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Archive | From the Pulpit

Through the Storm

Pastor Jim Howard

First Baptist Church

 First-Baptist-church-curren

 

 

46 years ago, a tornado passed through our family farm.  I remember details that seem so vivid in my memory.  At the time I was only 8 and for me, this storm wasn’t something that I feared, but rather something that was very exciting.  Lots of rain, hail and wind.  I recall being hustled down into the basement and my grandmother opening a lot of windows in the house.  The thinking back then was that you opened the windows to relieve the pressure & lessen the potential damage.

The actual storm passed quite quickly and I remember the sun coming out almost immediately afterward.  We all went upstairs and outside.  The damage was relatively light with trees uprooted and farm equipment overturned.  The buildings were relatively unscathed.  The tornado only grazed us!

The events of late in Oklahoma remind us of how dangerous tornadoes can be!  Our hearts go out to those victimized by the storm and those who are dealing with the loss of loved ones.  Horatio Spafford penned the words to the song “It Is Well with My Soul” which expressed his heart and hope after the loss of his children in a shipwreck at sea. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”  I’ve often wondered how he could express such a perspective in the midst of extreme grief.

When faith in Christ is a way of life, we find that the peace of God is most certainly unexplainable (Philippians 4:7),  This does not mean that we do not hurt or grieve or feel a sense of profound loss.  It does mean that through the midst of the traumas and tribulations, that we have an incredible sense that we are not alone (Heb. 13:5), and that God will take care of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  Life will be full of storms that at times threaten to swamp our boat and overwhelm us.  As we go through those storms, remember that God has promised to see us through them.  If the storm results in our death, we have the confidence of knowing that our next breath will be heavenly! (2 Corinthians 5:8)

I remember that after the tornado had passed through our farm, we went outside into warm sunshine and clearing skies.  The air was incredibly fresh and calm.  It would take us many weeks to clean up after that storm.  The appearance of the farm changed, just as life changed, but life moved on.  When the storms of life prevail, they will pass!  We will endure and persevere!

How could Spafford express such words in his song?  Because of an eternal hope!  “And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so’ – it is well with my soul.”

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Church Is Necessary

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47 NIV).

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say this before, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” And to that statement I always respond with a resounding, “You’re Right!” Nowhere in Scripture does it say that in order to be saved you need to go to church. But, I would counter that first statement with this, “if you are a growing Christian, you’ll be in church.”

You see, going to church has nothing to do with being saved and everything to do with growing in your walk and relationship with Jesus. Going to church doesn’t save you, but it is necessary if you are going to grow in your salvation. The apostle Paul, who coincidentally spent the majority of his ministry traveling to different places, preaching the gospel, and then establishing churches in those places (Acts 14:21-28), said in Ephesians 4 that God gave us pastors and teachers to “equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

The book of Acts is filled with the recollection of the apostles establishing churches and leadership in those churches, who were then led by men who had been given, by God, the gift of pastoring, in order to help the believers grow in their faith and become more like Christ. That is why we are told in the book of Hebrews to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). We are commanded to come together for the purposes of encouraging each other, growing in our faith through increasing in our understanding of the Bible, and corporately worshipping our God together as we praise Him for all the wonderful things He has done. God actually promises that when we are gathered together in His name, He is there with us!! (Matt. 18:20). The early Church would have never thought about not gathering together. Luke tells us in Acts 2, that they met together daily in the temple courts and spent time praising God, celebrating communion and praying. As a result they grew by leaps and bounds.

If you are struggling in your Christian walk, then odds are you’re not making corporate worship (church) a very high priority in your life. God intended for you to be part of a local body of believers who you could worship together with, learn from, and encourage each other. If you’re not part of a church, that doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian; odds are you just aren’t a growing Christian.

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Make every day special

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.org

http://craigtowens.com 

 

I was looking at my calendar and saw a whole lot of special events taking up an hour here and there. Things like the Cedar Creek Cleanup, and Service Sunday (where area churches will be leaving their church services earlier than usual to do some community service projects), and plans for a special fundraising event for a local nonprofit.

And I thought to myself, “Why are these ‘special’ events?”

Of all of the things he could have said about His daily agenda, here’s how Peter—one of Jesus’ closest followers—described His activities: “He went around doing good” (Acts 10:38).

There weren’t special days or organized events for Jesus to do good, He just went around doing good wherever He went. And He asks us to do the same: “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).

Please don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with organized events. But even better would be a daily agenda of doing good.

You don’t have to wait until Earth Day to pick up the trash you see, or help your neighbor with some yard work, or recycle your recyclables, or plant some flowers.

You don’t need to wait for Service Sunday to sing to the residents of a nursing home, or lend a hand to a friend in need, or ask City Hall about needs around Cedar Springs.

You don’t have to wait for the annual fundraiser to volunteer at a local charity, or make a surprise donation, or call to find out their most pressing needs.

It’s great when lots of people show up for these events, but it’s even better when, like Jesus, we walk around doing good every day.

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Hearts to love and hands to serve

The Rev. David Meyers
Holy Spirit Episcopal Church
1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

Two weeks ago, churches who follow the Common Lectionary read John 21. The Gospel for the third week of Easter told of Jesus waiting with breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As the fishing apostles approached in the early morning, Jesus fed them breakfast and then asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter emphatically replied in the affirmative and Jesus directed him to feed his sheep.
I had the opportunity to be in that same place two years ago. Over time, the water level of the Sea of Galilee has dropped. Now the shore is much wider than it was in the first century. The receding water revealed a series of large rocks that were used as anchor stones for the fishing boats at the time of Jesus.  Each of these stones is carved in the shape of a heart. I do not know the original intention of the shape, but it seems appropriate to have heart shaped stones in that place where Jesus spoke of loving him and feeding his sheep.
Love and action have always been inseparable partners. A person cannot love God without a loving outlook toward neighbors. Therefore, in all Judeo-Christian (as well as other religious) traditions, looking out for others is mandatory. In fact, Jesus clearly stated (Matt. 21) that when the poor are fed, the naked clothed, and the sick are tended, etc. it is a deed received by God. This is how we feed his sheep.
It is good to live in a community in which that mandate is taken seriously! In Kent County, there are dozens of food pantries. Access of West Michigan (a supervising agency) reported that over 6,500 families, representing almost 20,000 individuals, are fed in Kent County through the loving donations of industries, churches, schools, and service organizations each month! In our own church (Holy Spirit Episcopal Church), together with our wonderful partners at Assumption Roman Catholic Church, Loaves and Fishes Pantry of Belmont distributed over 24,000 food items last year. I know many of you have similar stories of generosity.
When people are hungry, or sick, or cold, life becomes pretty basic. The response is also pretty basic. Without question we are to support those in our communities with special needs. Let us all remember to keep giving to local food pantries, volunteer at a center or shelter, and be aware of the people around us. Simply put, that is what Jesus told us to do when he gave the directive to feed the sheep. In the first century, the Rabbi Hillel reiterated the simplicity of God’s command, “Do unto your neighbor as you would have them do unto you; all the rest is commentary.”

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The Valley of Achor

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd. N.E., Sparta, MI 49345

 

What is the valley of Achor? This was a valley near the city of Jericho. It was the place in the Old Testament where a man by the name of Achan was stoned to death. You might be wondering, “What is your purpose in writing about this?” Bear with me and you will see how the Lord works in and through our times of trouble, even if we bring them upon ourselves—like Achan. The name “Achor,” in Hebrew, means “trouble.” So, this valley was actually the valley of trouble. Joshua  7:24-26 reads, “Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since” (NIV).

We see at the end of this verse that God eventually turned from His fierce anger. Why? It was because the price for Achan’s sin was paid. Achan paid the high price of death. This is an amazing picture of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid the high price of death for sin. His death, like Achan’s death, paid the price for sin and God turned from his anger. This is the simple truth of the loving message of the Gospel. God’s not mad at you! Jesus Christ’s death satisfied God’s anger. If this is true, why are so many people, including Christians (God’s own children) walking around all the time thinking God is always angry with them?

Let’s see some other truths about this valley of trouble, so when we ourselves experience times of trouble, we can find encouragement. There were two prophets who had some very profound things to say about this valley. The first prophet was Isaiah. Isaiah 65:10 says, “Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me” (NIV). Wow! Isaiah was saying that our valleys of trouble, our times of difficulty in life, can actually become a place of rest. How can this be? We must bring them to the Lord. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matt 11:28-30 (NIV). Again, we see our valleys of troubles can become a place of spiritual rest.

The second prophet was the prophet Hosea. Hosea brought to light even more amazing truth about our valleys of troubles. Hosea said, “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt” (NIV) (Hosea 2:15). He said that in our valleys of troubles, God actually produces hope. In the places we seem to feel the most hopeless, God brings us hope. Not just happiness, which is based on the happenings of our life, but real hope that sees past our troubles. I think this is what the Apostle Paul understood when he wrote, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Rom 5:2-5 (NIV) Paul wrote that real biblical hope often stems from sufferings, yet it never disappoints us.

In closing, if you find yourself in a “valley of trouble” right now, remember these principles. Jesus paid the price for my sin, so God’s not mad at me. I can actually find rest and hope in this valley. Lastly, I do not need to remain disappointed, because God is producing a “door of hope” for me right in the middle of this low point in my life. So, do not be afraid to step through the door he opens.

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Spring—a reminder of life

Pastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Cedar-Christian-Church

Springtime is finally approaching. What a lovely time of year. No other season invokes these sights, sounds and smells. Spring is the awakening of what was once dead but has now come alive. The Bible describes it, “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!’ (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).

The spring season reminds us of how important life truly is.  But what is life and what does it mean? What does it mean according to God?

In the beginning God created a perfect world. Why was this world so perfect? Because God’s presence was there and the presence of God brings life! However, man fell into Satan’s temptations, which removed the presence of the One who gives life. As a result, a curse was placed on this earth because of sin which has resulted in all of us being handed a sentence of death.  The image of a physical death and a curse on the earth which forewarns us of an ending we do not want to inherit.  That picture is eternal death. Eternal death means eternal seperation from God, the One whom gives life.

However, God had a plan; a plan to rescue us from that separation. He accomplished this by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for us. This sacrifice bridges us back to the One who gives life! Eternally God has allowed us to escape our death sentence and has called us to live and reign with Him forever and ever. All you need to do is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and He will set you free and grant you eternal life in His Kingdom.

While the life God is concerned about is eternal, He gives us reminders and illustrations here on this earth.  Spring is a perfect time of year for that reminder. Spring brings hope that there will be brighter days ahead; days full of sunshine, happiness and joy. We see plants come to life, trees blossoming, flowers blooming, animals lively and birds chirping. These are all wonderful signs of life and should remind us that Jesus Christ gave us life through His death. It is a life that will allow us to live in peace and harmony with Him forever and ever. Remember, God is Life!

 

 

 

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He Is Risen Indeed!

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

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

If you ask the average person on the street what Easter is about, you are more likely to hear about the beginning of spring and new life, about warm weather and plants starting to grow and days getting longer again, more than you are to hear about Jesus.

Easter isn’t about spring or the growing season, it’s about something more important than that. Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  We read in John’s Gospel, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25 King James Version).

Easter is about the promises of Jesus as to our great hope for resurrection into a new life eternally. We read in John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (King James Version).

A lot of people doubt that Jesus rose again on the first Easter; it doesn’t make sense to human reason that a dead man should come alive again.  But it doesn’t depend on human reason, Jesus rising from the dead doesn’t depend on our belief or understanding.  It depends on God and his sovereign promises and authority, and God himself said Jesus would live again.  Though many people will say ‘no, Jesus didn’t rise,’ they don’t have the authority, we have God’s word.

Of course Jesus’ own disciples thought their walk with Jesus was ended when he died on the cross. But the Gospel truth, the Good news is, Jesus Christ is risen today!  When the disciples met Jesus after the cross, this truth changed their lives for ever.  What a joy it is to know that his promises have been kept, Jesus turns sadness into joy and that is reason to celebrate now.  Jesus lives today and that means that those who believe on him will live also.

Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the enemy of mankind, no one knew what awaited beyond that point; until Easter morning.  That all changed and now we can dare to believe that the Lord will see us through the days and minutes of our lives, and that he will never leave or forsake us.

The great Easter truth is not limited to our new life after death, but we are to live here and now by the power of resurrection hope.  When we face the tragedies in this life, we can draw from God’s promised resurrection power to overcome the pain, sorrow and mourning that terminal diseases, sudden calamities and fatal accidents inflict on us.  Because He lives, I can face today and tomorrow. We should live like we believe!

 

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How Jesus handled stress

TheSpringsPastor Barry Briggs

The Springs Church

135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs

Nobody carried greater stress in life than Jesus. Not only did He carry the weight of being the Savior of the world on His shoulders, but there were constant demands on His life. People wanted to see Him. People were trying to trap Him. People were trying to kill Him. Nobody has ever experienced greater stress than Jesus did.

Yet, if you look at His life, He doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. He handles all the pressures with peace. In fact, we never see Jesus in a hurry, even though He had the most important assignment in life. No matter what the world threw at Him, He handled it with grace.

I want to learn how to do that. I want to learn how to be at peace under pressure. I want to learn how to handle stress. Fortunately Jesus gave us a model. And if you will follow Jesus’ example, your stress will go down and your fulfillment and joy in life will go up.

So how did Jesus handle stress? He did it in three ways: By getting alone, by getting away, and by getting together. Let’s unpack those.

First, the Bible says if you want to learn to be stress free like Jesus you need to get alone with God. Mark 1:35 (NIV) is the secret of stress relief.  It says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

What’s Jesus doing? He’s having a quiet time. He’s getting alone, getting quiet, and spending time with God. Over and over in the Gospels we see Jesus doing this. Look at Luke 5:15-16 (NCV), “News about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so He could pray.” Notice it says Jesus did this often. You need to do this often too. You need to have a quiet time every day to reflect, renew, and recharge.

Next, if you want to reduce the stress in your life you have to take time to get away. Trust me, Jesus had more important work than you or I do. But He frequently took the time to relax, to go to parties, go to weddings, to kick back and have fun. Jesus said, “I, the Son of Man, feast and drink…” (Matthew 11:19 NLT).

The Pharisees accused Jesus of being a party animal. They said this guy’s always going to parties, always eating and drinking. Do you want to be Christ like? Go to a party. Enjoy life. If you’re too busy to take your vacation time, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy. And if you’re too busy to relax, you’re too busy. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured.

Jesus lived a stress free life because He would get alone, get away, and finally because He would get together.  Look at Matthew 26:38 (NIV), “[Jesus] said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

The night before Jesus went to the cross He went to a place called the Garden of Gethsemane. He went there to pray, but He didn’t go alone. He took His friends with Him. Even Jesus needed a group of friends to help Him through the tough times, and He was perfect. Like Jesus, when we’re going through stressful times we need friends to be there with us too.

Stress is increasing in our culture. So you’ve got to take some intentional steps to combat the stress in your life. What are the steps? Jesus modeled them for us: get alone, get away, and get together. Do this often and it will reduce your stress.

Hear the full sermon at thespringschurch.info. Click on media.

 

 

 

 

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Getting to Spring

During this winter season I’ve often heard people say that they can’t wait for Spring to come. That desire was especially strong a few weeks ago amongst the heavy downpours of snow, icy roads and winter heating costs. But even now, as spring is a little closer, the wait can be difficult too; sometimes that last mile of the race can be the toughest. I was recently encouraging my congregation that though we don’t always have what we want in life (such as spring), what we do have is plenty.

Consider David, who writes the very popular Psalm 23. He dealt with enemies in his life, trouble in his family, and various other struggles, yet in verse 5 of that Psalm he says with confidence “My cup overflows.” Consider also the author of Psalm 136 who uses the phrase “His love endures forever” 26 times! Clearly, He was someone who saw his cup as overflowing as well.

But how could these two individuals reach that conclusion that they were blessed despite life’s struggles? They found that peace and contentment when they took the time to reflect on who God was and how He had been and was still working in their lives. In Psalm 23, David saw his relationship with God like that of a Shepherd to His sheep; God the Shepherd, David the sheep. To that end, he realized that God takes care of the things that hinder him from finding rest, He leads him along good paths, protects him from enemies, goes before him preparing the way and does many other good things that a Shepherd does for their sheep. In Psalm 136, the author has reflected upon the beauty of God’s creation that he gets to enjoy every day, how God has granted His people freedom, how He’s given them victory and on and on it goes.

Sometimes what helps us to endure the struggles of life is to consider its joys as well. In other words, sometimes we need to count our blessings one by one. When we count our blessings it may not bring Spring to us any sooner, but it will help us to appreciate what we have until it arrives.

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church

3110 17 Mile Road, Cedar Springs

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Hearing and following the call

I often smile at the path my life has taken. Working for a company that did commercial heating and plumbing, I would have laughed out loud had anyone suggested that one day I would be a pastor of two churches. (And so would most people who knew me!) I can assure you that while standing in a sewage pit fixing a pump, the thought of being a preacher was the last thing on my mind. And yet, here I am—proving beyond a doubt that God’s word is true, nothing is impossible with God!

Some people have that “at the bottom of the pit with no hope, when the heavens opened up and a light ray struck me while God spoke” experience. The truth is, though, God usually doesn’t make that kind of appearance. He usually makes himself known through many and constant blessings, and through answers to questions that we may not remember asking him. In short, he reveals himself to us in ways that we, individually, can see and understand. He was with me in many situations that I only realized afterwards.

So how may he call you? It’s hard to say.

It may be that you find the words to say to a friend or family member when they really need it. It may be in a sudden and unexplainable feeling to act on a cause or to help a person in need. It can be in answering a question asked by a child, or by giving a ride to someone you never thought you would.

It’s important that you don’t panic. God calls us all to be ministers but not preachers; and He calls us to be friends, neighbors, mentors, parents and simply someone who is there to help.

Just as important as hearing a call is answering it. God may call anytime and anyplace. And it may be to do something that you never thought you’d do. But He is faithful and He will not call you to do something and just abandon you. He will be at your side from beginning to end.

The amazing thing is that He has chosen to have us serve Him in the simplest ways, and yet so many people find this terribly difficult. How does God want us to serve Him? By serving His people. That’s really it. When you call an older neighbor to check up on them, you’re serving God. Give some extra cans of food to someone who needed it? You served God. Take time to listen to that person on the street that everyone else walks by? Yep, you’re serving God! Not really that painful is it? God calls us to do what we are able to do, only we need to do it for the glory of God not ourselves. And that way we are doing what God calls all of us to do!

Pastor Darryl Miller

Sand Lake UMC

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC

13600 Cypress,

Ensley Township

 

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