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God’s Christmas List


Pilgrim-Bible-webBy Rev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) (NKJV)

The Advent and Christmas season is one of the most blessed times of the year. As we celebrate the arrival of Heaven’s Christmas Gift, we exchange gifts with those we love. If we are honest, most of us would admit that there is a list of things we would like to receive. We may not share that information with anyone, but the list does exist.

I believe that God too has a list of desires. If we were to ask Him what He wants for Christmas, I wonder what He would ask for?

Probably the first thing on God’s Christmas list would be the desire for room for His beloved Son. When Jesus came to earth some 2,000 years ago, there was no room for Him in the inn. It sometimes seems that little has changed over the centuries.

Multitudes still have no room for Jesus. He is not welcome in the classrooms of America. He is not welcome in the courtrooms of our land. He is banned from many city squares at Christmas time.

There is room for Santa Claus and his reindeer, room for Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost, room for all kinds of traditions and legends, but in our increasingly humanistic society there s no room for the sacred Son of God. It seems to me that God would indeed wish that there was room for His Son in Christmas. After all it is His birthday that we are celebrating.

I’m not advocating that we get rid of the fun legends and traditions that accompany the Christmas season. Keep on enjoying them. But in the midst of all the fun things that we add to the celebration, keep the Reason for the celebration front and center.

God is looking for room for His Son in the heart of every human. It is time that we welcomed Christ to our world. At this festive season, open the doors of your mind and heart and let Christ come in and transform you and fill you with His joy. Then you will truly be able to sing the words Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room, 

And Heaven and nature sing.

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Building Faith


Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

616.696.1021

 

“Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the people praise You. Then shall the earth yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.” (Psalm 67:5-6) (NKJV)

Perhaps you are like a lot of people who struggle to develop a life of deep-rooted faith. Having faith in God can be difficult when we tend to look at everything in our life from an earthly perspective. We are surrounded by chaotic events, a crumbling culture, and people who often (whether they mean to or not) tend to let us down.

However, I would remind you that God is steadfast, He is above our problems, and unlike people, He is perfect in every way. Scripture teaches that He is worthy of praise, and there is a natural progression from praise to a deepening faith.

Psalm 22:3 tells us, “But You [God] are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” (NKJV). The word “enthroned” can also be translated “inhabits.”  If you invest in praising God, you will find God to be present help in your life. Wherever the praises of God abound, God’s Presence abounds — and joy and victory.

Praise is a lifestyle, demonstrating your continual trust in Your Heavenly Father. Because you trust God, you believe that what He promised you, He is also able to perform, and you praise Him for it.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful.” (NKJV). 

The more we focus on God, the more we praise Him for who He is, the more our faith and confidence in Him grows. The bigger God becomes in our sight, the smaller our problems seem. Praise recognizes and gives God the credit and glory even before the answer is manifested in the natural realm. Praising God for the answer to our problems and prayers before we see it is faith in action.

So spend some time choosing to praise God regardless of the situation you are facing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it will do to build your faith. When we pour in to God, He pours into us! Let’s praise Him on purpose.

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Looking to God in a Crisis


Pilgrim-Bible-webRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs

 

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 

Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One Who lifts up my head.” (Psalm 3:1-3) (NKJV)

When we come face to face with a crisis in our life, many times our instinctive reaction is to feel totally overwhelmed by the immensity, complexity, and seriousness of what we are facing. If we give into that temptation often we find ourselves mired in despair and feeling like the crisis will never end. This, in turn, can lead to even more problems which we must confront.

In Psalm 3, we find David facing an incredible personal crisis that enveloped the nation of Israel in its grip. We are permitted a glimpse into what David was confronting and more importantly, we can see a path to dealing with our own crises.

David was facing a political coup. There was a cleverly organized conspiracy to take away the throne of Israel from him. To add insult to injury, this plot engineered by his beloved son, Absalom. David was facing not only civil rebellion in the kingdom, but far more crushingly he was dealing with betrayal by former close friends and his own son. Of all the painful things we may have to face in life, nothing is more traumatic than when friends turn against us or our own family members stab us in the back.

It is interesting that David begins this Psalm by addressing the Lord directly. He was facing the nightmare of his life. He had been forced to flee from his palace in the capital city of Jerusalem. Now an exile, running for his life, no longer certain who to trust, he shows his desperate dependence by turning immediately to God.

Likewise, it is always appropriate in our crisis moments, as well as the good times, to turn to God first. Ultimately He can help and work out our situations when everything and everyone else has failed, so why wast time. Go to Him first!

David noted in verse 2 that there were many who observed his situation and boldly declared, “There is no help for him in God.” They felt that either God had abandoned David or that God was powerless to change the situation. They saw the writing on the wall and viewed the outcome as an inevitable disaster for David.

May I remind you that even when everybody says your crisis is hopeless that the last chapter has not necessarily been written. It is not unusual that when the world declares something is over for God to step and announce that He’s just begun to work in that situation.

In verse 3, David begins to enumerate what God is to him and why he has perfect confidence in the Almighty in the midst of this crisis. He says that God is his shield. The word “shield” there means more than a mere frontal protection. It was a protection that completely surrounded David. It was a protection from his trials without and his trials without and his temptations within.

David went on to announce his confidence that God was his glory and his uplifter. Men had cast him down, but the Lord was there to lift him up again. Even though violent plots had been hatched against him, God would sustain him and restore peace to his life again.

Friends, if you have given your heart and life to God you are in His perfect, loving care. You may be reeling in the midst of your crisis, but your Heavenly Father sees exactly where you are and He has the resources to bring stability to your life even in the midst of your storm. Stand confident in your faith in God’s power, and know that God does all things well. Even in the worst of times, you can and must trust the perfect character of God. David found it to be true and so can you!

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Living with hope and joy


Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine St. • Cedar Springs

“And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;  there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) (NKJV)

These words of promise are especially poignant to me as I write this article. Just last week, a former college classmate and friend of mine, found his world suddenly ripped in two. His wife was leaving a store near their hometown when their two-year-old son broke loose from her grasp, dashed into the parking lot and was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle. Obviously the family is devastated over this tragedy.

However, in the midst of overwhelming sorrow, what gripped my attention was how the family has responded during this difficult time. Although their hearts are broken, they have reached out to the driver of the vehicle with love and compassion. They have met with her, prayed with her, and assured her that there is no bitterness in their hearts toward her. Their words and conduct have resonated with quiet hope and certain joy, and their testimony in the midst of personal tragedy is impacting their community in a powerful way.

My friends long ago placed their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and now through tear-stained eyes of faith they rest confidently in the promise of our text. They realize that tomb that holds their son’s body is only temporary, that his spirit is with the Heavenly Father, and that this separation will come to an end! There is coming (as the old songs says) “A great, getting up morning.” Eternal reunion is assured through the victory which Christ won over death on Easter morning.

Perhaps someone reading these words is also grieving. Perhaps your world is upside down. Tragic events have shattered a tranquil existence. Let me remind you that as a Christian, through God’s grace, you can live with hope and joy.

When we say we have the hope of Heaven, we do not mean that in the way we usually use the word “hope.” Some of you right now are hoping that warm weather will arrive in a few weeks. In our beloved state of Michigan, you can hope that, but there is no certainty or guarantee it will happen that quickly.

However, when we talk of the “hope” of Heaven, we are talking from a standpoint of confidence. The Bible tells us that it is impossible for God to lie. That same Bible holds multiple promises from God that Heaven is a reality and that the separation of death for God’s children will end in an eternal reunion of joy.

Paul Helm wrote: “Though the life of Heaven is for our future, its certain occurrence imparts a confidence and joy during the present.”

C.S. Lewis said: “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”

And maybe T.W. Hunt summed it up best when he wrote:

“In this life, pleasure ends itself. When the meal is past,  the enjoyment of taste and smell ceases. When the symphony ends, no audible harmonic vibrations remain. When the ride finishes, we ‘want to do it again.’

In eternity future, joy will be a continuum that never ceases. That joy will include within itself peace, expectation, beauty, sublimity. Our present understanding of pleasure only hints at the dimensions of enjoyment in the sheer outer joys of Heaven.” 

If you are hurting, allow me to encourage you. Joy is coming in the morning. Weeping only last for the night. And for the children of God, the best is yet to come!

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Thank God Anyhow


Pilgrim-BiblePastor Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street | Cedar Springs

 

 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls–

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NKJV)

What do you really know about the first Thanksgiving in America? There is much more to the story than what most people realize. In 1620 there were 102 Pilgrims; 56 of them died due to starvation, disease and the cold winter. In 1621, 46 Pilgrims and 91 Indians met to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and for the preservation of their lives. Those people had every reason to be depressed and discouraged, but they were thankful anyhow.

The keywords found in Habakkuk 3:17-19 are “though” and “yet.” Habakkuk is saying, “I sure don’t understand all that is happening, but I am going to thank God anyhow!” Let’s look at these verses and see that regardless of how things may look on the surface, we have a reason to “thank God anyhow.”

We can thank God that His sovereignty never changes. Habakkuk 3:17-18a reminds us that circumstances change, but God never does! We may not be able to rejoice in our situation, but we can always rejoice in our Sovereign. Habakkuk is painting a bleak portrait of the future, but he looks away to a God who is always the same.

He is the One we can depend on in desperate times, we can trust in troublesome times, we can believe during unbelievable times, and we can lean on Him at all times! We may not always know what He is doing, but we can always trust Him to do what is right.

Habakkuk 3:18b tells us that we can thank God for our salvation. Things might be bad in this life, but things do not affect my salvation. Salvation does not depend on things going well, salvation. Salvation does not depend on things going well, salvation rests solely on the grace and power of God! Life is uncertain at best. One phone call or doctor’s visits can changes everything; salvation is eternal in nature.

Thank God that His strength never collapses. Our strength does not lie within us, the Lord is our strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). When we are unable to stand, He enables us. When we can’t go on, He helps us. When we are in the deep valley, He leads us to higher ground.

“Deer’s feet” and “high hills” speaks of the mountain tops where the deer is free from the dangers found below. Habakkuk is telling us that God enables him to rise above his circumstances and the God gives him the strength to stand above the battle and enjoy freedom in the Lord!

When life happens and we are left reeling with the impact of bad news and tragic events, lets choose to thank God anyhow. As Larry Petree wrote years ago:

Thank God for the valley I walked through today, 

Thank God all my burdens were lifted away, 

Thank God for the mountain I’ve had strength to climb, 

And when the sun just won’t shine, “Thank God.”

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Choosing to rejoice in difficult circumstances


Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pastor: Pilgrim Bible Church

West Pine Street • Cedar Springs • 696-1021

 

Given a choice, I’m sure that almost everybody would prefer the moments in life where everything seems placid and calm. Those days when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all seems right with the world. The cheerful words of the old song come to mind:

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-a, My oh my what a wonderful day. 

Unfortunately, reality is that many times our days aren’t like that at all. Perhaps it’s a marriage that has dissolved from a dream to a nightmare. Or it could be a child that has deeply disappointed us, a family member that is terminally ill, the loss of a job and financial security, or any other number of possibilities that haunt the corridors of our mind and threaten our peace and joy.

How are we supposed to handle events like these? The human instinct is to complain, gripe, and even grow bitter. God’s Word gives us a drastically different conclusion.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” (James 1:2) (NKJV)

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can discover the power of prayer. We are not talking about little ritualistic prayers that are little more than words uttered as mere form. This kind of prayer comes from the depth of who we are and shows a desperation. We instinctively understand at moments like these, that we are not infallible or invincible, and that we really do need help from God. The beautiful part of prayers like these is that God promised us:

“Call to Me, and I will answer you.” (Jeremiah 33:3) (NKJV)

Understand that inherent in that promise is the understanding that we must be surrendered to the will of God. Also, we must realize that His answer may not be what we expect, but He does all things well.

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can gain an unshakable faith in God. True, mature, and deep faith is formed not in the calm and peaceful sunshine, but in the howling winds amid the dark night of the soul! Faith in our fellow humans if often found to be a let down, but faith in God results in more faith as we find Him to be absolutely trustworthy. You can trust the character of God!

When trials hit, count it all joy because you can discover the real values of life. Two years ago, I sat in an oncologists office and listened in stunned disbelief as my father was informed that he was now a cancer patient. It truly seemed that the life of our family had been turned upside down for the worse!

I’ve learned to hate the word cancer with a new passion since then. As a family, we’ve run the gauntlet of that disease together. We’ve uttered impassioned prayers, shed gallons of tears, faced the uncertainty of surgery, waited with bated breath for every test result, and stared into the darkness hoping this was all a bad dream.

We’ve also discovered that God is faithful, His grace is sufficient, and that a vibrant relationship with Him is the most important thing in life. We’ve learned to cherish every moment together as a family, spent a lot of time reminiscing about our favorite family memories, made some good new memories, and determined that we’re in this together on this side of eternity and that we’re resolved (by God’s grace) to someday stand on Heaven’s shore together as a family. We’re learning to live with eternity’s values in view. It’s not been easy, but we’re finding out that you can face a trial head on and still be joyful.

 

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Time


Pilgrim-BibleRev. Mike Shiery

Pilgrim Bible Church

 

As I write these words 2013 is rapidly slipping away and soon 2014 will become reality. I’m sure that many of you share with me a sense of astonishment at how quickly time passes. It seems like just yesterday that we were ushering in 2013 and here we are bidding the year adieu. It is a good time to stop and reevaluate the priority of handling time in the light of God’s Word.

God has given each of us the same amount of time each day. We each have 24 hours. Each hour has 60 minutes. Each minute has 60 seconds. We are the arbiter of our time. We have the ability to invest or squander this precious gift as we see fit. Moses, in Psalm 90, makes some interesting observations about time that we would do well to consider.

First of all, we need to recognize the time.

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) (NKJV)

According to the Bible, the average life span is 70 years. In America, with our advanced medical technology, that average is somewhat higher. In the grand scheme of things compared to eternity, our lifespan is brief. Even though we know this to be true, multitudes live daily as if this life will never end. It would be prudent for us to recognize the time we have been given is precious and never to be regained. We will only live this life one time. As best-selling author Randy Alcorn has written: “Life is merely the lobby to eternity.” Our time on this earth is not about toys, trinkets, and treasures but rather about investing in eternal dividends.

Secondly, we need to redeem the time.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) (NKJV)

Moses recognized the need for the proper use of time. Our time should be used to acknowledge the brevity of time and the need to use our time wisely. One of the tragedies of our days is that so many people live on a shallow spiritual, intellectual and moral plane. Rather than feeding their soul, mind and spirit on stimulating and uplifting books, music, and conversation, they are wasting vast amounts of time on social media, gaming, superficial reality shows, sports fanaticism, and other assorted drivel of pop culture. I challenge you to make a conscious effort this year to limit the wasting of time and instead to make strong efforts to use that time wisely and build up your spiritual walk with God, your personal knowledge of important wisdom, and your relationship with your family.

Thirdly, we need to rejoice through time.

“Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14) (NKJV)

The sooner we find the mercy of God in Christ, and are satisfied with that mercy all our days, the happier we will be! The word “mercy” here refers to God’s love. That love has been extended to all of us. When we choose to accept that love and reciprocate that love with devotion and service, we will find that we can rejoice even when life presses in on us. As the world around us becomes more chaotic, choose to recognize the time, redeem the time, and yes, even rejoice through time. I wish all of you a blessed and happy new year.

 

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A garment of Praise


Pastor Mike Shiery
Pilgrim Bible Church

As Thanksgiving Day looms in our near future, it is a fitting time to stop and examine the depth of our gratitude. In spite of the many challenges that we face as a nation and even in our individual lives, we are a people blessed beyond measure. In spite of the terrorist threats, the economic decline, the corruption of many government officials, the protests in our streets, and the general uncertainty of the future, a large percentage of the world’s population would quickly trade places with us if given the opportunity.
However, despite our liberties, opportunities, material blessings, and technological advancements, we are long on our demands, vociferous in our complaints, and deficient in our thanksgiving and gratitude.
It was a common practice in Old Testament times, for people who were distraught over bad news to publicly display their dismay by tearing their clothes and dumping ashes on their head. They would put on close of mourning. It was referred to as “sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” These unfortunate souls would weep and wail and complain about their lot in life. They were not pleasant to be around during those moments.
The antidote for that is recorded in Isaiah 61:3 where we read that God gives His people the “garment of praise” (NKJV). The Apostle Paul exemplified this verse. Wherever Paul went, he appeared in “the garment of praise.” Some people, if they ever wear thankfulness at all, wear it only when everything is going right in their life. As long as they have their health, there is excess money in the bank account, they get a raise at work, they have a new car, and they can go on vacation, they will deign to offer a few morsels of gratitude. When adversity strikes their life, gratitude becomes a forgotten virtue.
Paul refused to live on such a low level. Flowing continually through his writings are exhortations to thanksgiving and gratitude. Time and space do not permit us to list them all here, but let me share just a few.
“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:3 NKJV
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” Colossians 1:12 NKJV
“…abounding in the faith with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:7 NKJV
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 NKJV
“Continue earnestly in prayer; being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 NKJV
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Philippians 4:11 NKJV
That last verse is amazing given the challenges Paul faced in his life. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 give a vivid description of unpleasant moments in Paul’s ministry. He was beaten with whips and rods, stoned, shipwrecked, almost drowned, faced robbers, hunted by religious and secular leaders, betrayed by supposed friends, endured severe cold, lack of food, and battled exhaustion and insomnia. Yet, his writings are filled with praise and thanksgiving and not personal gripes and complaints.
Let‘s endeavor to be people of gratitude, not just at this Thanksgiving season, but every day of our lives. As the poet once said so eloquently: “O Lord, forgive me when I whine, I’m blessed indeed and the world is mine.”

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Christmas Carries Over


Pilgrim Bible Church
West Pine St., Cedar Springs
Rev. Mike Shiery

Each Christmas we read again the stories of the birth of Jesus and the visits of the shepherds and wise men to His birthplace. These stories come with all the old charm, and their message thrills us again because of its wonder and meaning. I confess that the powerful truth of Christmas, that God loved each individual enough to give us all the Gift that we didn’t deserve, stirs and thrills me to the depths of my being.
I love the majestic simplicity of the Christmas story, as well as the lights, decorations, traditions, family time, feeling of good will, and even the snow and cold weather. One songwriter poignantly expressed the feelings of many people when he wrote: “If everyday could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be.”
Of course we know that Christmas Day will soon be past, the carols will no longer be sung, and the decorations will be packed and stored away for months to come. However, the spirit of Christmas does not need to be relegated to some box in the closet, but can forever impact us.
I believe that the road map for such living can be found in the story of the shepherds and the wise men. The Bible tells us that after the shepherds had been to the stable, they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.”
Then after the wise men had worshiped the babe, they returned home by a different route from that which they had previously traveled.
The thought that I would like us to consider is that the experience of the shepherds and of the wise men carried over in our lives. It wasn’t the experience of a day or an hour. It was an experience that would enrich their lives ever afterward.
It is the experiences which carry over that make life wonderful and beautiful and rich. Sometimes they are rather simple happenings; a boy will remember all his life the touchdown he made in an unimportant game; a girl will receive a school honor which brings pleasure all her life. Of course, there will also be outstanding events that carry over.
It is possible for us to have experiences this Christmas season which will carry over and give beauty and richness and meaning to our lives long after this Christmas is past.
I encourage you to make good memories, cherish family time, enjoy traditions, and revel in the joy of the Christmas season. But most of all, make the foundation of your Christmas experience a relationship with Jesus Christ. After all, He truly is the reason for the season.

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