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Tag Archive | "From the Pulpit"

Happy PI day!


Pastor Darryl Miller | Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches|616-636-5659

“Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything” Colossians 2:9-10 (The Message).

I’m writing this on Thursday—3.14—otherwise known as PI day. The value of PI is 3.14. Actually, the value is infinite as far as we know! It is just a day when some of us have a little fun because of the date. However, the truth is that the value of PI is very important. A quick Internet search will show that it is used in most calculations for building and construction, quantum physics, communications, music theory, medical procedures, air travel, and space flight, to name a few. What a wonderful discovery it was for us to find. 

I got to thinking about how there are so many wonderful things like PI woven into creation and how wonderful it is to have a God who not only wove them into creation but made it so that we could find them. He seems to want us to see Him in things like this. 

I don’t usually use paraphrased bible translations like The Message but sometimes the wording is truly wonderful. Despite all the amazing discoveries that we make, God is right there in the midst. He doesn’t make it hard to find Him; we only need to open our eyes and our hearts. He is eager to be a part of our lives. We don’t need to go looking under every rock; He is standing in front of us with His hands outstretched waiting for us. I don’t know about you but this is a comforting thought to me. How wonderful to have a God who actively seeks us out. 

PI day is fun but God is life changing, lifesaving, and life itself. Look for Him in good times and in bad and you will find Him. It is His promise. Have questions? Check out a church near you, we love to give answers! And fortunately we know the source of all the answers!


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Goodbye Uncle Charlie


Rev. David Vander Meer, Rockford Springs Community Church | 5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

My uncle just died. It may be that you knew him. He was best known as Uncle Charlie, of the Children’s Bible Hour, later known as CBH, and now, Keys for Kids. This man just loved kids and loved to tell them about his best friend and savior, Jesus. When my wife and I visited him on the day before he passed away, he shared with us his favorite verse.

The verse is Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Uncle Charlie believed in the power of Christ to bring change in a little boy or girl’s heart. Adults’ too. This is why, from 9 years old to 84 years old he was involved in this ministry of sharing the power of Christ. He did not put confidence in himself to change hearts, but in Christ’s power to change hearts. He knew this power of Christ was brought to anyone who personally believed in Him and surrendered to His will.

But what made Uncle Charlie keep going all those years was the persistent power of Christ that not only began the work of changing a person but also could finish the work. Change can take time, and effort, and sometimes the need to work through failure. But in this text, Paul the apostle relied on the persistent power of Christ to change the believers in a town called Philippi. Uncle Charlie learned to trust the power of Christ to do the same in his world. And we need to trust Christ to change hearts in our world, too. Today, thousands of adults, who once were children, have been touched by the power of Christ through Uncle Charlie’s confidence in Christ.

We are planning to celebrate the grace of God in Uncle Charlie’ life on Saturday, March 16, at Calvary Church on East Beltline, at 1 pm.  We sure would be honored if you came and sang with us: “Boys and Girls for Jesus, this our earnest prayer.”   

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He said wut?!


Pastor Bill Dixon. Solon Center Wesleyan Church. 15671 Algoma Ave, NE, Cedar Springs

Have you ever heard someone say something so shocking that it made you take a step back and say to yourself, he or she said wut?!. A few weeks ago, I started a series called, He Said Wut?! As a church, we began to look at a few shocking things that Jesus said about everyday stuff like, anger, lust, marriage, promise-keeping, retaliation, and loving our enemies. 

Throughout this section of scripture, which begins in Matthew chapter 5 verse 21, Jesus follows a pattern. He always starts off by saying, “You have heard it said…” or something similar to that and then He goes onto mention an Old Testament Law. After this, Jesus always goes onto say, “But I tell you…” which is Jesus’ way of saying, listen to what I’m about to tell you. 

I want to do is share with you just one of the topics that Jesus addresses. It is a topic that is out of control in our world today—anger. Listen to what Jesus has to say and then I will point out a few things for you to chew on. 

21 “You have heard it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You Fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25 Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (NIV)

Jesus equates being angry with…murder. Here is what I believe Jesus is getting at. I believe that He is saying that if you are angry with your brother (could mean anyone) you are no better in God’s eyes than someone who literally takes an innocent life. I believe He is saying that if you are angry with your brother (again, could mean anyone), you are a murderer. So, are you a murderer? Maybe not in your own eyes, but in God’s eyes you are. 

Before you decide to stop reading hear me out on a few things. 

1: Jesus is not saying that all anger is bad. There is such a thing as good or righteous anger. We know this because the Bible clearly teaches that God gets angry. And we know that God is good so there must be such a thing as good or righteous anger. In fact, if you look at the Gospels, Jesus gets angry. Go and read Matthew 21:12-13. Not long after Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, He entered the synagogue (Jewish Church) and looked around and saw that a lot of people were doing things that they should not of have been doing. So, what does Jesus do? Listen to what was written… 

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling droves. It is written, he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” Matthew 21:12-13 (NIV).

There are plenty of things going on in our world today that should make us angry, especially as Christians. The problem is our anger often times goes off the rails and becomes unrighteous/sinful. Jesus is talking about the type of anger that holds grudges towards others. He is talking about the times when we say and do things that are meant to hurt others—maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. 

Here is the second point I want you to chew on. 

2: Jesus is clarifying (making known) the spirit of the law. 

The spiritual leaders of the day had the letter of the Law down pat. They knew and understood that God did not want them to murder folks. Many of us have the letter of the Law down pat as well. We get it. Murdering people is bad. But here is the thing. Jesus makes it clear that stopping short of murdering people is not good enough. He is making it clear that, like the leaders of His day, we are missing the spirit of the law. 

God is not interested in us becoming people who just stop short of literally murdering each other. No. He is interested in us becoming people who constantly value others. In other words, God is interested in us becoming people who constantly treat others with dignity, respect, and love. This is the spirit behind the law of ‘Do not Murder’ (Exodus 20:13). 

Let me end with a few questions: 

1: Are you in need of open-heart surgery? The reality is, unrighteous/sinful anger is a heart problem. Matthew 15:19 makes this clear. If this is you, if you are struggling with anger (valuing others), do this. Stop what you are doing and go to the Lord. Ask Him to do what only He can do, and that is this, to forgive you and to begin to transform you inside out by the power of His Holy Spirit. 

2: What is one relationship that you have that needs reconciling? Have you done or said something to someone in the past or maybe recently that has caused an offense? Instead of ignoring that you have wronged someone, here is what you need to do. First, ask God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) then, go to the person, acknowledge your error, ask them for forgiveness, and then do everything in your power to bring about reconciliation to that relationship (read again verses 23-26). 

God wants us to become people who constantly value others. Who constantly treat others with dignity, respect and love. 

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What love looks like


Pastor David Ward | Pilgrim Bible Church | 361 Pine Street, Cedar Springs

What does love look like? According to pictures at your local jewelry store, love features white sand beaches, happy faces and, of course, a big shiny diamond! Reality programming suggests loves comes in limited sizes and shapes. However, such thinking has yielded more terms like “photoshopped” and “catfishing” than actual enduring relationships. Too many people are left feeling rejected, isolated and alone.

A healthy relationship starts with a healthy self-image. The Bible teaches us that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). He knows our name and developed a plan for us before we were ever born (Psalm 139:16). Regardless of whether anyone else knows or notices us, in spite of the circumstances that preceded this moment, God knows us and values us individually. How could and how much does God love us? John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to rescue us from the curse of sin’s punishment and make a way for us to share eternity, together with Him.

God demonstrated that a quality relationship is based on giving rather than on getting. True love flows out of voluntary service rather than abusive demands. Spouses are taught to submit to each other, to look out for each other’s needs (Ephesians 5) because love is patient and kind, not demanding its own way (1 Corinthian 13:4). A truer picture of genuine love is the elderly couple leaning on each other after a lifetime together. Their age and ailments amplify, rather than diminish their love. 

The best way to find such a love for your life is to start with loving God first. Jesus told us, if we put our relationship with God first, the rest would follow (Matthew 6:33). As we learn to love Him, we learn how to love others, what healthy love looks like. As we are confident in God’s love, we are less susceptible to unhealthy distortions that surround us.

The country songwriter warned of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Too many have felt the sting of unrealized dreams and expectations, the pain of broken hearts and homes. The good news is that God is a God of second chances. He specializes in taking the wreckage of broken and battered hearts and rebuilding them into something beautiful. May I challenge you to rediscover God’s love for you? It’s there you will find the real love you for which you are searching!


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Made new through Christ


Pastor Ryan Black – Cedar Springs Christian Church

As we end one year and look to a new one, we pause to take inventory. In a rare moment of reflection and honest self-assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future. We all want to be better, to live our lives more fully and to love one another more selflessly. So, we make resolutions. The question is—why do we do it? I suggest that they reveal something of our deepest longing. They present us with an invitation to exercise our human freedom and to choose a better way of life. But, we cannot do it on our own. We need God.

Jesus can make all things new within us, and then continues His work of making all things new through us. Even though our human freedom was fractured by sin, the splint of the wood of the Cross is the lasting and life changing remedy which brings healing to the wound. Jesus alone can fulfill the desire which is really at the heart of the New Year’s celebrations, and help us, by His saving grace, to make them become reality.

I pray we may all find the fullness of grace and the new beginning which comes through entering into a living relationship with the One who makes all things new, Jesus the Christ. (Rev. 21:5) There is a universal longing in every human heart to be made new, to begin again, because the Holy Spirit prompts it. It leads us back to the One who created us and who can re-create us through Jesus Christ. 

In and through Jesus Christ, there is a path to being made new. He walked that path up the mountain of Golgotha, and through the tomb to the Resurrection. That promise of being made new, being born again, is at the heart of the Gospel, the Good News! Paul reminded the Christians in the City of Corinth and reminds every one of us “whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

New Year’s Day is a global existential moment, ready with anticipation and expectations. It invites a spiritually liberating time of reflection, offers us hope for change and invites us to make new choices. Resolutions can become reality, when we turn to the One who makes it possible, the One who truly makes all things new, Jesus Christ the Lord. Our choices make us become the persons we become. In our choosing we not only have the potential to change the world around us, we change ourselves. In 2019, may we choose to live our lives in, with and for Jesus Christ. That is the way to turn those resolutions into reality and experience a real New Year.

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Words


Rev. Dallas Burgeson | The Springs Church | 135 N. Grant St, Cedar Springs

Words. There are a lot of them. And I’m not talking about the ones in the dictionary, but the ones being spoken all over the place in the world. In our homes.

These words can be a problem. Proverbs 10:19 explains part of the issue: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.(NLT)

James talks about another part of the problem with all those words that are often being so carelessly spoken into the air: “…a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” – James 3:4-5 (NLT).

Can you see the truth of this at work? In the world? In your home? As a pastor, I’ve learned to recognize how words set stuff on fire—yes, out in the world as well as in people’s homes, but also from positions of leadership.

Most of my ministry career has involved holding a certain level of authority, but also sitting one step below the position where “the buck stops.” I think this has allowed me to observe from a unique perspective just what happens when a leader says things. I knew long before I came to The Springs that the tongue can start things on fire, and it seems to me now that part of a pastor’s job is to start the right things on fire, and then to avoid lighting lots of other things.

Figuring out what is “too much talk” is tricky sometimes, depending upon on who you are, what your relationships look like, and what you need to do in life. Too many words in your close relationships or at work can be a real problem, but sometimes not speaking enough can be trouble, too. I’ve learned I have a tendency to not encourage people enough: my wife, my kids, my leaders, my congregation. That takes more kind words, and I don’t always speak them when it would really help if I did. That, and fewer harsh ones.

This time of year during the season of Advent, we start looking again for a Savior to come into our world and save us. And when He comes to us in a manger, the Gospel of John says He comes as a warming Word (check out John 1:1-5 for more on that). The prophet Isaiah told us ahead of time just what our Word would be like:

“He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle” (Isaiah 42:2-3).

Jesus knew how to do words. He was and still is our warming Word—starting the world on fire, yet never burning the wrong things.

Lord Jesus, come to us again this season. Replace our careless words with goodness and light, we pray. Amen.

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Give thanks


Pastor Darryl Miller       

Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches 

616-636-5659

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (Common English Bible).

Having just gone through the Thanksgiving holiday, and now diving headlong into the Christmas season, I was wondering the other day how many of us get so wound up in these busy times that the true meanings of the celebrations have been set aside.

When I was a child we had big family gatherings around the holidays and there was always the dreaded “lets all share what we are thankful for” announcement from one of the aunts. This usually meant that at least a half hour would be used up as there was usually a huge gathering of relatives. And it also usually meant that someone miscalculated the cooking time on something and that they were trying to delay so that everything could finish cooking without us noticing how late dinner was being served. But even after we shared together as a group, I had one aunt that called all the kids to her after dinner and asked them individually what they were thankful for. I remember the first time she asked, I apparently said the wrong things because she told me she was disappointed in me. So I was coached by my cousins. There were three things we had to say that we were thankful for: family, our Savior, and for a bonus point, her. So I grew up thinking that when I thought of what I was thankful for I had to say what whoever was asking wanted to hear. This made my childhood much simpler but it took a long time to understand the problem with this.

Today I am happy to say that I still worry about what someone else thinks about what I am thankful for. But now it’s God. However, here’s the twist—my aunt heard what she wanted and accepted it; but God can see into our hearts so there is no just saying what we think he wants to hear. We must be truly thankful if we tell God that we are. And lets face it—sometimes it can be hard. In mid October, I spent eight days in the hospital, mostly because of a medication I must take after a kidney transplant that hid the symptoms of a serious infection in my gall bladder. They couldn’t find what was wrong. Was I thankful? Well, sort of. When I think of Paul being thankful for being in prison because he was able to create a new ministry, my reasons seem to fall short, but God thinks differently from the world. The truth is that I was bored out of my mind. But I began to meditate and pray throughout the day and I found myself growing closer to God. I was able to see how I had allowed myself to be drawn into a crazy busy schedule and how that had pushed God aside, despite believing that I was doing God’s work. And I was thankful that I was drawn closer to God and the pain was relieved. So it was actually a good thing. Would I have preferred that God used a different way? Absolutely. But then again I probably wouldn’t have listened.

So what is it that you are thankful for? Even the hard times are a time of learning and drawing closer to God. That is why we need to be thankful for them as well as the good. Have a wonderful Christmas and if you have any questions, visit a church near you, we would love to see you!

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Thank You


Pastor David Vander Meer  Rockford Springs Community Church  5815 Fourteen Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341

I recently realized how powerful the phrase “thank you” is. Wow, just saying these two words can bring great changes.  Yes, I know, it must be honest and authentic.  It must be real and true and from the heart.  If it isn’t, indeed it loses its power.  But when this little phrase is used to communicate an honest appreciation, it has a tremendous power.

For example, thank you is a phrase that speaks grace to others. And others need a word of grace when they have done something nice, or needed, or noble. It is only right to seek to return good with good. When someone opens a door for us, there should be a responsive “thank you.” When someone cooks our food, mops our floor, washes our car, takes out our trash, brews our coffee, pays our salary, teaches our class, pushes our wheel chair, (shall I go on and on?) we need to communicate a word of grace. In a harsh world, a word of grace to each other is so needed. Just take your wife or husband’s hand tonight and tell them how much you appreciate them and watch the power this has on their life. Tell your son or daughter how thankful you are for their life and behold the power this simple word of grace will bring. Watch for ways to say thank you and you will see change occur all around you.

Also, thank you is a phrase that has the power to guard my heart. It sets up a wall around my heart from becoming bitter, arrogant, and self-focused. I do not want to become one of those cranky, touchy, unthankful people. Saying thank you is a heart discipline that protects me from an inner darkness. A life filled with thankfulness overflows with a deep beauty and respected honor. As you read this, have you thought of someone in your life that is noticeably thankful? Are they not a joy to be with? They have a power to bring smiles, raise dignity, and promote peace.

Finally, this thought, communicating thank you glorifies God. Saying thank you is an expression that is in response to something received. And so, when I say thank you to God, I am rightfully acknowledging that all that I have is from God’s good hand of mercy and grace. And how can we say thank you enough for God’s greatest gift, His only Son, Jesus Christ, given that we might be saved from a just judgment due our sin. What a grave injustice I do God when I do not express the simple phrase thank you for all His kindness to me. But when I do remember to say thank you to God, He indeed is glorified.  

What a powerful thing it is to say. So lets say it and then say it again. So, thank you, for reading!  

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Don’t ring the bell


Solon Center

Wesleyan Church

Pastor Bill Dixon

15671 Algoma Ave NE

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Don’t ring the bell

For those of you who may not know, the Navy Seal or BUD/S training is one of the most difficult military training in the world. Here is a brief description of the training known as hell week from NavySeals.com: Hell week “is the defining event in BUD/S training. It is held early on in the third week of the first phase before the Navy makes an expensive investment in SEAL operational training. Hell week consist of five and half days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25 percent of SEAL candidates make it through Hell week.” 

Now, in order for a candidate to quit or to end his training, he has to walk over to a bell and ring it. My goal with this message is to encourage ALL of us not to Ring the Bell, meaning, not to give up, not to lose heart, not to lose hope. The reality is, life can be hard at times. Right? Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble” (NIV). Jesus is not talking about lose your cell phone type of trouble here, he is talking about a type of trouble that has the ability to turn your world upside down and even shake your faith. Some of you reading this article might be facing what Jesus is describing here. Some of you maybe in a difficult season of life where it seems like nothing is working out, at least the way that you thought things would. Some of you might be struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed. Some of you might be thinking about ringing the bell—giving up. I’m here today to tell you, no matter what is going on, no matter what struggles you may be facing, DON’T RING THE BELL. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. 

Here’s why. 

1: You are not alone. God knows what you are going through and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 23:4) 

2: Your situation may look big but God is bigger. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. (Hebrews 12:2) 

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Better Together


Pastor Kevin Reed

Grace Evangelical Free Church

4714 13 Mile Road, Rockford

 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

 

With this week being valentines day, and marriage and love is on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d take the time to share some thoughts on Marriage.  No matter how long you’ve been married, we can all use little reminders at times.  Marriage is one of those things that God has called very good, and God has even designed marriage to provide for one of our greatest needs—intimacy. But marriage is also one of those things that if things aren’t going well, it can become one of life’s greatest pains and an incredible source of frustration. How does that happen?  How can something that God designed to bring so much happiness and satisfaction end up bringing so much pain and frustration?

It’s really quite simple; we forget that God has told us we are better together than we are apart. It wasn’t good for the man to be alone, so God made a helper, a counterpart just for him. And only after man and wife were together as one did God call everything that he had made “very good.” God is the one that established that apart we aren’t as good as we are together.

In a marriage, we face countless circumstances that cause conflict and (if we let them) strife. We go through a process of frustration leading to irritation and, ultimately, we make choices that land us in a very bad place in a marriage—isolation. We become angry, we sin against each other, and we end up holding things against each other. With all this conflict comes Satan’s lie, “You’d be better off without him/her,” or “he/she is just holding you back from being everything you cold be.” Over time many people begin to believe these lies and they start making negative choices that eventually result in an affair, a crappy marriage, or even a divorce.

The key to maintaining closeness in marriage is to never forget that you are better together. God has created your spouse just for you. He/she is designed to fulfill your needs in a way that no one else could do. You aren’t better without them, the truth is you need them, and they need you. When was the last time you told your spouse how much “better” they make you? When was the last time you thanked God for his gift to you in your spouse? When was the last time you chose to focus on the “good” about your spouse and not so much on the “bad”? Each day you make the choice to believe what God has said, “you are better together,” instead of the lies that Satan is hoping you’ll fall for.  Make the right choice!

 

Take the time to think of the ways your spouse “makes you better”.  Plan a time to sit down with them and share your list with them.

Right now, take a moment to thank God for your spouse.  Don’t ask him to change them, praise Him for them!

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