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Archive | From the Pulpit

What do you say…

Pastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford

…when you don’t know what to say? Brainyquote.com gives credit to Abraham Lincoln for the familiar axiom, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Lincoln has a reputation as a Bible reader so he might have been putting his own spin on Proverbs 17:28a that says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise” (King James Version, no NIVs or NRSVs in Lincoln’s day).

I wonder if the editor of the Post would have indulged me if I had asked to just print my name with a few inches of white space below so that even though a fool, I might be counted wise, or at least avoid removing all doubt.

It’s just one of those seasons that come along from time to time in the lives of those of us whose vocations include public speaking and frequent writing. We might have plenty on our minds, but when it’s a mix of the unresolved and personal, knowing what needs to be said, what has the potential to be useful and productive, isn’t always obvious.

Come to think of it, anyone of us can expect to find ourselves in such uncertain moments. Are you familiar with the guideline that if it’s not true, not kind, or not necessary, it ought not be said? Right now little is coming to mind that fully passes muster.

A couple of contributors to the Bible had interesting perspectives on not knowing what to say, remaining silent, holding one’s peace. The prophet Amos ran off a laundry list of wrongs being committed by certain people of ancient Israel. He named those who “abhor the one who speaks the truth,” “trample on the poor,” “afflict the righteous, take a bribe, and push aside the needy.” Then he drew an ironic conclusion after having just spoken up so loudly and clearly. The “prudent,” he said, “will keep silent in such a time.” Who says there’s no wit along with the wisdom contained in the pages of the Bible? (Amos 5:10-13, New Revised Standard Version.)

To those who find themselves at a loss in one particular form of dialogue, the Apostle Paul writes, “We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.” (Romans 8:26, Common English Bible.)

I hope you weren’t counting on this leading up to a pithy and profound conclusion. I don’t have one, unless it counts simply to pass on that the Bible seems to indicate that it’s ok not to know what to say and sometimes, saying nothing is the only way to get where we want to be. “Stand silent. Know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a, The Living Bible.)

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Working together

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake/South Ensley United Methodist churches 

616.636.5659

 

Philippians 2:2 New International Version: then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

I had a rare opportunity this Sunday to visit a church other than the ones that I serve and to be ministered to. I love it when these opportunities come around. Most people don’t think about we pastors needing to be ministered to occasionally. The pastor had a wonderful message about the acceptance of Christ. How he welcomes everyone. This got me thinking about my faith journey. When I just got out of High school I joined a Christian band. There were two members who attended the Catholic church, one who attended a Baptist church, one who attended a Lutheran church, and one who attended a non-denominational church. We ministered to young people as a family of believers. I wondered why we couldn’t do that as “mature” Christians. When I first began pasturing, I actually had some pastors refuse to take my call because I was a “competitor.” I never understood this. Yes, I am a United Methodist pastor but I still worship the same God as the church next door.

There was a time when I was searching for a church that would be my home when I ran across a church who had cards that read: “If you do not feel at home here, let us help you find a church where you do.” This is one of the things that made me feel comfortable at this church. That was 25 years ago and now I pastor that very church!

The above scripture is a key part of Christian life. We need to work together. One church can do a lot of ministry, but several churches working together can do amazing things through God. As time has gone on we have begun to understand this idea more and more. In the community where the churches are that I serve, we regularly work together with all the other churches. And God has done amazing things through us. I love to see the different pastors supporting various ministries in our communities together because that is what God wants. We are a family. And together we are one.

If you want to be a part of this family, visit a church near you. Everyone is welcome in God’s house!

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Thou shalt not murder

Rockford-Springs-Church-webPastor David Vander Meer

Rockford Springs Community Church 

5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

 

“Thou Shalt Not Murder.” Among other commands, these four words were spoken to the Israelites as they began their journey to the Promised Land after being set free from slavery in Egypt. They were spoken by the one who miraculous freed them—God. Why? Why did He have to say to His people, “Do not go around taking each other’s lives?”

This question is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Perhaps one could give multiple answers, but let’s focus on one answer quickly and then a second reason with a little more effort.

The first reason is because God knows the danger of our hands and our hearts. We murder. We murder with our thoughts, our words, and sometimes, even with our own hands. So God distinctly and clearly says to the people he has just freed not to engage in the way of death, either with their minds, or their actions. This makes perfect sense. A people will never survive if all it does is kill each other or themselves. In 2015, in Grand Rapids alone, there was 1,381 violent crimes, with suicide being the third leading cause for teenage death. This is a very present agony in our own community with 3 suicides is just one year.

But I believe there is another reason for the law. Within all of God’s laws we learn something about God. Each law gives us insight into the value system of God. Within this particular law we learn the profound truth that God loves life. He did not just create it, but He also sustains it, protects it, and cherishes it. For God, life is good. The taking of life is bad.

If someone is involved with the church of Jesus Christ, a phrase that often is spoken about or sung about is “The Glory of God.” The glory of God can simply be defined as: “The infinite beauty and greatness of all His manifold perfections (his many character traits).” For example, we see the glory of His faithfulness when He commands us to be true to our relationships: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” We see the glory of His order when we hear the command to “honor father and mother.” But when God rises up and commands “Thou Shalt Not Murder,” the glory of His love for life shines like the morning sun breaking through the darkness of the night. His light shines on life and sparkles out the beauty of its glory. So, being image bearers of God we too should love life.

So God loves life. We see this truth in this command. And we also see this truth in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 10:10 that “He has come to give us life, and to have it to the full.” So when hatred is strong, despair is heavy, chaos is overwhelming, hopelessness is controlling, and the temptation of death is luring, we need to step back and see that God loves life. The taking of life is not the answer, either by word or action. Hurting others, or myself, is never the solution. Life is good; God is good; His way is best. In our battle for an abundant life we must trust God and hold to the glory of life.

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Rough Spots

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webRev. Chadrick Brown

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Michigan has a lot of things going for it, the great lakes, the in-land lakes, the rivers that run all through it, the sand dunes, beautiful lighthouses and a ton of golf courses. Some of these places are absolutely beautiful, but I can’t golf if my life depended on it.

One of my best friends a while ago was a semi-pro golfer and instructor. Quite often, he would invite me out, just to hang out and deepen our friendship. Each and every time he asked, I would decline. Not because I didn’t want our friendship deepened, but simply because he was a semi-pro golfer and I was simply terrible. In fact, I really don’t like the game. I’ll drive the cart in a heartbeat, but don’t make me play. But just like a good friend, he would not take “No” for an answer. He kept inviting me and told me that he would show me a few tips and help me with my game to make me a better golfer. Well, I gave in, but every time, without fail, I was terrible and could not get that little ball to straighten out. You would think as a pastor, God would have given me the gift of playing golf, but He didn’t, so I’ve given up on golf.

But I did hear something interesting. When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the covers smooth. Then it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up, one could get more distance out of it. So they started manufacturing them with dimpled covers. That’s why the golf ball looks the way it looks today.

That got me thinking. Isn’t that how life is? It takes some rough spots in our lives in order to make us a better person. It takes some bumps and bruises to help us understand and gain wisdom. It takes going through difficulties to truly appreciate the good times. And it takes our trust being broken to really understand how special it is to trust someone again.

So friend, the next time life gets a little hard or difficult, don’t get upset, discouraged, or even mad. Just see what you can take away. Don’t get depressed, or try to get even with a person for the bumps and bruises they have caused you. But see what you can learn to make you go farther in this life. Here is a fact of life that we all know. Difficult times come and go, so let the difficulties in life make you better, not bitter; stronger, not sourer. See how bumps in your life can take you farther.

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The missing puzzle piece

CS-United-MethodistPastor Steve Lindeman

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St.

Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

In my reading of the Bible, one of the saddest verses is found at the very beginning. Genesis 3:9, God calls out Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” God has been walking in the garden in the cool of the afternoon. This portion of Holy Scripture is short but teaches so much about the relationships that we have been created for. As I read the text, I envision that there was a time when God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in community with one another; but humanity had rejected this relationship and we have been hiding from God ever since. Due to the power of sin, it seems we have become unable to live in direct relationship with God, as we had prior to the fall. It is the hope of God’s love that continues to pursue us, and this hope is made available to all of us through the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.

Not long ago, I was listening to an evangelist at a tent revival that my congregation hosted as a part of our church’s sesquicentennial celebration. She used a statement that I have tried to communicate both from the pulpit, as well as in more intimate conversations; we have been created with a God-sized hole in our hearts. There is nothing that can fill that place in our lives except God. My children played with a plastic blocks puzzle when they were young; each had its own unique shape and could only properly fit in the space that it had been designed for. They couldn’t force the wrong block into the wrong hole without either the block or that space being damaged. As people, we try to put all sorts of things into that space in our hearts that’s designed for God (drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, love of power and riches). We get the same result as the block puzzle—we damage ourselves and our relationships with others. This God-sized hole is of our own construction. God did not decide to be separate from us; God has sought us throughout history and has pursued us so that we might be in right relationship with him again.

Here is the good news for our life puzzles: God has provided a fix for our hearts. The cross of Jesus Christ fits within that hole. We simply have to accept the gift of grace and allow Jesus in. So as you continue on the journey that is your life, remember that God is pursuing each of us—seeking a relationship with us—seeking to restore our hearts and to make us whole.

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Building Faith

Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

616.696.1021

 

“Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the people praise You. Then shall the earth yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.” (Psalm 67:5-6) (NKJV)

Perhaps you are like a lot of people who struggle to develop a life of deep-rooted faith. Having faith in God can be difficult when we tend to look at everything in our life from an earthly perspective. We are surrounded by chaotic events, a crumbling culture, and people who often (whether they mean to or not) tend to let us down.

However, I would remind you that God is steadfast, He is above our problems, and unlike people, He is perfect in every way. Scripture teaches that He is worthy of praise, and there is a natural progression from praise to a deepening faith.

Psalm 22:3 tells us, “But You [God] are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” (NKJV). The word “enthroned” can also be translated “inhabits.”  If you invest in praising God, you will find God to be present help in your life. Wherever the praises of God abound, God’s Presence abounds — and joy and victory.

Praise is a lifestyle, demonstrating your continual trust in Your Heavenly Father. Because you trust God, you believe that what He promised you, He is also able to perform, and you praise Him for it.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful.” (NKJV). 

The more we focus on God, the more we praise Him for who He is, the more our faith and confidence in Him grows. The bigger God becomes in our sight, the smaller our problems seem. Praise recognizes and gives God the credit and glory even before the answer is manifested in the natural realm. Praising God for the answer to our problems and prayers before we see it is faith in action.

So spend some time choosing to praise God regardless of the situation you are facing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it will do to build your faith. When we pour in to God, He pours into us! Let’s praise Him on purpose.

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St. Mary Magdalene: The Evangelizer

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs, Michigan
www.jp2-mqa.org

 

On June 10, 2016, a decree by the Congregation of Divine Worship formalized Pope Francis’ decision to raise the July 22 Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast on the church’s liturgical calendar.  In doing so, the Pope wants to highlight St. Mary Magdalene’s role as one of the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and as a “true and authentic evangelizer.”

The significance of this decision is obvious when we visit the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar (hereafter UNLYC) in the Roman Missal, which classifies the roman liturgical celebrations:

“Celebrations, according to the importance assigned to them, are hence distinguished one from another and termed: Solemnity, Feast, and Memorial” (UNLYC no. 10). The instruction continues: “Solemnities are counted among the most important days, whose celebration begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on the preceding day. Some Solemnities are also endowed with their own Vigil Mass, which is to be used on the evening of the preceding day, if an evening Mass is celebrated…Feasts are celebrated within the limits of the natural day; accordingly they have no First Vespers (Evening Prayer I), except in the case of the Feasts of the Lord that fall on a Sunday in Ordinary Time or in Christmas Time and which replace the Sunday Office…Memorials are either obligatory or optional; their observance is integrated into the celebration of the occurring weekday” (UNLYC no. 11, 13, 14).

It should be noted that the designation of Feast is often given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar. Thus, with the above decision, the Pope indeed highlights the special mission of St. Mary Magdalene, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church, in witness to the resurrection of the Lord. The witness to the resurrection of the Lord belongs to the entire Church: women and men are included.

As St. Mary Magdalene was among the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord and addressed the resurrected Lord in Hebrew, “Rabbouni, which means Teacher” (Jn 20:16), may all of our mothers teach their children the first word in their lives: “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1: 21).  Amen.

 

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What is this?

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

Sparta, MI 49345

 

Has anyone ever given you something and the first thing out of your mouth was, “What is this?” This happed to the children of Israel. The Israelites had just been brought out of Egypt, from a time of slavery, which was a very difficult season in their life. They found themselves in the middle of the wilderness in need of food. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this white substance appears. Exodus 16:31 says, “The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.” They called the bread “Manna.” The Hebrew word used here for “manna” was a compound word established from two words. The first was the word “man” meaning “what.” In fact, it is known as an imperative what, implying a question. The second was the word “huw” which is used for the word “this.” So, when you combine the two words together, it is literally translated “what is this?” The reason they said this was because they had never seen it before. This was the first time they had seen this white stuff.

Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Notice it says that God fed them with manna, which they, nor their fathers had ever known. So, what was this stuff called “Manna?” It was the provision of God! It was God meeting their need. It was God’s answer to their problem. Yet, their reply was, “What is this?” Why? Could it be it was because it came in a way and form unfamiliar to them? Could it be they just did not see it for what it was? I remain intrigued by the fact that the Israelites called it manna, not God. They named it, “what is it?” God didn’t. How many times do we name something for God? Have you ever rejected something from God because it did not come the way you envisioned? The Israelites did just that. In fact, after a while, what God provided was no longer good enough. So, they complained and asked for something different. Does this sound familiar?

You may ask, what is so important about this? It is important because this lesson remains true for us today. God’s provision and direction often comes in ways and forms you may not understand. You may have never seen or experienced them before. The question is, will you receive it, as from the Lord? You may have lost a job, been struggling with your health, your marriage. You may be depressed and wondering if anyone cares. Is there a God and does He even care? The answer is, Yes He does! He sees your need in your “wilderness” experience, just like He did the Israelites and He will provide. Just realize He will probably do it in a way you do not understand. In fact, your current situation, as difficult as it may seem, may just be what is needed for you to trust Him and not yourself. Notice the end of verse 3 in Deuteronomy.  God did this to “teach you that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He did this so that they would learn to trust God, not just for their daily needs, but for every area of their lives. Will you do that today? Will you give him every area of your life? Will you trust Him with your money, your marriage, your children, your problems? The test is to trust Him with everything we are and everything we possess. As I close, I leave you with a few other verses that encourage and challenge us to trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5-10: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

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God will never forget

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church of God

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Greetings Cedar Springs!

God will never become distracted, preoccupied or neglectful toward one of His children. God said in Isaiah 49:15 that it would be more likely for a nursing mother to forget her infant child at her breast than for Him to forget one of His children! A mother’s senses are so in tune with her child, she knows when her child needs her even if they are in another room. A loving mother knows when it’s time to feed or care for her baby. God said surely it’s possible for her to forget yet I will not forget you.

It is so perfect that God chose this example to describe how He looks after His people, for He is more sensitive to the needs of His children than even the most loving mother. He anticipates every cry for help. Even before we can call out in need, God is already responding with His answer (Isaiah 65:24). This has to be one of the most comforting promises God has given to us, that He will never forget us!

Don’t let the difficult circumstances you are facing convince you that God has forgotten you. Don’t ever assume that God is more concerned with the needs of other, more significant, more spiritual people than He is with yours. Scripture teaches that God looks upon you with the same love, interest, and concern as a nursing mother would look upon her infant. It should reassure you to know that your Father loves you like that. Our motivation for all our actions must be that kind of love.

With that kind of love—unconditional love—not because of what we have done, but because of who He is, how can we not love Him completely? Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey my commands. After all, God’s plans are for our good. His commands are to make life better for us, not to harm us.

Recently I read in 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” There should be no quarrelsome Christians. If you find yourself often quarreling with others you need to ask God to clearly reveal your motives and to forgive you for your disobedience to His clear command.

If your motivation for arguing comes from your desire to be right, or to be exonerated, or to gain the esteem of those listening to you, you are acting selfishly, and God will not honor you. God is not interested in how right you are. He is interested in how obedient you are. God’s command is not that you win arguments, but that you are kind and forgiving when others mistreat you. You bring God no honor by winning a dispute in His name, but you reflect a Christlike character when you demonstrate patience to those who mistreat you or misunderstand your motives. Arguing may never win people to your view, but loving them as Christ does will win you many friends over time and may even win some to the Kingdom of God.

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Humility

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

Throughout the history of mankind, pride and boastfulness has attached itself to the brashness of men. Most of us are likely guilty of this to some degree. Consequently, God tells us to turn away from this notion and seek to humble one’s self. Humility is what God desires as it acts as an opposite of pride. Humility does not mean thinking badly of yourself, or trying to hide your accomplishments. If you know a person who boasts and brags about his successes, or acts as if he were better than other people, you already have a view of what you should not do. No one wants to be around a person like this. In contrast, the person who is humble gives credit where it is due.

The Christian who practices humility begins by acknowledging God as the source of all that is good in their life.  If he gains a success, he knows he would not have accomplished it without God. When you experience something positive, be aware that God is the source of the wonderful blessing. Your awareness of God extends to knowing he would not even exist otherwise. A humble person will defer glory and credit to God, not boasting in his own self.

Humility extends to hard events in life, too. When you experience a loss or a difficulty, these are also times to acknowledge God. The strength and courage to continue during hard times come from knowing there is a reason for your faith. Knowing God will not let you down or leave you results in faith based on humility. When pressing on is something you know you cannot do alone, all you need to do is acknowledge God as the source of your strength.

To acknowledge God working all things for our good is one part of humility. Another part is to be thankful. Learning to be thankful is a good place to start in regard to humility. While it may seem easy to thank God for his gifts when you are going through a difficult time or experiencing something very positive, humility requires consistent gratitude. If you start by thanking God for your life and every new day, being humble will become natural for you. Pride will eventually give way to humility. It may not happen overnight. It may have to follow a painful process, because pride can be very, very stubborn. Like an embedded splinter deep in the flesh of your foot, it is hard to remove. You cannot remove it alone, and there is constant throbbing and pain until it is extracted. This is the plight of pride. Pain and suffering are its cohorts. Pride provides a false sense of security.

Humble yourself, and trust God to humble others. It is easy to recognize pride in others while it is still looming in your spirit. Run from spiritual pride. It is the worst kind. It is insidious. It is self-righteousness in nature, and it chokes the Holy Spirit. Humility grows in an environment of honesty, openness, prayer, and change. Be a change agent on behalf of the humble. Humble pride!

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