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Archive | From the Pulpit

New Community

C-East-Nelson-UnitedPastor Herb VanderBilt 

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. • Cedar Springs MI 49319

 

Acts 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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.”

Community is important. According to some sources, the housing market is beginning to come back from the collapse a few years ago.  Home ownership is part of what some perceive as the “American Dream.” Critical to the value of a house is its location, what kind of community does it belong to. People fixing up their homes, taking care of lawns and landscaping are also signs of a stable community. Another sign of a vital community is people care for their neighbors and those in the community who need help.

When Jesus ascended after his death and resurrection a new community was being built. Life in Jerusalem during the time of the Apostles was rather messed up. The Jews, a remnant of a once powerful and cohesive community, were now living in a broken down community of Roman law and oppressive laws being applied by the religious community, especially on the poor and disfigured. Jesus taught that God loved his people so much that he was willing to start a new covenant as the old one had fallen apart when the people began to fall away from God. This was Good News in a land that was desperate for some good news. As the message of God’s grace began to be heard by both Jews and Gentiles alike, a new community was being formed, a community based on the fact that both the Jews and the Gentiles alike were equal in this new way. In fact, one of the first names for the church before it became the church were “People of the way.” And what was this new way? Besides telling and retelling the story of Jesus Christ, they also came together and celebrated their new sense of unity and the things they had in common.

Today we read this scripture and say, “well that was a long time ago when everything was new and being a Christian was radical. Folks today just don’t get that excited anymore and many Christians can’t get along with each other.” Well that may be true in many places but there are signs that things may be changing in the Cedar Springs Community. Consider these as today’s signs and wonders:

The United Worship service at Morley park

Kid’s Hope mentoring program

EnGedi-an after school program

Plans for a school for troubled Teens (Second Chance)

North Kent Service Center and Cedar Springs Community Food panty

I am sure there are more so let’s thank God for our community.

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Where’s Your Hope – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Rd, Rockford

 

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”(NIV).

I have to admit something. I am not much of an optimist. I wouldn’t classify myself as a pessimist, but probably more of a realist. Whenever I hear a story on the news, I usually tend to think that it’s probably not going to turn out good. I don’t expect the best, or even plan for the best. When it comes to people, I usually expect the worst and therefore I am rarely disappointed. I guess you could say I have lost my hope in the human race. It seems like we just keep getting worse and worse and it seems like I just start to place less and less hope in humanity. If we place our hope in people or even in this world, we will find ourselves constantly disappointed and eventually we will end up extremely frustrated and we may even get disillusioned. That’s why this issue of where we place our hope is extremely crucial for the Christian.

The reason many of us get discouraged and disillusioned is because we have placed our hope in the wrong place, or the wrong person. We have hoped in someone or something that let us down. We believed that a situation would turn out for good and it didn’t, or that a person we loved would eventually figure things out and turn their life around for good, but they don’t! We want to have a positive outlook and hope that things will turn out for the best, but it becomes harder and harder the more we are let down by the people and things that we put our hope in.

That must be why Peter told the believers who were scattered throughout the world at that time not to place their hope in people, or the government, or even each other, but instead he told them to “set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” In other words, there is only one certainty in this life, there is only one guarantee, and that is that Jesus is coming back one day and that he is coming back to take us to be with Him forever (John 14:1-3).

This is something worthy of placing your hope in! Jesus is one person you can place your hope in that will never let you down! This is one event that will turn out for good! This is one story that does have a happy ending! So, the next time you find yourself down and discouraged because someone let you down, or something didn’t turn out the way you hoped it would, remember to set your hope on the one person that won’t ever let you down. His name is Jesus, and one day, He’s coming back and he’s bringing grace with him in the form of an eternal dwelling place for all of his people!

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Nice to see you!

Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

www.cscalvary.org

http://craigtowens.com 

 

Here’s my submission for the most obvious statement of the year: It’s a lot nicer being with people you get along with than it is being alone or with disagreeable people.

Probably not much to argue about that statement, right?

So if that’s true, why are so many people lonely? Why do the number of people calling themselves “alone” and “unhappy with life” continue to rise year after year?

Part of the problem is that we’ve gotten rid of so many places where we used to meet others, and we’ve replaced face-to-face time with screen time. We watch others’ victories on TV, we admire others’ vacations on Facebook, we laugh at others’ jokes on Twitter, and we live others’ lives at the movie theater.

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” But this requires us spending time with a potential friend.

Albert Camus observed that a friend is one who can sing your song to you when you’ve forgotten the words. But this means spending lots of time “singing your song” with your friend.

In the Bible we read, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). That’s the theme for this year’s UNITED service. UNITED is a huge church service in Morley Park where all of our churches come together, face-to-face, and celebrate God and the friendships He has given us. It’s a place where you can sing side-by-side with other Cedar Springs friends.

Won’t you join us this Sunday, August 25, at 11a.m.? Perhaps you’ll meet a new friend, or deepen a relationship with a current friend. Someone is waiting for you to step into their life, and I’ll bet someone wants to step into your life too! Don’t rob yourself or your friend of a chance to banish loneliness!

You can get all the details about UNITED at http://unitedcedarsprings.com.

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Moments of Selah

Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

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

 

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” Psalms 46:10-11 (NIV.)

If you are like me, you have purposed this summer to slow down the busyness of life and enjoy your summer.  However, it is the first part of August already and it continues to go by so fast. There is a saying in music, the “beat goes on.” Life does go on also, and it often tends to find a “rhythm” like a good song. However, the great songs and songwriters always place “musical rests” or pauses in the song. They have learned that they enhance the music and often drive home the purpose of the song or the lyrics. That is exactly what this word Selah means.

The word Selah is used 71 time in the Book of Psalms and 3 times in the Book of Habakkuk. Most Bible scholars agree that this word has various meanings, but most agree on three that are most common. The first is to pause or rest; secondly, to measure or meditate; and thirdly, to lift up.

The first meaning is to rest. This rest is not like a Sabbath, known for a specific or extended time off, but is one that denotes a brief pause or a break. The writer of Psalms is asking the reader to stop reading at that moment and take break from reading. Why are they asking us to take a break?

This leads us to the second meaning, which is to measure or meditate. The purpose of Selah (rest) is to take a moment and meditate or reflect. Remember the “Selah,” rest or break was purposely placed in the psalm, by the writer, to stop you. God the author of our life purposely places moments of “Selah” in our lives to stop us. He wants us to slow down, stop for a moment and take time to reflect on what He is speaking or doing in our life. These moments by God often come in various ways, vacations, summer breaks, seasons of life and even difficult or tying times. But like a great song, we must place them and acknowledge their purpose in our life.

Thirdly, Selah means to lift up. When we take the time to incorporate and allow God to place these moments in our life, we live stronger more refreshed lives. They also cause us to “lift up” our hearts and lives to God. We are able to “Be still, and know that He is God,” We stop long enough to remember that God has everything under control. We once again are refreshed by this truth and fact in life as a believer. So although summer continues to go by fast and life itself does not stop, purpose to incorporate moments of “Selah” in your life! If not, God may just schedule them for you. Regardless of the season, circumstances, or situations you face, take a break and reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness. Be still and remember He is God.

Just a final note to remind our readers that on Sunday, August 25,at 11am, our annual UNITED SERVICE will take place at Morley Park.  It is our time collectively as churches when we take a scheduled “Selah” together. We pause from our own church schedules and together reflect on God’s goodness. We hope you can make it. We know you will leave refreshed.

 

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The Gospel Truth

Pastor Dick Nichols
Cedar Creek Community Church
2969 14 Mile Rd., Sparta

If you are a Christian today, sometime in the past you said… (not these exact words, but your own words asking Jesus into your life),  “Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that you died on the cross for my sins.  I ask you now to come into my heart and make me a new creation.  Forgive me all of my sin as you are my Savior.  I promise to follow you.”
Some of you have followed Jesus from the time you were a small child; some of you gave your heart to him later in life as I did. The truth is that we made a promise to be faithful to Jesus and to serve him alone, a promise with eternal importance.
There is a problem in our human nature that we often times make promises, pledges, oaths or vows that the moment they fell off our lips we knew we couldn’t live up to them. General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army said, “I want you to always bear in your mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out, you must keep it stirred up and fed and the ashes removed.”
I believe General Booth had in mind what the writer of Ecclesiastes made clear: “(4) When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. (5) Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5, King James translation).
A few years back, James Patterson and Peter Kim interviewed thousands of people and then published a book called “The Day America Told The Truth.” They cited a lot of statistics of being dishonest to parents, spouses, friends, etc., one of which is that 91% of those surveyed said that they lie on a regular basis. One statistic we should take to heart is that ‘there is minimal difference between Christians and non-Christians.
I believe I can safely say that most of us know that God requires that we speak the truth whenever we speak. Honesty helps us grow in our relationships with Jesus Christ and others, while dishonesty is contrary to the character of God and undermines relationships.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 King James translation). Jesus said that we should ‘stand out’ as a beacon on a hill, not for our glory, but that others would see the difference between a practicing Christian and others. You might ask how we know what God thinks about this?  Well, I’m glad you asked. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’  (John 4:24 King James translation).  Let us practice the example of Jesus and make truth a relevant part of our character.

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Liberty and justice for all

Courtland-Oakfield-United-MethPastor Robert Eckert

Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

 

I’m still thinking about Independence Day. Celebrations of “liberty and justice for all” are still fresh in mind. Even though the nation was founded with some limitations on the word “all” (African slaves, women, non-landowners, for example, weren’t originally included), I am grateful that there have been courageous, visionary leaders along the way to push us toward a full realization of the ideals on which our country was founded.

“All” is a potent little word that is particularly challenging in world made up of such a diverse collection of people. Whether by age, race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnic heritage, cultural affinities, or any of a number of other characteristics, each of us can be defined and categorized in ways such that no one is identical to anyone else.

I am a transplant to this area having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived for more than 30 years in Grand Rapids. There are reminders of many aspects of our nation’s diversity that are more evident in most cities than one is likely to find in the town-and-country living of the Cedar Springs area.

There are, however, other reminders of the full diversity of all creation in this part of the world, diversity of a different sort than shows up in urban settings. House wrens and grackles are just about the only birds flying the skies of Grand Rapids, along with the occasional cardinal, blue jay, or mourning dove. Here there are hummingbirds, orioles, and red-breasted grosbeaks; woodpeckers, bluebirds, and indigo buntings; Canada geese, blue herons, and bald eagles.

The writer of Psalm 139 has this to say about all that God has knit together and our place in the diversity of creation: “I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well” (Psalm 139:14, CEV).

We often struggle with our differences; we let them breed discomfort, fear, and resentment, but they are evidence of God’s hand in all that is (there’s that word again) and all who are.

“Liberty and justice for all” is not only a promise for Americans in civic and political arenas, it is the promise of God for those parts of our lives that yearn for wholeness and spiritual peace. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Romans 8:21, CEV). That’s something to hope for, something to work for, something to grow toward, and that’s something for us to do together, all of us.

 

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Teach us to pray

Pastor Herb VanderBilt

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs

 

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, Teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, “When you pray, say Father…” (Luke 11: 1-2a.)

What follows these words is the very familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, which is still an excellent model of how to pray today. So why did the disciples ask Jesus how to pray? Certainly prayer was not unusual in Jewish culture as there are several references to people praying. What was so different about Jesus and his prayers? The other question that came to me while I read these words again is how do we learn to pray? Is there a right way to pray? Why are people reluctant to pray aloud or to lead our groups to pray? These are all legitimate questions to ask ourselves during Lent, as we consider what part prayer takes in our Journey of Hope.

Many people, who grow up in the church, learn to pray as young children. I think the first prayer that I learned was at the dinner table, “God bless this food…” As adults however many people become uncomfortable when asked to pray or to pray aloud in public. According to the book that I am reading, Let the Whole Church Say Amen, by Lawrence Hall Stookey, one reason that so many people today are confused about how to pray is because they have never been taught. Just like the disciples, people need to have prayer modeled for them. One of the reasons many are hesitant to pray out loud is because people think that they have to pray “In King James” i.e. using thee or thou or wouldst or beseech, words that we really don’t use anymore. The reason Jesus’ disciples were so interested in learning how to pray like Jesus is that Jesus didn’t use extremely formal language to talk to God the Father; in fact he used the term “Abba,” which literally translated means “Daddy.” If a young child falls down and hurts himself, how does he talk to his parents? Does he say, “Father, if it is not too much trouble, can you consider coming to give me some help?” No, they most likely will say “Daddy, I am hurt, come help me!” Certainly we can pray to our Heavenly Father that way, too. Prayer is simply that—talking to God, the God who created us and formed us in his image. The God who has promised to always be with us, he doesn’t require a special invitation, so we don’t have to ask him to be with us, because he already is.

Prayer is like any other kind of speech or language; we need to practice. Practice praying, listening to Him and then teaching others. “For Yours is the kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.”

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church

3110 17 Mile Road, Cedar Springs

About 25 years ago, a song hit the radio air waves called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and it was written and sung by Bobby McFerrin. It was a catchy and popular song that encouraged the listener to not worry about the troubles of life and instead to remain happy. In his song, McFerrin described situations in which we might struggle financially, deal with unpopularity, or even be robbed by someone, but yet it always came back to the refrain: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Maybe you remember the song; I’m sure you do and I bet you’ll be humming it the rest of the day now! Bobby believed that worry was pointless and in fact it made matters worse. In one of his key lyrics, he said “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry, you make it double.”

I don’t know Bobby McFerrin’s religious background, but much of his message is certainly biblical. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talked to His disciples about the dangers of worry. He taught that worry is unproductive by saying “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?“ One of the points Jesus was trying to make was that we cause additional stress to ourselves by worrying about things. But Jesus also included something in His message that Mr. McFerrin left out. Jesus answers the question, how is it possible to not worry? Isn’t that what we all want to know? We may agree with Bobby or Jesus, but how do we put it into practice in our lives?

Jesus empowers us by letting us know that we don’t have to worry because God is watching over us and will take care of all our needs. He used a beautiful description of how things go for the birds of the air to convey this. Jesus says: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” The implication is that, yes, we are more valuable to Him than the birds and thus all the more He will take care of us. The added benefit to those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is that not only does He take care of us in this life, but also into eternal life.
I encourage those who already know the Lord to reflect on His caring nature and entrust your worries to Him. And to those who don’t know The Lord, to realize that not only do you have someone to handle your worries in this life, but willing to handle them forevermore.
Bobby McFerrin listed only a few examples of the troubles of life and undoubtedly as you read this, you can list many more. But through it all, don’t worry, be happy, because God takes care of us.

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“Our Father who art in heaven” The mystery of prayer

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC

 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township

 

Familiar words to some and a mystery to others. What is all this stuff about praying anyway? And what is prayer? I have been asked a number of times about prayer. Three questions seem to stand out. 

How can God hear so many people all at once? It’s because God exists in a way that we can’t understand. He is able to do things that make no sense to us. But His word tells us that He hears us and answers our prayers. It is a matter of faith to trust His word. But we need to remember that when our prayers are answered, that is proof our prayers were indeed heard and answered by God.

Who am I to communicate with the God of the universe? Well, in His own words, we are the children of the Living God. I cannot imagine going through life never speaking with my earthly father, and in the same way I cannot imagine going through life not communicating with my Heavenly Father. The bible tells us in the book of James, “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.”

The most often asked question is simply, “How do I pray?  Prayer is simply having a conversation with our Lord. In Matthew chapter 6 starting in verse 9 Jesus teaches us how to pray when asked the same question. We don’t need to use those exact words every time, but the way the prayer is formed is a good pattern to follow. We sometimes use little tricks to help us form our prayers such as the acronym “ACTS.” Adoration – recognizing that God is the creator of all and praising Him for all of His amazing works. Confession – admitting that we are in need of a Savior and that we are sinners who seek forgiveness. Thanksgiving – even when we feel we have little to be thankful for, God seems to reveal blessings in our lives; we use this time to recognize this and to thank Him for all he does for us. Supplication -is when we ask God to answer our prayers for the things that we ask of Him.

One thing that I try to remind people is that one of the most important parts of a close relationship is communication. We really do need to communicate with one another and also with our God. St. Patrick once wrote that he found himself praying as many as a hundred times a day and almost as many at night. That sounds like a lot and most of us would think that we would run out of things to say, but that brings up another important point. Part of communication is listening. We need to hear what the other person is saying, especially if we are talking to God! We so often pray for guidance and answers, but we don’t bother to listen for those answers! Praying is really just communicating with God. And there is no special place, position, words or anything else. The important thing is to “just do it.”. If you have more questions, ask your pastor. And if you don’t have one, I’m sure there is one nearby, ask a friend or just drop in to your local church.

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Endless Summer?

Solon-Center-WesPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs 

(just north of 19 Mile)

 

My wife and I sat down early this spring and decided that this would be the summer of “No!” We would say no to anything that took time away from our family because we are so busy during the school year with ministry, teaching, and sports. We seem to run ourselves ragged from sun up to sun down, and we needed a slow-paced summer so that we could enjoy the weather and some much needed down time. So the answer to any and every request would be, “no”.

Well, the junior ball league really needed a coach, and without it they might not have had another team so I figured that I had better fill that need. My daughter got into this really great music camp, and it’s only 5 hours away, and it could be life changing for her so we signed her up for that. And since we sent her to that, we couldn’t really say no to this great basketball camp for my son (Tom Izzo is going to be there after all!).  My wife and the kids have always gone over to the other side of the state to visit her college roommate and we couldn’t really miss that opportunity could we? Oh, and I found out that I’m going to be honored at this camp in Indiana for some worship leading that I’ve done over the years, and I’d hate to miss that! Well, you can see where this is going! The summer of “No” has turned into the summer of “Yes of course I can do that!”

I believe that our lives are full of seasons. In fact the writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon), tells us about that.  It was even made popular in the famous song, “Corner of the sky.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 11-12. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

Maybe this season in your life is not what you expected or even hoped for. Maybe you find yourself in a really difficult situation that you didn’t expect. But you can know that even though life is not what you expected, it is only for a season. There are seasons in our lives that stress us out, that make us wonder what God is up to. But we can take comfort in the fact that God has set eternity in our hearts, and if we have the “big picture” in mind we can have the “peace that passes all understanding”. So try to slow down this summer and take some time to “Be still and know that He is God” (Psalms 46:10). I’m going to try too! So don’t ask me to do anything! (Just kidding!)

 

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