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Tag Archive | "Pulpit"

More than conquerors!


Pastor Craig Carter

North Kent Community Church

1480 Indian Lakes Rd., Sparta, 

Church Phone #: 550-6398

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39 NIV).

The Apostle Paul wrote these amazing words to the church in Rome. It was a group of people, whom the apostle Paul had never even met. Yet, he loved them so much, he wanted to remind them of God’s love for them. We see from this verse that he asks them a very simple, yet profound question. “Who or what can separate you from the love of God?” So, precious people of North Kent County, who or what can separate you from the love of God? I, like the apostle, have never met the majority of you reading this article, yet I am compelled to remind you of God’s love for you.

An amazing truth! I have found that it is easier for people to believe that God exists, than it is for them to truly believe that He loves them—that He is crazy, head over heels in love with them and concerned about every detail of their lives. If our understanding of God does not go any deeper than His existence, we will continue to believe that the things of this life have somehow separated us from His love. God’s amazing love convinced the apostle Paul that there was nothing that could separate him from it. Do you believe this? Or are you like many of us who struggle to believe it? If you struggle with believing or accepting the love of God, then I encourage you to simply say, “Lord, convince me!” Then sit back and watch Him show you that His love for you is not tied to your behavior, good or bad, but in His nature alone. The nature of God is love. That is why I am continually convinced myself that God enjoys convincing us of His love. Are you convinced yet?

Why the hoopla over convincing us of His love? Because it makes us more than a conqueror! Notice what the apostle Paul said in verse 37, “No, in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We learn from this verse that his love reaches all things. There is not one area or circumstance of our lives that God’s love does not touch. Secondly, it makes us more than conquerors. The love of God not only gets us over circumstances but can keep us there. His love cannot only provide a job for the unemployed, but can pay every bill. His love cannot only save your marriage, but can make your love for one another thrive and flourish again. His love cannot only get you over depression but also can renew your hope and restore your joy for the future.  Now that’s being “more than a conqueror.” What made it possible? The love of God! Will you receive it today? Will you quit believing that God simply exists and start believing that he exists to reveal His love to you? If have never received God’s love, then open your heart and acknowledge this priceless truth, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).” Enjoy the Love of God!

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A tough invitation


Pastor Mary Ivanov

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

140 S. Main St., Cedar Springs

 

Read Mark 8: 27-38

 

Mark 8:34-38: Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Have you ever received an invitation that you really wanted to accept, but to do so meant that you had to change your plans, sacrifice your time, or rearrange your schedule?

Jesus’ invitation is for anyone who wants to follow him and be a disciple. Three parts: deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me. The hardest words of Jesus. He calls for full commitment, a way of life that goes against worldly success, and taking risks in faith.

Mark Trotter tells the story of a woman who started running to keep in shape. She did well, going farther every day. She entered a 10K race and was nervous about her first race, so she got up early and arrived at the start of the race.

To her surprise there were a lot of people milling around, stretching, getting ready. All of a sudden a voice on the microphone said, “Move to the starting line.” A gun sounded and they were off, like a huge wave, hundreds of runners, sweeping her up. She was in the race.

After about four miles it occurred to her that they ought to be turning around and heading back to the finish line. She wondered why they didn’t turn around. She stopped and asked an official, “How come the course isn’t turning around?” He said, “Ma’am, you are running the Cleveland Marathon.” Twenty-six miles. Her event, the 10K, was supposed to start half an hour after the start of the marathon.

Some of us would have stopped right there and said, “That’s it, I’m going home.” But to her credit, she kept right on going, finished the race. She said, “This is not the race I trained for. This is not the race I entered. But for better or worse, this is the race that I am in.”

Jesus says, “If you are my disciple, then you will take up your cross and follow me, even to Jerusalem, even to the cross.”

In one conversation with a youth group about following Jesus, one of them said that to follow means not to lead.  That may sound simple, but that’s exactly what we have to remember. We’re not in the lead when we accept the invitation that Jesus offers. We follow him.

To follow Jesus, we must remove our “me-first” attitude. To follow Jesus means “It’s not about me.” To follow Jesus is to claim the power of the cross—the cross that bears our sins. We try to avoid the cross and downplay our sin. But picture even a small stone tossed into a pool of water. The ripple effect is real. And our sin effects others,whether we think so or not.

But the cross isn’t just about our personal life. The cross gathers us into a community of love and forgiveness. We’re accountable to each another when we follow Christ. To follow Jesus means that we matter to each other.

Even though Jesus’ invitation is demanding, Jesus offers his help to carry it through. That’s the only way any of us can follow Christ, with God’s grace to guide us and brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage us.

One prayer says it this way: “Lord, do in me what you need to do so you can do through me what you desire to do.” How can you let Jesus lead you this week? Where is God calling you to follow—fully committed and taking risks in faith?

If you don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us this Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s all about balance


Pastor Herb VanderBilt

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs

 

 

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (I Thessalonians 5:12-28).

Paul’s words of advice to Timothy, over 2000 years ago, are good advice even today. Basically he is reminding Timothy that life is a balance of holding onto the good and avoiding the evil.  Recently we heard a lecture by the noted New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, where he said that the message of the church also has to be in balance or in harmony. He used the metaphor of a quadraphonic stereo with a speaker in each corner of the room and how if one speaker is too loud, it distorts the sound and destroys the harmony. I think that the apostle Paul is also telling Timothy to look for this balance in helping people not only grow the early church, but also those who are just discovering Jesus Christ. We can also use this metaphor in how to find balance in our lives today. We all have people in our lives pulling us one way or the next and we also need to find the balance in our relationships with others. If we use the idea of four speakers we can think of our relationship with our friends, our job, our family and Church as the quadraphonic space that we live in. If one of these speakers is too loud it affects how we hear the others. If we turn down our friends and only listen to the other three, it will distort the melody of life and so on with the other three. All of these speakers keep the spirits fire alive in us; turn any of them off and we put out the spirit’s fire. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

 

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Dinner that’s more than dinner


Pastor Craig T. Owens

Calvary Assembly of God

810 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs
www.cscalvary.org

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told Him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. (Mark 6:30-32, NLT)

Sometimes dinner is more than dinner.

Jesus recognized this. He wanted to get away with His friends just to have a quiet meal and some meaningful conversation.

In many ways our lives are as busy as those who tried to talk with Jesus. In the hustle and bustle of over-filled calendars, after-school activities, and the constant bombardment of TV, computers and cell phones, we don’t even have time to eat together. And the biggest victim is our kids. Just like Jesus’ followers were longing to spend time with Him, your kids are longing to spend time with you.

So set aside time for dinner this week.  In fact, set aside as many days in the week as you can. Turn off the TV and cell phones and iPods, and just enjoy each others’ company.

Check out the advantages of simply eating together:
•    Families who eat dinner together eat healthier.
•    Families who eat dinner together have higher communications skills.
•    Children in families who eat dinner together perform better academically.
•    Children in families who eat dinner together are less likely to try cigarettes, illegal drugs, or alcohol.

Mom and Dad, dinner with your kids is way more than just dinner. It’s an investment in their future that will return incredible rewards! So when you make time for dinner, you’re making time for something far greater than just food.

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God—the great “give-away-er”


Cedar Springs United Methodist
140 S. Main Street, Cedar Springs
Pastor Mary Ivanov

Last week, I was watching the evening news, and a “good news” story came on.  Though these kinds of stories don’t get a lot of press, I know good news happens everyday. This story was about a man named Loren Krueger who had given away a total of over $3 million dollars to all of the churches and many organizations in his hometown of LeRoy, Minnesota. People were stunned by Krueger’s gift, especially because he seemed very frugal with his money. It was only after his death that people realized how generous he was. His gifts to the community have allowed churches to offer new ministries, the local senior center to thrive, and the community nursing home to make much needed improvements so that they can better care for the residents who live there.
When the news was over, my daughter asked some questions about what this man had done. And then she said, “Wow, he was a great give-away-er!” I wrote down her quote immediately because I’d never heard that expression before.
As I sat thinking about what she said, I realized that she hit on the true spirit of Christmas. Yes, we give gifts out of love and thankfulness, but we also give because our faith rests in a God who is the ultimate Giver of all that is good. God is a great give-away-er!
On Friday and Saturday, many of us will gather in our churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I look forward to Christmas Eve services every year. And it’s not just good memories that come back for me; it’s faith memories.  I remember sitting with my family and singing hymns. I remember going out of church and seeing stars on cold, clear nights. I remember the wonder of those moments as a child.
And even though we might know the story (read in Matthew 1: 18-25 and Luke 2: 1-20), every time we gather, the Holy Spirit brings it to our hearts again. Jesus is the One who comes to save us from our sins. Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us!  Jesus is the One the people had waited for—the Messiah.  And, Jesus is the One we have been waiting for!
God is a great give-away-er! God gives us the most precious gift of all—the Son of God who comes to be with us and be one of us so that we might know better what God is like and what God wants us to be like as we live in God’s world.
As you give gifts this year, remember that God is a great give-away-er who offers you a gift that cannot be bought in a store or online. God offers a relationship that brings forgiveness, healing, and hope. As you worship this year, I pray that the story that’s so familiar would sound fresh and new on your ears so that you can claim God’s promises again or for the first time.
And if don’t have a church home or have been away for a while, consider getting back to church or trying it out for the first time. I invite you to worship with us on Christmas Eve at 7:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., join us this Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.
We share the love and hope of Jesus Christ!

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