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Tag Archive | "From the Pulpit"

A season for everything


Pastor Darryl Miller  | Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches

There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 Common English Bible) 

I know it’s strange but I live in Michigan because I like it. That includes the weather. Well, most of the time. Now, if you tell someone from Michigan that you like the weather, he or she may try to move away from you discreetly. I spent a winter in Arizona with relatives one year and to be honest, Christmas just didn’t feel right. I noticed that some people there didn’t seem to notice that it was a different time of year. It was rather strange. 

I guess I just like the change in seasons. The blooms of spring, the warmth and fun of summer, the beauty of fall, and even the clear and beautiful skies above the snowy landscape of winter. I also think that it is a good reminder for us all. Things change. Humans can far too easily get stuck in ruts. We get comfortable and don’t want things to change. But if you like the spring, the flowers, and the budding trees, remember that without winter this would not happen.

One of my favorite hymns is “Hymn of Promise” written by Natalie Sleeth in 1986 after the death of a close friend. It is a good reminder that there are seasons in our lives as well as in nature. We have ups and downs, celebrations and sadness. But the good news is that through it all God is with us. His presence is always there to guide us and the Holy Spirit is there to comfort us. Sure, as I get older I wish that winter would last only a few weeks now, but I still love the first warm day in spring and without the cold would I appreciate the warmth as much? And without trials would I ever learn to lean on God? 

Stop by a church near you, enjoy the fellowship, and get your questions answered.



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Hold on gently


Pastor Inge Whittemore | East Nelson Church | 9024 18 Mile Rd | Cedar Springs MI. 49319

Raising canaries is an interesting hobby. I read that one of the most difficult parts of taking care of canaries is trimming the bird’s nails. You have to catch the bird and gently cradle it in your palm and your last three fingers (while holding each ankle one at a time between your forefinger and thumb). 

You then carefully cut each toenail but just don’t cut it too short or leave it too long. It is a carefully executed process. You can’t grab at the bird because that will scare it. You can’t squeeze the bird because that will hurt it. But you also can’t hold it so loosely that it tries to get away and hurts its fragile self in the process.

It is a bit like the scene of Mary Magdalene on the morning of the first Easter. Meeting the risen Jesus was, for Mary Magdalene, sort of like holding a canary. When she saw the risen Lord, her first thought was to run to him and grab hold of him and hold on to him tight and never let him get away. 

But in her heart she knew that he could not stay. He told her he was going to the Father. She had followed Jesus for some time now. She had heard Jesus’ invitation, “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” She’d followed and heard and had repented and believed and she was a changed person for it.

This invitation to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand“ continues to echo today to all who wish to experience true transformation of the deepest kind. It is the good news that brings hope to all. 

In that one incredible encounter at the garden tomb, God created space around Jesus and Mary, enough for Mary to be able to know that the Lord had risen just as he had promised. She stayed with him as long as he was there. And then, when he was gone, she went and told the others what she had seen and what Jesus had said to her. She was privileged to be the first to announce the Good News that Jesus had not died, but truly lived.  

Every year, this piece of history (his story) moves us along from searching in sadness, to incredible disbelief, and finally to immense joy. And that’s another reason I love canaries. Canaries’ songs are joyful. Canaries remind me that even while they are fragile and delicate their song is strong. Let us hold on to the joy throughout Eastertide—the 50 days from Easter until Pentecost and even longer. Let’s not hold on too tight that we keep it only to ourselves. Let us not hold so loosely that we casually let the meaning of Easter fly away. How about we continue to rejoice in the resurrection by holding the story up for all to see.  

Let us be like Mary and rejoice and sing out, “I have seen the Lord! (John 20:18 NIV)




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We can live in hope


“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (Lk 24:2) 

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor |St. John Paul II Parish |3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

“What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will become.” Those are the chilling words  inscribed on a plaque inside Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, Italy. It is an ancient church that displays the bones of over four thousand Capuchin friars who passed away. The sole purpose of this grisly display is to remind visitors of the inevitability of death and to invite them to visually reflect on the eventual human condition. 

This thought-provoking display not only reminds us of our death; but it also inspires us to live faithfully to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When our earthly pilgrimage is over, we will be united with the Lord for all of eternity. 

This is what the women, the first witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord in the Gospel of Luke, show us. After a full day had passed since the burial of Jesus, “at daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Lk 24:1). Two things are significant in this passage—the spices they prepared and that they arrived at sunrise on the first day of the week. 

The spices that these women brought to the tomb indicate their devotion to the Lord. These women had watched the crucifixion from a distance (Mk 15:40-41). They witnessed the humiliating death that Jesus had endured and then, like a criminal, he had been buried hastily before sundown. Out of love for Jesus, they came to the tomb with spices, to perform an important ritual that had not been properly completed. This last act of kindness and compassion leads them to encounter the Almighty Act of God, namely, to witness the resurrection. 

“At daybreak on the first day of the week” they went to the tomb. The fact that the evangelist mentioned at dawn is the first hint that the darkness of the death of Jesus had been overcome. Malachi alluded to the prophecy at the very end of the Old Testament: “for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20). At the empty tomb, the pious women are witnesses to the beginning of the new creation: Christ resurrected from the dead renews all things. 

It was love that led these women to the tomb. Their grief was quickly transformed into joy by the risen Lord, who transformed the darkness of death into new life! The fear of being persecuted was transformed into boldly proclaiming the joy of a new creation. It is all because of the friendship/relationship that they had with Jesus. 

So, for those who cling to the Lord Jesus, we do not need to fear the meaning of the words: “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will become.” Christians live in hope because of this assurance: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried into his death through the waters of baptism and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rm 6:3-4). 

We cling to Jesus so we might be delivered from the darkness of the night to the tomb at sunrise! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ the Lord is risen! 

In addition to being the priest at St. John Paul II Parish, Cedar Springs, Father Lam also proudly serves as pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 W Maple Street, Sand Lake, MI.49343. Phone 616 -636-5671. 

 


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Breakthrough on aisle 5


Pastor Bobby Gray | Solid Rock Worship Center | 11862 Shaner Ave NE, Cedar Springs

“Bread. Eggs. Milk. Coffee…get the good stuff.” My tired eyes squinted as they looked down at my phone to see the grocery list my wife had texted me. A long day of effort already lay behind me, and a lengthy evening of deskwork I knew would soon be my reward. I was exhausted as I arrived at the grocery store.

I entered, grabbed a cart, put my ear buds in, and cranked the gospel music up just as I had done so many times before. Bread first.

As my weary feet rounded the corner of aisle 3, I began to detect God’s presence. Looking up and down the shelves and placing the loaves of bread in my cart, I began to pray under my breath, doing my best not to call attention to myself.

At this moment, all of the things I had been dealing with had left a heaviness in my spirit. The vagueness of God’s will regarding certain circumstances I was dealing with had left me frustrated and annoyed. Let nobody lie to you, the ministry is a full contact sport; and most of the shoving happens in the mind. I felt that stirring quickly evolving into a whirlwind. I knew I needed to hear from heaven, but felt apprehensive. Next was the eggs and milk.

By aisle 4, I felt an undeniable touch of God’s Spirit. It grabbed me and, arresting my attention, it demanded I understand that my help and hope was imminent. I was grateful, but like a child before crossing the street, I looked both ways before I worshipped, trying desperately to keep from drawing attention to myself. Now, coffee.

 By the time I came to aisle 5, I had barely enough time to grab my can of coffee before I became overwhelmed by the goodness and compassion of the Lord. My cheeks became flush and tears filled my eyes as the soft murmur of my praise swelled to an audible level.

Soon, I openly wept as the tension and weight I had carried into the market begin to lift off my soul.

I continued to cast off dignity and timidity as my frustrations dissolved in God’s presence. With lifted hands, I thanked Him for the multitude of unwarranted courtesies he had shown me. I learned something that night that I’ve never forgotten—that God delights in meeting us at unexpected places.

The spectacle of a man crying and thanking God while holding a can of coffee in his lifted hand seemed to startle the white-haired woman that had turned undetected down the aisle.

The electric motor of her mobility cart whined in it’s low familiar tone as she slowly approached. Her eyes were fixed on me with a look that I could only describe as “deep, questioning concern.” Finally, after a long pause, she asked sheepishly, “Young man…what brand of coffee is that?”

I smiled before answering.

“Ma’am, I don’t know where this came from, but I sure am happy I found it!”



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Who’s leading you?


Pastor Kristi Rhodes | Hillcrest Community Church | 5994 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs, MI 49319

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! Easter represents the greatest day in all of history for all mankind! Everything happened just as Jesus said it would, and just as the prophets foretold hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth. Jesus is Truth and He is incapable of lying or dishonesty.

Jesus said, “The thief (the devil, Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that you would have life to the fullest (John 10:10). Satan comes to destroy your family, to destroy your mind, to destroy your health, to destroy your finances, to kill your hope and steal your peace. We are no match for the devil—he’s been around thousands of years.  But the devil is no match for Jesus! Jesus defeated the devil and death when he rose victoriously and conquered the grave. Jesus (the Son of God) appeared to destroy the devil’s work, (1 John 3:8b).  Follow Jesus through His Spirit and live free from the chains of destruction that Satan has tried to bind you with.  

You are a combination of three parts: your body (the flesh), your soul (the mind) and your spirit. We are a spirit that lives in a body that has a mind. Through your body, you relate to the world with your 5 senses. Through your spirit, you relate to the Spirit of light (God) or spirit of darkness (devil) to guide your life. Through your soul (mind), you decide which you will obey. I know it’s kind of deep.  But this is where decisions are made. Joyce Myers wrote a book on this called “Battlefield of the Mind.” You may find it quite helpful if you’re struggling in this area.  

This morning when I got up, I thought I might feast on the leftover chocolate cake for breakfast.  But looking at the swimming pool out the kitchen window, (that we will be opening up soon), I decided maybe that wasn’t the best idea. This was my conscience (mind) telling me that my flesh (body) is wrong. Although the cake was tempting, it was not the best choice.  

God wants us to walk in the Spirit and enjoy the life we were intended to have, life to the fullest, a life of favor and grace. When you make decisions today, listen to your spirit that has first surrendered to God. His still small voice is leading you in the direction your life needs to take so that you may walk in victory over the flesh and the schemes of the devil. You cannot walk in the anointing (Spirit) that God has for you and mirror the devil at the same time. If you follow where the Holy Spirit leads, you will never take a wrong turn!  

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23).  


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God makes all things new


Pastor Darryl Miller |Sand Lake & South Ensley | United Methodist Churches 

Revelation 21:5: And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true (American Standard Version).

As I sit at my desk writing this, the television is on in the next room and the terrible tragedy of the destruction of the Notre Dame cathedral is playing out. It is horrible to hear. Although I serve a different denomination today, I grew up in the Catholic Church and I grieve with my Christian brothers and sisters. 

Yet, as this tragedy takes place, there is the sound of hymns rising up from the crowds surrounding the island. There is pain and worship. Thankfully, no building can contain God nor can anything stop His wondrous and unconditional love for His children. 

As Easter approaches, we must remember and cling to the truth of salvation. God does make all things new. Will a new cathedral rise from the ruins of Notre Dame? Most likely and the same is true of us. From our charred and sinful lives, we will rise. Not by our efforts but by the unconditional grace of God. He loves and cares for us. He said so Himself. He even told John to write it down because it was an important truth for all people. God does make all things new. He cleanses away the dirt and washes us clean. 

We tend to label ourselves differently, but we worship the God of life together. This week we will all celebrate the resurrection of Christ as one people. This is the way God wants us to be—one voice singing praises even in the toughest times. 

Visit your local church this Sunday and see what all the celebrating is about!

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The End of the world as we know it


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

Over the years I’ve had questions—some of them my own and some of them being asked of me—about the end of the world. This makes sense, I think. When things strike us as being “final,” it’s good to try and figure out what the details of “final” might mean.

In Mark chapter 13, verse 2, Jesus makes a statement about the buildings in Jerusalem that sparks questions of finality from a few of His disciples. What’s interesting (if a number of Bible scholars are right in their educated guesses) is that the book of Mark was written probably just a year or two before the most important of Jerusalem’s buildings—the Jewish Temple—was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Apparently, the disciples’ questions about finality were starting to be asked at a pretty opportune time.

Jesus’ disciples were wondering whether certain outward signs meant they were getting close to “the end of the world.” New Testament scholar Ben Witherington says that the destruction of the Temple obviously wasn’t “the end of the world,” but it certainly was “the end of a world.” While Jesus taught that a whole new world was opening up in Him, to the Jewish way of living that depended upon worshipping God in that Temple, the end of that world was unthinkable, and still is. 

For all of the ways that Mark chapter 13 may cause us to want to figure out the signs of our times and determine when “The End” is coming, most scholars actually agree that only a very few verses in that whole chapter have not already been fulfilled. In regard to the prophecies that remain to be fulfilled, Jesus shared in Mark 13:32 (NIV): “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”

He says be ready for The End, regardless of when it might come. This calls less for eyes that are open to the signs of the times, and more for eyes, ears, hearts, hands, and minds given over to all of the things Jesus asked of us in so many other places: prayer, care for the widow and the orphan, love of neighbor, being holy as He is holy, and so on. Be ready

But hear this, too: biblical calls to “Be on guard” and “Keep alert” had another function. They were originally written to be an encouragement. Some of you may have recently experienced the end of the world as you always knew it. Someone passed away. A job or relationship ended. Jesus wants you to know something: A whole new world can open up in Him.


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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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