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Unconditional love not unconditional surrender 

 

 

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

We are a nation fond of building stone monuments to the past, and the past we are most quick to memorialize is our history of war. An index of major US monuments reads like a catalogue of conquest. Our most iconic memorial of stone is Arlington National Cemetery. Hundreds of thousands have been buried there, and in a few short decades, it will reach capacity.

It is right to honor the men and women buried in those places, but we do them a disservice if we do not remember them in such a way as to stop filling the ground with the fallen dead of war. Or, at the very least, to reduce those numbers; to learn from the cycle of history, and work furiously to end our dependence upon warfare.

On this Memorial weekend, let us fervently honor those who unselfishly gave their lives, but let us vigorously refuse to glorify the violence that took those lives. After all, “War,” as the often maligned William T. Sherman said, “is hell. It is folly, madness, a crime against civilization. And even its success is over dead and mangled bodies with anguish and lamentation.”

For me to say “war is not the answer” is to do more than quote a Marvin Gaye song. It is to confess faith in Christ as the way to peace and reject the false promises of war. War promises us that when the last battle is fought, the last bomb is dropped, the last enemy is slain, and the last soldier is put to rest in sacred soil, then we will have a world at peace. Yet, war is waged without end, and our cemeteries continue to fill.

The world we want—a world where swords are beaten into plowshares, where mercy and justice flow down like the waters, where every tear will be wiped away from our eyes, and where there will be “no more death or sorrow or crying or pain”—is the world constructed by the unconditional love of God, not the unconditional surrender of our enemies.

So let us gather at our cemeteries and memorials of stone, around the tombs of the known and unknown who gave their lives. And as people of faith, let us also gather around another stone—the stone rolled away by the power and love of Christ, the only love that will bring peace to the world.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

 

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Weathering the storm

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

 

Greetings Cedar Springs! As I write this article, we are driving straight toward the storms raging through the Midwest states. The destruction ranges from Texas—Oklahoma—Kansas—and Nebraska, with multiple tornados touching down. There have even been sightings of tornados with multiple vortexes! Wild, I know! Then there was 8 inches of golf ball size hail in Colorado Springs, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from our destination. The freeway was even shut down temporarily. Then the clouds lifted and the sun came out shining bigger and brighter than I’ve seen it in a long time. It was beautiful!

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like that with the storms of life? Just when you think you made it through a terrible storm, another one springs up that’s even worse than the one you just survived!

God has given you a mission in life and never intended for you to accomplish it without Him.

You have to keep going even when you want to quit. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” It all depends on where your focus is. We need to focus on what God is doing for us instead of what Satan is doing against us.

There will be tough days on this journey called life. You have to believe that God has your best in mind even when you can’t see what He’s doing. And you have to trust God even when you don’t get what you want!

Rick Warren said, “We all know from personal experience that faith doesn’t exempt us from problems. It’s easy to trust God when life is going well and we feel strong. But faith develops in the valleys. When our dreams shatter and we feel helpless, that’s when we have to believe in God’s power and presence.”

Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matt.9:29). If you want God’s help, you must trust Him and believe He has the power to accomplish more than we can ever ask or imagine.

We must also realize that God’s ways are higher than our ways and He doesn’t always answer the way we want Him to. Still we must trust His plan. He loves us more than we can even imagine. God is still good, and that will never change. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Let’s come to God with a dump truck full of faith. God’s power and ability far outweighs the amount of our imagination!

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Pushing Stones

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

In Greek mythology, there was a treacherous king named Sisyphus. He was so irritating to the gods that they banished him to hell. But, he was such a wily character that he escaped. Nevertheless, his trickery finally caught up with him and he was condemned to an eternity of rolling a huge boulder to the top of a hill. Then, every time Sisyphus arrived with his rock at the top of the hill, it would roll back down to the bottom. Sisyphus, according to the Greeks, is still struggling with that stone today.

In issues of faith, many of us are like Sisyphus. We are always pushing that rock up the hill, only to see it slip away just as we arrive at a resting place. Proof of our effort is betrayed by words like: “I have got to do better…I must try harder…I need to give more…I should pray longer…I’m not good enough…I ought to read the Bible more often.”

Faith becomes a terribly heavy burden, and like Sisyphus, with his shoulder eternally shoved against the stone, or like the perpetual hamster on a neverending exercise wheel, we turn liberating grace into a repressive pseudo-holiness that is nothing short of a deathtrap. This concept is completely foreign to the spirituality of Jesus. Matthew 11 frames the contrast best.

I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of Jesus’ anti-Sisyphean maxim found there: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”

We think that our spiritual journey and growth depends upon all that we can do. Many of us live—or rather exist, as we haven’t learned to really live—with the old Protestant work ethic hanging around our necks like a yoke. Boiled down to a bumper sticker mantra we think: “If it’s going to be, then it’s up to me.” That’s nothing short of sacrilege, even if it sounds resolute and brave.

Being a follower of Christ is not about being an adherent to one of the world’s great religions. God save us from enduring any more of that. No, being a follower of Christ is the discipline of being still, and learning to trust the way that leads to life.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

 

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William Walter Phillips

C-obit-Phillips-webMr. William Walter Phillips, of Sand Lake, Michigan, age 69, passed away in the comfort of his home and into the arms of his Lord and Savior, on the morning of Sunday, May 10, 2015. Bill was born to Darrell and June (Cross) Phillips on Thursday, November 22, 1945, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had been a lifelong resident of the area. Bill was a graduate of Grandville High School, and as a truehearted countryman, he proudly and courageously served his flag and country in the United States Army, stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. Before his retirement, Bill worked for CSX Railroad as a conductor for forty-years. He enjoyed many things in life. Bill was a great outdoorsman and loved to go hunting, camping, and fishing, especially with his grandsons. He also loved a perfect and pure Michigan summer day to spend the afternoon golfing. Bill was a loving and devoted husband, wonderful father, dear brother and friend, faithful servant to his Lord, and the best grandfather anyone could ask for. His soul will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered and celebrated by his family, friends, and anyone who knew him. May his thirst for life and laughter, and the immeasurable love for his family live on through our cherished memories. Bill was preceded in death by his parents; daughter Monica Bills; and sister Eulalie (Ted) Olewinski. He is survived by his beloved wife of eighteen years, Theresa Mae (Jackson) Phillips; loving children, Lisa (Mike) Cook and Tyler Baker; son-in-law Jimmy Bills; grandchildren Ashley Phillips, Richard Phillips, Michael Gryzen, Michael Cook, III, Darren Trader, and Katelynn Bills; great grandchildren Skylar and Colton; brother Darrell (Barbara) Phillips, Jr.; sister Elaine (Charles) Post; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. Visitation was held on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N. Monroe Street NE, Rockford, MI 49341. The funeral service for Bill will be celebrated at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home. Pastor Dick Riley will be officiating and under the auspices of the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard and the United States Army, full military honors will be performed. There will also be a one hour visitation prior to the funeral service. Interment will be in Reynolds Township Cemetery. Those wishing to offer expressions of sympathy are encouraged to make a memorial contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675.

Arrangements by Pederson Funeral Home, www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

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David L. Wallace

C-OBIT-WallaceDavid L. Wallace, 38 of Cedar Springs, died Sunday, May 10, 2015 at his home. David was born March 20, 1977 in Grand Rapids, MI the son of Dale and Judy (Moos) Wallace. He graduated from Kent City High School in 1995 and had worked at Federal Mogul. He enjoyed working on vehicles, vegetable gardening and deer hunting. Surviving are his wife, Faye whom he married on July 12, 2003; children, David, Ethan and Leah; father, Dale Wallace; sister, Carolyn (Rich) Straub; brother, Bryan (Jodi) Wallace; nieces and nephews, Adrianna, Brooklyn, Caroline, Blake, Megan, Bryce and Emily. He was preceded in death by his mother. The family greeted friends Tuesday at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs where services were held Wednesday 10:30 am. Rev. Fr. Lam Le officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Arrangements by  Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs

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Loren George Dragoo

 

Loren George Dragoo, age 75, born June 4, 1939 in Fremont, Michigan passed away at his home in Solon Township, Kent County on May 10, 2015. Preceded in death by his parents, Lawrence L. (Roy) and Gladys (Bruckner) Dragoo of Fremont, Michigan. Loren is survived by his wife of 47 years, Mary Ann (Sagorski); his sister, Barbara J. (Calvin) Deitz of Newaygo; his niece, Susan A. (Karl) Frederiksen of Newaygo; grandnephew, Erik H. Frederiksen and grandniece, Kacie A. (Stephen) Smith of Spring Lake, Michigan and their children, Ryann Frederiksen, Harrisen, Carter and Tes Smith. A graduate of Fremont High School Class of 1957 and upon receiving his degree from Michigan State University in 1962, he began his Industrial Engineering career with Sealed Power Corporation at their headquarters in Muskegon and at their La Grange, Indiana and Stratford, Ontario, Canada facilities. In 1967 Loren joined Rapistan (now Dematic) as Sales Engineer for the Indiana territory, and later at the Grand Rapids headquarters serving in various Industrial Engineering capacities until his retirement in June 2000. Loren was a member of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers and the Boy Scouts of America. At Loren’s request there will be no funeral or memorial service. Memorial contributions in Loren’s memory may be made to the following: Michigan State University, c/o Development Fund, Willed Body Program, 300 Spartan Way, East Lansing, MI 48824-1005; President Ford Council, Boy Scouts of America, 3213 Walker Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49544; Terry Wantz Historical Research Center, Main Street, P.O. Box 2, Fremont, MI 49412; Sand Lake-Nelson Township Library Building Fund, 88 Eighth Street, Sand Lake, MI 49343; Cedar Springs Library Building Fund, 43 W. Cherry Street, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. A special thank you to the physicians and staff at Cancer & Hematology Centers of West Michigan, Lemen-Holton Cancer Pavilion.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs.

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Marie Ziegler

 

Marie Ziegler, age 87, of Muskegon, Michigan passed away May 6, 2015. She was the widow of Meinrad “Bud” Ziegler and the daughter of Emmett Deviaene and her beloved stepmother, Edna Deviaene. A lifelong resident of Muskegon. Marie was a consummate homemaker and cook. Both her home and her yard were kept in impeccable order. She enjoyed playing cards, bingo, her numerous trips to the casino, and spending time with her family. Marie is survived by her daughter Patricia Wolf of Florida, two sons Michael Ziegler of Grand Rapids and Timothy Ziegler of Muskegon, her caregiver, chauffer, and gambling partner. She is also survived by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, Michael and Lynn Wolf and his two daughters, Makayla and Dynah, Kerri and Craig Scarborough, and their sons Bryce and Brodie, Jeff and Kim Wolf, and their children Jaxson and Annabelle, and Sarah and Greg Walczewski and their son Sam; her sister Marion Beaudoin; and many nieces and nephews. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, May 11, 2015, at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, 2929 McCracken Street, Norton Shores, MI  49441. Arrangements entrusted to her son, Michael J. Ziegler, Licensed Funeral Director, in association with the Pederson Funeral Home, Rockford, Michigan. Those wishing to offer expressions of sympathy are encouraged to make a memorial contribution in Marie’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Donation Processing, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741.

Arrangements by Pederson Funeral Home www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

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Running the race—with a goal 

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

The Bible compares our walk with God to that of a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). It tells us to chase after or set our goal on the prize. This prize is an imperishable crown or the heavenly kingdom of God. This means everyone in the race should have that goal in sight. Without this goal, we can find ourselves running the race in circles without meaning or purpose. It sounds very similar to the story of in the Old Testament of the Israelites wandering the wilderness. They had lost track of their goal, which was the Promised Land, and ended up wandering around in the wilderness.  Finally, after 40years, Joshua and Caleb helped them refocus their goal.

While this race in life may seem easy, it is far from it. In fact, Paul says that this race is a fight and we must discipline ourselves so that we do not become disqualified from the race. When you enter this race, Satan is looking to set snares and traps in your life hoping eventually you’ll give up.  He wants to throw you off course and to see you fail from receiving your prize or achieving your goal. This is why the Bible says the gate to destruction is wide and the narrow gate leads to life. It can be tough. To hear those words actually comforts me. To know that God told us this life was not going to be a cakewalk assures me that it’s not unusual to find myself in a struggle from time to time.  The good news is you are not in this race alone. God wants to help you. He would love to see each and every one of us achieve success. He wants each and every one of us to enter the race and to look to Him for guidance.

Remember, when you are in the race you need to remain focused on the prize. Do not spend your life wandering around in circles with no goal in mind. Don’t run this race alone. Lean on God, trust Him to direct you. We are all in this race together and as Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, we must finish the race. As a Church, we need to encourage each other and pick each other up when we see a brother or sister struggling in their race. We need to understand that this race shows us that we all have purpose and meaning in this life to do God’s will.

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Minimum Protection, Maximum Support

 

 

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

Walt Disney is after your mother. Exhibit A: Bambi. Before the boy can celebrate his first birthday, his mother is shot and killed. Exhibit B: Dumbo. His mother is locked away as she protects him from the jeering crowds because of those massive ears. Exhibit C: Cinderella. She must suffer humiliation at the hands of her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.

Exhibit D: Snow White, a naïve, beautiful teenager, again, at the mercy of her wicked stepmother. She runs away to the woods, moves into a fraternity house with seven men, takes candy from a stranger, and finally runs away with the first man who kisses her. If she had a mother providing appropriate instruction, none of this would have happened. Mowgli. Tarzan. Lilo. Nemo. On and on I could go.

Some have tried to explain that Walt Disney is trying to show that a traditional family (whatever that might mean) is not necessary for happiness. People like feminist Amy Richards believe that the elimination of the mother figure in so many Disney films is simply for dramatic effect. If Walt’s characters had had loving, involved, present moms in their lives, there wouldn’t be much of a plot left.

So, by this logic, Walt Disney is providing instruction for raising resilient, adaptable, successful children. People need to struggle to become strong, and protecting our kids from all adversity is not an act of kindness. It is a crime against their futures. Observe the parent who is over-involved in his or her child’s life. These parents have good intentions, but they cross all boundaries with their micromanaging and uber-protecting ways.

When parents make a child feel that he or she should never suffer pain, rejection, or be deprived of anything, it doesn’t create maturity, it creates monsters. So beware of those for whom everything has come easy; of those who have never struggled; of those who have always had someone else clean up their messes. It’s hard for such people to develop any depth of character.

To succeed, yes, we need instruction and guidance, but not so much that it ruins us. The key is “minimum protection and maximum support,” to quote the late William Sloane Coffin. When one must wrestle against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” this does more than make great movies. This makes for a great life. Do not take that away from your children.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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John Irvin Turner

C-OBIT-Turner-webMr. John Irvin “Jack” Turner of Rockford, Michigan, age 77, passed away on the morning of Saturday, May 2, 2015 in the comfort of his home. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, to John and Margaret (Crumback) Turner on Wednesday, September 8, 1937. Jack graduated from Greenville High School in 1955 and attended Ferris State University for two years. His life passion was sales. He began his career early, working for O’Connor’s of Greenville selling shoes. He also worked for Aden Safety, Jackson Products, and NuVision, after which he went on to create his own business Techna International, from which he retired to enjoy the finer and simpler things in life. Jack was a loving and devoted husband, wonderful father and brother, dear friend, and the best grandfather anyone could ask for. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by his family and friends in the near and from Geneva, Ohio and Apremont, France. Jack is survived by his beloved wife Judy (Barnhart) Turner; loving children Tracey (Ed) Harris, John (Pam) Turner, Jean Turner, and Jennifer (Steve) Wegener; adored grandchildren Nick, Brooke, Kristen, Madison, Taylor, John Henry, Megan, and Hayley; sisters Virginia Weber and Barbara Zimmerman; brother-in-law Frank Nelson; brothers-in-law Mark (Julie) Barnhart, Myron Waller, Ron (Karen) Barnhart, and Larry (Lisa) Barnhart; sisters-in-law Gail (Carl) Dunn, Janet (Lloyd) Ingersoll, LuAnn (Jeff) Piatt, Margie (Steven) Schmitz, Robin (Steve) Brott, and Susan (Rick) Colligan; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother David Turner; sister Faye Nelson; brothers-in-law Butch Weber and Lenny Zimmerman; sister-in-law Kellie Fast; and beloved dog Brandy. There will be a time of visitation from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N. Monroe Street NE, Rockford, MI 49341. The funeral service for Jack will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home. Fr. Darrel Kempf will be presiding. To send a message of sympathy to the family, please sign the online guestbook at www.pedersonfuneralhome.com. Jack would want to acknowledge and thank his dearest friend Vincent from Tainan, Taiwan, for his help and loyal friendship over the years. Those wishing to offer expressions of sympathy are encouraged to make a memorial contribution to the Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534; or to Spectrum Health Hospice and Palliative Care, 750 Fuller Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

Arrangements by Pederson Funeral Home www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

 

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