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Archive | Church Connection

The Scars of Forgiveness

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

In 1939 General Francisco Franco, an ambitious Spanish military officer, became the absolute ruler of Spain. Franco took the title El Caudillo—the Leader—and he was ruthlessly so until his death more than 30 years later. He was responsible for the death or imprisonment of more than 50,000 of his opponents.

As Franco lay dying, a priest was called to his bedside. The priest, having lived under Franco’s regime, asked him what could have been a dangerous question: “My son, have you forgiven all of your enemies?” El Caudillo replied, “Father, I have no enemies.” The priest asked, “Then you have made peace with them?” Franco reportedly answered, “No. I have no enemies because I killed them all.”

That deathbed conversation defines the only two ways that we can be rid of our enemies. We can destroy them, the way of the world; or we can forgive them, the way of Christ. The latter way isn’t easy, yet it is necessary. It is the Christ-prescribed path for personal and corporate healing.

Healing, yes, but forgiveness is not a magic wand that puts everything marvelously back into place. No doubt, it can have incredible reconciling powers, but forgiveness doesn’t save every marriage, restore every family, or repair every broken relationship. It won’t necessarily make you feel good about your son-in-law, your ex-wife, or your step-son. And it is a guarantee that when you try to forgive or reconcile with some people, it will bounce off of them like a rock skipping across flat water.

Consider Christ himself. With the central act of God’s loving grace, Jesus died on a cross and was resurrected from the dead, bringing life and forgiveness to all. He did what he did, deliberately, becoming a suffering symbol of all that had gone wrong with the world, the personification of the shameful way humanity spurns God’s embrace, harms each other, and injures creation. But even the risen Jesus has scars, scars for those who will never in their lifetimes respond to this love.

Yet, his scars are undying signs that the damage that humans inflict on one another can mercifully end. His scars can resolve all disputes and end all animosities, not by means of unending revenge, but with eternal forgiveness. May we who bear the name of Christ, also bear on our bodies the scars that show we belong to Jesus—the scars of forgiveness.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me



Posted in Keeping the FaithComments (0)

Patricia Moore

Patricia Ann Moore, age 65, of Sand Lake passed away on March 7, 2014. She was born to George and Ann Wood (Glaze) on August 28, 1948 in Maysville, KY. Pat was a lifelong nurse and worked as an R.N. at Spectrum United Memorial Hospital in Greenville, MI, where she worked in Intensive Care and as a hospital Nursing Supervisor. Earlier in her career, she worked Intensive Care in Sandusky, Ohio and Labor and Delivery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Nursing was Pat’s passion and she loved her work, her co-workers, and her patients. Pat and her husband of 46 years, Cliff Moore, spent one year sailing down the Inter-coastal Waterway on their 32 ft. sailboat. Pat spent much of her life on the water, and she loved the sun and the outdoors. Her charisma and her love of life touched the lives of thousands of others, both in her nursing career and with her family and friends. Pat leaves behind her husband, Clifton Moore; son, Dale Moore; daughter-in-law, Julia (Tyson) Moore; granddaughter, Jordan Moore; grandson, Gavin Moore; brother, Nicholas Wood; sister-in-law, Judy Wood; sister-in-law, Wina Wood; brother-in-law, Joel Moore; and her very special nieces, nephews, and great- nieces and nephews. She is pre-deceased by her brother, Donald Wood. There will be a Celebration of Pat’s Life at The American Legion, Glen Hill Post 287, 91 First Street, Cedar Springs, MI on Saturday, March 22, 2014 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Arrangements by Heckman Funeral Home, Howard City, www.heckmanfuneralhomeinc.com

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How Can I Achieve Financial Security Even in Uncertain Times?

Hillcrest-Church-picPastor Kristi J. Rhodes  

Hillcrest Community Church

5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319



The Bible talks more about how to manage money than even Heaven and Hell combined. Even as times of prosperity come and go, financial hardship for many is just a way of life. It is a continuous battle but it doesn’t have to be that way. God is great at making ways where there seems to be no way!!

One of the great deceptions of wealth is its false sense of security. If the stock market crashes, millionaires can become paupers in one day. Also, there will come a time when we will have to account for our lives before God; on that day our money will be utterly useless. Your riches won’t help you on Judgment Day; only righteousness counts then (Prov. 11:4 LB). A person whose hope is in riches is headed for a fall (Prov. 11:28). Only trust in God offers true security.

Still, God gives us a wealth of information to help us have the right attitude about achieving and managing financial gain. Much of it is found right in the book of Proverbs. All in all, the consistent message can be summed up in three main principles that apply to our finances.

First, we should recognize that whatever we have is not ours and is the result of God’s blessing. That means we should hold our money with an open hand and give generously. God expects us to honor Him with our wealth, returning to Him a portion of our first fruits (not what’s left over) by giving to His work on a planned, consistent and priority basis (Proverbs 3:9). Just so we’re clear—God doesn’t need our money; what He wants is our heart. Where your treasure is; there your heart is also!

Second, we should work hard, earning our money honestly and spending frugally. God hates dishonest business practices while he delights in those who conduct y their financial affairs with integrity and honesty (Prov. 11:1).

Third, we should save in the good times for the times of need—unemployment, college, retirement, an emergency or any time when our income might be reduced. He who gathers money little by little makes it grow (Prov. 13:11).

In a nutshell—work honest and hard; pay God first; pay yourself second (savings); then live on the rest. That is living within your means. Don’t spend what you don’t have. Save up money for big purchases rather than borrowing money. The borrower is slave to the lender. God doesn’t want us to be in financial bondage; He wants us free to be able to focus on the bigger picture.

Finally, there is a way for your money to keep working for God’s Kingdom long after you have been called home in glory with our Lord.  Remember your church in your will. Many churches struggle with finances to do the ministries they feel called to do. You can help. The gift that keeps on giving for real! May God richly bless you in the powerful Name of Jesus, Amen!


Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

The End of the World as We Know It

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

The year was 387 and Irish pirates were plundering the Scottish coast. There they captured a young man named Maewyn and carried them back to Ireland where he became a slave. And there, Maewyn began to talk to God, and as the story goes, God began talking to him.

God instructed Maewyn to flee to the coast where the boy found a boat bound for Scotland. He was reunited with his family after many years. Then God spoke again, coming to Maewyn in his dreams. God wanted him to return to Ireland. Maewyn entered theological training, and at the conclusion of his studies, took the Latin name, Patricius. We know him as Padraig or Patrick.

When Patrick arrived in Ireland as a Christian missionary he had a decision to make about how to do his work. It was the custom of Christian missionaries – then and for the next 1500 years – not to introduce others to Jesus, but to make them citizens of the Empire.

A culture was “Christianized” not when it conformed to the words and ways of Jesus, but when it submitted to the rule of the Roman Caesar or the conquering king. The local culture was eradicated, replaced by that of the conquerors, and Christianity was used as an instrument in that process.

But rather than imposing an imperial faith on the Irish people, Patrick met them where they were and let faith erupt naturally. He did not overpower, he obliged. He did not impose, he invited. He did not attack, he adapted. He came in humility and simplicity, attempting to foster faith, not force it.

We still have much to learn from old Patrick: Vulnerability. Service. Humility. Meeting people where they are. Treating neighbors with dignity and respect. Honoring the lives and stories of those we encounter – plain civility – may be the only way to keep a society from devouring itself.

When we live with a no-compromise, never give-an-inch, militant attitude, and meet every person outside our circle with distrust, it creates a divisive, violent, negative, attack-based culture with an atmosphere of hateful rhetoric and suspicion. It destroys a community.

Of course, we could imitate St. Patrick by taking the way of peace, love for neighbors, welcome and inclusion. Living this way will end of the world as we know it as well – but it might be the kind of end that gives rebirth to the world.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me. 


Posted in Keeping the FaithComments Off

Corey Crystal

March 24, 1977 to March 12, 1995


We do not need a special day to bring him to our minds.

The days we do not think of him are so very hard to find.


Sadly missed, always loved and remembered.


Mom, Dad, Carey, Casey and families.


Posted in MemorialComments Off

Vicki Johnson-Becker

Vicki Sue Johnson-Becker, 54 of Howard City, died Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Mercy Health St. Mary’s. Vicki was born May 28, 1959 in Detroit, MI the daughter of Gerald and Glenda (Headrick) Collis. She was a very caring person, an awesome mom and grandma and was known to her grandkids as “Hammy”. She had worked for Ferris State University for over 20 years and had recently been a home health aide. Surviving are her children, Audrea (Tom) DeLong, Jacob (Melissa) Johnson, Jessica (Matthew) Poling; 3 grandchildren, Leigha, Elijah, Esch; father, Gerald (Lois) Collis, sisters, Kathy (Thomas) Hill, Rebecca Collis; nephews and niece, Ryan and Randy Nazionale, Renee Radin, Justin Collis. She was preceded in death by her brother, Gregory and mother, Glenda.The service will be held Saturday, March 8 at the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church. Pastor Mary Ivanov officiating. Interment Solon Township Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the donor’s choice. Arrangements by to Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs.

Posted in ObituaryComments Off


C-MEM-Milewski-webJanuary 16, 1959 to March 12, 2011


May the winds of love blow softly,

And whisper so you will hear.

We will always love and miss you,

And wish that you were here.


Love you always,

Mom, Dad and sister, Cindy Westveld

Posted in MemorialComments Off


Beatrice May Marvin, age 86 of Sand Lake, went to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Thursday, February 20, 2014. She is survived by her husband Lewis Marvin; daughters Sandra (Jack) Fisk and Sharon Marvin; grandson Duwain Fisk; granddaughter Alexandria Marvin; and great-granddaughter Nadeya. A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 8 at 11:00 a.m. Church of the Full Gospel, 180 E Lake St., Sand Lake MI 49343. Memorial contributions may be made to the church.

Arrangements by Roth-Gerst Funeral Home, Lowell www.gerstfuneralhomes.com

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Spring—a reminder of life

Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs


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!



Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Break the Kettles

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

One of the more indispensable words of instruction I have ever received came from Dr. Fred Luskin who was head of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. He said, “To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past.” According to Luskin, what keeps people frozen solid with the regrets and shame of yesteryear is the lingering optimism that they might go back and change it.

The Chinese have a proverb to this effect. “Break the kettles and sink the ships,” they say. This saying comes from an ancient military battle almost 2000 years ago. A new tribal king came to power and immediately attacked his neighbor, surrounding the city of Julu. The king of Julu called for reinforcements from his generals, and the army came marching to save their king.

But the rescuing generals dragged their feet. So the march to save the king became a quagmire as the generals’ strategizing devolved into feasting and drunkenness. Finally, a junior officer man named Xiang Yu took command. Immediately, he marched his army across the Yellow River to engage the enemy.

On the other side, Xiang Yu gave his men three days’ worth of food and supplies and destroyed everything else, including the boats that had brought them across the river, their tents and sleeping mats, their eating utensils, and their cooking kettles. In so doing, Xiang Yu was sending a clear signal to his troops that they had no chance of survival by going backwards. They had to move forward, and they did, rescuing their king.

The way into the future is exactly by this decisive path. We must do the hard work of feeling the pain of the past so that we might be free from it. Then the future calls us forward, not because we have forgotten the past, but because we have made peace with the past; and the only way to make that peace is to quit trying to change what is back there.

Will we have to let go of some painful memories time and again? Yes. Will some things from the past haunt us longer than others? Absolutely. Will we come to the same river crossing more than once? It is likely. But when we do, the choice will always be the same. “Break the kettles and sink the ships.” Then, one day, the past will be where it belongs: In the past.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me


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