apart from him, we can do nothing. Our hope is in him. Get connected and stay in close relationship with Jesus. Satan and his dark forces have been around much longer than we have. We are no match for him alone, but with God, we can do all things.  

Jesus is the only one who has gone toe to toe with Satan and defeated him. In Christ, believers have been given authority over the dark forces, which is something Satan wants to keep you from learning. If you don’t know you have authority over Satan and his demons, he will continue to defeat you anytime he wants. Colossians 2:15 reminds us that Jesus defeated and disarmed all the powers and authorities that oppose God and His people. At the very Name of Jesus, the demons tremble! Believers should never have to fear their spiritual enemy.

The church has done a poor job of intentionally teaching believers about their authority over the work of the enemy in their lives. Paul taught about this most aggressively in the book of Ephesians. I have heard it said that when seeking spiritual power, look to “G-E-Power-Company.” G=Galatians, E=Ephesians, P=Philippians, and C=Colossians. These are 4 books (right in a row), which are located in the New Testament of the Bible. God wants people to be delivered from the power of Satan and his forces.

We serve a God who is mightier than the struggles we inherit, and bigger than the battles we face. God is full of the desire to forgive, love, and heal the brokenness that rises up between us and Him. God is present in the places where our fears live.  Jonah 2:2 reminds us that “in my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” And Hebrews 7:25 (NIV) says, “therefore, He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  

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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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