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Tag Archive | "From the Pulpit"

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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“We Family”


We face decisions everyday that seek to divide us: Michigan or Michigan State  (Go Spartans!), Democrat or Republican (no comment), Coke or Pepsi, rock or country, and last but not least hymns or praise choruses. These decisions that we make can be of little importance or of great importance. I myself would love to see another Michigan football season much like the last, with maybe one or two less wins, but my best friend would have to be coaxed off of a ledge if that happened.  My wife on the other hand couldn’t care less if Michigan State won the national championship, unless it happened on Facebook.

On Sunday, August 30, we witnessed something historical in Cedar Springs and I hope you had the opportunity to attend it. The Cedar Springs Ministerial Association hosted the first annual worship service in Morley Park, and it was called “United.” We don’t have exact numbers, but it was estimated that over 500 people were in attendance at the 11:00 a.m. service, and many people stuck around afterwards for a free lunch of hot dogs and chips. After the lunch was a time of hanging with friends and family while the kids played on the dozen inflatable games, or in the park on the playground equipment. You could also take a turn at dunking your pastor in the “Dunk Tank,” which an un-named pastor broke! To conclude the day was a time of worship music provided by a worship team made up of people from over 6 area churches. It was an awesome time of unity.

Unity, as you might guess does not come easy, nor does it come naturally. If you have more than one child in your house, or if you have a sibling, you know that peace is not a natural outcome over time. In fact, Jesus knew, when He left this Earth, that, as Christians, we would have the natural tendency to divide. In John 17:21 Jesus prays that, “…all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus was warning us that people who are not Christians will be watching what we do. Because let’s face it, we as Christians don’t have the best reputation when it comes to bonding together in unity. We have as many denominations as there are Baskin Robbins flavors. But I can tell you that the churches in our area are working together to unite on the things that we all have in common, and this has been a long time coming. As one song that we sang says, “Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city…”

I think one of our area pastors said it best when we ended our prayer for our area by saying, “We Family!” This pastor happens to be one of the football coaches here in Cedar Springs, and this is what they say everyday to conclude their practice. That, no matter what happens in the heat of battle, we’re all family.  Even though we may disagree on style, music, dress, hymns, etc…  We are united on the big things.  Like a family we are made up of different people, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, not to mention that really weird aunt!  But together we can all agree on reaching out to our community to show the love that was shown to us. Great job Cedar Springs, and a big “thank you” from “En-Gedi,” our future community youth center that was given over $1,100 as an offering. Watch out for more community events from our ministerial association.

Rev. Tom Holloway, Asst. Pastor
Solon Center Wesleyan Church
15671 Algoma Ave., Cedar Springs

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