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Tag Archive | "Cedar Creek Community Church"

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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A Gift too wonderful for words; handle with awe


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

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

If you are reading this brief message, you have survived through the year 2016, including the Christmas-Advent season, and now we all have begun the journey called calendar year 2017 with whatever it holds. In my mind, this is no small accomplishment, and as Christians, we look forward to what God has for us in this new year—new learning, new discoveries, new relationships and more.

The Advent season, the coming of Jesus Christ, God incarnate into the world we live in, is celebrated in many different kinds of ways; one being that we become concerned about choosing just the right gifts to give to some of the special people in our lives. The full meaning of this practice can sometimes get lost in the activities of the season.

We must continually remind ourselves to be thankful for the first gift-giver, as Paul points out to us, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2nd Corinthians 9:15, King James translation). Have you ever received a gift that was beyond description? Just what kind of gift would it have to be to be called indescribable? Would it be a gift you open and say, “this is beautiful, something I’ve wanted all my life, what is it?” Or how about a gift given to you by someone special, carrying a lot of feelings and emotions with it?

The apostle Peter helps us better understand the importance of yielding our lives here to follow the path taught by Jesus Christ, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1st Peter 1:8 KJV). We are all in this year of uncertain times together, and may we all personally find this “unspeakable joy in the Lord.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ is describable and yet he is beyond human description. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” In these eight words, scripture captures our attention, to a word that cannot be expressed in mere words. When we search the scripture diligently, we find thousands of words describing characteristics of Jesus Christ, but the truth is that the more we learn of and about Jesus, we discover that the full knowledge, depth, width and height of Jesus nature, character, eternal existence, etc., always leaves us with more to learn.

When we believe on Jesus as scripture directs us, we quickly learn that this indescribable gift God has given, is God himself; that Jesus is man, Jesus is Savior, Jesus is the good news, and that even if God somehow would give us life for hundreds of years on this planet, we will still have an eternity to continue learning just how unspeakable this gift is.

This Jesus will bring us to God through the sacrifice of himself, and secure for us forgiveness of all our sins; for all eternity. Christmas is past, but it is not too late to open the gift.

 

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Fries with that?


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

I would like to share a modern parable with you.

A man named James, wanting to do something special with Mark, his five-year-old son, asked if there was anything special the boy would like to do. He responded that he would like some McDonald’s french fries. As they drove to town, Mark told his dad he could almost taste the fries already. They parked and Mark excitedly headed for the door. When it was their turn in line, he told the person at the register, “I want a super-size order of fries.”

The anticipation in his son’s eyes was radiating as Dad took out his wallet and paid for the fries and a drink. Mark could hardly wait to sink his teeth into the fries as his dad said grace over the food, and eagerly started in on the fries at the word “amen.” James was overjoyed to see his little boy so happy over something so simple, and decided to join in the fun. He reached over to get a couple of fries for himself, and to his surprise, Mark quickly put his arms like a fort around the fries to protect them, saying, “No, these are mine.” Shocked, his dad pulled his hand back, not believing what had happened.

It was a disappointment that his son didn’t consider that he was the one who provided them. “I was the one who paid for them,” he thought. “I let him have twice as much as he would normally have gotten. Not only that, but I’m over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, I could just take all the fries if I wanted, or I could go back up and get so many fries he couldn’t possibly eat them all.”

As James thought about it, one or two fries really would not have made much of a difference for him that day. What he really wanted was for his son Mark to invite him into the wonderful little world he had made possible for his son. He  wanted his son to be willing to share the very blessing that he had provided.

In Luke’s gospel, we read that Jesus told a parable of a rich man whose land yielded a harvest so large that he could not store all the crops in his barns.  As a result, the man decided to tear down his current barns and build larger barns in their place. With the use of 11 personal pronouns (I, my, mine), he expressed one of the most selfish and self-centered passages in scripture.

Jesus concluded his parable with, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21- King James Translation).

There is nothing wrong with wealth, as long as God is thanked and glorified, and the wealth is shared. Being rich is not a sin, being selfish is. Everything we have has come from God, and is a blessing. If we consider everything as coming from our own efforts, our possessions will be a curse.

Neither poverty nor wealth renders one immune from selfishness. Some poor people share unselfishly with people in need, while others hoard a piece of bread. The problem is not wealth but selfishness, a character trait of a sinful heart.

But “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, KJV).

Like that Dad James, God desires to sit down at the table with us for some fellowship. When God reaches over to use some of the blessings that He has given to us, let’s not say, “No God, these are mine. Go get your own.” Instead, let’s gladly share what He has provided.

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Where often is heard an encouraging word


Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

 

The coming together with fellow Christians is stated in the scriptures as an act of mutual encouragement.  We read in the book of Hebrews, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV).

When as Christians, we worship together, pray together, and in general work together as a community, it is as followers of Jesus Christ. Being a Christian is about belonging to a community of faith, a group that is called to build each other up, and encourage one another. One wonders why we would need to be instructed to be an encourager; why would Jesus need to teach his disciples and us about having compassion and a heart toward encouragement?

I think we can safely say that answer lies in the fact that this is against our very nature.  We are often self-centered and selfish, and if something doesn’t touch our lives or the lives of our family and friends, then it’s not our affair and we choose to stay uninvolved. That is why Jesus had to teach his disciples about being encouraging, and why we still need the lessons today.

Yet, if we just look around us, it is apparent that there is a lot of hurt and discouragement. Where is the church of Jesus? Where are we making a difference with a little compassion here and some encouragement over there?  One thing that I have discovered in my personal life is that most encouragement is one on one. Of course there is a great need for the corporate involvement in some cases, but by and large our opportunities to encourage others occur more spontaneously as we follow God’s leading through this life.

God gives us numerous illustrations of encouragement throughout his word, and in one instance we read of a Christian in the book of Acts (Acts 4:36), a man by the name of Joses, who was given the name of Barnabas. The name Barnabas was interpreted as “son of encouragement,” a nickname given him by the apostles, descriptive of his inclination to serve others and willingness to encourage wherever it was needed.

The root meaning of the word encourage simply means, “to put courage into.”  God has created us in his image as social beings, something we see throughout scripture as God is all about relationships, as indicated in his institution called the church. In Hebrews we also read, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV).

God gives each of us opportunities every day to show our love for one another and our care and concern and support for one another to be encouragers, not for our glory, but to display his love for others through us. It is through our connection with Jesus Christ that we are connected to one another and our common union with Him produces our union with each other.

Everyone can use a little encouragement on a regular basis. May God help us to be men and women more like Jesus—bold enough to reach out and touch a hurting world with encouraging (putting courage into) words and acts in Jesus’ name.

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Approaching Easter 2016


By Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church, 2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta

Almost two thousand years ago, on the Sunday following the crucifixion of our Savior the Friday before, two women approached the sepulcher where Jesus had been laid, to make the necessary preparations for his dead body. We read, “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5-6 NIV).

For these friends of Jesus who came to the tomb, life and death would never be the same. This Jesus whom they loved and believed to still be in the grave, had risen from the dead, conquering death for us, our last enemy in this life.

Through the story of the resurrection and the promised Spirit of God, alive in us, we too must look at our own lives and answer for ourselves, “How do we approach Easter Sunday 2016?” Our answer has much to say in whether Easter makes a difference in our lives or not. How many Easters have we heard and heard again about the resurrection, and do we come to this day expecting to experience the same-o same-o, old routine? The women came to the borrowed tomb before sunrise on a Sunday, and surprise, the tomb is empty! Oh wow, like we haven’t heard this before!

Maybe we come not expecting anything more than what we’ve known before, after all, we know that God’s word is as Paul has written, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2nd Corinthians 1:20 NIV). It will be exactly as God has said it will be.

Then again, we may not spend much time reading our Bible, or attending worship services, but it’s Easter, and we know just enough to be curious, is there something there for me? Is there anything in the Bible or church that may make my life better? Our experience with Easter has always been good, but, what if we approached Easter 2016 with a heart that is open and expecting, exactly what, we’re not sure, but hoping that God will make the resurrection of Christ more of a reality in our lives?

If we come to Easter Sunday as people who have heard the story before, as people who can no longer be amazed, we will very likely leave the same way we came. We meet God where we are at. If we approach Easter in humility, repentant before God, knowing our absolute need for Jesus, he will never disappoint us. Christ’s resurrection is not just another story in the Bible, it is the central point in our faith as Christians.

How will we approach Easter 2016? Will this Easter be different? Are we willing to approach this day and the rest of the days of our lives, by joyfully allowing God to enter into our hearts, and begin a work within us that allows us to hear this story with spiritual ears, in a way we’ve never heard it before?

Approach God with an open heart, and hear with childlike amazement, God’s eternal truth in Jesus Christ!

He is risen! Indeed!

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