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Archive | From the Pulpit

A Model For Prayer

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
Cedarfield Community Center

3592 17 Mile Rd., Cedar Springs

 

Sometimes people will ask me for tips on how to pray. They want to know what to say when they spend time with God. In those times, I tend to point them in the direction of The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4), a prayer of confession (Psalm 32), a prayer of praise (Psalm 27) or to simply model the prayers of other people they hear in church. But recently I’ve discovered another model for prayer from Psalm 3 that I think is helpful. I have named this model the STAR Prayer; each letter corresponds to four things David does in his time with God.

First, David shares what’s on his heart. O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Sadly, his own son and his army were chasing after David. But rather than keeping it inside, David shared his burden with the Lord. And that’s where we get the S, in the STAR prayer. One way you can begin your time with God is S, Share what’s on your heart. Maybe you’re happy, maybe you’re sad. Don’t bottle it up; share it with God. God already knows what’s going on, but often it’s helpful to unload.
The second thing David does is express his confidence in God. David says: Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him, but you are a shield around me, O Lord. David had been around God long enough to know He had his back. David knew that from his battles against the Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, not to mention ol Goliath back when he was a kid. And this is where we get the T in the STAR Prayer. In your time with God, express your T, Trust in God. Tell God that you know He’s with you and list past examples of His faithfulness to justify your trust. God loves to hear it when we express our trust in Him.

The third thing David does is call God into action. David says: Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! He knew God was his willing advocate and so he called Him into action. And that’s where we get the A in the Star Prayer. A third thing we can do is A, Appeal for God to move on our behalf. So list your needs and ask God to move, list your blessings and ask God to send more!
Finally, David ends his time with God by thinking of others. He says: May your blessing be on your people. David knows that he’s not the only one with troubles and so he prays for others. That’s where we get the R; one way to end your time with God is to R, Remember others. Ask the Lord to help them in their needs, just as He has helped you.
The Star Prayer is not the only model out there, but one that I hope can be helpful for you.

 

 

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A Special October celebration

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township

 

This month we have a very special day to celebrate. No, I don’t mean Halloween! In October we celebrate the “Children’s Sabbath,” a time to recognize and celebrate our kids as the gift from God that they are. There has been a lot of dispute over the role of children in some churches and how to keep them involved. The old axiom that “Children are the future of the church” is no longer the truth. The real truth is that children are our church. They are here now and are a wonderful part of celebrating our faith. We are instructed several times in God’s word to pass on our faith to each generation. Paul celebrates Timothy’s faith being passed down from Grandmother to Mother to Timothy (2 Timothy 1).

I have personally seen the gruffest man ever smile at the happiness and enthusiasm of a child. They are happy, and eager to learn. It seems to me that we could learn something from them. What would our celebrations of faith look like if we were to be as enthusiastic as a child? Willing to sing and celebrate? Too often I feel that we don’t celebrate our faith enough; it sometimes seems to be a task instead of a joyous celebration. I’ve seen a child have fun for hours with nothing but an empty cardboard box. Shouldn’t we be even happier with a risen Savior? Just something to think about! May God bless your hearts and homes with the joy of a happy child!

 

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Being a guide and having a guide

Pastor Chad Hampton

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)

Huntin The Truth Ministries

www.huntinthetruth.org

Solon-Center-Wes

 

The first day of October marks an extra exciting season in the life of a select group of people: deer hunters. This day marks the opening of archery deer hunting season. This time of year brings the excitement and anticipation of hopefully harvesting those deer that you have been watching on your trail cameras, dreaming of, and talking to other hunters about the entire year. This is not to mention seeing pictures of some of the nice bucks being harvested by our youth during the early youth hunt that builds the excitement! Speaking of youth, for a ministry I’ve founded called “Huntin the Truth Ministries,” this also brings the excitement of having the privilege and opportunity to fulfill our mission. We take youth and physically challenged men and women out into the fields to hunt those deer and use the opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with them and help guide these men and women spiritually as they also “hunt” the plan that God has for their lives.

This year as I pondered the great memories we will make hunting and guiding other hunters, I began thinking about how God is providing for a new chapter when it comes to my family life and ministry. Even though I have been in ministry for 15 years, hunting for almost 25 years, and approaching my middle-aged years of life, this will be a season I have never been through before. Even though I have security of knowing that God is in control at every new season that life brings, I know that God uses people in our lives to help guide us along each journey, much like we do with the youth in our ministry during hunting season.We teach them where and how to hunt, how to use their weapons, and sometimes warn them of the dangers of what lies ahead based on the hard lessons we have learned from our successes and our failures. I began to realize that although I guide others and have gained experience from the years I have lived on this earth, I also need a guide, or a mentor, who God will use to lead me through this new phase in life.  I need a wise person with experience in this stage who will educate me on the ups and downs that occurred throughout a past season of his/her life.

The Bible actually tells us that even if we are wise, we will seek out and listen to more wisdom!  Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” We see in Proverbs chapter 1 that Solomon declared that he wrote the Proverbs “That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning: And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels.” Solomon, who God blessed with greater wisdom than anyone of his day, also had his share of failures even though he had wisdom to that degree. He is trying to teach us a great lesson from his life: Even though you might have much wisdom and experience, you always need more.

I began to realize this year—more so than ever—that our entire lives are cycles of seasons that we have never been through before. Whether you are a young boy or girl just entering junior high school, a young man or women who is entering a new marriage or having children, a middle-aged man or woman who is experiencing the empty nest, or a man or woman approaching retirement, these are all fresh stages in life; these are times we can navigate through easier with the wisdom and direction of someone who has already been through your current season.

So, let me ask you: Do you have a guide or mentor in your life who God could use to help guide you through this current season of your life and the seasons ahead? Regardless of our age, we have never been through our current stage of life, and I would recommend seeking God on whom that person or persons would be to help guide you! Furthermore, if you have never been a mentor to another person, I would recommend that you seek God and your church leaders concerning who you could mentor through times you have already experienced. God bless you, and if you’re a hunter, God bless your hunting!

 

 

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“Finding” Jesus

cs-united-methodistPastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St. Cedar Springs, MI  49319

 

Read John 1: 29-50

 

“Mom, can you help me find Jesus?” My young son asked from the other room.  I was a bit shocked and confused until I investigated and saw that he was doing a word search and needed some help. “Sure,” I said, and proceeded to help him find a “J” and go from there.

My son was content once he had figured out where “Jesus” was. But his simple, yet very profound question struck me and stayed with me. The witness of John the Baptist and the first disciples came to mind and then many who came after them to tell the Good News of Jesus. I wouldn’t know Jesus as my Lord and Savior if others hadn’t helped me “find” Jesus along the way. My parents understood their responsibility to nurture me in the faith by their own witness, but they also knew that they needed the support and help of the Body of Christ. They couldn’t do it by themselves. I was baptized, and the congregation promised to support me and nurture me along with my parents.

And they fulfilled their promise. They prayed for me. They served as Sunday School teachers, Youth Group leaders, and music ministry leaders. They were encouragers.  They affirmed God’s gifts in me and helped me to accept God’s grace for myself. When I confirmed God’s claim on my life as a teenager, the congregation witnessed that holy moment and celebrated with me. As I continued to discern God’s call, they encouraged me and kept on praying for me.

Yes, a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is absolutely vital for salvation. But it doesn’t end there. We need to be in community with each other to nurture our faith as we live it out every day. We need to be with real people who struggle with real issues just like we do. We have to be willing to share with each other, be vulnerable, and be aware of others’ needs. We pray for each other and encourage each other.

I don’t believe that Jesus is ever hiding from us, but sometimes it feels like we have to “find” him. And so there’s my son’s question again: “Can you help me find Jesus?”  Who’s asking you that question? Who is God calling you to reach out to today? Where do you have an opportunity to share your faith and tell your story of God’s grace?

We help one another to see Jesus and recognize that he’s real. We help each other understand that he offers life that is really life—new life, abundant life, eternal life that goes beyond the cares of this world. Thank God for your church family and the power of God at work in those around you and in your own life!

If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us at 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

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From the Pulpit

The God of Speed

We are living in the age of instantaneous everything. The faster the better!  Technologies continue to improve and get faster. I sat down the other day with an older laptop computer of mine (only 5 years old) and found myself irritated that it was taking so long to boot up, and then again to open programs. It was state of the art at the time I purchased it and I’m sure I was impressed at the time with its speed. But by today’s standard, it was slow! I even find myself getting impatient as I wait in front of the microwave for my popcorn to pop!

We have become so ingrained with the need for speed and instant gratification of every need, desire, and appetite. But yet, God tells us in His word that we are to be a people characterized by patience and the ability to be longsuffering (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Cor. 13:4). The word that the Lord uses most often in the Bible for patience is one that means to endure when circumstances are difficult. Not the idea of complacency because I can’t do anything about it, but rather the picture of the runner on the track or the Marine on the battlefield persevering through (Rom. 5:3-4).  Longsuffering, on the other hand, is a word that describes our interaction with people.  Do you get irritated with someone who pulls out in front of you on the road? By the way, Road Rage is a major problem in today’s world! This word for longsuffering is one that describes the concept of self restraint—resisting the urge to retaliate or seek revenge!  Literally, the word means “long tempered.”
The beauty of this characteristic is that it allows us to put up with the circumstances around us!  Paul tells the Ephesians (4:2), “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV  That means putting up with one another in love.

God teaches us longsuffering and patience through troubles, difficulties and tribulations.  Years ago when God was working on me and calling me to the ministry, I argued with Him much as did Moses.  “Who, me?”  I did not feel that I possessed the characteristics necessary to be His under-shepherd.  I essentially told Him, “for one thing, I don’t have the patience to do this!  If you want me to do this, you’ll need to teach me patience!”

That’s the way most people learn, via troubles, difficulties and tribulations!  And it takes time!  This is not something that we learn quickly.  It doesn’t come instantaneously.  So, the next time you are tempted to become irritated or frustrated because someone pulled out in front of you, or the inefficiencies of life happen, remember, these are not the enemy.  These are those things the Lord has chosen to use as tools in our lives to teach us to be patient and longsuffering!

Pastor Jim Howard, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Cedar Springs
233 S. Main St, Cedar Springs

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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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