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Tag Archive | "Cedar Creek Community Church"

In times like these


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Rd NE, Sparta, MI 49345

(616) 866-4138

So begins the Christian hymn, “In times like these we need a Savior, in times like these we need an anchor.” A thought I have spent much time with over these past few months is the timeliness of God’s word. Specifically, those three great words we find in Paul’s writing, 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1st Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV).

It is this word hope sitting between the bookends of faith and love.  I don’t think we would dispute what Paul has written under divine inspiration, “the greatest of these is love,” yet this doesn’t default that faith and hope become orphans or poorer attributes of the Christian in life’s journey. We need all three great words in the times we’re in today and always.  

The writer of Hebrews has given us these scriptures to establish how big this little word hope is.  And no, that’s not an oxymoron, let’s see how God lays this out for us, 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20). Confirmed by God himself with an oath, his purpose is our encouragement in the hope of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, now and forever.  

This is a well-known truth of scripture, that God cannot lie, his promises are “yes and amen” for us, unchanging and forever unchangeable, which simply means that our hope today is not based on our circumstances or any life event that presents itself as life altering, the Ancient of Days who created heaven and earth has said so. Hope is not lost, it is right where it belongs, held in place for us by God’s gifts of faith and love. How big is this little word?  Well, it’s only four little letters h-o-p-e, while at the same time, this hope is eternal, given to us for encouragement by God himself. That’s quite a big little word isn’t it?

Now, like faith and love, hope is as big in our lives, as we choose to allow; if our faith is in God, and we believe what is written in scripture that “God is love,” (1st John 4:16), that faith is truly “a gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8), do we exercise our faith and love by accepting God’s hope even when we may not see the end of our circumstances.  God does!  

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:13 NIV).  Quite frankly, that’s good enough for me.

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Shine, Jesus, shine!


Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


In the serenity of David’s beloved 23rd Psalm, verse 4 presents us with a passage of confidence, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 King James translation). The “valley of the shadow of death,” pictures a journey that every person will experience at the end of our lives, though it is not the only shadow we encounter in life.

We think of a shadow as something dark, made by an object coming between us and the light. It is an intercepting or cutting off of brightness. God created night to be a shadow made by the earth coming between us and the sun; a welcome phenomenon that though darkness comes, there is a benefit equally welcoming as we see the stars in the heaven that we couldn’t see during daylight.  

Every person we come into contact with also casts a shadow, some which make the world darker for us, while others, despite their shadow, seem to make our life brighter, as if light can pass right through them to actually cheer us up when we’re down, giving sunshine or radiance where and when it helps the most. Each of us casts a shadow of our own as we make our way through life. It reflects influences and choices we make and affects those around us. I like to call it our realm of influence. 

Some seem to make the world darker as their shadow falls on others, seeming to believe their gloominess to be uplifting, indifferently spreading or magnifying the darkness, doing nothing to lighten the lives of others and in effect adding more darkness in lives that already have more than enough. It isn’t only the shadow of death that brings about darkness in life, there is the shadow of sickness, broken relationships, catastrophes that bring in darkness of what the future holds and losses in finances, health, etc.

We are created in the image of God, and in our own ways we sometimes experience days, weeks or more that are much like what was here originally. We read In Geneses 1:2 KJV, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” 

The question I ask myself and others is, “what kind of shadow do we cast?” What is the effect of our presence on other people? Is it cheerfulness, gladness, hope, kindness or some other encouraging character trait? As people who know us see our shadow, does the presence of Christ’s goodness shine through, so that their life can be better as they can see the hope that is in us regarding our future? 

Knowing Jesus as our Savior should not be kept to ourselves. Jesus said, “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, KJV).  

Shine, Jesus, shine!

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Why?


Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


Some things never change: tragedies happen. Luke’s gospel records that during Jesus’ time on this earth, tragedies happened.  We read: “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-3 King James Version).

We have no other gospel account to refer to, so to take what we have, “Jesus answering,” would indicate that there was some question of “why, Jesus?” Similarly, even today, we try to make sense out of tragedy. For example, the September 19, 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City left 168 dead with hundreds more injured; also, the tragedy of 9/11, along with numerous mass shootings, which appear senseless. 

However, people still rise up to accusingly ask: “Where was God?” There are three truths we should begin with: 1) God is sovereign; 2) God is good, and 3) evil is present in the world. Basically, our thoughts (translate opinions) is that if God is good, such things wouldn’t happen.  

Human nature is quick to form an opinion, which can be one of the most dangerous things in life, unless it is formed by the word of God. We want to believe that old adage: “What goes around, comes around,” which is what appears to be the prevailing opinion in Luke’s writing.  It was a common belief at that time that good people have good things happening in their life, while these Galileans, were obviously sinful and this was God’s judgment on them. 

In an unexpected way, Jesus mentioned the Tower of Siloam that fell, killing 18 people, and questioning “… think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4b KJV). In other words, do you think these also got what they deserved?

There is no simple explanation for why good and bad things happen to all people; the faulty part of our formed opinions is that we presume to judge God’s goodness. It’s easy to form an opinion or take a position that sin and sinners can be judged on a scale of one to ten; to draw a line to connect catastrophe with God’s judgment.  

This is essentially to judge God’s judgment, a liberty that we take at our own jeopardy.  Again, there are three truths we should begin with: 1) God is sovereign; 2) God is good, and 3) evil is present in the world. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2nd Peter 3:9 KJV).  

Jesus’ words “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” were spoken in love, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV). When we repent, we acknowledge we need a Savior, and tragedy can be a motivator to know God’s truth. God sent his Son, and men crucified him because of their sin-formed opinions; yet God still seeks to save the lost today. “Whosoever” is for all of us. 

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What are you living for?


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Over the course of time, as we plod through life, we often will wonder about the meaning of life. Young and old, we all encounter this in one form or another, because purpose should be and is an important aspect of living; something we purposely consider and express verbally or internally. 

Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 King James translation).

We are all aware that time is passing and whether we use our time wisely or foolishly, when an hour or day of life is spent, we cannot get it back; when time is gone, it is gone forever. What then can you and I do to redeem the time as Paul states in Ephesians 5:16? 

Recently I heard a comment about the life of a well-known man who had died, that “he left the world a better place for his having been here.” There is no doubt that individual was generous and kind, but I’m not certain how anyone can quantify a comment like that, because not all of us, in fact very few of us, will have the wealth that person had to share with others.  

Life is a gift from God, and the purpose of life is to bring glory to God, that’s why we are here. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1st Corinthians 10:31 King James).  

The truth is that I am not able to add even one iota of glory to the divine glory of God himself, but what I can do, is ensure that what I do, is all to the glory of God, and none of my own. Whatever you do, big or small, little or much, do it all to the glory of God.  

The glory of God is the opinion and impression of God that fits with how almighty and unlimited he is. When we do things to his glory, it will improve people’s impression of God, and show through love, joy, gentleness and goodness, his magnificence and not our own. The ultimate goal is to build up in others how great our God is, greater than human minds could ever understand.  

How’s that for a purpose in life? Whether you’re young or old, whatever you do, whether you work or play, whatever you do, whether you read, speak, sing or preach, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. That is yours and my purpose in life, to live our lives knowing Jesus as our Savior, living abundantly in God’s presence.

The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church, while he was a prisoner for Christ in Rome, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21-22 King James).

Scripture makes very clear that whether we live or die or whatever we do, it should be to the glory of our Lord, remembering that little is much, if God is in it.  

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God moves in a mysterious way


Pastor Richard Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road NE, Sparta

 

Recently I was in a conversation with someone who asked, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” Most of us have heard that question in some form, or we may have even asked it ourselves at some time. There is no single response for everyone, but the one I particularly favor is, “A person must know God themselves in order to understand the answer.” For myself, only when I became a Christian, did I understand that the better question for me is, “Why does a holy God provide a way for sinners like me to enter his heaven?”  

The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6, NIV).  Isaiah tells us how to seek God: “while he may be found and while he is near;” implying there may be a time when God may not be found or near. So, when is the time he can be found and near? Right now, today.

There is a timeless truth in the first verse of a hymn written by William Cowper in 1774, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.” This is not citing a bible verse, but it is based on what we read in scripture, “God moves in mysterious ways.”                                                                                                                                          

Yes, having said that, you still can know him. He makes himself knowable to those who seek him in their lives. As good as that may sound, the even better news is that the God of the universe knows you personally and the fact that we can talk to God is absolutely amazing.    

This passage from Isaiah has become more dear to me over the years, as there was a time when I was living my life apart from God. Some people can’t find God in the same way a criminal can’t find a policeman, because they aren’t looking for him. Knowing God is just like knowing anyone else, I learned that I had to spend time with him, to be still and listen, to study his word, spend time in prayer and go to church. 

Of course, we need to know that God is so great that we will never fully understand him. Although we can and should know God, we cannot know everything about him. That may seem strange, but for those who are married, you surely know your spouse, but you don’t know everything about them. In our marriage of over 50 years, we are still being surprised from time to time with each other’s thoughts or actions.   

Inside all of us there is a longing to fill our lives with purpose and meaning. We can chase what the world offers, but our own pursuits always fall short.  Isaiah the prophet gives us this wisdom, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel” (Isaiah 45:15, NIV).  God brings us a kind of Savior we never would have expected, one who sympathizes with us in our weakness, while he works through our triumphs and tragedies.    

The word mysterious means “difficult … to understand, explain, or identify.” Based on this definition, God’s ways become both mysterious and not mysterious to us in some ways, and the Bible clearly explains how. God truly moves in mysterious ways; get to know him more today.

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THOR N. TERHAAR


 

Thor N. TerHaar, age 54, passed away peacefully on Friday, March 9, 2018. He was born July 20, 1963 in Grand Rapids to Gordon and Nancy (Kruger)TerHaar. He was preceded in death by his father, Gordon. He is survived by his daughter, Amber TerHaar; mother, Nancy Kruger; brothers, Scott TerHaar, Thad Kruger; sister, Tina Ward; several nieces, nephews and friends. As Thor had wished, cremation has taken place. A memorial service for Thor will be held on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at Cedar Creek Community Church, 2969 14 Mile Rd. Sparta, from 2-6:00 p.m. with a luncheon served from 2-4:00 p.m. Those who wish may make memorial contributions to Assist the Family with Expenses.

Arrangements by Hessel-Cheslek Funeral Home, Sparta

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I will, until I won’t


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

We have all promised to do something and then not done it, or promised not to do something, and then did it anyway. Then too, some make promises while really never intending to do what they say. It isn’t mere coincidence that Jesus has given an illustration for us:                                                                                                                

 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31a, NIV).

We are all familiar with sayings such as a man’s word is his bond; or, a handshake is as good as a contract. There was a time when these were true.  

The fact is that we are of a fallen nature, prone to errors of judgment and may make promises foolishly or out of immaturity. Adding vows, promises or oaths to our words will open us up to compromise our words, which will compromise our Christian testimony.  

Then, to make matters worse, we come up with justifications for our failure. We may shrug it off as a foolish pledge made in the heat of the moment, or simply “forget” because its importance fades over time. Then too, there are the times we partially fulfill a promise, explaining that circumstances have changed. The bottom line is that we live in a time filled with a crisis of trust.

The meaning of this word trust is being eroded in all arenas of life; family, community, politics, church, industry, etc. As Christians, children of God, when we fail to keep a promise or oath, people conclude that we can’t be trusted, and determine, wrongly, that God can’t be trusted. 

As Christians, when we blow off a promise, someone is left to pick up the slack and most of the time, that person remembers who didn’t keep their promise; thus, God’s reputation becomes tainted because of us. Making promises is easy; keeping them is more of a challenge, especially when we make promises carelessly. Just because we didn’t think it through doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility for keeping our word.  

When we become people of our word in little things and in big things, and when we make certain that our yes means yes and our no means no, after a while, we will have the reputation of integrity, and others will see Jesus in us. Promises are a trust and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can keep every promise we make. Some wise person once said that “You may be the only bible that some people will ever read.”   

May God help us to be better reading material. 

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The Spirit of heaviness  


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

Foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah really hits home with these words of promise: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3 –King James translation).

There is a comparison being made here between a funeral and a wedding celebration. A funeral is where the Hebrews would have put ashes upon their heads in mourning, and some would have beat their breasts and wailed, while wearing sackcloth. Yet at a wedding, they wore beautiful garments, literally, garments of praise.

The point being that whatever you were feeling in your spirit and soul, whatever your mood was, would be reflected in what you wore. That is still the case today; Jesus taught on this—that Christianity is meant to be a wedding celebration and not a funeral dirge. I believe that what Isaiah is speaking to us today, is a revelation, an important key to get delivered from the spirit of heaviness.

What is the spirit of heaviness? First off, we’re not talking about a weight loss program like Weight-Watchers; the spirit of heaviness is spiritual. It is like a drudgery that comes over you, something generally unexplainable, not necessarily reflecting the circumstances that are around you. Some have described it as a numbness of the soul, more like darkness. The NIV translates it as spirit of despair. If you’ve ever been in desperation you can understand this.

Young’s Literal Translation says a spirit of weakness, which covers a whole lot of things, like how we can be weak in mind, weak in our emotions, weak in our actions, and even weak in our body.

If the real you, your human spirit that God breathed into you, if that is damaged, it will affect your whole being. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 KJV). If there is something wrong with your spirit, it can even affect your body. What Isaiah is talking about is this human condition of the heart that is devastating, that makes us weak, that makes us frail, that makes us despair, that makes us want to give up on life, taking all the color out of life, burning life to the ashes.

Isaiah gives us the solution: the garment of praise. How do you get it? Like every provision of God, you’ve got to go and get it. It is free, given by grace, you don’t have to buy it or earn it, but you do have to come and get it by faith. Jesus has bought it with His own blood, and God, by grace, is handing it to us. But we, in the midst of our despair, have got to come up to the throne of grace and say “I need that garment, Lord!” There is something for us to do; we’ve got to wrap ourselves up in praise, “I had a coffee with a friend,” “somebody blessed me,” or “I had a nice walk today.” Thank you Lord, thank you!

Isaiah said he will give you beauty for ashes. We all know what ashes are; it’s what is left after all the fuel (joy) is burned out. God knew we would be burnt by life’s experiences. But he also knew he could replace that burnt out mess with something beautiful. Rather than anointing our head with ashes, he wants to anoint our head with the oil of joy.

Bill Gaither wrote the song that says: “Something beautiful something good; All my confusion He understood; All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife; But he made something beautiful of my life.”

This may seem simple, actually it is, but it’s profound. You are wrapping yourself up in the garment of praise and thus, overcoming the spirit of heaviness. If you wait until you feel like praising, you’re not going to break through. You take your God-given will and say, “I will praise God.”  There is power in praise, medicine for a merry heart, take it many times a day.

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Gary Lee Kruger


Gary Lee Kruger age 76 passed away peacefully at his home with his family at his side on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.  He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Nancy; children, Tina and Daniel Ward, Thaddeus and Brenda Kruger, Thor TerHaar, Scott TerHaar, Kelly Kruger; 8 grandchildren; 4 great grandchildren; siblings, Irene, Roger, Barb, Sandy, June, Larry, and Margie; several nieces and nephews.  As Gary had wished cremation has taken place and  a Celebration of Life will be held at Cedar Creek Community Church on Saturday, July 22, from 2 until 6 P.M.  Those who wish may make memorial contributions to Great Lakes Caring Hospice.

   Arrangements by Hessel Cheslek Funeral Home, Sparta, www.hesselcheslek.com

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Choices—today and every day


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

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

God has a plan for each and every one of us, for life, and gives us the privilege to make choices as we journey through the process of fully living our life.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, New International version.)

The bible tells us that before we were born, God knew us. God knows who each of us are, much better than we know ourselves; and he knows not only why, but the reason for when and where he purposed us to begin life. It took me many years to discover that my life did not come about by accident. God is the Creator, the Giver of life, on purpose.

Not only has God purposed each and every life, through the writer of Proverbs, he has also given us wonderful direction: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.)

Trusting God with all of our heart is how we show that our faith in him is real.  This is not a piecemeal trust; the call is to a complete trust in him with our whole heart, putting our whole life in his hands. Often, we think we know better than God, when in reality, like Adam and Eve in the beginning, our wisdom and understanding is weak, crooked and unreliable. It’s like trying to walk with a foam rubber walking cane; if we lean on it, we’re going to fall over.

This is where I find myself sometimes coming up short of what God knows would provide life to the fullest. It is easy for Christians to make plans and set goals, expecting God to fall in behind them. I believe though, that we aren’t being fair to God, ourselves and others, when we insist on doing just what we want to do, while not letting God handle through us, the situations that pop up in life.

We must turn that around. Otherwise, the greatness of our God will not be seen by the unbelieving world around us. I learned many years ago, that if I wanted to go boating, I must first, get on the boat. I have to trust that the person piloting the boat is a good pilot; while trusting that the boat won’t sink.  It is simple, getting on board is an act of faith.

In all our ways acknowledging him, means exactly what it says, coupled with the promise, “and he will make your paths straight.” This appears to be an encouraging promise, which it is; a promise that with God’s help as we trust in him, we will eventually reach the destination that he has in mind for us. But it is also a warning. It reminds us that our path in life is God’s path, and his way may not be the way we would have chosen for ourselves.

If we want to find God’s will for our life, first, we have to put our trust in God. Acknowledging the Lord is surrendering to God’s will and starting on the journey; it’s putting our faith into action. In other words, be prepared to go where God wants to take you, trusting in him to make the way clear.

God’s word reveals his heart and love for us, “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.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.) The God we serve in this life is the God we will serve for eternity; choose wisely.

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