web analytics

Tag Archive | "God"

Trust and faith in God


Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church

340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

 

The Bible tells us that when we put our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments, we are bound to achieve great and marvelous things through Him. But many of us have been involved in situations that resulted in frustration and disappointment. We thought we had faith in God’s power, only to see the results not go our way. Sometimes, we need a clearer understanding of what faith really is.

Faith is not just a concept that fulfills a mere wish. True faith is complete confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, which makes us follow His footsteps. (Hebrew 11:1)  In the book of Daniel, we are reminded of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to worship the golden image created by King Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their stand for God, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. In faith, they believed that their God could deliver them. Their perseverance demonstrated the elements that are required of true faith in God and they came out without a single burn. They trusted in God even if things would not have turned out as they had expected.  Faith in Jesus Christ calls for total reliance on Him, even when some things do not always make sense to us. The trio knew they could trust in Him because they understood His nature, which does not change. They understood that God is in control of everything in Heaven and on the earth.

God has given us an opportunity to choose and to decide. Sometimes we are bound to be tested and he again assures us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will never let us be tempted beyond what we can endure. After the great challenges that we must all undergo, we can be victorious and emerge as stronger men and women of God. It’s not necessary that we go looking for trials and tribulations. They will find us. But when faced with them, our Heavenly Father gives us strength to overcome.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul was assured by the Savior that His grace is sufficient and that his strength is made perfect in weakness and his response was just amazing. He said, “I take pleasure in my infirmities, in accusations, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for the sake of Christ.” He realized that during his very weakest moment is when he became very strong. Not strong in his own might, but strong in the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to empower and live in him.

When we trust in God, He is more than willing to provide help when we desperately need it. It doesn’t matter how challenging the situation is. This gives God’s spirit room to live in our heart so that He can constantly talk to us and lead us in the right direction.  True faith is based on trusting the Lord Jesus Christ and His ever willing desire to meet our needs. Daniel 3:15 says, “For surely He blesses and prospers only those who fully trust in Him.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is more than a system, tradition, or belief. He is a Person who knows our needs, feels our pain, and sympathizes with our weaknesses. In exchange for our trust, He offers to forgive our sins, to intercede for us, and to bring us to His Father. He cried for us, died for us, and rose from the dead to show that He was all He claimed to be. Conquering death, He showed us that He can save us from our sins, live His life through us on earth, and then bring us safely to Heaven. He offers Himself as a gift to anyone who will trust and follow Him (John 20:24-31).

Posted in From the PulpitComments (0)

Hard of hearing


By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

A husband and wife had been married for many years when the husband began to fear that his wife was going deaf. He implemented an informal exam. With his wife in the kitchen, the husband asked from the den, “What’s for dinner?” She didn’t answer. He repeated the question over and over, each time moving closer, and each time received no response.

Finally, he was directly behind her asking his question. His wife whirled on her heels and shouted, “George, for the hundredth time, I said we’re having chicken!” Often, others listen just fine; we are the ones who are hard of hearing, especially when it comes to describe deafness to the Spirit.

Maybe God used to speak to you, he once whispered in your ear, or stirred in your soul; or maybe you have never had such a sensation of God speaking at all. Regardless, now you’re stone deaf, but might be thinking it’s God with a hearing problem.

The troubling thing is, when someone’s hearing begins to erode, his or her life gets louder, only magnifying the problem. The TV volume is cranked up to the decibels of a jet fighter. Warning bells and alarms are ignored. Communication becomes difficult, a game of escalating voices.

Bring that scenario into the realm of faith. While we want God to shatter his perceived silence with thunderclaps, earthquakes, and firestorms, why should he speak to us over the noise of our lives? Why would he add to the commotion? His voice will only get lost; and it does, in the dissonance that surrounds us.

My friend David Beavers says it impeccably: “Along life’s way, you lose you. Your life gets covered, buried, and numbed out with addictions, distractions, medications, and busyness of all kinds. If you don’t believe me, spend the day alone, without a phone, book, or computer. There, listen to and observe the insane, obsessive, cyclical and compulsive chatter that drives you—inside and out. It is nothing more than noise, and noise is the problem.”

So, you might not be hard of hearing at all. It could be the pandemonium within and without; the sound and fury that has been absorbed into your heart, mind, and very soul. We have to turn down the volume around us, not to hear ourselves think, but to hear anything—even the Maker of the Universe—when he gently speaks our name.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

Posted in Keeping the FaithComments (0)

Spring—a reminder of life


Cedar-Christian-ChurchPastor Ryan Black

Cedar Springs Christian Church
340 West Pine Street, Cedar Springs

 

Springtime is finally approaching. What a lovely time of year. No other season invokes these sights, sounds and smells. Spring is the awakening of what was once dead but has now come alive. The Bible describes it, “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!’ (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). 

The spring season reminds us of how important life truly is.  But what is life and what does it mean? What does it mean according to God?

In the beginning God created a perfect world. Why was this world so perfect? Because God’s presence was there and the presence of God brings life! However, man fell into Satan’s temptations, which removed the presence of the One who gives life. As a result, a curse was placed on this earth because of sin which has resulted in all of us being handed a sentence of death.  The image of a physical death and a curse on the earth which forewarns us of an ending we do not want to inherit.  That picture is eternal death. Eternal death means eternal seperation from God, the One whom gives life.

However, God had a plan; a plan to rescue us from that separation. He accomplished this by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for us. This sacrifice bridges us back to the One who gives life! Eternally God has allowed us to escape our death sentence and has called us to live and reign with Him forever and ever. All you need to do is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and He will set you free and grant you eternal life in His Kingdom.

While the life God is concerned about is eternal, He gives us reminders and illustrations here on this earth.  Spring is a perfect time of year for that reminder. Spring brings hope that there will be brighter days ahead; days full of sunshine, happiness and joy. We see plants come to life, trees blossoming, flowers blooming, animals lively and birds chirping. These are all wonderful signs of life and should remind us that Jesus Christ gave us life through His death. It is a life that will allow us to live in peace and harmony with Him forever and ever. Remember, God is Life!

 

 

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Waiting


The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306

 

I was in the doctor’s office the other day and the appointments were backed up. The wait was much longer than usual. After perusing the scattered magazines, I made a mental shift. Instead of succumbing to growing irritation, I decided to make the most of the time of waiting. Mentally, I made a list of the jobs I had to do. Then I checked off the things that needed to be done to get my house in order. I did some financial accounting and then I checked my prayer list. I remembered all the friends, family members, social issues, and church concerns I had committed to pray for. It seemed as if the time passed at a rapid pace and then my number was called. The wait was over.

Dear friends, we are now in the first week of Advent—the season of emergence, of coming forth, of appearing.  We have four weeks to wait for Christmas. In our church, we stubbornly oppose the cultural norm of rushing Christmas. The deep blue colors and reflective mood are anticipatory, but restrained. There will be no decorations until just before the 25th. The words of Isaiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist help flesh out the time.  They guide us through the wait.

Time with God can be bent in so many ways. Even as we await the celebration of the coming of Messiah in the form of a child, we anticipate the coming of Christ in great power and glory.  Both happen at the same time. Both are comprehensive, both are cosmic. The nature of the wait depends on the understanding of the event.

As people grow older, they begin to understand that the appearing of Christ may be individual instead of a worldwide event.  The wait is a useful time to get the house in order, to make sure that jobs are finished, and accounts balance. The act of simplifying helps the wait go smoothly.

Of course, as children, we did not understand the deeper meaning of the season. Waiting was so hard! Little people, literally abuzz with excited energy, know that a great celebration is approaching. They can barely eat while they tick off the days. For them, the wait is torture.

For younger adults, the wait is more trying. Demands of time and purse result in the feeling that the wait is actually too short!  How can it all be accomplished? Or rather, why must is all be accomplished? So much is pressing that the wait does not lead to peaceful understanding. It is time that demands to be filled.

Wherever you find yourself, remember that the wait has a purpose. It teaches us that we are not in charge of time. The Messiah comes when he chooses. No amount of stress can make the days go faster. Preparation, however, can make the days more meaningful. Take some time in these next weeks to be quiet. Sit back and close your eyes. In the midst of the immediate hubbub, take a personal inventory. Is your spiritual house in order? Are accounts balanced? Are the necessary jobs completed? Are you ready to welcome the Christ Child, the Messiah as your guest?

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Get still; God will speak


Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

Last week my son asked me a profound theological question: “Why did God make stinging bugs?” Stumped, I told him to talk directly to God about it. Pausing for just a moment to consider my inadequate answer, he countered, “You know I can’t talk to God; I’m not even dead yet!” In my son’s literal but complex eight-year-old mind, prayer does not qualify as “talking to God.” Thus, his many and variegated questions about the mysteries of the universe, the meaning of life, and the purpose of wasps and biting flies, will have to wait.

Truth be told, my son’s conclusion about “talking to God,” and more pertinent, God talking to us, is the conclusion most of us have. God doesn’t really talk to people, does he? And those mystical types who routinely say things like, “God spoke to me” or “I heard God say,” are we to take them seriously, or should they be scheduled for a mental health examination?

God gets blamed for a whole lot of the kookiness in this world, but this aside, I still believe God speaks. Now, I don’t believe God’s instructions ever include harming others, doing evil, or committing violence. Such voices are patently inconsistent with the way and person of Christ. And no, I don’t think God’s voice arrives in our inboxes as an unalterable blueprint for life. Besides, if God did speak that clearly (and maybe he does), most of us would miss it anyway (maybe we have), for it seems God prefers communicating through quiet and stillness rather than through the pyrotechnics of signs and wonders.

It’s summed up by Dan Rather’s magnificent interview of Mother Teresa more than twenty years ago. Paraphrasing, he famously asked her, “What do you say to God when you pray?” She offered him a simple answer, “I don’t say anything. I just listen.” Rather then asked the obvious follow-up question: “Well, what does God say?” Mother Teresa gave Rather that crooked little smile of hers and said, “God doesn’t say anything either. He just listens.”

A great deal of religion, I fear, is built upon the desire for divine fireworks, megaphoned and crystal clear answers, God showing himself in flamboyant and undeniable style. Yet, God only requires the quiet and silent heart to quietly speak. Getting quiet will do more to sharpen one’s perception of God than all the religious gymnastics in the world.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

Posted in Keeping the FaithComments Off

Watching


Pastor Jim Alblas
Pioneer Christian Reformed Church
3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

I’ve started to notice here in Cedar Springs that there are certain signs that have started to appear all over town, and maybe you have seen them, too. I’ve generally seen them at main intersections but they appear in other places as well. The signs are usually bright colored and often have just two things on them; a symbol and a word. The symbol is an arrow and the word is “Sale.” Obviously, I’m talking about garage sale signs. Garage Sales, Lawn Sales, Yard Sales, whatever you want to call them, their popping up all over town.  When it comes to garage sale signs many people become like human radars. We can spot them from a mile away and our eyes become like eagles looking at the details of the sign. “That one’s a Barn Sale!”  “This one’s a Rummage Sale!” “And look, a multi-family sale!!”  There’s something about garage sales that many people love. Finding a treasure at a low price is always enticing. I think my mother-in-law really started to like me when she found out that I like garage sales just like her. She even said I was her favorite son in law…although I’m her only son in law.  And not only do these garage sale signs point us in the direction of good deals, but they usually indicate that winter won’t be coming back for a while. And so we love garage sales and we love noticing those garage sale signs.
In the same way, when we think about God, we come to realize how much it is that he notices us. We are on His radar, His eyes are like a hawk’s fixated on us. Sometimes when we have something on our mind or if we are driving a little too quickly, we may miss one of those garage sale signs, but God never misses what we are doing. And sometimes we may see a garage sale sign, but decide we aren’t interested in checking it out, but God is always interested in us. My favorite Psalm to read that describes how God is watching us is in Psalm 121. There we find out that not only does He notice us, but He cares about us. It’s a passage loaded with the many ways that God watches and watches over us.  It says He never slumbers or sleeps; He is always on the job looking out for us. It says He watches over our life; from the womb to the tomb, God has His eyes on us. It says He’s our shade at our right hand; when life gets troublesome, He protects us. And it says He won’t let our foot slip; which doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt, but that we are never out of His grasp. When we think about that, we realize that God is watching us very carefully, He is very concerned about us and that is encouraging.
But I think when we realize that, we must also realize another thing. Just as God watches us, we too, must watch God. We need to be on the lookout for what God is doing in this town, country and world. By looking to see what God is doing, we learn more about who He is and we can better join in with what He is doing.  But the key is that we must keep our eyes on God with the same intensity that God keeps His eyes on us. Remember Psalm 121, He watches us intently! How have we been watching what God is doing?  Are we reading His word daily, to see what He has done in the past and what He desires for us today? Are we looking at what God is doing right now in the lives of people around us and around the world? Are we keeping an eye out for what God will do next? Or are we just keeping an eye out for those garage sale signs?
In a society where we have up to the minute knowledge on sports scores, grocery store sales and facebook statuses, are we up to the minute on what God is doing? My word of encouragement to you is that when we are watching what God is doing, we find some wonderful blessings. We can be a benefit to others when we know what God is doing in their lives, because we can come alongside that work. We can benefit ourselves because when we are watching God we will notice things we hadn’t noticed before and they will bring us joy. And when we are watching God closely, we become closer to Him. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord!

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off

Hold on loosely


Pastor Chad Wight
chad@thejourneychurch.net

Climbing a deep ravine to the large oak tree at the forest’s edge near my boyhood home, I stood at the gateway to a 9-year-old boy’s most amazing adventures. The acres of woods before me were wildly entrancing as the terrain and corresponding “dangers” were unique in every direction. From sunrise to sunset, from hideouts to creek beds, no two days were the same.
Engaging God the Creator, who on a Tuesday of the first week plastered the earth with forests and firmament, has proven to be equally unpredictable, challenging, and at times “dangerous.” Childhood is long gone for me, and it seems with each passing day I have more questions than answers. Every attempt to make God merely a favorite “hide-out,” of sorts, has led only to arid familiarity; and you know what is said of “familiarity.”
A close companion of Jesus wrote about a woman named Mary who stood sadly in a cemetery that first Easter Sunday (John 20). Seeing a man whom she thought was the local gardener, upon hearing His voice she lunged for her Savior. Jesus’ response may have surprised her when, in effect, he said, “Stop holding on to me. There’s a new way to know me that’s different from what you’ve experienced thus far. You must let me go for I must move on.”
Christian author and speaker Frank Viola best explains the principle in all this in his article “A Vanishing God.” You cannot cling to the Christ you know today because He will vanish from your midst. Christ is an elusive Lover, and seeking Him is a progressive engagement that never ends. While we all wish to cling tightly to the One whom we know now, or the Christ who has been revealed to us today, the harder we try to hold on the more elusive He will be. I have noticed this in my own life. Jesus woos us one way, but that season eventually ends, and just when we think we’ve laid hold of Him He slips out of our grasp. He will then reappear, and most likely as a stranger (Luke 24). Only by looking and listening closely will we discover that He’s no stranger at all.
We often cling to the Christ we know by accepting only those who talk our language, participate in our religious forms, and share our ideas—and all along we end up turning away Jesus Himself. But then He returns to us in a way we do not expect, through people we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off for a myriad of arrogant, religious reasons. Unfortunately, if we fail to receive Him in those unexpected ways, He moves on and the revelation we can have of him ceases to grow.
In drawing close to God, we are always standing at the edge of something much too deep. Jesus Christ is richer, larger, and more glorious than any of us could ever imagine, and ironically He comes to us in ways that make it tempting to reject Him. He will always break free from our frail attempts to pin Him down, box Him up, hold Him in place, and play Him safe.
This ought to make us think about how God goes about His plans in this world, for every day is a new day, and there is a God who wants to be known.

Posted in From the PulpitComments Off